Let’s do this a little bit differently. There’s a lot of balls in the air here, so let’s lay ‘em down in order. Stuff with an Asterisk is specifically in or referred to in this episode. The rest is stuff we‘ve picked up over the last 24 episodes and the premier movie:
* 1259 AD, approximately: An evil said to be “So great the stars themselves might not survive” is defeated, driven from its territory, and ‘cast down’ upon a world called Z’ha’dum (“Zah-Hah-Doom”). This is the end of a big bad war that evidently raged for quite some time. How the bad guys lost and who they were has not yet been revealed.
* 1260 AD and thereafter: A Narn holy man named “G’quon” writes a sacred book (“The Book of G’Quon”) which details his people’s struggles against an ancient evil referred to only as ‘The Shadows.” The Narn were a very primitive bronze-aged people at the time who had no experience with aliens or technology, so the book tends to refer to these events in a highly impressionistic (Read: probably not terribly accurate) style of an eye-witness, rather than an objective history. Just the same: it’s illustrated.
1300-2100 AD: Time passes. The great war fades into legend among many of the species who survived it. Many new starfaring races arise who were not affected by the war at all, and have no knowledge of it. Many worlds destroyed in the war molder away in silence through the centuries.
2159 AD(ish): The Centauri show up on earth, attempt to con us, fail, and ultimately sell us Jumpgate Technology. Humanity is now a starfaring race.
2242 AD (Thereabouts): Humans come into contact with the Minbari for the first time. There’s a misunderstanding, we shoot first, inadvertently killing their high lord grand poobah in the process. This causes a genocidal war against humanity, which is just about as one sided as the 21st century US Marines going up against 10th Century Crusaders. It’s a slaughter. We lose every single battle. Badly. Until…
2246 AD (Approximately): John J. Sheridan is captain of an Earthforce ship in our own solar system’s asteroid belt. There’s a Minbari Cruiser - the Blackstar - that is popping out of hyperspace, killing Earthforce ships, and then popping back into hyperspace. The war is entering endgame, and humanity is desperate. Worse yet, Minbari tech is so far advanced we can’t even track their ships or get a target lock. Captain Sheridan concludes that a big enough bang doesn’t need to hit a target. He mines some asteroids, and sends out a fake distress call. When the Blackstar shows up, he detonates the nukes and “Blows it straight to hell.” It is the ONLY uncontested human victory of the war. The Minbari absolutely hate Sheridan for it, saying he fought dishonorably. They call him “Starkiller” as an insult. I think it’s goofier-sounding than they realize.
2247 AD: Minbari forces have pushed all the way to earth, and are preparing for the final assault. Every ship earth has left is put up to draw a defensive line. The Minbari attack, slaughtering everyone. They grab a fighter at random - Sinclair’s fighter - and while interrogating him they discover he is, in fact, a reincarnated Minbari in a human body! Since their highest law is against murdering their own kind, and since they’re presumably killing reincarnated minbari-in-human-bodies by the hundreds of thousands, they abruptly surrender. Sinclair’s mind is wiped. They explain their reasoning to the Earth president, and that’s the end of the war.
2248 - President Santiago starts the Babylon Project: a diplomatic station in neutral space, roughly equally distant between the five major interstellar governments. The idea is that it can function like the UN, to defuse conflict, improve trade and understanding, and basically avoid the kind of thing that very nearly wiped out humanity. Also, if things go south and the place gets destroyed, it’s far enough away from home to give a few days warning. The Minbari enthusiastically support this, and contribute a lot of money.
2248-2253 - Babylons 1, 2, and 3 are destroyed by internal sabotage. Babylon 4 disappears 24 hours after going fully operational.
2253 AD: Luis Santiago is re-elected for a second term as President of Earth.
* 2256 AD: John Sheridan’s wife, Anna, takes a job as chief science officer on the EAS Icarus, which explodes. She’s presumed dead. John blames himself.
2257 AD: Babylon 5 goes operational.
* 2258 AD: Luis Santiago runs for an unprecedented third term as president. He’s not expected to win, but at the last minute, he chooses Morgan Clark as his vice presidential running mate. The Psicorps endorses Santiago at the last minute, which gives him just enough votes to win. There’s a minor scandal afterwards as to whether or not this endorsement violated their charter.
- April: A psicop named Bester visits the station to recover a rogue telepath. Since he’s a fan of “The Prisoner” he conspicuously gives the old “Be seeing you” salute
But no one picks up on it ‘cuz everybody on the station would rather watch Rebo and Zooty or Daffy Duck cartoons than anything good.
- Late July: A Rod Serling impersonator by the name of “Morden” shows up on the station and takes care of a problem for Londo, but scares the crap out of Delenn and Kosh.
