Babylon 5

DVD Review: Babylon 5 Season 5 – The Last Season of a Landmark Science Fiction Series

Babylon 5 was a series broadcast on cable television from 1992-1998 about a five mile long space station. This was a landmark series as it was the first time a series didn’t consist primarily of singe episodes, or episodes occasionally woven together to form a two-part story. As the years wore on, the story had many twists and turns, some intended and some not intended. Actors came and went and their departures had to be written into the story.

As the fifth season of the series began, the consequences of the first four years come to fruition. The great war between the Shadows and Vorlons is over. The Civil War on Earth is also over and Mars is now a free colony. As Sheridan and Delenn attempt to bring the various races together in peace as in wartime, there are problems along the way that must be dealt with. The groundwork is also laid for a new threat, many years in the future.

There are major storyline changes for almost all of the characters, but perhaps the best storylines are given to Londo Mollari, a Centauri, and G’Kar, a Narn. Their two races have been at odds for many years and these two as Ambassadors to Babylon 5 form an unlikely friendship. Now as Londo rises to be Emperor of the Centauri and G’Kar becomes a religious icon of his people, the two lives must diverge.

There is also the matter of all the telepaths around as a result of this war. They converge on Babylon 5 as a sort of sanctuary where they can lose themselves among the 250,000 inhabitants. Their presence doesn’t go unnoticed, however, by Psi Corps and Sheridan. Lyta’s story also comes front and center during this time.

Claudia Christian left after the fourth season and was replaced by Tracey Scoggins as Elizabeth Lochley. This was both good and bad as it brought in fresh blood, but also left fans wondering about the character of Susan Ivanova and her abrupt departure. Luckily, the final episode of the series resolved this.

The acting is great all through the series, and in season five some of the characters who were more in the background over the past four years got a greater chance to shine. In particular is Patricia Tallman as Lyta and Bill Mumy as Lennier. The story of the telepaths gave Tallman a chance to shine and Lennier finally confessed his unrequited love for Delenn. Although he was mostly off training with the elite Rangers during this season, the shows where Lennier did make an appearance had a great deal of emotional impact for the character and Mumy handles it very well.

Peter Jurasik and Andreas Katsulas once again shine as Londo and G’Kar. The path Londo’s character would take was foretold early on, but seeing exactly what that entails and how Londo pretty much resigns himself to the fate that will befall him is startling. Homage is paid to the “little green men” of our own space lore during these sequences as the tightly written story comes together.

Babylon 5 was created and written by J. Michael Straczynski with a five year long story arc. One point that has been brought up in my comment sections I am going to iron out here. Yes, Babylon 5 was originally intended to be a 5-year story-arc. I have heard different scenarios of what happened, but J. Michael Straczynski, creator, writer, and executive producer of the show makes it all clear in his commentary for the episode The Fall of Centauri Prime.

As the fourth season was winding down, Warner Brothers came to him and told him to wrap up the story, there wasn’t going to be a fifth year. This is why the story of the Vorlons and Shadows seemed ended in the fourth season while other storylines still needed to be tied up. Straczynski was very happy to get the fifth season, which enabled him to bring conclusions to the story-arcs for Londo, G’Kar, Delenn, Lennier, and many others.

There was an adjustment made of where the fifth season began. It was originally intended that the 4th season cliff-hanger was when President Sheridan got captured. However, all that was quickly wrapped up and now the fifth season was also adjusted accordingly. Although there are plenty of space battles during this season, the stories seem to largely be character-driven.

Several episodes have the feeling of being there just as filler, and these are the times when the series misses. With the original main story wrapped up in the fourth season, J. Michael Straczynski had to do something to fill up an entire season. Episodes such as A View From The Gallery and Day of the Dead have the feeling of being there as filler, although Day of the Dead was pretty good in and of itself.

The concluding episode for the series, Sleeping in Light, was actually filmed at the end of the fourth season and Straczynski shelved it until the end of the fifth season. This is why Claudia Christian is in it instead of Tracey Scoggins, but in some ways it works better because it seems as if Ivanova had to go into her time of mourning and come out of it.

The special effects in the series are good. This was a time when CGI was really starting to be used, so at times the effects are uneven, but they paved the way for many of the effects we now see. Having a computer create scenes of soldiers in a transport bay instead of extras was first done on Babylon 5. It also was the first series to have individualized soundtracks for each episode, so the music really boosts the emotion of the story being told in each episode.

This is a series to watch from the beginning. I highly recommend all five seasons of this show as it’s quite different than any other science-fiction show that came before it. The acting is terrific and the fact that the story is so well-written and follows such a clear path is really a plus. Kudos go out to J. Michael Straczynski for being able to follow his vision through to it’s completion.


EPISODE GUIDE

DISC ONE

No Compromises – Elizabeth Lochley arrives as the new commander of Babylon 5 from Earth. President Sheridan is the target of an assassin as his inauguration approaches. Byron approaches Lochley about more of the renegade telepaths settling on Babylon 5.

