We’ve arrived at the seventh and much-anticipated standalone novel The Shadow Within, by Jeanne Cavelos. And it was worth the wait!
The story takes place just before the Babylon 5 television series pilot episode “The Gathering” and was clearly well researched, and also presumably informed by the author’s familiarity with the characters as we know them from the series. The book was authored and published at a time when Ms. Cavelos would have had access to the first three seasons, and part of the fourth season, of the TV show. It looks like she was as much a fan as we are. The book is considered canon, along with the ninth and final standalone novel.
The novel filled in some missing info for a few key storylines: specifically what happened to Anna Sheridan that resulted in her apparent death, and later the discovery that she was actually working with the Shadows; and also additional information (backstory) related to Captain Sheridan when he was the commander of the Agamemnon prior to taking command of Babylon 5. We watch Sheridan’s career get frustrated by a combination of incompetence among his junior officers, perhaps fueled by something more sinister. With Anna’s story, we learn just how deep her love for John was, and his for her. It made her loss that we learned about in the television series even more heartbreaking. Related, we meet Mr. Morden for the first time (chronologically) and discover he’s actually Dr. Morden. One of the most interesting elements of the story is that we learn to appreciate (and maybe even respect) the character we all love to hate. Seeing Morden as he was before the Shadows took control of him was truly interesting.
As the novel progresses, we bounce between Anna’s and John’s stories. As is the case with good storytelling, each time a segment of Anna’s storyline ends, you hope to hurry through the next segment of John’s story so you can get back to find out what happened. But then when that segment of John’s storyline ends, you can’t wait to race through Anna’s to get back to what’s happening with his situation. The story unfolds quickly as a result, and in the end you feel like you were watching a couple of well-paired episodes, or perhaps what would have made a great Babylon 5 movie.
If you like this novel, you’ll be happy to know Ms. Cavelos is also the author of “The Passing of the Techno-Mages” trilogy: one of the three trilogies we’ll read and review together after we finish with the last standalone novel.
We enjoyed this book very much. Our ratings were a 4.5, a 5.5, and a 5.0 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 4.7.
Next up is the penultimate standalone novel, Personal Agendas, by Al Sarrantonio. We’re optimistic that it will be a good experience, even though it doesn’t carry the same positive reputation as The Shadow Within, or the ninth standalone, To Dream in the City of Sorrows. If you’re reading along with us, grab your copy and enjoy!
The sixth standalone novel we’re discussing is Betrayals, by S.M. Stirling.
Raul offered a very useful way to view this book: as an anthology composed of two short stories and a novella. Taking this view helped frame or structure what we read. We all agreed this was a far better than the last two books—combined—even though, like the last several, this book seemed to contain more book than actual story. This is where the anthology perspective helped.
Overall, the book focuses on a significant diplomatic conference occurring on Babylon 5, driving an acute need for superb security. The primary attendees: diplomats from the Centauri Republic and Narn. At the same time, a previously unknown race called the T’ll arrive, currently ruled by the Narn, and seeking asylum. The trouble begins. A member of this unusual race commits a murder, and in the course of being pursued and apprehended, is rendered unconscious. For the T’ll, this is essentially a death sentence. Unconsciousness destroys what is a continuous memory within the individual, causing a return to the same mental state as a newborn. The friction between the Centauri and Narn is exacerbated by the current and deadly friction caused by the T’lln delegation. Things get even messier when President Clark gets involved: directing Captain Sheridan to oversee a fixed trial and death sentence for the T’lln assassin. Given that the assassin is already “dead” and a child now exists instead, the death sentence wouldn’t be justice. It would be the murder of an innocent. Sprinkle in some interesting dynamics with the press, present to cover the Centauri-Narn negotiations, and the creativity of Captain Sheridan, and the story concludes pretty well.
Some of the “odd themes” we’ve seen in the standalone novels presented themselves again: yet another new race (which we never hear from or about again), and a strong presentation on Narn aggression and dominance. Other more canonical themes are there too, including friction between the Narn and Centauri, and between Earth Gov and Babylon 5.
Our ratings were a 4, a 3.5, and a 3.5 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 3.67.
Next is the long-awaited novel The Shadow Within, by Jeanne Cavelos. You’ve stuck with us this long, so please continue reading and join us next time when we discuss one of the two standalone books that is generally well received.
Next up, we read The Touch of Your Shadow, the Whisper of Your Name, by Neil Barrett, Jr. This is the fifth of nine stand-alone novels. Given how the first four weren’t that great, we were hopeful this one might shine a little, but ultimately we were disappointed. While not as bad as Clark’s Law, this book felt like a short story crammed into a full-length novel. As a result, this made Barrett’s book just okay, at best. And that’s not a strong endorsement. There was also an issue with where the story fits in the overall timeline. The book never says, and there’s disagreement out on the web. The best estimate is provided by the Lurker’s Guide, and even that doesn’t fully address the continuity issues. The bottom line is, by the time this novel was written, the TV series was in the third season, yet it seems like the author may have never watched an episode.
