My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season Five

As I had mentioned when I first began these reviews many moons ago, when Babylon 5 first aired, I only managed to watch until the early episodes of season four.  So it is only now, some twenty-five years after its original air date, that I am finally getting to see season five for the first time and bring to a close my own Babylon 5 odyssey.

I approached season five with some trepidation.  It is common knowledge among B5 fans that the show was disrupted from its natural story arc because of the demise of the PTEN network on which it was carried and the uncertainty of whether a fifth season would ever be commissioned.  There is also plenty of suggestion on the internet from other fans and reviewers that, because of this, season five is not as good as it could or should have been and certainly not on a par with what has gone before.  My expectations were therefore certainly lowered going in.  With all that said, let’s jump in…

Warning: Spoilers Ahead.

What?  What the heck was that?  OK, so you just tried to cram four seasons worth of information into a sixty second montage.  I get that at the time you were airing on a new network and potentially recruiting new viewers (albeit for one season), but honestly, for me, until the credit roll actually gets going, this is a chaotic mess and isn’t an auspicious start. Probably my least favorite of all the seasons’ opening titles.

Season five begins with No Compromises.  In this episode, we are introduced to two new characters (WTF moment #5) – Captain Elizabeth Lochley (Tracy Scoggins) who has come aboard B5 to assume command in Sheridan’s stead, and Byron Gordon (Robin Atkin Downes), the leader of a group of rogue telepaths who seek safe haven aboard the station.  While Lochley is trying to get to grips with the day-to-day machinations of the station, it is clear from very early on that the rogue telepath thread is supposed to be the “hook” for this season.

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Captain Elizabeth Lochley and the Rogue Telepath Byron Gordon

I had said in my review of season two, that I thought changing major characters in a show with an established and dedicated fan base was a bold and risky move. In this particular instance it was absolutely necessary due to the fact that Claudia Christian, whose Ivanova character would have been the natural successor to Sheridan, had not renewed her contract with the show and needed to be replaced. In addition, Straczynski himself also mentions on the DVD featurette that there were a number of problems with the story now, because of the compressed timeline of the previous season. Season four was originally planned to end with the episode Intersections in Real Time. This would have meant that the war with Earth would have carried us in to season five and the character of Byron and the telepath storyline would have been introduced more as a sub-plot.  One can easily see how much of a smoother transition this would have been but alas, it wasn’t to be.

Whilst Byron is a mildly interesting character and Downes does the best he can with the material he’s given, the rogue telepath subplot just doesn’t have enough “oomph” to get this season going.  Instead of being one story thread in a tightly wound cord of story threads – as we’ve come to expect from B5 – this IS the cord that is dangled in front of us that we’re expected to latch on to and put our faith in – and frankly, it’s just not strong enough.

As a writer myself I can sympathize with Straczynski.  I can’t even imagine what he must have felt like when he was told that a fifth season was going to be awarded when he had already truncated and closed most of his storylines at the end of season four.  It’s not like he could go back and rewrite things the way he had originally planned – season four had already aired. As a result, all he could do was pick up the pieces he had left and try to flesh it out enough to limp it across the finish line.  Unfortunately, it shows.

Perhaps that is why episode two, The very long night of Londo Mollari, (Ep.2 ) follows.  This episode is like a warm, cozy blanket of Babylon 5 goodness and reminds us of everything that was great about the show in its previous seasons. If there is one saving grace for season five, it is that Londo and G’Kar – arguably the show’s two most beloved characters – get to finish their evolution and complete their story arcs.

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G’Kar and Londo

G’Kar is now a sagely scribe, working on completing the book that will be his life’s work, whilst Mollari continues to plunge headlong towards his dreadful destiny. In The very long night of Londo Mollari, a serious health issue leaves Londo unconscious and close to death. In its unconscious state, Londo’s mind forces him to revisit some ugly moments from his past, many of which feature G’Kar who, whilst Londo would be hard pushed to call a friend, he at least now has a mutual respect for.  Londo emerges from this jarring reminder of his own mortality with some newfound perspective.  Also in this episode, Lennier tells Delenn that he can no longer serve as her attaché (for reasons known only to him and us) and that he is resigning his post to go and train as a ranger.

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Lennier – Ready for Day 1 of Ranger School

Sheridan’s first task as President is to convince the alien races to form a new alliance (Ep.3 A Paragon of Animals), a task that will become increasingly difficult as the season goes on because someone is attacking Alliance trade routes (Ep.9 In the Kingdom of the Blind) and he neither knows who is responsible nor how to protect the other races from them.  Faced with this uncertainty, the other races are understandably reluctant to sign up for membership to something that seems to offer no immediate benefits, if any.

I had said earlier that the fragments of story left for season five felt like they needed to be fleshed out to complete a full season of shows and nowhere does this feel more evident than in episode four, A View from the Gallery.  Here, two maintenance workers saunter around the station discussing everything they see and hear along the way, including some conversations they have with some of our main characters. In the midst of all this, a hitherto unbeknownst alien race is attacking the station and attempting to breach its hull.  It is such a bizarre and awful episode that I would suggest you avoid it at all costs.  It is arguably the worst episode in the show’s five-year history and hearkens back to the early stand-alone episodes of season one.  There are other episodes in the season that feel like this too – namely Day of the Dead (Ep. 8) – which features an equally bizarre cameo from comedy/magician duo Penn and Teller, and The Corps is Mother, the Corps is Father (Ep. 13), which appears to be just a vessel for Walter Koenig to flex his acting chops and features an adulation story that’s so unbelievable it’s cringe-worthy.  At this stage in the show these episodes are just disappointing given everything that has come before and the season would be so much better and stronger without them, but with the remaining storylines stretched out so much they’re paper thin and I’m sure, a contractual obligation to write a certain number of shows, what else was Straczynski supposed to do?

Apart from these stand-alone episodes, Byron and the rogue telepath storyline dominate much of the first half of season five.  Along the way Lyta becomes romantically involved with Byron who goes from enigmatic leader to cult figurehead to martyr, and in the wake of his passing she converts to his cause.

