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Saturday, 16 September 2017

Babylon 5 2-09: The Coming of Shadows

Episode:31|Writer:J. Michael Straczynski|Air Date:01-Feb-1994

This week on Sci-Fi Adventures I'm watching the Hugo Award winning Babylon 5 episode The Coming of Shadows. It won the award for 'Best Dramatic Presentation' in 1994, back when individual TV episodes had to fight it out in the same category as blockbuster movies. So this didn't just take down beloved Deep Space Nine episode The Visitor, but also 12 Monkeys, Apollo 13 and Toy Story! Damn, that's a lot of movies and series with a number in their title. Also a lot of Tom Hanks.

Just to put that win in context, previous winners include: Jurassic Park, Terminator 2, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Aliens, Back to the Future, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Blade RunnerA Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek's The City on the Edge of Forever. So I'm expecting this to be at least as good as all of those.

Man, I love listing things; it saves me from having to actually think about the words that I'm writing. Anyway, this episode was written by J. Michael Straczynski and directed by Janet Greek, who'd already given us stories like Points of Departure, Signs and Portents and Chrysalis by this point, just to pick a few names from the very top of my episode rankings. So it'd be fair to say they'd assembled B5's A-Team for this one. Well, except for Dwight Schultz; he'll not be participating as a guest star this time (or ever again).

I'm going to be recapping the whole episode with screencaps and writing my thoughts underneath, so there'll be maximum SPOILERS past this point. I'm sure I'll end up spoiling things from earlier episodes too, but I'll not say a thing about what happens after (though I can't promise the episode itself won't reveal a few things about what's to come).

The episode begins at Centauri Prime, the Centauri homeworld! The series has really been getting out and about this season after being almost entire station-bound the first year, showing us places like Mars Colony, Z'ha'dum, the infinite chaotic realm of hyperspace and San Diego.

It's just a shame that the image quality on these visual effects scenes is so damn terrible, as the NTSC resolution 4:3 ratio CGI has been blown up, cropped, and interlaced to the point where my screencaps come out as a scruffy mess unless I clean them up a bit manually.

This shot's not so bad though; the image is much clearer when the camera's not moving. Those thick black gaps down the sides are a dead giveaway that it's a visual effects shot though, as the picture takes up more of the screen when it switches to live action footage. I've been leaving most of my screencaps alone, with inconsistent borders intact, but the folks who put the DVD together were probably expecting the very outside of the image to be hidden by the television's overscan so maybe I should be chopping 5% off the sides of every shot.

Anyway, what we're looking at here is the Centauri Royal Palace. It doesn't actually state that on screen, but it's not hard to guess when the next shot is of...

...the Centauri emperor himself!

Right away I feel like there's something off about this guy, especially after he declines to wear his giant fan-hair wig. He's just too nice and down to earth to be an upper-class Centauri. In fact, his prime minister seems like a pretty decent guy too. It's hard to judge the others though, as they're mostly standing there in total silence with sheets over their heads.

The emperor's tired of the trappings of status and feels that Centauri woman might be on to something when they shave their heads to 'rise above these things'. Yeah, somehow I don't think that's the reason mate. Also wow, Centauri women all shave their heads, they're not naturally bald? We're already getting shocking revelations and we're only a minute in.

Anyway, the emperor's in bad health, but he's heading on a trip regardless and leaving the prime minister behind to look after his chair. I wonder where he's going!

Cut to Babylon 5, where Ambassador G'Kar's found another thing to be furious about. Turns out the Centauri emperor is on his way here, and G'Kar wants Sheridan to ban him from the station on account of the fact that the Centauri suck.

G'Kar explains that the emperor's family invaded and strip-mined his planet, and the man's father personally ordered the execution of 100,000 Narns. The fact that the emperor himself had no part in the Narn occupation, and has in fact gone out of his way to offer concessions and restore stolen territory, doesn't matter to him, and when he doesn't get his way he storms off to do something "we'll both regret".


Oh great, now the fuzziness is even infecting shots without any visual effects! Sometimes this is because the scene has transitioned from a CGI scene but in this case I think it's just because it's still showing credits on screen.

With their emperor coming to Babylon 5 soon, Ambassador Mollari and Lord Refa have been given a fantastic opportunity to do a bit of conspiring. They want a strong vibrant space empire that goes around taking territory, not giving it back to the Narns, and are willing to go to extreme measures to obtain it.

Now Refa's lost his chin! It's funny how such an important award-winning episode seems to have suffered most from the DVD transfer so far. Though I'm sure it'll sort itself out once the floating names are done and the editor can use widescreen footage instead of cropping 4:3 composites.