We’re back to riots on the station, and they’re presented in a way that suggests this is sort of a normal thing. Balanced against the TV show, we know this isn’t the case, so the suggestion is becoming somewhat annoying now that it’s appeared in several of the novels. While not well done, the reader can assume that some of this is caused by, or enflamed by, the emergence of an alien entity that causes everyone on the station to misbehave. It’s a reasonable explanation, but somehow still falls short, primarily based on how the author unfolds the story. In the end, a giant, green worm-like creature (9 million miles long and half a million miles wide!) approaches the station. It’s somehow real, but also not real, in that while everyone can see it, it doesn’t register on sensors. No one knows what it is, where it came from, if it’s hostile or not, or where it’s going. The odd behavior of station personnel seems to increase in severity as the creature draws closer. In response, forces from Earth and B5 approach it, examine it as best they can, and even fire at it, with no real consequences. While this appeared to be a way to build drama, it didn’t. Frankly, it took too long and made the story boring.
The space worm finally arrives and passes through the station (or the station passes through the worm…) and everything returns to normal. We’d like to tell you there’s more to the story than that, but there really isn’t. The worm is referred to as a shadow because of the problem that it’s seen but not apparently substantive. By the way, there’s no connection between this shadow and THE Shadows we’re all familiar with from the B5 universe. Your hosts seemed to agree there were enough comedic elements here (intentional or not, like Fermi’s Angels) that this may have been better written as a light-hearted comedy novel. But it wasn’t, so some of these kinds of characters and events fell flat or just seemed silly since they weren’t a part of a real attempt at humor. There was also some agreement that the one redeeming character in the story was Martina Coles—someone who could have been better developed and even appeared in other novels. But she was unique to this story, and not a part of the TV show or subsequent books. Oh well.
Two interesting aspects of the story that we briefly discussed toward the end of the program. First, there was a real potential for a cool story about a creature (the space worm) that even the Vorlons didn’t have knowledge of. This could have been very interesting and even a little terrifying. The author toyed with this concept a bit, but in the end, let it fall on the floor. Second, this novel is in some ways comparable to the movie Thirdspace. The movie wasn’t all that great either, but there are some real similarities between the two. We leave that for your consideration.
Well, we unanimously disliked the book—sadly a developing trend. Our ratings were a 1.3, a 0.5, and a 1.5 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 1.1. Once again, based on the much higher ratings out there on the socials (GoodReads, Amazon, etc.), if any of our listeners enjoyed this, we genuinely want to hear why. Not to be critical of you, but to see if the three of us missed something in our own reading of the material. Also, keep in mind, these standalone novels are what they are, and aren’t considered canon except for the 7th and 9th books. With that in mind, it’s a little easier to manage expectations. It also means we’re drawing closer to at least two that should be pretty good. Not saying numbers six and eight aren’t good—we just don’t know yet. Then as noted during the episode, the three trilogies are all considered to be solid and definitely worth the time to read, so hang in there.
Please continue reading along and join us next time when we discuss the sixth stand-alone novel, Betrayals, by S.M. Sterling.
The next stand-alone novel we read and reviewed is Jim Mortimore’s Clark’s Law. This is the only novel he wrote within the B5 universe, although he has writing credits for novelizations within the Dr. Who universe. The print copy was published by Dell in February 1996, and ran 288 pages. The story takes place in 2259, at the end of Season 2 and occurs between “Comes the Inquisitor” and “The Fall of Night”. sometime prior to “The Coming of Shadows” (Season 2, Episode 9). This book is not considered canon.
Well, we went from liking the previous novel quite a bit to not liking this one at all. Here’s the story: A newly discovered species called the Tuchanq come aboard Babylon 5 and in short order an unfortunate series of events results in several of the Tuchanq losing consciousness. This species never sleeps, but instead gains rest and maintains individual identity through a complex series of songs. What wasn’t known or understood by station inhabitants (including the command team) is that when a Tuchanq loses consciousness, they essentially lose their minds. D’Arc, commits a murder, is rendered unconscious and is left with the mind of an infant or child. The moral discussion that ensues and guides the story is that this “new” creature with no memory or identity related to the one that committed the murder, can not be held responsible for the crime. In a tangential power play, President Clark is trying to bolster his growing dictatorial control of Earth, and uses the incident to to prejudge D’Arc and mandate the death penalty for the crime, showing he’s a strong president and wiling to do what it takes to maintain order and discipline to protect the people and allies of Earth. This sets the stage for the tension of the primary storyline, as Capt Sheridan and his officers struggle with how to handle what’s morally right versus the unjust mandate to execute D’Arc.
