TV Lists

Babylon 5 at 25: The top 5 episodes of season 5

As our lookback at Babylon 5 continues, Baz Greenland discusses at the best episodes of the show's final season.

Babylon 5 was a hugely influential piece of sci-fi television, telling both an episodic tale of the crew of a multi-racial space station in the future and a number of complex, war-driven story arcs running across the five years of the show. As it celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary, we look back at the top five episodes of each season; next up, the top five of Babylon 5‘s final season.

Season five of Babylon 5 was a bit of an oddity. While series creator J. Michael Straczynski originally had a five-year plan for the show, the likely cancellation after season four meant that the Shadow war ended early rather than later that year and the Earth War that would have straddled both seasons came to a conclusion early. It left a year’s worth of material that allowed Straczynski to explore the Sheridan and Delenn’s story after the formation of the Interstellar Alliance.

The year 2262 was the epilogue to the saga that was Babylon 5, giving audiences a glimpse into what happened after the heroes saved the galaxy. That does mean that the first half of the season really struggles to find its feet; the telepath saga felt like a half-arsed attempt to introduce the oncoming telepath war that materialised off screen and while she did a decent job, Tracey Scoggins’ Captain Elizabeth Lochley, didn’t quite make up for the void left by Claudia Christian Ivanova.

But where it really did well was in focusing once more on the glorious Londo and G’Kar, resulting in the Centauri’s tragic, bleak ascension to Emperor, controlled by the Drahk and ruling a broken homeworld. It added a dramatic shot of adrenaline the season so desperately needed.

As we look back at Babylon 5‘s final season, here are the five episodes that really stood out from the pack…

The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari

One of the benefits of this epilogue season is the show’s ability to explore what happens after those momentous victories that wrapped up the main arc of the show. While it is interesting to see the inner workings of Babylon 5 again after the war, it also allows the show to delve deeper into character moments that might not have been possible otherwise. And this is where the excellent ‘The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari’ steps in. It is a brilliant showcase for Peter Jurasik, allowing his character to explore the many terrible things he did while on his deathbed and seek redemption in the eyes of the audience and G’Kar.

Not only does this episode have great fun making the Narn the presence that haunts his nightmares (the twisted reversal of season four’s infamous whipping scene in ‘The Summoning’ is a particularly strong and twisted metaphor) but it also builds on their relationship as Londo admits he was sorry, bringing to a head four years of bloodshed, rivalries and political machinations. The side story of Lennier leaving Delenn to join the Rangers, his heart-broken by her marriage to Sheridan, is the bittersweet icing on this compelling set of character studies.

The Corps Is Mother, the Corps Is Father

This might be sacrilege to many; Walter Koenig’s best role was not as Enterprise officer Pavel Chekov in the original Star Trek, but as cruel, manipulate Psicop in Babylon 5. His evil telepath was a thorn in the side of every member of the station’s crew, particularly his manipulation of Garibaldi in season four. The final season gives him a fitting send off in ‘The Corps Is Mother, the Corps Is Father’, an episode that can be best described as a day in the life of Alfred Bester. It’s a curious little gem that followed him from Psi Corps HQ to Babylon 5 on the hunt for a rogue telepath. It’s a great glimpse into the heart of this insidious organisation that was sadly never explored further, the aforementioned Telepath War never seen on screen. Koenig was supposed to turn up as a fugitive Bester in the next episode ofs spin-off series Crusade, but the show’s cancellation meant that this episode was his last appearance on the show.

Movements of Fire and Shadow

Anyone suggesting that nothing much happens in Babylon 5 season five obviously didn’t stick with it long enough to experience the brilliant ‘fall of the Centauri’ arc that dominates the latter half. The mystery of who was attacking alliance ships had been building nicely all season, with the revelation that the Centauri were behind it reaching its apex in this episode. G’Kar and Londo return to Centauri Prime and uncover the Drahk plot to destroy them for revenge against his actions against the Shadows. It is a tense episode leading to the explosive cliffhanger as the Narn and Drazi fleets open fire, seeking their revenge and sending Londo’s people into the dark, ruined path glimpsed in the future.

The Fall of Centauri Prime

All of these events lead to Londo’s tragic ascension to Emperor in the greatest episode of Babylon 5 season five (outside the finale which was filmed at the end of season four). The destruction of Centauri Prime is tragic, threatening to tear apart Sheridan’s fragile new alliance, but it is the scenes with Londo and G’Kar that pull on the heart-strings. Their final scene together is the emotive culmination of five years of storytelling, before Londo takes on his keeper and makes the long, lonely march as Emperor amid the burning rubble of his homeland. It is one of the greatest, most tragic moments in the show’s history.

Sleeping in Light

The end of Babylon 5 is one of the greatest finales in television history. Filmed at the end of season four, it sees Sheridan’s finale days nineteen years in the future as he brings his friends together one last time. It is a welcome return for Claudia Christian’s General Susan Ivanova, a woman consumed by her career and still emotionally broken by Marcus’s sacrifice years earlier. Becoming head of the rangers is a cathartic end to her journey. It is also a welcome glimpse into the future of many beloved characters – Vir as Emperor, life-long friends Franklin and Garibaldi, still down-to-Earth Zach Allen – along with plenty of emotional mentions of long dead Londo, G’Kar and Marcus.

But the heart of this episode is Sheridan and Delenn’s story, played to perfection by Bruce Boxleitner and Mira Furlan. Their last hours are incredibly bittersweet and his Sunday drive is a wonderful, down to earth metaphor for his last journey; joining a returning Lorien beyond the Veil. The finale culminates in Babylon 5’s destruction, watched by its former crew. Christopher Franke’s score as the station is torn apart is incredibly powerful, leaving the audience with a lump in their throat. And the show’s creator Michael J. Straczynski cameoing as the technician that turns off the lights is a nice touch. The perfect send-off to an epic series…

And the worst episode of season five?

Secrets of the Soul

As Babylon 5 neared the midway point of season five, there really is a sense that a rot has started to set in. The rogue telepath storyline with Robin Atkin Downes’ Byron at its head was plain dull. Like previous episode ‘Strange Relations’ this is an episode where the telepath crisis (and I used that term very lightly) starts to occur, but at least that one had Bester in entertain us. This has none of that; in fact the only title characters shown are Lyta Alexander, Zach Allen and Stephen Franklin and the doctor is saddled with a rather uninteresting storyline of his own regarding the medical secrets of the Hyachs race. Apparently this episode was designed to make us care about the assault of a telepath; the truth us Babylon 5 got interesting again once Byron and his lot were written off the show.

Are you fans of Babylon 5 season five? What are you highs and lows of the final season? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll wrap things up soon with a look back spin-off series Crusade and the TV movies…

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