Archive for October 2010

Feast of Emily Malbone Morgan (February 26)   1 comment

Above:  Episcopal Shield

Image in the Public Domain



Founder of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross

The Biblical prophets said, among other things, that holiness (or the absence thereof) consists of what one does.   Hospitality is one of the virtues they associate with holiness.  The life of Emily Malbone Morgan reflects an understanding of this.

Morgan came from an Episcopalian family in Hartford, Connecticut, on December 10, 1862.  One brother became a prominent priest.  She devoted herself to simple living and knew the value of praying and of helping other women, whom she called together for prayer and companionship.  Beginning in 1889, she operated a series of vacation houses across the northeastern states for working women who needed to get away and rest, for the sake of spiritual renewal.  This effort was part of the ministry of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross, founded in 1884.

The Society opened its first permanent house, Adelynrood, in Byfield, Massachusetts, in 1901.  Today this is the headquarters and retreat center for the Society.  Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, states that the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross operates in six countries and has over seven hundred Companions, lay and ordained, all women.








Gracious God, we thank you for the life and witness of Emily Malbone Morgan,

who helped to establish the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross

so that women who live in the world might devote themselves

to intercessory prayer, social justice, Christian unity, and simplicity of life.

Help us to follow her example in prayer, simplicity, ecumenism, and witness to your justice,

for the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ, who with you and

the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 1:15-21

Psalm 119:137-144

Romans 16:1-6

Luke 10:38-42

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 245


Revised on December 8, 2016


Feast of John Roberts (February 25)   Leave a comment

Above:  Episcopal Shield

Image in the Public Domain



Episcopal Priest and Missionary to the Shoshone and Arapahoe Nations

The history of Christian missions among indigenous peoples includes ethnocentrism, racism, and the destruction of native cultures.  To destroy a culture is to leave many people without a stable moral compass, and to forbid the use of one’s tribal language is a crime against the people themselves and cultural anthropology.  Fortunately, however, many missionaries have cared deeply about and respected the people among whom they have worked.  The Reverend John Roberts was one of these shining lights in Christian missions.

Roberts, who hailed from Wales, became a priest in 1878, in the Bahamas.  Two years later, while in New York City, he contacted John Spaulding, Bishop of Wyoming and Colorado, who was recruiting missionaries to work among the native peoples within his diocese.  Roberts engaged in this work from 1883 to his death, in 1949.

Roberts began this ministry in Colorado but moved on to the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming by 1883.  There we worked among the Shoshone and Arapahoe nations, whose languages he learned.  His partner in life, love, and missions was Laura Brown, whom he married in 1884, and with whom he had six children, five of whom lived to adulthood.

Roberts gained the trust of the people and, in 1887, the Shoshone chief granted him permission to build a mission school for girls.  And the priest built more than that; he established congregations.  He was successful in large part because he respected the cultures of the Shoshone and Arapahoe nations, seeking to bring them to Christ, not to eradicate their heritage.

Once, more years ago than I wish to admit, I watched a program on a now-defunct religious cable television channel.  This was a documentary about Roman Catholic missionary work in a tribe somewhere in the western United States.  The program showed part of a Mass.  The priest, who was the only white person in the building, functioned as a sacramentalist; the tribesmen and women did everything else.  And the processional cross had eagle feathers attached to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  This was a high compliment in that culture.

Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if we were all the same?






Creator God, we thank you for bringing your missionary John Roberts from his native land to live and teach your Gospel in a spirit of respect and amity among the Shoshone and Arapahoe peoples in their own language; and we pray that we may also share the Good News of your Christ with all we meet as friends brought together by your Holy Spirit; for you are the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, living and true, to the ages.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 31:30-32; 4:6b-12a

Psalm 90:13-17

Acts 3:18-25

John 7:37-41a

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 243


Revised on December 7, 2016


Feast of Blessed Guido di Pietro, a.k.a. Fra Angelico (February 18)   2 comments

The Day of Judgement, by St. Guido di Pietro (Fra Angelico)

Image in the Public Domain



Roman Catholic Monk and Artist

“Why do we need miracles?  These are his miracles.”

–Pope John Paul II speaking of Fra Angelico’s paintings at the beatification ceremony, 1982

I remember attending a Lay Ministries Conference at Honey Creek, the camp and conference center of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, years ago.  (I attended several of these over time.)  The main speaker at one conference stated an obvious fact:  Much great religious art is Roman Catholic in origin, but very little of such art comes from Low Church Protestant quarters.  Iconoclastic tendencies account for this.  Indeed, Roman Catholicism is a profoundly visual form of Christianity.  And this art is an expression of deep faith.

St. Lawrence Receives the Treasures of the Church, by Fra Angelico

Such is the case with St. Guido di Pietro.  Born in Vicchio, Italy, Guido joined the Dominicans, where he received the nickname Fra Angelico, which means “Angelic Brother.”  He rose to become Prior of the monastery at Fiesole from 1449 to 1552, but the saint’s main legacy and expression of his faith and his holy life was his art.

The Transfiguration, by Fra Angelico

The saint painted exclusively religious subjects, for this was a form of prayer for him.  He painted murals for convents and the Vatican.  And he painted magnificent altar pieces.  And, centuries later, we who live today can admire the beauty and the craftsmanship of the art, as well as what informed it.

The Eastern Orthodox have a profound saying:  “Beauty will save the world.”  We all need beauty.  As I write this sentence I think about the cacophony of shouting matches that is much of the media:  talk radio, many weblogs and other websites, and much of what passes for cable news programming.  There, strong opinions and decibel levels (often in combination) are more highly praised than are objective reality and reasoned discussion.  We need beauty more than ever.  We need to turn off many media outlets, ignore loud and poorly-informed people, and be quiet.  We need to admire art and contemplate poetry.  We need to remember that God is found in quietness, not the sound of the whirlwind.  We need more people like Fra Angelico.

Beauty will save us, if we give it the chance to do so.  This beauty exists in both overtly religious art (of all formats, including music) and secular works.  How often have I melted into a Wagner opera or a Beethoven symphony?  Too many times to count.  And I have become one with some Shostakovich works.  I have found God in all these places (and many more very much like it), too.