In an odd and very unbalanced side story, we are shown a Babylon 5 where significant rioting is occurring while it seems the station officials are either unwilling or unable (or both?) to simply maintain the peace. It’s through this series of events we noticed that almost all the major characters were written inconsistently with those we know from the series. Also unfolding at the same time is the primary side story of G’Kar and Londo, in which G’Kar attempts to brutally murder Londo and then commit ritual suicide. In an incredibly planned and deliberate act, G’Kar stabs Londo brutally, and leaves him to die. The author leaves us with the impression, this was a major decision, but not really a big deal for G’Kar. These weren’t the characters of the TV series. The same was particularly true of Ivanova and Vir, Franklin, and to some extent Sheridan.
The significant events that took place in this novel didn’t come close to fitting into the B5 story arc we all know and love. It was truly as if Mortimore was given basic plot points and the B5 story bible, but he never actually watched an episode of the show. Outside of the specific disconnection of the characters as written, versus the show, none of these very significant events ever manifest in the series: G’Kar’s attempted murder of Londo, the existence of a species called the Tuchanq, many other species also mentioned that we’ve never seen, rioting on the station, a very muted and passive Commander Ivanova, etc.
All the themes we could identify in the book have run through the previous novels. Your hosts presumed that there was probably a master list of themes provided by JMS to all these authors to incorporate into their writing as the specific stories allowed. In Clark’s Law, we saw elements of crime and punishment, deceit and false accusations for political gain, corrupt government (specifically Earth), capital punishment, conflicts of morality and the growing tension between Earth and Mars.
One final note: we all agreed the author appeared to use the novel as an instrument to lecture his readers on his particular views of several of these moral issues, especially capital punishment. He also seemed to take a very odd shot at liberal democracies in general, and arguably the specific form of a federal republic. Well written Science Fiction has always had a significant role in examining social and ethical issues (contentious ones in particular) by placing the issue at the heart of fictional events and writing about them in a way that the reader is outside of the issues. In this case, the author failed to do this. The story was so badly written, he came across as lecturing us with his perspectives rather than letting us work out our own perspectives based on the story.
We unanimously disliked this book. Our ratings were a 1.5, a 0.5, and a 1 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 1. We’d never tell someone not to read a book, but this is one we’d warn you away from unless you have nothing better to do.
Please continue reading along and join us next time when we discuss the fifth stand-alone novel, The Touch of Your Shadow, the Whisper of Your Name, by Neal Barrett, Jr.
The third stand-alone novel is Blood Oath, written by John Vornholt. This is his second and final B5 novel. The print copy was published by Dell in September 1995, and ran 256 pages. The story takes place in 2259, sometime prior to “The Coming of Shadows” (Season 2, Episode 9). This book is not considered canon.
We liked this book, quite a bit. The story was primarily about G’Kar and focused on his attempts to remedy an assassination attempt on his life—actually a third attempt! For fans of the original series, you’ll remember the second attempt was a part of the episode “Parliament of Dreams” (Season 1, Episode 5). In this third attempt, Mi’Ra, the daughter from a rival family on the Narn Homeworld swears a blood oath (the Shon’Kar) to finally avenge her father’s death, the disgracing of his name, and the resultant destruction of her family, all caused by G’Kar as he rose to the Third Circle. Very early in the story, G’Kar is made aware of this intended assassination. He tells no one, and departs on a shuttle which explodes, killing him instantly. Or so it seems. We quickly learn he’s still alive, his death was faked in an effort to stop future assassination attempts, and to get to the Narn Homeworld to remedy the problem.
The rest of the novel happens there, where we get to enjoy a relatively deep and very interesting dive into the Narn Homeworld, many new Narn characters, and layers of the Narn culture. What made this novel stand out more than the first two was the author’s ability to very accurately capture most of the familiar characters, and to make everything feel like it was inspired or even written by JMS. There were a few oddities (like with some of Mike Garibaldi’s behavior), but nothing that was really that bad. At the end of the novel, with things resolved, we also enjoy a very well written surprise when we learn of Londo’s role in helping G’Kar through the struggle of trying to end the Son’Kar.
Of the various themes that ran through the book, some were unique to this story, while others also ran through one or more of the earlier novels. These included an examination of different forms of justice; the differences in how justice plays out within the Narn culture as well as the differences in justice between races; deceit and deception; reconciliation and friendship.
Your hosts definitely enjoyed this book and even described it as a fun story to read. When we rated the book, we ended up with a 4.5, a 4.0, and a 4.5 (out of 5), giving us an overall Boom Scale rating of 4.3.
