Cool Ships!

God, what an obvious extension of the whole conceptual sci-fi thing, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner! After all, what is a sci-fi franchise without some cool spacefaring vessels? Sometimes, these come in the form of exploratory ships that chart the unknown regions of the galaxy. Sometimes they are battleships which kick ass and don’t do much else. And sometimes they are generational ships, spending decades, centuries or even millennia cruising through space, ferrying people to new star systems and new galaxies.

But whatever their purpose, futuristic vessels are a constant source of enjoyment and interest. A lot of imagination and creativity goes into creating them, and what comes out is often a testament to the allure of speculative sci-fi. Anyway, today I thought I’d explore some choice examples of sci-fi ships and what makes them so cool. Here goes…

Defiant:
Making its debut in Star Trek: DS9, the Defiant became the workhorse of the station and the first line of defense against it’s enemies. Originally designed for combat with the Borg, the Defiant was a prototype for an entire generation of warship. Smaller than most starships, but also faster and boasting very powerful weaponry, the Defiant quickly gained a reputation for being the most dangerous vessel in the quadrant!

Yep, when this ship made its debut, I started watching the show. Every episode that featured space battles with the Defiant were worth watching, in my estimation. Blasting those rapid-fire cannons, firing those quantum torpedoes, blowing up anyone stupid enough to cross it; the Defiant did it all!

It’s prototype version even boasted a cloaking device, something the Federation borrowed from the Romulans so they could slit into Dominion territory once they found out about them. In time, the Defiant was lost, but more of its kind appeared to take up its role. The Valiant, the Sao Paolo, and a host of others were pressed into service as the series went on and the Dominion War became the focal point of the show. Much like their predecessor, these new Defiant-class ships kicked plenty of asses and never went down without a fight. A big, brutal, hard-slogging fight!

Galactica:
This ship is the namesake of the original movie and series and got a makeover for the re-imagining which was released back in 2005. And though her appearance has changed somewhat since the 1970’s when the original movie came out, the Galactica’s role and importance has remained the same. The last surviving Battlestar of the Twelve Colonies, she is the sole protector of the human fleet as it flees the Cylon onslaught and makes its way to an elusive world called Earth… and salvation!

One thing that did change between the old and new series was the sophistication of the design. Whereas in the 1970’s version, the Galactica was a state of the art, modern warship with laser cannons and a full crew, the newer version was an older, outdated vessel with projectile cannons and flak guns that had been retired from active service. As the series opens, we see that the Galactica was being converted into a museum ship that was meant to commemorate the last war against the Cylons which had ended over twenty years ago. It’s crew was skeletal and its senior officers were also due for retirement.

However, all of that changed when the Cylons launched their surprise attack on the Colonies. Being an obsolete vessel which used outdated computers and had no wireless networks, the Galactica was the only ship that wasn’t crippled by the virus the Cylon’s used to disable the Colonial fleet. After hastily equipping themselves with ammunition and some equally outdated Vipers from their showroom, the Galactica was forced into service. But by this time, the war was effectively over, and the Captain and crew dedicated themselves to a new mission: to find the only other human colony in existence (Earth) and begin repopulating their species.

Despite her age, the Galactica could still surprise her enemies when she needed to. Unlike her more modern companions, including the Pegasus which she met in season two, she had a habit of getting out of some rather tight spots. You could say that in the new series, this ship was a metaphor for humanity; aging and endangered, but a survivor nonetheless!

Millennium Falcon:
Here she is, the centerpiece of this list! For what ship is more cool than the Millennium Falcon? I mean really! Sure, she’s not the biggest or the most heavily armed ship on this list, but she is the fastest, nimblest, and she’s definitely got the most character. In some ways, she was almost part of the cast of the original Star Wars series, and I’m sure everyone felt bad for her when she got scuffed up during that last battle in Return of the Jedi ;).

Officially, the Falcon is a modified Corellian transport. Corellia, the planet Han calls home, is renowned for producing good ships in addition to good spacers. They’re fast, sleek, and infinitely modifiable. It’s little wonder then why they are a favorite amongst smugglers. And Corellian spacers especially are known for being very monogamous and loyal when it comes to their ship selection.

Prior to joining the Rebellion, the Falcon was primarily used to smuggle spice from Kessel to other regions of the Galaxy, usually at the behest of Jabba the Hutt. In spite of its speed, the Falcon would occasionally get boarded by Imperial patrols. When this happened, Han and Chewi relied on a secret compartment to stash their goods. However, on one of his final runs, Han was boarded by an Imperial patrol and was forced to ditch his manifest.

Shortly thereafter, Han and Chewi joined the Rebellion and the role of the Falcon changed considerably. Now, it was involved in attack missions, the most notable of which were the assaults on the first and second Death Star. At other times, it continued to do what it did best – fly fast and elude Imperial ships!

Nostalgia for Infinity:
Here we have an interesting ship, which comes to us from the mind of Alastair Reynolds and the Revelation Space universe. Known as a “Lighthugger”, this class of vessel was one which could travel close to the speed of light thanks to its massive “Conjoiner Drives”. These engines, which were attached to the outsides of the ships, relied on a controlled singularity to generate the necessary inertia to push the ship as close to light speed as was physically possible for a vessel of its size.

The crews of these ships were known as “Ultranauts”, or Ultras for short. Typically, these were the kinds of cybernetically enhanced human beings who were capable of interfacing with the ship’s advanced machinery, prolonged space travel and withstanding the inertial stresses caused by near-light speed travel.

In the case of the Nostalgia, the ship was commanded by a Triumvir, three Captains who took turns commanding the ship while it was in deep space and the others were in reefersleep (i.e. cryogenic suspension). This included Ilia Volyova, Sajaki and Hegazi, three Ultras who had taken over after the Captain and ship had succumbed to what was known as the “Melding Plague”. This virus is a key element to the story of RS, being alien in origin and which infects and perverts nanotechnological matter.

In the course of running their various missions to and from the many worlds of the RS universe, the crew came into possession of a series of “Cache Weapons”, missiles and gun platforms which were apparently of Conjoiner design, and were officially known as Hell-class weapons.  As the series progressed, both the Nostalgia, its crew, and these weapons played an increasingly important role in defending the human race from the alien threat of the “Inhibitors” (see Planet Killers, The Inhibitors, for more detail).

Red Dwarf:
The eponymous spaceship from the BBC series, the Red Dwarf – otherwise known as the “giant red trashcan” – was a huge mining vessel measuring 10 km in length, 6.5 km in height, and 5 km in width. Built for mining and owned by the Jupiter Mining Corporation, the ship is immense, largely self-sufficient, and run by an AI named Holly. And for some reason, it has an asteroid embedded in its hull (this is never explained).

In the beginning of the series, a radiation leak killed the entire crew, except for the protagonist Dave Lister, a technician who was apparently in suspended animation at the time. In order to ensure his survival, Lister is kept in suspension by Holly until all the background radiation dissipates, a process which takes over three million years. As a result, Lister wakes up to find that he’s the last living human in existence. His only companions are the hologram of his former bunk-mate Rimmer, and a humanoid feline named Cat who evolved from Lister’s cat (Frankenstein) over three million years that he was asleep.

Over the course of the show, the crew encounters new planets, species and time distortions aboard the Red Dwarf, all the while trying to make their back to Earth. The largely self-sufficient ship takes care of their every need, though it has begun to run out of certain supplies after three million years (including Shake n Vac and all but one After Eight mint!).

Serenity:
I’ve spent quite a bit of time talking about Firefly as of late, but the list says cool ships so I don’t see how the Serenity can possibly be left off this list! As the centerpiece of the single-season series and the movie, the ship has a long story and a lot of character, much like her crew! Originally designed as a class of cargo freighter, the Firefly is apparently an older model of ship that is no longer in use with the Alliance but remains popular out on the rim.

All references to it in the early episodes indicate that the series is essentially obsolete, but due to their ruggedness, shelf-life and the presence of secret compartments, they remain a popular item amongst smugglers. Hmmm, echoes of the Millennium Falcon there. Nevertheless, as the series progresses, this reputation is illustrated in how Mal and the crew are able to stow illegal goods and how Kaylee is able to keep the ship running under tight conditions with all kinds of improvised repairs. And despite the fact that it is no longer being constructed, most of its parts are still available and easily attainable on the open and black market.

Much like all ships in the Firefly/Serenity universe, the Firefly is apparently a sub-light vessel, incapable of traveling faster than the speed of light. Though unarmed, it is fast and maneuverable in both space and planetary atmospheres. This is made possible by the addition of two external multi-directional thrusters which allow for takeoff, landing, and the occasional crazy Ivan (which the crew pulled in the pilot episode). It also boasts two shuttle pods, which can be used as escape vessels or as secondary transports. Inara, the Companion crewwoman, uses one such pod as her quarters and transport for personal away missions.

The ship also has its own medbay and crew quarters, which is another feature that makes it popular amongst spacers. In fact, the availability of a private room was intrinsic in Mal’s offer to “recruit” Jayne Cobb from another gang, which was illustrated in a flashback sequence during the episode “Out of Gas”. There was even room enough to accommodate River and Simon and Book, which would indicate that the ship contains eight bunks in total. A communal dining area and food processors also see to their needs while not sleeping, gun-slinging, or generally doing something illegal!

USS Sulaco:
After barely surviving her first encounter with the xenomorph in Alien, Ellen Ripley and a crew of Colonial Marines returned to LV-426 in Aliens to settle the score! The ship that brought them there was none other than the USS Sulaco – a big, bad, military vessel boasting big-ass guns and enough Marine firepower to level an entire colony. Much like the Nostromo, the Sulaco is a reference to the work of Joseph Conrad, writer of Heart of Darkness (significant? Oh, I think so!).

Apparently, the Sulaco is a Conestoga-class warship designed for ferrying Marines to and from conflict areas in the future. While it was only carrying one platoon of Marines and two dropships in the second movie, this class of ship is capable of carrying 20,000 tons of cargo, eight UD4L Cheyenne-class dropships and a crew of 90 personnel (according to other franchise reference material). Hmm, too bad they didn’t pack the Sulaco to capacity, otherwise Ripley would have never had to take matters into her own hands to kill the Queen Alien!

Much like everything else in the Alien franchise, the Sulaco and all other Conestoga-class vessels are built by the Weyland-Yutani corporation, military division. Clearly, their purpose is to enforce the law, hunt down (and capture) xenomorphs, and maintain the peace aboard its many, many colonies. All part of their commitment to “Building Better Worlds” I guess 😉

White Star:
My personal favorite of this list, the coolest and most badass ship to come from the Babylon 5 universe! Fast, small, and boasting incredible firepower, the White Star was the workhorse of the Shadow War, Sheridan’s campaign to liberate Earth, and the early military campaigns of the Interstellar Alliance. In a lot of ways, it is much like the Defiant from the DS9 universe… I do believe they stole the idea from Straczynski!

As a collaboration between the Mimbari and the Vorlons, the White Star ships were partially based on organic technology. This meant that the ship was essentially alive and could heal itself when damaged. In addition, its organic armor was capable of deflecting energy, giving it a sort of shielding which could protect it from anything other than a physical impact.

The ship’s main weapons consisted of pulse cannons and a single beam cannon mounted in the nose. This gave it the ability to pepper targets with rapid fire shots while conducting high-speed maneuvers, and slicing them with focused bursts while on an attack vector.  All of this came in handy when dealing with Shadow vessels, which are notoriously hard to kill! It also proved useful when up against larger, heavier ships like Earth Force cruisers, Drakh vessels, and anything else the known universe could throw at them.

From the initial prototype, the Mimbari would go on to construct thousands of White Star-class vessels which were crewed by the Rangers and members of the Religious Caste. After the formation of the Alliance, Sheridan proposed the creation of a heavier version which culminated in the design of two White Star Destroyers, the Victory and Excalibur. This latter ship was the centerpiece of the spinoff series, Crusade.

Final Thoughts:
Well, that was fun! No final thoughts today, as I really have none to offer. I just really like cool ships! And much like most toys for grown ups, they are made cool by the fact that they are used for some fun purposes – like smuggling, fighting or exploration – and generally boast one or more of the following factors: speed, firepower, special abilities, visual appeal, and maybe some secret compartments. Any or all of these will do, thank you very much. Until next time!

Of Galactic Empires

Galaxy1Hello again, fellow sci-fi fans! Today, I thought I’d write about something conceptual, something that is intrinsic to so much science fiction and keeps popping up in various forms. It’s something that has appeared in countless serials, novels, tv shows, movies, and RPG’s. I am referring, of course, to the concept of the Galactic Empire, a science fiction trope that has seen many incarnations, but revolves around a singular theme of a political entity that spans the known universe.

Whether it’s a loose federation of humans and aliens spanning many different star systems, or a despotism made up of millions of worlds, all populated by human beings, or something somewhere in the middle, this trope has proven to be one of the most enduring ideas of classic science fiction.

But where exactly did this idea come from? Who was the first to come up with a futuristic, galaxy-spanning polity where millions of star systems and quadrillions of sentient beings all found themselves living underneath one roof?

Asimov’s Foundation Series:

An artists rendering of Trantor

Isaac Asimov is arguably the first science fiction author to use the concept of a galaxy-spanning empire in his literature. Known simply as the Galactic Empire, this organization was the centerpiece of his Foundation series. As fans of the books know, the entire series was built around the idea of the imminent collapse of said empire and how a small band of scientists (led by Hari Seldon) were dedicated to ensuring that the collective knowledge of the universe would be preserved in its absence. The books were based heavily on Gibbon’s History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a compendium which explored the various reasons for the collapse of Rome and the resulting Dark Ages.

The universe of the Galactic Empire centered on a planet named Trantor. Based on his descriptions, the planet was covered by a massive urban landscape, every habitable area having been built over in order to accommodate the planet’s huge population. In addition to being the capitol of the Empire, it was also its administrative head, cultural hub, and economic epicenter. Much like Rome of antiquity, it depended heavily on the surrounding territories for food and raw materials in order to sustain itself, and was terribly hit when the Empire began to decline.

