Saturday, 9 December 2017

BABYLON 5 Rewatch: Season 3, Episodes 15-16

C15: Interludes and Examinations
Airdates: 6 May 1996 (US), 28 July 1996 (UK)
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Jésus Treviño
Cast: Dr. Lillian Hobbs (Jennifer Balgobin), David Sheridan (Rance Howard), Morden (Ed Wasser), Ambassador Kosh (Ardwight Chamberlain & Jeffrey Willerth – uncredited), Vendor (Jan Rabson), Brakiri Ambassador (Jonathan Chapman), Ranger (Glenn Martin), Medtech (Doug Tompos), Tech (Mark Ciglar)

Date: 3 August 2260.

Plot:    Ten days have begun since the Shadows launched their assault on the Brakiri and other worlds. The attacks are random, senseless and unpredictable. Unfortunately, the League worlds are unable to stand up to the Shadow vessels, but on the other hand the Shadows have not yet attacked their homeworlds. Sheridan calls a meeting with the Brakiri and Gaim ambassadors, since the Brakiri have been hardest hit and the Gaim are their nearest neighbours. The Gaim have not yet been attacked and refuse to draw attention to themselves by aiding the Brakiri. After some negotiation, the Gaim agree to send ships to help the Brakiri, but only if Sheridan demonstrates they actually stand a chance against the Shadows by providing them with a victory.

Morden arrives on the station in secret, bribing a guard to circumvent Customs. He confronts Londo, annoyed that Londo has somehow arranged for all contact between Morden and the Centauri Royal Court to be cut off. Londo refuses to heed Morden’s threats or warnings and walks off, telling Morden that he cannot do anything more to him than has already been done. Morden notices that Vir is quite busy arranging something for Londo and learns that Londo’s one-time lover, Adira Tyree, is returning to the station after two and a half years. Morden begins plotting something...

Dr. Franklin loses his temper during an operation and begins to crack up under the stress. Garibaldi and Franklin’s assistant, Dr. Hobbs, both notice this. Franklin is forced to admit he has become addicted to stims and takes a leave of absence from Medlab until he can sort himself out.

Sheridan goes to see Ambassador Kosh and tells him that the War Council they have established is demanding to see a victory over the Shadows, to see that they are not invulnerable, before committing themselves to open warfare against them. Sheridan requests that the Vorlons intercept and destroy a Shadow taskforce, but Kosh refuses. It is not yet time for the Vorlons to enter the fray. Sheridan becomes annoyed, telling Kosh that he and Delenn have put themselves, their careers and their lives on the line because the Vorlons have told them to and now the Vorlons are needed they refuse to get involved? Kosh becomes incensed and comes close to killing Sheridan before admitting he may be right. He warns him that in return for this favour he will not be able to help Sheridan if and when he goes to Z’ha’dum.

A large number of Shadow warships jump into a Brakiri system and go on the rampage. However, a Vorlon fleet appears, led by a huge mothership cruiser. The Shadows, taken completely by surprise, are destroyed and the Vorlons suffer no losses. The League worlds are heartened and sign a formal treaty of alliance with each other, the Minbari, the Narn rebels and Babylon 5. Sheridan’s hope of uniting the lesser worlds against the Shadows seems to be on the verge of actually happening. However, Morden learns of these events and breaks into Kosh’s quarters. His two Shadow associates materialise and attack the Vorlon. Sheridan has an odd dream in which his dad appears and tells him he was too proud and too afraid to help him until it was necessary. A terrific blast of light fills the station and Sheridan discovers that Kosh is dead, murdered by the Shadows in retribution for the Vorlons involving themselves in the war. The Vorlon homeworld sends word that a replacement is on the way and instructs them to place Kosh’s belongings in his ship. The ship then departs the station and dives head-first into the Epsilon Eridani star.

Londo is shocked to discover that Adira is dead, poisoned on the transport before it docks with Babylon 5. He goes to Morden and learns that, just before they broke off relations, Refa expressed his anger and hatred of Londo to Morden for poisoning him and wanted to even the score. Londo demands Morden’s help in getting even, in return for re-opening the doors on Centauri Prime he closed, and Morden agrees.


Dating the Episode: The date is given in dialogue. It is two years to the day since Morden’s first visit to Babylon 5 in episode A13.

