Building Future Worlds…

inspirationIn the course of becoming an indie writer, there is one aspect of the creative process which keeps coming back to me. To put it simply, it is the challenges and delights of world building – i.e. creating the background, context, and location in which a story takes place. For years, I have been reading other people’s thoughts on the subject, be they authors themselves or just big fans of literary fiction.

But my own experience with the process has taught me much that I simply couldn’t appreciate before I picked up my pen and pad (or in this case, opened a word doc and began typing). Ad lately, the thoughts have been percolating in my mind and I felt the need to write them out. Having done that, I thought I might share them in full.

alien-worldFor starters, being a science fiction writer presents a person with particular opportunities for creative expression. But at the same time, it presents its share of particular challenges. While one is certainly freer to play around with space, place, and invent more freely than with most other genres, they are still required to take into account realism, consistency and continuity in all that they do.

Sooner or later, the world a writer builds will be explored, mapped, and assessed, and any and all inconsistencies are sure to stick out like a sore thumb! So in addition to making sure back-stories, timelines and other details accord with the main plot, authors also need to be mindful of things like technology, physical laws, and the nature of space and time.

self-aware-colonyBut above all, the author in question has to ask themselves what kind of universe they want to build. If it is set in the future, they need to ask themselves certain fundamental questions about where human beings will be down the road. Not only that, they also need to decide what parallels (and they always come up!) they want to draw with the world of today.

Through all of this, they will be basically deciding what kind of message they want to be sending with their book. Because of course, anything they manage to dream up about the future will tell their readers lots about the world the author inhabits, both in the real sense and within their own head. And from what I have seen, it all comes down to five basic questions they must ask themselves…

1. Near-Future/Far Future:
future-city3When it comes to science-fiction stories, the setting is almost always the future. At times, it will be set in an alternate universe, or an alternate timeline; but more often than not, the story takes place down the road. The only question is, how far down the road? Some authors prefer to go with the world of tomorrow, setting their stories a few decades or somewhere in the vicinity of next century.

By doing this, the author in question is generally trying to show how the world of today will determine the world of tomorrow, commenting on current trends and how they are helping/hurting us. During the latter half of the 20th century, this was a very popular option for writers, as the consensus seemed to be that the 21st century would be a time when some truly amazing things would be possible; be it in terms of science, technology, or space travel.

1984_John_HurtOther, less technologically-inclined authors, liked to use the not-so-distant future as a setting for dystopian, post-apocalytpic scenarios, showing how current trends (atomic diplomacy, arms races, high tech, environmental destruction) would have disastrous consequences for humanity in the near-future. Examples of this include Brave New World, 1984, The Iron Heel, The Chrysalids, and a slew of others.

In all cases, the totalitarian regimes or severe technological and social regression that characterized their worlds were the result of something happening in the very near-future, be it nuclear or biological war, a catastrophic accident, or environmental collapse. Basically, humanity’s current behavior was the basis for a cautionary tale, where an exaggerated example is used to illustrate the logical outcome of all this behavior.

arrakis-duneAt the other end of the spectrum, many authors have taken the long view with their sci-fi world building. Basically, they set their stories several centuries or even millennia from now. In so doing, they are able to break with linear timelines and the duty of having to explain how humanity got from here to there, and instead could focus on more abstract questions of existence and broader allegories.

Examples of this include Frank Herbert’s Dune and Asimov’s Foundation series, both of which were set tens of thousands of years in the future. In both of these universes, humanity’s origins and how they got to where they were took a backseat to the historical allegories that were being played upon. While some mention is given to the origins of humanity and where they came from, little attempt is made to draw a line from the present into the future.

foundation_coversInstead, the focus is overwhelmingly on the wider nature of human beings and what drives us to do the things we do. Asimov drew from Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire to make a point about the timeless nature of history, while Herbert drew on the modern age, medieval and ancient history, religion, philosophy, and evolutionary biology and ecology to investigate the timeless nature of humanity and what factors shape it.

For non-purists, Star Wars and Star Trek can also serve as examples of both tendencies in action. For decades, Star Trek used a not-too-distant future setting to endlessly expound on the human race and the issues it faces today. And always, this examination was done in the form of interstellar travel, the crew of the Enterprise going form world to world and seeing themselves in the problems, norms and social structure of other races.

coruscantStar Wars, on the other hand, was an entirely different animal. For the people living in this universe, no mention is ever made of Earth, and pre-Republic history is considered a distant and inaccessible thing. And while certain existential and social issues are explored (i.e. racism, freedom and oppression), the connections with Earth’s past are more subtle, relying on indirect clues rather than overt comparisons.

The Republic and the Empire, for example, is clearly inspired by Rome’s own example. The Jedi Code is very much the picture of the Bushido code, its practitioners a sort of futuristic samurai, and the smugglers of Tatooine are every bit the swashbuckling, gun toting pirates and cowboys of popular fiction. But always, the focus seemed to more on classically-inspired tales of destiny, and of epic battles of good versus evil.

And of course, whether we are talking near future or far future has a big influence on the physical setting of the story as well. Which brings me to item two…

2. Stellar or Interstellar:100,000starsHere is another important question that every science fiction author has faced, and one which seriously influences the nature  of the story. When it comes to the world of tomorrow, will it be within the confines of planet Earth, the Solar System, or on many different world throughout our galaxy? Or, to go really big, will it encompass the entire Milky Way, or maybe even beyond?

Important questions for a world-builder, and examples certainly abound. In the former case, you have your dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and near future seenarios, where humanity is stuck living on a hellish Earth that has seen better days. Given that humanity would not be significantly more adavanced than the time of writing, or may have even regressed due to the downfall of civilization, Earth would be the only place people can live.

Gaia_galaxyBut that need not always be the case. Consider Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick. In his dystopian, post-apocalyptic tale, Earth was devestated by nuclear war, forcing the wealthiest and healthiest to live in the Offworld Colonies while everyone who was too poor or too ravaged by their exposure to radiation was confined to Earth. Clearly, dystopia does not rule out space travel, though it might limit it.

And in the latter case, where human beings have left the cradle and begun walking amongst our System’s other planets and even the stars, the nature of the story tends to be a bit more ambiguous. Those who choose such a setting tend to be of the opinion that mankind either needs to reach out in order to survive, or that doing so will allow us to shed some of our problems.

chasm_city_2Examples abound here again, but Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space universe seems like the ideal one here. In this series, humanity has access to near-light speed travel, nanotechnology, brain-computer interfacing, neural uploading, AI, smart materials, and has colonized dozens of new worlds. However, the state of humanity has not changed, and on many worlds, civil war and sectarian violence are common.