Please continue reading along and join us next time when we discuss Clark’s Law, by Jim Mortimore.
The second novel we read in the “set” of stand-alone novels is Accusations, written by Lois Tilton. This is her only B5 novel. Accusations was 278 pages and published by Dell in April 1995. Like Voices, this story occurs in 2258, during Season 2 of the original B5 series, and is also not officially considered canon.
There were some interesting similarities and differences between this novel and the previous one. While the story here is different and occurs primarily on B5, once again we see the themes of false accusations made to cover up some other issue, the accused being guilty until proven innocent, government corruption at high levels, corporate corruption, and tensions between Earth and Mars.
In Accusations, Commander Ivanova’s old flight instructor, J.D. Ortega, sends her an urgent and very short message from Mars letting her know he’s on his way to B5 and asking for a face-to-face meeting. Susan is intrigued and arrives at the meeting location, only to discover Ortega’s murdered body. As would be expected, she reports it to Mr. Garibaldi. They quickly learn that Ortega is (surprisingly) a wanted terrorist from Mars, setting the stage for the rest of the novel. Susan can’t reconcile what she knows of her old instructor with this fresh allegation. B5 is told an officer from Earth (Commander Wallace), will arrive shortly due to high-level interest in Mr. Ortega related to his supposed terrorist activities.
Meanwhile, raider attacks on commercial shipping remain problematic, and have come to a point where it seems as if the raiders know when and where freighters will be, and when they’re just far enough from protection to be most vulnerable. Susan begins looking for, and starts to identify, commonalities between the attacks: shipments originating from Mars, and apparently always carrying strategic metals. She suspects these attacks and seizures of cargos have a criminal aspect tied back to Earth and Mars.
When Wallace and team arrive, not only do they seize the entire murder investigation (something normally left to B5 security), but they present credentials from the Joint Chiefs that lock Mr. Garibaldi out of his own security system and all evidence tied to the case. Related, although Ortega’s contact with Ivanova has only been seasonal (characterized as exchanging Christmas cards over the years), Wallace accuses her of the murder and ties her to Ortega’s alleged terrorist activities as an accomplice. Wallace has Susan received of her position as XO.
Sheridan smells a rat but goes along with things, since technically everything appears to be proper. While only Wallace and his team keep the details of the investigation away from B5 leadership, Sheridan creatively uses Susan’s enthusiasm and analytical skills to take command of a Star Furry wing and begin to meet freighters at the locations she’s determined they’re most vulnerable. She and her wingmen end up in multiple confrontations with raiders, and capture one for questioning. She quickly confirms the raiders are in fact given specific shipments and locations to attack in order to take the cargo—the strategic medal called Morbidium, used for military weapons. She also learns Ortega was aware of this and had evidence there was an insurance scam (or worse) going on, facilitated by senior members of Earth Gov and the shipping companies.
As the story wraps up, we learn that the metal wasn’t just Morbidium, but ingots of a new medal called “Super Morbidium” which could be used for the secret development of new weapons that could essentially cut through all known metals. While this advance in technology would be truly beneficial to Earth in light of the recently ended Earth-Minbari war, and useful to prepare for what we know to be the upcoming Shadow War, it was being handled in a way to allow select government and corporate officials to profit. Worse yet, this profit was coming at the expense of lives. Ortega and Ivanova were simply the most recent two being set up to pay the price for knowing too much—with Orgega murdered to ensure he didn’t talk, and Ivanova silenced with the risk of even worse consequences for having connected the dots between the loss of select cargos and her old instructor Ortega. Even so, our heroes do what they do best, and maneuver the situation to ensure Wallace is exposed for what he’s doing. Ortega’s honor is restored posthumously, Ivanova’s honor is restored and she resumes her duties as XO.
We all enjoyed the “feel” of the story, and agreed the characters were written in a manner that they were consistent with the characters from the show. As we observed, we could “hear” their voices as we read the novel. The only real exception was Sheridan, whom we all agreed was written okay, but somehow just a little “off”. We also noted that there was one awkward moment with Susan that seemed out of character, involving a red dress. (If you read the novel, you’ll see what we’re talking about.) The only big beef we had with the author was her apparent lack of research into and understanding of military rank and authority. Even so, overall we liked the novel.
At the end we cover our favorite plot points and quotes. When you listen, we’d love to know if any of our favorites matched yours. We’d also love to hear your overall thoughts about the novel, so be sure to let us know on social media or by email.
Overall, your hosts rated Accusations with a 3.5, a 2.5 and a 4.0 (out of 5 booms), for an overall Boom Scale rating of 3.33.
Next, we’re on to the novel Blood Oath, the second of two novels by John Vornholt. Read up and join us for the conversation!