The Arc: The Vorlons intervene against the Shadow invasion, although this is a one-off engagement, not a full commitment to the war effort. The Shadows murder Kosh in retaliation, confirming there are strict rules of engagement between the two species (who presumably are otherwise quite evenly matched, both being First Ones). These plot points are followed up on in episodes C18, D1 and D3-D6. The rules of engagement between the Vorlons and Shadows are established in episodes C22 and the start of Season 4.

The Shadows and Kosh previously skirmished on the station in episode A13. According to Straczynski, that was Kosh firing a warning shot at the Shadows.

Morden arranges for Adira’s death and frames Refa. Londo follows this up in episode C20. Morden is free again to pursue his plans on Centauri Prime, which we see in D1, D4 and D6. Londo’s new pact with Morden may be one of the chances he had to avert his destiny but failed to do so, established in episode C9.

Londo’s declaration that the galaxy can burn for all he cares is a reference to Emperor Turhan’s conversation with Kosh in episode B9: “How will this end?” “In fire.”

The League worlds, who were fighting each other only recently, are united against the Shadows after the Vorlons demonstrate that the Shadows are not invulnerable. In effect, they cease to be part of the Babylon 5 Advisory Council and are now members of the hitherto secret War Council established by Delenn in episode C1. The Advisory Council only briefly reconvenes following this episode (in D15 and D19).

Franklin’s departure from Medlab sets up the events of episodes C18, C19 and C21.

This episode marks the first major appearance of the Gaim (they have appeared in occasional background shots going back to the end of Season 2), a relatively powerful insectoid race who have little affairs in the interests of outsiders despite being members of the League of Non-aligned Worlds. The Shadow offensive has caused them to have more contact with Babylon 5 and their neighbours, but they are unwilling to commit to the battle without additional support. They have a larger role in episode E1, when we discover what they look like.

Background: Vorlon heavy cruisers have forcefields which deflect the energy from enemy weapons fire. This is a massively improved and souped-up version of the White Star’s defence system seen in the next episode. It turns out that whilst Shadow and Vorlon fighters are matches for one another, the apparent equivalent of the Shadow warship we all know and love is the Vorlon transport that Kosh uses. Apparently, the Shadows don’t have an equal vessel to the gargantuan mothership cruisers the Vorlons use. Despite this hint that the Vorlons may be technologically superior to the Shadows, the Vorlons still use traditional jump points rather than the phasing system the Shadows use.

Most Vorlon ships are green, but some of them are coloured red. There seems to be no major significance to this. According to Straczynski, the Vorlon fighters are like automated drones, the transports are each associated with a single Vorlon and the heavy cruisers have multiple Vorlon crewmembers.

Vorlon ships have a symbiotic relationship with their owners and cannot survive without them once they have bonded together. The Vorlons also seem to have a symbiotic relationship with one another: they knew immediately that Kosh was dead. However, they may also have realised that Kosh’s death would be the result of their military intervention.

The Shadows ask Morden for advice on “lower-species politics”. He tends to be subtler than they are in manipulating people emotionally, which the Shadows don’t really understand.

According to J. Michael Straczynski, the Soul Hunters understand that trying to capture a Vorlon’s soul would not go well for them or their species.

Also according to Straczynski, Kosh did not kill any of the attacking Shadows but injured all of them.

Pak’ma’ra have three lungs and two pulmonary systems.

References: The Gaim were named for writer Neil Gaiman, whose work on Sandman Straczynski hugely admired. Gaiman and Straczynski would become friends and Gaiman would write episode E8 for Straczynski. The Gaim’s helmet is based on the helmet of the titular character from Sandman.

Kosh’s death has many similarities with the story of Jesus awaiting his inevitable execution as outlined in episode C4.

The background of Brakiri space is an image taken from the Hubble Space Telescope. It appears to be a false-colour, green-tinged image of part of the Orion Nebula.

Unanswered Questions: What help does Morden provide in dealing with Refa? Later episodes don’t seem to reference it at all.

How does Morden’s agent get onto the transport to kill Adira when it was already en route in hyperspace?

What does Kosh mean when says “There are still few of us”? Have the Vorlons been partially asleep since the last war, like the Shadows?

Given that the Vorlons and Shadows are both First Ones and seem technologically matched (if not even, in the military arena, with a slight advantage to the Vorlons), why do the Vorlons still use conventional jump points rather than the more sophisticated FTL systems used by the Shadows and the Walkers of Sigma 957?