However, beyond some passing descriptions of its size, centrality and the problems facing its encapsulated population, not much is said about Trantor or many other worlds of the Galactic Empire. In fact, not much is said about the Empire itself, other than the fact that it has endured for millennia and is on the verge of collapsing. Mainly, the focus in Asimov’s Foundation is on the events that precipitated its fall and the work of the Foundation once that was complete; how they went about the process of restoring civilization in the absence of a central authority. However, the subsequent Foundation novels, which included some prequels, helped to flesh out the Empire further, providing details on member worlds and the events which preceded the development of Hari Seldon’s “psychohistory”.

Frank Herbert’s Dune:

Arrakis (aka. Dune), the main setting of the story

One of the greatest examples of a galactic empire in my opinion. In the first installment of the Dune series, we are made immediately aware that humanity now inhabits the entire galaxy and are ruled from a world called Kaitan by a sovereign known as the Padishah Emperor. However, it is also made clear that while the emperor is the supreme leader, power is shared in a quasi-feudal arrangement between the noble houses (the Landstraad), a corporate entity that controls all economic affairs (CHOAM), and the various guilds (of which the Spacing Guild is arguably the most powerful). In this universe, much attention is given to the breakdown of power, the history of how it came to be, and the various member worlds and houses.

For starters, there is House Corrino, the ruling dynasty of the empire that is centered on Kaitan. Their house once ruled from a planet known as Selusa Secundus, but which has since been reduced to ashes from a nuclear attack and now serves as the emperor’s prison planet (where his elite armies are trained). More important, and central to the story, is House Atreides, the family which rules from an ocean planet named Caladan, but come to inherit the desert planet Arrakis (aka. Dune). Passing attention is also given to Geidi Prime, the industrial world run by House Harkonnen, the nominal villains of the story.

Dune_MapBut by far, the most detailed and developed descriptions are that of the planet Arrakis, where most of the story takes place. Throughout the first novel, the planet’s ecology, native species, and inhabitants (the Fremen) are richly detailed. Given that it is the only world where the spice (an awareness drug the entire universe depends on) is mined, the world is understandably the focal point of the Dune universe. Clearly analogous to oil, the spice is a metaphor for human dependence on a single resource, and the consequences thereof. By taking control of the planet at story’s end and threatening to destroy the spice, Paul Atreides effectively becomes the universe’s new ruler. For as the sayings go: “He who controls the spice, controls the universe”, and “He who can destroy a thing controls that thing.”

Frank Herbert cited a number of influences for his galactic empire. Like Asimov, he relied a great deal on history, particularly that of the Middle East, the Crusades, and a number of feudal societies. At the same time, Herbert became fascinated with ecology, a result of his living in Florence, Oregon where the US Department of Agriculture was using poverty grasses to stabilize the expanding Oregon dunes. The article which he wrote about them, entitled “They Stopped the Moving Sands”  was never completed and only appeared decades later in The Road to Dune. Nevertheless, it was from this combination of real history and ecology, how the living environment affects its inhabitants and shapes history, that the universe of Dune emerged.

Star Wars:

Coruscant, capitol of the Old Republic and Empire

Perhaps the best known example of a galactic empire, which in turn emerged from what Lucas called the Old Republic. When asked about his inspirations, George Lucas claimed that he wanted to create an empire that was as aesthetically and thematically similar to Nazi Germany as possible. This is made abundantly clear when one looks into the back story of how the Empire emerged, how its malevolent dictator (Palpatine, a Sith Lord) rose to power and began launching campaigns to eliminate anyone who stood in his way. In addition, the use of Storm Troopers, the uniforms of the imperial officers, and the appearance of Darth Vader also add visual representation to this.

However, a great deal of antiquity works its way into the Star Wars universe as well. Much like Herbert and Asimov, there is a parallel between the past and the future. The incorporation of royalty, swordfights between Bushido-like warriors, gun-toting smugglers, cantinas, dangerous towns in the middle of the desert, and all the allusions to the “Republic” and “Galactic Senate”, fair and noble institutions which ruled the galaxy before the dark times – all of these are themes taken from ancient Greece, Rome, feudal Japan, medieval Europe, and the Wild West.

Urban sprawl on Coruscant
Urban sprawl on Coruscant

In any case, at the center of Lucas’ galactic empire lies Coruscant, a planet that was clearly inspired by Trantor. Whereas in the original series, the planet was not shown or even mentioned, it receives a great deal of attention in the Star Wars novelizations, comics, and prequel movies. Much like Trantor, it is a planet that is completely dominated by urban sprawl, literally every corner of it is covered by massive sky-scrapers and multi-leveled buildings.

According to the Star Wars Wiki (Wookiepedia), roughly a trillion humans and aliens live on its surface, which is another detail that is noteworthy about Lucas’ universe. Unlike Foundation or Dune, in Star Wars, the galactic empire includes countless sentient races, though humans do appear to be the dominant species. This racial aspect is something else that is akin to World War II and Nazi Germany.

Whereas the Rebellion is made up of humans and aliens who are struggling for freedom and tolerance, the Empire is composed entirely of humans who believe in their own racial superiority. However, in a tribute to Lucas’ more creative days, not much is said about this divide, the audience is instead left to infer it from the outward appearances and behavior of the characters on screen. However, the idea receives much development in the novelizations, particularly Timothy Zhan’s Thrawn Trilogy.

Star Trek:

Star Fleet Command, in orbit above Earth

Yet another take on the concept of a galactic polity: Gene Roddenberry’s United Federation of Planets. Much like the Empire of Lucas’ own universe, the Federation is made up of hundreds of member worlds and any number of races. But unlike its peers in the Foundation, Dune or Star Wars universes, the Federation only encompasses a small portion of the galaxy – between ten and fifteen percent, depending on where you look in the storyline.

Beyond their range of influence lie several competing or cooperative empires – the Klingons, the Romulans, the Cardasians, the Dominion, and the Borg. Each of these empires represent a threat to the Federation at one time or another in the story, largely because their ideologies are in direct conflict with the Federations policy of peace, multiculturalism and understanding.

This may sound a tad tongue-in-cheek, but it is the main vehicle for the story. In Star Trek, like many other sci-fi franchises, Gene Roddenberry uses alien races as mirrors for the human condition. Whereas in his vision of the future humanity has evolved to overcome the scourges of war, poverty, disease, intolerance and oppression, other races are either less advanced or openly embrace these things.

Negh'varThe Klingons, for example, were the enemies of the Federation because of their commitment to warrior politics. The Romulans are locked  in an ongoing cold war with them because of their belief in their own racial superiority. The Dominion seeks dominance over all “solid” life forms because, as shape shifters, they fear being controlled themselves. And the Borg are an extremely advanced cybernetic race that seeks to “perfect” organic life by merging it – by force, if necessary – with the synthetic. The metaphors are so thick, you could cut them with a knife!

Yes, subtlety was never Roddenberry’s greatest attribute, but the franchise was an open and inclusive one, borrowing freely from other franchises and sci-fi concepts, and incorporating a great deal of fan writing into the actual show itself. And whereas other franchises had firm back-stories and ongoing plots, Star Trek has always been an evolving, ad hoc thing by comparison.

Roddenberry and the producers and writers that took over after his death never did seem to plan that far ahead, and the back story was never hammered out with that much precision. This has allowed for a degree of flexibility, but also comes with the painstaking task of explaining how and why humanity became a utopian society in the first place. But for the most part, the franchise leaves that one vague, arguing that space travel, technology and contact with other sentient races allowed for all of this to happen over time.

Babylon 5:b5-eps3One of my favorite franchises of all time! And possibly one of the most detailed examples of a galactic empire, due largely to the fact that it took shape in the course of the show, instead of just being there in the background from the beginning. Here too, we see a trade off between other franchises, the most similar being Star Trek. In this universe, there is no single galactic empire, but rather a series races that exist is a web of alliances, rivalries and a loose framework of relations.

But as time goes on, many of them come together to form an alliance that is reminiscent of the Federation, though arguably more detailed and pluralistic in its composition. When the show opens, we see that humanity is merely one of many races in the cosmic arena, most of whom are more advanced and older than we are.

The Earth Alliance, as its called, controls only a few colonies, but commands a fair degree of influence thanks to the construction of an important space station in neutral territory. This station (namesake of the show) is known as Babylon 5, aptly named because it is a place of trade, commerce, and the intermixing of peoples and cultures. And much like its namesake, it can be a dangerous and chaotic place, but is nevertheless the focal point of the known universe.

B5_destroyerAccording to the back story, which is explored in depth in the prequel movie “In the Beginning”, the station began as a way of preventing wars based on cultural misunderstandings. Such a war took place between the human race and the Mimbari, a race that is central to the story, ten years prior to the show. After four abortive attempts, the station finally went online and was given the designation of five because it was the fifth incarnation of the project.

Once completed, all major races in the area sent representatives there in order to make sure their interests and concerns were being represented. Chief amongst them was Earth, the Mimbari, the Narns, the Centauri and the Vorlons, who together made up the stations executive council. Beyond them was the “League of Non-Aligned Worlds”, a group made up of fifteen sentient races who were all smaller powers, but together exercise a fair degree of influence over policy.

The Centauri, who were based on the late-period Roman Empire, are a declining power, the once proud rulers of most of the quadrant who have since regressed and are looking to reverse their fortunes. The Narns are their chief rival, a younger race that was previously occupied and brutalized by the Centauri, but who have emerged to become one of the most powerful forces in the quadrant.

B5_season2Based heavily on various revisionists powers of history, they are essentially a race that is familiar with suffering and freely conquers and subjugates others now to ensure that such a thing never happens to them again. The Mimbari, an older and somewhat reclusive race, is nominally committed to peace. But as the war demonstrated, they can easily become a force to be reckoned with given the right provocation. And then there are the Vorlons, a very old and very reclusive race that no one seems to know anything about, but who nevertheless are always there in the background, just watching and waiting…

As the show progresses, we come to see that B5 will actually serve a purpose that is far greater than anyone could have foreseen. It seems that an ancient race, known only as the Shadows, are returning to the known universe. Before they can to invade, however, they must recruit from the younger races and encourage them to make war on their rivals and neighbors. This will sow the seeds of chaos and ensure that their eventual advance will be met with less resistance.

The Vorlons and the Mimbari ambassadors (Kosh and Delenn) are aware of this threat, since their people have faced it before, and begin recruiting the station’s two human commanders (Jeffrey Sinclair and John Sheridan) to help. This proves difficult, as the Shadows appear to have contacts on Earth as well and are backing the power play of Vice President Clarke, an ambitious man who wants to be a dictator. They are also ensuring that the Centauri and Narn go to war with each other as a way of keeping all the other member races preoccupied.

B5_shadow_warHowever, using the station as a rallying point, Sheridan, Sinclair, Delenn and Kosh eventually manage to organize the younger races into a cohesive fighting force to turn back the Shadows. Things become more complicated when they realize that the Vorlons are also the enemy, being involved in a power struggle with the Shadows that goes back eons. However, with the help of other First Ones (very old races) and a commitment to stand on their own, they manage to force both sides to leave the known universe.

In the wake of the war, a new spirit of cooperation and cohesion is formed amongst the younger races, which eventually gives rise to the Interstellar Alliance. This organization is essentially an expanded version of the League, but where members are fully aligned economically and politically and committed to defending each other. This comes in handy when the allies of the Shadows, younger races who are armed with all their old mentors’ gear, come out of hiding and begin to make trouble!

Naturally, the full story is much more complex and I’m not doing it justice, but this is the bare bones of it. Relying on historic examples and countless classic science fiction themes, J. Michael Straczynski establishes a detailed universe where multiple races and political entities eventually come together to form a government that rules the known universe and stands the test of time.

Battletech:

mechwarrior_1Here we have a franchise that had multiple inspirations, according to the creators. The focal point of the franchise is on massive war machines, known as battlemechs, which were apparently inspired by Macross and other anime. However, the creators also came to incorporate a back story that was very European in its outlook, which revolved around the concept of an ongoing war between feudal states.

One could make the case that the Shogunate period of Japan, a time of ongoing civil war, was also a source of inspiration for this story. However, upon familiarizing myself with the background of the series, I couldn’t help but feel that the whole thing had a predominantly Russian feel to it. In addition to the heroic characters being named Alexandr and Nicholas Kerensky, something about the constant feudal warfare and the morally ambiguous nature of humanity in the story seemed analogous to much of Russia’s troubled history.

To break it down succinctly, the story takes place in the 31st century, a time marked by incessant warfare between different clans and worlds, all of which are populated by humans.Terra (as Earth is now called) was once the center of a grand empire known as the Star League. After centuries of conflict, in what is known as the “Succession Wars”, Earth and many its immediate neighbors were rendered damaged or completely uninhabitable.

inner_sphere_wars_battletech_01As a result, the focal point of the universe resides within the Inner Sphere, a region that is 500 light years away from Earth and dominated by five Great Houses. The leader of each house claims to be the rightful successor of the Star League, and hence the houses are all known as the Successor States. Outside the Inner Sphere lies the Periphery, a large ring of independent star systems that predate the League and the Successor States, but are inferior to them in terms of technology. Though nominally independent, none of these regions have the ability to stand against the houses of the Inner Sphere, and thus avoid conflict with them whenever possible.

A key feature of the Battletech universe is the absence of sentient species outside of the human race. This serves to make the ongoing warfare more realistic, as well as establishing how the current state of war is a direct extension of earlier rivalries (some dating all the way back to the 20th century). Another interesting feature about this franchise is the fact that humanity has not evolved very far beyond its current state, in spite of the lengthy passage of time.

Again, the constant state of warfare has much to do with this, which has had a slowing and even reversing effect on the technological development of many worlds. In short, the franchise is gritty, realistic, and has a pretty dim view of humanity. In addition, there is a palatable sense that humanity’s best years are behind it, and that barring the appearance of some external threat, humanity will war itself into extinction.