In either case, the setting also bears a direct relation to the state of technology in the story. For humans still living on Earth (and nowhere else) in the future, chances are, they are about as advanced or even behind the times in which the story was written. For those living amongst the stars, technology would have to advanced sufficiently to make it happen. Which brings me to the next point…

3. High-Tech or Low-Tech:
Star_Trek_SpacedockWhat would a work of science fiction be without plenty of room for gadgets, gizmos, and speculation about the future state of technology? And once more, I can discern of two broad categories that an author can choose from, both of which have their share of potential positives and negatives. And depending on what kind of story you want to write, the choice of what that state is often predetermined.

In the former case, there is the belief that technology will continue to advance in the future, leading to things like space travel, FTL, advanced cyborgs, clones, tricorders, replicators, artificial intelligence, laser guns, lightsabers, phasers, photon torpedoes, synthetic humans, and any number of other fun, interesting and potentially dangerous things.

BAMA_3With stories like these, the purpose of high-tech usually serves as a framing device, providing visual evidence that the story is indeed taking place in the future. In other words, it serves a creative and fun purpose, without much thought being given towards exploring the deeper issues of technological progress and determinism.  But this not be the case, and oftentimes with science fiction, high-tech serves a different purpose altogether.

In many other cases, the advance of technology is directly tied to the plot and the nature of the story. Consider cyberpunk novels like Neuromancer and the other novels of William Gibson’s Sprawl Trilogy. In these and other cyberpunk novels, the state of technology – i.e. cyberpsace decks, robotic prosthetics, biotech devices – served to illustrate the gap between rich and poor and highlighting the nature of light in a dark, gritty future.

65By contrast, such post-cyberpunk novels as Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age took a different approach. While high-tech and its effects on society were explored in great detail, he and other authors of this sub genre chose to break with their predecessors on one key issue. Namely, they did not suppose that the emergence of high-tech would lead to dystopia, but rather an ambiguous future where both good and harm resulted.

And at the other end of the spectrum, where technology is in a low state, the purpose and intent of this is generally the same. On the one hand, it may serve as a plot framing device, illustrating how the world is in a primitive state due to the collapse of civilization as we know it, or because our unsustainable habits caught up with us and resulted in the world stepping backwards in time.

a_boy_and_his_dogAt the same time, the very fact that people live in a primitive state in any of these stories serves the purpose of  commentary. Simply by showing how our lives were unsustainable, or the actions of the story’s progenitor’s so foolish, the author is making a statement and asking the reader to acknowledge and ponder the deeper issue, whether they realize it or not.

At this end of things, A Boy and His Dog and Mad Max serve as good examples. In the former case, the story takes place in a post-apocalyptic landscape where a lone boy and his genetically-engineered talking dog rove the landscape in search of food and (in the boy’s case) sexual gratification. Here, the state of technology helps to illustrate the timeless nature of the human condition, namely how we are essentially the products of our environment.

pursuit_specialIn Mad Max as well, the way roving gangs are constantly looking for gasoline, using improvised weapons, and riding around in vehicles cobbled together from various parts gives us a clear picture of what life is like in this post-collapse environment. In addition, the obvious desperation created by said collapse serves to characterize the cultural landscape, which is made up of gangs, tinpot despots, and quasi-cults seeking deliverance.

But on the other hand, the fact that the world exists in this state due to collapse after the planet’s supply of oil ran dry also provides some social commentary. By saying that the world became a dangerous, anarchistic and brutal place simply because humanity was dependent on a resource that suddenly went dry, the creators of Mad Max’s world were clearly trying to tell us something. Namely, conserve!

4. Aliens or Only Humans:
warofworldsaliensAnother very important question for setting the scene in a science fiction story is whether or not extra-terrestrials are involved. Is humanity still alone in the universe, or have they broken that invisible barrier that lies between them and the discovery of other sentient life forms? Once again, the answer to this question has a profound effect on the nature of the story, and it can take many forms.

For starters, if the picture is devoid of aliens, then the focus of the story will certainly be inward, looking at human nature, issues of identity, and how our environment serves to shape us. But if there are aliens, either a single species or several dozen, then the chances are, humanity is a united species and the aliens serve as the “others”, either as a window into our own nature, or as an exploration into the awe and wonder of First Contact.

Alien OrganismsAs case studies for the former category, let us consider the Dune, Foundation, and Firefly universes. In each of these, humanity has become an interstellar species, but has yet to find other sentiences like itself. And in each of these, human nature and weaknesses appear to be very much a constant, with war, petty rivalries and division a costant. Basically, in the absence of an “other”, humanity is focused on itself and the things that divide it.

In Dune, for example, a galaxy-spanning human race has settled millions of worlds, and each world has given rise to its own identity – with some appearing very much alien to another. Their are the “navigators”, beings that have mutated their minds and bodies through constant exposure to spice. Then there are the Tleilaxu, a race of genetic manipulators  who breed humans from dead tissue and produce eunuch “Face Dancers” that can assume any identity.

2007-8-18_DuneAxlotlTank

Basically, in the absence of aliens, human beings have become amorphous in terms of their sense of self, with some altering themselves to the point that they are no longer even considered human to their bretherin. And all the while, humanity’s biggest fight is with itself, with rival houses vying for power, the Emperor gaurding his dominance, and the Guild and various orders looking to ensure that the resource upon which all civilization depends continues to flow.

In the Foundation universe, things are slightly less complicated; but again, the focus is entirely inward. Faced with the imminent decline and collapse of this civilization, Hari Seldon invents the tool known as “Psychohistory”. This science is dedicated to anticipating the behavior of large groups of people, and becomes a roadmap to recovery for a small group of Foundationists who seek to preserve the light of civilization once the empire is gone.

foundation

The series then chronicles their adventures, first in establishing their world and becoming a major power in the periphery – where Imperial power declines first – and then rebuilding the Empire once it finally and fully collapses. Along the way, some unforeseen challenges arise, but Seldon’s Plan prevails and the Empire is restored. In short, it’s all about humans trying to understand the nature of human civilization, so they can control it a little better.

Last, but not least, their is the Firefly universe which – despite the show’s short run – showed itself to be in-depth and interestingly detailed. Basically, the many worlds that make up “The Verse” are divided along quasi-national lines. The core worlds constitute the Alliance, the most advanced and well-off worlds in the system that are constantly trying to expand to bring the entire system under its rule.

verse_whitesunThe Independents, we learn early in the story, were a coalition of worlds immediately outside the core worlds that fought these attempts, and lost. The Border Worlds, meanwhile, are those planets farthest from the core where life is backwards and “uncivilized” by comparison. All of this serves to illustrate the power space and place have over human identity, and how hierarchy, power struggles and  divisiveness are still very much a part of us.

But in universes where aliens are common, then things are a little bit different. In these science fiction universes, where human beings are merely one of many intelligent species finding their way in the cosmos, extra-terrestrials serve to make us look outward and inward at the same time. In this vein, the cases of Babylon 5, and 2001: A Space Odyssey provide the perfect range of examples.