Given that the Vorlons all appear to be natural telepaths, why can’t they overwhelm the Shadow ships with psi-powers and destroy them? One Shadow ship (the one taken down by the fighters) seems to be neutralised in this fashion but the rest are unaffected.

The Shadows seem surprisingly happy to accept the death of one solitary Vorlon in return for the destruction of three or four of their warships and numerous fighters.

Mistakes, Retcons and Lamentations: Weirdly, the Shadow warships are consistently shown in this episode flying backwards.

When Franklin leaves MedLab at the end of the episode, the door “sticks” as it tries to open and close.

Kosh says that the Vorlons do not have enough ships to take part in the conflict, but this is contradicted by the pilot episode, where 200 Vorlon ships surround Babylon 5, and later episodes, where the Vorlon fleet is shown to number thousands of vessels. It’s possible that Kosh is lying or dissembling.

Franklin says in this episode that he doesn’t have a problem, but in C11 he tells Delenn he did. It’s possible that he has moments of brutal honesty and other moments of denial about his issue.

Behind the Scenes: In Straczynski’s original plan, Kosh was going to die later on, maybe at the end of the season. However, he realised whilst writing this episode that it made more sense and was more dramatically effective to do it earlier.

Kosh’s death surprised the crew and led to some not talking to Straczynski for a day or two, which Straczynski took as a compliment considering that Kosh was a walking shower curtain with no discernible emotion or facial features.

This episode marks, in Straczynski’s view, the shift of the series from the “hero-arc” to the “myth-arc” part of the storyline. He adopted a different writing style for the episode with Ivanova’s voice-over and the director came up with the unusual transitions in the pre-credits sequence.

This episode marks the first appearance of the Gaim. Ambassador Shelarr’s voice actor is uncredited.

Richard Biggs researched addiction cases for his performance as Franklin. He realised that many people did eventually realised they had a problem but weren’t motivated to change their behaviour until shocked into it. He cited actor Kelsey Grammar’s problems with alcohol, including that fact that he was aware of the issue but it took a car accident to shock him into addressing it.

Bruce Boxleitner found the angry confrontation scene with Kosh challenging but rewarding. In rehearsals and early takes he went right to the maximum energy and then toned it down in subsequent takes until Straczynski was happy with the final results. Boxleitner also praised Jeffrey Willerth’s performance, noting that he was often underestimated in how much performance he put into what was essentially walking around in a shower curtain.

According to Boxleitner, Straczynski stopped by in passing to say, “Good scene with Kosh”. Straczynski was sparing with his praise to the actors, so Boxleitner felt very pleased.

The character of Dr. Lilian Hobbs was named after a fan who won the bidding at a charity auction at the 1995 Wolf 359 Convention in Manchester.

A short scene with a Ranger spying on Morden and being killed was cut for time and redundancy. However, you can still see the Ranger in MedLab when Garibaldi brings him in.

Familiar Faces: It’s worth noting the uncredited contribution of Jeffrey Willerth to Babylon 5 at this point, given the threatening physicality of Kosh’s encounter suit when he faces down Sheridan. Willerth played the role of Ambassador Kosh, as in he was the guy actually inside the encounter suit whilst Ardwight Chamberlain provided the voice. Willerth was a little uncomfortable that he was never credited for playing Kosh. Agreeing, J. Michael Straczynski gave him a second role as a producer’s assistant on the show in the last two seasons and the TV movies. Willerth is a highly versatile Hollywood technician, having worked on TV shows and movies as an assistant director, cinematographer, camera operator, visual effect technician (most notably on X-Men 2, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and The Faculty). He had an uncomfortable moment during the final season of Babylon 5 (when communications between the cast and crew had become strained due to TNT’s takeover of the show and confusing information being sent out) when he found an actor going through an unfinished script to find out if their character was in it. He had to report the incident, leading to friction with the cast, although this later alleviated. Willerth was also married to Patricia Tallman (Lyta Alexander) between 1999 and 2008.

Jennifer Balgobin (Dr. Lilian Hobbs) began her career with a small role in Repo Man before going onto appear in Weird Science, Cagney & Lacey, Beauty and the Beast, ER and Space: Above and Beyond. Babylon 5 was her final role before retiring from acting, but she did return to appear in Repo Chick, Alex Cox’s “non-sequel” to Repo Man, in 2009.