There is much speculation online about how the rogue telepath thread might have been handled had the character of Ivanova featured in season five.  Would it have been Ivanova who championed their cause instead of Lyta?  It was no secret that she had a vehement dislike of the Psi Corps after what they had done to her mother and that she also had latent telepathic abilities. There’s also an argument that says Byron’s character is not necessary at all – and in fact Lyta could have easily fit that role for she too dislikes Bester and the Psi Corps and, despite finding a home on Babylon 5, she has always been used by the other characters when their needs required her, only to be discarded and tossed aside once her duties had been fulfilled. So yes, whilst B5 was Lyta’s home, it is safe to say that she was never truly happy there and could have easily harbored resentment against the other characters.  Under these circumstances it is easy to see why Lyta might have wanted to go and live with other “Teeps” and be among people like herself. She could easily have adopted the role of figurehead for the rogue telepaths and even set up an underground railroad through B5 for the Teeps that followed. Had that happened, what would an Ivanova/Lyta relationship have looked like?  (I refer you to the middle of season three) Who knows?  But that’s all hypothetical and that’s not what happened.  What happened was that we got Byron, and I would argue that Byron’s character is necessary because without him, the introduction of Lochley, just isn’t enough of a hook to get us in to season five.  Lochley is Captain, and as such, we expect her to act in certain ways within certain well-defined parameters. At least with Byron, we all had to sit up and pay attention and question who he was and what his motives were.

With the telepath situation on Babylon 5 “resolved,” attention now turns towards who or what is attacking the alliance trade routes.  It is this sub-plot that will now motivate much of what our principal characters do in the second half of the season and bring the show home.

In The Ragged Edge (Ep.12), Garibaldi travels to the Drazi homeworld to see if he can gather some intel on the attacks.  The problem is, Bester’s arrival on B5 to deal with Byron has sent Garibaldi in to a tail spin and he’s hitting the bottle again, creating a situation that has tragic consequences and almost blows the mission.

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Hello, old friend

With Londo’s ascendance to Emperor of the Centauri Republic imminent, his relationship with G’Kar has taken an interesting turn.  Sensing all is not well on Centauri Prime, Londo travels home with G’Kar in tow as his personal bodyguard.  The relationship between these two characters is truly my favorite part of the Babylon 5 series – once the most bitter of enemies, they have evolved to have a mutual respect for each other and could perhaps even be considered friends.  For me, seeing their story arcs through to completion is worth schlepping through some of the other less rewarding episodes of season 5.

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Once Enemies, Now Frenemies

Londo is right to be concerned.  It is clear he is no longer wanted or welcome on his homeworld.  He returns to Babylon 5 shaken and upset but also blissfully unaware that Sheridan and his peers are accumulating evidence that all points towards the Centauri being responsible for the trade route attacks.

G’Kar’s return with Londo is met with reverence from all of the Narns aboard Babylon 5.  It seems in his absence, his writings have been found and published as “The Book of G’Kar” and this has elevated him to God-like status among his people. It is a position he neither seeks nor revels in.

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“Here, take this, before someone else finds out about it.”

In And All My Dreams Torn Asunder (Ep. 16) Londo is confronted with shocking and damning evidence. He is both outraged and appalled. Outraged because he is distant and ignorant of what is actually happening on Centauri Prime and blindly and vigorously defends his people, and appalled that his so-called “friends” could accuse him of something so awful. And All My Dreams Torn Asunder is a good episode because it reminds us (if we needed reminding) of the tragedy of Londo Mollari.  Let us make no mistake, Londo clearly started out on Babylon 5 as one of its villains – a social climber who would stop at nothing to elevate his status among his people.   But what makes Londo an interesting character and worthy of our empathy is that when the justification for his actions is stripped away he at least can see the true awfulness of his crimes. It is in these later seasons that Londo is finally reconciling his past with the Centauri he has become – lamenting over what was necessary because of his race and position – and that is why these accusations from the very people who have witnessed his transformation cut so deep.

Londo returns to Centauri Prime to see if there is any truth in the Alliance’s accusations and is horrified to find his world under attack and the Regent (Damian London) the architect of a plan that leaves them totally defenseless. The Fall of Centauri Prime (Ep. 18) However, it seems that the Regent is not in control of his own mind and there is another force pulling the strings at the Centauri Royal Court.  Londo discovers, to his horror, that his earlier alliance with the Shadows is going to have terrible consequences both for himself and his people and the results of his decisions over the past five years are coming home to roost.

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Strange things are afoot at the Centauri Royal Court

From this point on, Season 5 begins to wind down toward the final episode.  All of the major characters close their story arcs and there is a slow and gradual departure as they each go their way to start new lives or to escape what their lives have become aboard the station. Some of these goodbye’s are genuinely poignant. There’s a sense that these weren’t just characters leaving the show, they were actors leaving a cast and crew that had literally been family to them for five years.  I liked the slow wind down and the fact that characters left over a period of a few episodes.

So, is season 5 of Babylon 5 worth your time?  I would say definitely yes if, for no other reason, than to see Londo and G’Kar complete their story arcs.  Maybe because I came to this season expecting the worst I was pleasantly surprised by it – There’s definitely moments of greatness in it that hearkens back to earlier seasons.  That said, season 5 would be infinitely better if it lost a couple of episodes (namely A View from the Gallery, Ep.4, and The Corps is Mother, The Corps is Father, Ep. 13)

For me, there’s also some questionable decisions in the storytelling in season 5, primarily Lochley and Sheridan’s prior relationship.  It’s brought up in conversation between Lochley and Garibaldi, I assume, to give Lochley’s character more gravitas, but Lochley gets so little character development in the season that this revelation really adds nothing and as a result just comes across as weird.

With all that said, Lochley was no Ivanova – and that’s a good thing.  Scoggins had the unenviable task of trying to insert herself in to a show that had a huge following and was at the end of its run.  Not only that but she was arguably replacing a character that the fan base loved.  The worst thing she could have done was to try and make Lochley Ivanova’s replacement and to her credit she didn’t.  She attacked the role of Lochley and made it her own.  Scoggins did the best she could with what she was given but unfortunately the writing in season 5 really didn’t give her the time or opportunity to flesh out her character.  I think Scoggins is at her best in Day of the Dead (Ep. 8), where we learn a little of Lochley’s backstory and see a more human side of her.  It’s too bad there’s not more of this in season 5.

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“Yeah, I’m the other Captain!”

The other plot thread that also didn’t really sit well with me was Garibaldi’s relapse back in to alcoholism.  Any fan of the show knows that Garibaldi had a difficult relationship with the bottle but always managed to keep himself on the straight and narrow.  In season 5, a confrontation with Bester finally tips him over the edge.  For me, Garibaldi’s fall from grace is more of a plot device than it is a character study.  It’s not handled with any where near as much aplomb as Franklin’s stim addiction in Season 3.  With Franklin, we saw his struggle and we understood how he got there.  Here, Garibaldi claps eyes on Bester and before you know it, all that will power he’s shown for four years is gone and he’s back on the laughing juice.  This all plays out nice for the story – Garibaldi messes up a few things and is dismissed from his post and that sets up his eventual departure from the station – but the nuances of his addiction just aren’t there.  Again, because of the condensed nature of Season 5, this storyline just feels rushed and as a result just doesn’t come across as very well done or believable to me.

