We are here; season 5, the end of the series. It has been a wonderful journey looking at the top 5 episodes of each season. Now I can state my final top 5, meaning I will have listed the top 25 episodes for the 25th anniversary of Babylon 5. If you missed them, here are the top 5’s for seasons 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Season 5 is a season that divides many people. You either hate it or you love it. As I mentioned in the last top 5, season 4’s fast pace was a result of JMS crunching two years’ worth of story into one. This was all due to a cancellation crisis. He wanted to ensure that he told a bulk of the story, just in case. However, when Babylon 5 got renewed by TNT, this left a problem. A large portion of what was originally planned for season 5 moved into season 4.
JMS made the decision to lengthen the stories left for the full 22-episode season ordered. This caused a massive pacing problem, as stories that should have only lasted two to four episodes lasted twelve. It’s not that these stories were bad, at worst they were mediocre. However, stretching and filling them with filler made them seem worse than they actually were.
I personally enjoy season 5. It has its flaws, especially in the first half which JMS fully admits he messed up in. However, the second half, and a smattering of a few really strong episodes, keep season 5 from falling on its face. But, it leaves it in the precarious position of being the weakest season overall.
5. “A View From The Gallery” Season 5 Episode 4
This episode was co-plotted with the late Harlan Ellison. (The famous sci-fi author and writer of the best Star Trek: The Original Series episode “The City on the Edge of Forever”.) Ellison was a personal friend of JMS; the story of how they met is hilarious and you can watch JMS recount it here. He also served as a creative consultant for all five seasons of Babylon 5.
The point of this episode is to show how outsiders see the crew of Babylon 5. We, the audience, have grown to know and care about these characters so much that we see them as flawed beings. But to the rest of the galaxy, they are living legends who single-handedly changed the course of galactic history. It’s the reverse of humanizing a god which is a trope.
JMS uses Bo and Mack to address questions he has received from fans and potential lore problems. They regularly make fun of certain designs in the universe, question the tech, and explain why the crew of Babylon 5 does certain things in particular situations. It’s an amusing and quite funny way to address this stuff. By virtue of the delivery and the likeability of Mack and Bo, this exposition feels organic.
While this is mostly a standalone episode, which is rare for Babylon 5, it furthers one developing plot thread. Byron is more receptive to what Bo says and even gives him a chance to fulfill his wish of being a pilot via telepathy. Bo, unlike Mack, didn’t react badly to Byron using his telepathy to defend himself, so he is repaying him in kind. Byron is trying to fight his Psi Corps conditioning which says to hate the Mundanes.
Favorite Exchange Of The Episode
Londo: “Absolutely intolerable! Completely inexcusable. You would think we would be beyond this sort of thing by now, wouldn’t you? And whose idea was it to send the White Stars away at a time like this?”
G’Kar: They are still returning from guarding the Enfili homeworld, Mollari, as you well know.”
Londo: “I wasn’t talking to you. I was talking to the universe. The universe…The universe hates me, you know. I don’t know why. I have never done anything to the universe to uh…well, alright, a few things. But after a while, you would think it would be enough. Yes, we have had our –our little fun with Londo Mollari for now. Perhaps it is time to move on and find someone else to play with. You seem rather calm about all of this, hmm?”
G’Kar: “When I was a child, your people decided that the rebellion by my people needed to be discouraged. So your people bombed seven of our major cities for six straight days, thirty-one hours a day. You thought you could bomb us into submission. It didn’t work then, and it didn’t work later. We spent our days in shelters we made ourselves. We sang songs, we prayed, we ate, we slept. I spent my life in one such shelter or another. I will tell you the truth, Mollari. This is probably the closest thing I have…to a home.”
Londo: “Yes. Well, uh…don’t start singing. You’ll frighten the children. We have enough misery to deal with as it is. We don’t need to add more.”
G’Kar: “And where did you grow up, Mollari?”
G’Kar: “It was a simple enough question. While I was sitting in a bomb shelter learning to hate your people, where were you spending your time as a child? Playing in the imperial gardens, learning Centauri table manners?
Londo: “I was…never a child. I had responsibilities. I’ve had responsibilities for as long as I can remember. Duty, honor…family.”
G’Kar: Ah, that explains a great deal.”
Londo: “Really? And what exactly does it explain, G’Kar?”
G’Kar: “I spent my years in one shelter after another, but sooner or
later, I was able to leave the shelter and walk out into the daylight.
You do not have that luxury, you carry your shelter with you, every day.
You did not grow up, you grew old.”
4. “And All My Dreams, Torn Asunder” Season 5 Episode 16
This episode demonstrates what makes Babylon 5 so unique in the sci-fi-television landscape. Last season, our heroes threw off the oppressors of the tyrannical Earth government and created a new, multi-planetary government to unite all races. However, despite everything they have been through, they can’t forget nor can they forgive.
The ISA have proof that the Centauri have been behind the attacks on
civilian ships and is now in the precarious decision of how to punish
one of their own.
This episode is heavy on the politics, and you feel the weight of the decisions the characters make. Their goal was admirable: create a singular government that could ensure peace throughout the galaxy. But in a setting that is even remotely realistic, such as Babylon 5, the chances of that peace lasting are slim at best.