Jan Rabson (Vendor) is an extraordinarily prolific voice actor, best-known for playing the voice of Tetsuo in the English dub of Akira. He also played Sparks in Toy Story 3, Axel in A Bug’s Life and Larry Laffer in the Leisure Suit Larry game franchise, starting with the sixth instalment. He is also one of Pixar’s go-to voice actors for crowd scenes and miscellaneous voices.

Review: On a personal level, this is a memorable episode for myself as it was the first episode of television that I ever read up about on the internet before it aired in the UK, and was promptly spoiled on the ending. Aside from that, this is a top-class episode of Babylon 5. There’s some new ideas in both the writing and the direction, the B-plot following Franklin is powerful in its own right, there’s a great space battle and the scene between Kosh and Sheridan is electric. If the episode has a problem it’s that it’s not quite transformative enough and a few elements (like Londo and Morden’s renewal of their alliance) aren’t developed far enough in future episodes. ****½

Morden: “If you violate the terms of our agreement, my associates may turn their eye towards your homeworld”
Londo: “And we shall pluck it out.”

Morden: “Anything I can do to help?”
Vir: “Short of dying? No, not a thing.”

Sheridan: “You already said, if I go to Z’ha’dum, I’ll die.”
Kosh: “Yes. Now.”

Londo: “Everybody around me dies, Mr. Morden, except the ones that most deserve it.”

Londo: “Let the rest of the galaxy burn. I don’t care anymore.”

C16: War Without End, Part 1
Airdates: 13 May 1996 (US), 4 August 1996 (UK)
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Michael Laurence Vejar
Cast: Jeffrey Sinclair (Michael O’Hare), Zathras (Tim Choate), Rathenn (Time Winters), Lt. David Corwin (Joshua Cox), Spragg (Eric Zivot), Centauri Guard (Kevin Fry), Vorlon Ambassador (Ardwight Chamberlain – uncredited)

Date: 11 August 2260.

Plot:    On Minbar a senior member of the Rangers and an ex-member of the Grey Council, Rathenn, goes to see the Entil’zha or Ranger One, leader of the Rangers: Ambassador Jeffrey Sinclair. He tells him that just over nine centuries ago a box was placed in a sanctuary in the main temple with strict instructions that it was not to be opened until this date. When it was opened, a private message was found with Sinclair’s name on it. The message was left by Valen himself. Rathenn, rather stunned, asks how could he have known Sinclair’s name. Sinclair leaves Minbar for Babylon 5, watched by an anxious Rathenn and the Vorlon ambassador to Minbar, who says that Sinclair is returning to the end of the beginning.

Meanwhile, Babylon 5 receives a distress call, apparently from itself. The signal is coming from Sector 14, from the time rift caused by the brief reappearance of Babylon 4 two years ago. Garibaldi takes out a Starfury to investigate further. Sinclair arrives on board and meets with Ivanova, Sheridan, Marcus and Delenn. Garibaldi reports that a tachyon beam is being aimed into the rift from the Great Machine on Epsilon III and the rift is getting bigger. Delenn tells them that they must board the White Star at once and head for Sector 14. She will explain what is going on en route. They head off, pursued by a ship from Epsilon III.

Delenn explains what is going on. Six years ago Babylon 4 disappeared without a trace, but reappeared two years ago when Sinclair and Garibaldi led an evacuation of the crew. The station then disappeared again. The only clue they had was that the station was being taken to lead the fight in a war between the forces of light and dark. Delenn is now prepared to reveal when that war was. During the Great War against the Shadows a thousand years ago the Minbari command post, a Minbari Starbase, was destroyed. The war turned against the alliance and they were almost overwhelmed until a replacement arrived: Babylon 4. Using B4 as their base, the Minbari and other races in the alliance (including the Vorlons) turned the tide, destroyed more than two-thirds of the Shadow fleet and forced them to abandon Z’ha’dum. According to strategy computations, if Babylon 4 had not appeared as a rallying point for the alliance, the war would have ended in stalemate at best and the Shadows would have had three times the number of ships they actually do at the moment. That is why they are still moving slowly. Sheridan isn’t sure how all this fits together, until Delenn shows him records that the Great Machine recorded six years ago. It shows Shadow fighters, piloted by the allies of the Shadows, maneuvering a fusion bomb towards Babylon 4, presumably trying to make it look like the station was destroyed in an accident. The same images show the White Star destroying the Shadow vessels. Sheridan is unwilling to fulfil the circular history by going back in time through the rift and saving B4, but Delenn tells him that the distress call they are receiving is a warning of what will happen if they don’t. Garibaldi confirms this when he arrives at the rift and receives a visual record of Babylon 5 being destroyed in eight days’ time by a huge Shadow fleet. Both Garibaldi and Sinclair relate this to the vision they had when on Babylon 4 the last time. Sheridan reluctantly agrees to head back in time and orders Garibaldi back to the station.

