Note: If you’re new to the book club, links to the previous episodes can be found here. It’s difficult to discuss this show without occasionally wanting to discuss the next one (or the one after that, or the one after that)… or referring to the pilot. If you want to discuss something with a major plot point: please use the “spoiler” functionality in the comment box (thanks to CK for that feature!)
This week, it’s Season 3, Episode 16: “War Without End, Part 1”, recapped by Katherine!
Everyone sitting comfortably? Then onward!
We open with two apparent temporal paradoxes. On Minbar, Jeffrey Sinclair (former Babylon 5 commander and current ambassador to Minbar and leader of the Rangers) receives a letter addressed to him from the ancient Minbari holy figure Valen, in a box that has been closed for 900 years. On Babylon 5, Susan Ivanova receives a distress call issued by herself, coming from the empty space where Babylon 4 disappeared years ago.
Sinclair reads the letter and goes to Babylon 5, declining to tell anyone else what the letter said. A Vorlon who is present with the Rangers says of Sinclair, “He is the closed circle. He is returning to the beginning.”
The command staff of B5 meet regarding the distress call and conclude it’s from a future-Ivanova, since time is wonky in the area where Babylon 4 disappeared. Garibaldi remembers that when he was on Babylon 4 (during “Babylon Squared” in Season 1) he had a flash-forward vision of the future where the Babylon 5 crew were in a firefight with someone and losing badly. Garibaldi goes to investigate, in hopes of finding out what will happen in the future so they can prepare for it.
Zack meets Sinclair arriving at the station and asks if he’ll be staying long. “That is a far more interesting question than you might suspect,” Sinclair replies with a smile.
Delenn is unhappy about something that must be done regarding Sinclair. She has received a letter with her name on it, in the same printing as the letter addressed to Sinclair. She goes to Sheridan and tells him that she needs him, Marcus, Ivanova, and Sinclair to join her on the White Star immediately for an urgent mission.
Garibaldi reports that the temporal rift around the area where Babylon 4 disappeared has doubled in size, due to tachyon emissions coming from Epsilon 3 (where the Great Machine, supported by Draal, is located). We cut to Zathras on Epsilon 3 (who was also on Babylon 4 during “Babylon Squared”), who says Draal has told him what to do about the situation.
In the White Star, Sheridan observes that he was surprised by Sinclair’s arrival, as they usually have more advance notice of ambassadors. Sinclair replies, “Believe me, my being here was as much a surprise to me as it was to you.” Sheridan says that Delenn seemed to know he was coming, so it doesn’t seem like a coincidence. Sinclair says there are no coincidences. He’s definitely mastered the Minbari and Vorlon technique of non-answers. Marcus said the Rangers had a saying that the only way to get a straight answer out of him was to look in a mirror while hanging upside-down from the ceiling.
Garibaldi gets clearer reception of future-Ivanova’s distress call. She says that the Captain is dead and the station is being boarded. A switch to the external cameras shows the future-station is under attack by a massive Shadow force, and then it looks like the future-station explodes.
Delenn finally explains the situation to the others aboard the White Star. She tells them that in the previous Shadow War one thousand years ago, after their main starbase had been destroyed by the shadows and things were looking dark, a new station arrived: Babylon 4. When Babylon 4 disappeared immediately after its construction, it was taken back into the past. Without the station, they could not have won the war.
Moreover, recordings from the Great Machine on Epsilon 3 show the White Star thwarting a Shadow attack on Babylon 4 just prior to B4’s completion. The station staff are the ones who thwarted the attack, and the ones who sent Babylon 4 into the past, and that is what they need to do now. Draal is using the Great Machine to widen the temporal rift so that they will be able to do this. If they do not save Babylon 4 and send it into the past, Babylon 5 will be destroyed by the Shadows: that is what the transmission from future-Ivanova is about. Sinclair backs up Delenn’s statements, saying he has information from “a very reliable source”. Sheridan calls Garibaldi, who tells him that the timestamp on future-Ivanova’s distress call is eight days from the present. Sheridan is deeply weirded out but finally agrees.