B5_season2In  B5 – much as with Stark Trek, Star Gate, or a slew of other franchises – aliens serve as a mirror for the human condition. By presenting humanity with alien cultures, all of whom have their own particular quarks and flaws, we are given a meter stick with which to measure ourselves. And in B5‘s case, this was done rather brilliantly – with younger races learning from older ones, seeking wisdom from species so evolved that often they are not even physical entities.

However, in time the younger race discover that the oldest (i.e. the Shadows, Vorlons, and First Ones) are not above being flawed themselves. They too are subject to fear, arrogance, and going to war over ideology. The only difference is, when they do it the consequences are far graver! In addition, these races themselves come to see that the ongoing war between them and their proxies has become a senseless, self-perpetuating mistake. Echoes of human frailty there!

2001spaceodyssey128.jpgIn 2001: A Space Odyssey, much the same is true of the Firstborn, a race of aliens so ancient that they too are no longer physical beings, but uploaded intelligences that travel through the cosmos using sleek, seamless, impenetrable slabs (the monoliths). As we learn in the course of the story, this race has existed for eons, and has been seeking out life with the intention of helping it to achieve sentience.

This mission brought them to Earth when humanity was still in its primordial, high-order primate phase. After tinkering with our evolution, these aliens stood back and watched us evolve, until the day that we began to reach out into the cosmos ourselves and began to discover some of the tools they left behind. These include the Tycho Monolith Anomaly-1 (TMA-1) on the Moon, and the even larger one in orbit around Jupiter’s moon of Europa.

2001-monolith-alignmentAfter making contact with this monolith twice, first with the American vessel Discovery and then the joint Russian-American Alexei Leonov, the people of Earth realize that the Firstborn are still at work, looking to turn Jupiter into a sun so that life on Europa (confined to the warm oceans beneath its icy shell) will finally be able to flourish. Humanity is both astounded and humbled to learn that it is not alone in the universe, and wary of its new neighbors.

This story, rather than using aliens as a mirror for humanity’s own nature, uses a far more evolved species to provide a contrast to our own. This has the same effect, in that it forces us to take a look at ourselves and assess our flaws. But instead of showing those flaws in another, it showcases the kind of potential we have. Surely, if the Firstborn could achieve such lengths of evolutionary and technological development, surely we can too!

5. Utopian/Dystopian/Ambiguous:
Inner_city_by_aksuFinally, there is the big question of the qualitative state of humanity and life in this future universe. Will life be good, bad, ugly, or somewhere in between? And will humanity in this narrative be better, worse, or the same as it now? It is the questions of outlook, whether it is pessimistic, optimistic, realistic, or something else entirely which must concern a science fiction writer sooner or later.

Given that the genre evolved as a way of commenting on contemporary trends and offering insight into their effect on us, this should come as no surprise. When looking at where we are going and how things are going to change, one cannot help but delve into what it is that defines this thing we know as “humanity”. And when it comes right down to it, there are a few schools of thought that thousands of years of scholarship and philosophy have provided us with.

transhuman3Consider the dystopian school, which essentially posits that mankind is a selfish, brutish, and essentially evil creature that only ever seeks to do right by himself, rather than other creatures. Out of this school of thought has come many masterful works of science fiction, which show humanity to be oppressive to its own, anthropocentric to aliens and other life forms, and indifferent to the destruction and waste it leaves in its wake.

And of course, there’s the even older Utopia school, which presents us with a future where mankind’s inherent flaws and bad behavior have been overcome through a combination of technological progress, political reform, social evolution, and good old fashioned reason. In these worlds, the angels of humanity’s nature have won the day, having proven superior to humanity’s devils.

IngsocIn the literally realm, 1984 is again a perfect example of dytopian sci=fi, where the totalitarian rule of the few is based entirely on selfishness and the desire for dominance over others. According to O’Brien, the Party’s mouthpiece in the story, their philosophy in quite simple:

The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.  If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

Hard to argue with something so brutal and unapologetic, isn’t it? In Orwell’s case, the future would be shaped by ongoing war, deprivation, propaganda, fear, torture, humiliation, and brutality. In short, man’s endless capacity to inflict pain and suffering on others.

invitro2Aldous Huxley took a different approach in his seminal dystopian work, Brave New World, in which he posited that civilization would come to be ruled based on man’s endless appetite for pleasure, indifference and distraction. Personal freedom and individuality would be eliminated, yes, but apparently for man’s own good rather than the twisted designs of a few true-believers:

Universal happiness keeps the wheels steadily turning; truth and beauty can’t. And, of course, whenever the masses seized political power, then it was happiness rather than truth and beauty that mattered… People were ready to have even their appetites controlled then. Anything for a quiet life. We’ve gone on controlling ever since. It hasn’t been very good for truth, of course. But it’s been very good for happiness. One can’t have something for nothing. Happiness has got to be paid for.

But even though the means are entirely different, the basic aim is the same. Deprive humanity of his basic freedom and the potential to do wrong in order to ensure stability and long-term rule. In the end, a darker, more cynical view of humanity and the path that we are on characterized these classic examples of dystopia and all those that would come to be inspired them.

Imminent Utopia by Kuksi
Imminent Utopia by Kuksi

As for Utopian fiction, H.G. Wells’ Men Like Gods is a very appropriate example. In this novel, a contemporary journalist finds himself hurled through time into 3000 years into the future where humanity lives in a global state named Utopia, and where the “Five Principles of Liberty” – privacy, free movement, unlimited knowledge, truthfulness, and free discussion and criticism – are the only law.

After staying with them for a month, the protogonist returns home with renewed vigor and is now committed to the “Great Revolution that is afoot on Earth; that marches and will never desist nor rest again until old Earth is one city and Utopia set up therein.” In short, like most Positivists of his day, Wells believed that the march of progress would lead to a future golden age where humanity would shed it’s primitive habits and finally live up to its full potential.

Larry Niven_2004_Ringworld's Children_0This view would prove to have a profound influence on futurist writers like Asimov and Clarke. In the latter case, he would come to express similar sentiments in both the Space Odyssey series and his novel Childhood’s End. In both cases, humanity found itself confronted with alien beings of superior technology and sophistication, and eventually was able to better itself by opening itself up to their influence.

In both series, humanity is shown the way to betterment (often against their will) by cosmic intelligences far more advanced than their own. But despite the obvious questions about conquest, loss of freedom, individuality, and identity, Clarke presents this as a good thing. Humanity, he believed, had great potential, and would embrace it, even if it had to be carried kicking and screaming.

And just like H.G Wells, Clarke, Asimov, and a great many of his futurist contemporaries believes that the ongoing and expanding applications of science and technology would be what led to humanity’s betterment. A commitment to this, they believed, would eschew humanity’s dependence on religion, superstition, passion and petty emotion; basically, all the things that made us go to war and behave badly in the first place.