Key Features:
A couple of things stand out about each of these examples of a galactic empire. And for anyone interesting in creating their own, they are considerations which have to be taken into account. All of the previous creators, from Isaac Asimov to Weisman and Babcock, either took a singular approach on these issues, or adopted a combined one. Here they are, as I see them:

Humans and Aliens: This is arguably the most important consideration when developing a sci-fi franchise, especially one where a galactic empire is concerned. The creator must decide, is this going to be a universe where humans and aliens coexist with one another, or is it going to be strictly human? Both options open up a range of possibilities; for example, are humans and aliens living together in harmony in this story, is one subjugated to another, or something else entirely? What’s more, what role will the aliens play? Are they to be the benign, enlightened aliens who teach us “flawed humans” how to be better, or will we be the the species that’s got things figured out and they be allegorical representations of our past, flawed selves? Inevitably, aliens serve as a sort of mirror for the human condition or as examples of past human societies, in any story. There’s simply no way around it, not if we want them to be familiar and relateable.

Utopian/Dystopian: Another very important decision to make when creating a universe is the hue its going to have. In short, is it going to be a bright place or a dark place? Would humanity advance as a result of technology and space exploration, or regress because improved weapons and tools merely meant we could do more harm? Both visions serve their purpose, the one eliciting hope for the future and offering potential solutions to contemporary problems, the other making the point that the human condition is permanent and certain behaviors will never be overcome. However, in my opinion, the most respectable approach is to take the middle road on this. Sci-fi franchises, like those of Straczynski and Alastair Reynolds (creator of the Revelation Space universe) did their best to present humanity as being morally ambiguous. We were neither perfect nor unsalvageable. We simply did our best and tried to make a difference, but would always have our share of flaws.

Space Travel: Almost all galactic empires are agreed on this one front. When it comes to creating a extra-solar empire, one that encompasses hundreds or even thousands of star systems, one needs to be able to travel faster than the speed of light. It might mean contravening the laws of physics (causing Einstein to roll over in his grave!) but you can’t really do it otherwise. Whether it’s by the Alcubierre drive, hyperspace, warp, jump gates, or folding space, all of the aforementioned franchises incorporated some kind of FTL. Without it, humanity would require thousands or even millions of years in order to expand to encompass the known universe, at which point, we’d probably have evolved to the point where we were no longer even human! In addition, the problems of subjective time and perspective would wreak havoc with story lines, continuity, and the like. Better and easier to just say “Here (zoom!) Now there!”

Technology: Following on the heels of FTL is the issue of how technology in general is treated within the universe in question. Will it be the source of man’s betterment and salvation, of their downfall, or something in between? Star Trek is a perfect example of the former approach, set in a future where all hunger, disease, poverty and inequality have been eliminated through the application of technology. Despite the obvious utopianism of this view, the franchise really isn’t that far off if you think about it. If we did have matter replicators, machines that could manufacture food, materials and consumer goods out of simple trace elements, then money, precious metals and other artificial means of measuring wealth would become obsolete. In addition, there’d be no more food shortages or distribution problems to speak of, not as long as everyone had access to this technology. And if fusion power and warp technology were available, then energy would be cheap and abundant and commerce would be rapid and efficient.

However, Roddenberry would often show the downside of this equation by portraying societies in which technology had been allowed to run amok. A good example is an episode in Star Trek TNG where the Enterprise comes upon a planet that is run by an advanced machine named Custodian. The people of the planet have grown entirely dependent on the machine and have long since forgotten how to run and maintain. As a result, they have become sterile due to radiation poisoning and are slowly dying off. Another perfect example is the Borg, a race of cybernetic beings that are constantly expanding and assimilating anything in their path. In terms of aesthetics, they are dark, ugly and sterile, traveling around in ships that look like giant cubes that were slapped together out of toxin-spewing industrial junk. Is there a more perfect metaphor for the seemingly unstoppable march of technological progress, in all its darker aspects?

Asimov’s Foundation series also had a pretty benign view of technology. In his universe, the people of Terminus and other Foundation worlds distinguished themselves from their neighbors through their possession of superior technology and even used it to their advantage wherever possible. In the first novel, for instance, the Foundation’s scientists began to travel to neighboring worlds, places that had the use of nuclear power and began teaching them how to rebuild it. Over time, they became a sort of priestly caste who commanded reverential respect from the locals thanks to all the improvements their inventions brought to their daily lives. When in the first book a warlord from the neighboring planet of Anacreon tries to conquer them, they then respond by cutting off all power to the planet and their forces, and use their status as religious leaders to foment rebellion against him.

However, other franchises have a different take on technology and where it will take us. For example, Battletech tends to look at technology in a darker perspective. In this future, the focus of technological development is overwhelmingly on battlemechs and weapons of war. In addition, the ongoing war in the series has had a negative effect on the development of other forms of technology, particularly the kinds that are beneficial to society as a whole. In short, technology has not corrected for mankind’s flaws because it has failed to remove the greatest cause of war and suffering – i.e. ambition!

Frank Herbert, on the other hand, took what could be construed as a mixed view. Whereas in his universe, instantaneous space travel is possible, energy shields, laser guns and nuclear power are all in existence, the overall effect on humanity has not been progressive. In the first Dune novel, we learn that humanity fought a holy war against thinking machines and automation over ten thousands years prior to the main story (the Butlerian Jihad). The target of the jihad was apparently a machine mentality as much as the machines themselves, and the result was a sort of compact whereby future generations promised never to develop a machine that could take the place of a human being. That, in addition to the invention of energy shields, led to the development of a feudal society where nobles and merchant princes were once again responsible for controlling planetary resources, and where armies went to war using swords and daggers in addition to lasers, slug throwers and missiles.

In subsequent novels, this was developed even further to present a sort of twofold perspective on technology. On the one hand, it is shown as being potentially harmful, where a machine mentality and a society built on unrestricted production of material goods can lead to social chaos and anarchy. Not necessarily because it can be harmful in and of itself, but because it can lead to a situation where humans feel so alienated from themselves and each other that they are willing to regress to something simpler and less free. On the other hand, advanced technology is also shown to have a potentially retrogressive effect as well, forcing people to look backwards for solutions instead of forwards. One can see genuine parallels with history, like how industrial civilization, in spite of all its benefits, led to the rise of fascism and communism because of its atomizing and alienating effects on society. Or how the Japanese of the post-Shogunate period deliberately regressed by destroying their stores of muskets and cannons because they feared that the “coward weapons” were detrimental to the Bushido.

Personally, I thought Herbert’s perspective on things was by far the most brilliant and speculative, packed full of social commentary and irony. It was therefore a source of great disappointment that his successors (Brian Herbert and KJA) chose to present things in a far more myopic light. In the prequels to Dune, particularly the Legends of Dune series, the jihad is shown to be a struggle between advanced machines that have enslaved the human race and the few free human worlds that are locked in a life and death struggle to defeat them. However, in twist that is more contradiction than irony, they find the solution to their problem by using nukes to level every machine planet. The fact that the “free worlds” relied on slave labor to compensate for the loss of automation was somewhat interesting, but would have been far more effective if the enemy machines were not portrayed as purely evil and the protagonists as selfless heroes.

Final Thoughts:
The concept of a galactic empire is something that has a long history and many, many incarnations. But as always, the purpose of it seems to be to expand the focus of the commentary so that as many possible aspects of the human condition can be explored. By placing human beings on hundreds or thousands of planets, authors generally seek to show how different places can give rise to different cultures. This is as true of different parts on the globe as it is for different planets in the universe. In addition, the incorporation of aliens also gives us a chance to explore some of the deeper sociological questions, things that arise out of how we interact with different cultures around the world today. For in the end, all science fiction is really about history and the period in which it is conceived, regardless of it being set in the future. Like all other genres, the real aim is to serve as a vehicle for speculation and investigation, answering questions about who we are and what makes us us.

Whew! I think I got a little tongue and cheek there myself! In any case, I enjoy delving into this conceptual stuff, so I think I’m going to do it more often here. Next time, something a bit lighter and more specific. I was thinking about something along the lines of PLANETKILLERS! Stay tuned!

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.

B5, Season 3 Best Episodes

Season Three was named “Point of No Return” for good reason. It was the season where everything hit the fan and there was no going back.  The Shadow War began, B5 broke away from the Earth Alliance, the temporal plot and purpose of the Great Machine was fulfilled, and Sheridan finally went to Z’ha’dum. So of course, there were plenty of big, great and significant episodes. Here are the one’s I liked best and why.

1. Matter of Honor:
A representative from Earth Force Special Intelligence (David Endawi) comes to B5 to investigate the matter of the Shadow vessel. After talking with all the ambassadors, he learns a few disturbing facts. G’Kar relates what he has learned from the book of G’Quan and his own investigations out on the rim. Londo relates a nightmare he has where he can see countless Shadow vessels passing overhead while he is standing on Centauri Prime. And Delenn claims she knows nothing about it. Naturally, she is lying…

Londo meets with Morden and tells him he wants to end their relationship. Morden reluctantly agrees, but first, they must divvy up the assets. He agrees to let the Centauri hold a quarter of the Galaxy, in return, they will get the rest and the two sides will go their separate ways. As an addendum, he asks that Londo let them take one world in between, a world which he has already asked Lord Refa to blockade for them. Londo is startled to know that Morden is in contact with someone else in the royal court.

At about the same time, another visitor comes to B5, a Ranger named Marcus Cole. After escaping from a world on the border of Centauri space, he comes to B5 to ask for their help in liberating the colony. For years, the Rangers have been using it as a training base and now it seems that the Centauri are moving in and blockading it. Sheridan is shown the White Star, a prototype Mimbari-Vorlon creation that will be the mainstay of the alliance in the coming war. They fly to the planet, just as a Shadow vessel appears and engages them. They narrowly defeat it by luring it into a jump gate and opening a seperate jump point inside it, which creates a massive explosion that kills the pursuing ship.

Endawi returns home and tells Earth Force Intelligence that he was unable to learn anything of value. We then see the head of Intelligence meeting with Morden and a representative of the Psi Corps. Morden is pleased that nothing was turned up, but is told by the Psi Corps representative that fears of nebulous alien threat that this sighting has caused could prove useful to their agenda…

Significance:
This episode introduces Marcus Cole and the Rangers, who’s existence has been mentioned before but will now be of extreme importance. Started by Sinclair on Mimbar and made up of largely human volunteers, these are to be the foot soldiers in the coming Shadow War. The White Star, which is also introduced in this episode, is to be the mainstay of their fleet.

After growing uneasy about his alliance with Morden and his “associates”, Londo has finally broken it off, only to learn that Lord Refa is attempting to forge one of his own. In time, this will pit Londo and Refa against each other, and give Londo a chance to redeem his mistakes. Finally, we learn that Morden and the Shadows have made friends back at Earth, and may have had a hand in assassinating Santiago and installing Clark. Already we have learned that the point of their alliances is to sow chaos and discord before they attack. Clearly, backing Clark’s conspiracy is part of that plan.

Memorable Lines:
Sheridan: You’ve been back and forth to your homeworld so many times since you got here, how do I know you’re the same Vorlon? Inside that Encounter Suit you could be anyone.
Kosh: I have always been here.
Sheridan: Oh yeah? You said that about me too.
Kosh: Yes.
Sheridan: I really hate it when you do that.
Kosh: Good.

Londo: My people have a manifest destiny. They can achieve it just as well without the help of your associates, perhaps better.
Morden: So we’re no longer necessary?
Londo: That’s right.
Morden: And now that we’ve done everything you’ve asked, you’d like us to just.. disappear.
Londo: I do believe you have got it surrounded, Mr. Morden!
Morden: Aren’t you being premature? After all, you’re people are moving on several other worlds. You might still need us.
Londo: No, I don’t think so. We have danced our last little dance Mr. Morden. Now it is time for you… to go away.

Sheridan: (looking at the footage of a Shadow vessel) A few months ago, you told me about an ancient race, the Shadows. This is one of theirs, isn’t it?
Delenn: These ships, once they target you they never stop, never slow down, never give up until they’ve destroyed you… and nearly invincible.
Sheridan: I don’t believe that. Every ship has a weakness.
Delenn: Believe what you will, til experience changes your mind. Take a good look, John, and remember it well. That is the face of our enemy.

Garibaldi: I’m not authorized for that kind of information.
Endawi: But… you’re the head of Security.
Garibaldi: And what kind of head of Security would I be if I let people like me know things that I’m not supposed to know? I mean, I know what I know because I have to know it, and if I don’t have to know it, I don’t tell me, and I don’t let anyone else tell me, either. Now look, we’ve tried most of the other ambassadors. Why don’t you speak to G’Kar? Maybe he knows something about this ship.
Endawi: Under the terms of our recent treaty, I am not authorized to have any official conversation with the Narn without Centauri approval.
Garibaldi: So you’ll ask unofficially. And I can give you reasonable assurances that the head of Security will not report you for doing so.
Endawi: Because you won’t tell yourself about it.
Garibaldi: I try never to get involved in my own life. Too much trouble.

Delenn: We must find help. We cannot hope to destroy a ship like that alone.
Sheridan: With all due respect, Ambassador, I’ve heard that before.

Ivanova: Captain, the day something happens around here and I don’t know about it, worry
Sheridan: Tell me, Commander…have you ever wondered what would happen if you opened a jump point while inside a jump gate?
Ivanova: No! And neither should you! EarthForce experimented with the idea during the Minbari War. They called it the Bonehead Maneuver. (to Lennier) No offense.
Lennier: None taken.

Morden: Your government can dismiss this as an isolated incident.
Psi Cop: I don’t know. There’s something about this idea of a threat to planetary security I find very appealing. As long as we keep the real truth to ourselves, there’s no reason we can’t use this situation to speed up the program here at home.

