The only comprehensive critical guide to the beloved sci-fi phenomenon
A Dream Given Form provides an accessible, comprehensive, and critical look at Babylon 5, one of the most groundbreaking series of all time. Nearly 20 years after the show ended, this indispensable companion not only covers all five seasons of Babylon 5, but also the feature-length TV movies, the spinoff series Crusade (including three non-produced episodes), The Legend of the Rangers, The Lost Tales, the canonical novels, the DC comic book series, and the short stories set in the Babylon 5 universe. Each season and text is explored thoroughly with an in-depth look at how the individual episodes, books, stories, and comics fit into larger ongoing storylines.
Carefully constructed to be enjoyed by both those who have watched the series multiple times and viewers watching for the first time, A Dream Given Form elucidates without spoiling and illuminates without nitpicking.
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SIGNS AND PORTENTS
"It was the dawn of the Third Age of Mankind, 10 years after the Earth-Minbari War. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent another war by creating a place where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully. It's a port of call, a home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens wrapped in two million five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night. It can be a dangerous place, but it's our last, best hope for peace. This is the story of the last of the Babylon stations. The year is 2258. The name of the place is Babylon 5."
— Commander Jeffrey Sinclair
1.01 Midnight on the Firing Line Original air date January 1, 1994 Written by J. Michael Straczynski Directed by Richard Compton
"Ignore the propaganda, focus on what you see." — Commander Jeffrey Sinclair
A Centauri colony falls to a mysterious surprise attack, ratcheting up diplomatic tensions on the station. Meanwhile, Garibaldi and Sinclair try and track down a group of raiders.
With "Midnight on the Firing Line," Babylon 5 really gets moving. There have been some major cast changes, but because most of the main human characters are members of Earthforce — where transfers and reassignments are part and parcel of military life — the changes become part of the storyline. "Midnight" also introduces a monologue over the opening credits. The voiceover, performed by Michael O'Hare, sets the scene, gives some basic background for new viewers, and places the action in a specific year: 2258, the year after the events in "Pilot/The Gathering." In fact, each season of Babylon 5 will take place in consecutive years, with one year of broadcast time equaling one year of narrative time, again making the realities of production serve the ongoing storyline.
Season one of Babylon 5 is all about exposition, and the opening episode begins to develop what are arguably the most important ongoing relationships in the series, with the micro of Londo and G'Kar mirroring the macro of the Centauri and Narn polities. The evolution of these intertwined associations will be at the core of Babylon 5 through all five seasons. With Katsulas and Jurasik providing consistently bravura performances throughout, the story of these two men and the people they literally and metaphorically represent will produce some of the most powerful and moving moments of the series.
Here at the beginning, the Narn regime is riding high. Having thrown off their Centauri oppressors in the recent past, they have become newly powerful and aggressive, with generations of pent-up resentment and hate driving them forward, always with an eye to ending the Centauri once and for all. At the center of the fury strides G'Kar, who is the Narn will to power and vengeance made manifest: proud, devious, and cunning, willing to do whatever is necessary to rid the galaxy of the Centauri, and dedicated to guaranteeing Narn security and freedom by guiding the regime to the heights of galactic military and political power
On the other side, the Centauri Republic is an empire in decadent decline, vainly proud of their past as world-conquering galactic masters, yet forced to live in a present where their vaunted power is on the wane and their prestige a tattered façade, unable to effectively resist the depredations of a people whom they once enslaved. In Londo Mollari, the Centauri have found their perfect essence: cynical, bombastic, and wry, with an enormous appetite for drink, beautiful women, and gambling, yet also a pragmatist and a patriot, galled by the realities of his times and the deterioration of his beloved republic.
The maneuvering between these two and their empires takes place within a wider political sphere introduced in this episode. Babylon 5 is now home to something like a galactic UN, where the five major races preside, Security Council–like, over an organization made up mostly of the League of Non-aligned Worlds: smaller planets and systems that lack the power of the big five. The League is the gallery to which the major races play, the supporters they must secure to win majority votes of the Babylon 5 Advisory Council, and the players most likely to suffer should two or more of the five giants go to war. Everyone has an agenda, both personal and political, and intrigue and backroom deals are the order of the day, with diplomatic immunity thrown in just to sweeten the pot. This is the world of Babylon 5, the scene set in some 42 minutes. Let the games begin.
