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….”

(NINETY-FIRST IN A SERIES OF BLOG POSTS)

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).  https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/babylon-5-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:  https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/babylon-5-war-without-end-parts-i-and-ii-1996/.  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.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 20, 2010 COMMON ERA

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

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

2 responses to “Babylon 5–In the Beginning (1998)

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  1. Pingback: Guide Post: Babylon 5 (Through 2257) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Pingback: Guide Post: Babylon 5 (2263 and Later) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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