Summary:
These are by no means the only considerations one must make before penning a science fiction story, but I think they provide a pretty good picture of the big-ticket items. At least the ones that keep me preoccupied when I’m writing! In the end, knowing where you stand on the questions of location, content, tone and feel, and what your basic conception of the future, is all part of the creation process.

In other words, you need to figure out what you’re trying to say and how you want to say it before you can go to town. In the meantime, I say to all aspiring and established science fiction writers alike: keep pondering, keep dreaming, and keep reaching for them stars!

B5, Season 3 Best Episodes (cont’d)

Season three was loaded with significant episodes, many of which were clustered towards the end of the season. My second installment is therefore dedicated to the final six episodes of season three. Together, they developed or wrapped up some pretty big plot threads from this and other seasons and included (but were not limited to) the temporal plot involving B4 and the Great Machine, the prophecies of Valen, the Shadow War, Londo’s rivalry with Refa, what happened to Sheridan’s wife, and his fabled trip to Z’ha’dum.

7. War Without End (Parts I and II):
The episode opens on Mimbar, where Sinclair, now head of the Rangers, receives a letter from the past. It is addressed to him specifically, and was penned by Valen some 900 years ago! He immediately leaves for B5, where Delenn has received a similar letter. This coincides with strange behavior coming from Epsilon 3, where the Great Machine has become active and has begun opening a temporal disturbance in a nearby sector. When she begins examining the disturbance, Ivanova sees a transmission from the future, where B5 is being destroyed and she is calling for help.

Sheridan meets with Delenn and Sinclair. She shows him footage from the last Shadow War. Apparently, at that time the Mimbari and First Ones were preparing for an assault on the Shadows when the station that served as their rallying point was destroyed. All seemed lost, until a new station appeared out of nowhere and was offered to them by Valen himself. Sheridan sees the footage of it and is shocked. It was Babylon 4! Sinclair is similarly shocked, having been aboard the station years back when he was commander of B5 and it first appeared in their sector of space. He had been told then by Zathras that it was being taken to serve in a war, but did not imagine it was being taken into the past.

They also see that the Shadows tried to destroy it shortly after it was completed, but a ship arrived to protect it. That ship was none other than the White Star. Sheridan now understands what they must do: the Great Machine has opened a time portal so they can travel into the past, save B4, and then bring it into the past so it will help the Mimbari and First Ones win the last Shadow War. They set out, Delenn, Sheridan, Sinclair, Ivanova, Marcus and Zathras to the portal and enter it. Zathras equips them with devices that are meant to keep them “stuck in time” (i.e. immune to the effects of time travel).

On the other side, they dispatch the Shadow vessels which are attacking and board the station. However, Sheridan’s temporal device is damaged and he becomes “unstuck in time”. While the others prepare B4, Sheridan gets a glimpse of the future. He is on Centauri Prime, which has been devastated in the war, and where Londo is preparing to execute him and Delenn. However, Londo frees him at the last minute, showing him that he’s been the victim of a Shadow device that controls him, and then asks a one-eyed G’Kar to kill him. However, the device awakens and Londo and G’Kar end up strangling each other. Vir enters shortly thereafter and dons the Emperor’s necklace. He is now Emperor, all of which was foretold.

Sheridan becomes unstuck again, but not before Delenn implores him not to go to Z’ha’dum. He travels back into the past, where he sees Sinclair from years before, and Zathras gives him his time device. He then jumps back to the present and begins working with the others again to prep the station for travel. They carefully avoid running into Sinclair and Garibaldi from the past, retrieve Zathras, and prepare to leave. Sinclair volunteers to stay behind and guide the station back, but Marcus knows he’s not planning on coming back. Sinclair reveals that it has been his destiny to do this, and once they leave him and the station jumps, Delenn explains…

She recounts how beginning a thousand years ago, Mimbari souls began to be born in human bodies, how Valen prophesied that their two races were bound, and how if the station had arrived in the past with a human on board, the Mimbari never would have accepted it. Marcus puts it all together, quoting the ancient saying of how Valen was “a Mimbari not born of Mimbari.” We then cut to B4 where SInclair uses the same Chrysalis Delenn did to undergo a transformation that will make him half-Mimbari, half-human. He then turns up in the distant past and offers the station to the Mimbari, identifying himself as Valen.

Significance:
This episode not only capped off the whole mystery of what happened to B4 and the whole temporal plot thing, it also explained, quite mind-blowingly, why the Mimbari and humans were connected, what happened at the Battle of the Line, and the whole mystique and prophecy that surrounded Sinclair and the Shadow War. In short, Sinclair was destined to take B4 back in time, ensure that the younger races and First Ones won the last Shadow War, so that this time around, they would have a fighting chance.

We also see why he was thought to have a Mimbari soul when he was captured by the Mimbari. The device that the Mimbari used to examine him, a relic given to them by Valen, was a device tuned to his DNA. Hence why it glowed in his presence, it was identifying it’s owner! Delenn’s transformation, which she did at the end of season one, was sort of a karmic pay-back then. She became half-human/half-Mimbari in order to complete the exchance of DNA/souls that was begun in the distant past by Sinclair. With the prophecy and temporal plot now complete, their alliance is now set to fight and win THIS Shadow War.

Memorable Lines:
Part I:
Marcus: Captain, if I were you, I’d quit while I was ahead. Back on Minbar, there was a saying among the other Rangers: “The only way to get a straight answer out of Ranger One was to look at every reply in a mirror while hanging upside down from the ceiling.”
Sheridan: Did it work?
Marcus: Oddly enough, yes. Or after a while you passed out and had a vision. Either way, the result was pretty much the same.

Sinclair: I’ve come along way to be here for this. I’d hate to just turn around and go back again. besides, I think we’d work well together. Like Butch and Sundance, Lewis and Clarke, Lucy and Ethel.
Sheridan:… Well, when I joined Earth Force, the sign said “greatest adventure of all”. If they only knew! Okay, let’s do it. (to Sinclair) Lucy and Ethel?

Sinclair: Zathras, this is very important. When you meet me again, it will be me, but it won’t be me now. So you’re not to say anything to me that might change the past. Do you understand?
Zathras: Zathras understand. No. Zathras not understand. But Zathras do! Zathras good at doings, not understandings. Zathras honored to meet you… for many reasons. Zathras also honored to meet you (to Sheridan) for other reasons.
Sheridan: Such as?
Zathras: Oh no. Draal give Zathras list of things not to say. This was one. No, not good. Not supposed to mention one, or “The One”. Oh! Uh… you never heard that.
Sheridan: What else is on this list of things you’re not supposed to mention?
Zathras: Zathras… does not remember. But if Zathras remember later, Zathras tells you.

Sinclair: I need Lennier to stay on the ship. Can you get the equipment up here by yourself?
Zathras: Yes, yes! Zathras is used to being beast of burden to other people’s needs. Very sad life! Probably have very sad death, but at least there is symmetry!