The ship from Epsilon III catches up with the White Star and docks. Its occupant is Zathras, an associate of Draal’s and the strange alien Sinclair saw last time on B4. Zathras equips the crew of the White Star with ‘time stabilisers’ to make sure they don’t become ‘unstuck’ in time during their mission. The White Star then enters the rift. It emerges six years earlier in 2254 and locates four Shadow fighters escorting the fusion bomb towards the station. The White Star destroys the bomb and the fighters, but is caught on the edge of the blast. Sheridan’s time stabiliser malfunctions and he vanishes from the ship. Sinclair assumes command and the White Star locks onto the hull of Babylon 4 (whose sensors have been disabled by the EMP from the blast) and the crew burn their way through.

Sheridan wakes up, battered and bruised, and is shocked to find himself in the Royal Palace on Centauri Prime. Londo, wearing the regalia of the Emperor, tells him that Sheridan will now pay for what he has unleashed upon his world. Sheridan is forced to look out the window and sees the capital city of Centauri Prime in flames...

Dating the Episode: It is eight days since the events of the previous episode. Other scenes take place in 2254 and January 2278.

The Arc: This episode explains some of what happened in episode A20. The B5 crew stole (or are about to steal) Babylon 4 and sent it back in time to be used as a base of operations in the Great War of 1,000 years ago. If they fail, history will change and the Shadows will be three times stronger today than they previously were. If that happens, Babylon 5 will be destroyed in eight days’ time during the next major Shadow offensive. This “alternate” future is what Sinclair and Garibaldi saw in episode A20 and also relates to the vision Lady Ladira had in episode A13. Once the B5 crew stop the destruction of B4 by the Shadow fighters it seems that time becomes ‘locked’ into a certain future and Sheridan is sent hurtling into this determined future, to a burning Centauri Prime with Londo as Emperor. We find out a little bit about why the city is ablaze in the next episode and TVM1, but not the full story until NOV13-NOV15.

Zathras, seen in A20 and mentioned in B20, is an associate of Draal’s. His race tends the Great Machine on Epsilon III, working as mechanics and servants. The Great Machine has been around for 500 years and has extensive records of what has happened in space near it.

It is implied that the Shadows themselves aren’t trying to destroy Babylon 4, rather their allies are. Presumably this is because the Shadows are still asleep on Z’ha’dum in 2254 and will be until early 2257 (as related in episode B17). However, episode C8 seems to contradict this by having the Shadows turn up to rescue one of their ships buried on Mars in 2253. Of course, the same allies might have been flying the larger warships as well but then why don’t the allies wake up the Shadows themselves rather than wait for the IPX team to turn up at Z’ha’dum? There is another hint in this episode, namely that Delenn says that the Shadows were driven from Z’ha’dum after the Great War. Maybe they were asleep somewhere else, where even their allies couldn’t find them, and only returned to Z’ha’dum once they had awoken (which could have been any time, really). This implies that the IPX team merely turned up at the wrong moment and had nothing to do with actually awakening the Shadows. This is supported, somewhat, in episodes C22 and D1 and in NOV7 as well.

A major complaint levelled against the White Star is that its weapon system is not capable of damaging Shadow vessels. However, Lennier explains that its weapons and defence systems are based on Vorlon organic technology and “learn” from experience. Their previous encounters with Shadow ships in C1 and C8 have (presumably) strengthened the power of their weapons against Shadow armour and (definitely) the skin of the ship is now protected by a Vorlon forcefield system which deflects the energy from a weapons blast, leaving only the kinetic damage from the impact. Episode C18 elaborates on this further.

This episode introduces the second of only three Vorlon characters we ever meet in the show. This Vorlon – the Ambassador to Minbari – is never named, unlike Kosh and Ulkesh (see C18 as well) and his eventual fate is unknown. Contrary to some suggestions, he is not Ulkesh: he is not presented as a threatening or negative figure, Rathenn seems to trust him and he is willing to talk to the lesser races whilst Ulkesh generally ignores them. Also, he has a different voice and his encounter suit is a somewhat different colour.