The two scheming Centauri have got a great plan here: Londo's going to make a speech predicting how the government is going to screw up their economy and military next, and then Refa's going to make his predictions come true. This is going to make Londo unpopular with the emperor, but the guy hasn't got long left to live so that problem will soon solve itself.

Once Refa's out of the room Vir's confides in Londo that he's a bit uncomfortable about them sabotaging their world for their own benefit and Londo reveals that he is too. He's still going to go along with it though.

Over in the customs area, the emperor arrives on the station to a heroic fanfare. I don't see any space trumpets around though so I'm assuming it's non-diegetic. Either that or they're playing it through the speaker system.

The emperor offers Sheridan the hands of friendship, just like Londo did a few episodes back in Geometry of Shadows. Back then it just seemed like a move he was trying to pull to make it look like a technomage was endorsing him, but I guess this is a real traditional Centauri greeting.

By the way, I keep calling him 'the emperor' because he's never named, at least not in this episode. But the actor, Turhan Bey, had such a perfectly Centauri sounding name that the series eventually nicked it, with a later episode naming his character 'Emperor Turhan'.

Sheridan introduces his crew and Turhan expresses how impressed he is by the fact that they're all putting themselves in harm's way to work for peace. Though before they can get on with the tour, Turhan goes over to Dr. Franklin to ask him about the Ambassador Kosh. Despite being the leader of the Centauri Republic, one of the series' major races, he's never actually met a Vorlon before and he's very curious about the one they've got hanging around the station being all cryptic.

Huh, I've only just realised that the Centauri symbol back there looks exactly like their hair. Took me long enough.

But while the crew and the Centauri emperor are all holding hands and telling each other how awesome they are, G'Kar's in his quarters talking with a bloke on the monitor about a plan. The first circle of the Kha'Ri (the heart of the Narn government) have been discussing it for a while and they've decided to endorse G'Kar's cunning scheme... to take a knife and stab the emperor to death with it in full view of everyone.

Then, just to make the act's conclusion even more dramatic, G'Kar explains to his friend on the monitor that however things play out, he's certain that he'll either be dead or in prison by the end of it. Those are the only possible outcomes. But he's okay with that, as he really really hates this emperor.

Seems like a great way to start a war, but then maybe that's what he's after.


Act two begins with the emperor asking Sheridan to join him in the Sanctuary, so that they can have a private chat in front of the stars (and some obviously CGI window frames). He wants to explain his situation and lay out the main theme of the episode in a JMS speech, and he wants to do it in a scene that looks like a Wing Commander 3 cutscene.

"The past tempts us, the present confuses us and the future frightens us. And our lives slip away moment by moment in the vast, terrible in-between. But there's still time to seize that one last fragile moment. To choose something better. To make a difference". You know, I wouldn't have expected the Centauri emperor to be so fluent in English.

On paper, he's the most powerful man in the Centauri Republic, but he explains that he's never made a choice of his own (except to offer all those concessions to the Narn and return stolen territory presumably). He was born into the role and did everything he was asked to because he never occurred to him to do things differently. That's why he left his fancy haircut at home and came here: because he's going to seize his last chance to make his own choice for once.

Later everyone gathers for a reception at the Rotunda to hear the emperor's awesome speech, even G'Kar (to Sheridan's surprise). It doesn't seem to occur to anyone to check him for weapons though. Maybe they're not allowed to put ambassadors through a metal detector, I don't know.

This establishing shot doesn't show any of the characters, but I don't remember seeing it before and it looks cool so I'm throwing it in. If this was any other series they would've likely gone with some location shots for the grassy interior of the station, but I don't think Babylon 5 left the studio once during its entire run. Mostly because rendering a building in Lightwave is always going to be cheaper than packing the filming equipment into a convoy of trucks and sending it off on a road trip.

Wait, I recognise this building now! We saw it from the inside in Legacies when Shai Alyt Bramner's glowing coffin was on display.

1-17 Legacies
Yeah I know, almost every room in this station is circular like this and has those slats running around the walls (it's like they're living in a lighthouse), but look at the pillars around the top! They're not exactly identical and the inside shot has more of them, but it totally has to be the same place.

Meanwhile, Garibaldi almost makes up for not bothering to search G'Kar when he manages to catch someone stalking him... and it's the marshal from Lost! The guy claims that he's here to talk to him, but clams up when the other security officers appear, so Garibaldi tells his men to take him to holding and away from the corridor that the emperor's going to be coming down in a minute.