Sheridan: Londo? What am I doing here?
Londo: Welcome back from the abyss, Sheridan. You’re timing, as always, is quite exceptional… just in time to die!

Sinclair: All my life, I’ve had doubts about who I am, where I belonged. Now, I’m like the arrow that springs from the bow. No hesitation, no doubts. The path is clear.

Londo: What am I doing is something someone should have done a long time ago. Putting you out of my misery! A fitting punishment for your crimes.
Sheridan: What crimes? I –
Londo: The crime of neglect! The crime of convenience! During your little war you drove away the Shadows, oh yes! But you didn’t think to clean up your mess. If a few of their minions, their dark servants, came to Centauri Prime… well, where is the harm in that, yes? Hmm? You want to see the harm? Do you?! (shows him to the window. Centauri Prime has been devastated) There is the legacy of your war!

Sinclair:
ready?
Delenn: Why do your people always ask if someone is ready right before you are going to do something massively unwise?
Sinclair: Tradition!

Part II:

Sheridan: But this couldn’t happen, not in this amount of time! What year is this?
Londo: This is the last year, and the last day, and the last hour, of your life! Seventeen years since you began your great crusade, seventeen – (coughs) I am tired. Take him back to his cell. Sheridan… make your peace with whatever gods you worship. You will be meet next time I send for you. I cannot recall my world from what it has become, but I can thank you properly for your role in it.

Ivanova: You said move, how’d you know they were coming?
Marcus: Didn’t. But right now would be the worst time to be discovered, so it was logical it would happen now. Like I said, I don’t believe in luck. (Accidentally opens the panel they’ve been looking for) On the other hand…

Delenn: The war is never completely won. There are always new battles to be fought against the darkness. Only the names change. But we… we achieved everything we set out to achieve. We created something that will endure for a thousand years. But the price, John… the terrible, terrible price! I didn’t think I’d see you before the end…

Londo: We all have our keepers, you see? I gave a very good performance… yes. It was satisfied. Doesn’t care why I do what I do, as long as I do it… as long as you are dead. (shows the Shadow implant) It cannot hold its liquor, you see? I have learned that if I drink enough, I can put it to sleep for just a few minutes. A few minutes where… I am myself again. But the few minutes are growing shorter and shorter. So… we do not have much time. My life is almost over. My world, all I hope for, gone. You two are my last chance… for this place, for my people, for my own redemption… In exchange for your lives, all I ask is that you and your allies help to free my people. I can do nothing more for them. Go now, quickly. You do not have much time…

Sheridan: I’m being pulled back!
Delenn: Then take these words back with you to the past. Treasure the moments you have, savor them for as long as you can, for they will never come back again. John, listen to me. Do not go to Z’ha’dum, do you understand? Do not go to Z’ha’dum!

Ivanova: We’re running out of time.
Zathras: Cannot run out of time. There is infinite time. You are finite, Zathras is finite. This is wrong tool. No, not good. Never use this.

Marcus: You always said half a truth was worse than a life. You’ve kept us going so fast we haven’t had time to think. This system isn’t fully automatic is it? Someone has to ride this thing into the distant past, and it’s a one way ticket. Whoever goes isn’t coming back…
Sheridan: Is this true? (Sinclair nods)
Marcus: Fine, I’ll take her out.
Sinclair: Marcus, I’ll take it back because I’ve always taken it, and I always will. It’s already happened.
Ivanova: You don’t know that!
Sinclair: Yes I do. You asked what brought me here. Before I left Mimbar, I was given a letter from nine hundred years ago. (gives Sheridan the letter)
Sheridan: Who’s handwriting is this?
Sinclair: Mine. I wrote this from the past. From nine hundred years ago, it’s as simple as that… My whole life has been leading to this.

Zathras: All Mimbari belief is around three… All is three! As you are three… as you are One. As you are The One. You are The One who was. You are The One who is. And you are The One who will be. You are the beginning of the story, and the middle of the story, and the end of the story, that creates the next great story! In your hearts, you know what Zathras says is true. Go now! Zathras’ place is with the One who was. We have… a destiny!

Delenn: That door is closed forever, but it is not the only one. Lennier told you that a thousand years ago, Mimbari and human souls began to merge. Mimbari souls were being born in human bodes. Something happened that opened that door between us. My change was in part to even the scales and restore balance between our races using the device my people discovered a thousand years ago. You see… if my people had found Babylon 4 with a human aboard, they would have never accepted it.
Marcus: Dear God! A Mimbari not born of Mimbari!

Sinclair/Valen: I welcome you and present this place to you as a gift. I am called Valen, and we have much work ahead of us…

8. Walkabout:
Doctor Franklin continues his walkabout, and explains how he’s “looking for his other half” which he lost awhile back. A replacement Vorlon arrives on the station, identifying himself as Kosh (“we are all Kosh,” he explains). He is incensed over Kosh’s death and blamed Lyta, and demands to know if any part of him survived. She hears Kosh’s voice when talking to Sheridan and believes that he might be carrying a part of him after all.

G’Kar gets a visit from the Captain of the G’Tok, the Narn warship that Sheridan gave sanctuary to in season two’s Fall of Night. He tells G’Kar that several Narn ships survived the war due to the Centauri’s haste to get to their homeworld. They are marshalling now and waiting for an opportunity to strike back. G’Kar tells them they need to focus on keeping the station safe for the time being, and that B5 is of great significance.

Sheridan and his war council plan to field-test telepaths against a Shadow vessel, which they learned in a previous episode are vulnerable to telepathic jamming.The G’Tok is initially planned to provide escort, but G’Kar is told by its Captain that they must preserve their ships until the time comes to liberate the Narn homeworld. He agrees, but is confronted by Garibaldi who reminds him that the entire point of their alliance is that they are supposed to be looking out for each other, not themselves.

Sheridan takes Lyta and a White Star and heads into a zone of engagement where they come face to face with a ship. Lyta is initially overwhelmed, but when Sheridan touches her, she gets a vision of how Kosh died. Enraged, she managed to jam the Shadow vessel and they destroy it. However, they are forced to drain their jump engines to get enough power to kill it with their guns. More ships arrive, and Lyta is too drained to fight them. Things look dire, but G’Kar arrives with the G’Tok and several other League ships and force the Shadows to run. For the first time ever, the Shadows have been forced to retreat!

They return to the station victorious, and Lyta confides in the new Kosh that “someone” might have a piece of Kosh in them. The Vorlon is understandably intrigued…

Significance:
Sheridan and his alliance see for the first time that Shadow vessels can be beaten using telepaths. This will prove of great value to them in the coming war. This episode is also the first time that we see that a part of Kosh is living inside Sheridan, which may very well save his life when the time comes. The reintroduction of the G’Tok and the revelation that Narn ships survived the war will also prove important to the fledgling alliance, as is G’Kar decision to commit them to the Shadow War rather than focusing on striking back against the Centauri. It also introduces the new Vorlon, who we are shown is not at all like the original Kosh. In addition to his appearance, his demeanor seems much harsher and more strict, traits which will become clear as time goes on.