As we dive into the first of the novels associated with the Babylon 5 universe, we read and discussed Voices. Written by John Vornholt (his first of two B5 novels), published by Dell in 1995, this story takes place sometime between the Season 2 episodes “Points of Departure” (Episode 1) and “A Race Through Dark Places” (Episode 8). This is the first of nine “stand-alone” novels, in addition to three trilogies we will read and review.
Since we’re turning the page and moving to written works rather than audio-visual, we opened the show with a quick discussion and agreement on the relevance we’d give to novels that are either considered canon or not. We agreed that while it’s interesting to note which are considered canon, our approach is driven primarily by whether or not we enjoy each novel. As we move through these books, you’ll see that it won’t matter much. For those who want to know: we noted that while JMS had a hand in all the novels, several are accepted as canon, while others aren’t. The only two from the stand-alone books accepted as canon are #7 and #9. If you stick with us though, the issue won’t be a distraction.
With Captain Sheridan recently assuming command of Babylon 5, the Psi Corps runs into issues trying to hold a convention on Mars due to terrorist bombings and threats. The fall-back plan is to ask Babylon 5 to host the event, on neutral turf, and arguably in an environment more easily secured from threats. Reluctantly, Captain Sheridan agrees, the event is scheduled, and as everyone gathers, a bomb goes off, killing a number of the attendees and almost killing Mr. Bester. The resident station telepath, Talia Winters, appears to be at fault, and flees to protect herself from what we can only hope is a frame job. In addition to being accused of the bombing, she’s now a fugitive telepath: a charge alone that breaks Psi Corps rules and presumes her guilty. While on the run, events unfold on both sides as Psi Corps (Bester) attempts to capture and kill her; and Mr. Garibaldi, working with the aid of folks on Earth and Mars to bring Talia secretly under their protection while they build the case to prove her innocence.
In the end, we learn she is innocent. We also see Bester and the Corps realize this is the case, but are too proud to admit they were wrong in declaring her responsible for the bombing. Things resolve well in the end, but not without an appropriate amount of suspense and drama.
We discussed a number of themes present in the novel, many of which span the original television show, including: terrorism; politics and the influence of corporate (specifically a commercial telepath company called “The Mix”) attempts to control politics; being a fugitive / running from the law; telepaths in general; and the emerging role and power of Psi Corps, and even a little bit of the tensions between Earth and Mars.</p>
Overall, your hosts rated Voices with a 1.25, a 3 and a 3.5 (out of 5), for an overall Boom Scale rating of 2.6.
Next, we’re on to the novel Accusations, by Lois Tilton. Read up and join us for the conversation!
NOTE: For this special 2-hour episode of the Babylon Project Podcast, we have a brand new intro using narration from the past 6 years of podcasts. It gives us chills so we hope you enjoy it and the rest of our discussion! Also, from now on we will be switching to the first Monday of every month for the next podcast releases as we go through each and every one of the Babylon 5 novels.
Remember we mentioned Call to Arms was our fifth and final movie review? Well, we added The Lost Tales into the mix. So welcome to our sixth and final review of the Babylon 5 movies! Keep in mind, it’s technically not a movie. Instead it’s a collection of two stories JMS intended for the B5 series, and a part of an anthology series. The rest were never produced. Consider them bonus, mini-episodes. This set went straight to DVD on July 31, 2007. The first DVD released should have contained three episodes, however, that plan was reduced to two that we have today, titled “Voices in the Dark: Over Here”; and “Voices in the Dark: Over There”.
An additional note about both tales: given the events we see unfold, it appears the Drakh plague that was released on Earth has been defeated. There’s no mention of it in either story, and it doesn’t seem to be a concern.
Tale 1: “Voices in the Dark: Over Here”.
The best part of this tale may vary well have been the introductory monolog from G’Kar. It warmed our hearts to hear his voice again. The tale features Colonel Elizabeth Lochley, still in command of B5. She’s been promoted to colonel at this point and is now called by her rank, rather than “Captain” as an identifier of her position. Still being Lochley though, there’s no doubt she’s in charge. As the story begins, a member of the B5 crew (Simon Burke) is suddenly and apparently possessed. He’s restrained and confined, and Lochley has called in a priest from Earth (Father Cassidy) to evaluate the situation and conduct an exorcism if necessary.
