Babylon 5–The End of the Shadow War   2 comments

A Scene from the Battle of Coriana VI, the Final Battle of the Shadow War

(FIFTY-FIRST IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

The opening titles sequence for Babylon 5 changed each year.  The fourth season montage featured a series of voices speaking in paradoxes Charles Dickens might have appreciated:

Lennier:  It was the year of fire,

Zach Allan:  the year of destruction,

G’Kar:  the year we took back what was ours.

Lyta Alexander:  It was the year of rebirth,

Vir Cotto:  the year of great sadness,

Delenn:  and a year of joy.

Londo Mollari:  It was a new age.

Dr. Stephen Franklin:  It was the end of history.

Susan Ivanova:  It was the year everything changed.

Michael Garibaldi:  The year is 2261;

John Sheridan:  the place, Babylon 5.

The first six episodes of the season reflect all of these elements.  Together these initial episodes conclude the Shadow War and function as a unit.  So I write about them in one post.

The episodes are, in order:

  1. The Hour of the Wolf (1996)
  2. Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi? (1996)
  3. The Summoning (1996)
  4. Falling Toward Apotheosis (1996)
  5. The Long Night (1997)
  6. Into the Fire (1997)

First, the story summary:

2261 dawns with Captain John Sheridan dead on Z’ha’dum, stuck between moments in time (between tick and tock) with a mysterious and ancient alien, Lorien:

This is Lorien’s humanoid appearance, but his true form is this:

Lorien, so far as he knows, is the oldest living being in the universe.  The First One, he has accumulated great wisdom.  Sheridan, Lorien says, needs to embrace life, not flee death.  Does Sheridan have anything worth living for, Lorien wonders.  Sheridan answers with one word:  “Delenn!”

Emperor Cartagia (pictured above) summons Londo Mollari back to Centauri Prime.  Cartagia had come to the throne as a puppet, but has become a tyrant–and an unstable one.  The Emperor speaks to his “Shadow Cabinet,” which consists of the severed heads of those who have dared to oppose him.  The Emperor gives over part of Centauri Prime to the Shadows as a base in exchange for elevation to godhood.  The Emperor complains blithely that since the torturers have organized, they are called “pain technicians.”  The Emperor has no conscience and does not care about his people.

The name “Cartagia” is meant to remind the viewers of “Caligula.”

G’Kar has left Babylon 5 to search for the missing Michael Garibaldi, his first non-Narn friend.  For his troubles, the Centauri capture G’Kar and take him to the royal court, where Cartagia begins to mock and torture the ever-dignified G’Kar.

Londo makes a deal with G’Kar:  Londo will free Narn from Centauri control in exchange for G’Kar’s assistance in removing Cartagia from the throne.  And time is of the essence, for the Vorlons are destroying planets with Shadow bases.  So Londo plots to assassinate Emperor Cartagia for the sake of Centauri Prime, and he enlists his aid, Vir Cotto, in the conspiracy.

Meanwhile, Babylon 5 personnel track down Michael Garibaldi’s location.  They fire on the ship and take Garibaldi home.  Yet they do not know that the Psi Corps is involved in a plot to program Garibaldi to serve their interests.  Garibaldi, back on Babylon 5, is crankier and more suspicious than usual; he is not himself.

This plot thread runs throughout the fourth season, so stay tuned and keep reading.

Captain Sheridan returns to Babylon 5, accompanied by Lorien.  Various alien governments, which had cooperated with Sheridan and Delenn prior to the events of Z’ha’dum, have reverted to short-sighted self-interest.  Sheridan’s return interrupts a rally to convince sentients of various species that the war was over the time to make peace with the Shadows had arrived.  No one has returned from Z’ha’dum, a Drazi says.  Then Sheridan steps on the platform.  The Drazi states, “Sorry, Captain, I thought you were dead.”  Sheridan replies, “I was, but I am feeling much better now.”

That is a wonderful line.

Then Sheridan rouses the crowd to join his cause to end the Shadow menace once and for all time.