The opening conveys this in a spectacular fashion. Neither Sheridan nor Delenn can sleep, knowing that the decisions they make in the coming hours will decide the fate of the entire galaxy. The scene where Sheridan drops his shoe out of fear and stress, and it slowly fades into the striking gavel starting the meeting is a nice touch.
Poor Londo. He is out of the loop. As a result, he no longer knows what’s going on with his own people or the new government he is a part of. He feels isolated, alone, and like he doesn’t matter, just like in season 1.
When he enters the meeting of the ISA council, he has to wear the mask
of the Centauri aggressor. The look in his eyes shows the pain he is in.
It’s happening again, and unbeknownst to him, it’s all his fault, just
like last time.
Favorite Exchange Of The Episode
Delenn: “Not in the sense you mean it, but yes.”
Sheridan: “Mind if I join you?”
(Delenn gives an approving look and Sheridan sits down next to her.)
Sheridan: “What does the candle represent?”
Sheridan: “Whose life?”
Delenn: “All life. Every life. We are all born as…molecules…in the hearts of a billion stars. Molecules that do not understand politics, policies, or differences. Over a billion years, we foolish molecules forget who we are and where we came from. In desperate acts of ego…, we give ourselves names, fight over lines on maps, and pretend that our light is better than everyone else’s. The flame reminds us…of the piece of those stars that lives on inside us. The spark that tells us you should know better. The flame also reminds us that life is precious, as each flame is unique. When it goes out, it’s gone forever…and there will never be another quite like it. So many candles will go out tonight. I wonder some days…if we can see anything at all.”
(Sheridan puts his arm around his wife, comforting her. Knowing that the worst has yet to come.)
3. “The Very Long Night Of Londo Mollari” Season 5 Episode 2
Speaking of Londo, this episode is all about him. What makes this episode so powerful is that it’s only possible with the unique sense of continuity that Babylon 5 had at the time. This is the end of one part of Londo’s character arc and the beginning of the final stretch. He has tried to become a better person, but now he has to admit that he was at fault. He is guilty, but he doesn’t want to admit it to himself.
The symbolism in this episode is fantastic. Every character in Londo’s head represents something. Delenn is the fortune teller because Londo understands that he can rely on her to always tell the truth. Sheridan represents his determination because Sheridan is a man of action. Vir is the voice of reason because Vir is, in Londo’s opinion, his only friend. And of course, G’Kar represents his conscience. G’Kar is the physical embodiment of all the consequences of his bad decisions. If anyone is to call Londo out on his guilt, it would be G’Kar.
The tarot cards that Delenn flips over don’t tell Londo’s future but instead his past. The point being that Londo’s past has led him to this place in his life. He is responsible for all of this and has to admit it.
And then, of course, there is the symbolism that Londo himself lampshades in the episode. All the bottles of alcohol are empty. This may symbolize his impending death, considering the context of the scene. However, it can also symbolize what is to come. The alcohol will be the only way he will be able to be his true self and out of the control of the Keeper temporarily.
Favorite Exchange Of The Episode
Londo: “I don’t think I have any choice in the matter, Vir.”
Vir: “You do have a choice, Londo. But you have to make it now, there’s not much time.”
Londo: “What’s wrong with me?”
Vir: “What’s wrong with you…is you. Your heart can no longer bear the weight of your conscience.”
Londo: “There’s nothing wrong with my conscience.”
Vir: “No? Then turn around.”
Londo: “Why should I, hmm? I saw my death in a dream. I was an old man. How do I know I won’t survive this? Perhaps this will pass and I will get better. The dream is prophecy.”
Vir: “Prophecy is a guess that comes true. When it doesn’t, it’s a metaphor. You could put a gun to your head tomorrow and pull the trigger, and then the dream is just a dream. And the prophecy is just a metaphor, and so are you. You’re out of time, Londo. Turn around.”
Londo: “I can’t. I don’t know what he wants from me.”
Vir: “Yes, you do. The thing that has eaten away at your heart until it could not endure the pain a moment longer. You must let go of this or you will die here, alone, now.”
Londo: “Perhaps…perhaps that is for the best then.”
Vir: “No, not for the best.”
Londo: “Why not?”
Vir: “Because…I will miss you.”
Londo: “And I suppose that I would miss you.”
2. “The Fall Of Centauri Prime” Season 5 Episode 18
Watching this episode, you can feel Londo’s building sense of dread. Continuing from the previous episode’s cliffhanger, a joint fleet of Narn and Drazi ships bombard Centauri Prime from orbit. Talk about a twist of fate, considering what happened in the amazing episode from season 2, “The Long, Twilight Struggle.” Even worse, we finally find out what the random attacks by the Centauri were all about.
The Drakh are on Centauri Prime and want revenge on Londo for helping destroy The Shadows. Morden did warn him, and Morden is always true to his word.