There are some pretty creepy scenes, but nothing truly scary. The drama builds as Burke’s possessor (a demon identifying itself as Asmodeus) is tag-teamed by Father Cassidy and Lochley, and we hear the demon explain he was cast out into space and left for others to find one day. God’s plan in this was to remind mankind that if the devil exists, then He does too. Now that he’s served his purpose, the insists Father Cassidy cast him out of Burke to remain bound in space. The arguments Asmodeus presents are weak though, and in a eureka moment, Lochley figures out that this demon was trapped on Earth with the others God had cast down during the Fall, possessed Burke while he was on leave back on Earth, then returned with him to B5 to escape. This constitutes what Lochley describes as an “ecclesiastical jailbreak”. Father Cassidy will exercise this demon from Burke, but not on B5. Instead, he’ll return with Burke to Earth and cast Asmodeus out there, to ensure he remains trapped where God put him. There were plenty of plot holes, but remember, this was an episode that was never fully fleshed out.
The tale wraps up with a beautiful closing monolog. None of us were really able to figure out what we were supposed to have taken from this tale, in the context of the greater B5 and Crusade series, but this might explain why it is one of the lost tales.
Tale 2: “Voices in the Dark: Over There”.
This tale really felt like a B5 episode and in terms of story, was easily a part of the broader storyline. Occurring on the tenth anniversary of the Interstellar Alliance, we join President Sheridan as he heads to B5 for the ceremony. Traveling with a reporter he doesn’t particularly like, he endures an interview—one of several that have annoyed him. Used as the way to set the stage for what’s going on though, we learn that Emperor Mollari will not be attending, however, the third in line for the throne (Prince Regent Dius Vintari) will attend on his behalf. In a sad moment of recounting, Sheridan explains to the reporter that Londo is in a bit of a dark place, and doesn’t laugh much any longer. Fans will remember why: he sits alone as the Emperor, under the sad control of a Keeper. She also asks about G’Kar, who we learn continues his adventures beyond the Rim, along with Dr. Franklin. The interview abruptly ends when the alert goes out letting everyone know they were about to jump into Quantum Space—a new form of travel that works differently and much faster than traveling through Hyperspace. It’s fast, and can be very disorienting to the mind and body. In a comical moment, the reporter gets nervous, the ship enters Quantum Space with the reporter in distress, and as the scene fades we hear Sheridan ask the reporter, “was that a new dress”? Apparently it didn’t go well for her.
Sheridan is visited by Galen the Technomage, and sees a “dream” of the destruction of New York City (and Earth) thirty years in the future. Galen tells him this event is the result of the Centauri (specifically Vintari, once he takes the throne as Emperor) attacking Earth—the home of the one people who have ever been able to stop the Centauri Republic. Galen tells Sheridan that on this trip to B5, the way to prevent this future catastrophe is to kill Prince Vintari. It’s suggested that this is really the only way, creating a real moral dilemma for Sheridan as he considers the need to kill a boy in an “unfortunate accident” order to save Earth. As Galen says to him, “The fate of billions of lives is in your hands.”
Sheridan ponders this, just as Lochley had to ponder the presence and destructiveness of the demon in Tale 1, and in his own eureka moment, realizes there are other options. When we meet Vintari, we see he’s a very young man. He’s also very wary of the intentions of others around him, particularly due to others who are in line for the throne behind him who would love to see him die, improving their potential opportunity to gain the throne. As a result he lives a very sequestered and guarded life. Upon arrival at B5, the time comes to kill Vintari, as they each pilot a Star Fury between Sheridan’s ship and B5. Sheridan chooses not to kill him. After they land on B5, Sheridan instead invites Prince Vintari to return with him to Minbar after the ceremony. Vintar will live in safety, and can essentially be a big brother for John and Delenn’s son David. Sheridan can also serve as a father figure to Vintari. (We learned earlier in the episode his father had been killed.)
Your hosts speculated that if Sheridan had chosen to go through with the attempt to kill Vintari as Galen recommended, it might have failed and become the event that created his hatred of Earth (replacing an understandable suspicion of Earth) and resulted in the subsequent attack after he takes the throne. As we would hope, Sheridan took the moral high ground, saved Vintari and set him on a path to change his future—and the future of Earth. Maybe it was actually a test of sorts, and Sheridan was able to ensure the young Prince didn’t become the monster Galen saw.
There were at least two very deliberate connections between these tales:
Dius is an old Greek word meaning “divine”. In this tale, and as Emperor, he is a “divine” and will wield the power to destroy planets. The positive and loving intervention by Sheridan to welcome him into his home to live with his family will apparently eliminate the future Galen revealed that included the destruction of Earth. This plays agains the unwelcome possession of Burke in Tale 1, where Asmodeus has to be restrained, cast out, and rebound on Earth.
The two tales are deliberately linked when Sheridan is talking to Lochley while en route to B5. After Sheridan asks her how she’s doing, she comments that “until today, [she] didn’t know it [B5] was on the crossroads between Heaven and Hell.” She was clearly referring to the issue with Burke’s possession.