- Mid-November: Babylon 4 turns up again, mentions that it’s been stolen for some larger purpose in a great war, lets the crew get off, then vanishes again.
* Early December: Doctor Franklin comes into possession of an ancient alien healing/execution device.
* December 31st: Garibaldi uncovers a plot to assassinate president Santiago, and is shot in the back by Jack while attempting to warn Commander Sinclair. He fails. The president is killed, and Morgan Clark becomes the new president. Morden returns to ‘help’ Londo. A mysterious new enemy (or is it a very old one?) attacks and destroys a Narn base, leaving no survivors. Delenn enters a cocoon. Sinclair asks Catherine to marry him. G’Kar leaves the station. Na’Toth leaves her role. Honestly, it’s one hell of a New Years Eve party, I gotta’ tell ya. They were cleaning up spilled chips and dip for days after that shindig.
January 4th: Commander Sinclair is recalled from the station, and re-assigned permanently to Minbar as an ambassador.
January 8th: John Sheridan is assigned to B5 as its new permanent commander. All that useless expositional crap from last week happens.
* January 20-something, and we finally get around to the events of THIS episode:
Sheridan’s sister comes to visit the station as a vehicle for MORE EXPOSITION.
Na’Toth has been recast. Nobody likes her.
G’Kar has been screwing around under the suspicion that whomever destroyed the Narn Base was actually “the Shadows” spoken of in the Book of G’Quon. He’s gone to places no one ever goes, and found evidence that the ancient enemy is mustering their forces, spoiling for a return. He narrowly escapes an attack by some fighters - an attack which takes out two of his own men - and makes it back to Babylon 5. At the station he’s so frazzled by what he’s seen that he’s actually talking amiably to Londo about them possibly having to work together, and he doesn’t even comment on Na’Toth’s poorly-chosen re-casting.
Morden turns up and says, “Hey, if you hear of anything odd going on out on the rim (of unexplored space) let me know, would ya?” Londo agrees. At a council meeting later that day, G’kar lays out his admittedly wild-eyed theory about the shadows and shows a picture of what does indeed look like a shadow ship from his people’s scriptures. He explains that his people have dispatched a warship to Z’Ha’Dum to look for any signs of life. The place should be deserted, abandoned, lost, dead. If there’s life there, then it’s a strong indication he’s right. If not, well, eh, he’ll just go pick up some hookers and it’s business as usual.
Londo mentions this to Morden, who mentions it to his associates. The instant the Narn ship jumps out of hyperspace in Z’Ha’Dum, it’s ambushed by the same kind of mysterious spider-like vessel we’ve seen in both the previous Morden episodes, and destroyed. The Narn government attributes this to an engine failure, and refuse to investigate, since they never really believed G’kar’s crazy idea in the first place.
MEANWHILE, Sheridan and Franklin use the alien healing (And occasionally killing) device to bring Garibaldi out of his coma. He’s quite upset to find the president dead and Jeff gone. More upset to realize that he doesn’t know who shot him. He talks Talia into doing a deep scan on him to clear his memories, and sure enough he realizes it was Jack who did it. Lou Welch captures, beats, and arrests Jack, in that order. Garibaldi actually questions him (in a poorly directed, poorly acted, poorly written scene), and Jack tells of a new order coming back home. (How badly written is this scene? At one point Jack says “Win or lose, I’m going to be on the winning side.”) As Garibaldi leaves, Jack flashes him the ol’ Prisoner “Be Seeing You”
Garibaldi recognizes this as something to do with Bester, and that Jack was taunting him with something he couldn’t do anything about. President Clark calls the station, and talks to Sheridan about the whole “Jack” thing. He says that if there’s any truth to these rumors at all, he wants to follow it up personally, in honor of the man he served as vice president under for slightly less than a year. He orders that Jack and all the evidence be shipped to him. Alas, Fed Ex lost everything on the way, so Jack apparently gets off scott free.
MEANWHILE, Delenn comes out of her cocoon. At first she’s really ugly, but then it turns out she’s kinda’ pretty in an eyebrowless Croatian kinda’ way.
MEANWHILE, back in exposition central, Sheridan is still whining on about his backstory, and grousing over his dead wife. His sister gives him a video copy of her last conversation with poor, dead Anna, taken a day or two before she cacked, in which she exposits all-too-clearly that anything that might happen to her from this point on is not her husbands fault. John says “Goodbye” and that’s the end.
Man, that was a *lot* better. Soooo much better than the season premier.
Yes, there’s some clunky stuff. They’re still expositing too much about Sheridan and his past. Ideally this stuff would have come out more organically over time, but they’re hitting his backstory so quickly that you just know it’s gonna’ be relevant in the near future, yes? Yes.