Now, instead of choosing the standard collect and readings for an artist, as found in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, the 2006 hymnal and worship book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I provide my own.  Readings that have some bearing specifically on the saint are a better choice.

Beloved God, you are the Lord and Master of all that is beautiful and ennobling.  May we rejoice in the example of Fra Angelico and all others whose creative output is a form of prayer.  And may we encourage such prayer as we have opportunity to do so, and engage in ourselves, if you have called us to that good work.  For you are the sculptor of our talents, and we are your handiwork.  In the name of God, who continues to create.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

Psalm 96

Philippians 4:4-9

Matthew 22:34-40






Revised on December 2, 2016


Feast of Charles Freer Andrews (February 12)   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of India in 1900

Source =



Born in Birmingham, England, February 12, 1871

Died in Calcutta, India, April 5, 1940

Priest of the Church of England; known during his lifetime as “Christ’s Faithful Apostle” and “Friend of the Poor”

The history of Christian global missions has both glorious and shameful aspects.  On the negative side, many missionaries have carried their ethnocentric and racist views with them, functioning more as emissaries of their native imperial powers than as messengers for Jesus.  These individuals have alienated many people from the Gospel.  The study of history tells me that this style of foreign missions leads frequently to indigenous peoples identifying Christianity with imperialism, and therefore rejecting both Christ and the imperialists.  So the act of embracing whatever religion is indigenous becomes an indicator of national pride and anti-imperialism.    And the cross of Christ does not prevail in another foreign land.  This is quite unfortunate.

Yet many other missionaries have advocated for the rights of those to whom God has sent them.  Some of have died for the indigenous peoples.  Charles Freer Andrews did not die for this cause, but he did dedicate most of his adult life to it.  The Episcopal Church has placed his feast on February 12, but since I already have four people on that day, I have moved him up one  day.  And he is a fine addition to my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.

Above:  An Indian Stamp Bearing the Image of Charles Freer Andrews

Image Source =

Charles Freer Andrews became an Anglican priest in 1897.  The cause of social justice was an integral part of his faith, and the abuses of the native peoples of India at the hands of the British government concerned him.  So, in 1904, Andrews moved to Delhi, where he began to teach philosophy at St. Stephen’s College.  There he received the label Deenabandhu, which means, “Friend of the Poor.”  This was an apt title, for the priest was active in the Indian National Congress.  And, in 1913, Andrews mediated a settlement to a strike in Madras, thereby averting violence.

Andrews opposed violence, a point that caused him to disagree with his friend Mohandas K. Gandhi in 1918 when the latter participated in a military recruiting effort.  For Andrews, nonviolence was a principle not subject to compromise, even during time of war.  He did cooperate closely with Gandhi for many years, participating in negotiations with the British government and organizing an ashram. And, in India, Andrews opened a Hindu-Christian dialogue and advocated for the rights of the Dalits, or the Untouchables, arguing that they had rights, too.   Gandhi paid Andrews the highest possible compliment, calling him “Christ’s Faithful Apostle.”

Andrews also traveled to Fiji, in the South Pacific Ocean, multiple times during his life.  There he found social justice causes, too, advocating for the rights of exploited indentured workers and employees of sugar companies.  (The corporation controlled the lives of its workers, making them slaves of a sort.)

Andrews returned to England in 1935, accepting Gandhi’s suggestion that native-born Indians should lead the struggle for independence.  He did visit the subcontinent from time to time, though.  Andrews died during such a visit in 1940.

Sometimes circumstances present opportunities to do great things for God and our fellow human beings, and people, such as Charles Freer Andrews, accept the challenge.  The particulars of your call are not identical to mine or that of Charles Freer Andrews, but a principle is constant.  May I be “Christ’s Faithful Apostle” wherever God wants me to be, and may you be “Christ’s Faithful Apostle” wherever God wants you to be.






Gracious God, you called Charles Freer Andrews to empty himself, after the example of our Savior, so that he might proclaim your salvation to the peoples of India and the Pacific Islands:  By your Holy Spirit inspire us with like zeal to bring together people of every race and class, that there may be one Body and one Spirit in Jesus Christ, our Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 15:7-11

Psalm 113:2-8

Ephesians 2:13-22

Matthew 23:8-12

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 219


Revised on November 30, 2016


Babylon 5–Sleeping in Light (1998)   1 comment

Space Station Babylon 5 Shortly Before Its Destruction


A series finale can be a tricky thing.  Was the entire series a figment of a child’s imagination, as in the case of St. Elsewhere?  Or was it a dream, as Newhart was?  Perhaps everything happened, Sam and Diane do not get back together, and the bar closes for the night, only to open the next day.  That was the scenario of One for the Road, the last episode of Cheers.  The ending of Star Trek:  Voyager was disappointing, with the ship getting home in the final moments.  Now what?

The best final episodes focus on characters.  I think of What You Leave Behind, with which Star Trek:  Deep Space Nine came to an end.  Jake was left without his father, who had joined the Bajoran Prophets in the wormhole.  And the memory of watching Admiral Adama grasp the hand of the dead Laura Roslin at the end of Battlestar Galactica still moves me.

I file Sleeping in Light among the best final episodes.  In fact, I consider it the best series finale.  This one is pure emotion.  The cast and crew were emotional wrecks during its filming.  J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) turned into an emotional wreck while recording the DVD commentary track for it.  And I have wept during it.

So let us begin.

Sheridan and Delenn Watch the Minbari Sunrise

It is the Earth year 2281, two decades since Captain John Sheridan died at Z’ha’dum.  Delenn is now the President of the Interstellar Alliance, and Sheridan has taken his wife’s old job, Ranger One.  He knows that he will die soon, for the twenty years Lorien granted him have almost expired.  And Sheridan has had the same foreboding dream for three consecutive nights.  He gets up early one morning to watch the sunrise, something he has never done on Minbar.  Delenn joins him.  Afterward, she sends out the invitations to Sheridan’s farewell gathering.

