Imagine having five seasons to tell a story instead of just an hour. That is the basic premise of Babylon 5: a five year telling of a story. Each season marks one year of “Earth Time”. Each season’s opener is set some time around the beginning of January and the season-ending episode is usually set the following December. It’s one reason to pay attention to the introduction during the credit as the year is given.
The second season of Babylon 5 marked a variety of changes. Most notably, Jeffrey Archer who portrayed the Commander of the station, Jeffrey Sinclair, in the first season left the series and was replaced by Bruce Boxleitner as Commander John Sheridan.
Watching this season, it’s sometimes hard to remember that it aired in 1995. There are references throughout the season that are quite timely. I would think that if J. Michael Straczynski were trying to sell this to a studio in our current political climate, he would have had an even more difficult times. There are references to “weapons of mass destruction” that are alleged to be somewhere, but their existence is never proven. On Earth there is a Ministry of Peace and Truth whose duties are eerily similar to our own Department of Homeland Security. Political lies and conspiracies seem to be everywhere, and there seem to be a very few characters whose motives are clear.
The story evolved greatly as the Centauri began to go after the Narn and finally launch an all-out invasion. G’Kar became more of a religious figure. Londo begins realizing there are consequences for the actions he has taken and desires he has had, but he also transforms from someone considered a buffoon whom they cast out of planetary politics to a figure to be reckoned with and taken seriously.
Many of the episodes in the second season rely on a knowledge of events in the first season. This makes the entire series less-stand alone. I didn’t notice it as much when I watched the episodes as I could in reruns, but now being able to watch the series in the sequence it was intended makes those nuances more noticeable. There are also lines a character delivers or some small and seemingly inconsequential event which occurs in the middle of an episode which seems to have little relation to the overall story, but are actually little hints and clues to the entire five-year scope.
There is some terrific bonus material on the last disc. Two documentaries have the creator of the series, J. Michael Straczynski, talking about where this season fits in with his five year story. There is also a feature titled The World of Babylon 5 with an overview of the characters, political situations, weaponry, technical data, and political situations within the series to (hopefully) help in the viewer’s understanding of the show.
Captain John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) – Since this is his first season, I had to learn about the Commander of the station all over again. Sheridan was a highly regarded war hero. His wife allegedly died on a science expedition to the Outer Rim.
Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova (Claudia Christian) – Her tough exterior and hatred of Psi Corps is tempered only by her uneasy friendship with Talia Winters. Her feelings about Psi Corps are not just due to what her mother has instilled in her, however.
Security Chief Michael Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) – His assault and betrayal by one of his own men has left an emotional scar on the man.
Talia Winters (Andrea Thompson) – As the season opens there are hints of there being more to her than meets the eye. This comes to a head as her true purpose on the station is revealed near the end of the season.
Dr. Stephen Franklin (Richard Biggs) – Although seemingly very much a man on the straight-and-narrow path, there are many indications during the season that he follows the path his heart tells him to, even if it means getting himself in trouble.
Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik) – He is journeying to a dark path which will bring him great power and notoriety. There are many crossroads he faces during the second season, and he always seems to choose the path that is right for him, regardless of what the cost is in lives to anyone else.
Vir Cotto, Assistant to Londo (Stephen Furst) – Is considered a screw-up by his family. Was sent off as Londo’s assistant to keep from embarrassing them, but has turned it around for himself. He is actually far more “with it” than he appears at times, and stands up to Mr. Morden during this season in what may be his best scene during the course of the series.
Minbari Ambassador Delenn (Mira Furlan) – Her emergence from her chrysalis is supposed to enable her to be a bridge between the Minbari and humans. In this season, she must adjust to the changes in her body that come with being a human female. She is removed from the Grey Council at the behest of the Minbari Warrior Caste. As the season winds down, it seems as if more is developing between her and Captain Sheridan than just friendship.
Lennier, Aide to Delenn (Bill Mumy) – Caught between loyalty to Delenn and loyalty to Minbari when she is removed from the Grey Council. Although at times the relationship between Delenn and Lennier seems almost like a parent and child, he is actually a great support for her, both in his faith toward what she is doing and being a trusted friend as well as advisor.