While all the TV and movie content is now behind us, please stay tuned as we begin to review many of the novels written in the B5 universe—some considered canon, and some that aren’t. Read along with us, but even if you don’t, please tune in and her our discussion of each of these books. They definitely continue and fill out the story we all know and love!
Overall Program Timeline
At the beginning of our podcast covering The Lost Tales, we provided a timeline summary of all the video content we’ve covered on the podcast:
2245-2248 – In the Beginning (Movie)
2257 – Babylon 5: Signs and Portends (TV, Season 1)
2258 – Babylon 5: The Coming of Shadows (TV, Season 2)
2259 – Babylon 5: Point of No Return (TV, Season 3)
2260 – Babylon 5: No Surrender, No Retreat (TV, Season 4)
2261 – Babylon 5: Wheel of Fire (TV, Season 5)
2261 – Thirdspace (Movie, occurs within the B5 series timeline)
2263 – River of Souls (Movie)
2265 – Legend of the Rangers (Movie)
2266 – A Call to Arms (Movie)
2267 – Crusade (TV)
2271 – Lost Tales (Movie, contains two mini episodes)
2278 – In the Beginning (Movie) *
* The movie “In the Beginning” also contained future scenes in the year 2278. For this reason it essentially began and ended the entire set of programming. Babylon 5: a place of beginnings and endings!
We’ve reached the end of Crusade. When we began the series, we felt even though this was JMS and a deliberate follow-up to Babylon 5, the writing seemed off and the characters seemed awkward. For our friends who listened along, we all learned (or were reminded) that what JMS wrote was not presented by TNT in the order he originally intended.
This episode kicks off with the Gideon and crew waiting at a rendezvous point for a mysterious meeting with an unknown person. When a Warlock class destroyer appears, they quickly learn the meeting is with Senator Jacob Redway (and apparently his personal assistant, named David)—one of very few Senators who was away from Earth when the Drakh virus was unleashed. The crew is given a set of orders from the Joint Chiefs and sworn to secrecy as they embark on a secret mission to Earth. Why recall the only research vessel that’s deliberately staffed with people free of the plague and searching for a cure?
Almost as soon as they’re underway, Excalibur picks up a distress signal. Redway “orders” them not to stop, Gideon sternly but respectfully tells him he’s not in his chain of command, and they divert to assist. They quickly learn the distress beacon originates from a Star Fury piloted by Captain Lochley! Gideon explains to Redway he’ll obey the orders and not stop but he won’t ever dismiss a distress signal. The solution: slow down and catch the Star Fury, then continue to toward Earth. Lochley explains she was jumped by raiders and learns they can’t just take her back to B5 because of the mission they’re on. Remember the Senator’s assistant? We see him make a discrete (and unauthorized) call to Earth to his fiancé, and tells her he’s coming home to marry her. She doesn’t know why, other than although he’s free of the virus, he’ll accept exposure and a possible death sentence to spend the rest of her life with her.
The Excalibur arrives at Earth and prepares to receive a shuttle from the surface. Gideon questions this, given that any ship attempting to leave Earth will be destroyed. Nonetheless, the shuttle pushes out of the atmosphere and just before it’s destroyed, jettisons a single life pod. It is brought onboard, quarantined, and an old friend emerges: Dr. Stephen Franklin! We’re reminded he leads Earths planetary effort to find a cure. We get the rest of the story about David—he’s a volunteer to be exposed and Dr. Franklin is going to track the virus through his body in real time. That info might give them some very key data critical to the development of a vaccine.
The Drakh intercepted David’s call and now the Excalibur’s mission to Earth is compromised. An element of the Drakh fleet is on the move to eliminate this potential lead toward the cure.
David’s infected and the virus is tracked, but then things begin to go wrong. There are several failures, buttons don’t work, the Drakh ships arrive and attack (BOOM!), David is knocked unconscious, the containment system appears to be at risk of malfunctioning, and before anything can happen, an automatic sterilization protocol is activated and we’re minutes away from the incineration of David. Dr. Franklin ends up quickly using a manual procedure to pull David into another containment room, saving the day, and the hope this might lead to a vaccine. As the battle continues, Gideon creatively decides if he rushes the Drakh mother ship, it will force them to jump, allowing Excalibur to follow and destroy them. The plan works, and the enemy ships are destroyed in Hyperspace. (More BOOM!)
With the immediate crisis resolved, David and Dr. Franklin are successfully returned to Earth, and Excalibur can take Captain Lochley home to Babylon 5. Doctors Franklin and Chambers confer over a video phone to compare notes about what they learned from David’s infection (shows real promise!). Back at B5, as Lochley prepares to disembark, she and Gideon exchange some flirtatious pleasantries. She tells Gideon he should stop by the next time the Excalibur is in the neighborhood. As Excalibur pulls away, Matheson points out the smile on Gideon’s face…he know’s what going on between the two. Gideon denies it’s a smile and claims “it’s gas.” Riiiiight. As the episode closes, Gideon suggests they should come back sometime soon to give the crew some crew rest on Babylon 5. *wink*
That wraps up Crusade, but not the podcast. Stay with us as we watch the final movie in the series, Lost Tales. Then, our plan is to continue with the Babylon 5 novels.