Apart from that slight bit of weirdness, everything else goes well...

...right up to the point where the emperor keels over on his way to the reception.

Everything plays out without words here, which is cool. Turhan falls to the ground, Sheridan notices Franklin getting a call and leaving the reception, and on Centauri Prime we see telepaths arriving in the throne room to let the prime minister know the news.

That's who the women in white are by the way: linked telepaths who can send messages between themselves despite being light years apart. So the Centauri have limited precognition and interstellar telepathy. No wonder the Psi Corps keeps trying to breed better telepaths; human telepaths are basically crap by comparison.

This was a terrible time for a heart attack really, for everyone involved. Now Londo doesn't get to say his speech, the emperor doesn't get to reveal what his choice was and G'Kar doesn't get to stab him to death.

Londo and Refa really are a bit thrown off by this, and they know their competitors back home are going to be moving into position to take the throne the moment Turhan dies. They have to do something incredible right now to rise above their rivals or else they're screwed, so Londo takes the initiative. He's going to get his allies to assault a Narn colony at Quadrant 14.

Vir hasn't been entirely on board with Londo's alliance with Mr. Morden and his dark associates, but this time he's outright pleading with him not to do this. He's Londo's aide but also he's the closest thing he has to a friend... which may be the one thing that's keeping him employed right now after what he says here. Well that, plus the fact that Londo knows the guy's right.

But Londo feels that he has no choice; if he wants the Centauri to be ruled by someone who'll make the republic great again, he's going to have to start a war.


Speaking of people plotting to flip the status quo of the series upside down, G'Kar has another chat to his friend on the monitor, still clinging to the hope that he can get a knife into that emperor before he dies of natural causes. The scene's actually played for comedy, which I guess makes sense considering how absurd his line of thinking is.

Just then Dr. Franklin comes by to be smug and morally superior, as that's basically his job in the series. He's been given a message to relay to him from the emperor himself, as the man doesn't trust his own people to do the job properly due to its shocking and controversial nature. The message is: "Sorry". Turns out that Turhan chose to risk his health and come all the way out here to apologise to G'Kar and the Narn for all the things the Centauri did, and admit that they were wrong.

This seems like it should be the part where G'Kar starts ranting about there being no forgiveness and etc. but he seems genuinely confused. In Midnight on the Firing Line he was talking about his dream of cleansing the universe of the Centauri and turning their bones into flutes, but I don't think it ever occurred to him (or the Kha-Ri back home) that they might be wanting to get off this 'circle of hate' ride that both races been going round on for 150 years. It never occurred to him that the peace their two sides have fallen into wasn't due to cowardice or weakness on his enemy's part but because the Centauri leader wanted to do better and atone for his family's actions.

Meanwhile, Londo's dozed off in a chair and is dreaming of that time Narn attacked the Centauri colony on Ragesh 3 at the very start of Midnight on the Firing Line.

It was the event that kicked off the first season, though it wasn't the last time that the Narn attacked the Centauri during season one.

The Narn kept pushing, the Centauri government kept giving in, and by Chrysalis Londo had become frustrated enough by the situation to send Mr. Morden's sinister associates out to blow up a Narn outpost in a quadrant his emperor had just given over to them. Nothing came of it though because G'Kar assumed the Centauri couldn't have been responsible, as "they don't have the will."

So Londo and G'Kar both mistook Turhan's attempts to end their mutual hatred for weakness, partly because he didn't think to make a speech!

The dream continues with a new shot of a great hand reaching out of a star, which is what the technomage saw in Londo's future a few episodes back. He didn't mention that the effect was going to look so ropey though, or that he meant it literally. Somehow I'm still thinking this is more of a metaphorical star hand though.

Now there's something I don't think we've ever seen before in Babylon 5: someone standing outside on a planet (Centauri Prime in this case). It's also unusually well lit and convincing.

Hang on, could this have actually been filmed... outdoors? B5 didn't do location shooting as it was too expensive and time-consuming, but I remember reading somewhere that they did get an actor out into the car park for a shot once, so maybe this is the one. I might have found the one shot in all of Babylon 5 with natural light! Either that or the one shot good enough to trick me.

And then we get to see what he's looking at up there...

...a whole lot of Mr. Morden's creepy black spider ships flying over his homeworld, way more than we've seen before up to this point. Seems like we're meant to be taking this shot more literally.