The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari – Everyone thinks Londo has been poisoned by a shipment of exotic liquor from Centauri Prime, but it turns out it’s a heart attack. A series of dreams has Londo examining his past sins and conduct. Lennier decides to leave his post as Delenn’s assistant and join the Rangers.

The Paragon of Animals – As Sheridan struggles with diplomacy in getting all of the members of the Alliance to agree to a Statement of Principles, Garibaldi tries to get telepaths to help them in covert intelligence. Meanwhile, an oppressed world asks to join the Alliance and for help staving off the raiders which plague them.

A View From The Gallery – A typical day at Babylon 5 when an alien race is scouting them out for possible invasion is seen through the eyes of two maintenance workers at the station.

DISC TWO

Learning Curve – When a delegation from Mibar arrives at Babylon 5, Delenn must confront some ugly truths. One of the student Rangers is assaulted when some of the humans who live on the station wish to make a statement of how they feel about alien rule.

Meanwhile, Garibaldi has it out with Lochley over which side she was on during the civil war. Garibaldi doesn’t like the answers he gets and digs deeper.

Strange Relations – As Bester comes looking for telepaths wanted by the Psi Corps who are hiding out on the station, Londo misses an apparent assassination attempt by pure accident.

Meanwhile, Lochley confesses to Garibaldi why Sheridan picked her to run Babylon 5, hoping it will get him off of her back.

Secrets of the Soul – As more and more telepaths arrive at the station, it becomes a security concern. Lyta’s allegiance begins to shift from those she’s helped through the years to the leader of the telepaths, Byron. As the telepaths are treated more and more like outsiders on the station, spot violence begins to erupt despite Byron’s attempts to keep the peace.

Dr. Franklin works on his project, attempting to learn about possible cross-species communicability of diseases. He encounters a race which is reluctant to allow him access to their medical information, with good reason as he later learns.

Day of the Dead – Penn and Teller guest star as futuristic comics who make a visit to Babylon 5 during a religious holiday known as the “Day of the Dead”.

Meanwhile, many of the inhabitants of the space station experience their own encounters with friends, family, and lovers who have passed on.

DISC THREE

In The Kingdom of the Blind – The telepaths have learned that the Vorlons made them to use in the war against the Shadows and are now rallying around the cry for their own homeworld, despite the fact that the Vorlons are gone.

Meanwhile Londo is back on Centauri with G’Kar as his bodyguard, stirring up rumors while the Regent ails. There is more going on with the Centauri Regent than meets the eye, and a puzzling conversation Londo has with him unnerves Londo enough to want to escape the palace as fast as he can.

A Tragedy of Telepaths – The telepaths get ready for the long haul, barricading themselves in Brown Sector and threatening a hunger strike until they get the homeworld they are demanding. Lochley reluctantly calls in Bester.

On Centauri, Londo is musing over reports that production of war materials is up… during peacetime. G’Kar figures out that some Narn are being imprisoned in the south wing of the palace and goes there to discover Na’Toth, his former aide. G’Kar insists she must be freed, while Londo balks at doing anything without an official declaration by the Regent or the next Emperor – himself.

Phoenix Rising – Sheridan is caught between the telepaths and Psi Corps as the violence on the station escalates. Garibaldi and Dr. Franklin are taken hostage by some of the more violent telepaths. Byron and Lyta try to stop them from killing the hostages and to possibly negotiate a satisfactory end to the crisis.

Lochley: And if Garibaldi is killed?
Bester: Zack gets his room?

The Ragged Edge – There’s a survivor of the most recent attacks on the shipping lines, and Sheridan needs to find him fast to learn who’s responsible for the ongoing attacks. The only problem is that the ship was likely part of a smuggling operation. Garibaldi travels to the Drazi homeworld, hoping to learn more about the smugglers, but gets attacked for his troubles. Londo inadvertently provides a key clue to who is behind the attacks.

G’Kar returns to Babylon 5 with Londo and learns his book he has been working on has been published without his knowledge. It has transformed him into a religious-like icon among the Narn.

DISC FOUR

The Corps is Mother, The Corps is Father – Bester is shown training new members of the Psi Corps as well as advising them on tracking down rogue telepaths. He then takes them along to Babylon 5 To track down a telepath wanted for the murder of a Psi Corps cadet.

The “re education” of telepaths who have left the program seems remarkably similar to the propaganda surrounding the curing of homosexuals, even as far as showing a film of how happy one is after he’s re-entered Psi Corps.

Meditations on the Abyss – Lenneir comes back to Babylon 5 at Delenn’s request to investigate if the Centauri are really behind the attacks on the shipping lines and to gather proof if they are. When he goes out with one of the White Star ships, he and another Ranger-trainee are apparently left behind for dead.

