If anyone thinks that Aaron Sorkin was the first creator of a series (The West Wing) to write every episode each season, they are wrong. J. Michael Straczynski was the first to do it, in the third season of Babylon 5.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Babylon 5 is set in the future and in space. Specifically, it is the year 2260 (each season is supposed to be one full year). The space station Babylon 5 is a sort of United Nations in space where various alien races meet and transact business as well as diplomacy. At this point in the series the five year story arc is in full swing. Quite honestly, having first viewed bits and pieces of the series over the years, it’s much better to watch the episodes in order. If you think you’re going to pick up the series at this point, you’ll really be missing out. I recommend you go back and begin viewing from Season One.
Viewing this season now, which originally aired back in 1995 and 1996, is somewhat eerie. I feel like I am watching events based on what has happened during the last three years, as a President illegally assumes office and proceeds to enter into questionable treaties and illegal military actions, such as the arrest of anyone in the military who disagrees with him, and the bombing of the Mars colony when they refuse his order to impose martial law. A good portion of the episodes left me with the distinct feeling they had been written more recently. Sometimes there are people more insightful of the future than we care to realize. Straczynski proves this in his commentary on the episode Severed Dreams where he talks of tyranny being able to take over by using tactics to make the population afraid and keep people in a state of fear, as well as the takeover of the media (whether by force or by corporate takeover).
Not all is doom and gloom, as there are some terrific humorous moments in the midst of all the drama, such as contrasting Narn Ambassador G’Kar hounding Garibaldi and accusing the Centauri of being responsible for a series of bombings, with Centauri Ambassador Mollari doing the same with Captain Sheridan about the Narn. There is also a terrific sub-plot in one episode about a subordinate taking Ivanova’s invitation the wrong way. In still another show, the computer that controls the operations of Babylon 5 taking on a Garibaldi-like personality.
There are some terrific special effects as more battles take place during this season than ever before. The two part episode War Without End have especially good effects, as well as Shadow Dancing. For a television show, the effects are quite well done.
Captain John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) – During this year, he must choose whether to follow a President who gained the office by illegal means, or do what he knows in his heart to be the right thing. He becomes a true leader during this season, as Babylon 5 breaks its alliance with Earth. His romantic feelings for Delenn also become quite apparent during this season.
Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova (Claudia Christian) – As part of Sheridan’s inner circle, Ivanova is the station’s backbone as well as the straight man during moments of comic relief.
Security Chief Michael Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) – Another part of Sheridan’s inner circle, he abhors the Night Watch and all it represents.
Dr. Stephen Franklin (Richard Biggs) – His addiction becomes apparent during this season as he uses the drugs to try and keep up with the patient load and casualties from the battles that take place.
Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik) – As the season begins, he is disturbed by the visions he sees for Centauri’s future as well as his part in it. He begins to try to rectify events he has put into motion. At the same time, his lust for power cannot be denied.
Minbari Ambassador Delenn (Mira Furlan) – Her strength of character becomes apparent as she reaches a turning point and not only breaks the Grey Council, but also stands down Earth Force destroyers intent on boarding Babylon 5 and arresting the command staff.
Narn Ambassador G’Kar (Andreas Katsulas) – He becomes an integral part of the support of Sheridan, Delenn and others on Babylon 5 against the corrupt Earth forces.
Vir Cotto (Stephen Furst) – He is Centauri and Londo’s assistant, as well as his conscience at times. He hears a prophecy of his future that seems too ridiculous for him to believe, but grows a great deal after spending time on Minbar.
Na’Toth (Mary Kay Adams) – She is G’Kar’s assistant and his achilles heel in the end. She also isn’t seen much this season.
Lennier (Bill Mumy) – Not only Delenn’s assistant, but also her friend and confidant. He is truly devoted to her and she is quite protective of him as well. Their relationship is often like two very close siblings or even mother and son.
Zack Allen (Jeff Conaway) – He is at a crossroads between his participation in Night Watch and his loyalty to Garibaldi and Sheridan. The time comes and he must make a choice of where his loyalties are.
Marcus Cole (Jason Carter) – A new addition this season, he is immediately enamored of Ivanova and makes a good foil for her. He is part of Sinclair’s Rangers, a force made up of Humans and Minbari.
Matters of Honor * * * * *
Londo seriously second-guesses his pact with Mr, Morden (Ed Wasser) and the Shadows. A patient is brought in to Dr. Franklin, and then promptly disappears. An investigator into the recordings made by Keffer before he was killed in the final episode of season two arrives. He questions all of the Ambassadors on their knowledge of Shadow vessels.