Rangers deliver invitations to Emperor Vir Cotto on Centauri Prime, Michael Garibaldi on Mars, and General Susan Ivanova on Earth.  Garibaldi is married happily to Lise, has a teenage daughter, and is still running Edgars Industries.  He is in the company of Dr. Stephen Franklin, still head of Xenobiological Research on Earth, when the Ranger arrives; the two travel to Minbar together.  The invitation intended for Zack Allan comes back; Sheridan and Delenn do not yet know that Zack is back in the military and on Babylon 5.

General Susan Ivanova

Susan Ivanova’s career path has been upward, rising from Captain in 2262 to General in 2281.  Yet she finds her work boring, and she has closed her heart since the death of Marcus Cole.  This is Ivanova’s situation when a Ranger arrives with an invitation from Minbar.

Old Friends Together for the Last Time

The final gathering is an occasion of laughter and stories.  It is, in simple terms, a time in which Sheridan does not speak of the obvious fact:  he has only a few days to live.  His son, David, is not present; David is in Ranger training.  Delenn is barely holding on emotionally, as is Ivanova.

The friends toast those who are deceased:  G’Kar, Londo, Lennier, Marcus.

The Final Embrace

The next morning, before the others awake, Sheridan and Delenn rise.  He puts on the black uniform for the first time in years.  It is tight in places; it must have shrunk while in storage, he says.   Sheridan is leaving Delenn for the last time, to take a ship to the Corianna system, where the Shadow War ended.  There he will die.  He embraces his wife, “the brightest star in my sky,” and leaves silently.

John Sheridan on Babylon 5 for the Last Time

Sheridan visits Babylon 5 first, however.  The space station is nearly deserted.  Commander Nils, the commanding officer, says that the station has become redundant; almost nobody comes there anymore.  The Earth Alliance government, again in possession of the space station, has to make budget cuts, so Babylon 5 is slated for destruction soon.  Sheridan sticks around long enough to speak to Zack Allan, who is back on board, but must leave, for his time grows short.

Lorien and Sheridan

Sheridan takes his ship to the Corianna system, where Lorien meets him.  The two will travel beyond the Rim, and Sheridan can never come back.  So Lorien assumes Sheridan bodily, leaving the vessel empty, with all the airlocks sealed.

A few days later, Zack, Ivanova, Vir, Garibaldi, and Delenn attend the decommissioning ceremony aboard Babylon 5.  Garibaldi takes a souvenir, a shot glass.  He is still sober after all these years.

The Destruction of Babylon 5

A maintenance worker played by JMS turns out the lights.  As the last ship leaves Babylon 5, the controlled destruction of the space station begins.  An interspecies delegation is on hand to witness the event.

Garibaldi returns to Mars, Franklin to Earth, and Vir to Centauri Prime.  Zack goes to Centauri Prime, to work for Vir.

Ivanova becomes Ranger One.

Ivanova’s voiceover summarizes the philosophy of the series:

Babylon 5 was the last of the Babylon stations. There would never be another. It changed the future, and it changed us. It taught us that we had to create the future, or others will do it for us.  It showed us that we have to care for each other, because if we don’t, who will?  And that strength sometimes comes from the most unlikely of places.  Mostly, though, I think it gave us hope that there can always be new beginnings, even for people like us.

And, Ivanova finishes, “As for Delenn, every morning for as long as she lived, Delenn got up before dawn and watched the sun come up…”

Aside:  JMS filmed Sleeping in Light at the end of the fourth season, so the credits reflect that season’s cast.  It is an interesting exercise to watch this episode after Rising Star, which is how the series might have ended, if not for Turner Network Television (TNT).  I do know, however, that JMS did not complete the final edit of Sleeping in Light until 1998; he said so in the commentary track for the episode.  So, with an eye toward continuity, one might speculate that Elizabeth Lochley was dead in 2281.  Her character did not exist until the fifth season, hence her absence here, but I think of series continuity.

Back to the episode:

A voiceover explains that this series has been an ISN documentary.  A series of photographs follows quickly.  Pausing the disc reveals images of all the behind-the-scenes people responsible for the Babylon 5 series.

The credits, located at the end of the episode, show our main characters as he saw them first (chronologically) and last (chronologically).

People change.  We all know this, do we not?  Yet much television programming presents static characters.  This approach makes casual viewing easy.  Babylon 5, however, requires one to watch carefully and to pay close attention to details.  And the series rewards all those who do this.  One can see the characters change greatly over a few years, as in real life.  The final closing credits present these transformations dramatically.

This journey has ended.  Thank you for taking it with me.



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

Posted October 21, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Season 5

Babylon 5–In the Beginning (1998)   2 comments

Earth Alliance President Elizabeth Levy Addresses the Troops Before the Battle of the Line in 2248:  “Though Earth May Fall….”


The first four seasons of Babylon 5 aired in syndication as part of the Primetime Entertainment Network (PTEN). This platform ceased to exist in 1997. So series creator J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) pulled material intended for the fifth season into the fourth season and wrote and filmed the series finale, Sleeping in Light, the subject of the next (and final) post in this series of posts.  Then Turner Network Television (TNT) picked up Babylon 5 for the final season, commissioned some telefilms, and began to air the first four seasons.  Along the way, TNT gave JMS a chance to re-edit the pilot movie (The Gathering) and asked for a prequel, set to air on the Sunday night before the channel began to air first season episodes the next day.

I remember this well, for I was thrilled, and had videotapes and a VCR ready.  I had never seen The Gathering before, and the only cut of it I have seen fully is the re-edit that TNT broadcast and that is now available on disc.  And In the Beginning was wonderful, combining footage from episodes with new scenes to establish the background to the series and its universe.

There is a serious question among Babylon 5 fans about when to watch In the Beginning.  Should a B5 novice watch this first, or after the fourth season?  JMS reveals much of the back story throughout the first four seasons, so viewing In the Beginning first spoils surprises during the series.  On the other hand, this is a useful way to initiate a novice into the awe and splendor that is Babylon 5.

It is the Earth Year 2278.  Centauri Prime, the homeworld of the Centauri Republic, is devastated, with fires burning in the capital city.  (The fires are presumably the result of Drakh retalliation for the Resistance efforts led by Vir Cotto.)  Two cute and precocious children, Luc and Lyssa Jaddo, run through the royal palace.  They are related to Urza Jaddo, for whose death Londo Mollari was responsible in Knives (1995).

