I noticed yesterday that the most popular character from Babylon 5 was Marcus. Everyone I know that watched B5 really liked Marcus.
I thought to myself, "why?"
The answer I came up with is "contrast".
The show is a serious, slow-moving political show, and that's fine. People like it. But fighting is rare, and in the times where there is a fight, it's a shootout.
Marcus is the exact opposite. He has an overbearing sense of humor, no patience for politics, no interest in the slow moving plot, and kicks ass short-range. He gets the blood pumping. He exists tangentally to the rest of the show.
You can see another example of this in action in earlier seasons with Lineer. At least in the crowd I was in, what made the episode is when Lineer started kicking people's asses.
This is interesting, because it perfectly aligns with pattern adaptation control. It's a real-world example of a tenuous theory.
Take a look from the other side. In a story mostly about fighting, the enigmatic brainiac who outmaneuvers everyone is often considered the coolest character. That's because he contrasts.
It's not that fighting is cool, or that being smart is cool. It's that moving tangentally is cool. "Shorting out" the normal routine, circumventing it, or ignoring it.
Of course, do that too much and you end up making the tangent the norm. Do it too many times, and there is no norm to tangent off of. That's not always a bad thing, but it bears consideration.