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“C’mon Doc, One’s not going to hurt me.”

And then we come to the final episode, Sleeping in Light (Ep.22).  There are those that suggest you should just watch Babylon 5 up until the end of Season 4 and then jump straight to Sleeping with Light. I disagree.  I think there is enough good stuff in Season 5 to make it worth your while.  It is true that Sleeping with Light was shot at the end of Season 4 filming because it was expected to be the final episode of the show at that time, prior to the final season being picked up by TNT.  In this respect, it is arguable that there is perhaps some continuity from the actors and as a result, some truly poignant moments in the episode – but certainly nothing that warrants skipping over all of Season 5.

I struggle with Sleeping in Light.  It’s unquestionably a great episode – it delivers everything that we are expecting from foreshadowed events.  Frankly, I just find it odd.

Sheridan’s twenty-year gift of life is nearing its end so in his last days, he gathers his friends around him for a last reunion and to say his goodbyes. That’s all well and good.  However, he then decides to leave them all, including the great love of his life, Delenn, to go on one last, solitary, “Sunday Drive.”   Again, I know I’m being pedantic and it’s just a story, but I find it strange that a character that’s spent his whole life forging alliances and being a great mediator, would choose to die alone.  Perhaps, Sheridan’s reunion with Lorien is preordained for a certain time and place.  Perhaps, after such a full and chaotic life, Sheridan just wants to find some true peace at the end.

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Well, I guess we’ll be looking for new jobs

By a strange coincidence, as I come to a close with these reviews a quarter century after the show first aired, it has been announced that that the entire 5 seasons of the show will be available for streaming on Amazon Prime so, if these reviews have piqued your interest, or you’ve enjoyed them and just want to take a trip down memory lane, head on over to Amazon where you can binge watch Babylon 5 to your heart’s content.

And so, my own odyssey with Babylon 5, the TV show, comes to an end.  I have to say that for the most part it was a thoroughly enjoyable and riveting ride.  Babylon 5 attempted to do something that had never been done in sci-fi on TV before – tell a complete story over a 5 season arc.  Had it not been for network interference, for the most part, thanks to Straczynski’s brilliant writing, the cast that brought these characters to life week after week and the crew that facilitated and realized the vision for the station, it succeeded in that goal.

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“Goodbye, my Love.  The brightest star in my sky.”

Babylon 5 set a precedent that would be, and still is, followed for years to come, not only in science fiction but in dramatic episodic television across all genres.

Episodes:

Ep1. – No Compromises

Captain Lochley comes aboard to take control of Babylon 5.  Byron seeks safe have for a group of rogue telepaths.  A disgruntled Earth Force soldier stalks Sheridan before his inauguration.

Ep2 – The very long night of Londo Mollari

A serious health issue makes Londo re-evaluate his life.  Lennier resigns his post as Delenn’s attaché.

Ep3 – A Paragon of Animals

Sheridan has trouble getting the alien races to sign on to the new Alliance.  Garibaldi convinces Lyta to enlist the help of the rogue Telepaths.

Ep4 – A View from the Gallery

Life on Babylon 5 as seen through the eyes of two maintenance workers.  An alien race attacks the station (???)

Ep5 – Learning Curve

A young Minbari ranger-in-training tries to be a hero and pays the price for his actions. Garibaldi is suspicious of Lochley.

Ep6 – Strange Relations

Bester arrives on B5 to round up the rogue telepaths.  Lochley reveals a surprising secret.

Ep7 – Secrets of the Soul

After an attack on one of the telepaths, Byron struggles to keep his followers in line.  Lyta and Byron become romantically involved.  Franklin discovers a terrible truth about the race known as the Hyach.

Ep8 – Day of the Dead

A Brakheri custom makes many members of the station come face to face with ghosts from their past. Comedy duo Rebo and Zooty visit the station.

Ep9 – In the Kingdom of the Blind

Someone is attacking Alliance trade routes.  Mollari visits the Centauri Royal court with G’Kar in tow, narrowly surviving an assassination attempt.  The Telepaths adopt drastic measures to secure themselves a home world.

Ep10 – A Tragedy of Telepaths

Lochley enlists the help of Bester to deal with the Telepaths.  G’kar discovers his aide, Na’Toth, imprisoned on Centauri Prime. The Alliance frays around the edges as trade route attacks continue.

Ep11 – Phoenix Rising

The Telepath situation aboard Babylon 5 gets out of hand and breaks in to all out conflict. Garibaldi confronts Bester.

Ep12 – The Ragged Edge

Garibaldi travels to the Drazi homeworld to investigate the attacks on Alliance ships.  G’Kar’s book is published elevating him to God-like status.

Ep13 – The Corps is Mother, The Corps is Father

Bester takes two new interns on a hunt for a rogue Psi Cop Student.

Ep14 – Meditations on the Abyss

Delenn sends Lennier on a covert mission to try and confirm what they know about the attacks.  Londo nominates Vir to be the ambassador to Babylon 5 once he becomes Emperor.

Ep15 – Darkness Ascending

Lennier finally has the proof about the attacks on the Alliance.  Garibaldi’s old flame from Mars pays him a visit.  Lyta strikes a deal with G’Kar

Ep16 – And all My Dreams torn Asunder

Londo is confronted with shocking evidence.   Garibaldi’s mistake may mean the end of the fragile Alliance.

Ep17 – Movements of Fire and Shadow*

Vir makes a request of Franklin and Lyta.  The Narn and Drazi ignore Sheridan’s call for restraint and strike against the Centauri homeworld. *(DVD Commentary by Bruce Boxleitner, Patricia Tallman, Tracy Scoggins and Peter Jurasik)

Ep18 – The Fall of Centauri Prime

Londo discovers the true force behind the Centauri Empire and makes a deal that will affect the rest of his life.  Lennier confesses his true love for Delenn.  Londo ascends to Emperor and distances himself from everyone in an attempt to keep his dreadful secret.

Ep19 – The Wheel of Fire

G’Kar returns to Babylon 5 to find his popularity elevated even more.  Lyta is arrested for supporting the rogue telepaths’ terrorist activity.  Garibaldi is suspended from his position.

Ep 20 – Objects in Motion

Garibaldi and Lise learn that there is a threat on their lives.  G’Kar comes to the conclusion that he must leave the station before his status gets out of control.  Garibaldi and Lise leave for a new life on Mars. Lyta and G’Kar leave.