A Centauri woman comes to round up the children, who have wandered into the darkened throne room.  The children find the only window not boarded up, look out, and notice the devastation.  They wonder what happened to all the buildings.  The woman tells them that bad people made the buildings fall down.  Then she tells the children that they should not have entered the throne room, and that they need to leave.

But Londo Mollari, a.k.a. Emperor Mollari II, does not mind.  It has been too long since he has heard the sound of laughter in the throne room.  He summons the three guests to his throne, where he asks the children a generally fateful question in the Babylon 5 universe:

What do you want?

One might recall Londo’s bad answer from earlier in his life, when Mr. Morden asked him that question.  Mollari’s reply (to restore Centauri glory and destroy the Narn homeworld) set in motion a series of events that led to his current bad situation–a puppet controlled by aliens on his devastated homeworld.

The children have simpler ambitions, though.  They want merely to hear a story.  Lyssa wants to hear a true story, and her brother desires to hear one about heroes and great battles.  So Londo Mollari, a pitiful old man filled with regrets and who knows his sins, tells them the story of the Earth-Minbari War, which ended in 2248, with the Minbari surrendering on the eve of final victory over Earth.

The present tense for this telefilm is within the third-season two-parter, War Without End (1996).  URL here:  So we audience members know already that this the last day of Londo’s life.  I will return to this point later in this post, but I mention this now to explain why I place this post at this point in the series of Babylon 5 posts.

Back to the Earth-Minbari War…..

It is the 2240s, and the Earth Alliance is full of itself, replete with military pride and hubris.  Earth, under one government, has expanded into outer space, where it has colony worlds, is expanding its sphere of influence, and is boasting over the recent victory over the Dilgar in a war.  Next, they plot to attempt to make contact with the Minbari, but a young Londo Mollari, stationed on Earth, attempts unsuccessfully to prevent this.

Delenn with Dukhat

The Minbari, meanwhile, have heard about the Humans, but have not met them, either.  The Minbari leader, Dukhat, is preparing his acolyte, Delenn, to join the Grey Council, the ruling body.  He also has a secret:  Dukhat is is secret contact with two Vorlons, Kosh and Ulkesh, who tell him that the Shadow threat is returning.  So Dukhat tries to persuade the Grey Council to investigate this threat, and decides that the warship carrying the council members will take the scenic, not obvious, route to Z’ha’dum, to see if the Shadows have returned there.  Maybe then the Council will support helping the Rangers, who are few in number and marginal in influence, with their task.

But before long, an Earth ship encounters the Grey Council vessel and fires on it, killing Dukhat.  It has all been a cultural misunderstanding, but a costly one.  The Grey Council gives the order to declare war, with Delenn, its newest member, breaking the tie.  The Humans do not stand a chance against one of the oldest space-faring races with superior technology.

Lt. Commander John Sheridan’s Destruction of the Black Star

Much of the story of the war is old hat to those who have seen Seasons 1-4.  It is sufficed to say that we see events characters discuss during those seasons.  We see Lt. Commander John Sheridan, First Officer of the E.A.S. Lexington, assume command after the captain dies in a Minbari attack.  We witness him destroy that Minbari vessel, the Black Star, with tactical nuclear weapons.  One might recall Captain John Sheridan tell the story to Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova in Points of Departure, the first episode of the second season, but seeing the events is more powerful than hearing about them.

Emperor Mollari II Laments the Fate of Centauri Prime

Emperor Mollari II is a great storyteller.  He is also a patriot.  Everything good and bad he has done has flowed from his patriotism.  So, as he tells this sad tale of the Earth-Minbari War and reveals that he was complicit in scuttling an attempt at peace talks between the Humans and the Minbari, he looks out over the burning capital city and laments.

2248:  On Earth, time has run out.  The Minbari fleet is on its way, and they will destroy Earth.  President Elizabeth Levy addresses the soldiers, telling them that they will certainly die, but that their sacrifices will allow civilian ships to escape and the human race to continue in neutral territory.  The President’s voice breaks:

We do not believe that survival is a possibility. We believe that everyone who joins this battle will never come home. But for every ten minutes we can delay the military advance, several hundred more civilians may have a chance to escape to neutral territory. Though Earth may fall, the human race must have a chance to continue elsewhere. No greater sacrifice has ever been asked of a people, but I ask you now, to step forward one last time, one last battle to hold the line against the night. May God go with you all.

(This is a powerful scene, especially with Christopher Franke’s music.)

Yet the Minbari surrender at the Battle of the Line.  They have, of course, discovered that the soul of Valen, founder of the Grey Council,  lives inside one Human, Jeffrey Sinclair.  Delenn herself gives the order to surrender.

And so the construction of the Babylon station begins, but ends in destruction.  The same is true of Babylon 2 and Babylon 3.  And Babylon 4 disappears shortly after becoming operational.  That is how we get to Babylon 5.

The woman and the children leave, and Londo is left alone again.  He consumes enough alcohol to put his Keeper to sleep and watches the captive Sheridan and Delenn in their cell.  And the movie ends.

Sheridan and Delenn’s son, David, has already turned sixteen years old.  Under the influence of the Keeper inside the urn, David Sheridan has traveled to Centauri Prime, with his parents not far behind.  This is how they have come to be in custody.  But, as Delenn says, David is safe now.  A novel tells of how, after these events, doctors removed David’s Keeper and the younger Sheridan went on with his life.

We know from War Without End that Londo frees Sheridan and Delenn and asks them to free his people.  Then the Keeper awakens and discovers Londo’s betrayal, just as G’Kar honors Londo’s wishes by strangling him.  G’Kar dies in the struggle too.

We know from novels that Vir, who has been aware of the Drakh presence on Centauri Prime for years and who has led the Resistance, finds Londo dead and kills the Emperor’s Keeper.  Vir escapes from pursuing Drakh, flees to Minbar, and secures Interstellar Alliance aid in defeating the Drakh and in rebuilding Centauri Prime.  He also becomes Emperor Cotto.  Voices in the Dark establishes that he dies in 2291, after thirteen years in office, succeeded (presumably) by Dius Vintari, son of the mad Emperor Cartagia.  Hopefully, Galen’s prophecy concerning the events of 2301 does not come true.

