Babylonia!

Note: If you’re new to the book club, links to the previous episodes can be found here. It’s difficult to discuss this show without occasionally wanting to discuss the next one (or the one after that, or the one after that)… or referring to the pilot. If you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please use the “spoiler” functionality in the comment box (thanks to CK for that feature!)  Any plot point from any episode prior to this one, as well as (obviously) this episode itself, will not be considered a spoiler (so beware!).

This week, it’s Season 3, Episode 16: “War Without End, Part 2”, recapped by Katherine.

Everyone sitting comfortably? Then onward!

Well, we stopped in the middle of a very convoluted two-part episode, so I’ll give a short recap of where we are.  A couple episodes ago, our heroes learned that telepaths can fight against the Shadows, and that Narn telepaths did so in the previous war, but were wiped out in the process.  Then Sheridan convinced the Vorlons to join in the war, to prove that the Shadows could be beaten and give unaligned worlds the confidence to join the alliance against the Shadows.  As a reprisal for the Vorlon attack, the Shadows killed Kosh.  Mr. Morden also convinced Londo to work with him again by making it look like Refa had killed Londo’s lover, Adira; in fact the murder was (rather transparently) committed by Morden himself.

Also of relevance: when the Babylon stations were being constructed, the first three exploded, and Babylon 4 disappeared, before Babylon 5 was successfully completed.  Back in Season 1 (“Babylon Squared”), Babylon 4 reappeared and Garibaldi and Sinclair helped to evacuate its crew, and encountered an odd being named Zathras, who spoke of someone he called The One.  The One showed up on Babylon 4 as a person in a blue space suit, with a broken time stabilizer; Zathras rescued The One by replacing the damaged stabilizer with his own.  The person in the space suit was later revealed to be a much older Sinclair.

War Without End, Part 1

In Part 1, Sinclair received a letter addressed to himself, from Valen (the Minbari holy figure), in a box that had been closed for 900 years; Delenn received a similar letter.  Ivanova received a distress call issued by herself, coming from the empty space where Babylon 4 disappeared.  Sinclair comes to Babylon 5 and explains that Babylon 4 was taken back in time to aid the anti-Shadow alliance in the previous war, a thousand years ago.  Recordings from the Great Machine on Epsilon 3 show the White Star preventing the Shadows from destroying Babylon 4, right before it was sent back in time.  So now, the Babylon 5 staff need to take the White Star back in time, thwart that attack, and send Babylon 4 back in time; if they do not, the Shadows will win the current war and destroy Babylon 5.  Sinclair, Sheridan, Ivanova, and Marcus go on the time-travel mission, while Garibaldi stays behind on B5 because some member of the station’s command staff needs to stay there.

The White Star goes back in time, defeats the Shadow attack on Babylon 4, and its crew boards the station.  But in the process Sheridan’s time stabilizer (which prevents him from moving randomly throughout time) is broken, and he finds himself on a devastated Centauri Prime, with and old and very bitter Emperor Londo Mollari.  Londo blames him for the devastation of Centauri Prime, apparently committed by agents of the Shadows, and threatens him with death.

War Without End, Part 2

In the future, Emperor Mollari says that it is 17 years since the start of the war against the Shadows.  Put in a cell on Centauri Prime, Sheridan briefly phases back to Babylon 4 and is seen by Zathras.  When he shifts back to Centauri Prime, an older Delenn is put in his cell.  She is to be executed as well.  She mentions her and Sheridan’s son, David.  Sheridan explains about the timeslip, and Delenn remembers when he told her about that.  Delenn says they won the war, and achieved all they sought, but at a terrible price.

Delenn and Sheridan are brought to Londo, who has drunk very much, and shows them a creature embedded in his neck, a Keeper.  Drinking puts it to sleep, and prevents the creature from controlling him.  Londo lets them go, and tells them to go to a hidden ship; in return, he asks them to help free his people.  An aged G’Kar, with a bandage over one eye, enters Londo’s throne room.  Londo addresses him as “old friend”, and asks G’Kar to kill him, in order to prevent the Keeper from awakening and forcing him to destroy Sheridan and Delenn.  G’Kar begins to strangle Londo, and the Keeper awakens and causes Londo to strangle G’Kar.  So these are the circumstances of their deaths, with their hands around each other’s throats, as Londo has foreseen – but as a mercy, as friends, not as mortal foes.  When they are both dead, Vir walks into the throne room and picks up the imperial insignia.  Meanwhile, as Sheridan is being pulled back to the present, Delenn pleads with him: “Do not go to Z’ha’dum!”

On Babylon 4, Marcus and Ivanova deliver a little bit of reminder exposition – that Valen is one of the Minbari’s holiest figures, that he fought against the Shadows and founded the Grey Council, and was said to be a “Minbari not born of Minbari”.  Zathras fixes a familiar blue space suit in a way that he hopes will cause Sheridan to rematerialize in it – temporarily, at least.  It succeeds, and Sheridan returns to the correct time.  Sinclair is wearing an identical space suit.  The team rig Babylon 4 to go back into the past, and set up a fake alert to make it look like the reactor core is going critical, so that the B4 crew will evacuate.  The station moves forward in time to the period of Season 1.  Sheridan phases out of time again.  When Sinclair returns to the others, he has aged substantially, as a result of passing through a time distortion field; it is likely that he will continue aging more and more as he gets closer to their own time.