Memorable Lines:
Londo: A Narn heavy cruiser? This is intolerable! By treaty, all Narn warships are to be turned over to Centauri forces!
Garibaldi: Yeah, well we didn’t sign that treaty. You got a problem, call Earth. If they didn’t forced us to break away, we wouldn’t need a mutual protection agreement. That means we take every ship we can get!
Londo: And what guarantee will you give me that the cruiser will not open fire on a Centauri vessel as it approaches Babylon 5, hmm?
Garibaldi: It’s the same guarantee I gave when I promised that none of the other Narns would break into your quarters in the middle of the night, and slit your throat.
Londo: Mr. Garibaldi, you have never given me that promise.
Garibaldi: You’re right… sleep tight!

Na’Kal: Breen! You’ve managed to import breen from Homeworld! How?
G’Kar: It, uh…isn’t actually breen.
Na’Kal: But… the smell, the taste—!
G’Kar: It’s an Earth food. They are called Swedish meatballs. It’s a strange thing, but every sentient race has its own version of these Swedish meatballs! I suspect it’s one of those great universal mysteries which will either never be explained, or which would drive you mad if you ever learned the truth.

Sheridan: Uh, before you go. Your government neglected to tell me your name. How should I refer to you when we’re alone?
Vorlon: Kosh.
Sheridan: Ah, yes, I understand that’s how we’re to refer to you publicly but… privately?
Vorlon: Kosh.
Ivanova: Ambassador Kosh is dead.
Vorlon: We are all Kosh.
Sheridan: He’s a Vorlon alright.
Ivanova: Yep!

Garibaldi: What the hell are you doing?
Franklin: Well, it’s a long story.
Garibaldi: Why is everything’s around here a long story? Why isn’t anything ever a short story, a paragraph? Look, just give me the short version, okay?
Franklin: Alright… Walkabout.
Garibaldi: That’s it?
Franklin: Well it’s either that or the long version so you take your pick.

Garibaldi: Stephen… you don’t really believe there are two of you, do you?
Franklin: No, it’s a metaphor! All right, there isn’t literally another me walking around the station. But the principle is real! I realized I didn’t have any idea who I was when I wasn’t being a doctor, and I think I was using the stims to avoid facing that. Now I gotta fix it.
Garibaldi: How?
Franklin: By going walkabout. You just leave everything, and you start walking. I mean, the Foundation adopted the idea from the Aborigines back on Earth. The theory is, if you’re separated from yourself, you start walking and you keep walking until you meet yourself. Then you sit down, and you have a long talk. Talk about everything that you’ve learned, everything that you’ve felt, and you talk until you’ve run out of words. Now, that’s vital, because the real important things can’t be said. And then, if you’re lucky, you look up, and there’s just you. Then you can go home.
Garibaldi: You know how crazy this sounds? You’re a doctor… a scientist?
Franklin: And?
Garibaldi: And what?
Franklin: Exactly!

Sheridan: As you know, Mr. Garibaldi recently uncovered information which seems to indicate the Shadows have a weakness. Now there ships are based on organic technology that may be vulnerable to telepathic interference. In theory, a telepath might be able to jam their central operating system leaving them vulnerable to attack.
G’Kar: I noticed a number of conditional phrases in that. “Seems to indicate a weakness”, “maybe”, “in theory”…

9. And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place:
Lord Refa and a high-ranking minister of the Centauri royal court arrive on the station with the intention of ending the rivalry between him and Londo. However, it quickly becomes clear that they both intend to dispose of the other. Londo tells Vir of his plan, to lure G’Kar to a trap on the Narn homeworld by getting Vir to tell him that his former aide – N’Toth – is being held there. He will then capture him and present him to the Emperor as a gift, and thus win favor over Refa. Vir doesn’t want to but is forced when Londo threatens his family. Vir complies and delivers the message to G’Kar.

Vir is kidnapped and telepathically scanned, and Refa plans to intercept G’Kar for himself. G’Kar appears to take the bait and travels to Narn where he sees the devastation from the war. When Refa’s forces arrive to kidnap him, he is shocked to see that G’Kar and Refa are actually working together. G’Kar activates a hologram recording where Londo tells him everything. It turns out the plan he told Vir was a ruse to lure Refa to Narn where G’Kar’s Narns would then kill him in revenge for all he did to them. Londo in turn gets his revenge against Refa for his suspected role in poisoning Adira. Before they beat him to death, G’Kar puts a data crystal on Refa’s person that implicates him in helping the Narn resistance, as a way of “playing both sides” so that he could maneuver his way to the throne.

Sheridan is going over the Shadow’s war plan, hoping to divine their strategy. The attacks seem random, but their tactics in the field appear very logical. It doesn’t make sense, until Sheridan looks at the overall pattern and sees that their true aim is to drive refugees to one sector of space, where they can then attack and eliminate them all. They now know where the Shadows will attack next, and plan to make a stand there.

B5 gets a new flock of visitors, a group of religious leaders who are personal friends and colleagues to Brother Theo, the Catholic monk who came aboard the station awhile back. They begin holding services to counter all the fear and uncertainty that has been pervasive since Clark took over back home. After days of being stuck reviewing the Shadow’s battle plans, Delenn drags Sheridan to a service, thinking it will do him some good. They take part in a rousing version of “And the rock cried out, no hiding place” as Refa is beaten to a bloody pulp by G’Kar’s Narns!

Significance:
Sheridan is able to crack the Shadow’s strategy, thus putting him and their alliance in the perfect position to mount a counter-attack. We know then that a major battle is about to take place, and soon! Londo finally rids himself of Refa, and does so by cooperating with G’Kar. G’Kar, in turn, gets his first glimpse of the Narn homeworld after its devastation in the war. He will return later, and his many actions will lead him to be viewed as a religious icon by his people.

Memorable Lines:
Reverend William Dexter: Are you starting in already, Theo? I tell you, in fifty years of living and forty years of serving the Lord, I have never met a sorrier soul than Brother Theo here!
Susan Ivanova: Well, I wouldn’t say…
Brother Theo: Thank you! But I’d prefer to leave judgments as to the state of my soul to someone better qualified, and perhaps a bit less loud!
Rev. Dexter: But it says in the Bible to make a joyful noise unto the Lord!
Brother Theo: [grinning] I’ve heard you sing, Will. And take my word for it, that is not what the Good Lord had in mind when He said, “a joyful noise”!