Narn Ambassador G’Kar (Andreas Katsulas) – A tragic figure this season as he attempts to stave off a war waged on his people by the Centauri, then must beg for humanitarian aid of the other worlds. When the Centauri stage an all-out assault on the Narn, he is the only member of the governing council not incarcerated by the Centauri as he claims sanctuary on Babylon 5.
Na’Toth, Assistant to G’Kar (Mary Kay Adams) – Change in actress portraying her not noticeable due to al the makeup. Doesn’t have much to do this season.
Lt. Warren Keffer (Robert Rusler) – He is the head of Sinclair’s Rangers on Babylon 5. Keffer was a character the studio asked to be on the show, and which the creator had no use for.
Points of Departure * * * * *
Takes place mere days after the close of the first season. Captain John Sheridan is named the new Chief of Babylon 5, replacing Commander Sinclair who is the first human to be given permanent ambassador status to the Minbari. Garibaldi is still in the med-lab, and Delenn is still in her cocoon. The Minbari do not approve of the appointment of Sheridan, and a renegade warship commander tries to bait him into renewing aggression between the two races.
Revelations * * *
Mr. Morden (Ed Wasser) returns as Londo becomes nervous of his involvement in the events of Quadrant 37. Sheridan’s sister Elizabeth(Beverly Leech) visits Babylon 5. Dr. Franklin uses the alien device healing from the first-season episode The Quality of Mercy to bring Garibaldi out of his coma. Delenn emerges from her cocoon. With the help of Talia Winters, Garibaldi remembers who shot him. A Narn science vessel is attacked and destroyed while on reconnaissance in the outer rim of known space.
The Geometry of Shadows * * * *
Michael Ansara guest stars as a technomage, a wizard-like mystic with the gift of prophecy. Ambassador Londo Mollari seeks to have a private audience and get an endorsement from the technomage to help polish his image as a man of power. Ivanova must mediate a gang-like dispute between two factions of the Drazi race.
This episode can be watched with commentary by Bruce Boxleitner, Claudia Christian, & Jerry Doyle. It’s actually pretty funny. Did you know that Jerry posed as Bruce Willis whenever he entered Boxleitner’s gated community and the security guard actually believed him? Boxleitner also makes the comment about Galaxy Quest being the best movie ever made about this genre.
A Distant Star * * * *
Although no ship has ever survived being lost in hyper-space, Sheridan orders Babylon 5‘s defenses out to rescue a ship sending a distress signal from hyper-space. The ship happens to be under the command of and old friend of Sheridan’s Captain Jack Maynard (Russ Tamblyn). Keffer gets his first glimpse of a Shadow vessel, which fuels his obsession throughout the season. Meanwhile, Dr. Franklin puts Sheridan, Ivanova, and Garibaldi on diets.
The Long Dark * * * *
Dwight Schultz guest stars as lunatic or prophet, depending on your point of view. A ship from Earth’s past bring a cryogenically frozen women (Anne-Marie Johnson) on board Babylon 5, or is there more to her than meets the eye?
Spider in the Web * * * *
A human cybernetic being comes onto Babylon 5 with the intention of stopping a possible peace on the Mars Colony. When the being has a memory triggered by an encounter with Talia Winters, it puts his mission as well as the station itself, in jeopardy. The stage is set for a host of secrets to be uncovered in later episodes. This marks the first episode in which Jeff Conaway appears as Zack Allen. Adrienne Barbeau guest stars as a representative of Mars Colony, as well as a cameo appearance by Jessica Walter.
Soul Mates * * * *
Londo’s three wives arrive on Babylon 5, for his 30th anniversary of his ascension. He must choose between them for the one who will remain his wife. Talia Winter’s ex-husband also arrives, bringing her the possibility of a way out of Psi Corps. Delenn copes with having hair for the first time.
A Race Through Dark Places * * * *
This episode brings back Bester (Walter Koenig) and the Psi Corps as he attempts to uncover an underground railroad that is helping unregistered telepaths. Meanwhile, Sheridan and Ivanova quarrel with Earth Central over having to pay rent due to an extra seven feet of space in their living quarters. Delenn and Sheridan have dinner together as she attempts to learn more about humans and their behavior.