Kosh: "They are alone. They are a dying people. We should let them pass."
Sinclair: "Who? The Narn or the Centauri?"
Did You Notice There have been some dramatic changes in some of the characters' appearances. Delenn's look has been softened, with her skin tones brought closer to those of Caucasian humans. Londo's hair is much more a solid "fan," although JMS will lament that they were never able to get Londo's hair quite right at any point in the series.
Homeworld politics directly affect government policies, for all polities represented, including the Earth Alliance, which in this case is unwilling to get too tangled in foreign affairs on the eve of a domestic election. This is one of the key realistic elements that JMS & Co. incorporate in the narrative early and often.
In President Santiago's campaign platform there is a bit of "Earth first" rhetoric, and a hint of concern about alien influences and culture.
Ivanova's history with and feelings towards the Psi Corps are major touchstones for her character, and are one of the few things that have the ability to make her lose her cool.
Daffy Duck is not limited by things like time and space, and will be seen again.
"Midnight on the Firing Line" gave its name to a recognized TV trope in which an episode quietly sets up events that will have profound effects on the narrative later. The website TV Tropes used the title of this episode as the trope name until replacing it with the more specific moniker "Innocuously Important Episode."
Garibaldi's "second favorite thing" is 20th-century Daffy Duck cartoons, and the one he watches with Delenn over popcorn is one of the funniest: "Duck Dodgers in the 24th½ Century," a 1953 Warner Brothers animated spoof of the popular Buck Rogers character.
The Sinclairs of the RAF Sinclair tells Ivanova that "the Sinclairs have been fighter pilots all the way back to the Battle of Britain." Historically, there are actually a couple of candidates for Jeffrey Sinclair's ancestors. Wing Commander Gordon Sinclair shot down 11 German planes during his service in the skies over Dunkirk, Britain, and occupied France, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Czech Military Cross, and the Order of King George of Podograd, among others, for his exemplary war service. Pilot Officer John Sinclair served with No. 219 Squadron throughout the Battle of Britain and World War II, flying twin-engined Beaufighters as part of both daylight and nighttime air cover over London.
1.02 Soul Hunter Written by J. Michael Straczynski Directed by Jim Johnston Original air date February 2, 1994
"We were right about you." — Delenn
A mysterious visitor arrives on Babylon 5, and endangers Delenn and her secrets.
Fans of Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003) coined the term "monster-of-the-week" for standalone episodes that did not really advance a season's overall arc. At first, "Soul Hunter" would appear to fall squarely into this category, but what appear to be a few small crumbs of information scattered here and there are actually a vital part of the superstructure of Babylon 5's major arc. "Soul Hunter" also marks the first appearance of Dr. Stephen Franklin (Richard Biggs), who rounds out Babylon 5's command team. Franklin's tone is set almost immediately with a deep, dark monologue on the brevity of life. Franklin will become notorious for such ruminations throughout the five seasons of the show. Biggs fills the part brilliantly throughout, giving a depth of emotional realism to a very complex, often tragic character.
The key subject of the episode, however, is the Minbari soul. As a species, the Minbari hold a fundamental belief in the existence and reincarnation of their souls as part of a grand racial cycle wherein the same souls reappear in generation after generation of Minbari. This puts Delenn at murderous odds with the Soul Hunter (William Morgan Sheppard), whose calling is to trap souls at the moment of their deaths, thus preventing them from reentering the great cycle. With fewer souls in the cycle, fewer Minbari are born, making the actions of the Soul Hunters mass murders at best, genocides at worst. The Minbari soul cycle is one of the underpinnings of the show, the importance of which will begin to be revealed towards the end of season one.