Londo discovers a bug planted in supplies Vir brought from some Drazi in the marketplace. G’Kar deals with being a spiritual advisor to his people. Garibaldi has started drinking again.

Darkness Ascending – Garibaldi is haunted by dreams. Lyta tries to acquire a ship for the telepaths to search for a planet where they can form their own colony. Lennier might be onto something with tracking down who is responsible for the attacks on the shipping lines, but Sheridan is forced to recall the ship.

And All My Dream, Torn Asunder – As the entire Council, with the exception of Londo, listens to testimony and reviews evidence which points to the Centauri as the perpetrators of the attacks on the shipping lines, Londo steams over not being admitted to the hearings. When he finally gets to answer the charges, he denies any culpability on the part of the Centauri government and points to a set-up. That is, until Lennier’s evidence is shown.

The Centauri government maintains that it is a hoax and withdraws from the Alliance, setting in motion the catalyst of war. Londo leaves for Centauri, intending to prove what he has been parroting for his government. Vir stays behind to act as Ambassador in his stead.

Meanwhile, Garibaldi’s drinking has become worse. His passing out drunk means he misses a crucial message from one of the White Star pilots and possibly leading to the start of hostilities between the Alliance and the Centauri.

DISC FIVE

Movements of Fire and Shadow (available with commentary by Bruce Boxleitner, Peter Jurasik, Patricia Tallman, and Tracy Scoggins) – As the Centauri are continually attacked on Babylon 5, both Dr. Franklin and Lochley have their hands full.

Sheridan authorizes the use of the White Star fleet against the Centauri. Dr. Franklin and Lyta travel to the Drazi homeworld to learn why the Drazi haven’t been returning the bodies of Centauri killed in the war. What they uncover might answer all of the questions surrounding what has been going on.

Londo and G’Kar share a jail cell after Londo refuses to allow his bodyguard to be imprisoned. However, the two men are soon attacked and Londo has a terrible nightmare, or does he? He meets with the Regent, who tells him he will be dead by the next day and Londo will be the new Emperor.

The Fall of Centauri Prime (available with commentary by J. Michael Straczynski) – As an undefended Centauri homeworld is pummeled by the Drazi and Narn, Sheridan desperately tries to put an end to the war. Delenn’s White Star goes missing. Londo takes his place as Emperor, with all of the baggage that goes with it. He uses the attack to put Centauri into an age of Isolationism.

The Wheel of Fire – Garibaldi’s drinking problem is exposed. Lyta is arrested for funneling money to terrorist cells on Earth and she resists in dramatic fashion. G’Kar is elevated to a religious icon by his people, complete with statues. To cope, he decides to leave Babylon 5. Suddenly it seems as if everyone is leaving the station. Delenn learns she is pregnant.

Objects in Motion – As G’kar prepares to leave the station, he makes an offer to take Lyta with him. She accepts, seeing no other alternative. Garibaldi is visited by a representative of the Mars Provisional Government, who makes an offer to him and Lise, the businesswoman he loves. Assassins target her and it’s quick thinking on the part of station security that leaves her injured by a renegade Narn and not dead at his hands.

DISC SIX

Objects at Rest – Those leaving the station name their successors in a variety of ways. Sheridan and Delenn prepare to leave for the new Interstellar Alliance Headquarters on Minbar. Lennier’s feelings for Delenn lead to a devastating betrayal. Londo sets in motion a dangerous future for Delenn and Sheridan’s child.

Sleeping in Light (available with commentary by J. Michael Straczynski) – Twenty years after the formation of the Interstellar Alliance, Sheridan calls together his old friends for one last gathering.


SPECIAL FEATURES:

Introduction to the Fifth Season: Wheel of Fire

Digital Tomorrow – about the special effects in the series

Beyond Babylon 5 – about the fandom and conventions as well as merchandising.

The Universe of Babylon 5 – interactive section featuring data files, personnel files, gag reel, and more.

Additional Scenes

To view on Prime Video or to buy the DVD, click on the picture below to be directed to my Amazon Associates account. I receive a small commission if you purchase through this link.

8 replies »

    • I’ve seen alot of reactions to the ways in which the show never glorifies war, by showing the funerals, the destruction of conflict, and the consequences of actions, and I don’t see it as a downer at all, but rather reminding us that every single act has a consequence that we need to remember to think about before we engage in that action. If anything, for me, that is a hopeful thing, rather than a downer: it shows that we human beings have a chance to do the right things, if we stop and think beforehand, right? We just need to use our brains to prevent the downers from happening.

      Take care,
      -Shira

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I love the themes and the thoughts pursued in B5, and the ways in which those themes still resonate, even today, with current events and concerns. Prophetic in many ways, yet still entertaining. An excellent series which was so far ahead of its time that it is still not sufficiently appreciated, even today.

    Thank you, Patti, for popping my my other Minbari Monday post. Looking forward to seeing you again.
    -Shira

    Liked by 2 people

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