As Talia recalls what happened last season between her and Bester, there is a flashback to events in the prior season. This is handled very well in the story, rather than feeling awkward. The telepaths who exist outside of Psi Corps are explored in a very dark way.
The Coming of Shadows * * * * *
The winner of a 1995 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, this episode sets events in motion and sets the theme for the remainder of the series.
The aging Centauri Emperor (Turhan Bey) visits Babylon 5. G’Kar is appalled at his visit, even though he has been very conciliatory toward the Narn. He plans an assassination attempt. However, the Emperor’s deteriorating health prevents any action, and he receives a message from the Emperor which startles him to change his path.
Meanwhile, Londo and his followers prepare their own manipulations as various factions jockey to be in position to take over the throne. The Shadow forces, urged on by Londo, attack a Narn colony in Quadrant 14, although the Centauri receive the blame.
A man arrives with a cryptic message for Garibaldi from Commander Sinclair.
Gropos * * * *
When Dr. Franklin’s father, General Franklin (Paul Winfield) arrives with 25,000 infantry troops to be billeted aboard Babylon 5, it throws the station into turmoil. Allegedly he is leading a force about to intervene in a far-off civil war on the planet Akdor. They are also building up the station’s armaments, something that is contrary to what Sheidan feels is Babylon 5‘s mission.
Ryan Cutrona, who portrays the Sargent Major, is a real caricature, almost like a cartoon, or the father in the old Twisted Sister videos. The story brings the horrors of war, even in the future and in victory to the forefront as relationships carved out of the forced billeting on Babylon 5 are broken.
All Alone in the Night * * *
Sheridan leads a team to check out reports of anomalies in space and is kidnaped by unknown forces. Meanwhile, Delenn must answer to the Minbari Council for her transformation which has cast doubts on her abilities and allegiance.
The best parts of this episode have no relation to the main story, but involve a vision Sheridan has while captured by the aliens, as well as his conversation with General Hague (Robert Foxworth) who has come to debrief him.
Acts of Sacrifice * * *
Ivanova is assigned to negotiate with the Lumati to bring them into the League of Non-Aligned worlds. To seal the bargain, their negotiator (Paul WIlliams) expects her to have sex with him.
Meanwhile, Sheridan tries to find a way to funnel unofficial aid to the Narn in their war with the Centauri while at the same time keeping tempers from flaring n the station.
Hunter, Prey * * *
A fugitive doctor is hiding out somewhere on Babylon 5, and Earth Alliance has ordered anyone locating him to shoot to kill. It’s an unusual order against a civilian, which leads Sheridan, Ivanova and Garibaldi to believe there’s more to him than the story they are being given. There is some insight here into the mysterious Vorlons and Ambassador Kosh, as a possible conspiracy around the explosion of Earth Force One and the death of the President at the end of the first season unfolds.
There All the Honor Lies * * * *
Sheridan puts Ivanova in charge of keeping the new Babylon 5 gift shop from undermining the integrity of the station. He is then accosted in a corridor and forced to slay a Minbari warrior, ending up framed for murder. A lawyer arrives from Earth, allegedly to help him (a side note – the actress portraying the lawyer is the same one who portrayed Na’Toth in season one). Sheridan also spends time under Vorlon Ambassador Kosh’s tutelage, experiencing the world of “Down Below” in a very different light. Vir is asked to leave his position as Londo’s assistant and has a crisis of vocation.
And Now For A Word * * * *
Kim Zimmer guest starts as an ISN reporter recording a documentary on the space station Babylon 5. While the crew is there, the war between the Narn and Centauri spills over to the station. G’Kar alleges that the Centuari ship was transporting “weapons of mass destruction” (his words, not mine) and that the Narn were justified in their attack.
Despite warnings that both the Narn and Centauri would consider Earth Force firing on their ships fighting in the space outside of Babylon 5 an act of war, Sheridan orders them to fire upon the ships in an effort to protect the quarter of a million inhabitants of the station. The Centauri fight back threatening a blockade of the station as well as possible destruction if their captured ships are searched.
