In the penultimate, dramatic episode of Babylon 5 Season 4, President Clark receives a note:

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The meaning of the steganographic message is clear enough. But this leaves so many questions unanswered:

  • Who sent the note to Clark?
  • Why did he leave it on his desk so that the others could

    warn Sheridan to destroy the defence grid?

  • Given that he left the decryption in plain sight, why was it encrypted in the first place?
  • What does the repeated phrase "the ascension of the ordinary man" signify?

In short, what's the story behind this note?

  • 3
    The note is highly reminiscent of the note that General Ripper has on his desk in Dr Strangelove. In that instance it was self-written – Valorum Mar 18 '18 at 23:47
  • @Valorum If the note was self-written, then it makes even less sense for him to decrypt it and leave the decryption lying on his desk. – Rand al'Thor Mar 18 '18 at 23:49
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    "Re: the note...the script as written calls only for the finding of a note with the words "scorched earth" on it. It was John Copeland's idea to do the note as shown, and yes, he's said quite openly over on AOL that it was his nod to Strangelove. (John directed that episode.)" - midwinter.com/lurk/guide/086.html#AN.ordinary – Valorum Mar 18 '18 at 23:52
  • 6
    Regarding the self-written - Rationality isn't in high supply when you're going to burn your own planet out of ego-driven spite. – Radhil Mar 19 '18 at 0:12
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    Isn't he seen hunched over it writing, or am I misremembering the scene? – Radhil Mar 19 '18 at 0:19

Clark is seen writing the note himself while Sheridan arrives and makes his broadcast.

enter image description here

You can see some of the scene in this Youtube clip. His hand is clearly going from left to right on the scene, implying he's writing the repeated "the ascension of the ordinary man" himself (I've been unable to find a full segment online that includes all of the Clark footage).

Given anecdotes about his paranoia and the fact that he committed suicide moments later, it is very likely he was not in any right mind while he was writing it, or that he developed an obsessive habit as part of his mental decline. If the note was actually intended as a delivered message from some other party, or a deliberate cryptography, there is no evidence of this shown in the show. If there is a meaning to the phrase he used, it would have been personal to Clark - possibly he viewed himself as the "ordinary man", ascended when he gained the presidency.

It should be made clear that the Senator who attempted to arrest Clark had not just the note and its "message", but also could see the President's command console on the desk in front of her. It's unlikely Clark could have hidden his commands for long even if the note was not obvious about his intentions. Unfortunately, the dialog in the script just suggests she uses the note to reach this conclusion.

As @Valorum also notes in comment, the production team was homaging other works in this depiction.

  • The woman who finds the note and makes the call to Sheridan isn't Luchenko :-) Good answer otherwise. I guess I was reading too much into this: given the discussion between Garibaldi and Rich Mars Guy a few episodes earlier about Clark being a tool of the Psi Corps, I was wondering if they might have sent him the note while organising their own escape off Earth. But nuking Earth after killing himself kind of makes sense, in a twisted Clarky sort of way. – Rand al'Thor Mar 23 '18 at 9:23
  • @Randal'Thor - it's not? I need to stop relying on YT clips and dig out my episodes again. Will fix later. – Radhil Mar 23 '18 at 11:20
  • No, Luchenko has a noticeable Russian accent (which begs the question of why Ivanova never did ... grumble) – Rand al'Thor Mar 23 '18 at 11:27
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    @Randal'Thor Because Claudia Christian couldn't do one, would be my first guess. In story reason might be, that's a common way to distance yourself from your roots, and we know she had issues there. – Radhil Mar 23 '18 at 11:33
  • She wasn't comfortable talking about her family and personal history, true, but at least in the first/second seasons, she was mentioning her Russian background a lot. – Rand al'Thor Mar 23 '18 at 11:47

From what is shown and discussed about Keepers, between Londo drinking to subdue his or Cptn Jack's not having full control of him, it would seem to follow that Clark's final actions could be the result of having been given a Keeper by the Drakh after the fall of Z'ha'dum. The note would then be Clark's attempt at warning other's to the Keeper's plan to destroy Earth. Then Clark, like Jack & Londo, Killed himself to stop the Keeper from warning others about the note or forcing Clark to destroy the note.

  • 1
    I haven't seen any evidence that Clark was under the influence of a keeper or any more direct pressure other than the occasional presence of Morden and his Drakh and Shadow associates – Valorum Jul 10 '18 at 23:57

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