A ship from Epsilon 3 joins the White Star, bringing Zathras and the technology needed to control time travel. Sinclair remembers Zathras saying that Sinclair was “not The One”. Zathras does not remember Sinclair, which Sinclair interprets as meaning the events of “Babylon Squared” were during Sinclair’s past, but Zathras’ future. Sinclair tells him “When you meet me again, it will be me, but it won’t be me now, so you’re not to say anything to me that might change the past.” Zathras says he is honoured to meet Sinclair, for many reasons, and also honoured to meet Sheridan, for other reasons, but Draal ordered him not to say why, and also not to talk about The One.
Sinclair tells Sheridan that he will need a favour on their way out.
Sheridan tells Garibaldi to return back to Babylon 5, as they can’t have the whole command staff away on this mission. At Sinclair’s request, he doesn’t tell Garibaldi that Sinclair is there. Doesn’t Sinclair want to talk to Garibaldi, Sheridan asks? “More than you’ll ever know,” Sinclair replies. As he stands alone watching Garibaldi’s ship, Sinclair says, “Goodbye, old friend.” He remembers a vision of a last-stand evacuation of B5 (or B4?), and a vision of the station exploding. “I won’t let it happen,” he says.
Everyone needs to wear circular devices that will keep them anchored in time, otherwise they may become “unstuck in time” and drift through the time stream, causing them to age prematurely.
When Garibaldi returns, Zack tells him that Sinclair was there but left on the White Star with all the rest of the command staff. Garibaldi is stunned that Sinclair would leave without talking to him. Garibaldi checks his messages and finds that Sinclair has left him one, but it requires a password to access. The password doesn’t seem to lock after you get it wrong a few times, fortunately, and Garibaldi eventually gets it. Sheridan says that he didn’t tell Garibaldi he was here because Garibaldi would want to come along “even knowing the price,” but he had to say goodbye. Sinclair won’t be returning, and if Garibaldi went, he wouldn’t make it back either.
The White Star goes into the temporal rift and arrives at Babylon 4 just as the Shadow fighters are approaching it with a fusion bomb. The Shadows are intending to attach the bomb to the station and explode it so that the destruction will look like an accident. (As Babylon stations 1 through 3 were destroyed before becoming operational, we can assume those destructions were due to similar Shadow sabotage.)
The White Star engages the Shadow fighters. It has increased its defences against Shadow attack; due to being based partially on Vorlon organic technology, it can learn from experience and now directs the energy of Shadow attacks away from itself. Ivanova fires on the Shadow ships carrying the fusion bomb, and then on the bomb itself, and the bomb explodes. Something hits Sheridan’s time stabilizer, breaking it, and he disappears, becoming unstuck in time.
An utterly confused Sheridan finds himself bound and confronting an aged Emperor Londo Mollari on Centauri Prime. “Welcome back from the abyss,” Londo says, “just in time to die.” Londo says that Sheridan drove away the Shadows during the war but did not clean up his mess, and some of the Shadow’s minions came to Centauri Prime. He shows Sheridan the view out the window; the main city of Centauri Prime is burning.
Sinclair insists on continuing to Babylon 4 and completing the mission rather than focusing on rescuing Sheridan, and Ivanova reluctantly agrees. Sinclair assures Delenn that Sheridan will be all right, saying in Minbari, “I know what’s coming.” Sinclair tells her that all his life he’s had doubts about his path and where he belongs, and now he has none anymore; his path is clear. The White Star attaches to Babylon 4, and the crew board and prepare to take it back in time.
Well, that was a fairly convoluted episode, with well over half of it being exposition and the entirety of it being set-up for the second half. But it does a nice job of resolving one mystery (what happened to the previous Babylon stations?) and introducing several new ones. What do you all think?