2. Voices of Authority:
B5 is assigned a political officer from the Ministry of Peace, a woman named Musante who’s purpose is to expand the power of the Nightwatch. In addition to following Sheridan around (and trying to seduce him), she openly tells Zack and the other members of Nightwatch that their mandate has expanded to stamp out all indications of treason and ideological impurity. Sheridan has to stay on his toes in order to keep the “conspiracy of light” a secret in her presence.

Otherwise occupied with her, he sends Ivanova to meet with Draal on Epsilon 3 so they can begin using the Great Machine to locate the First Ones. She finds the home of The Walkers, the ancient race that’s been spotted around Sigma 957, but also alerts the Shadows to her presence. She narrowly escapes before they are able to take her over. Then, she is given a vision of Earth Force One as it exploded, and sees a private communique between Morden and Clark where they discuss Santiago’s assassination. After months of quietly waiting, they have the proof they need to expose him!

Ivanova and Marcus travel to Sigma 957 and meet with a Walker ship. After some deliberation, Ivanova is able to get them to agree to join their war effort against the Shadows. When they return, the information she uncovered with Draal’s help has been released, Mustante is recalled to Earth so that MiniPax can investigate the allegations and “punish” whoever’s responsible.

Significance:
This episode picks up where season two left off where Draal tells Sheridan that he wants to join their alliance and will place the Great Machine at their disposal. In using it, Ivanova is able to find one of the elusive First Ones, first shown in season one, and uncover evidence of the conspiracy back home. In so doing, she also demonstrated that she has latent telepathic abilities, for as Draal says, no ordinary human could do what she did. Marcus and Ivanova also secure the cooperation of The Walkers, and learn that they are not on good terms with the Vorlons.

This episode also establishes that the Ministry of Peace, after slowly expanding its mandate on B5, is now mounting an all out offensive against dissenters and those who oppose Clark’s government. Now that evidence has been released that implicates them in Santiago’s death, things are likely to escalate.

Memorable Lines:
Draal: Good afternoon, everyone! Captain, Delenn tells me that you’re going to try contacting the First Ones. It is a magnificent idea—a daring and splendid idea! In doing so, you will see things no human has ever seen before! It will be…fun! Assuming you’re not vaporized, dissected, or otherwise killed in an assortment of supremely horrible and painful ways! Exciting, isn’t it?

Draal: I asked for Captain Sheridan!
Ivanova: Um… He’s busy.
Draal: I don’t like surprises!
Ivanova: Really? Love ’em, myself. To me, everything’s a surprise! You’re a surprise. This place is a surprise. You see this? [She holds up a finger.] Paper cut. Hurts like hell! Anybody else would be upset, but to me, it’s just one more wonderful surprise! I mean, I even surprise myself sometimes! So I guess there’s nothing wrong with me surprising you. Right?
Draal: (laughs) I like you! You’re trouble!
Ivanova: Well, thank you! That’s the nicest thing anybody’s said about me in days!

Sheridan: And, uh when exactly did all this happen?
Musante: When we rewrote the dictionary.

Ivanova: Good luck, Captain. I think you’re about to go where…everyone has gone before

Marcus: I think you just hit a nerve. The Vorlons must owe them money or something.
Ivanova: At least it tells us that they understand our language. They’re just not willing to speakto us in it.
Marcus: Who knew they were French? Sorry.

Walkers: ZOG!
Ivanova: “Zog”? What do you mean, zog? Zog what? Zog yes, zog no?
Marcus: It’s leaving. My guess is “zog” means “no”.
Ivanova: Like hell. I am not letting them leave here without saying yes.
Marcus: Really? And how do you propose stopping them? Perhaps a big red and white sign with the word “stop” on it? I’ll put a bucket on my head and pretend to be the ancient Vorlon god Boogee.
Ivanova: That’s it!
Marcus: Fine. I’ll get a bucket.

3. Messages from Earth:
Marcus escorts a former member of IPX, a woman named Dr. Mary Kirkish, to meet with the command staff of B5. She has some terrible news for them: it seems that Earth has known about the Shadows for quite some time, and has even been experimenting on their ships. The last time was on Mars after they uncovered one that was buried there, which  witnessed personally. Now they are planning on doing it again, this time on Ganymede with another buried ship. This time, they plan to merge a human pilot with it and control it. Garibaldi claims he surveyed the site years back and found a Psi Corps badge that was left there. Sheridan agrees to take the White Star and head to Ganymede to destroy it.

In his absence, the Nightwatch grows wary of his whereabouts. They have been ordered by their new head to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.Meanwhile, Garibaldi visits G’Kar in his cell, where he’s serving his sentence for assaulting Londo, and finds he’s writing a book about his experiences. On their way to Earth, Delenn and Sheridan spend an evening together and share precious memories. When they arrive at Earth, they find that the Shadow vessel has already been activated and begins destroying the facility.

Unable to match the vessels firepower, they manage to destroy it by luring it into Jupiter’s atmosphere then pulling a hasty escape maneuver. The Shadow vessel is unable to follow them out and is crushed by Jupiter’s intense gravity well. However, before they can exit the atmosphere, Sheridan’s old ship, the Agamemnon, shows up and attempts to board them. Sheridan and crew manage to narrowly escape by opening a jump point in the upper atmosphere, which ignites the hydrogen and covers their escape. Back at home, ISN says that Earth gov claims the facility was attacked by an unknown ship and uses this as a pretext to declare martial law.

Significance:
The link between the Psi Corps and the Shadows is revealed, as are Earth’s experiments with Shadow technology. The Nightwatch, having grown suspicious of Sheridan’s activities, are now planning to move on him. G’Kar’s book, which he has begun writing in this episode, will prove of great significance in later episodes. Clark’s government, which has been planning on using the “alien threat” to justify its repression, has decided to use Sheridan’s intervention as a pretext to declare martial law. Delenn and Sheridan’s relationship is also developing and becoming romantic.

Memorable Lines:
Garibaldi: But where in my contract does it say that I have to eat the same food for breakfast every day for three years?
Sheridan: Paragraph 47, Subsection 19, Clause 9A. You can find it in the index under S.U.A.E.I.
Garibaldi: S.U.A.E.I.?
Sheridan/Ivanova: Shut Up And Eat It.

Marcus Cole: And they have much to be concerned about. There’s always the threat of an attack by, say, a giant space dragon – the kind that eats the sun every 30 days? It’s a nuisance, but what can you expect from reptiles? Did I mention that my nose is on fire, and that I have 15 wild badgers living in my trousers?… I’m sorry. Would you prefer ferrets?

Sheridan: Full power! Give me everything you’ve got!
Lennier: If I were holding anything back, I would tell you.

4. Point of No Return:
The declaration of martial law has caused a great stir aboard B5. At home, Clark has apparently dissolved the Senate and ordered that all commanders who do not comply with the order are to be arrested. Sheridan contacts General Hague, but is told by one of his officers that he has gone to ground and that the Army is attacking the Senate building. Londo recieves a guest aboard the station, lady Lady Morella, a psychic who was also the wife of the late Emperor Turhan. He has asked her to visit so that she might give him a vision, in the hopes that he can avert the future he has foreseen for himself. Naturally, the declaration of martial law is a major inconvenience!

Shortly thereafter, Hague’s ship gets into a firefight with ships loyal to Clark and narrowly escapes. Sheridan is forced to issue the declaration of martial law and a riot ensues. He is told by Franklin to hang on, that things will get better, but Clark’s loyalists begin bombing Mars and Proxima shortly thereafter. G’Kar is released from prison early due to a shortage of staff, and he tells Garibaldi he might be in a position to help him and the command staff. Nightwatch is ordered to take over security and Garibaldi openly declares his resistance to it. Sheridan contacts General Smits to get advice on how to deal with the situation, and Smits tells him in a covert and roundabout way how to beat it.

Shortly thereafter, Zacks helps them by telling the Nightwatch that Sheridan is conspiring against them and lures them into an airlock where they are sealed in. Sheridan tells them their orders are not legal and places them under arrest. They are shipped out shortly thereafter and replaced by Narns loyal to G’Kar. They have managed to avert this crisis and buy some time, but also know that very soon, Clark’s forces will be coming for them.

Significance:
Sheridan and his staff have taken a stand against Clark and the Nightwatch, which at this point puts them directly in the path of fire. They know now that they might openly rebel if their “conspiracy of light” against the Shadows is to survive. Londo is told definitively that he will be Emperor someday, which he fears because he’s foreseen how it will lead to his death.  He is also told that he has one final chance to break from the path that he is on, and gives several clues as to what will be coming in later episodes. “The eye that does not see” is G’Kar, who he is told he must not kill. “The one that is already dead” is Sheridan, whom he must save along with Delen. And how he must “surrender to (his) greatest fear” alludes to letting G’Kar kill him, as he has foreseen numerous times and allow Vir to take his place.

Memorable Lines:
Vir: I thought the purpose of filing these reports was to provide accurate intelligence!
Londo: Vir, intelligence has nothing to do with politics!

General Smits: Captain. I’m sure you’ve been following the news.
Sheridan: Yes, sir. If I may ask, what’s your opinion?
General Smits: My opinion has nothing to do with this, Captain, and neither does yours! Our job is to follow orders from the Commander in Chief and respect the chain of command! If you have different opinions, I suggest you file them in a deep dark place where nobody’ll ever find them! Am I clear?

G’Kar: You must understand, Ta’Lon. I have had a revelation!
Ta’Lon: What kind of revelation?
G’Kar: A most profound and substantial one, Ta’Lon. The kind of revelation that transforms your mind, your soul, your heart—even your flesh—so that you are a new creature, reborn in the instant of understanding
Ta’Lon: That was a stirring reply, Citizen G’Kar. Unfortunately, while all answers are replies, not all replies are answers. You did not answer the question that I asked. What do you understand now that you did not understand before?

Sheridan:If I were you, I wouldn’t use my weapons on the airlocks. They’re a solid beryllium alloy. The ricochet is a killer.

Morella: You have a chance few others will ever have, Mollari. You still have three opportunities to avoid the fire that waits for you at the end of your journey. You have already wasted two others. You must save the eye that does not see. You must not kill the one who is already dead. And at the last, you must surrender yourself to your greatest fear, knowing that it will destroy you. Now if you have failed all the others, that is your final chance for redemption.
Londo: I…don’t understand!
Morella: The future reveals itself only reluctantly, Ambassador. Take the sign for what it is. Look for it when it appears!
Londo: I will. Thank you!
Morella: One more thing. You will be Emperor. That part of your destiny cannot be avoided.
Londo: I see.
Morella: (to Vir) You will also be Emperor.
(Vir laughs)
Morella: Why are you laughing?
Vir: I… I thought you were joking!
Morella: We do not joke in the face of prophecy, Vir.
Londo: Lady Morella, please! We cannot both be Emperor!
Morella: Correct. One of you will become Emperor after the other is dead. That is all we see and all we wish to see.

5. Severed Dreams:
Hague’s ship, the Alexander, makes to B5 after escaping from Earth and fighting against many of its own fleet. Major Ryan is in charge ever since Hague died in their last firefight. Sheridan orders that communications be cut off so no one will learn that they are harboring rebels, and Ryan tells Sheridan that Clark has begun bombing Mars after it declared its opposition to martial law. Another ship arrives soon after, the Churchill under Captain Hiroshi, that is also on the run. Together, they decide to make a stand against Clark and his forces once they arrive. Sheridan declares to the station that B5 is breaking away from the Earth Alliance and will not submit to President Clark’s forces.

A Ranger comes to the station to see Delenn. After being wounded, he is recovering in medbay and tells her that many other League worlds have begun fighting amongst themselves at the behest of the Shadows, and that the Grey Council intends to do nothing about it. Incensed, Delenn travels to Mimbar to confront the Council, and despite their attempts to block her, is able to come before them. She breaks the Council, as was foretold by one of Valen’s prophecies, and ask the Religious and Worker Castes to join her. They agree and mobilize to follow her.

Back at the station, Clark’s forces arrive and demand Sheridan’s surrender. He refuses, and the firefight begins. B5 and the Alexander are damaged, Hiroshi scuttles her own ship and rams one of the enemy’s Destroyers, and raiding party is beaten by Garibaldi’s security forces and G’Kars Narns. They believe they’ve won by a razor’s edge, only to be confronted by another force of Earth ships. All seems lost, but Delenn and several Mimbari warships jump in and she tells the Earth ships to back off. They do, and Sheridan and his staff are hailed by the station’s people as heroes. The episode ends with a close-up of a Nightwatch wall poster that has been ripped in half.

Significance:
In addition to containing one of the best battle scenes of the series, this episode was pivotal in terms of the overall plot. Sheridan and B5 have officially broken away from Earth and now are free to pursue their war against the Shadows freely. Their conspiracy of light has finally come full circle and become a full-fledged war effort. Delenn has broken the Grey Council in order to mobilize what Mimbari she can to join the war effort and cut out the obstructive Warrior Caste who never believed in the prophecy of the coming Shadows. This is beneficial in the short run, but will have consequences down the road.

Memorable Lines:
Acolyte: I told you, Delenn, they will not speak to you.
Delenn: Then they will listen to me! I served the Council for sixteen cycles. I was the chosen of Dukhat to replace him! I held him when he died! His blood is on my hands, his spirit in my eyes, his word on my lips! You will step aside in his name and mine, or–in Valen’s name—I will tear this ship apart with my bare hands until I find them! Move aside!

Delenn: Three years. For three years, I warned you this day was coming. But you would not listen. “Pride,” you said! “Presumption!” And now the Shadows are on the move. The Centauri and the younger worlds are at war, the Narns have fallen… even the humans are fighting one another. The pride was yours! The presumption was yours! For a thousand years, we have been awaiting the fulfillment of prophecy. And when it finally happens, you scorn it – you reject it – because you no longer believe it yourselves!… “The problems of others are not our concern.” I do not blame you for standing silent in your shame. You, who knew what was coming, but refused to take up the burden of this war! If the Warrior Caste will not fight, then the rest of us will! If the Council has lost its way, if it will not lead… if we have abandoned our covenant with Valen… (Grabs the leader’s staff and breaks it) Then the Council should be broken… as was prophesied! We must stand with the others – now, before it’s too late!