The episode is presented as a “Dateline”-style documentary, complete with commercial for Psi Corps.
In The Shadow of the Z’Ha’Dum * * * * *
While reviewing a crew list for the Icarus, the science vessel Sheridan’s wife is believe to have perished on, Garibaldi spots Mr, Morden’s (Ed Wasser) picture among the crew.
Sheridan’s inquisition of Morden results in the demands of his release by everyone from Vir (speaking for Londo who is back on Centauri) to Delenn and Kosh. When Delenn and Kosh speak with Sheridan about the matter, he learns for the first time of The Shadows and their history. He also must choose between letting Morden go and keeping the Shadows from knowing that the Minbari and Vorlons are preparing for their coming, and finding out any information about Anna possibly still being alive.
This episode is also available with a commentary from J. Michael Straczynski.
Knives * * * *
Sheridan discovers a dead alien body in Grey Sector which seems to attack him, leaving him with unexpected residual effects. An old friend of Londo’s visits, asking Mollari to stand with him and prevent his family from becoming disgraced as traitors. When he learns of Londo’s new “friends” in the Centauri government, their friendship takes a turn for the worse.
Confessions and Lamentations * * * *
When Markhads begin turning up dead of apparently natural causes, an investigation into the cause and apparent cover-up ensues. They have been killed by a disease which was once thought of as a punishment by the Gods for decadent behavior. Dr. Franklin races against time to try to save the civilization from extinction and prevent the disease from jumping across species.
Divided Loyalties * * * * *
Just as Ivanova seems to be getting past her inherent bias against telepaths and forms a friendship with Talia, Babylon 5‘s original telepath, Leta Alexander, returns to the station to warn the station’s officers that someone among them is a traitor. The person in question is a Psi Corps agent who doesn’t even know that he/she has been programmed in their subconscious by the Corps. See telefilm In The Beginning: The Gathering for more of the background to events of this episode.
The Long, Twilight Struggle * * * * *
Draal (John Schuck) returns and invites Sheridan to visit him on the planet. The war is going poorly for the Narn as they prepare a last-ditch effort to repel the Centauri, who themselves have something up their sleeves. Londo realizes he is in the middle of events which are now beyond his control and which do not always sit comfortably with him. Excellent special effects in this one and some great battle scenes between the Narn and Shadows. Terrific acting by Peter Jurasik and Andreas Katsulas.
Comes the Inquisitor * * *
Someone is coming at the behest of Ambassador Kosh to verify things about Ambassador Delenn; her intent behind certain choices she made. G’Kar is buying arms to ship to an underground resistance on the Narn homeworld. Garibaldi helps him smuggle the arms, as long as G’Kar promises to keep them off of Babylon 5. Good acting on the encounter between Vir and G’Kar in the elevator. (Check guest stars for who one of the Narn is) G’Kar is then challenged to communicate with a family on Narn to establish himself as he leader of the Narn on Babylon 5 or step aside.
The Fall of Night * * * *
Sheridan receives word that the Centauri have been invading the territory of other sovereign races, the Drazi and Pak’Ma’Ra. He confronts Londo and receives a caustic response. A peace minister (Roy Dotrice) arrives from Earth to evaluate the situation. A Narn heavy cruiser arrives at Babylon 5 and requests sanctuary. Keffer meets another pilot who has also seen the ghosts in hyperspace and compares notes. Ivanova is offered her own command in exchange for aligning herself with the Nightwatch. The minister reveals that he is actually there to sign a non-aggression pact with the Centauri. However, Sheridan is forced to follow-through on his promise and defend the Narn vessel and the station from a Centauri cruiser. Sheridan is told he must issue a formal apology to the Centauri or be removed from his command. While escorting the Narn cruiser through hyperspace Keffer gets readings of the ghost ship. This episode is available to be viewed with commentary by J. Michael Straczynski.
The series really comes into its own during this season as the story seems to evolve and come together more. Less of the episodes are stand-alone, so viewers need the history to know what’s going on. Watching it in sequence for the first time, I have an appreciation for the show that I missed out on when I was catching it in re-runs. I highly recommend these discs. If you can’t buy them, then be sure to rent them, and rent them in order.
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