We find out why the Centauri capital is in flames in the future in NOV15.

NOV9 fills in what happened to Sinclair after his arrival on Minbar.

In A20 Ivanova says that “next time” Babylon 4 reappears, she’ll go on the adventure and Garibaldi can stay behind, which is more or less what happens.

Background: This is the first time we see Minbar in the show, although it had previously appeared in the comics. The city we see in this episode is Yedor, the capital city of Minbar. The Rangers are represented through the religious caste headquarters in the city, but their main training facilities are located in another city, Tuzanor. Minbar is colder than Earth, with its cities tending to be built out of crystal.

The Minbari do not have the technology to control time fields or attempt time travel, although, as Delenn hints and JMS confirms, they have done some experiments in this area.

This episode introduces the term “Entil’Zha” for Ranger One, although it was later retconned into the Special Edition of the pilot.

Valen led the Minbari during the last Great War against the Shadows, one thousand years ago. He died just over 900 years ago, confirming that Minbari are somewhat longer-lived than humans (see the next episode as well).

The Minbari and their allies destroyed two-thirds of the Shadow fleet during the last Great War, explaining why they are moving so circumspectly in the current conflict.

Zack Allen arrived on Babylon 5 a few days before Sinclair’s departure at the start of Season 2.

According to Straczynski, Sinclair gained his scar in combat training with the Rangers.

Sheridan and Sinclair met on Mars during the Mars Riots, or Food Riots. This is also where Sinclair met Laurel Takashima.

The Babylon 5 RPG from Mongoose Publishing names the Minbari Starbase as the Intarii, and claims that Babylon 4 was renamed as the Intiera’zhe, the “Star of Hope”, after the Minbari took possession of it. It also claims that the Vorlons retrofitted with B4 with heavy weapons and the Vorlon energy shield system so it would not be as vulnerable to Shadow attack. Although the RPG originally drew on notes provided by Fiona Avery (Straczynski’s assistant and effective B5 keeper of lore), these elements do not recur anywhere else and are not considered canonical.

References: “Butch and Sundance” is a reference to the antics of Robert Leroy Parker, known as “Butch Cassidy”, and his “Wild Bunch” of outlaws, most famous of whom was Harry Alonzo Longabaugh, the “Sundance Kid”. The two men, along with the rest of the Wild Bunch, committed numerous robberies, hold-ups and bank raids in the United States in the 1890s. The Pinkerton Detective Agency almost ran the robbers to ground, so they scattered, with Butch and Sundance fleeing to South America. They continued criminal activity in Argentina and Bolivia. They were apparently killed in San Vicente, Bolivia on 6 November 1908, in a shootout with police. However, some claim that they survived the shootout, with Cassidy’s family claiming that he visited their family home in 1924 before dying in Nevada in the 1940s. DNA testing on the alleged remains of Butch and Sundance could not find a match with any of their living relatives, suggesting that it is possible they indeed survived. The story was famously filmed in 1969 as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, with Robert Redford playing Cassidy and Paul Newman playing the Sundance Kid.

“Lewis and Clark” is a reference to the American Corps of Discovery expedition of 1804-06, commanded by Captain Meriwether Lewis and Second Lt. William Clark. The expedition, commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson, set out from St. Louis with orders to map the westernmost extent of North America which the United States had acquired from France in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, although the expedition went further than originally planned by crossing the Rocky Mountains into Oregon Territory. The expedition was also ordered to investigate flora and fauna along the way, establish relations with any native tribes and chart the course of the Missouri River. The expedition set out on 14 May 1804 and reached the Pacific Ocean on 20 November 1805. They returned (via a slightly different route) and reached St. Louis on 23 September 1806. The expedition was hugely successful, with only one fatality (due to a burst appendix) and friendly relations established with dozens of native tribes.

“Lucy and Ethel” is a reference to the sitcom I Love Lucy (1951-57) and its sequel series (The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour and The Lucy Show), where Lucy and Ethel are the two female leads and close friends who often get into hijinks. The success of the series allowed its star, Lucille Ball (Lucy) to pursue a career in production and management. As the head of Desliu Studios, she was responsible for the commissioning of both Star Trek and Mission: Impossible in the 1960s.