David Sheridan: Son… I follow the news. Well, I did until ISN went black! I see what’s going on. Your mother doesn’t like to think about it. You know how she is. John, I can’t imagine the kind of decisions that are going through your mind right now. I’m sure they’re not easy. The important ones never are. But when push comes to shove, you’ve always done the right thing. What was the first lesson I ever taught you?
John Sheridan: Never start a fight, but always finish it.

Sheridan: May I have your attention, please? In the last few hours, we have learned that warships are coming this way from Earth, their orders are to seize command of Babylon 5 by force. As commanding officer and military governor of Babylon 5, I cannot allow this to happen. President Clark has violated the Earth Alliance Constitution by dissolving the Senate, declaring martial law, and personally ordering the bombing of civilian targets on the Mars colony. He is personally responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. Following these attacks Orion 7 and Proxima 3 have broken away from the Earth Alliance, and declared independence. Babylon 5 now joins with them. As of this moment, Babylon 5 is seceding from the Earth Alliance. We will remain an independent state until President Clark is removed from office. At the end of this current crisis, anyone who wishes to leave for Earth is free to do so. Meanwhile, for your own safety, I urge everyone to stay in their quarters until this is over. That is all.

Delenn: This is Ambassador Delenn of the Mimbari. Babylon 5 is under our protection. Withdraw… or be destroyed!
Captain Drake: Negative. We have authority here. Do not force us to engage your ship.
Delenn: Why not? Only one human captain has ever survived battle with a Mimbari fleet. He is behind me. You are in front of me. If you value your lives, BE SOMEWHERE ELSE!

6. Interludes and Examinations:
The Shadows have begun openly attacking known space, beginning with the Brakiri. Sheridan tries to mobilize help, but find no other races are willing to get involved. He is told that if he can demonstrate that he has equal power, they will consider joining, otherwise they will keep their heads down and hope the Shadows will pass them over. He meets with Delenn to share his misgivings, and says that if he could give the other races a victory, they might join. She tells him that is what he will need to do, and he will find a way. He reflects that she is beginning to sound like Kosh, and that’s when it hits him!

Londo is expecting Lady Adira, the woman he loves to arrive on the station soon. However, Morden shows up beforehand and confronts him about his intervention in his relationship with Lord Refa. He tells Londo that his race must continue making war on its neighbors. He accuses Morden’s associates of using his people as a distraction so they might carry out their own agenda unnoticed. Morden threatens him, but Londo refuses to back down, telling him there’s nothing he can do to him “that hasn’t already been done.” Rather than kill him, Morden poisons Adira, knowing that Londo will think Refa was responsible. Intent on revenge, he decides to work with Morden again in exchange for his help.

Meanwhile, Franklin’s problems with stims are reaching a tipping point and beginning to effect his work. Garibaldi confronts him about it but is told to mind his own business. He then goes around him to his second and asks for access to Franklin’s medical records to prove he’s addicted. He is about to access the records but then stops, and sees Franklin watching him. He is asked why he didn’t go through with it, and tells Franklin that it doesn’t seem worth it if he can’t convince him as a friend. Franklin tells him he already checked, and that his tests prove he’s addicted. He resigns his post immediately and begins going on walkabout to deal with his issues.

Meanwhile, Sheridan asks Kosh for help but is rebuffed. Kosh tells him its not time for his people to get involved. Desperate and out of patience, Sheridan berates him for the way his race has been on the sidelines and how he’s been manipulating them. Kosh becomes angry and attacks Sheridan using a strange energy wave, but Sheridan refuses to back off. He says he will comply, but that he will not be there when Sheridan goes to Z’ha’dum. Vorlon ships attack and destroy the Shadows, a move which rallies the younger races, but Morden and some of his “associates” come to Kosh’s quarters and kill him. Too late, Sheridan understands what Kosh meant. His ship, with his remains, flies into the sun to die.

Significance:
In this episode, the Shadow war finally begins. After having insurmountable difficulties getting the other races to work together, Sheridan is able to establish a fragile alliance by getting the Vorlons to intervene. Kosh is killed in retaliation, but before he dies, he reaches out to Sheridan in a dream again and tells him he’s sorry he waited so long to get involved. A part of his consciousness breaks off and attaches itself to Sheridan, which will prove significant in later episodes. After waiting for years to see her again, Londo loses Adira and turns to Morden for help. His revenge will lead him into cooperation with G’Kar, who will in turn assist him in saving his world from the Shadows.

Memorable Lines:
Sheridan: Will you (get involved)?
Gaim Ambassador: No… We are not attacked yet… may not be attacked. If we join Brakiri, we are noticed. We invite attack.
Sheridan: They are going to come for you, sooner or later.
Ambassador: You do not know that. What do they do not see, they may not attack. The enemy is powerful. Show us you have equal power, and we will consider. If not, then we will stay quiet. Do you have equal power?

Morden: I thought we had a deal… we carved up the galaxy you and I.
Londo: Yes, we did. And what you do in your half is your business. And what I do in mine is mine.
Morden: We need your government to continue its campaign.
Londo: Yes? And why is that, hmm? I don’t think you have any interest in restoring the glory of the Centauri Republic. No, I think you are using us as… shall we say, agents as chaos? Convenient distraction, making it easier for your associates to do whatever they wish to do, yes?
Morden: My associates need a voice and an ear in the Centauri royal court. If you violate the terms of our agreement, my associates may turn their eye towards your homeworld.
Londo: Then we will pluck it out.
Morden: If you put yourself between us and our objectives, you may come to regret it.
Londo: There is nothing you can do to me, Mr. Morden, that hasn’t already been done… Good day.
Morden: (to Shadow) No… we need him alive for now. There are other ways.

Sheridan: The only way we’re going to survive this war is to organize the League, the Narns and as many other races as possible into a cohesive, offensive force… It’s never been done before, and I can see why. I mean, it’s like stacking marbles in a corner. They are hip deep in their own agendas and their own rivalries. I mean, half of them won’t even talk to the other half! But what’s worse…
Delenn: What?
I feel like I’m lying to them. You’ve seen the reports from the front lines. Yes, I have ideas, some possibilities. But at this moment, the stone cold fact is that none of us can stand up to those ships! If we could just score one victory against the Shadows, it’d be enough to make some of the others come around.
Delenn: Then perhaps we should give them a victory.
Sheridan: Oh, just like that?
Delenn: Just like that.
Sheridan: And how do you suggest we do that?
Delenn: I’m sure you’ll think of something.
Sheridan: Everyday, people around here start talking more and more like Kosh…

Morden: Anything I can do to help?
Vir: Um… Short of dying? No, can’t think of a thing.

Sheridan: For three years now you’ve been pulling everyone’s strings, getting us to do all the work, and you haven’t done a damn thing but stand there and look cryptic! Well, it’s about time you start pulling your own weight around here. […] I hear you’ve got a saying: “Understanding is a three-edged sword”? Well, we’ve got a saying, too: “Put your money where your mouth is”!
Kosh: Impudent.
Sheridan: Yeah? Well, maybe that’s the only way to get through to you. You said you wanted to teach me to fight legends. Well, you’re a legend too, and I am not going away until you agree!
Kosh: Incorrect. Leave. Now.
Sheridan: No.
Kosh: Disobedient!
Sheridan: Up yours! (Kosh hits him with some kind of energy) So, the real Kosh shows his colors at last, huh? You angry now? Angry enough to kill me? Because that’s the only way I’m leaving. Unless your people get off their encounter-suited butts and do something, I’ve got nothing to lose! God, my own government wants to kill me, and if we lose this war, I’m just as dead! Our only chance is to get the other races on board for this fight and right now you’re the key to doing that.
Kosh: It is not yet time.
Sheridan: And who decides that time? You? You put me in this position. You asked me to fight this damn war! Well, it’s about time you let me fight it my way! How many people have already died fighting this war of yours, huh? How many more will die before you come down off that mountain and get involved? Ships, colonies, whole worlds are being destroyed out there, and you do nothing! How many more? How many more, Kosh? How many more dead before you’re satisfied? Huh?
Kosh: I will do as you ask. But there is a price to pay. I will not be there to help you when you go to Z’ha’dum.
Sheridan: All right. If that’s the trade-off. If you want to withhold your help when the time comes, that’s fine. I’ll go it alone.
Kosh: You do not understand. But you will.

B5, Best Episodes, Season Two

Back with more best episodes! Season one had some big hits, but I honestly think season two was the best in terms of overall poignancy, mystery and sheer entertainment value. Here are some selections of what I really liked from this one!

1. Points of Departure:
In the season two opener, we catch up with Ivanova who is now running the station in Sinclair’s absence. Things are kind of going to hell around the station, a situation made worse when they hear that a rogue Mimbari Cruiser is in the sector. We then meet up with John Sheridan, the Captain of the Earth Destroyer Agamemnon and the man slated to replace Sinclair. He is told to report to B5, where his first duty will be to deal with this situation.

The crew of the Mimbari vessel, the Trigati, are apparently warrior caste members who rejected the Grey Council’s decision to surrender and end the war. After years of drifting around the stars, they are intent on engaging the Earth Forces and die in combat, a move which they hope will trigger a new war and give them the honorable death they seek. However, Sheridan realizes their intent and does not open fire on them.

Instead, he puts out a call to another Mimbari cruiser that has been waiting in hyperspace who quickly arrive and destroy the Trigati. The situation is resolved, but Sheridan is warned that his name will live on in infamy. Already, Sheridan is unpopular with the Mimbari given the fact that he destroyed the Black Star during the war, the Mimbari flagship, by luring it into a trap.

In the course of this, Lennier explains a few things to Sheridan and Ivanova. Specifically, he tells them exactly why the Mimbari surrendered at the Battle of the Line, how it was discovered that Sinclair had a Mimbari soul, as well as many humans besides. Sinclair’s importance to the Mimbari is now made clear, as is the reason for why their surrender was not accepted by all sides.

Significance:
In addition to introducing Sheridan, this episode was also important because it revealed for the first time exactly why the Mimbari surrendered and why Sinclair was so important to them. In essence, the Line showed them that their two races are intertwined and that they would have to come together to face the coming darkness. It also established Sheridan’s dubious reputation amongst the Mimbari, which will come up later.

Memorable Quotes:
Delenn: They fight bravely. They cannot harm our ships, but they continue to try…
Hedronn: Whether they fight or not, they know they will die anyway. So really, is this bravely or simple desperation?
Delenn: Perhaps they are the same thing.

Delenn: We should bring one of them aboard for questioning. If our next step is the final assault on their world, we must know their defenses.
Hedronn: Very well, Delenn. But choose… we are fast running out of candidates.
Delenn: (sees Sinclair’s ship) That one!

Lennier: It is our belief that every generation of Mimbari is reborn in each following generation. Remove those souls, and the whole suffers. We are… diminished. In the last two thousand years, there have been fewer Mimbari born into each generation. And those that are born… do not seem equal to those who came before. It is almost as if our greater souls have been disappearing. At the Battle of the Line, we discovered where our souls were going. They were going to you… Mimbari souls are being reborn, in part or in full, in human bodies.

Lennier: (talking to Delenn in the chrysalis) I told them Delenn, as I was ordered. I only wish I could have told them the rest. About the great enemy that is returning, and the prophecy that the two sides of our spirit must unite against the darkness or be destroyed. They say it will take both of our races to stop the darkness. I’m told that the Earthers will discover all this soon enough on their own. I hope they are right, because if we are wrong, no one will survive our mistake. Goodnight, Delenn.

Sheridan: (delivering his “good luck speech” to an empty C&C) It was an early Earth president, Abraham Lincoln, who best described our situation. “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise to the occasion. We cannot escape history. We will be remembered in spite of ourselves. The fiery trial though which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the last generation. We shall nobly save or meanly lose our last, best hope of Earth.” (checks the clock) Five minutes to spare.

2. Revelations:
After taking the helm at B5, Sheridan finds himself thrown into the thick of things. In addition to Delenn being in a chrysalis and Garibaldi still in a coma, there is the added mystery of G’Kars absence. We catch up to him on the rim of known space, where he is fleeing from attacking ships and barely makes it away. When he returns to the station, he has dark news. Convinced that the attack on the Narn base in Quadrant 37 was perpetrated by an ancient race, he believes that this same race is the one written about in a Narn religious text from a thousand years ago.

Meanwhile, Londo meets with Morden again and asks him about continuing their working relationship. Morden is willing, and tells Londo that all he need do is select a target if he wants help from his “associates”. All he asks in return is any info Londo may learn concerning the outer rim. When G’Kar comes to the Council and tells them of what he found, and how he’s asked his world to send a ship to investigate, Londo quickly relays the info to Morden, who seems concerned. The Narn ship is destroyed by a Shadow vessel as it enters the system before it is able to begin surveying. The investigation is dropped and G’Kar is left thinking he’s too late.

Garibaldi wakes from his coma after Doctor Franklin uses the alien healing machine he came into possession with in season one. Delenn wakes from her time in the cocoon and reveals herself to the Council, now half-human and half-Mimbari. Sheridan looks at her and is immediately enamored. And after getting a visit from his sister, Sheridan learns more about the circumstances of his wife death and is able to let go of the guilt he’s been harboring. She died on a survey mission in deep space with IPX, and up until now, Sheridan blamed himself, thinking he sent her away because he cancelled a rendezvous. Having learned that she was intended on going anyway, he feels much better.