And Vir commissions a giant statue of Londo to stand guard over one side of the capital city and a giant statue of G’Kar to stand guard over the opposite side of the same city.  We know this from a novel too.

If you want to see the background to the series arranged chronologically, In the Beginning is the film for you.  And if you want to study the acting of Peter Jurasik, who portrays Londo Mollari, you are in for a treat.  The character Londo Mollari begins as a buffoon in The Gathering (1993) and the first season (1994), but becomes more complex.  He turns into a villain, then a hero, eventually into a pawn, then, at the end of his life, a martyr.  He is the most compelling character in the saga, and the skilled acting of Peter Jurasik brings him to life.

We have one more stop on our journey.  Sleeping in Light is the greatest series finale ever.  So I have decided to save the best for last.



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

Posted October 20, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Season 3, Babylon 5 Season 5

Babylon 5–The Lost Tales: Voices in the Dark (2007)   1 comment

A Valen-Class Vessel in Quantum Space


The brief history of Babylon 5 is as follows:

  1. The Gathering (1993)–the pilot movie
  2. Babylon 5–Seasons 1-4 (1994-1997)–syndicated
  3. In the Beginning (1998)–prequel movie (and the subject of the next post in this series
  4. Babylon 5–Season 5 (1998)–on Turner Network Television (TNT)
  5. Thirdspace (1998)–TNT movie
  6. The River of Souls (1998)–TNT movie
  7. A Call to Arms (1999)–TNT movie
  8. Crusade (1999)–Series on TNT
  9. The Legend of the Rangers:  To Live and Die in Starlight (2002)–Sci-Fi Channel movie
  10. The Lost Tales:  Voices in the Dark (2007)

Voices in Dark was supposed to be the first of a series of direct-to-DVD releases called Babylon 5–The Lost Tales.  It was the only release, and this fact is unfortunate.  Voices in the Dark is not without flaws, but it is vastly superior to much of what people commit to DVDs.

The special effects attract much criticism.  Indeed, they are less than impressive in places, for the green screen is obvious when actors are not on sets.  Consider the image below:

On the other hand, computer-generated special effects have improved since 1999.  The space station has never looked better:

Warner Brothers provided an inadequate budget for special effects, so let us not be too harsh toward J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) for the green screen problems.  Blame the suits.

Besides, the two connected stories are the real reasons to watch this DVD production.  These tales (Over Here and Over There) are set in 2271, on the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Interstellar Alliance.  I have learned from Voices in the Dark and A Call to Arms (not to mention Sleeping in Light) that Interstellar Alliance anniversaries divisible by five are not quiet times.  I wonder what hell broke loose or threatened to do so on the fifteenth anniversary.  Now there is an untold story.

Father Cassidy

Anyhow, literal Hell does break loose on Babylon 5 in the first half, Over There.  The B5 programs have never shied away from religion, and Over There is overtly religious.  JMS, raised Roman Catholic, has been an Atheist (albeit not a militant one) for some time, and he, the author of Voices in the Dark, is comfortable with addressing religious topics.   Post-apocalyptic religion is integral to another JMS series, Jeremiah, which aired on Showtime from 2002 to 2004, for example.   In this case, the topic du film is demonic possession.

Colonel Elizabeth Lochley

Elizabeth Lochley is still in command of Babylon 5; she is entering her tenth year in that position.  She thinks of the space station as her home now.  And she has received a promotion; Lochley has progressed from captain to colonel.  Her home is not quiet, though.

Simon Burke

Simon Burke is a station maintenance worker who has just returned from a visit to his family on Earth.  (The Drakh plague has been over for a few years, thanks to the efforts of the gallant crew of the Excalibur.)  Simon is not himself, however.  He hears another voice inside his head, and the cause of that voice takes him over.  Security personnel detain Simon, and the vicinity of his cell is considerably colder than any other place in the area.

Lochley sends for a Roman Catholic priest, and Father Cassidy arrives.  She explains the situation to Cassidy, who asks her about her spiritual state.  Lochley admits that she attends services from time to time, but that she feels guilty because of her spotty attendance.  Cassidy concludes non-judgmentally that she is like many people.  Lochley is still religious, though, and laments the fact that religious practice among humans is in decline.  Cassidy is not worried, however, for, as he says, the Church still has  few tricks up its sleeve.

Lochley and Cassidy visit Simon Burke’s cell, where the demon inside Simon speaks to Cassidy.  The demon says that God has salted the heavens with demons as part of a plan to draw people toward religious practice.  The demon asks to be exorcised on Babylon 5.  Yet Lochley is skeptical of the demon’s claim, and she investigates until she finds the log of the captain of the transport ship that carried Simon back from Earth.  The captain noticed cold spots and other demonic manifestations.  Lochley realizes that the demon possessed Simon on Earth, and that this constituted a jailbreak; God had cast the demons from the heavens to Earth, to remain for the remainder of the life of the planet.  The exorcism will occur on Earth.

Father Cassidy will return to Earth, too, and brief the Pope, whom he has wanted to meet for some time.  Pope Bernadette II (in office during the Babylon 5 and Crusade series) is apparently dead, and her successor is male, for Cassidy refers to the “Holy Father.”  Before he departs, the priest tells Lochley that she should pursue Holy Orders if she changes careers.  “Do you think I’m religious enough?” the Colonel asks.  “You’ll do!” Cassidy replies enthusiastically.

And Lochley rushes off to keep an appointment–to contact President Sheridan, en route to Babylon 5 for the tenth anniversary ceremony.  (We see that call from Sheridan’s end of the conversation in Over There.)

President John Sheridan

President John Sheridan is traveling to Babylon 5 through Quantum Space (which is twice as fast as traveling through hyperspace).  Before he arrives at the space station, however, he is scheduled to rendezvous with a Centauri vessel and pick up Prince Dius Vintari, son of the late Emperor Cartagia and third in line to the throne.