Yet the Soul Hunters aren't portrayed as mindless killers — they obviously believe in the reality of souls, but do not believe that Minbari souls reincarnate. From their perspective, they are saving souls from extinction or sublimation into the greater universe. "Soul Hunter" reveals one of Straczynski's major themes: faith — how it works, why it matters, and its universality. He also begins to play with ideas of spiritual and cultural toleration and respect, including the question: where should such respect end? In "Soul Hunter" the answer is: when tolerance of a given cultural behavior results in people being directly harmed. Faith, choice, and responsibility are the trinity of Babylon 5, and "Soul Hunter" is just the beginning.
Ivanova: "This is not a clear and present danger? I must read the rule book again."
Did You Notice
"Soul Hunter" provides the first look at the seedy underbelly of Babylon 5. Unlike Star Trek, Babylon 5 does not assume some kind of post-scarcity society. Babylon 5 has its share of poverty, indigence, and homelessness all tucked away in the darker, less public areas of the station. Largely out of sight and out of mind, the poverty persists, as do the most basic social problems.
The Earth Alliance weaponry has changed significantly from that used in "The Gathering," as have the communication units. The guns are now "PPGs" — phased plasma guns — and the communication links are now attached to the back of the hand directly, without any kind of wristband.
The Soul Hunter reveals that the Minbari leader, Dukhat, was mortally wounded in the attack (presumably by forces from Earth) that started the Earth-Minbari War.
Dr. Franklin disembarks from the star liner Asimov, named for the prolific American science fiction writer Isaac Asimov (1920–1992). Like J. Michael Straczynski, Asimov was of Russian Jewish descent, and he wrote or edited over 500 books in his lifetime. The star liner named in his honor becomes something of a running through-line in the Babylon 5 universe, appearing or being mentioned in 14 episodes of Babylon 5, one Babylon 5 TV movie, two episodes of Crusade, and one of the canonical short stories.
The episode also reveals that Delenn is "Satai," a title given to members of the Grey Council, the ruling body of the Minbari — not the sort that is usually assigned to a diplomatic post like Babylon 5.
Sinclair Aircraft and Sinclair Oil In his quarters, Commander Sinclair has an old sign for Sinclair Aircraft on display. Rather than an aircraft company, the sign is an advertisement for Sinclair Oil's aviation fuel and motor oil products. Founded in 1916, Sinclair Oil Corporation introduced the first service station in the U.S. in Chicago in 1922, where for the first time trained mechanics were available to service automobiles alongside their filling stations. Sinclair aviation products were popular through World War II, and the Sinclair Aircraft sign, featuring a green image of Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, first appeared in the 1930s. What hangs on Sinclair's wall appears to be a 12-inch sticker logo on a piece of sheet steel that likely dates from the 1980s, when such retro-pop decals began to become popular.
Plasma Guns in Fiction and Fact Earthforce's standard sidearm is the PPG, or phased plasma gun. While long a staple of science fiction, including the famous "phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range" from The Terminator (1984), in recent decades plasma weapons have begun to become a reality. In 2013, researchers at the University of Missouri developed a way of creating and launching plasma rings through the open air. The distance is still short — about two feet — but the research proves the theory that plasma can be reliably projected in a controlled manner. Funded largely by the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research, there is little doubt that weaponization of this technology is a major goal. Like Babylon 5's fictional PPGs, the MU device creates plasma that has its own magnetic field, which acts as a kind of sheath as the plasma travels through atmosphere — until the magnetic containment field dissipates in a few milliseconds. According to the project's lead researcher, the MU device could be modified to handle more power, thus creating stronger plasmas that travel farther. Given 200 years of technological refinement, the production of handheld PPGs by the 23rd century is not really a stretch.
1.03 Born to the Purple Written by Lawrence G. DiTillio Directed by Bruce Seth Green Original air date February 9, 1994
"We Centauri live our lives for appearances. Position, status, title: these are the things by which we define ourselves. ... And then I think of you, and I say, 'To hell with appearances!'" — Londo
Londo and Ivanova find themselves distracted from affairs of state and command by affairs of the heart. Meanwhile, Garibaldi is trying to track down a hacker.