Significance:
This episode introduces Z’Hadum for the first time, the fabled homeworld of the Shadows. Given that G’Kar has failed to reveal them, they are now free to roam the universe and institute their agenda. In addition, the relationship between them and Londo and the Centauri, which will be intrinsic to their plans, is shown to be proceeding apace. Delenn’s transformation, which apparently has much to do with an ancient prophecy and the reason for why the Mimbari surrendered during the war, has also taken place. This episode is also the first time that Sheridan’s ex-wife is mentioned, and the circumstances of her death will prove to have much to do with the Shadows and the darkness that G’Kar says is coming…

Memorable Quotes:
Londo: There, you see! One deserts his post without any explanation, the other one picks the most breathtakingly inconvenient moment possible to explore new career options, like becoming a butterfly!

Londo: But what happens if I ask for another of these… little demonstrations?
Morden: Then we’ll provide it. Simply choose your target, a colony, an outpost…
Londo: (laughs) Why don’t you eliminate the entire Narn homeworld while you’re at it?
Morden: One thing at a time, Ambassador. One thing at a time.

G’Kar: Weep for the future, Na’Toth. Weep for us all.
N’Toth: Are you alright?
G’Kar: I have looked into the darkness, Na’Toth. You cannot do that and ever be quite the same again.

G’Kar: When you told me about the destruction of our base in quadrant thirty-seven, I knew that only a major power could attempt an assault of that magnitude, but none of the governments here could have done it, which left only one of two possibilities: A new race… or an old race… A VERY old race… G’Quan spoke of a great war long ago against an enemy so terrible it nearly overwhelmed the stars themselves. G’Quan said that before that enemy was thrown down, it dwelled in a system at the edge of known space. I searched for days, going from one system to another. Then, on dark, deserted worlds where there should be no life, where no living thing has walked in over a thousands years, something is moving, gathering its forces, quietly, quietly, hoping to go unnoticed. We must warn the others Na’Toth. After a thousand years the darkness has come again.

G’Kar: I have convinced (my government) to send a ship to the heart of the enemy’s old domain, located at the rim of known space. A dark and terrible place known as Z’ha’dum. It has been dead for a thousand years. No one goes there, no one!
Sheridan: And if someone IS living there?
G’Kar: Than all our races stand on the edge of extinction.

G’Kar: But that couldn’t happen unless they knew the ship was coming and were waiting for it. But no one knew except… (looks at Londo).
Sheridan: What are you implying, Ambassador?
G’Kar: Nothing… I am too late. Everything is too late.

3. The Geometry of Shadows:
Ambassador Londo gets a visit from Lord Refa, a member of the Centauri royal court. Impressed with his handling of the Quadrant 37 border dispute, he indicates to Londo that there are plenty of people back home who are not happy with the path their Empire is on and would like to see that change. Londo agrees to join them, seeing an opportunity for personal advancement and a chance to restore his people to glory.

Ivanova is promoted to Commander, a rank which comes with additional responsibilties, the first of which is to resolve a dispute between two factions of Drazi. Apparently, the two sides are divided based on the color of their sashes; one side is green, the other purple. Ivanova learns that this is a leadership struggle that their race goes through periodically, the people divided into two camps who must then fight it out until one side wins and assumes leadership until the next struggle. After much negotiating, cajoling and a broken leg, Ivanova ends the conflict by accidentally becoming green leader and ordering them all to dye their sashes purple.

Meanwhile, the station is visited by a group of Techno Mages, people who use technology to simulate magic, who are on their way to the rim. Their leader, a man named Elric, tells him that a great darkness is coming, and that they are passing into the outer rim so that they might be able to preserve the knowledge and secrets that they are in possession of until it passes. Sheridan is intrigued by them, being a fan of mystery and magic.

So is Londo, who is determined to get an endorsement from them which he feels will help him extend his influence back home. However, his efforts are rebuffed when it becomes clear he is only interested in advancing his reputation, and the Mages place a “curse” on him, which amounts to a virus that begins playing havoc with his personal files and credit lines. Eventually, the Mage takes the curse off, but also leaves Londo with a vision of things to come. Apparently, Londo will do great and terrible things, and billions of people will suffer as a result…

Significance:
This episode introduces the conspiracy between Londo and Refa, and is the first time Londo is given a real glimpse of where the path he’s on will take him. Already he has had a vision that he will become Emperor one day, and die with G’Kar’s hands wrapped around his throat. Now, he is made to understand that his relationship with Morden and Refa will have terrible consequences. Sheridan and the others are also given further warnings of the war that is to come, which is described as a “terrible darkness”, similar to what G’Kar described.

Memorable Quotes:
Londo: What you are asking could be considered treason.
Lord Refa: Or the first step in restoring our people to their rightful place in the galaxy. Depending on who writes the history books. I think it will be us.

Elric: You don’t frighten easily.
Vir: I work for Ambassador Mollari. After a while, nothing bothers you.

Ivanova: You’re saying just because I’m holding this right now, I’m Green leader? But I’m human!
Drazi: Rules of combat older than contact with other races. Did not mention aliens. Rules change caught up in committee. Not come through yet.

Elric: As I look at you, Ambassador Mollari, I see a great hand reaching out of the stars. The hand is your hand. And I hear sounds–the sounds of billions of people calling your name.
Londo: My followers?
Elric: Your victims.

4. Soul Mates:
Londo recieves some rather good news from home. In honor of his recent service to the Centauri Republic, the Emperor has decided to grant him a wish in honor of the 30th anniversary of his ascension. And Londo, having endured three arranged marriages to women he can’t stand, can think of only one thing he would want: a divorce! However, he must choose one wife to remain by his side for the sake of appearances and matters of state. After inviting his three wives, Timov, Daggair and Mariel to the station and giving them the news, he begins the selection process. In the end, he decides to stick with Timov, the one who seems to hate him the most. Apparently, her honesty is what sets her apart, and that’s something he feels he can count on.

At the same time, Talia Winters get a visit from an old flame, a telepath named Matt Stoner. Ostensibly, he is aboard the station to sell some wares, but in reality, he’s come to take Winters away. Seems the Psi Corps has been experimenting on him as well, with the consequence that he has become an empath who can override other people’s wills. Winters is tempted to leave just so she can get away from the Corps, but refuses him. Thanks to Garibaldi’s untrusting nature, he is narrowly able to prevent him from using his powers to take her from the station by force.

Significance:
This episode further showed viewers how deep the Psi Corps agenda goes and how much Talia wants to leave it. It also gives us a glimpse of Garibaldi and Talia’s budding relationship, which has progressed from outright hostility on her part thanks to Garibaldi obvious concern and dedication to her. Other than that, this episode really wasn’t significant. It was just damn funny!

Memorable Quotes:
Timov: The secret of our marriage’s success, Londo, is our lack of communication. You have jeopardized that success and I would know why!
Londo: Very well, I wanted to save the surprise, but clearly you have forgotten that tomorrow is the thirtieth anniversary of my ascension day. The emperor has not forgotten. I personally received a congratulatory note from the royal court. My star is rising, in case you were unaware… Now the emperor is a busy man, no time to shop, unlike my wives! Always finding ways to run up my credit accounts! In any event, he wished to give me a gift in honor of my service to our people and the gift he gave me was any one wish within his power to give.
Daggair: And was what was your wish, my sweet?
Londo: A DIVORCE! An easement from the arranged marriages to my three wives! However, the emperor requested that I keep one of you to be my side for future state affairs, so… by tomorrow, I will choose one of you to remain by my side. The other two… will be gone! Gone! …A small repayment for the many years of joy you have given me!

Franklin: Are you okay? Londo, do you know where you are?
Londo: Either in Medlab, or in Hell. Either way, the decor needs work.
Daggair: Oh, Doctor Franklin! Thank you for saving our husband! You’ve done the Centauri a great service!
Mariel: I agree. It’s so good to see you with us again, Londo!
Londo: Well, that settles it, Doctor! I am in hell!

G’Kar: I warn you, Mariel, do not be overconfident. If I were married to Londo Mollari I’d be concerned.
Mariel: G’kar, if you were married to Londo Mollari, we’d all be concerned.

Delenn: Taking on human characteristics has been something of an education for both of us!
Ivanova: Well, if you have any other problems, any other questions at all, just ask!
Delenn: Well…now that you mention it…do you have any idea why I suddenly started getting these… odd cramps?

5. The Coming of Shadows:
Despite health problems, the Centauri Emperor has decided to travel to B5 to deliver a message. G’Kar is outraged at Sheridan is allowing this given his family’s history of outrages towards the Narn, and decides he is going to make an assassination attempt. Meanwhile, Londo and Refa hope to confront him publicly about his role in their Empire’s decline. However, both sides are unaware of what his true purpose is, which is to deliver an apology to the Narn regime for his family and his race’s crimes against them. At the end of his life, he finally wants to do something he knows to be right, rather than be swayed by duty or obligation.

Ultimately, all their plans are frustrated when the Emperor suffers a heart attack on his way to make his grand announcement. Franklin is left to tend to the Emperor, and is told to deliver a message to G’Kar. When Franklin tells G’Kar, he is buffaloed and immediately seeks out Londo. He buys Londo a drink and toasts the Emperor’s health, thinking that a new era of understanding is ahead of them. However, these sentiments prove to be too late in coming…

Faced with an imminent power struggle back home, Refa tells Londo that they must do something that will dwarf the opposition so they can put their own successor on the throne. Londo remembers what Morden told him, that he need only pick a target. He decides to let Morden’s “associates” attack another Narn outpost, and then orders their own ships to move in. When the Narns arrive and find their outpost destroyed and Centauri ships around, they immediately assume it was they who attacked it, and fighting ensues. Back on Centauri Prime, Refa’s agents also kill the Emperor’s Prime Minister, and their own successor, Cartagia, is positioned to take the throne.

Meeting with the Emperor on his deathbed, Londo is given a message. He tells everyone that the Emperor’s last words were in support of their war, but privately he tells Refa that the Emperor told him they are both damned. Refa is unconcerned, but Londo seems shaken by his words. When G’Kar receives word of the attack, he goes ballistic! However, Sheridan is able to stop him by telling him that he must choose between doing what’s right for his people and personal revenge. After calming down, G’Kar comes to a Council session and issues a declaration on behalf of his people: they are now at war with the Centauri! In order to avoid any pesky “investigations” into how the Centauri managed to destroy the outpost so rapidly – a move which clearly reveal that they had help – Londo agrees to release all the surviving colonists from the area as a gesture of “goodwill”.

Significance:
The Great War, the focal point of season two, opens in this episode. After much plotting by Londo and Refa, the Centauri Republic is now effectively under the control of the revisionists, people who want to see the Empire restored to its former glory and are willing to see a great many people die in order to make it happen. Whatever hopes there were for a reconciliation between the two sides is now thwarted. The war is also bad news for B5, since it is the first outbreak of war since the Earth-Mimbari war and the very thing the station was created to prevent. In addition, the outbreak of war means that the Shadows are clearly on the move and working their influence effectively.

Memorable Quotes:
Sheridan: If you love, love without reservation. If you fight, fight without fear.
Emperor Turhan: No regrets then?
Sheridan: A few. But just a few. You?
Turhan: Oh, enough to fill a lifetime. So much has been lost, so much forgotten. So much pain, so much blood. And for what? I wonder…The past tempts us, the present confuses us, and the future frightens us. And our lives slip away, moment by moment, lost in that vast terrible in-between. But there is still time to seize that one last, fragile moment. To choose something better, to make a difference, as you say. And I intend to do just that.

Turhan: How will this end?
Kosh: In fire.

Londo: He said, ‘Continue. Take my people back…to the stars.
Refa: Mollari. What did he say, really?
Londo: He said .. that we are both damned.
Refa: Well. It’s a small enough price to pay for immortality.

6. All Alone in the Night:
The Captain is captured by a marauding alien vessel while investigating a disturbance in a nearby sector. They are known as the Streib (apparently in honor of author/abductee Whitley Strieber), a race of hostile aliens that are known for to periodically adbuct members of different species in order to evaluate them. While aboard, Sheridan is examined, tortured, and forced to fight other captured crew members, all of whom have devices on their heads that seem to be controlling them. The first is a Drazi that he manages to kill, while the second is a Narn that he is able to wound and disarm. After removing the device on his head, he and the Narn captive begin to plot their escape.

Back on Mimbar, Delenn has been once again summoned before the Grey Council, this time to answer for her decision to undergo her transformation. Apparently, the Council feels that she is no longer Mimbari, and hence is to be removed as a Satai and replaced. When she sees her replacement is Neroon, a member of the warrior caste, she is dismayed since it means that the warriors will now have more power than the other castes. However, her protests are ignored and she is told to go back to B5 where she will remain as an ambassador and nothing else.

Meanwhile, Sheridan’d old ship, The Agamemnon has come to B5. Aboard is General Hague, the Chairman of the EarthForce Joint Chiefs of Staff and an old friend of Captain Sheridan who has come to meet with him. When word of his capture reaches the station, Hague and Invanova decide to mount a rescue operation with the help of Delenn, who knows where the Streib homeworld is located.

Also, while on board the ship, Sheridan has a strange dream. In it, he sees Garibaldi and Ivanova who give him cryptic messages, like “you are the hand” and “the man in between is looking for you”. He then sees Kosh and asks him why he too there, to which Kosh says “We were never away. For the first time, your mind is quiet enough to hear me.”
When Sheridan asks what he is doing there, Kosh replies simply “you have always been here”.

Finally, the Agamemnon catches up with them just outside the Streib homeworld. When they are told to stand down and release their captives, the ship spaces them all instead and Ivanova orders their destruction. However, they soon detect a life pod which made it off, with Sheridan and the Narn inside. In the course of the confusion, they managed to make it on board and escape.

Back on the station, Sheridan is confronted by Kosh once he has recovered who once again tells him, “you have always been here.” Sheridan then meets with General Hague who gives him the message he came to share. Hague tells him that there is a conspiracy back home involving Clark, the Night Watch and the Psi Corps. They assassinated Santiago, he says, but he needs help and time to expose it. Sheridan agrees to help, and decides to bring his senior officers into it at last. They agree, and together begin discussing how they plan to someday liberate Earth.