Unanswered Questions: What is the energy field or beam that “hits” Sheridan’s time stabiliser and makes him vanish? This is never explained.

Who built the Great Machine on Epsilon III? We’ve asked this before but it’s worth reiterating at this point we simply don’t have a clue, which is weird given how important it is in the series.

Where did Zathras’s race come from?

Mistakes, Retcons and Lamentations: This episode is effectively a massive retcon that has to explain the events of A20 (Babylon Squared) despite almost all of the underlying assumptions that episode was written under – that it was setting up a ten-year storyline, that Sinclair would be the hero of the entire saga, that Babylon 4 was going into the future to set up a spin-off series – completely transforming in the intervening period. As a result, it’s unsurprising that there are significant minor discontinuities between the two stories.

The Ranger temple set is – a bit too obviously – a redress of the Babylon 5 Zen Garden set.

Why does Sinclair introduce himself to Sheridan by name when he’s already met him previously?

Sector 14 is said to have been under quarantine for three years, but this does not track with the date of either Babylon 4’s disappearance (six years ago) or its return (two years ago).

In episode C1 Delenn said that she had never seen a Shadow warship before, not even on a monitor screen. However, in this episode Delenn shows visual records from the last Great War that the Minbari Grey Council have maintained for a thousand years, clearing showing Shadow warships in action.

Although Minbari warcruiser design has (somewhat) advanced in the intervening 1,000 years, they still seem to use the same fighters and flyers. Is this really credible?

Delenn says that she only recognised Babylon 4 as being the station from the past that saved the day during the last war when she arrived on B5 and presumably accessed history records about B4’s disappearance, or recognised the design similarities with B5. However, if the Minbari co-sponsored the entire Babylon Project, wouldn’t they have been sent specs and designs for the earlier stations? In addition, the Minbari upping their financial commitment to help get Babylon 5 built and Sinclair appointed as commander makes far more sense if they are aware of Babylon 4’s importance and that of its successor station.

Garibaldi says that he experienced a time-flash showing Babylon 5 being boarded by hostile forces during the events of episode A20. However, it was Sinclair who saw this vision. Straczynski indicates that there’s no reason Garibaldi didn’t see the same thing (either then or during another temporal flash) but it feels a bit like a retcon.

During Ivanova’s transmission from the alternate future, the Shadows open fire on B5 and apparently destroy it. However, they’ve already boarded the station in force and Garibaldi has rigged the fusion reactor to blow. The Shadows either have no reason to board the station in the first place (and board it how? Shadow warships don’t carry crew), or are destroying the station with their own allies on board. If the Shadows blow up the station, why need to set up Garibaldi rigging the fusion reactor? The answer, of course, is that it was originally planned to be the Minbari warrior caste who boarded Babylon 5, only for Garibaldi to blow the station, in the originally-planned series finale.

In addition, it’s the Shadow assault that apparently destroys Babylon 5 in Ivanova’s transmission (with a Shadow beam apparently directly hitting C&C), but in Ladira’s vision from A13 (repeated in this episode) Babylon 5 clearly explodes from the inside out, and no Shadow ships are present.

Why does Draal’s ship have rockets? Delenn says that the Great Machine’s technology is far in advance of the Minbari, so why would a ship based on its technology look so clapped-out? Also, how the hell did it catch up with the apparently far faster White Star?

The subtitles during Delenn and Sinclair’s conversation on the White Star are incorrect: “all right” is spelt “alright”. This annoyed Straczynski, who had spelled the word correctly in the script.

The Shadows (or their allies) send six fighters to destroy B4. We see four destroyed on-screen but the White Star leaves the other two behind. What happens to them? They could follow in and destroy the White Star as it sits on the hull of B4. It might be that they simply left when the bomb was destroyed, or even that the detonation of the fusion bomb destroyed the other fighters as well, but it’s never explained.

Behind the Scenes: This episode (and the next) have the most convoluted backstory of any Babylon 5 story ever made. In J. Michael Straczynski’s original outline, Babylon 4 is stolen by Sinclair and Delenn from the future and taken to serve as the base of operations against the Shadows after Babylon 5 is destroyed in a sneak attack by the Minbari warrior caste (who had overthrown the worker and religious castes in a coup), killing Garibaldi. Episode A20 was written with this in mind. The idea was that Babylon 5 would end, essentially, in total defeat but the story would continue in a further five-year series called Babylon Prime, using Babylon 4 (now renamed “Babylon Prime”) as the new primary base of operations. Between the writing of Seasons 1 and 2 Straczynski realised he was unlikely to get the ten years needed to tell this story so collapsed the entire arc into one five-year story. With Michael O’Hare leaving, Straczynski also had to rework the story even though his protagonist was no longer on the show.