Marcus Cole arrives on the station. He is a Ranger, trained to fight the Shadows under Delenn, Sheridan, and Garibaldi. He needs Ivanova, Delenn and Sheridan to help him evacuate a Ranger training camp that is surrounded by Centauri mines. This is when the ship White Star is first seen. It’s a completely new design, combining Minbari and Vorlon technology, and manned by Minbari of the religious caste instead of the warrior caste.
The complicity of Earth’s government in the coming of the Shadows is shown at the end of this episode, as well as the initial convening of a War Council on Babylon 5.
Convictions * * *
Just as a series of deliberate bombings rips through the Babylon 5 station, a religious brotherhood arrives to live at the station and study the various ways God has revealed himself to the different races.
Lennier is injured in one of the bombings while saving Londo’s life. Following one of the blasts, Londo and G’Kar are trapped in a transport tube where G’Kar is intent on watching Londo die a slow death.
A Day in the Strife * * *
This is a look at a “typical” day on Babylon 5, which includes a shipping dispute, the arrival of a new Narn representative to replace G’Kar, to the arrival of an unknown probe outside of the station initiating a possible first contact situation.
Londo attempts to have Vir reassigned to Minbar as he is having trouble dealing with Vir being his “conscience”. The stage is set as Dr. Franklin’s addiction in the face of a demanding work schedule first surfaces. The probe sends out a series of questions ostensibly to see if those at the station are worthy of receiving even more advanced technology, and Sheridan must decide what the probe’s motives really are.
Passing Through Gethsemane * * * *
Directed by Adam Nimoy, son of Leonard “Spock” Nimoy.
In the future, the death penalty is considered to be inhumane and is no more. Instead, certain crimes carry the punishment of a “mind wipe” where the offender’s mind and personality are completely wiped from existence, and replaced with a different one.
The “humanity” of this practice is questioned when one of Brother Theo’s monks who is working at the station on the project of learning how God has revealed himself to the various races. The title refers to the question of whether or not one would have the same courage Jesus had to stand and wait for the soldiers to come for him in the Garden of Gethsemane, or if he would try to run from the inevitable.
Voices of Authority * * * *
When a political officer is assigned to Babylon 5 by the Earth government, Sheridan must watch his step. This causes him to send Ivanova to try to bring the First Ones to join the war against the Shadows.
While working with Draal, Ivanova uncovers evidence that President Clark was involved in the assassination of his predecessor, President Santiago.
Dust to Dust * * * *
G’Kar gets his hands on a mind-altering drug which brings out the latent psychic gene and allows people to go inside other’s minds. Not knowing if it will work on Narn, G’Kar tries it himself and learns of Londo Mollari’s secrets before having a vision of his late father.
Meanwhile, in the investigation of the trafficking of this drug, Psi Cop Bester (Walter Koenig) arrives at Babylon 5. Afraid of having their secrets exposed, Sheridan and his staff insist on him either taking a drug to subdue his mind-reading abilities or being accompanied by Minbari psychics (who are very strong) until Bester departs.
Exogenesis * * *
When a dead body turns up with no apparent reason for the death, Dr. Franklin and Marcus learn of a parasitic race which infiltrates humans and usually has a positive effect for both beings. Ivanova attempts to recruit a newly promoted officer to the inner circle.
Messages From Earth * * * *
Sheridan and his secret alliance discover that Earth is about to activate a Shadow vessel uncovered on . After using the White Star to destroy it and save the planet from the disaster about to befall them for trying to use a technology they have no knowledge of, their thanks is the declaring of martial law on Earth and all of its outposts
Point of No Return * * * * *
The effects of martial law being declared are felt when Night Watch takes over the security of Babylon 5 as well as their contact in the military fleeing and the senate being dissolved. Meanwhile, in a great casting coup, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry guest stars as the third wife of the former Centauri Emperor who is known to be a seer. Londo consults her when he fears the visions he has seen are the future he has set in motion.
Severed Dreams * * * * *
As those loyal to General Haig fight to stay free, the knowledge that they are at war with those who were once their friends takes its toll. As the fighting takes its toll, General Haig’s ship heads to the one possible safe harbor – Babylon 5. Bruce McGill guest stars as Major Ryan, successor to General Haig after his death. (Check guest stars)
After President Clark begins bombing an insubordinate Mars Colony, the ISN News Network is thrown off the air when it details the breaking away of other colonies from the Earth Alliance as well as how they have been unable to report any real news for the last year.