The Centauri have prophetic dreams showing them how they are going to die, which Londo explained to Sinclair all the way back in Midnight on the Firing Line when he revealed he knows that G'Kar's going to strangle him to death 20 years from now. Londo's not dying here, but there's a big clue that this might be a genuine vision of the future and that's the fact that he's never seen these ships before. They've been out blowing up targets for him but he has no idea what they look like. Only G'Kar and Keffer have gotten this close to a sinister spider ship and survived, and G'Kar only saw the smaller fighters.

The dream then continues to show Londo as the Centauri emperor! The guy's not looking too well at this point though (plus he's got a bit of a cough) so it must take place a fair few years in the future.

Surprise one-eyed G'Kar out of nowhere!

Wait, are they showing Londo's precognitive death dream right now? Is G'Kar going to come over and strangle him?

Oh damn, we’re finally seeing the actual dream where G’Kar throttles Londo to death! I'd forgotten that this is where it happened.

We were told in the first episode that Londo knew he was going to die squeezing the life out of a Narn and that he recognised G'Kar from the dream the moment he saw him, but it's one thing being told about it and another actually seeing the two of them kill each other. This is who G'Kar is to Londo: he's the monster from his dreams, his murderer... so it's no wonder he hates the guy. Plus it helps explain why he spends his waking hours either ranting at people or getting drunk.

I'm thinking that the 'becoming emperor' part of this dream is probably new to him though, as half the reason he's working with Morden and his spider ships is that he felt like his life was going nowhere.

Speaking of the spider ships, those guys are really slicing up that Narn colony in Quadrant 14 good, cutting up the orbital installation, obliterating the defending fighters and bombarding the planet below without even breaking a sweat. We've seen them do this three or four times now but it hasn't gotten old for me yet. Also, I'm sure I spotted a few proper looking explosions in there amongst the standard blast of sparks we usually get in B5 space battles.

So that's Londo's job done; now Refa has just one mysterious thing to arrange back home and then they can sit back and wait for the Centauri ships to arrive at Quadrant 14 to claim it for the great Centauri Republic.

But then G'Kar finds Londo in the Zocalo and drags him away...

...for a drink.

This scene is utterly amazing, as Londo can only sit there in shock, struggling to deal with the fact that G'Kar has finally seen the light and is enthusiastic about the hope of peace, blissfully unaware that the man sitting opposite him has just arranged to start a war between them. This is Londo's turn to have a moment of realisation, as he's seeing first hand that the Narn would have backed down if they'd only apologised to them and made an effort to make reparations.

But there's no going back now, as in a few hours their two people will be in a full-scale conflict, and until then he just has to deal with his arch-nemesis sitting there, drinking to his health.

Though actually there might be one last chance to avoid a war! If he can call off the Centauri ships in time it'll hide their involvement and it'll seem like another attack by the mysterious antagonist from Z'ha'dum.

Too late, the Centauri ships have arrived at Quadrant 14 and they're engaging with the Narn fighters responding to the attack.

Back on Centauri Prime, we learn that the mysterious thing Lord Refa was arranging was the assassination of the prime minister! We're losing all the good Centauri this episode.

By the way, this guy's name was Malachi Throne, and that's amazing. That's the actor's name I mean, not the character's. Well, it wasn't at this point anyway, but like Emperor Turhan, Prime Minister Malachi was posthumously named after his actor. Fun fact: Malachi was Gene Roddenberry's first choice to play the role of the doctor in Star Trek's pilot episode, but he turned it down. He was keen on the Spock role though, but by then Leonard Nimoy had already accepted it.

Hang on, is that a statue of Centauri goddess of passion over there on the left? In the Centauri throne room? Plus those purple squares behind the curtain next to it look a whole lot like the wall outside Sheridan's office. I keep waiting for someone to pull back the curtains to reveal that the throne room was on Babylon 5 the whole time. That'd be a proper plot twist.

Back on the station, we get a break from all the drama and surprises as Garibaldi decides to have a chat with his stalker, who claims he has a message for his eyes only.

Oh shit, it’s Michael O'Hare returning as Sinclair! And he's grown his hair out a bit during his time on the Minbari homeworld. I suppose it would be difficult for him to find a hairdresser over there.

The former commander reveals that the stalker is an agent working for him, one of his Rangers. As far as Earth's concerned Sinclair is just their ambassador to Minbar, like Delenn is the Minbari ambassador to B5. But like Delenn, he's got a secret agenda and also like Delenn, he can't tell Garibaldi anything yet. He does give him a warning about the coming darkness though, so that's helpful.

