Babylon 5 was an amazing series from start to finish. Set approximately 250 years in the future on a space station five miles long, it carried a five-year long story-arc which stayed almost entirely true to how it was first laid out. Creator J. Michael Straczynski made few adjustments to the overall story, and most of these had to do with actors who departed the show for various reasons.
For this reason, it is very hard to pick up the show if you join it anywhere than the first season. Goodness knows I tried and I never really appreciated it until the DVDs came out and I could watch all of the episodes sequentially. There were very few episodes that didn’t have something to do with the overall story arc. Even the episodes that did appear to be stand-alone and light-hearted fun often had a throwaway line or brief encounter in it that at some point later in the story arc I would go “Oh yeah! I remember that…” When it’s really pivotal, there were flashback sequences shown to refresh viewer’s minds.
At the end of this season, I had the feeling that Babylon 5 could have been concluded here. Upon further research, it appears that was originally the case. It has been widely reported that Straczynski wasn’t sure if he’d get a fifth season out of the network, so he crammed everything he’d had planned for the last two seasons into one. I had the feeling that the Shadow War storyline was originally intended to be completed in Season Four and the story of the liberation of Earth storyline would originally have been settled in Season Five.
It’s no spoiler to say that although Sheridan and Garibaldi are both missing at the beginning of the season, they are still alive and will return to the station. That much is shown in the opening credits.
This is the season that many of the small stories planted in earlier seasons come to the forefront. The Shadows are dealt with, the Mars colony is thrust to the forefront, and President Clarke’s true motivation is known. The Centauri finally abandon the Narn homeworld as Londo makes good on his promise to G’Kar.
If all that sounds too simplified, believe me it isn’t. The plot has plenty of twists and turns, and more action and battles than I ever could have hoped for. All of the special effects have been done with CGI and are really incredible. Considering this was at a time when most special effects were still being done using models, that’s no small feat.
The transfer appeared distorted at times. I don’t know why this disc it was more noticeable, Particularly in the episode Into The Fire, I noticed more graininess and distortion than I’ve seen before from this series on DVD or any other science-fiction series. This didn’t happen in just the special-effects sequence but also when the cast was on the screen. It could have something to do with the use of blue-screen, but I don’t know enough about special effects to say for sure. Could it be that during this season the budget got stretched too thin due to all of the action?
If you want to view this series and appreciate it fully, don’t start here. Go back and start with Season One.
Captain John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) – at the beginning of the season he “comes back from the dead.” He seems to be a different person at times; more driven against those currently ruling Earth.
Commander Susan Ivanova (Claudia Christian) – She is Sheridan’s second-in-command. Although strong in character, by the end of the season she is questioning what it has cost her.
Security Chief Michael Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) – He returns from being classified as “missing” with no explanation for what happened to him. There are bits and pieces of memory, but nothing concrete. He also is very suspicious of Sheridan. However, his behavior is also erratic at times as well. As the season wears on, more and more clues are given until what truly happened to him is finally revealed.
Doctor Stephen Franklin (Richard Biggs) – Most of this season he spends working with the rebellion on the Mars Colony. It’s interesting to see him in action outside of the medical lab.
Centuari Ambassador Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik) – knows the Centauri Emperor is insane and is setting in motion plans to save his planet and unseat the Emperor. He collaborates with G’Kar to free the Narn from the oppressive Centauri as well as free the Centauri from the influence of the Shadows.
Vir Cotto, Assistant to the Centauri Ambassador (Stephen Furst) – conspiring with Londo to unseat Cartagia from his position as Centauri Emperor. He ends up committing the deed and must deal with the guilt from it afterward.
Minbari Ambassador Delenn (Mira Furlan) – She must try to unite her people who have split apart. The warrior caste and religious caste (of which she is a member) are pulling Minbar apart with the worker caste in the middle. Her relationship with Sheridan is established as the strong bond and the fate that she knew she was bound to.
Lennier, Aide to Delenn (Bill Mumy) – His role as Delenn’s aide and his devotion is unmasked to viewers – although not Delenn – as unrequited love. Still, his strength and resolve during the White Star fleet battles is exemplary.
Narn Ambassador G’Kar (Andreas Katsulas) – Has been captured by the Centauri. While awaiting trial and execution, he loses his left eye to the whim of Emperor Cartagia.
Zack Allen (Jeff Conaway) – He replaces Garibaldi after he resigns as Chief of Security, but he’s uneasy about it.
Lyta Alexander (Patricia Tallman) – Unemployed now that the Kosh and the Vorlons have left, she struggles to find her place as an unregistered telepath in the world.
Marcus Cole (Jason Carter) – His adoration and love of Ivanova lead to disastrous consequences when she is injured in one of the battles with Earth Force.
