Babylon 5–In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum (1995)   1 comment

Look into Captain John Sheridan’s eyes.  He is making a momentous decision and beginning to realize the scope of sacrifices he might have to make for the common good.


When Captain John Sheridan arrived on Babylon 5 at the beginning of the second season he seemed merely like a happy-go-lucky jarhead.  He was far more, of course, as subsequent episodes demonstrated.  And Sheridan’s opportunities for joy decreased exponentially over time.  In this crucial episode, In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum, Sheridan’s character deepens greatly and becomes even more serious.

Mr. Morden, the smirking human agent of the Shadows, is aboard Babylon 5 to speak with Ambassador Londo Mollari.  Londo is away, so Vir, the diplomatic aide, talks to Morden.  Vir detests Morden and the Shadows, and makes no secret of this fact.  So, when Morden asks the ominous question, “What do you want?” Vir states that he wants to live long enough see Morden dead and his head on a pike.  This, Vir says, will serve as a reminder that some favors come with too high a price.

Pay attention to those comments from Vir.  They come true.  Stay tuned.

During that conversation Morden asks Vir how the Centauri’s war against the Narns is going.  This is small talk, of course, for Morden knows quite well how the Centauri war effort is doing.  But, just in case you, O reader, wonder, the above image says it all.  The Centauri are slaughtering the Narns.

Meanwhile, Pierce Maccabee arrives on Babylon 5 as part of a recruitment drive.  Back home on Earth, the Clark Administration has established the Ministry of Peace, Minipax for short.  (Yes, this label comes straight out of George Orwell’s 1984.)  Maccabee is an emissary of the Ministry of Peace trying to convince security personnel to join Night Watch, part of that organization.  We cannot be at peace with others until we are at peace with ourselves, Maccabee says.  And we cannot be at peace with ourselves when we tolerate people with bad attitudes who work against peace, he continues.  Therefore, Maccabee concludes, people need to report “harmful” ideas, comments, and misinformation to the Ministry of Peace.  O, and by the way, anyone who joins Night Watch wears a armband and receives a salary bonus.

Yes, Maccabee is advocating for domestic spying.

Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  The insidious nature of Night Watch becomes more apparent in the last episode of the second season.  Stay tuned.

AN ASIDE:  Series creator J. Michael Straczynski conceived of the series in the late 1980s and got it on air in the 1990s.  He drew on history–in this case, from the Third Reich–think of Night Watch as similar to the Hitler Youth.  But, as I reflect on history since September 11, 2001, I realize that bipartisan pressures to support domestic spying in the United States have increased.  It makes me nervous.  So I cannot watch this episode without thinking about the National Security Agency or a proposed plan from George W. Bush’s first term to institute a hotline where people could report “suspicious” activity.  I note also that President Obama has not ended domestic surveillance of citizens, a fact which disappoints me.  Alas, I do not live in an ideal world.

Now, back to the show.

And, by the way, I think that the character’s last name, Maccabee, is meant to be ironic.  As a student of the Bible, I have read closely all four books of the Maccabees.  (Only 1, 2, and 4 Maccabees mention any Maccabees, I know.  But I did not name the third book 3 Maccabees.)  The Hasmonean brothers were warlike, not pacific, characters.

The main story thread in this episode concerns what happens after Security Chief Michael Garibaldi finds Captain John Sheridan unpacking the possessions of his wife, Anna Sheridan.  Anna was on board the science ship Icarus, which exploded a few years ago.  Garibaldi reviews the crew roster of the Icarus and finds Mr. Morden’s image.  Morden is not dead, Garibaldi says; Morden is on the station now.

Captain Sheridan orders Mr. Morden detained then interrogates him.  Why isn’t Morden dead?  If he survived, have any other members of the Icarus crew?  Is Anna Sheridan alive?  Morden ducks, evades, and lies while Sheridan detains the legally dead man (who therefore has no rights, Sheridan reasons), upsetting his fellow command officers.  Sheridan, they say, has gone too far.  They stand on principle, refuse to cooperate, and state that to use the letter of the law to circumvent the spirit of the law is wrong.

Sheridan continues to go too far.  He arranges for telepath Talia Winters to walk past Morden, escorted by security guards, in a corridor.  This is what she–and only she–sees:

Mr. Morden is not alone.  He is in the company of Shadows.

Minbari Ambassador Delenn comes to Captain Sheridan.  She tells him that he must release Mr. Morden immediately, or else the station and everyone on board is in great danger.  She tells him to come with her, for “The greatest nightmare of our time is waiting for you.”

Delenn and Kosh tell Sheridan about the Shadows, an ancient race the Minbari and the Vorlons defeated in a war a thousand years ago.  The Shadows have returned, and the forces of light are not yet ready to fight them.  If the Shadows learn that too many races are aware of their return now, they will strike now, and will win.  But if the forces of light can prevent the Shadows from knowing that they know what they know, there will be time to gather the forces necessary to defeat the Shadows again.

Delenn and Kosh tell Captain Sheridan that Anna and the other crew members of the Icarus traveled to Z’ha’dum, where, by accident, they awakened Shadows.  Those who agreed to cooperate with the Shadows lived; those who refused died.  Sheridan, Delenn says, must lay aside his vendetta and his grief, release Morden, and join the fight against the Shadows.

Sheridan relents, and apologizes to his fellow command officers.  Shortly thereafter he visits Ambassador Kosh.  Sheridan asks Kosh to teach him how to fight the Shadows, for he (Sheridan) will go to Z’ha’dum one day.  Then Kosh warns Sheridan, “If you go to Z’ha’dum, you will die.”  Sheridan answers, “Then I die.  But I will not go down easily, and I will not go down alone.  Will you teach me.”  The Vorlon ambassador replies, “Yes.”

This comes true, also.  Stay tuned.

I divulge just one more hint:  Delenn and Kosh were not forthcoming about Anna Sheridan’s fate.  Stay tuned for that, too.



All images are property of Warner Brothers, and I do not profit from said images.

Posted July 13, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Season 2

One response to “Babylon 5–In the Shadow of Z’ha’dum (1995)

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  1. Pingback: Guide Post: Babylon 5 (2259) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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