To his credit, Boxleitner makes the best of these scenes. He feels like he has more of a sense who Sheridan is, and one bit is really quite touching: He tells his sister that sometimes he’ll be sitting on the couch and turn to tell Anna something, but she’s not there, and just for an instant he doesn’t know *why* she’s not there. Then it hits him, and he has to relive it all over again. That’s a VERY good, well played bit. The scene as a whole is kind of over-written and slightly over-acted, but, man, you can really feel that part. It feels true.
A lot of threads were wrapped up in this ep, a lot of new ones introduced. This is pretty much exactly what the season premier *should* have been, but wasn’t. There’s a sense of conclusion and rebirth. The preamble has ended, the play has now begun.
It’s only been three episodes since Talia was last in the show, and she figured prominently in four of the last six episodes of last year, yet every time she shows up, I’m like, “Oh, yeah, her. I forgot she was on this show. What happened to the red-headed chick?” The fact that the red-headed chick was only in the premier movie, and Talia’s been in 10 episodes really kinda’ doesn’t bode well for the character. For that matter, the fact that someone in the principle cast is only in 10 out of 22 episodes bodes not well. I mean, Vir is only in like 8 episodes of the first season, and everybody loves him. If you’re getting more work, but not making as much impression as Flounder from Animal House, well…
Delenn tells us that Sinclair was allowed to live on Minbar as a sign of good faith, and that she has undergone this transformation “With the blessing of my government’ to act as a bridge between our peoples. Ok, the logic on undergoing a freakish transformation as a diplomatic gesture is wonky, but, eh, I’ll slide on that ’cuz she’s pretty in a middle-aged exotic sorta’ way. But this whole “With the blessing of my Government” thing? How does that fly? Just last week, Hedronn (Of the Grey Council) was clearly furious about it, the Grey Council opposed her remaining on B5, and when she insisted they took it as a personal insult *and* threatened to throw her out of the council altogether. The Triluminary that allowed her transformation was stolen from the council, fer gosh sakes!
The whole “Betrayal of Garibaldi” thing doesn’t quite work, as I’ve said, because Jack was only in two episodes prior to shooting his boss, and in a very MINOR capacity. If Ivonova had shot him, that’d be a shocker. If Lou Welch shot him, that’d’ve been a shocker, since Lou’s been there (occasionally) from the start. But some random guy we never noticed before? Not much of a shock that someone we didn’t know would do something we didn’t expect. Consequently, Garibaldi/Doyle hasn’t got much to play off here.
I do, however, like the way Doyle and Boxleitner play their first meeting: Bruce is all ’smilin’ Jack’ and Garibaldi simply says “I don’t know you” in a suspicious way that completely shuts down Sheridan. Somewhat more formally, but still trying to be too congenial, Sheridan says, “Well, that’s true, but I’m sure we’ll get along fine.” I like that. Telegraphs Garibaldi’s level of hurt, and it also shows how easy it is to hurt Sheridan when he’s trying to be ingratiating.
I also really like how Lou n’ the boys take down Jack. There was some serious anger in that.
As we all know, the grand B5 arc went through many evolutions during its sixish years on the air, and a subject of great debate is ’what was the original arc.’ I’ve looked into it, and I’ve been told that my rundown here is probably about as good an answer as you’re ever gonna’ get (Part 1: http://www.republibot.com/content/hidden-evolution-babylon-5
Part 2: http://www.republibot.com/content/hidden-evolution-babylon-5-part-ii-%E2... ), but there’s still plenty there that we don’t know, and Mr. Straczynski is understandably reticent to answer questions about things that didn’t happen on a TV show that DID happen twenty years ago. (“How about that time you didn’t get robbed. What was that like?”) Lots of room for speculation.
Stressing that I know nothing more about the show than you do, Here’s my speculation about Garibaldi’s Betrayal:
I think it was either Laurel Takishima or Catherine Sakai who was gonna’ shoot him. There are hints in the pilot that Laurel isn’t what she’s pretending to be, though what she is is never made clear. Likewise, as I detailed above, it’s pretty obvious to me that Catherine was the mole. Either way, the most obvious way this could have played out is that Catherine simply steps out of the shadows and shoots him in the back, along with Devereaux and the others, thus revealing her to *US* as the mole, but not to him or any of the characters on the show. So we know she’s no good, but they all trust her. Thus we’re complete shock and agony every time she’s on the show from here on out, worrying what they’ll reveal to her that will ultimately be used against them. Presumably she’d have been revealed as a mole at some point in the late second or early third season. (I go for third myself).
WILL CONSERVATIVES LIKE THIS EPISODE:
Heck yeah! Particularly paranoid one! It’s good!