The Vorlons have begun to attack locations of Shadow bases without regard for the innocents who cannot get out of their way.  Sheridan knows that he cannot plan and execute the Shadow War with Ulkesh, the disdainful and rude Vorlon Ambassador, aboard Babylon 5.  So he creates a successful plan to “take out the Vorlon,” whose true form is this:

Ulkesh, angered, attacks Sheridan, and a piece of Kosh emerges from Sheridan to fight Ulkesh.  The two Vorlons escape Babylon 5 and enter outer space.  Lorien replenishes Sheridan’s life force, which is almost depleted.  Sheridan will live for another 20 years at most, and will just “stop” one day.  Our brave captain wants to spend those years with Delenn, to whom he gives an engagement ring:

Londo flatters Emperor Cartagia in order to convince him to travel to Narn and to hold G’Kar’s public show trial there.  On Narn Cartagia will be vulnerable, Londo reasons in private.  G’Kar breaks his chains at the show trial and, in the confusion, Cartagia flees the scene and Vir Cotto injects him with a quick and lethal poison.

Vir knows that he has done what was necessary, but his conscience still troubles him.  All Vir ever wanted was a good job and a minor title.  He is a good, moral man who has had to make disturbing moral compromises.  His character retains it basic goodness, but the moral compromises continue to come.

Londo becomes the new Prime Minister.  His first actions are to order the Centauri withdraw from Narn and to blow up the Centauri island serving as the Shadow base on his homeworld.  These are Londo’s finest and most heroic moments, but they will have consequences for himself and Centauri Prime, as the soon to be dead Mr. Morden prophesies.  Do you remember the burning Centauri Prime of 2278 in War Without End?  That was part of the price Centauri Prime paid for Londo’s deeds in 2261.

Before Londo has Mr. Morden executed, he learns that Morden, not Lord Refa, was to blame for the poisoning and death of Lady Adira.  Londo collapses emotionally at this news.  It is a brilliant acting job by actor Peter Jurasik.

Speaking of sacrifices and difficult choices…

Captain Sheridan lures the Shadows into the presence of the Vorlons and his multi-species fleet at Coriana VI, the site of a Shadow base the Vorlons are about to attack and destroy, the only way he knows:  the sacrifice of the crew of a White Star ship commanded by Captain Ericcson, pictured above.  Sheridan wants certain information to fall into the hands of the Shadows, but not too easily.  The sacrifice of one ship’s crew saves the lives of billions others.  Both Sheridan and Ericcson know the costs, and both do their duty.

The Shadow War ends at Coriana VI when the younger races, led by Sheridan and Delenn, refuse to choose between Vorlon order and Shadow chaos.  Lorien convinces the Vorlons, Shadows, and other remaining First Ones to leave the galaxy and to travel “beyond the rim.”  So a new age of history begins.

The best storytelling has strong characters and an excellent plot.  The real difference between one genre and another is frequently “furniture,” as one literary critic has stated the case.  The same plot can underlie a Western,  a science fiction tale, a work of fantasy, or a straight-forward drama set in the present day.  Much bad science fiction ruins the reputation of well-crafted science fiction, making many non-science fiction fans reluctant to read and watch meaningful books, movies, and series.

The characters and plots of Babylon 5 deal with such timeless issues as power, war, peace, assassinations, coups, loyalty, honor, hubris, religion, faith, and facing the consequences of one’s actions.  Major characters are complex and flawed, just like real people.  The series holds up very well, and is therefore worth repeated viewing and pondering.

I am impressed with all the acting in these six episodes.  I am especially enamored of the acting skills of Andreas Katsulas (G’Kar) and Peter Jurasik (Londo Mollari), whose characters run the emotional gamut.  Sometimes I like merely to watch them act.

Next:  The Clark Administration is still in power on Earth.  The loss of his Shadow allies makes President Clark nervous, and he is still a dangerous man.  The Earth Civil War is about to become more interesting.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 2, 2010 COMMON ERA

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

Posted August 2, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Season 4

2 responses to “Babylon 5–The End of the Shadow War

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  1. Pingback: Guide Post: Babylon 5 (2261) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Pingback: The King's SquareReview of “Babylon 5” Season Four “No Surrender, No Retreat” Part Two

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