The Hour of the Wolf * * * *
Sheridan and Garibaldi are still missing in action from the end of the previous season. Ivanova tries to maintain order at the station as well as the alliances which were agreed to. Mr. Morden makes an ominous visit to Londo, who is now in charge of planetary security back on Centauri Prime. His return also introduces the Emperor Cartagia (Wortham Krimmer), a man who appears to be somewhat eccentric but is actually insane and who has allowed the Shadows to establish a base on Centauri.
Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi? * * * *
Sheridan is shown as the prisoner of a mysterious being (Wayne Alexander) called Lorien who convinces him that he’s dead. Meanwhile, G’Kar is attempting to track the whereabouts of Mr. Garibaldi with the help of Marcus Cole. He’s gotten his hands on a salvaged piece of the Star Fury Garibaldi went out on. Delenn is fasting in an attempt to reconcile her own guilt over the loss of Sheridan, and her now half-human body isn’t handling it as well as her body did when she was pure Minbari. After viewing Sheridan’s journal, she makes the decision to use the Rangers to attack Za’Ha’Dum.
G’Kar is captured by the Centauri after Marcus departs back to Babylon 5 to check on some information. When he is presented to Londo by the Emperor, Londo is uneasy at the prospect of his former rival being treated as a “toy” and tortured at the hands of the insane Emperor. This is the catalyst for him forming a plan to help eventually unseat the Emperor.
The Summoning * * * * *
Ivanova gets an idea t use one of the White Star vessels to seek out the First Ones. Londo walks in on G’Kar being used for entertainment in the Emperor’s court. The Emperor wants to torture G’Kar until he breaks or kill him. Londo begs him to give in so their plans to destroy the Emperor and free the Narn homeworld can go ahead.
After receiving information on Garibaldi, Zack rescues him in a lifepod after the ship he was on is destroyed. Garibaldi claims not to remember anything of what he’s been through in the past two weeks, while scenes hint that he was captured by the Shadows.
Delenn continues with her plans to attack Za’Ha’Dum despite reluctance on the part of many of the non-aligned worlds. A mysterious and unknown ship comes through the jump gates, and brings a special present right as a rally against Delenn is going on.
Captain, I thought you were dead…
I was… I’m better now.
Falling Toward Apotheosis * * *
When the Vorlon fleet decides that eliminating the Shadows means eliminating all of the worlds which they have touched, Londo panics that Centauri still harbors Shadow vessels on their world. The Emperor is willing to let Centauri become his funeral pyre as he ascends to godhood. Yes, he is quite insane. Londo hatches his plan to draw the Emperor to the Narn homeworld by holding out the carrot of G’Kar’s “trial” and execution.
Garibaldi appears very defensive. Is his defensiveness and suspicion of Lorien because of something that was done to him, or are his instincts in overdrive… and correct?
Sheridan moves to get the Vorlon Ambassador off of Babylon 5.
This episode can be watched with commentary by Bruce Boxleitner, Jerry Doyle, Peter Jurasik, and Patricia Tallman. This is not that in-depth, but it is hilarious.
The Long Night * * * *
Sheridan sends Ivanova with Lorien to look for more of the First Ones to help them out with the war between the Shadows and the Vorlons.
Londo sets in motion a plan to stage a coup and seize Centauri back from the insane Emperor Cartagia (Wortham Krimmer). Londo is nominated for Prime Minister once Cartagia has been slain. Vir struggles with guilt over actually having to kill Cartagia when Londo’s plan to commit the deed doesn’t go off as planned.
Lennier extrapolates where the Shadows will launch their planet-killing missiles next. It’s a planet with over 6 billion inhabitants. Sheridan launches a plan to get the Vorlons there so he two races can go at each other.
Into The Fire * * * * *
Sheridan prepares the fleet to take a stand between the Shadows and the Vorlons.
Londo assumes the duties of Prime Minister of Centauri. He learns that Mr. Morden and not Lord Refa was behind the murder of the Lady Adira. Londo takes revenge by trying to kick the Shadows off of Centauri. When Morden refuses, Londo has the island they’re inhabiting blown up. He believes he has disposed of anything ever influenced by The Shadows and saved Centauri from the Vorlons, but he forgot on thing…
Ivanova locates a First Ones ship. She and Lorien travel to be with Sheridan when they fight the Vorlon and Shadows. Sheridan baits the forces to fight each other and learns the truth about both of these races.
Epiphanies * * *
As the residents of Babylon 5 celebrate the end of the war with the Shadows, Bester (Walter Koenig) receives orders to shut down Babylon 5 as the Psi Corps portion of a master plan by Earth President Clark. Garibaldi is still having flashbacks/nightmares. After a mysterious message, he resigns as Head of Security.
Londo takes refuge at the station, fearing that the royalists might target him.