Delenn flashes forward to a vision of the future.  She is in a bedroom, handling a snow globe, and watching Sheridan sleep.  The door opens, a woman enters, and Delenn drops the snow globe in shock.

Zathras attempts to repair Sheridan’s time stabilizer, while Sinclair tries to adjust the time equipment on the reactor core in order to bring Babylon 4 back to the desired time.  Season1!Sinclair and Garibaldi come to B4 to evacuate the B4 crew.  Meanwhile, Zathras is detained by the B4 crew, and Season1!Sinclair and Garibaldi are brought to him, as in “Babylon Squared”.  Zathras says that Season1!Sinclair is “not The One”.  He tells Sinclair about needing Babylon 4 as a base of operations in a great war, led by The One.

The figure in the blue spacesuit appears, as it did in “Babylon Squared”, and Zathras says “It is The One” and gives it a fresh time stabilizer.  The figure disappears.  Then Marcus finds Sheridan lying in a corner of B4, with the new time stabilizer, and no memory of what has happened recently.  There is still a figure on B4 in a blue spacesuit, though.

Season1!Sinclair and Garibaldi leave B4.  Zathras, trapped under a falling beam, tells Sinclair that Sinclair has a destiny.  The figure in the blue spacesuit appears and rescues Zathras, who calls it “The One”; the figure removes its helmet to reveal Delenn.

Then we see another figure in a blue space suit remove its helmet to reveal the older Sinclair.  “I tried.  I tried to warn them,” he says to Delenn, “but it all happened, just the way I remember it.”  They rejoin the rest of the White Star crew, who prepare to send Babylon 4 back in time.  Marcus reveals that he’s figured out that someone is going to have to go back in time with Babylon 4, to control the time-shift, and will not be able to return.  Marcus offers to go, but Sinclair says he will take it back, “because I have always taken it back, and always will”.  That’s what the letter told him – it was written in his handwriting, from himself, to himself.  He wrote it 900 years ago.  Delenn backs him up, saying she also received a letter in his handwriting.

Sinclair, Sheridan, Delenn, and Zathras take a moment to speak alone.  Sinclair asks Zathras about The One.  Zathras says that all three of them are The One, reflecting the central role of the number three in Minbari culture – three castes, three shades (light, dark, grey), nine members of the Grey Council.  Sinclair is the One Who Was, Delenn is the One Who Is, Sheridan is the One Who Will Be – the beginning, middle, and end of the story.

The crew of Babylon 5 return to B5, while Sinclair takes Babylon 4 back in time to the previous Shadow War.  Delenn reminds Sheridan of what he has been told, that a thousand years ago human and Minbari souls began to merge, or to transmigrate.  (Minbari believe in reincarnation, so what this means is that human souls can appear in Minbari, and Minbari souls in humans.  This discovery is what caused the Minbari to surrender when they were at the verge of victory in the Earth-Minbari War – because Minbari do not kill other Minbari.)  Sinclair’s movement back in time is what started this transference – on Babylon 4, as it moved back in time, Sinclair transformed into a Minbari using the same process by which Delenn became part-human, so that the Minbari would accept the station when they found it one thousand years ago.  He became “a Minbari not born of Minbari”.  He became Valen.  (And that, too, is why the Minbari surrendered – they not only found a Minbari soul in a human, they found the soul of their most revered religious leader.)

In the past, Zathras brings a pair of Minbari to meet the time-travelled Sinclair, who is now Valen, flanked by two Vorlons who appear as angels.  “I am Valen,” he introduces himself, “and we have much work ahead of us.”

So, that wasn’t overly convoluted or anything!  What do you all think?  I think that, for all its complications, it’s one of the most cohesive, coherent uses of time-travel that I’ve seen.  The past is not changed; the past and present form a circle.


Guest Author

Katherine is a Christian with a particular interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, international development, peace, and social justice issues. She has a master's degree in International Affairs and lives in Canada.

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5 thoughts on “Babylonia!

  1. “I know what’s coming.”

    “Now, I’m like the arrow that springs from the bow. No hesitations, no doubts. The path is clear.”

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  2. I think the most impressive part it that not only does it avoid paradox – it does it using a plan B. Part one screened before Michael O’Hare left he show, so they had to fit that fact around the plot when it was already half-done.

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    • See??? Souls exist!

      Anyway, yes. I agree 100%. I am pretty sure that the original plan was to have Sinclair leave the show at this point to be replaced by… well, someone else. They just accelerated that somewhat.

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  3. This pair of episodes was the first in a while where, if I got distracted and stopped paying attention, I had to say “WAIT WAIT REWIND WHAT JUST HAPPENED.” I’d feel sorry for Jaybird but he had to do it a couple of times too.

    Really intricate and SO clever.

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  4. That two-parter was always one of the high points of the show for me. It was a fitting end for Sinclair’s story: he was constantly looking for ways to sacrifice himself for a cause, just like the Minbari religious caste.

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