Babylon 5

Episode Rewatch – Babylon 5: The Gathering

Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Richard Compton

I was there at the dawn of the third age of mankind. It began in the Earth year 2257, with the last of the Babylon stations located deep in neutral space. It was a port of call for refugees, smugglers, businessmen, diplomats, and travelers from a hundred worlds. It could be a dangerous place, but we accepted the risk because Babylon 5 was our last, best hope for peace. Under the leadership of its final commander, Babylon 5 was a dream given form. A dream of a galaxy without war, where species could live side-by-side in mutual respect. A dream that was endangered as never before by one man on a mission of destruction. Babylon 5 was the last of the Babylon stations. This is its story.

– Ambassador Londo Mollari

I’ve long been a fan of the series Babylon 5. I only caught a few episodes during its original run. It was when I got my hands on the DVD boxed sets and watched it all the way through that it became one of my favorite series of all time. I’ve binge-watched it numerous times over the years.

The Gathering is the first episode of the series. The original run-time was about 2 hours, including commercials. This serves to set up the series and introduce most of the main characters, although there would be a few recasts.

The episode opens as if the story is being told in a flashback by Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik). The year is 2257. A 5-mile-long space station is in space, known as Babylon 5. It is sort of a United Nations in space, but complete with a functioning society. The previous space stations were sabotaged, except for Babylon 4 which vanished within 24 hours of becoming operational.

The premature arrival of the Vorlon Ambassador, Kosh, throws everyone into an uproar. When he is poisoned and nearly killed, there is an even bigger uproar. The Vorlons are some sort of energy being who lives in an encounter suit. No human has ever seen a Vorlon outside of an encounter suit. The Vorlon government will not allow them to perform any medical procedures on him, even if it means he will die.

Ambassador Delenn (Mira Furlan) is a Minbari, with whom the Earth Alliance was once at war. Ambassador G’Kar (Andreas Katsulas) is from the Narn race, who have been nearly exterminated by the Centauri after a war and invasion. Ambassador Mollari represents the Centauri.

Commander Sinclair (Michael O’Hare) is in charge of the station. He greets a new telepath to the station, Lyta Alexander (Patricia Tallman). One of the Ambassadors she will be working with closely is Ambassador Kosh.

Commander Sinclair and his Security Chief, Michael Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle) start investigating Ambassador Kosh’s condition. All signs point to Commander Sinclair as the culprit.

There were plenty of moments during this first episode that doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the series, especially watching it again after having watched the entire series. J. Michael Straczynski had creative control for the entire show, which is one of the reasons it was so good. However, he also had to contend with bumps in the road and get a feel for how his ideas worked. It’s one thing to see it on paper, it’s another to actually try and present it n the screen.

Delenn, for one, seems much harsher and darker in this first episode. She takes G’Kar to task when he makes demands on her and is far from the gentle character in which she is portrayed for much of the series.

There were some cast changes yet to come. Second in Command, Lt. Commander Laurel Takashima is portrayed by Tamlyn Tomita, who declined to return to the character beyond this made-for-TV movie. She will be replaced by Claudia Christian. The original doctor, Benjamin Kyle is portrayed by Johnny Sekka who declined to continue the role for health reasons. He will be replaced by Richard Biggs, although there are hints of some of what will be Biggs’ ongoing story-related issues. Patricia Tallmann will also disappear for a while but will return to the series.

Babylon 5 was really the first show that had ongoing storylines that weren’t wrapped up in an hour. There are a lot of small moments in each episode that have a bigger impact down the line. The fallout from decisions is experienced in real-time and down the line in the series as well. It’s not like something happens and it’s never brought up again for the character.

Fans of the series have long clamored for a blu-ray release. Over the years, watching the original series on DVD was especially painful on modern, large-screen televisions. In 2020, it was finally remastered and is available on HBO Max, Amazon Prime, and iTunes. This digital remastering is definitely an improvement, especially on the special effects.

This was the start of something that truly changed television as we knew it at the time. I do recommend watching the series in order to really have a good grasp of what’s going on throughout the series.

Next episode in the series (link): Babylon 5: Midnight on the Firing Line

8 replies »

  1. I am so glad that Cmd Takashima was replaced by Ivanova: the actress here in The Gathering just didn’t have the same temper that Ivanova pulls off, and I think that makes a big difference in the show. I love how the show holds up so well (frighteningly so, at times…) over time. Do you mind, btw, if I link to my (sorry, Ranger Mayann’s… ) review of this episode here, Patti?