Trying to diffuse the tensions between the Narn and Centauri Empires, Sinclair has convinced G'Kar and Londo to negotiate a territorial settlement while he acts as an impartial mediator. Unfortunately, Londo's mind is preoccupied with a beautiful Centauri exotic dancer, Adira (Fabiana Udenio). In fact, the ambassador is besotted. Peter Jurasik has already demonstrated a genius for the character of Londo in the pilot movie and two previous episodes, but "Born to the Purple" is the first Londo-centric episode. The result is a multidimensional portrait of a man as complex as he is contradictory, painted with exquisite care and surprising subtlety by Jurasik. Loud, proud, tender, brash, baleful, humorous, and heartbreaking, in this episode Londo Mollari truly comes to life in all of his bittersweet glory.
The love affair between the young and beautiful dancer and the aging diplomat is all part of a plot, but like the viewer, Adira finds in Londo someone she can't help but like, and perhaps even love. For all of his faults — and there are many — Londo is revealed to be a man of passion and integrity, but also a man who holds secrets and has ambitions of power. What comes across so heartbreakingly is that Londo truly loves this woman, even when he discovers that their relationship is not what he thought it was. It is hard to dislike a character that loves so fully, if foolishly. Londo's hard-drinking, hail-fellow-well-met attitude is revealed to be a very public mask, and the man beneath is actually even more likable.
While Londo and G'Kar are indisputably designed as complementary foils for one another, in "Born to the Purple," it is Ivanova who serves as Londo's mirror image. Claudia Christian brings a perfect mix of stoicism, Russian fatalism, and ironic humor to her character, all simmering atop a deep well of anger and grief, which is beautifully revealed in her final conversation with her estranged father. Ivanova's own mask of command is laid briefly aside in this episode, revealing the human woman beneath. Importantly, Ivanova proves herself willing to break the rules, and even the chain of command, to do what is right — a facet of her character that will guide her throughout the series.
Londo (to Vir): "What do you want, you moon-faced assassin of joy?"
Did You Notice Apparently, handheld gaming devices are still popular in the future, and are sometimes the only things that the Centauri and the Narn can both agree on. Also, Russia and affiliated states are now known as the Russian Consortium.
Excerpted from "A Dream Given Form"
Copyright © 2017 Ensley F. Guffey and K. Dale Koontz.
Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
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Table of Contents
PILOT The Gathering . . . 2
Season 1: SIGNS and PORTENTS . . . 6
1.01 Midnight on the Firing Line
1.02 Soul Hunter
1.03 Born to the Purple
1.05 The Parliament of Dreams
1.06 Mind War
1.07 War Prayer
1.08 And the Sky Full of Stars
1.12 By Any Means Necessary
1.13 Signs and Portents
1.18 and 1.19 A Voice in the Wilderness, Parts 1 and 2
1.20 Babylon Squared
1.21 The Quality of Mercy
Earth Alliance Rank Structure for Officers . . . 75
Season 2: The COMING of SHADOWS . . . 80
2.01 Points of Departure
2.03 The Geometry of Shadows
2.04 A Distant Star
2.05 The Long Dark
2.06 Spider in the Web
2.07 Soul Mates
2.08 A Race Through Dark Places
2.09 The Coming of Shadows
2.11 All Alone in the Night
2.12 Acts of Sacrifice
2.13 Hunter, Prey
2.14 There All the Honor Lies
2.15 And Now For a Word
2.16 In the Shadow of Z’Ha’Dum
2.18 Confessions and Lamentations
2.19 Divided Loyalties
2.20 The Long, Twilight Struggle
2.21 Comes the Inquisitor
2.22 The Fall of Night
Oranges . . . 154
Season 3: POINT of NO RETURN . . . 156
3.01 Matters of Honor
3.03 A Day in the Strife
3.04 Passing Through Gethsemane
3.05 Voices of Authority
3.06 Dust to Dust
3.08 Messages from Earth
3.09 Point of No Return
3.10 Severed Dreams
3.11 Ceremonies of Light and Dark
3.12 Sic Transit Vir
3.13 A Late Delivery from Avalon
3.14 Ship of Tears
3.15 Interludes and Examinations
3.16 and 3.17 War Without End, Parts 1 and 2
3.19 Grey 17 Is Missing
3.20 And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place
3.21 Shadow Dancing
In the Beginning . . . 223
Season 4: NO SURRENDER, NO RETREAT . . . 228
4.01 The Hour of the Wolf
4.02 Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?