The scene where Londo accepts the Keeper and crowned Emperor of the Centauri is just heart-breaking. Londo sacrifices himself, in order to ensure his people’s safety. He is now a prisoner in his own body. For all intents and purposes, he is dead and will free himself from this hell many years later when he and G’Kar kill each other. This is the end of Londo’s character arc. It is a tragedy worthy of Shakespeare himself. Babylon 5 knows when to pull its punches and when not to, and Londo’s arc is a time when it doesn’t. One must live with the consequences of their actions, and in Londo’s case, that means he’s the emperor of ashes.
Despite the hell he is going through, notice that Londo thinks of his friends first. He begs the Drakh to spare Delenn, yells at Vir for bursting through the door so that he is never killed for accidentally spotting the Drakh, and tells G’Kar goodbye. Londo is truly a changed man and has accepted his fate.
Favorite Exchange Of The Episode
Londo: “After tonight, I don’t know that I will ever see you again, and…I wanted to…say goodbye. I don’t know why that should be important to me now at a time like this, but it is. In the months and the years to come, you may hear many strange things about me, my behavior. Well, they say the position…changes you. And I just…I—I wanted to—”
G’Kar: “I understand.”
Londo: “Perhaps. And perhaps you do not understand as much as you think. Pray that you never do, G’Kar. Pray that you never truly understand. Well, I must hurry. Our ships will soon be in firing range.”
(Londo gets up and looks out the window, seeing his planet, his people, on fire. He contemplates the futility of the situation.)
“Isn’t it strange, G’Kar? When we first met, I had no power and all the choices I could ever want. And now I have all the power I could ever want and no choices at all. No choice at all.”
G’Kar: “Mollari…understand that I can never forgive your people for what they did to my world. My people can never forgive your people. But I…can forgive you.”
(G’Kar and Londo shake hands, and unlike last time, it is sincere. They are no longer enemies; they have truly become friends.)
1. “Sleeping In Light” Season 5 Episode 22
The previous couple of episodes told the story of why most of the main crew of Babylon 5 chose to leave the station. In this episode we skip ahead 20 years, to tell their final story.
Babylon 5 was a grand sweeping space opera that had the scope of many classic epics. But what truly made Babylon 5
so special was it’s expertly written and oh so painfully human
characters. Naturally, the final episode isn’t some grand exit, but a
smaller more intimate goodbye between friends.
Everyone gets a kind of happy ending. Garibaldi has his life in order and even has a wife and a daughter. Franklin is a Surgeon General but doesn’t let his job consume him like it once did. Ivanova was the General of Earthforce but felt useless and so has become the new leader of the Rangers. Vir is the new Emperor of the Centauri (as prophesied). Zack had found a new life on Babylon 5, so he stayed there until the station decommissioned.
But of course, there are those we have lost, and the episode spends time mourning them: G’Kar, Londo, Lennier, Marcus, and at the end, Sheridan. As a result of Sheridan’s death, Delenn has to find her way alone, without the love of her life by her side. One thing done expertly, is that what happens to Sheridan is never explained. Lorien takes him beyond the rim, what that means opens to interpretation. But, we do know that no matter what, his story is over.
The Perfect Ending
Speaking of happy endings, JMS himself cameos in this episode. He is the technician that turns off the lights before Babylon 5 gets destroyed. A fitting role for the man that made this series and kept it running until its end. And I can’t talk about this episode without mentioning the music. Christopher Franke was told to break people’s hearts and he truly succeeded. This episode never fails to bring many people, including me, to tears.
Favorite Exchange Of The Episode
Lorien: “Who are you? What do you want? Why are you here? Where are you going?”
Lorien: “Did you think we had forgotten you? We have been waiting for you.”
Sheridan: “Beyond the rim.”
Sheridan: “There’s…so…much I still don’t understand.”
Lorien: “As it should be.”
Sheridan: “Can I come back?”
Lorien: “No. This journey is ended. Another begins. Time…to rest now.”
(Sheridan is slowly enveloped in light. He is in awe of what he sees.)
Sheridan: “Well…look at that. The sun’s coming up.”
(Sheridan relaxes letting the light fully envelop him, his eyes slowly closing. He has accepted his fate, whatever that may be.)
Convening The Babylon 5 Advisory Council
Babylon 5 is nothing short of amazing. Yes, it has its flaws, but that doesn’t stop it from being the most consistently well written serialized narrative in television history. As a result, I return to re-watch it on a regular basis. It is my favorite TV series of all time, and while certain shows have gotten close, none have usurped it.
I just want to thank J. Michael Straczynski for creating such a
wonderful show 25 years ago. And thank you to all the people that read
these top 5’s and enjoyed them. I can’t think of no better way to end
this article series than the way the series ended itself. So now, Susan
Ivanova if you would please show them out.
“Babylon 5 was the last of the Babylon stations. There would never be another. It changed the future, and it changed us. It taught us that we have to create the future…or others will do it for us. It showed us that we have to care for one another, because if we don’t…who will? And that true strength sometimes comes from the most unlikely places. Mostly, though, I think that it gave us hope that there can always be new beginnings…even for people like us. As for Delenn, every morning for as long as she lived, Delenn got up before dawn and watched the sun come up.”
J. Michael Straczynski , Babylon 5 (Said by Susan Ivanova)