The impetus for changing the entire story came from D.C. Fontana, whose script for episode A17 (Legacies) laid the seed of the idea that Sinclair was really Valen (the “You talk like a Minbari” line from Neroon). Straczynski readjusted the story arc so that Babylon 4 would go back in time to be used as a base of operations against the Shadows in the last war, but this meant having to explain why Delenn had never said anything about it in the last three seasons. He also had to make this new story work despite the fact that A20 set up a completely different story. It took an enormous amount of work and rewriting to get it all to make sense.

In the Season 3 outline, episode C18 was originally planned to slot in immediately after C15, but Straczynski realised that this would result in the two-parter being split by a transmission break so dropped back that story to C18 before it was written.

After a series of awkward and difficult incidents on the set of Babylon 5 during Season 1, when Michael O’Hare was suffering from mental illness, Jerry Doyle expressed a reluctance to work with him again. The storyline for this two-parter was adjusted so that Doyle would not have to work with O’Hare on-set at the same time (and was written out of Part 2 altogether).

Ron Thornton and his team spent significant time on the initial establishing shots of Minbar. They also had to introduce new ship designs for this two-parter, most notably Draal’s ship and the ancient Minbari warcruisers.

The Minbari cityscape was designed by Eric Chauvin.

Originally John Schuck would have reprised his role as Draal to fill Team Sheridan in on the Babylon 4 backstory. However, he was unavailable on the filming dates (he was appearing in Hello Dolly! on Broadway) and his material was transferred to Delenn.

“War Without End” was considered as the Season 3 overall title, but was dropped in favour of “Point of No Return”.

Adam Nimoy was the original choice for director but he was unavailable on the shooting dates.

Originally the episode ended with Londo saying, “Time to die”. However, the episode came up a few minutes short and Straczynski decided to pull forward some scenes from Part 2 that otherwise he’d have had to have cut.

War Without End was the most expensive episode of Babylon 5 filmed to date, but some of this cost was dispersed by splitting it over two episodes.

Familiar Faces: Michael O’Hare, obviously, returns as Jeffrey Sinclair. O’Hare left the show between Seasons 1 and 2 due to his declining mental health issues. He returned to New York, got the medical attention he needed (supported by Straczynski) and was able to return to acting on-stage. In the years following his appearance on B5 he also got married and had a child. By the time this story needed him back, he was happy to return and Straczynski was happy to see him in a better place.

According to J. Michael Straczynski, both O’Hare and Boxleitner worked together on the 1980 mini-series A Rumour of War, but neither are listed on the project on IMDB.

Although this is the first appearance of Rathenn in the show itself, he previously appeared in comic book DC1, as a member of the Grey Council whom Sheridan liaises with on Minbar.

Eric Zivot (Spragg) reappears in episode D3, this time playing the Centauri nobleman Verano. His other screen roles include JAG and The Alarmist.

Time Winters (Rathenn) has appeared in Columbo, Hunter, Gremlins 2, Star Trek: The Next Generation (as the Cardassian Glin Daro in The Wounded), MacGuyver, Murder, She Wrote, Providence, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (as Dr. Overheiser in Out of My Mind), and Carnivalé, where he played the recurring role of Wilfred Talbot Smith. He remains a working actor, having recently appeared in You’re the Worst and Shameless. He also does voiceover work, most notably playing Barney Rook and Mister Zwicky in Fallout 4 and Zero in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Review: This is an important story in the Babylon 5 story arc, but one that feels a little over-wrought. From a writing perspective, Straczynski is performing ad hoc open-heart surgery on the story arc having to accommodate the massive changes in the story since Season 1 and it doesn’t really hang together, resulting in an episode almost sunk by tedious exposition. However, it’s fun seeing Sinclair and Sheridan hanging out, the visual effects are impressive and there’s a sense of popcorn enjoyment to proceedings. Just don’t think about it too hard and it’s a solid episode. ***½

Sinclair (to Sheridan): “I think we’d work well together, like Butch and Sundance, Lewis and Clark, Lucy and Ethel.”

Londo: “Welcome back from the abyss.”

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