4.03 The Summoning
4.04 Falling Toward Apotheosis
4.05 The Long Night
4.06 Into the Fire
4.08 The Illusion of Truth
4.10 Racing Mars
4.11 Lines of Communication
4.12 Conflicts of Interest
4.13 Rumors, Bargains, and Lies
4.14 Moments of Transition
4.15 No Surrender, No Retreat
4.16 Exercise of Vital Powers
4.17 The Face of the Enemy
4.18 Intersections in Real Time
4.19 Between the Darkness and the Light
4.21 Rising Star
4.22 The Deconstruction of Falling Stars
Thirdspace . . . 292
Season 5: The WHEEL of FIRE . . . 296
5.01 No Compromises
5.02 The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari
5.03 The Paragon of Animals
5.04 A View from the Gallery
5.05 Learning Curve
5.06 Strange Relations
5.07 Secrets of the Soul
5.08 Day of the Dead
5.09 In the Kingdom of the Blind
5.10 A Tragedy of Telepaths
5.11 Phoenix Rising
5.12 The Ragged Edge
5.13 The Corps is Mother, The Corps is Father
5.14 Meditations on the Abyss
5.15 Darkness Ascending
5.16 And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder
5.17 Movements of Fire and Shadow
5.18 The Fall of Centauri Prime
5.19 The Wheel of Fire
5.20 Objects in Motion
5.21 Objects at Rest
5.22 Sleeping in Light
The River of Souls . . . 358
The Legend of the Rangers: To Live and Die in Starlight . . . 360
A Call to Arms . . . 362
CRUSADE . . . 366
1.01 War Zone
1.02 The Long Road
1.03 Appearances and Other Deceits
1.04 The Memory of War
1.05 The Needs of Earth
1.06 Racing the Night
1.07 Visitors from Down the Street
1.08 Each Night I Dream of Home
1.09 The Path of Sorrows
1.10 Ruling from the Tomb
1.11 Patterns of the Soul
1.12 The Well of Forever
1.13 The Rules of the Game
1.14 To the Ends of the Earth (Unproduced episode)
1.15 Value Judgments (Unproduced episode)
1.22 The End of the Line (Unproduced episode)
The Lost Tales: Voices in the Dark . . . 416
The LITERATURE of BABYLON 5 . . . 422
COMICS . . . xx
Babylon 5 Issues #1–4
Babylon 5 Issues #5–8: Shadows Past and Present
Babylon 5 Issue #11: “The Psi Corps and You!”
In Valen’s Name
Beyond the Rim
NOVELS . . . xx
THE PSI CORPS TRILOGY
Dark Genesis: The Birth of the Psi Corps; Psi Corps #1
Deadly Relations: Bester Ascendant; Psi Corps #2
Final Reckoning: The Fate of Bester; Psi Corps #3
The Shadow Within
To Dream in the City of Sorrows
THE PASSING OF THE TECHNO MAGES TRILOGY
Casting Shadows, Passing of the Techno-Mages #1
Summoning Light, Passing of the Techno-Mages #2
Invoking Darkness, Passing of the Techno-Mages #3
THE LEGIONS OF FIRE
The Long Night of Centauri Prime, Legions of Fire #1
Armies of Light and Dark, Legions of Fire #2
Out of the Darkness, Legions of Fire #3
SHORT STORIES . . . xx
“The Shadow of His Thoughts”
“The Nautilus Coil”
“Babylon 5: Space, Time, and the Incurable Romantic”
In Memoriam . . . 465
Acknowledgements . . . 471