Clark orders ships to attack Babylon 5 and arrest the command staff. All this culminates in Babylon 5 seceding from Earth Alliance and becoming independent until such a time as President Clark is removed from office (could I do that with my house. Please?)
Delenn returns to confront the Grey Council for their indifference to the prophecied events taking place around them. This episode is available with commentary by J. Michael Straczynski.
Ceremonies of Light and Dark * * * * *
As Ivanova and Sheridan try to make sure all of the remnants of Night Watch are driven from the station, Londo tries to force Lord Refa to break his ties with Mr. Morden and the Shadows. Delenn prepares for a Rebirth Ceremony to celebrate her transformation almost two years before. She is surprised by the reluctance she faces on the part of some of her friends. They eventually come around, and the secrets they admit during that part of the ritual are quite interesting.
The remnants of Night Watch kidnap Delenn in an attempt to force the Minbari cruisers to depart Babylon 5.
Sic Transit Vir * * * *
Vir meets his arranged bride as Delenn and Sheridan share an intimate dinner. Ivanova is plagued by disturbing dreams. Ivanova learns of Vir’s scheme to help the Narn.
When Vir is attacked by a Narn who shouts a blood oath before the attack, his scheme is exposed to Londo as Ivanova believes all of the Narns who were funneled through Vir’s escape program appear on the records as dead. However, Vir learns the blood oath is not against him, but against his intended bride as the sheer brutality of the Centauri takeover of the Narn homeworld is exposed.
A Late Delivery from Avalon * * * *
Michael York guest stars as a traveler claiming to be King Arthur, complete with the sword Excalibur.
Meanwhile, Sheridan and Ivanova try to coax other races into joining the Babylon Treaty, in which they promise mutual defense of the station in order to keep the station a viable spaceport.
Meanwhile, Garibaldi deals with a somewhat overzealous postal clerk in his attempt to pick-up the last package sent to him from Earth.
Great quote here from Marcus Cole: “I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought wouldn’t it be much worse if life were fair and all the terrible things that happened to us come because we actually deserve them.”
Ship of Tears * * * *
Psi Corps Official Bester (Walter Koenig) lures Sheridan into escorting him back to Babylon 5 saying he has information for them. Meanwhile G’Kar wants to be a part of the new Alliance/War Council that Sheridan and Delenn are forming.
Bester gives Sheridan on a resupply mission that is about to occur and gets Sheridan to take him along to identify the ship. When they encounter it, one of the Shadow vessels escorting it mysteriously breaks off rom the fight with the White Star. They do manage to bring in the shp in question which contains Psi Corps telepaths in suspended animation. Bester states that they are telepaths who refused to join Psi Corps.
Bester recognizes the identification bracelet of an awakened telepath (check guest star). After a nightmare featuring an alien abduction-like scene, she takes over the Med Lab. Turns out she is Bester’s lover and carrying his child. He then reveals that the telepaths were intended to be interfaced with the Shadow vessels to power them.
While reading the book of G’Kwan which G’Kar gave him, Garibaldi finds a correlation between the last time the Shadows moved across the galaxy and the time the Narn telepaths died out. The crew figure out that the telepaths can possibly thwart the beings interfacing in the Shadow vessels.
Interludes and Examinations * * * *
The crew tries to make sense of the pattern of attacks by the Shadows. Mr. Morden manages to infiltrate Babylon 5, and Dr. Franklin’s drug addiction becomes worse. Londo’s lover from earlier in the series, Adira, plans to return to Babylon 5 and Londo anxiously anticipates her arrival.
Sheridan tries to find a way to engage the Shadows and have a victorious outcome to help propel other races into signing onto the Alliance. He argues with the Vorlon Ambassador Kosh over the issue until Kosh relents and sends in Vorlon forces against the Shadows. This results in dire consequences for Kosh.
Available with commentary from Bruce Boxleitner, Jerry Doyle, Richard Biggs and Ed Wasser. It’s pretty entertaining and well worth watching a second time through.
War Without End Part One * * * * *
On Minbar, a mysterious box kept closed for more than 900 years is opened with a letter addressed to Commander (Ambassador) Sinclair inside. Meanwhile, on Babylon 5 a transmission from the area of space where Babylon 4 disappeared is picked up and it’s a frantic distress call by Ivanova who’s listening to the transmission in Babylon 5‘s command center.
