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

One response to “Babylon 5–Sleeping in Light (1998)

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

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