Bester offers Sheridan a deal: take him to Za’Ha’Dum for the technology which might free his lover, and he will tell them what Phase 2 of Clark’s plan is. Ivanova leads forces to prevent what they have been told is the setting up of Babylon 5 forces as the culprits in the destruction of Earth Forces. As they arrive at Za’Ha’Dum the planet self-destructs.
Memorable line: …and I don’t want a 5-day pass to Disney Planet… – Garibaldi
The Illusion of Truth * * * *
Babylon 5 suffers through the Earth embargo coping with the loss of docking fees as Sheridan worries about the welfare of his family back on Earth. Garibaldi is running his own business locating things for people, but is having flashbacks and acting strangely at times.
Sheridan grants access to a reporter for ISN, hoping that they can stem the propaganda being fed back on Earth. Everything is twisted into a presentation of terrible conditions on the station and Sheridan and others being used as pawns by the alien races running the show.
There’s something far worse than the Shadows… Reporters
There’s no such thing [as an objective story]… The objective journalist is one of those great myths you read about like a Griffin or a Phoenix… or an honest politician. Everyone’s got an agenda whether they admit it or not… but you try not to let it get in the way of the truth…
Atonement * * *
Zack steps into his role as head of Security for Babylon 5, all the while believing Garibaldi will eventually return. Delenn must return to Minbar to face an inquiry by her clan for taking an alien lover and prospective mate. Lennier stays by her side through it all. She puts together pieces of a puzzle about the history of the Minbari race which if revealed, could
G’Kar receives a prosthetic eye from Dr. Franklin to replace the one carved out by the Centauri. Marcus and Dr. Franklin are then sent out as representatives to the resistance in the Mars Colony.
Racing Mars * * *
Ivanova tells Sheridan to take time off. Bothered by Mr. Garibaldi’s sudden about-face and statements, he tries to reconcile with the man only to be rebuffed. This leads to a series of confrontations between the two of them, some quite public.
Marcus and Dr. Franklin continue their journey to Mars to make contact with the Resistance there. They meet up with Captain John who takes them to some Resistance leaders. Marcus and Dr. Franklin uncover an assassination plot, earning the trust of the leaders.
Lines of Communication * * * *
While on Marc, Dr. Franklin and Marcus meet with various Resistance fighters in an attempt to form a coalition. The problem is some of the action taken by Resistance fighters plays right into the fraudulently-elected President Clarke’s plans.
Sheridan comes up with a plan to one-up the ISN Network by putting Ivanova on the air as a correspondent for Bab-Com to try to repair the damage being done by the propaganda aired against Babylon 5.
Meanwhile, Delenn encounters a new race, unsure if it is friend or foe, but one which someone in her crew has had prior contact with. He believes it is the only way to fight off the Minbari Warrior Caste, but Delenn has great misgivings about allying with them.
Conflicts of Interest * * *
Sheridan sends Zack to retrieve Garibaldi’s military issue gun, identification, and comm. Garibaldi ids reluctant to hand over the weapon and lays a guilt-trip on him. One of his illicit contacts asks Garibaldi to help him smuggle someone onto Babylon 5 without having to go through security. Garibaldi discovers it’s his long-lost love. They are trying to help telepaths from a virus and hysteria that may follow it. Her husband then offers Garibaldi a position with his organization on Mars.
G’Kar and Londo are brought to meet with Sheridan when he wants to assign the Rangers to patrol various borders. Both warn him that he’s asking for trouble and are reluctant to allow them to patrol their borders. Sheridan hopes that if they agree it will inspire other races to allo it since Sheridan is afraid of the races like the one Delenn encountered who are now running amok in the galaxy with Shadow technology.
Ivanova makes her first broadcast on Bab-Com.
Rumors, Bargains and Lies * * * *
Sheridan tries to think of a way to convince the non-aligned worlds to allow the White Star fleet to operate on their borders. He comes up with a plan of putting ships out there and then trying to act like they are hiding it, therefore making the placement of them along a world’s border more desirable. Londo goes along with the denial of the ship’s placement.
Delenn, meanwhile, tries to heal her world and the breach which was caused by her break with the Grey Council during the Shadow War. However, those on Delenn’s ship reject the direction she’s trying to take them and engage in a suicide pact, determined not to allow the ship to return to Minbari space with life aboard.
Moments of Transition * * *
Lyta Alexander is turned down for a job due to her disassociation with Psi Corps. Bester comes to visit her. He offers to allow her to operate with Psi Corps blessing in exchange for her signing away a document so that when she dies Psi Corps takes possession of her body. They want to know how she’s been changed by the Vorlons and had her abilities enhanced. Lyta refuses. Zack visits and tells her she has to move out of her quarters which were previously paid for by the Vorlons. He also wants her to scan Garibaldi, whose actions are making Zack suspicious.
Meanwhile on Minbar, Delenn deals with the civil war between the warrior caste and the religious caste. She confronts the leader of the warrior caste and faces him down in front of their people.