Significance:
This episode was important for a number of reasons. For starters, the subplot about the conspiracy back at Earth is revealed in full. Already it has been hinted at that Clark was behind Santiago’s murder and that the Psi Corps is up to something; now we see that is is true. Sheridan and the other main characters also decide to enlist, effectively making them co-conspirators in the plot to liberate Earth. We are also given numerous hints of what’s to come, “signs and portents” if you will, of whats to come in season three and Sheridan’s importance in it all. It is also the first time that Kosh reaches out and touches Sheridan’s mind, something which will prove of increasing significance as the Shadow War approaches and Kosh is killed.

Memorable Quotes:
Sheridan: Why are you here?
Kosh: We were never away. For the first time, your mind is quiet enough to hear me.
Sheridan: Why am I here?
Kosh: You have always been here.

Delenn: The warrior caste cannot be allowed to set policy!
Neroon: Have you done any better? When I was inducted into this circle, I was finally told the reason we surrendered. I didn’t know whether to laugh or weep! If we were told the truth then we never would have surrendered!

Neroon: I understand that before is a creature I do not recognize. One foot in two worlds. You are an affront to the purity of our race. And you’re belief that you are satisfying prophecy is presumption of the highest order! And yet… it is true that you are the perfect laison between us and the Earthers. You have no home with either of us. So please, act out your fantasy, return to Babylon 5… and stay there!

Sheridan: First obligation of a prisoner is to escape… right? RIGHT? Listen, before… why did you ask me to kill you?
Narn: There is no escape. Better to die… to die…

Sheridan: Ever since the death of president Santiago, something unpleasant’s been going on back home. You know it, and I know it. We’ve stood by too long. That’s going to change. Quietly, discreetly, an inch at a time and for now, strictly within the rules, but we have to do something, or risk losing everything we hold dear. Now, we’ll get some help from inside Earth Dome, but the bottom line, if anything goes wrong, we’re on our own. Anybody wants to leave now before you hear anything you’ll have to report, do so.

And as this is going long, I will have to divide it up and continue later. Like I said, this season was arguably the best and it seems I wasn’t lying! Doing justice to all its best episodes is sure to take some serious page time!

Babylon 5, the Dénouement

Babylon 5, the Dénouement

In the last season, Sheridan was believed to have perished at Z’Hadum, Garibaldi had disappeared as well, and the war has reached a state of intermission. A sad ending, and one which was sure to keep the audience in anticipation for the next season. And like season three, season four was chock full of revelations, action, and big climaxes! In a way, it was the natural topper to this series, to be followed by the relatively tame and epilogue-like season five.

Season Four:

The season opens with Ivanova once again in charge of operations around B5. This time, however, she is heart broken and distraught over the loss of Sheridan, as is Delenn. In time, they try to go to Z’Hadum to find him, but are forced to flee when the Shadows detect them and nearly take over their minds. In any case, they get no word from the surface and assume the worst. However, it appears that John is alive, and wandering aimlessly in a cave until he is found by an alien named Lorien. In time, Lorien reveals to him that he is indeed dead, that he is stuck in time because Lorien grabbed him shortly before he fell to his death. He says he can save John, but only if he finds something worth living for (as opposed to not dying). He finds it in Delenn.

In terms of the war, Sheridan’s kamiza routine with his White Star and the nukes has forced the Shadows to change strategies. Feeling vulnerable, they have decided to move much of their fleet away from Z’Hadum and place them amongst worlds that owe allegiance to them. The Alliance meanwhile is falling apart, member worlds choosing to pull their forces back to protect their own worlds and take advantage of the lull. Delenn insists that they must stay together, but they are unreceptive. She meanwhile confronts the new Vorlon ambassador and demands to know what they are prepared to do. Said ambassador, who is much darker and curt than Kosh, says they intend to do nothing and that their plans have changed.

Meanwhile, G’Kar begins searching for Garibaldi, a search which takes him far from B5 and exposes him to danger. The Centauri are searching for him, given the fact that he is the last remaining member of the Kah’Ri. He is eventually captured, and brought before the Emperor as a gift. This coincides with Londo’s return to Centauri Prime on the Emperor’s request. It seems the puppet Cartagia, now that Refa is dead, has made his own agreement with Morden and given the Shadows the island of Seleni to put their ships on.

Morden reveals himself, scarred from Sheridan’s attack but still alive, and tells him the Cartagia is killing off anyone who resists his will. Londo is fearful because having the Shadows on their planet might mean the Vorlons will attack them there, but Cartagia is unconcerned. He seems to think that the sacrifice of his world is a small price to pay for imminent godhood, which he believes the Shadows are able to confer on him. Londo quickly realizes that Cartagia is mad, and that he must do something to stop the destruction of his homeworld.

Delenn begins to organize an assault on Z’Hadum involving the Rangers and the White Star fleet, hoping it will rally the League and other member races. However, the League quickly move to denounce her and propose that they try to find an accommodation with the Shadows. They claim that there is no hope for victory anymore, that no one comes back from Z’Hadum alive. Just then, Sheridan walks in with Lorien at his side. They say they thought he was dead. He replies, “I was. I’m better now.” He demands that they stay together, that the Shadows can be beaten, and that he is proof. His words ignite the crowd and the alliance is reformed! Everyone appears elated, except for Lennier…

Sheridan then explains to them what the war is really all about. Lorien, who we learn is THE First One, the last surviving member of the first sentient race to ever live, who were naturally immortal, has filled him in on all the remaining details. It seems that the Shadows were right about one thing: at one time, the Vorlons and Shadows were both shepherds to the younger races. However, for millennia they have been struggling because they believe their way is the right way. And the reason the Vorlons no longer care about the alliance and were unconcerned with ascertaining Sheridan’s whereabouts is because they are now moving on every world where the Shadows have bases.

Garibaldi, who was also rescued shortly beforehand, is also concerned. He doesn’t trust Lorien, and seems very cynical and discontent about… everything. His second, Zack Allen, is also concerned, as it seems like Garibaldi’s rescue felt staged. However, all that takes a back seat to getting the war back on track. Now that the Vorlons are devestating any planet where the Shadows have influence, using massive Planet-Killer ships, the Shadows are doing the same in return, using a type of cloud-like device that sterilizes a planet’s surface. “Giants in a playground,” says Ivanova, describing their situation. While they battle it out, countless others are stepped in between.

But before the alliance can counter-attack, they must first remove the new Vorlon from B5. This takes the form of luring him into a trap. Lyta first reveals to him that a part of Kosh survived in Sheridan, when taking him to see him, they attack and destroy his encounter suit. However, no one is able to hurt the Vorlon himself (they are beings of pure energy). However, Kosh soon reveals himself and leaves Sheridan to fight, and the two are destroyed together. Sheridan is left virtually dead in the process, but Lorien touches him and is able to rekindle his life. Afterward, he explains to Delenn that he did not so much save Sheridan’s life as prolongue it. He has 20 years to live now, tops. Delenn is upset, but Sheridan tells her he will still have a good haul and asks her to marry him. She accepts!

At last, the allliance hatches their battle plan. While Ivanova is off recruiting as many First Ones as she can, Sheridan and the others learn that the Vorlons next targets are Coriana 6 and Centauri Prime. They have enough ships for one stand, so they choose Coriana since it has over 6 billion people living on it. They decide they will fight the Vorlons there, but that they will also lure the Shadows there by letting them know they are preparing an offensive from this system. With the two sides together, they will attack both and force a confrontation with the Alliance. Rather than planning on victory, Sheridan is hoping this confrontation will act as a crucible.

Londo is warned though, and begins conspiring with Vir to kill Cartagia. However, he cannot trust anyone else in the palace, and is forced to enlist the help of G’Kar. In exchange for his help killing Cartagia, he agrees to free Narn once and for all. On the Narn homeworld, during G’Kar’s show trial, he escapes and creates confusion while Vir and Londo kill Cartagia with a poison needle. Londo then returns to Centauri Prime, having been appointed the new Prime Minister, and begins removing all Shadow influence. He also learns from the head of security that Morden killed Lady Aadira, and that Cartagia asked that it be kept a secret. Londo is outraged, and it makes what he’s about to do easier.

He summons Morden before him, orders him to remove his ships, but Morden refuses. Londo is therefore forced to detonate several nukes on the island, taking out all the ships, and orders Morden taken away. Morden angrily proclaims that Londo and his people will pay! Ultimately, Morden is executed and his head is put on a pike. Knowing that Vir once jokingly said he like to see that happen, he shows it to Vir as a gift. Londo now believes they are safe since he’s rid their world of all Shadow influence, but Vir tells him there’s one that remains: Londo himself! This coincides with the appearance of a Vorlon planet-killer in orbit. Londo orders Vir to kill him post-haste to save their world, but strangely, the ships suddenly depart. It seems like they have been called in elsewhere, which brings me back to the alliance’s battle plan…

Back at Coriana 6, the Vorlons and Shadows arrive and begin fighting each other, both sides having brought their own planet-killer devices. Sheridan detonates several nukes to get their attention, and the alliance forces begin battling both of them. Things appear to be going smoothly, until the Vorlon planet-killer gets in range of the planet. They call in the First Ones, who then blow it up. Everything reaches a lull, during which time the Vorlons take over Sheridan and Delenn, so that they might have a private conversation. However, Lorien embraces both of them and lets everyone in the fleet listen in.

During his conversations with the Vorlons, Sheridan demands to know why they haven’t struck at the Shadows directly if they intend to “eliminate the darkness”. He tells them that he knows this is about influence, that its not for the benefit of the younger races at all, and that they are refusing to take sides anymore. Delenn’s conversation is similar, the Shadows try to appeal to her by saying her race will come out this conflict stronger, but Delenn refuses. She too says that they will reject both sides and not fight their wars anymore, but is told that they will fight and die for them because there is no other way.

The conversation ends when both Vorlons and Shadows realize that the rest of the fleet is listening in, that they know the truth. The Shadows pull their planet-killing shroud over the alliance fleet and threaten to kill Sheridan and Delenn. However, when they begin firing on them, other ships move in to protect them. It is thus clear that the Shadows and Vorlons have lost all influence, and Lorien tells them its time to let go. Like the other First Ones, they should leave the galaxy to the younger races, like his people did with the Vorlons and Shadows, and head out into the wider universe. They agree, happy that Lorien will be coming with them and they will not be alone.

The war is over! However, some accounts still need to be settled. Namely, Sheridan and his people still have Clark and his government to deal with. And now that he no longer has his Shadow friends to protect him, Clark is thinking the same thing. He sees B5 as a liability and begins running a propaganda campaign to make Sheridan appear like an alien collaborator who’s working against Earth. Sheridan responds by creating the “Voice of the Resistance”, using their wartime network to broadcast the truth about Clark’s regime and his activities.

Bester also returns, bearing information on Clark’s plans. In return, he asks that they go to Z’Hadum to see if they can find any leftover technology that might help them cure the telepaths they rescued. Mainly, he’s interested in helping the woman he loves, and in a private conversation with her body, he reveals that he has one final “ace up his sleeve” for Sheridan. When they arrive at Z’Hadum, they see a fleet of ships evacuating, and the planet blows up. Afterward, Sheridan confronts Lyta, since he suspects that it was her that sent the telepathic signal that detonated it. She tacitly admits to this, partly because she wanted to hurt Bester for all he’s done, and to make sure the Shadow technology never fell into anyone’s hands.

Around this time, Delenn is forced to return home. It seems that since she broke the Grey Council, unrest has been settling in between the religious and warrior castes, and even a civil war rappears to be looming. She learns of this when a new race, the Draak (who they learn were the Shadows allies) show up and try to take some worlds on the border of Mimbari space. After blowing their cover and defeating their attack force, Delenn realizes she must return home to take stock of the situation. As the one who broke the Grey Council, she feels responsible for the ensuing chaos.

To do this, she enlists the help of an unlikely ally: Neroon, the hard-core warrior who replaced her on the Council. He is initially reluctant, but in time she convinces him of her sincerity, and agrees to her plan. After war breaks out, Delenn announces that the religious caste will surrender and she will meet with the leader of the warriors – a man named Shakiri. They meet in the ancient temple that predated the Grey Council, where leadership were selected by “trial by fire”. This involved the leader of a respective caste entering the wheel of fire, where they would be consumed. Whoever was willing to die would have their caste become the new leaders. Since Shakirir has rejected the ways of Valen, they must embrace this tradition, or lose face…

Shakiri agrees, but is ultimately unwilling to die and flees the fire. He is therefore revealed to be unworthy, but contrary to what she and Neroon had originally planned, Delenn stays behind. He jumps in to save her, himself dying in the process, but not before he makes a heartfelt plea.  He claims that though he was born a warrior, the true calling of his heart is religious, and that their people listen to Delenn. She then goes about reforging the Grey Council, only this time, instead of their being three representatives from each caste, the bulk of representatives will be from the Worker caste. This way, the people will decide policy, not prophecies or ideologies.

After an atrocity where fleeing civilians are fired upon by Earth ships takes place, Sheridan decides its time for more direct action. Using the White Star fleet, B5 begins an offensive against the Earth Alliance, attacking Proxima, Mars, and then Earth. Meanwhile, Garibaldi, who resigned his post and became an independent investigator decides to turn on Sheridan. For some time, its been apparent that he’s changed since his capture and that something happened to him while he was away. In his new job, he enlists with William Edgars, a major industrialist who owns half of Mars and happens to be married to Garibaldi’s ex. When he returns to Mars, he learns Edgars and his people have their own plans for overthrowing Clark, but it goes farther than just removing the man.

Once Garibaldi earns Edgars’ trust, Edgars tells him that Clark’s real power comes from the Psi Corps, and that they are the power behind the throne. His industries have created a virus that kills telepaths, but also have created a cure. This way, they can control them and keep them from taking over. However, Sheridan’s offensive is an impediment to this plan, so Garibaldi is forced to betray him, luring him into a trap where Earth agents are able to grab him. Afterward, once Garibaldi knows everything, he meets up with Bester, who is apparently the one that’s been pulling his strings. While in a hypnotic state, he divulges everything about Edgar’s plans and Bester concludes that this is a remnant of the Shadow’s plan: that the virus is their technology, and that alongside supporting Clark’s bid for power, they put this plan into work – leaving his people either “controlled… or dead”.