President Sheridan and Prince Dius Vintari

Cartagia made many enemies, whom Vintari has inherited.   The prince has grown up in a dog-eat-dog environment, and he has revenge on his mind.  He can do nothing about his circumstances now, but plans a “reckoning” when he ascends to the throne, after both Emperor Mollari II (in office) and (Vir) Cotto (in line after Mollari) die.  Vintari has not known affection, just manipulation and distrust.

President Sheridan and Galen

Galen makes contact with Sheridan several times, beginning the day before the rendezvous with the Centauri vessel.  Galen tells Sheridan that Vintari will become Emperor in 20 years (2291), and will seek to restore Centauri glory.  As part of this effort, Emperor Vintari will send his forces to attack Earth in 2301 (30 years).  To make this point, Galen shows Sheridan the attack’s effect on the City of New York.  (I wonder how Galen knows all this.)

New York City Before Its Destruction in 2301

Galen tells Sheridan that there is a way to prevent this devastation.  It is all very simple; kill Vintari.  Who will miss him enough to protest the prince’s death?  Sheridan is reluctant to do this.

It seems that Vintari is fascinated with Starfury fighter crafts, and that, as part of the tenth anniversary events, Sheridan will travel from his Valen-Class ship via Starfury, not a shuttle craft.  Sheridan asks if Vintari would like to fly a Starfury, too.  The President knows that Galen has arranged for the weapons systems on his Starfury to “malfunction” and target Vintari’s ship.  Sheridan ponders doing nothing, thereby allowing the prince to die.  But the President turns off his Starfury’s weapons in time.  With Delenn’s approval, Sheridan asks Vintari to come to live in his household on Minbar, where the prince can experience kindness.

Vintari has had some dreams recently.  In them, he is flying a Starfury, and “something wonderful happens.”  The prince has told Sheridan this.  Sheridan recounts this when an angered Galen confronts him.  Did Galen send this dream to Vintari?  “I get around,” the techno-mage admits.  It seems that Galen has been manipulating Sheridan and Vintari, and is really not disappointed in the President’s decision.  Sheridan tells Galen that he will try to dissuade Vintari from vengeful ways, but has not ruled out killing him, if that is required to save Earth.

So Vintari goes to live on Minbar for a while.  Do Sheridan and Delenn succeed in changing him?  I do not know; that is an untold tale.

I notice something about the characters in Over There.  Vintari, the villain, is somewhat sympathetic, or at least understandable.  Sheridan, our main hero, is willing to commit murder.  And how heroic is Galen, really?  The characters exist in shades of gray.  This is consistent with other characters in the Babylon 5 universe, too.

Voices in the Dark is the last of the filmed Babylon 5 productions, although some previously filmed episodes and a TNT movie (In the Beginning) contain scenes set after this chronologically.  My journey through this universe is nearing its end, with two more summary-review posts left.  This has been a spectacular walk through these works of JMS, and I regret that I am nearly out of this material.  I plan to take a break from regular B5 viewing for a while after post #92, but to return after I have permitted enough fallow time.  My interests come in seasons, and constant saturation in any project holds no appeal for me.

My plans through the first half of 2011 include the following:

  1. adding more Epiphany season blogs (according to a Canadian Anglican lectionary) at the ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS blog;
  2. adding new February-August saints to the Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days at SUNDRY THOUGHTS;
  3. augmenting the GATHERED PRAYERS blog;
  4. creating a LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS blog based partially on pre-existing material from SUNDRY THOUGHTS but with a number of devotions written expressly for that blog and never present at SUNDRY THOUGHTS;
  5. creating an ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS blog, built partially from pre-existing posts from SUNDRY THOUGHTS yet consisting mainly of posts written for that blog and never present at SUNDRY THOUGHTS;
  6. and writing new reviews at SUNDRY THOUGHTS.  There are many possible titles left to cover.



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

Posted October 18, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5-Crusade, Crusade

Babylon 5–Crusade (1999)   2 comments


Turner Network Television (TNT) canceled this series before it aired the first episode.  So Crusade never had a chance to develop into what would have been its full glory.  Nevertheless, the thirteen episodes produced and aired (and now available on discs) are worth watching, for they contain excellent writing and character development.

The Excalibur

The year is 2267.  A Drakh plague promises to kill all life on Earth within five years unless someone can find a cure.  So the Interstellar Alliance is on the job, assigning Rangers to look and listen for leads, which they pass along to the crew of Excalibur, the ship from A Call to Arms.  Meanwhile, Earth’s economy, dependent on interstellar commerce, has collapsed, civil unrest is widespread, people have already begun to die, and doomsday cults are sprouting up.

Captain Gideon is an edgy character, the kind of man who likes to gamble, play poker with an apologetic thief, and who never refuses to answer a distress call.  Gideon bears the burden of leading the expedition to find a cure for a plague that can kill 10 billion people, so he is willing to break any law and take any risk necessary to complete his objective.  Under these circumstances, he distinguishes between what is moral and what is right.

Gideon has an unusual possession, an Apocalypse Box.  It speaks to him, providing hints about where to go next in search of a cure for the Drakh plague.  Sometimes the box lies to Gideon, and tells him not to trust it.  The nature and origin of the Apocalypse Box remains mysterious, given the short run of the series.

Captain Lochley is still in command at Babylon 5 in 2267.  Her path crosses that of Captain Gideon in three of the thirteen episodes:  once on Babylon 5, once on Mars, and again in outer space, when he rescues her.  Lochley and Gideon would make a good couple, if the demands of their careers did not keep them apart.

John Matheson, the First Officer, is Gideon’s friend.  Matheson is a telepath, and can belong to Earth Force because Psi-Corps no longer exists.  Yet Matheson is subject to periodic telepathic auditing by the Bureau of Telepath Integration.  The XO grew up Roman Catholic, and might still belong to that denomination.  And he is conscientious and quite protective of the crew and the mission.

Max Eilerson is an archaeologist working for Interplanetary Expeditions (IPX), which seeks old alien technology more advanced than anything known to humans.  (IPX has connections to Earth Force.)  Eilerson is also a language expert, a genius and child prodigy, and an obnoxious person.  He thinks often about his corporate bonuses, although profit alone does not motivate him; he has a conscience, too.  And he is a very good dancer.