Delenn: Ivanova sent me to find you. She said you haven’t been sleeping, you have hardly been eating; she said that you have been, in her words, “carrying on cranky.” I looked up the word “cranky.” It said “grouchy.” I looked up “grouchy,” it said “crotchety.” No wonder you have such an eccentric culture: none of your words have their own meaning! You have to look up one word to understand another. It never ends.
Sheridan: [not paying attention] Something here doesn’t make sense.
Delenn: That is what I thought when I came across “crotchety.” This cannot be a real word, I said.
Sheridan: The Shadows keep attacking random targets! Very illogical! On the other hand, once engaged, their tactics are very successful! Very logical! It’s–it’s a contradiction!
Delenn: Unless the random attacks are logical in some way we haven’t yet determined.
Sheridan: Exactly.
Delenn: So you have been sitting here trying to think illogically about logical possibilities, or logically about illogical possibilities.
Sheridan: Hm? Yes, yes.
Delenn: Well, no wonder you are cranky! [he looks at her in confusion, oblivious to everything she’s just said] Grouchy? Never mind. Your face just broke the language barrier.

Rev. Dexter: Every day, here and at home, we are warned about the enemy. But who is the enemy? Is it the alien? Well, we are all alien to one another. Is it the one who believes differently than we do? No, oh no, my friends. The enemy is fear. The enemy is ignorance. The enemy is the one who tells you that you must hate that which is different. Because, in the end, that hate will turn on you. And that same hate will destroy you.

10. Shadow Dancing:
Having discovered where the Shadows will attack next, Sheridan and Delenn begin rallying the League worlds to send as many ships as they can to Sector 83 to participate in a counter-attack. They are reluctant, since it will mean lessening their defenses around their own worlds; but in time, they agree to send what they can. Ivanova and Marcus are sent ahead to scout out the area, and while they are gone, Marcus begins to show clear signs that he loves her.

A Shadow scout ship arrives shortly thereafter and spots them. They engage it an are damaged, but manage to keep it from sending a distress signal. The main fleet jumps in as schedules, and Sheridan commits his forces. The fight is difficult, but once again, the Shadows are stopped and forced to retreat. Though their losses are roughly 2 to 1, this is the first time a full-scale attack has been beaten back, and they know the Shadows will not be too happy about it.

Speaking back in Sheridan’s office, he, Ivanova and Delenn begin to understand what the dream Sheridan experienced when he was aboard the Strieb ship means. In essence, he learns that he saw of several things to come, like Ivanova being a latent telepath, that they would be working with Bester, and lastly, that his “equal but opposite” would be looking for him. This last bit he doesn’t understand, but he knows that the Shadows are likely to try and hit B5 next. So far, they’ve left it alone for various reasons, but now that they’ve hurt them, it’s only a matter of time before they come knocking…

Franklin is still on walkabout, and gets stabbed when he tries to intervene in an assault. While bleeding out on the floor, he finds his “other self” that tells him his problem is that he keeps running away from his problems. After realizing he wants his old life back, his other self tells him to get up and fight for it. He narrowly makes it back to the station’s main area where people find him and take him to medlab. He wakes up and talks to Garibaldi, telling him he found what he needed, which was a “short, sharp kick to the head.” He is there when the wounded begin to arrive and takes over medlab, telling Sheridan he wants to come back.

Having been beaten, the Shadows send a ship to B5 with a single passenger. They board the station, pass through security and head for John’s quarters without incident. Back in his quarters, Delenn and Sheridan spend the night together. She watches him sleep, which is apparently a Mimbari custom, and leaves the bedroom just in time to see Anna Sheridan – John’s wife, who he they all thought was dead – as she walks in the door.

Significance:
The alliance has come together for the first time to repulse the Shadows, which is a major victory for them. However, they know that this has made them vulnerable aboard B5, since the Shadows know that it has become a rallying point for the younger races. Their reaction, apparently, was to send in Anna Sheridan, who was long thought to have perished at Z’ha’dum. Instead, it seems that she is alive and working with them, much like Morden.

In addition, we get to see what Sheridan’s dream aboard the Strieb ship really meant. The “man in between”, his “equal but opposite” (i.e. his wife) who has been looking for him, has apparently found him! Also, the scene where Anna Sheridan walks in and Delenn drops a snow globe onto the floor was foreshadowed in War Without End. After experiencing it, Delenn says she just felt like someone “walked over her grave”. She now understands what it meant.

Memorable Lines:
Delenn: We have before us an opportunity to strike at our mutual enemy, the Shadows. If our information is correct, this could be the biggest engagement of the war to date. We do not know how many of their ships will be there, so our only chance is to have as many as possible on our side. We need all of you to cooperate.
Drazi Ambassador: If you wish cooperation, why don’t you tell us what the mission is?
Lennier: If we discuss this openly, there is every chance the enemy will learn of our plans. You must trust us.
Brakiri Ambassador: How can we trust you if you will not trust us?
Delenn: Because so far, we have kept every promise we have made. We told you that telepaths could slow the advance of the Shadows. We supplied you with telepaths if you did not have your own. We have saved the lives of many of your people. If we have not earned your trust by now, then please go. Nothing more will be required of you…

Susan Ivanova: That’s a lot of ships.
Marcus Cole: That’s a bloody awful lot of ships.
Ivanova: Jump engines back on line yet?
Marcus: No. If I signal the fleet, this lot might pick it up. If they do and we can’t get away…
Ivanova: Well…who wants to live forever?
Marcus: I do, actually! But what the hell…

Ivanova: Captain… you okay?
Sheridan: I’m not sure… Ever since Kosh died, I’ve been remembering a dream. Last year, when I was hurt, he got inside my head. He spoke to me, sent me this images. One of them was you saying “do you know who I am?” A week later, you tell me you’re a latent telepath, said sometimes you don’t know who you are… At one point, I was wearing the uniform of a Psi Cop.
Ivanova: Well, we’re working with Bester now and that was unexpected… so that tracks. Anything else?
Sheridan: He sent me the image of Garibaldi saying (“the man in between in searching for you”)
Ivanova: “The man in between”… he might have meant Sinclair.
Sheridan: Maybe, but I don’t think so. Somehow it doesn’t feel right. The last thing was you dressed all in black, as if for a funeral… you said (“you are the hand”)
Ivanova: “You are the hand”? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Why would I say anything as dopey sounding as that?
Sheridan: I don’t know, but if Kosh sent it, it must have meant something.
Delenn: Odd that he would use that image though…
Sheridan: Why?
Delenn: Well, you have two hands do, you not? Each equal and opposite?
Ivanova: So you’re saying that the man in between is your equal and opposite?
Sheridan: (remembers seeing an image of himself in the dream) Maybe.
Ivanova: Well, if that’s what it is then the man in between knows who you are and now that we’ve kicked him hard and where it hurts…
Sheridan: Assuming it means anything. Signs, portents, dreams… next thing we’ll be reading tea leaves and chicken entrails. All we do know is that we are vulnerable now… We should expect something to be coming our way sooner or later. The way our luck works, probably be sooner!

Franklin: I can’t go back, but I can appreciate what I have right now, and I can define myself by what I am, instead of what I’m not.
Sheridan: And what are you?
Franklin: Alive. Everything else is negotiable.