Ep21 – Objects at Rest

Franklin leaves for his new assignment on Earth.  Sheridan and Delenn leave for the alliance headquarters on Minbar. Lennier leaves Sheridan in a  deadly situation.  Londo visits the couple on Minbar and bequeaths them a sinister gift from the Drakh.

Ep22 – Sleeping in Light

Lorien’s gift of life expires.  Sheridan assembles his friends around him as he approaches his last days.  Babylon 5 is decommissioned.

Related Posts:

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – In The Beginning

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Thirdspace

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season Four

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season Three

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season Two

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season One

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – The Gathering

My Guilty Pleaure – Babylon 5

Stuart Clark is the author of the Project U.L.F. series of Sci Fi adventure novels

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My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – In the Beginning

The second TNT commissioned Babylon 5 movie was called In The Beginning. Straczynski pitched it to the network as a prequel to the four seasons that had already aired. However, Straczynski employed an interesting plot device as he wrote it, choosing to tell the story retrospectively through the eyes and words of one its most beloved characters, Londo Mollari.

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Londo Mollari, at the end of his life, at the beginning of In the Beginning

As we know from flash-forwards in season three’s War Without End (Eps 16 & 17), there is a future in which all of Londo’s deceptions and betrayals have come home to roost. That future has now come to pass.

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Centauri Prime.  Well past its prime.

It is seventeen years after the Shadow war and the surviving remnants of the Shadow fleet have turned their eyes to Centauri prime. Nearing the end of his life, Mollari, now Emperor, watches from his palace as the Shadows and their “associates” turn the once proud Centauri homeworld in to a burning wasteland. He is interrupted from his lamentations by two children playing in the great palace’s halls but instead of shooing them away, he asks them to stay. In a moment of irony that isn’t lost on Londo, or the viewer, he asks the children “What do you want?” They ask for a story and he promises them a story “…About great deeds. About armies of light and soldiers of darkness. About the places where they lived, and fought, and loved, and died. About great empires, and terrible mistakes. A true story.”

And so, it begins……

Warning: Spoilers Ahead.

We next meet Londo as a young man. The Centauri republic and Earth Alliance are on good terms and Earth is looking to strategically expand its sphere of influence. Senior Earth Alliance commanders have called a meeting with Londo to find out what he knows about an alien race thus far unknown to Earth – the Minbaris. Londo warns them to leave the Minbari alone, or at least proceed with extreme caution but his warnings appear to fall on deaf ears.

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Londo in his Centauri prime

Meaanwhile, on Minbar, Lenonn, the leader of the Rangers, a group that has watched and waited for a thousand years, fears the fulfillment of a prophecy and seeks the support of the Gray council. On that council are the novitiate Delenn and her mentor, Dukhat. Together they decide to travel to Z’Ha’Dhum to verify Lenonn’s claims – but perhaps Dukhat knows more than he is letting on.

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Dukhat has more than just skeletons in his closet

On Earth, a young officer Sheridan is offered a plum assignment as First officer on board the Prometheus to head to the edge of Minbar space on an exploratory mission. Despite the opportunity to advance his career, he declines, citing the fact that the captain of the Prometheus, Captain Jankowski, is regarded as a “loose cannon” by his crew and does not do well in first contact situations.

At Delenn’s swearing in ceremony, the Prometheus comes across and shadows the Minbari ship. The Minbari detect the Earth Alliance ship and, as is traditional for them, change course and approach with all gun ports open in a show of open-handedness. Presuming the Minbari ship to be hostile, Jankowski orders the crew of the Prometheus to open fire – setting in motion a chain of events which will result in the Earth-Minbari war and the almost complete destruction of the human race. A war that will end only when the Minbari suddenly and inexplicably surrender on the verge of total victory at the Battle of the Line.

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The Minbari Fleet “jumps in” at the Battle of the Line

As far as the Babylon 5 movies go, I think In the Beginning is by far my favorite. Having Londo as storyteller is an ingenious plot device because, as Straczynski says in the DVD commentary, it really is Londo’s story to tell. He is one of the few characters who can bear witness to all that passed because, as he says, “I was there.” Besides, Jurasik’s character is arguably one of the most beloved of the series.

Also, whereas in other movies, the infodumps are somewhat jarring, in In the Beginning, they are far more excusable because of the nature of the way the narrative is being relayed. Londo is the storyteller, it is literally his job to tell the story – warts and all.

In terms of story, if you’ve followed Babylon 5 all the way to the end of season 4 at this point, you really aren’t going to learn anything new about major events in the B5 timeline from In the Beginning. We know Commander Sinclair has memory loss from his time at the Battle of the Line, we know the Minbari surrendered at said battle with total victory within their grasp. We know Ivanova lost a brother in the war and that Sheridan earned the moniker “Star Killer” in the same war. But what In the Beginning does give us is the particulars of these events and the context in which they happened, effectively filling in the blanks of what Straczynski has been drip feeding us over four seasons. The movie is interspersed with clips from episodes from the previous four seasons (namely And the sky full of stars (Ep 8, S1), A late delivery from Avalon (Ep 13, S3), War without End Pt 2 (Ep 17, S3), and Atonement (Ep 9, S4)) – which integrate seamlessly and go to further illustrate Straczynski’s brilliant writing and his original vision for an overreaching story arc that spanned all five seasons.

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Construction begins on the first of the Babylon Stations

In the Beginning truly is a B5 fans movie. With the exception of Garibaldi, Lyta, Vir and Lennier, the entire ensemble cast puts in an appearance to greater or lesser degrees. In fact In the Beginning explains so many story threads in one nice little package it’s hard to imagine this movie not getting made just for the B5 faithful – let alone to introduce a whole other network’s viewers to this universe and its characters.

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Andreas Katsulas reprised his role as the patriot G’kar

As I mentioned before, the DVD commentary features Straczynski and he is accompanied by Michael Vejar, who he openly admits was one of his favorite directors on the show. It may be what makes In the Beginning such a gem. Between them they drop nuggets of information about the movie’s plot, production, shooting techniques and schedule. It makes for interesting listening. At one point Straczynski mentions that there is some debate about when In the Beginning should be watched – either before you start watching the series because, well, look at the title of the movie – or at the end of season four of the show. I definitely fall in to the latter camp and I say that only because there are moments of foreshadowing in In the Beginning that just aren’t going to make any sense if you haven’t watched the show up to the end of season four. Not only that, but much of the beauty of Babylon 5 is the plotting and slow revealing of information that Straczynski does so well. To dive in to the show knowing all this back story would, I think, seriously curtail your enjoyment of the show itself, so I say watch In the Beginning here, when you have reached the end of season four.