Oh, plus he explains that the Rangers are a group of Minbari (and a few humans) who have been training on Minbar for the fight ahead. So far they've just been out patrolling the frontier though, keeping an eye on things for Sinclair and the others.


Hey, it's the B5 logo with the olive branch over it. I think this is the first time it appears there on the back wall of C&C. They're going to have to change the opening titles now to put it behind Garibaldi in the window shot (but they never do).

Anyway, these two have just learned about the attack on Quadrant 14 from a message sent to G'Kar. They're not supposed to eavesdrop, but it was on an open channel, so Ivanova figures they were probably intended to hear it. Any hope of the assault being attributed to super-powerful spider-ships from Z'ha'dum just went out the window as the Narn are sure this was a Centauri attack this time.

G'Kar doesn't take the news well, snapping his polystyrene table in half and then charging down the corridor to murder Londo.

There's more echoes of Midnight on the Firing Line here as Sheridan intercepts him in a corridor 30 minutes into the episode, just like Garibaldi once intercepted Londo 30 minutes in on his way to kill G'Kar.

In fact, this is pretty much a mirror of that scene, as both Londo and G'Kar say "you don't understand", Sheridan threatens to kill G'Kar like Garibaldi threatened to kill Londo, and G'Kar is also given a choice between attempting revenge and saving the colonists.

The main difference is that G'Kar's a lot more openly emotional... and he beats the crap out of a hallway full of security officers to get here.

It's not exactly a Daredevil hallway fight, but there's some nice stuntwork there. Plus I think that first guy who kicked the wall on the way down was meant to be Zack Allan! The poor guy got thrown so hard that he made the set shake.

Meanwhile, in Medlab, the emperor isn't quite dead yet, but it won't be long now. He just wishes he could've seen a Vorlon before the end.

Hey's it's Ambassador Kosh! I guess the production crew finally figured out where they left the outfit, as he's been missing for six episodes in a row until now. Even telepath Talia Winters has never been absent for that long... nah I'm joking, of course she has.

In Midnight on the Firing Line Kosh didn't show much interest in the Centauri or the Narn, saying that they were dying races that the humans should let pass, but he cares enough about them to give the nice emperor a visit on his death bed. Turhan takes to opportunity to ask him how this will all end.

"In fire," the Vorlon replies, for he is a dick.

The thing is, the Centauri dream about how they will die, meaning that Emperor Turhan may have been having vague prophetic dreams of Kosh making this vague prophetic statement all his life. It would explain why he wanted peace with the Narn so bad if he knew things could all end in fire. Or maybe he just wasn't a dick.

The episode's not over yet though as there's still a colony full of Narn survivors being held by the Centauri... just like how there were Centauri colonists being held by the Narn in Midnight on the Firing Line.

Also, Garibaldi reveals to Sheridan that he's learned from a source that the rumours they've heard of a 'darkness' operating from Z'ha'dum are true and that they may be working with someone in the Centauri government; they may have even been involved in the attack on Quadrant 14! He doesn't seem to know about the sneaky spider-ships yet, but it's nice that the crew aren't entirely in the dark anymore.

Sheridan wants to know more about where this info's coming from, but Garibaldi's not about to betray Sinclair's trust, so he declines to tell him. After all, if he gives up his source when Sheridan orders him to, then someone else could order him to spill Sheridan's secrets! Sheridan accepts this logic.

The emperor is really close to death now, and Londo and Refa are there at his side to give him the joyous news: they've retaken the colony on Quadrant 14 and are ready to get a nice big interstellar war going! Turhan's far too weak to pick himself up and start throwing the two of them around like he's G'Kar in a hallway of security officers, so he whispers his last words into Londo's ear and then becomes the second Centauri emperor to die on screen this episode.

This isn't a Lost in Translation moment though, as Londo immediately tells the others what he said: "Continue. Take my people back to the stars." It's clear that the telepaths know he's talking bullshit though, half because they telepaths and half because they've met Turhan, but they decide to stay quiet. They don't get paid enough to get involved in this political crap (actors with speaking roles cost more).

Once they're outside, a shaken Londo tells Refa that what Turhan really said was "You are both damned." But then they knew that already.

Somehow there's still time left in the episode for a proper council meeting to deal with the Quadrant 14 situation. Even Kosh has turned up for once, which is a surprise. I think the series should've probably done more to remind us that he exists, even though he never does anything.