Anna Sheridan: Hello. You must be Delenn. I’m Anna Sheridan. John’s wife.

11. Z’ha’dum:
Sheridan’s wife, Anna, has come to the station to meet with him. She explains that her ship which was working for IPX had been sent to Z’ha’dum to investigate the remains of a lost civilization. She confirms what the knew about a Shadow vessel being discovered on Mars, which once activated, flew off to the rim of known space. However, IPX had placed a probe aboard and learned the signal stopped there. Though the mission was deemed one of exploration, their real purpose was to track the ship back to its base.

When they got there, they found the Shadows (though that name is apparently a misnomer) and began to learn from them. After an accident, the crew became stranded and remained behind of their own accord to keep learning. She tells Sheridan that they have so much to offer the human race, if they would just be welcomed. All they want if for Sheridan to come to Z’ha’dum to hear their side of the story…

At about the same time, G’Kar shows Ivanova a series of tactical nukes that they have obtained from the Gaim. They plan to use these in their next encounter with the Shadows, using them to mine an area and then detonating them when they approach. The fact that they are difficult to detect is one of their advantages.

Naturally, Sheridan is both confused and enraged by all that is happening. He tells Delenn that he was only able to begin rebuilding a life with her because she and Kosh gave him every reason to believe that Anna was dead. Delenn confesses that there was always some chance she’d be alive, that she’s choose to serve rather than die, but she held it back for fear John would run off to try and save her. Meanwhile, Franklin puts Anna through a battery of tests to confirm that she is truly Sheridan’s wife and not a clone or duplicate of some kind.

Though all the tests prove that she is indeed Sheridan’s wife, Franklin finds one anomaly with her. Months back, when they retrieved a shipment of telepaths bound for Z’ha’dum, they noticed that they all carried implants in their brains and corresponding devices on the outside of their heads. Marks on the back of Anna’s head are consistent with these. John agrees to go with Anna to Z’ha’dum and sees an image of Kosh before he leaves, repeating his warning that if Sheridan goes there, he will die.

Vir finds Londo drinking on the Zocola. He says he’s recieved some “bad news” from back home, that he is to be the Emperor’s adviser for maters of planetary security. He suspects this promotion is just so they can keep an eye on him. They are interrupted by a “friend” of Morden’s who tells Londo that he must leave the station… immediately. Delenn meanwhile finds a time-delayed recording left by Sheridan explaining to her that he’s going to Z’ha’dum even though he knows its a trap. His reasons have more to do with what he saw of the future when they on B4 than anything else. He saw that they had won, that the price had been immense, and that Delenn told him not to go to Z’ha’dum. He thinks perhaps the devastation he saw was the result of him not going. He believes he can accomplish something by going, and that he must put that above his own desires.

When Anna and Sheridan arrive at Z’ha’dum, they are met by Morden and a new man who says his name is Justin. He tells Sheridan that a million years back, the First Ones walked amongst the galaxy. In time, most went away or died out, but two stayed behind as shepherds to the younger races. One are the Shadows, the other the Vorlons. Initially, they worked together, but at a certain point, they’re differences in ideology led them into conflict. The Vorlons believe that development comes through order, whereas the Shadows believe in promoting through chaos. This is why they periodically return to the known universe and promote conflict. Those that are weaker are destroyed, but those that survive are made stronger. Sheridan is told that humanity has been selected as one such race because the Shadows “see potential” in them.

The only obstacle to their plans right now is Sheridan’s alliance. Sheridan asks why they simply haven’t killed him then, to which they reply that if they did, he’d be martyred and someone would replace him. Instead, they want him to join their side, since he can’t hope to keep the younger races together anyhow. Sheridan interrupts them to reveal that he knows what they’ve done to his wife, how they altered her by putting a Shadow implant in her mind and effectively killed the woman he knew. Realizing the jig is up and that he won’t cooperate, they threaten him and a Shadow enters to take him away. Sheridan retrieves his hidden PPG and begins shooting his way out.

Back at B5, Shadow vessels surround the station and threaten to destroy it. They begin deploying fighters and Ivanova inquires as to the status of their nukes. G’Kar reports that two are missing. Sheridan is then cornered on a balcony overlookign Z’ha’dum after escaping from Justin and Morden. Anna confronts him and tells him there’s no escape and that though she is not his wife, she can still make him happy. Sheridan decides to program the White Star to crash into the city and detonate its payload. Before it crashes through the city’s dome, he hears Kosh’s voice telling him to jump into the chasm below. He does, the nukes go off, and the Shadows leave B5.

Everyone suspects they have left because they don’t think B5 is a threat anymore, which can only Sheridan has died. In addition, they notice that one of their Star Furies, which was being piloted by Garibaldi, did not return. Delenn and Ivanova are devastated, and the season ends with G’Kar narrating a section from the book of G’Quan that talks about suffering, transition and change.

Significance:
In this season finale, Sheridan finally fulfills his promise and goes to Z’ha’dum to confront the Shadows. As Kosh predicted, he apparently dies there as well. However, he also learns a great deal from the encounter, things the Vorlons have been holding back. Up until now, he and the others have been under the impression that Vorlons and other First Ones have always stood against the Shadows. Now we come to understand that they used to be allies who followed rules of engagement, but who have since become enemies competing over who’s influence is dominant. The entire nature of the war will change because of this.

With the introduction of the tactical nukes, we also get to see what their plan is for the next big battle, which will take place during the next season. Sheridan’s use of them on Z’ha’dum will also alter the Shadows own tactics, forcing them to move much of their forces off the planet. It will also change the Vorlons tactics too. All of this will be of extreme importance as the war continues in season four…

Memorable Lines:
Delenn: Humans have a phrase: “What is past, is prologue.” Minbari also have a phrase: “What is past, is also sometimes the future.”

Ivanova: So the next time we find out where the Shadows plan to strike, we can mine the area. And as soon as they come out of hyperspace—
G’Kar: Then, as you so concisely say, “Boom!”

Sheridan: So… why not just kill me?
Justin: Doesn’t work, somebody’d just come around and replace you. That’s always been the trouble with creating martyrs. We brought you here, hoping you would understand us… work with us, not against us. You’re important. You’re what they call a nexus. You turn one way, and the whole world has a tendency to turn the same way. Let go of those other races. You can’t hold them together.

Justin: Work with us or…
Sheridan: Or you’ll do to me what you did to Anna! …Oh the memories are there, the voice is there, the DNA is there. But the personality… I look in her eyes and the woman I love, the woman I married… She would never go along with this!

G’Kar: It was the end of the Earth year 2260, and the war had paused, suddenly and unexpectedly. All around us, it was as if the universe were holding its breath… waiting. All of life can be broken down into moments of transition, or moments…of revelation. This had the feeling of both… G’Quan wrote, “There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope. The death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender.” The future is all around us, waiting in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future, or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born…in pain.