No Surrender, No Retreat * * * *
Sheridan reveals his plan to take back Earth’s outer colonies and the planet from those who have illegal ascended to power. He liberates the colony of Proxima III and gets some people to defect from Earth Force.
Meanwhile Londo reaches out to G’Kar in attempting to build a bridge between their worlds to show a united front behind Sheridan.
Garibaldi departs for Mars.
Exercise of Vital Powers * * * *
Dr. Franklin struggles to remove the Shadow implants from the telepaths being kept in stasis. Lyta meets Zack down in Medlab about a security matter and her telepathic ability latches on to one of Franklin’s patients. Dr. Franklin brings her back to work with him and the patients. Sheridan has a reason he wants the telepaths functional… he’s planning on going to Mars.
Garibaldi arrives on Mars and meets with his employer, William Edgars. He brings Garibaldi in with a telepath under duress and questions him extensively, to see if he’s hiding something. One of the questions he asks is if Garibaldi is still in love with his wife. Garibaldi says “No”, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Because of this, he ends up giving up Sheridan as he turns over vital information on the whereabouts of Sheridan’s father to Edgars.
The Face of the Enemy * * * * *
As more Earth Force vessels defect to Sheridan’s side, Sheridan hears from Garibaldi that his father has been captured. It’s a set-up and Sheridan falls into it because of his trust of Garibaldi. By proving his loyalty in delivering Sheridan, Edgars opens up to Garibaldi about his nefarious purposes: killing all the telepaths through biological warfare. But who was behind Garibaldi’s sudden change in personality? The entire story is finally known…..
Dr. Franklin brings Lyta with him and makes contact again with the underground resistance on Mars. They are holding other telepaths in stasis in preparation for the upcoming battle. The Resistance leader hates telepaths.
Ivanova takes over command of the fleet from Sheridan. They pick up news about Sheridan’s capture off of ISN.
This episode can be watched with commentary by J. Michael Straczynski and director Michael Vejar.
Intersections in Real Time * * *
This is the required “torture Sheridan” episode. While Bruce Boxleitner gives a terrific performance, the episode itself really isn’t surprising and seems to be like many other instances when the hero is captured and tortured (such as Picard being tortured by the Romulans in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Between the Darkness and the Light * * * * *
As Sheridan’s torture continues, Garibaldi makes contact with Dr. Franklin to try to break Sheridan out. Garibaldi now realizes he has been used by Bester for his own nefarious purposes.
Ivanova is commanding the White Star Fleet and goes out after Earth Forces, only to learn they have adapted the organic Shadow technology into their technology already.
Delenn finds out that Londo has convened a meeting of the leaders of the non-aligned worlds. Though she fears what he has done, she is gratified to learn that Londo has engineered an alliance fleet to help free Sheridan.
Endgame * * * * *
Sheridan and the alliance try to free Mars Colony and the rebellion from the oppression of Earth Force. Marcus goes to extreme lengths to save Ivanova’s life.
Rising Star * * * *
With President Clark dead, Commander Sheridan must deal with the fall-out of his decision. Likewise, Ivanova deals with the emotions surrounding what Marcus did for her.
Londo learns of the declining health of the Regent on the Centauri homeworld and the desire of the Royal Court to make him Emperor.
The League of Non-Aligned Worlds sends and emissary – Delenn – to speak with the new President of Earth and lays out their plan for peace in the galaxy. The newly elected President of this Interstellar Alliance is announced. Sheridan learns of the fate of his parents.
The Deconstruction of Falling Stars * * *
Nothing like a mock-news broadcast to fill-out the end of the season. It’s good to know that there will be one constant in life: politics and the media don’t change. It also looks at the Interstellar alliance for a different perspective, showing what people said about it 100 years later.
It then picks up 500 years later when the Earth government is trying to justify leaving the Interstellar Alliance. To that end, those wishing to take this action create holograms and try to manipulate the records to casting a dark shadow on the origins of the Interstellar Alliance under Sheridan, Delenn, Garibaldi, and Franklin. Nice to know even as a hologram, Garibaldi kicks butt!
Later on we see what happens after those events, now 1,000 years after the formation of the Interstellar Alliance.
This episode is available with commentary from J. Michael Straczynski.
Introduction to Babylon 5 Season 4: No Surrender, No Retreat – various members of the cast and crew talk about what happened in the fourth season. The discussion gives a good perspective and background as to what was going to happen this season and where the motivation for various story angles came from.
Celestial Sounds – A featurette about the musical score of the series.
No Surrender No Retreat Suite – A Babylon 5 style music video
The Universe of Babylon 5 this includes personnel files, data files, gag rell (well worth watching),
Biographies of Executive Producer Douglas Netter and Executive Producer-Creater J. Michael Straczynski.