Galen, a recently exiled techno-mage, rescued Matthew Gideon in 2258 (during the techno-mage exodus), when a hybrid Earth-Shadow vessel destroyed the E.A.S. Cerberus, of which Gideon was a crew member and the sole survivor.  He protects Captain Gideon, whom he does not always obey.  Galen is a man who keeps secrets, such as the origin of the technology he and his fellow techno-mages use to simulate magic.  It is Shadow technology.  And Galen harbors deep and abiding anger, which he directs at God or the universe.

Dr. Sarah Chambers is the Chief Medical Officer of the Excalibur.  She has the most personal stake in finding a cure for the Drakh plague, for her sister is on Earth.  An expert in viruses, Dr. Chambers is qualified for her post.

Dureena Nafeel is a thief, and, as she puts it, “a damn good one.”  Her skills in breaking and entering prove invaluable many times.  The Shadows destroyed her home planet, Zander Prime, during the last days of the Shadow War, in 2261.  She is not the last member of her species, but she will be soon; the remaining survivors are dying of the Drakh plague.  Dureena is a real spitfire; to call her assertive is to understate reality.  A former slave, she has had a difficult life, and has learned how to survive.

The Excalibur Outside Babylon 5

I do not know how to review the Crusade episodes in the same way as Babylon 5 episodes, for Crusade never had a chance to begin or develop any story arcs.  I can watch an early Season 1 B5 episode and identify what flows from it, but this is not an option with Crusade.

I would write that the series ended because of creative differences between TNT executives and series creator J. Michael Straczynski (JMS), but that explanation would imply that the TNT executives had any creativity within them.  Anyhow, the suits at TNT wanted JMS to make a show that would appeal to wrestling fans, and JMS refused.  Instead, JMS wanted to make a show with action in it yet a great deal of philosophy.  In my favorite episode, The Needs of Earth, an alien is on the run from his government.  He has in his care files going back hundreds of  years, and the government wants all of the back.  These files contain art and music, what the alien consider the most important knowledge in a society that has turned its back on those aspects of culture.  Dr. Chambers recognizes that Earth needs a cure for the Drakh plague, but that not that alone; people need hope, art, and beauty, too.

One obvious curiosity of this series is the uniforms.  The uniforms in the first episodes filmed the the last one aired are gray and red:

Yet the uniforms in the last episodes filmed and first one aired are black:

There is an explanation for this.  TNT instigated a redesign of the uniforms, for the better.  This change caused the need to change the order of episode broadcast.  Racing the Night (with gray uniforms) was supposed to be the first episode aired.  But TNT insisted that JMS write a new first episode, the clunky War Zone (with black uniforms).  The rearrangement of episodes does lead to some interesting experiences, such as Lochley and Gideon meeting for the first time twice, characters in Racing the Night explaining parts of their backgrounds when black uniform episodes have revealed those facts already, et cetera.

If the series had continued, the black uniforms would have returned as the clothing of choice, thanks to Gideon arranging a laundry “accident.”

The crew of the Excalibur would have found a cure for the Drakh plague by the middle of the second season, had there been one.  By this time, Gideon and crew would have discovered Earth Force black ops involving Shadow technology forbidden by the Interstellar Alliance, and the series would have taken on a very different complexion for the remainder of its five-year run.  But, thanks to TNT, nobody will have the pleasure of seeing that play out.    So I savor what little the suits have allowed me.



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

Posted October 16, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Crusade

Feast of St. Josephine Bakhita (February 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Josephine Bakhita

Image in the Public Domain



Roman Catholic Nun

Slavery exists in various forms, all of which are abominations.  St. Josephine Bakhita‘s life calls our attention to this institution, which continues to exist.

Above:  A Map of Darfur Today

Image in the Public Domain

Born in Olgossa, Darfur, The Sudan, the saint became a slave at nine years of age.  (Some sources say this happened at age seven or twelve, but the saints book I consulted says nine.)  During her time in slavery, several masters owned her, and some abused her in various ways, including scarring her and tattooing her body extensively.  And one master forced her to convert to Islam.  The trauma of slavery caused the saint to forget her birth name, but slavers gave her the name Bakhita, which means “fortunate.”

Callisto Legnani, the Italian Consul to The Sudan, purchased Bakhita in 1882.  Two years later, he gave her to Augusto Michieli, his friend, who took her to Italy in 1885.  The saint functioned as nanny to Michieli’s daughter, Mimmina.  During this time Bakhita decided to join the Roman Catholic Church, an institution she joined in 1890.  This confirmation (under the baptismal name Josephine) resulted from the fact that the saint stayed at a Canossian convent when Augusto Michieli was away on business.

Afterward, when Michieli tried to take Josephine back to Africa, she refused.  A court case ensued, and the verdict was that since there was no slavery in Italy, she had been free since 1885.  The path was clear for the saint to become a nun, which she did in 1896.

A free woman and a Canossian nun, St. Josephine Bakhita was fortunate indeed.  She dedicated most of her adult life to the simple yet vital ministry of hospitality.  She engaged in many mundane tasks, such as cooking and sewing, and was kind to many children.  She was beloved by many, especially her fellow nuns.  “Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who love him.  What a great grace it is to know God!”, she said.

The saint was ill at the end of her life.  Her mind returned to the agony of slavery toward the end, but her last words (“Madonna! Madonna!”) were hopeful.

Pope John Paul II beatified St. Josephine Bakhita in 1992 and canonized her eight years later.

This is a dramatic story.  Your story might not be so dramatic, and mine is not, either.  Yet all of us can be kind and loving to others.  May we do so.


Micah 6:6-8

Psalm 84

Galatians 3:26-29

Matthew 25:31-46

God of liberation, we thank you for your graces extended to and expressed through the life of St. Josephine Bakhita.  May we take courage from her example and show your love to those around us.  In the name of the Father, who loves us; Jesus, who identifies with our suffering; and the Holy Spirit, who is ever with us.  Amen.





Revised on November 29, 2016


Babylon 5–A Call to Arms (1999)   1 comment

President Sheridan, Back in the Saddle


A Call to Arms is the darkest in tone of all the Babylon 5 movies.  And, if it is not the best of them, it is the second best.  The stakes are high, for they are nothing less than the fate of all life on Earth.