A great television movie for the B5 fan. Recommended.

Related Posts:

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Thirdspace

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season Four

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season Three

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season Two

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season One

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – The Gathering

My Guilty Pleaure – Babylon 5

Stuart Clark is the author of the Project U.L.F. series of Sci Fi adventure novels

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My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Thirdspace

Prior to picking up Babylon 5 for it’s fifth and final season, TNT commissioned two Babylon 5 TV movies.  The first of these to be filmed in 1997, but which aired second in 1998, was Thirdspace.

 

 

Thirdspace is set, as we learn in Captain John Sheridan’s opening monologue, in the middle of the Earth year 2261 – the year between wars. In terms of Babylon 5’s series chronology, this places it somewhere between Into the Fire (S4, Ep.6) and Atonement (S4, Ep.9)

Whilst returning to Babylon 5 after a skirmish with raiders, Ivanova’s starfury squadron picks up something on their scanners.  Ever the curious ones, they go to investigate and find a massive artifact floating in hyperspace that they then tow back to the station.

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Always wondered where I’d left that hammer!

Preliminary investigations reveal nothing since anything that goes near the thing gets sucked dry of its power, but back on the station itself, all is not well.  Aboard B5, the telepath Lyta Alexander (Patricia Tallman), who has visited the Vorlon homeworld and been somehow altered by the ancient alien race, is clearly disturbed by the artifact’s presence.  Could it have anything to do with the fact that the artifact itself is covered in Vorlon hieroglyphs?

sheridan_lyta

“Lyta, if you wanted to get to know me better, all you had to do was ask!”

It is not long before Interplanetary Expeditions (IPX) get wind of the discovery and before you can say “first contact situation,” Dr. Elizabeth Trent (Shari Belafonte) and Bill Morishi (Clyde Kusatsu) have arrived on B5 to request access to (read: take over the investigation of) the artifact.  Having had experience of IPX (It was an IPX expedition to Z’Ha’Dhum which resulted in the loss of his wife), this irks Sheridan no end – thus setting up a tense situation between the B5 captain and the team of archeologists who feel a misplaced sense of entitlement to the artifact.

ipx

Shari Belafonte representing IPX – “We’ll take it from here, Captain.”

As time goes by, stranger and stranger things begin occurring on Babylon 5 with many people experiencing visions (including a shared dream between Vir and Ivanova), and the station itself going into crisis mode as the artifact stationed outside slowly drains B5 of its power.  Thus Sheridan is thrown into a race against time, both to protect the station and its population and to find out what the artifact is before IPX unlock its secret.  All the while Lyta Alexander gets progressively more distressed because, as she knows, the Vorlons have seen this awful thing before.

vir_ivanova

“Are you seeing what I’m seeing?”

As a stand alone movie Thirdspace works, and by that I mean it completes its story arc and comes to a satisfactory conclusion.  What hurts Thirdspace is where it falls chronologically in the overall Babylon 5 story arc.  Because of when Thirdspace is set, many of the major characters we have come to know and love are out of the picture – Garibaldi is absent having resigned as chief of security, Londo and G’kar are both on Centauri prime.  Even some of the major characters who do remain on the station barely feature (Delenn, Franklin, Marcus, Lennier), with a couple of them making only brief cameos.  Admittedly this movie is not about them but the result of the scripting means that Boxleitner, Christian and Tallman have the lion’s share of the acting put firmly on their shoulders and it is on them that the movie ultimately gets carried.  Boxleitner, as always, does an excellent job as Sheridan, and Tallman does a lot of acting weird and passing out when it all becomes too much for her brain to handle, but Besides Shari Belafonte’s commendable effort as Dr. Trenton, the movie feels as if it’s padded with construction worker/starfury pilot “redshirts.”

Like all B5 movies, Thirdspace suffers from infodumps – specifically when Dr. Trenton informs Sheridan of how much they know of Lyta’s visit to the Vorlon homeworld and when Lyta herself tells Sheridan what they (the Vorlon’s) know about the artifact.  However, it is perhaps more excusable in Thirdspace given that the fifth season of B5 was almost written off before being picked up again and the TNT movies provided an opportunity to address some of the story arcs that had been present in the show.  Also, if we’re going to watch Thirdspace as a stand-alone movie, we need to know about these characters and their histories – and there really is no quick or easy way to do it without having a character espouse all this information.

My one major criticism of Thirdspace is its ending which feels like an inevitable outcome from the moment the artifact arrives in B5 territory.  The movie seems to barrel towards its conclusion without a second thought for other possible scenarios that might warrant some lengthier exploration – but maybe that’s the point.  It’s a movie crammed into a finite period of time – it’s meant to have a definitive ending.  The only problem is, when it comes it feels very much like a deux ex machina moment.

There’s a commentary on the DVD which has input form the director, Jesus Salvador Trevino, Bruce Boxleitner, Jeff Conaway, Patricia Tallman and Stephen Furst, but those of you looking for any particular insight will be disappointed.  Trevino does his best to drop some nuggets in about the movie, concept design and the shoot and Boxleitner humors him throughout but for the most part the v/o consists mostly of Tallman, Furst and the late Jeff Conaway goofing around and reminiscing about their time on the show.  If you’re interested in that kind of thing, then great, but it’s not exactly a commentary on the movie per se.

Overall, Thirdspace is an OK addition to the B5 canon but it’s certainly not a “must-see” in terms of its quality, storyline or content relating to the B5 timeline/universe.

Related Posts:

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season Four

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season Three

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season Two

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season One

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – The Gathering

My Guilty Pleaure – Babylon 5

Stuart Clark is the author of the Project U.L.F. series of Sci Fi adventure novels

 

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My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season Four

Really Babylon 5? Really? After the past two seasons the best you could come up with is a curtain wipe with a dodgy dissolve. Meh. If the opening titles were anything to go by you could be forgiven for thinking that Babylon 5 was past its best. Fortunately that was far from the case. 

Warning: Spoilers ahead. 

Season Four begins as season three ended – with a monologue from G’kar. In The Hour of the Wolf, Captain Sheridan has not returned from Z’Ha’Dhum and is presumed dead. Mister Garibaldi and his Starfury are still missing and Ivanova is walking around in a funk because half the people she cares about are gone. Londo has returned to Centauri prime to find himself the victim of his own political skullduggery and in the service of an emperor, Cartagia (Wortham Krimmer), who is completely insane and Delenn is fasting because of the loss of Sheridan. 