Psi Cops show up immediately thereafter to kill Edgars, his people, and take the virus and the cure. Bester than frees Garibaldi of his grip, and Garibaldi is horrified to see what he’s done. He immediately seeks out the Mars resistance, finding Franklin, Lyta and Marcus there too since they’ve been laising with them. He tells them everything, Lyta probes him and sees he’s telling the truth, and they set out to rescue Sheridan. They find him drugged but alive inside a detainment center where he was being tortured and subjected to mind warfare.

At the same time, Delenn finds out that news of Sheridan’s capture brought the League worlds together, and that they have openly declared their support for Sheridan and his efforts. The wartime alliance is now a full-time thing, known as the Insterstellar Alliance. Ships from every member world are sent into the fray to offer support, but the front line fighting will be left to Sheridan and the Earth forces to ensure that everyone knows this is their effort, not outside interference.

And now that he is free, Sheridan returns and takes command of the fleet so they can mount their final assault. The Earth fleet is marshalling at Mars for a final fight, but rather than attack them directly, Sheridan’s forces and the Mars resistance manage to smuggle the altered telepaths (the ones they captured from the Shadows) aboard the Alliance ship’s where they began merging with the machinery. The ships are therefore disabled and the alliance fleet is able to surpass them and head for Earth.

Unfortunately, he gets back just in time to find Ivanova on her death bed. On their way to Mars, they came up against Clark’s best forces, a fleet of Earth Destroyers that had been merged with Shadow vessels. They won the battle, but in the process, Ivanova was critically injured and narrowly saved by Marcus. However, after being rushed back to B5 for treatment, Marcus finds out about an alien device Franklin inherited that can transfer life force. He gives his life to save hers, and tells her he loves her just before she comes out of her coma and he dies.

However, Clark has reprogrammed the defensive grid to enact “Scorched Earth” – aka. to level the planet’s surface. He’s gone mad it seems, and then takes his own life to avoid capture. However, his own people break into his office, tell Sheridan of the plan, and Sheridan’s forces manage to knock out the defense grid before it can fire. Sheridan then goes to Earth to offer himself up for judgment, and they decide to relieve him of his position as Captain, but thank him for saving them as well. Which is fine, since he’s got a new job – as first president of the new Interstellar Alliance! Earth is offered membership, but only if it allows its colonies independence.

In the season finale, Sheridan returns to B5 for his inauguration. However, we quickly see that the episode is a retrospective being told from one million years in the future. The main theme of the episode opens when Sheridan wonders aloud whether or not he and Delenn will be remembered, and he concludes “probably not.” Delenn tells him not to worry though, that they’ve created what they did because it was right and that history will tend to itself.

These words are therefore meant to be ironic since we can clearly see how their influence and their actions echoed throughout the ages, all the way to the distant future where humanity has evolved to the point of being like the Vorlons and are leaving the Solar System for the last time. The season then ends with the words: DEDICATED TO ALL THE PEOPLE WHO PREDICTED THE BABYLON PROJECT WOULD FAIL IN ITS MISSION. FAITH MANAGES.

From what I understand, this episode was meant to be the series finale. One friend tells me this was because Straczynski had no intention of making a fifth season, but others tell me it was because the show was originally intended for five seasons but it was unclear whether or not the network would spring for a fifth. Either way, B5 would have one last season before wrapping up for all time. And as I said before, it was full of epilogues, some rather sad…

B5 Continued…

B5 Continued…

Picking up where I left off, Babylon 5, second season!  When season one ended, Sinclair and G’Kar had taken off, both to pursue their own agendas. Delenn was in a chrysalis (cocoon) and undergoing a transformation, and Londo was making deals with “shadowy” forces. Resuming…

Season Two:
Season Two opens with Babylon 5 getting a new commander (Captain John Sheridan, played by Bruce Boxleitner) since Sinclair has been reassigned, somewhat mysteriously, to the Mimbari homeworld. Much like Sinclair, he too has a history that involves the Earth-Mimbari war. Sheridan is a war hero, the only man who ever destroyed a Mimbari ship and lived to tell about it. After receiving his post at B5, his first task is to deal with a renegade Mimbari cruiser that is staffed by warriors who never accepted their surrender. In the course of things, Sheridan learns the truth about the war. Lennier, Delenn’s assistant (who has taken over now that she is in a cocoon!), explains…

At the Battle of the Line, the humans who were captured were examined using a holy relic that came to the Mimbari from their chief prophet (Valen) who came to them a thousand years ago. The relic glowed in his presence, and a few others. When Sinclair was exposed to it, it glowed intensely. They concluded that his “soul” was Mimbari, that it was as strong as Valen’s, and that other humans possess Mimbari souls. This is why they ended the war. Few understood this decision, but given its importance of the Mimbari, they accepted it. In the end, Sheridan is successful and the renegade Mimbari cruiser is destroyed. But he is also made aware of the fact that he’s not too popular with the Mimbari.

Meanwhile, Londo meets with Morden again. Having gotten over the severity of what Morden “associates” did to the Narn border colony, he asks Morden what would happen if he were to ask for another “demonstration” of their power. Morden says plainly that they will provide it, and Londo only need “pick a target”. In return, all he asks is that Londo turn over whatever information he comes across about stuff happening on the rim. Which shortly thereafter comes in handy…

G’Kar returns from his investigation into the attack on their border colony. Going on a tip from some old Narn texts, he began looking into certain worlds at the border of known space. On one such world, he found something and barely got out alive. After determining that the configuration of the ships that attacked him were virtually identical to the ones described in the texts, he concludes that this ancient race is returning and is responsible for the attack. The border world he found is apparently called Z’Hadum, and his world has sent a ship to investigate.

Naturally, Londo tells Morden and the ship is ambushed just as it jumps out of hyperspace. G’Kar’s investigation is halted, and his warnings end up ringing hollow. However, Delenn emerges from her cocoon and appears half-human now. No explanation is given beyond her saying that it was a gesture to bring their two species – humans and Mimbari – closer together. Sheridan is impressed, and we get a preview of the romantic relationship which is to follow.

In time, Londo gets a visitor, a man named Lord Refa, who has heard of what Londo has done and is impressed. He comes to Londo bearing an offer: he and friends back home want to overthrow the current Emperor, who they think of as weak and conciliatory to the Narns, and put their own person on the throne. They want a return to the good old days of power, like Londo, and are willing to do what it takes to make that happen. Londo is enthused and agrees, but gets a word of warning from a seer (a Technomage) shortly thereafter. He is told that he will become powerful, and be responsible for the lives of billions. He is naturally perturbed.

Other developments include Sheridan finding out that Ivanova is a latent telepath who’s mother committed suicide to escape the Corps, that Franklin is running an underground railroad for telepaths looking to do the same, and that the station’s resident telepath, Talia Winters (whom Garibaldi has a thing for) is a sleeper agent whom the Corps planted to keep an eye on them all. They also get a visitor in the form of Lyta Alexander, a telepath who was originally assigned to B5 but has since been working with the Vorlons, and has been changed by them… She has since turned against the Corps, and seems to know a thing or two about the Vorlons secrets.

And of course, the old conspiracy about the president begins to shape up. Garibadli recovers, his old security deputy is busted but disappears on his way back to Earth to stand trial. Before leaving, he also leaves Garibaldi with a cryptic warning, that this is “much bigger than he knows”. Sheridan also learns from his old friend, General Hague, that the destruction of Earth One was an inside job and that the VP was involved. He also tells Sheridan that he was appointed to B5 because the new President, Clark, thought he’d be loyal, being a career soldier. Sheridan and his senior officers decide to join Haig’s counter-conspiracy and begin helping them, which includes giving safe passage to the doctor who had proof that Clark’s cover story about an illness was false.

But by far the biggest part of season two is the “Great War” between the Narns and the Centauri. After the first time he called in a favor from Morden, his “associates” destroyed an entire colony of Narns on the border of disputed space. This incident gained Londo some serious popularity in certain circles back home, including Lord Refa. Things come together again when the Emperor himself decides to visit Babylon 5, apparently to issue an apology to the Narns for his family’s actions. G’Kar intends to assassinate him, but his efforts are cut short when Emperor suffers a near-fatal heart attack. When he learns of the Emperor’s true purpose, he reaches out to Londo for the first time.

However, Londo and Refa are already mobilizing. Refa’s people assassinate the Emperor’s Prime Minister back home, and he tells Londo they need an attention getter to set them ahead of the other potential successors. Londo remembers what Morden said about “picking a target” and chooses another military base that borders Centauri space. The dark, spidery ships attack, destroy everything, and Centauri forces move in afterwards. This time around, the Centauri ARE blamed, the Narns declare war, Londo is hailed as a hero by his people, and Lord Refa’s puppet Emperor (Cartagia) takes the throne. The Great War has begun!

And just before the Emperor dies, he is met by Kosh. He asks him how this will end, and Kosh tells him “in fire”. Londo and Refa also come before him to tell him the “good news” about the war. Rather than condone it, he pulls Londo close and tells him “you are both damned”. “Small price to pay for immortality” says Refa, but Londo appears shaken once again. In the ensuring weeks, Babylon 5 is thrust into the middle of the war, being asked to arbitrate and take in refugees from all the Narn colonies that begin to be overrun.

Meanwhile, John is made aware of what’s really going on. After learning the truth about the Earth-Mimbari War, he is told of another, more secretive war, one which has been a long time coming and is imminent. After learning that Morden is aboard the station, and realizing that he was on the same ship as Anna Sheridan (John’s wife) which was apparently destroyed, John orders Morden taken into custody and questioned. Apparently, the ship was lost during an expedition to the world now known as Z’Hadum, all hands thought to have perished. Since he’s not dead and wandering around freely, John wants answers!

His efforst are interrupted when Kosh and Delenn explain. Z’Hadum is the home of an ancient race known as the “Shadows”. They are one of the “First Ones”, a group of races billions of years old, the first to achieve sentience in the galaxy. The Shadows are the oldest, and they have been at war with the others for eons. In the last war, what few First Ones remained defeated them and drove them off, with the help of some younger races – including the Mimbari. Whereas all the others have now died or moved on, only the Vorlons remain. Now that the Shadows are returning, they must prepare! A new alliance must be struck, and both the Mimbari and the Vorlons understand that humanity and B5 are important to that effort, though they don’t fully know why.

According to Delenn, the Shadows are behind the Narn-Centauri war because they intend to weaken the younger races by making them fight each other before they invade. The only advantage they have right now is that Shadows do not know that the Mimbari and Vorlons already suspect what they are up to. He is also told that Sinclair is on Mimbar preparing a new force of fighters for when the time comes; they are known as the Rangers, and Garibaldi was made aware of them some time ago. Sheridan reluctantly agrees to join their alliance, and lets Morden go. In secret, they begin to plot and Kosh begins to teach Sheridan how to, as he says, “fight legends”. Sheridan also vows that one day, he will go to Z’Hadum to find out what happened to his wife, despite Kosh’s warning that if he does, he will die!

Season two ends with the end of the war. After months of fighting a losing war, the Narns prepare for one final assault to slow the Centauri down and prolongue the war. However, Refa’s people intercept their plans and make plans of their own. He asks Londo to arrange for his friends to destroy the Narn attack while they in turn attack the Narn homeworld, using mass-drivers. These are an outlawed weapon of mass destruction, and their use will level Narn’s surface. Londo is very reluctant, he doesn’t want the death toll, and he is growing suspicious of Morden and his “associates”. But, under pressure, he agrees, and everything happens without a hitch. The last Narn fleet is destroyed, he watches as  Narn is leveled and forced to surrender, and then dictates the punitive terms of peace at the B5 Council.

In order to avoid arrest and remain free, G’Kar is told by his people to request asylum. Sheridan agrees, but is powerless to stop the Centauri from imposing terrible terms of peace on the Narns. All he can do is promise G’Kar whatever help he can, and in a meeting later with Delenn, Kosh and the Rangers, he pledges that where they stand, they will draw a line against the coming darkness.

Almost immediately after the war ends with the Narns, the Centauri begin attacking the borders of several more worlds immediately thereafter. In response, a representative of the Earth Alliance came to the station for the purpose of “evaluating the Centauri”. Sheridan and G’Kar were hopeful that this meant Earth was preparing to take sides, but all were disappointed when it was revealed that Earth was signing a non-aggression pact with them, effectively turning their backs on the Centauri’s continued aggression.

However, these efforts are somewhat frustrated due to the appearance of a Narn cruiser which Sheridan offers aid to after it jumps in near the station. This leads to a confrontation with a Centauri cruiser, and Sheridan is forced to destroy it. In order to salvage the situation, Earth orders Sheridan to issue a formal apology. But on his way to deliver it, Sheridan is nearly killed by a bomb that was planted in his car. He jumps from the car and begins falling towards certain death. Miraculously, Kosh reveals himself and flies to his rescue.  When he leaves his encounter suit, everyone sees an angel, though in different guises, depending on their race. People feel the station is now blessed, a good omen in dark times…

At the same time, Zack Allen, one of the station’s pilots, dies pursuing a lead. Some time before, he saw a Shadow vessel in hyperspace, and became obsessed with it. While ferrying the Narn cruiser to safety, he breaks off when he detects a faint trace of neutrinos in hyperspace. He comes face to face with a Shadow vessel, and is then destroyed! However, his gun camera footage survived and was retrieved. Season two thus ends with the footage being aired on interstellar television!

Whoo, I get goose bumps just thinking about it! And I assume people can see by what I mean about the quality of the writing and the consistency of the plot. By this point in the show, things are really starting to come together. But of course, many threads still needed to be tied, and many mysteries still revealed.

Most of these come up in Season Three, coming up next!