This was a playful Crusade-based version of the popular show X-Files. A little campy (on purpose), it was a fun episode to watch, even though it wasn’t totally a filler or throw-away episode. There was perhaps, at least one very traditional use of the Sci Fi genre to make a strong social statement.
The episode opens up with the crew noticing something smells, but can’t figure out what it is or where it’s coming from. With that stage set, their attention turns quickly to a distress signal and a small, very classic contact with aliens, saucer-shaped life pod. Once recovered, two aliens emerge…wearing suits, and speaking with British accents. One is clearly a male, and the other a female. His name is Durkani (a play on David Dukovney’s last name) and hers is Lyssa. We quickly see that these two are homages or parodies of Agents Mulder and Scully. He believes and she doubts. They attempt to take a hostage with intent to return to their planet with proof that we (their aliens, and the truth) are in fact out there. Their plan fails and they find themselves in the brig. Questioning, and the storyline unfolds from there.
Durkani and Lyssa’s story is that we (Earthlings) have been visiting their planet for centuries, quietly conspiring with their government to pacify the people. When things go wrong, when “necessary” budget cuts are made, when anything that could cause the government to be perceived as wrong, or if anything happens to make them unpopular, the blame is placed on the government’s need to protect the people from the powerful and negative influence of the Visitors. It sounds far-fetched and Gideon isn’t really buying it. There’s no record of Earth ever having contact with this race. In a quick couple of flashback scenes, supplementing Durkani’s story, clearly establishing them as Mulder and Scully, and in the second flashback, we’re also introduced to a mysterious man who appears to be their opponent in the search for the truth. Who could he be? The set up suggests he’s a tip of the hat to the mysterious Cigarette Smoking Man or Cancer Man from the X-Files. Durkani even shows proof of prior contact, to include contentious and secret photos of things from Earth like blimps, a golf club, a photo of Mount Rushmore, and on their own planet, a humorous version of a crop circle in the shape of the American Flag.
Durkani’s amazing claims are further reinforced when a government official named Kendarr, also from this planet, approaches the Excalibur and is allowed to board. He’s the same fellow we saw earlier in the second flashback—his identity as the Cigarette Smoking Man is confirmed. He claims he is a law enforcement official there to take custody of Durkani and Lyssa, return them to the planet, and execute them for stealing a space ship with the ability to travel beyond their solar system. We’re treated to a brief and interesting discussion between Gideon and Kendarr about capital crimes. The story moves on quickly, leaving us to ponder the magnitude of that problem on our own, with Kendarr providing some additional information, leading the viewer to think the intended capital sentence isn’t really about the theft of a ship as much as it is about leaking the proof of their contact with an alien race. Kendarr is well-informed, explains his government has been aware of several other races for centuries (a confirmation of Durkani’s story), and is even conversant about hyperspace and Jump Gate technology. His government took power by blaming the outsiders for their problems, then pacified the people by tightly controlling this narrative, and excusing anything they did by claiming they’re doing so to protect the population from the evil aliens. They also reinforced the pacification by providing the people “addictive” things like pizza and ice cream to keep them content. He’s actually aware Earthlings aren’t the evil monsters they’ve been set us up to be, making this “first contact” a problem. The proof Durkani and Lyssa could bring back would quite possibly ruin the power the government currently holds. In explaining himself as a government official, Kendarr even nonchalantly makes the statement that the truth has never been in anyone’s best interest. Yikes! This is perhaps the larger and frankly very sinister message we’re left to ponder from this otherwise light-hearted episode. Oh, and Kendarr is distracted by…a smell?
A tussle ensues, prisoners run, and the source of the smell is discovered: a leaky sewage pipe. In the end, everyone is detained, and ultimately the visitors to the Excalibur are returned to their planet. As they depart, Kendarr’s final words are enhanced by—a cigarette. Yes indeed, he was the Cigarette Smoking Man! But our crew isn’t done just yet. In this slightly off-kilter world, Gideon decides he can’t leave things as they are. In a violation of the rules, he drops a number of probes on the planet, with information confirming who the Earthlings actually are, and that they’re not the evil Visitors the government had told the people they were.
Was it a filler episode? Seems so, overall. Was it fun? Absolutely. But it also had a few significant messages for us along the way. If the series had continued past the first 13 episodes, it would have been interesting to see if the heavier issues would have come back again as a part of the main storyline.