Throughout episode one, we’re pretty much left hanging as to what has happened to Sheridan. We learn that the alliance of the league of non-aligned worlds that Sheridan worked so hard to forge is crumbling without his leadership and that the Vorlon, Kosh (2), refuses to attend meetings or assist in any way. Despite having sanctuary on Babylon 5, G’kar is willing to risk everything to go in search of his friend, Mister Garibaldi, and in a similar vain Ivanova, refusing to believe that Sheridan is lost forever, musters Delenn and Lyta Alexander to go on an equally dangerous recon/rescue mission to Z’Ha’Dhum. As a season opener, The Hour of the Wolf may not be as profound as other seasons’ first episodes. It is not so much setting things up for the season to come as it is a continuation of what has gone before. Certainly G’kar’s decision to go after Garibaldi will have profound consequences for him and Londo’s discovery that he is in the service of a mad man will force him into an unthinkable position – but these subplots intertwine and run their course in half a dozen episodes. As B5 fans, we already know we are rushing headlong toward the Shadow war. Really, there is nothing to set up. The burning questions left from season three are, as G’kar puts it – Where is Mister Garibaldi and what happened to Captain Sheridan at Z’Ha’Dhum? We’ll get no hints at the answer to the first question in this episode, but right at the end of The Hour of the Wolf, we get a glimpse of Sheridan alive – or is he? 

As we learn in Whatever happened to Mister Garibaldi? (Ep.2), Sheridan now exists in some kind of limbo, where he is accompanied by a strange being who calls himself Lorien. This was about as far as I had got watching the series when it first aired on British television, and I remember Lorien being a somewhat creepy character. If you can see past all the prosthetics and make up, those of you with a keen eye and a good memory will recognize Lorien as Wayne Alexander, the same actor who appeared as Kosh’s “envoy” in Comes the Inquisitor (S2, Ep 21). In both of these roles, Alexander manages to breathe life into a character that is somewhat unsettling.

Wayne Alexander as Lorien, Sebastian and a Drazi captive

Wayne Alexander as Lorien, Sebastian and a Drazi captive

Babylon 5 made a habit of reusing actors for different roles. In these reviews I’ve already mentioned how Ed Wasser went from C&C command staff in the pilot show to the sinister Mister Morden in the following four seasons. Similarly, John Vickery who was excellent in the role of the warrior caste Minbari, Neroon, also had a bit part as a member of the Night Watch in Point of No Return (S3, Ep. 4).
John Vickery - as Neroon and a member of the Night Watch

John Vickery – as Neroon and a member of the Night Watch

Alexander also shows his face again (or not as the case may be) as a drazi ambassador in Intersections in Real Time (ep.18 of this season). 

I liked the way the show handled Sheridan’s “situation” here, which Lorien describes as “between moments” because, whilst I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for a lot of things, resurrection from the dead I really can’t do. It’s one of the reasons why I really hated The Matrix. Wait! What? You’re a sci-fi fan and you hated The Matrix.   Yes. And here’s why. You cannot get me invested in a universe defined by certain rules, said rules espoused/infodumped by one of your characters (“If you die inside the matrix you are dead”), tag me along for a couple of hours thinking that I know the rules and then break all those rules at the end because you need your hero to survive. (“But Neo, you’re the one and I love you ). That’s nonsense. But The Matrix was a visually stunning movie you say. Yes. Yes it was. As a piece of film making it was goundbreaking, which is why it kept me entertained for a couple of hours, but as far as storytelling goes, you can’t set up your world and then break all the rules ‘cos you feel like it. Doesn’t work. You just cheated your audience. But I digress… 

So with Sheridan we’re treated to a couple of episodes of dancing around the “is he or isn’t he” (dead) question. Certainly the crew of B5 all believe he’s dead, and from a viewer’s point of view, it’s impossible to believe that he could have survived the leap of faith he took at the end of season three. BUT – Even though Lorien himself tries to convince Sheridan he has perished, through their conversations we learn that Lorien is not all that he appears. Indeed, his appearance may only be a palatable physical manifestation of a power or entity of truly God like proportions that has deigned to spare Sheridan’s life for a destiny that lies ahead. In his own words, Lorien admits “I cannot create life, but I may breathe on the remaining embers,” and so we’re left with the question – Did Sheridan truly die at Z’Ha’Dhum? 

This hanging around in limbo gets pretty tiresome after a while - C'mon people, I've got a show to get back to!

This hanging around in limbo gets pretty tiresome after a while – C’mon people, I’ve got a show to get back to!

Thus Sheridan returns to Babylon 5 in Summonings (Ep.3) as does security chief Michael Garibaldi (Jerry Doyle). Both men have been irrevocably altered by their experiences – Sheridan in ways he knows and understands, Garibaldi in ways that he does not remember and will not learn about until much later on. Yes, after playing with many of the principal characters in season three, season four was definitely where Straczynski got to mess with Garibaldi. 

Meanwhile, on Centauri Prime, Londo finds himself in an unthinkable position. Firstly, that he is plotting against the most important person on his homeworld. Secondly, that he will need to enlist the help of his arch-enemy, G’kar, if he has any hope of succeeding. The two of them strike a pact that will have far-reaching repercussions for both them and their peoples.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

And so the Shadow war is upon us. (Into the Fire, Ep.6) For almost three seasons, Babylon 5 has been building towards this moment. There are a number of battle scenes but as we are to learn, the Shadow war is less about brute force and more about ideologies and thus Into the Fire has the potential to be a huge anti-climax. However, once again, thanks to some quality writing from Straczynski and the acting skills of Boxleitner (Sheridan) and Mira Furlan (Delenn) this episode provides satisfying closure to much of what has come before. 

After such a powerful episode and the Shadow war over so early in season four it would be easy to think that Babylon 5 would go into a slump. Indeed, it is safe to say that the tension and pace of the episodes that follow are ratcheted down significantly, but really these provide a moment for us, the viewers, to catch our breath, while Straczynski begins to put in place the elements that will lead us to the second climax of season four – the war against Earth. 

It’s about this time that Straczynski starts messing around with the character of Garibaldi. As in the previous season, where certain characters had their own tangential story arcs (Franklin, Delenn), in season four it is the turn of Garibaldi. Unable to reconcile his own off-station experience with that of Sheridan’s, the two men grow apart to such an extent that Garibaldi feels he has no choice but to resign as security chief. This is a welcome change. Doyle put in such a solid performance as Garibaldi, week-in, week-out, that it was easy to see the character as just a part of the station furniture. And so, perhaps one of the most surprising things about Garibaldi is that, for a main character and one that has been a major part of setting the story up to this point, when it comes to the climactic Shadow war, he was notably absent. Doyle was as true and honest to the Garibaldi character as the security chief was to the station. Thus, when Garibaldi’s world starts unraveling, it is an interesting departure for both the character and the actor. 