Garibaldi checks it out, and Sinclair arrives on Babylon 5. He accompanies Sheridan, Ivanova, Marcus Cole and Delenn in the White Star. There is a temporal rift in the area. As Minbari prophecy and history plays out, the crew finds themselves to be an integral part.
It’s a terrific story that doesn’t even feel like a set-up story as it touches on various points of Minbari history as well as what will happen in the future.
War Without End Part Two * * * * *
Sheridan slips into the future and sees Londo Mollari as the Centauri ruler furious with him for his role in the current problems on the planet. Sinclair must follow a destiny which ties together history with what is currently happening in the Universe. It involves storylines set in motion during the first season and finishes off a story begun then.
Walkabout * * * *
Sheridan takes a spacewalk to get his mind off of what’s been going on in and around the station. As he’s doing this a Vorlon ship arrives. It is bringing the new Vorlon Ambassador, although they pretend that he is actually Kosh since his death was kept a secret. Lyta Alexander returns and knows of Kosh’s death.
Dr. Franklin goes off by himself to try to break his stem habit and Garibaldi tracks him down. He meets a beautiful lounge singer (guest star Erika Gimpel) who seems to have her own problems with addiction. Sheridan leads an expeditionary force to see if the Shadows are susceptible to psychic interference with their ships.
Grey 7 Is Missing * * *
As Sheridan and Ivanova attempt to recruit telepaths to help them in their war against the Shadows, Garibaldi discovers a mysterious area of the station completely hidden from everyone else. Delenn moves to take over as the head of the Rangers after Sinclair’s disappearance, but comes up against the military leader, Neru. Marcus comes to Delenn’s aide, showing that the Rangers are willing to die for her.
And The Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place * * * * *
An ecumenical group of spiritual leaders arrives from Earth while Londo makes plans to deal with G’Kar by luring him off of the station and away from Sheridan’s protection. This turns up the heat on the intense rivalry in the Royal Court on Centauri between Londo and Lord Refa. Londo hopes his deliverance of G’Kar will have him find favor with the Emperor at last.
The religious leaders bring with them crystals from Earth and news that the resistance is still operating, despite assurances by those in power otherwise.
Oh, and Delenn and Sheridan kiss….
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…
Shadow Dancing * * * * *
Sheridan plans to launch an attack on the Shadows by bringing together all of the forces of the coalition along with a new fleet of vessels like the White Star. Marcus and Ivanova take the White Star to await what they believe is where the Shadows will show themselves. This gives them a great deal of time alone.
Dr. Franklin is still trying to weed out his inner demons. When he gets involved in a fistfight, he ends up stabbed.
There are some great battle scenes, and the effects are terrific, especially the effect of Sheridan and Delenn monitoring the battle from a sort of virtual reality room.
Z’Ha’Dum * * * * *
This season-ending cliff-hanger picks up right where the last episode left off – with Sheridan’s presumed-dead wife Anna (portrayed by Melissa Gilbert, Bruce Boxleitner’s real-life wife) reappearing in his bedroom while Delenn watches him sleep. There’s a short introduction showing the whole background to Anna’s story, something rarely done in this series.
She is actually an emissary sent by the Shadows to bring Sheridan to Z’Ha’Dum. This leads to the cliffhanger of if Sheridan will return the following season (his predecessor, Sinclair, left after the first season, so another change in leadership was quite feasible). This episode can also be viewed with commentary by J. Michael Straczynski.
Special Features for the entire set are:
Introduction to the theme for the season – Point of No Return. This gives a good overview of the entire season. As well as comments from various members of the cast and crew.
Behind the Mask: Creating the Aliens of Babylon 5 – Interviews with the crew about how the various alien species looks came about.
Building a Better Narn – Details the makeup effect for the Narn species, and also talks about how the actors had to bring out the characters underneath the makeup effects. They show how the Narn is created from start to finish.
Designing Tomorrow: The Look of Babylon 5 – The crew talks about the look of the series, and especially how they came to create the looks of the quarters for the various alien species. It’s interesting that they didn’t try to create a universe totally different from what we see in our present time here on Earth, but a universe that would look like it might have evolved from present-day Earth.
The Universe of Babylon 5 – This contains various features such as Personnel Files, Shadow Dossier, and Data Files. These are helpful for anyone who picks up the series in the middle or who needs some refresher information. There are also some wonderful outtakes hidden among these offerings.
There are also biographies of Executive Producer Douglas Netter and Executive Producer-Creator J. Michael Straczynski.