It is November 2266, in the days approaching the fifth anniversary of the founding of the Interstellar Alliance.  Despite the Alliance’s difficult first year, Sheridan has succeeded in establishing peace among the member governments.  He has moved past his rookie mistakes and grown into his office, but his days of adventure are not over.  Also, the Telepath War is a recent memory, with a memorial to those who died in that conflict planned for the near future.  Psi-Corps is no more, and Lyta Alexander and Lennier are both dead.  Much has changed since Sheridan and Delenn relocated Interstellar Alliance headquarters to Minbar, but one legacy of the Shadow War is about to endanger Earth.

As the late Gilda Radner said in character, “It’s always something.”

Sheridan and Garibaldi Discuss the New Victory Class Vessels

Sheridan and Garibaldi rendezvous in outer space.  This is a top-secret operation, for they are meeting to discuss the new Victory Class vessels, of which few people know anything.  The Victory Class is the product of reverse engineering Minbari and Vorlon technology; these ships are advanced and untested.

Galen, in Shadows

Sheridan and Garibaldi think that nobody can follow them, but they do not know that Galen, a techno-mage is observing them from afar.  Techno-mages, who use technology to simulate magic, appeared first in the second season (set in 2258), when they were traveling to parts of space unknown in advance of what turned out to be the Shadow War.  They are still hiding out in 2266, and Galen considers this a mistake.  The other techno-mages call him to account for making contact with the outside.


Yet Galen persists.  Through technology he warns Sheridan about an impending threat.  The first such contact occurs as Sheridan and Garibaldi inspect the two Victory class prototypes, the Excalibur and the Victory.  Mr. Drake, who is in charge of overseeing the final stages of construction and testing, is a perfectionist who takes his job very slowly.  Yet Garibaldi, to whom Drake answers, forces him to speed up the process.  The ships must be ready soon.

The Victory Class design includes a really big and powerful gun, but with a caveat:  it uses so much power that the ship is essentially a sitting duck for one minute after firing it.

Dureena Nafeel

Galen continues to contact Sheridan, as well as to warn others.  Among these is Dureena Nafeel, who is, to the best of her knowledge, the last of her species.  The Shadows destroyed her homeworld, Zander Prime, during the final days of the Shadow War.  She has had a hard life, and is a spitfire.  Dureena is also a member of the Thieving Guild, and she makes contact with the local on Babylon 5 after arriving at the station.

First, however, she must check in with Security Chief Zack Allan, who tells her to surrender all weapons.  She has many weapons, hence Zack’s facial expression.

Captain Leonard Anderson of the E.A.S. Charon

Galen has also made contact with Earth Force captain Leonard Anderson, who goes AWOL to travel to Babylon 5, to rendezvous with Dureena and Sheridan.  Galen has shown each of these three individuals the faces of the others, as well as that of a Drazi.

Both Garibaldi and Lochley think that Sheridan might not be firing on all thrusters, but the coincidences confirm everything he has said.  These three people who have never met each other recognize each other, and they know many of the same facts, courtesy of Galen.  The name Daltron VII comes up; Galen said that Earth might suffer the same fate as Daltron VII.

Anderson is a heroic figure.  He did not go AWOL lightly.  He is married with a young daughter, whom he has promised to protect from monsters.  The monsters are quite real, and they have something to do with Daltron VII.  And he regrets not having sided with Sheridan during the Earth Civil War; this is his chance to do the right thing.  Sheridan and Delenn depart Babylon 5 on board the Charon, whose crew staffs the Victory and the Excalibur.  (If you are the President of the Interstellar Alliance, is it stealing if you take ships you technically own?)  Sheridan commands the Excalibur, and Anderson is in charge on the Victory.

The Excalibur and the Victory arrive at Daltron VII, now a dead world.  It has only been a dead world for a week, though.  And Shadow technology caused this.  The Shadows left the galaxy six years ago, so another species has their technology.

Meanwhile, Garibaldi (in the company of Drake) pursues Sheridan to Daltron VII on a White Star.

A Drakh (yes, those aliens who took over Centauri Prime) fleet approaches the Victory and the Excalibur at Daltron VII.  The Drakh ships receive a transmission then attack the two ships.  Our heroes defeat the Drakh fleet yet detect a death cloud, at the heart of which is the last Shadow planet killer; it is headed for Earth.  Sheridan, Anderson, and their crews enter hyperspace and head for Earth.  There is no time to lose.

Sheridan notifies Delenn, who is summoning Alliance ships as quickly as possible, but they will probably not arrive in time.  Then he calls Lochley at Babylon 5.   She is skeptical, but he asks her to trust him to notify the Earth Alliance government of the impending threat.  Sheridan is not popular on Earth, and the administration is more likely to listen to Captain Lochley.  She agrees, and acts accordingly.

Garibaldi discovers the source of the transmission to the Drakh ships; it was Drake, aboard the White Star.  Garibaldi can be very persuasive when angry.

The death cloud reaches Earth, but so do the Excalibur and the Victory.  And the administration has sent forces, too.  The defenders of Earth destroy the planet killer at the heart of the death cloud, but Captain Anderson and the crew of the Victory give their lives in the process.  Anderson died keeping his promise to his daughter; he fought the monsters.

In a final act of spite, the Drakh forces seed Earth’s atmosphere with a plague, which is technological, not biological.  Earth is now under quarantine.

The Excalibur Outside Babylon 5

Sheridan briefs Lochley and Garibaldi on Babylon 5.  The plague will kill all life on Earth in five years unless someone can find a cure.  This cure will probably come from outer space, since the plague did.  The Rangers will aid in the quest for the cure, and the Excalibur will be the main vessel whose crew is assigned to lead the mission.  Failure is not an option.

A Call to Arms sets the stage for the short-lived follow-up series, Crusade, set mainly aboard the Excalibur.  Suspense is not an issue, for we know from Sleeping in Light that Earth is plague-free in 2281, fifteen years later.  But the important part is the journey, not the destination. J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) writes television programming about people within plots, not mainly about plots with people in them.

So it is that my next post in this series will be an overview of the Crusade series.



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

Posted October 15, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Babylon 5 Movies, Crusade