Using his contacts and skills, Garibaldi starts his own one-man private investigation firm. However, when he’s hired to provide personal protection, Garibaldi’s past catches up with him. His charge, he finds out, is his ex-fiancee Lise Hampton (Denise Gentile) who we first met in A voice in the Wilderness Pt.2  season one. Lise is now married to William Edgars, one of the richest men alive and now Garibaldi’s employer, and whilst Garibaldi has no idea what he’s getting himself in to, he’s happy to do it just to spite Sheridan. 

I'm beginning to think alien antiques was a bad career move

I’m beginning to think alien antiques was a bad career move

What Garibaldi will later learn is that he is being used as a pawn in a plot far messier than a toddler eating spaghetti. It will not be until The Face of the Enemy (Ep. 17) that we will get the answer to G’kar’s second question – Whatever happened to Mister Garibaldi?

Anyone order a shrink-wrapped Garibaldi?

Anyone order a shrink-wrapped Garibaldi?

Amongst all this, Delenn also has another tangential story arc. She returns to Minbar to find that her dissolution of the Gray Council has thrown her people in to chaos and pushed them to the brink of civil war. Through her trials and tribulations we get to learn what really happened at that first-contact meeting that resulted in the Earth-Minbari war and understand the resentments that have long bubbled under the surface between the warrior and religious castes. John Vickery makes a welcome return to reprise his role as Neroon.

And so, once our ensemble cast is all reunited, we are thrown headlong in to the war with Earth.

Now if you’ve read any of my other B5 season reviews, oh, I don’t know, say here, and here and here, you will have heard me talk about Straczynski’s writing with reverence before but nowhere is his brilliance more evident than here. The reward for sticking with Babylon 5 through those early, somewhat hammy episodes of season one is here, at the end of season four. If you’ve watched Babylon 5 religiously from the first episode, then you’ll recognize elements that were dropped into seasons one, two and three comng together here. Straczynski brings numerous different plot points together as he concisely wraps up season four. 

That said, the end of season four feels a little rushed and there’s a very good reason for that. As Straczynski mentions in his commentary on The Deconstruction of Falling Stars, because of the impending demise of PTEN, the network that had carried the series so far, he was told to wrap Babylon 5 at the end of this season. As a result, his five-season story arc was being truncated to four. It was only after Sleeping in Light had been shot as both the final episode of the show and as a precaution against cancellation that Straczynski was told that TNT would be picking up Babylon 5 and he would indeed be getting a fifth season. This meant that Sleeping in Light would still remain as the final episode but was pushed out to the end of season five. The Deconstruction of Falling Stars was hastily shot as the season ending episode of season four. 

Another unfortunate consequence of the uncertainty of whether or not B5 would get picked up for its fifth and final season was that the options that held the cast members to an obligation to be available for shooting that fifth season could only be extended by thirty days according to their contracts. WB and TNT informed the B5 production office that they would have their decision about the fifth season “by late June or early July of 1997.” Since the options on the cast expired in mid-June, this was cause for some concern. That put the “drop-dead date,” for concluding all agreements relating to a fifth season, at July 14, 1997. The major ramification, should all contracts not be concluded by that date, would be that the production office would have to re-negotiate contracts with the actors. This would certainly involve haggling over raises, and since production had already cut everything down to the barest penny in order to get WB and TNT to agree to go ahead on a fifth season, this would effectively kill the fifth season and end the show. 

The details of what happened next are still in dispute with Straczynski and Claudia Christian claiming different things, but the bottom line is Christian did not sign her contract before the deadline passed and as a result she did not reprise her role as Ivanova in season five.

What do you mean I'm not going to be in season five?

What do you mean I’m not going to be in season five?

Given the popularity of the character and the fact that Ivanova was slated to take over as B5 commander in the final season, this was a massive disappointment for fans who took their ire out on Straczynski and Christian on internet newsgroups. This in turn, drastically affected how Straczynski interacted with fans. Up until this point, Straczynski had been very interactive with fans on newsgroups and messageboards – indeed he could be considered one of the first people to really embrace the Internet for making himself accessible to fans. However, following the backlash Straczynski spent much less time responding to posts and emails and has publicly stated this will be his policy in future. 

All that said, for me, The Deconstruction of Falling Stars just does not work. For starters, it’s a massive anti-climax to what is arguably Babylon 5’s finest season. Secondly, it is so alien (pardon the pun) to all that has come before that it just feels out of place. This isn’t Straczynski’s fault. The fact that he came up with anything at all to end the season is a testament to his creativity. I think the reason I dislike this episode so much is because it’s purely a stand alone episode to fill a void and as such it feels like the show is regressing back to those early hit or miss episodes of season one. It certainly doesn’t feel worthy of being the season finale after all that has come before. Not only that, but there’s nothing in it to get us excited about a season five. You could very well be forgiven for thinking that Babylon 5 truly does end here. 

However, the real shame in all of this is that there was ever a question of whether Babylon 5 would get picked up for its final season. As fans we can only wonder what might have been had the show been allowed to complete its full five-season arc unmolested – but alas, that is something we will never know.

Ep1. – The Hour of the Wolf
Londo finds himself in the service of an insane Emperor and enlists Vir’s help. G’kar vows to find Mr. Garibaldi. Ivanova, Lyta and Delenn take a White Star to search of Sheridan. Sheridan discovers he is not alone on Z’Ha’Dum

Ep2 – Whatever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi
Sheridan meets Lorien. G’kar is captured by the Centauri. Londo begins to plot to overthrow the emperor.

Ep 3 – The Summoning
Ivanova and Marcus go in search of the First Ones. Garibaldi is found. Sheridan returns. G’kar suffers at the hands of Emperor Cartagia.

Ep.4 – Falling towards Apotheosis
Garibaldi is suspicious of Sheridan and Lorien. Emperor Cartagia makes plans for his Godhood. Sheridan decides he must deal with Kosh and reveals the price he must pay for going to Z’Ha”Dum

Ep.5 – The Long Night
Londo plots against Cartagia. Ivanova is sent to search for more of the First Ones. Sheridan sets a trap for the Shadow fleet.

Ep6. – Into the Fire
The Climax of the Shadow War.

Ep7 – Epiphanies
Garibaldi resigns as chief of security. Bester returns to tell the command staff that President Clark is plotting against them.

Ep 8 – The Illusion of Truth
An ISN news crew reports its version of the truth about Babylon 5.

Ep. 9 – Atonement
Delenn returns to Minbar for a dreaming ceremony. Sheridan sends Franklin and Marcus to Mars Colony to reach out to the resistance.

Ep.10 – Racing Mars
Franklin and Marcus make contact with the resistance. Garibaldi and Sheridan are no longer seeing eye-to-eye.

Ep.11 – Lines of Communication
Franklin and Marcus relay Sheridan’s offers to the resistance. Delenn is forced into an unpleasant encounter.

Ep. 12 – Conflicts of Interest
Garibaldi gets a surprise client for his PI business. Babylon 5 starts broadcasting as the voice of the resistance.

Ep. 13 – Rumors, Bargains and Lies
Delenn seeks to form an alliance with the warrior caste to prevent civil war on Minbar. Sheridan fools the members of the league of non-aligned worlds.

Ep. 14 – Moments of Transition
Delenn returns to Minbar in an attempt to stop the civil war that has erupted between the warrior and religious castes. Lyta strikes a deal with Bester.

Ep. 15 – No Surrender, No Retreat
Sheridan recruits allies from the league of non-aligned worlds and takes the war to President Clark. Londo and G’kar form an unlikely alliance.

Ep. 16 – Exercise of Vital Powers
Garibaldi returns to Mars to confront his new employer. Franklin continues to work with the Telepaths rescued from the Shadows.

Ep. 17 – The Face of the Enemy
Garibaldi commits the ultimate betrayal before learning what really happened to him when he disappeared. Franklin and Lyta take a strange cargo to Mars.

Ep. 18 – Interssections in Real Time
Sheridan is interrogated.

Ep. 19 – Between the Darkness and the Light
Garibaldi pleads his innocence and mounts a rescue attempt for Sheridan. Ivanova foils an ambush by Earth forces.

Ep. 20 – Endgame
The battles for Mars Colony and Earth

Ep.21 – Rising Star
Sheridan returns to Earth and is faced with an ultimatum. Delenn has a proposal.

Ep. 22 – The Deconstruction of Falling Stars
The legacy of the characters of Babylon 5 as seen from different points in time.

Related Posts:
My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season Three

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season Two

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – Season One

My Guilty Pleasure – Babylon 5 – The Gathering

My Guilty Pleaure – Babylon 5

Stuart Clark is the author of the Project U.L.F. series of Sci Fi adventure novels

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Project U.L.F. – Outbreak – Free Kindle Download through March 9th

That’s right folks, you read that correctly. Now through Saturday, March 9th, you can pick up a copy of my latest novel, Project U.L.F. – Outbreak, absolutely free.

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To pick up your free download, click here

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Giveaway and Blog Tour Alert

Would you like the chance to get your hands on a Kindle Fire? I might be able to help you out there.

Check out this giveaway. The contest takes place from January 1st-31st in conjunction with the Heroines With Heart blog tour. Yes, I will be doing the tour as an author 🙂

If you are interested in participating in the tour, whether as an author, blogger, reviewer, or attendee, you can learn more about it here: http://heroineswithheart.com

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Three Reasons Why People Think Flu Shots Cause the Flu

“I got the flu shot, and it gave me the flu.” I wish that, as a physician, I had a dime for every time someone has said that to me. I would be a rich man.
The truth is, you cannot get influenza—the flu—from the flu shot. Never. No way. Not possible. The flu shot is made from killed flu viruses. Dead viruses cannot replicate and grow inside the body, and, therefore, they cannot cause the flu. These dead viruses do, however, cause the body to make anti-flu antibodies, and this is how the vaccination works. The body builds up antibodies—immunity—to the flu.
So, why do so many people insist that the flu shot causes the flu? There are, I think, three reasons for this.
1.) The flu shot can cause some mild flu-like symptoms. About 1% of people who receive the flu vaccine get a low-grade fever, a headache, and mild body aches after getting vaccinated. These are side effects of the vaccine. People, not unreasonably, often interpret these mild symptoms as “the flu.” In truth, these side effects are nothing like getting the real flu. The real flu makes you feel quite miserable: high fevers, chills, severe body aches, muscle aches, profound generalized weakness in addition to headache, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, and red/watery eyes. Flu vaccine side effects rarely last more than a day, whereas the real flu usually lasts five to ten days.
2.) You can still get the flu after getting the flu shot. There are two ways this can happen. First, the flu shot takes about two weeks to start working. It takes two weeks to build up those immunizing antibodies. Thus, if you’re exposed to the flu within two weeks following the shot, you can still get the flu. And, if this happens, it’s very natural to think the flu came from the flu shot, itself. But, this is not the case. You were simply unlucky. You caught the flu before the shot could make you immune.
Secondly, the flu shot is not 100% effective. Depending on the year and the strain of flu going around, the shot is anywhere from 50-90% effective. This means that 10 to 50% of the time the shot doesn’t work. Some people will think the shot must have caused the flu, since they got the shot and still got the flu. But, the truth is, the shot simply didn’t give full immunity. Luckily, if you do get the flu after the flu shot, you are likely to have a milder course of flu than if you didn’t get the shot.
3.) Finally, the flu shot does not protect you against cold viruses. The shot only protects against the influenza virus. There are still dozens of cold viruses floating around out there. Consequently, if you catch a cold a few days after getting the flu shot, you might well think the shot gave you “the flu” because cold symptoms are similar to flu symptoms. (Cold symptoms, however, tend to be milder than flu symptoms: cough, sore throat, and runny nose, yes—but with less high fever, body aches, muscle aches, weakness, and generally feeling like crap.)
So, given these reasons why you might think you got the flu from the flu shot, why get the shot in the first place? For anyone who’s ever had a case of bona fide flu—as I have—the answer is pretty easy: the flu sucks. It’s rather like having a high fever plus profound fatigue plus a bad cold all associated with the feeling of having been run over by a Mack truck. Not fun. The flu shot can prevent a week of genuine misery, and, for me, that alone is worth a shot in the arm.
In addition, getting the flu shot could prevent you from getting the flu plus a flu-related complication such as pneumonia or a sinus infection. It could even prevent you from becoming a flu statistic. About 25,000 people (on average) die of flu-related complications each year in the United States (worldwide, there are 200,000 to half a million flu-related deaths).
Or, if you don’t want to get the flu shot to protect yourself, you might consider being a hero and getting it to protect others. One person with the flu can infect dozens of other people. So even if you don’t mind getting the flu, yourself, think about getting the flu shot in order to protect your friends, family members, and other close contacts from getting the flu from you.

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