Anyway, Sheridan plays the one card he has against Londo, claiming that his government will send observers to the colony to make sure that the 250,000 Narn civilians are treated well... and to find out how the Centauri carried out the attack. The last thing Londo wants is for his associates to become known (and Sheridan knows it), so he's forced to let the civilians go instead. Against all odds, the crew have managed to get some kind of victory out of this after all!

Then G'Kar announces that his government have officially declared war on the Centauri Republic. The hope for peace is over. It's lucky that the "last, best hope" narration in the opening titles of every episode is in past tense.


Incredibly there are still scenes left. I had to double check to make sure it was still a regular 40-minute episode.

The episode ends with Refa telling Londo that the emperor's nephew has claimed the throne, which is great news for them as he "feels as we do about the future". Then he hands Vir his empty cup to take, and the guy just stares back at him in silence, like he's trying to telepathically burn the words 'yeah that's not going to happen anymore mate' into his brain via his eyes. Vir status: still awesome.

Also Delenn gets her own message from Sinclair, which we don't get to hear. So that's... mysterious.


Man, The Coming of Shadows is a good episode. It's a damn tragedy, but it's so good.

The opening narration has been promising that the great war would come upon us all for nine episodes now and it wasn't lying. Babylon 5 has failed to keep the peace between the Narn and the Centauri, and it's entirely Londo's fault.

The episode deliberately mirrors Midnight on the Firing Line in a lot of ways, with the surprise attack on a colony, the dream of Londo and G'Kar strangling each other to death, an enraged ambassador going off to murder his rival and being talked out of it in a hallway, and Babylon 5's commander coming up with a way to save the colonists at the end. This time though it's much better directed. Also, the roles of the aggressor and the victim have been flipped, with the Narn facing the consequences of their attacks over the first season. Unfortunately, they don't have a Turhan leading them, so they're more than willing to escalate the conflict. Londo and G'Kar have also switched places, with Londo now the scheming warmonger and G'Kar becoming defeated and desperate.

I noticed the word 'choice' coming up a lot this episode, from a bunch of different characters. Both Londo and G'Kar start off feeling like they have no choice, as they separately conspire to strike against the Centauri leadership. G'Kar's convinced he has to throw his life away for vengeance, Londo's convinced he has to start a war for the good of his people, and it's all because they can't even consider a future in which their two sides don't hate each other. They misunderstood Turhan's actions, both certain that he lacked the will to fight because of the concessions he's given to the Narn. Though that's partially his fault as it didn't occur to him he could make the choice to straight up apologise to them.

Luck saves G'Kar from carrying out his assassination attempt, giving him a chance to hear from Franklin that he actually did have a choice: he could've tried to open a dialogue with the guy like Sheridan kept telling him to do! G'Kar finally realises that the cycle of retribution could stop if people choose to stop it, and makes the decision to reach out to Londo. Then afterwards, he makes the choice not to kill him, showing that he did learn the moral of the story. Londo on the other hand, not so much. The guy's stubbornly determined to follow the road to damnation, despite Vir's efforts to pull him away and recurring nightmares hinting at what he'll find at the end of it. His drink with G'Kar made it blatantly obvious to him that he went and threw away the last, best hope for peace here, but he's just digging that hole further.

So the Centauri Republic has just become the second major power in 6 months to lose a sympathetic leader who believed in peace, after the Earth Alliance lost President Santiago in Chrysalis. That's kind of worrying. On the plus side, we've learned that Sinclair's training a secret army of Rangers to fight the darkness! The guy's left the station commander's desk behind but it turns out that he's not out of the game yet, not by a long shot.

I can't decide if this is my favourite of the episodes up to this point, but it's a definite contender. This is proper Babylon 5, kicking arcs into gear with one foot and kicking ass with the other. Significant, that's what it is. It's like the season 2 equivalent to Signs and Portents in quality and importance to the story, so I guess it makes sense that they named this entire season after it. It's 100% unskippable.

Babylon 5 will return with GROPOS! But next on Sci-Fi Adventures, Deep Space Nine's back with Cardassians. Unless I go crazy and review another episode of The Orville first.

If you've got thoughts and opinions you want to express on the subject of The Coming of Shadows or my website, then you can type them up in the comment box below. I mean I don't want to tell you what to do with your life, I'm just saying that you have a choice.


  1. It's funny. Even a production as cash-strapped as classic Doctor Who routinely went on location, while Babylon 5 never did. Though, in fairness, DW didn't have the option of virtual sets; they basically had the Tardis control room, a hallway, and the "everything else" set, so I suppose regular trips outside were needed to avoid extensive regular set decorations a la "The Face of Evil" jungle.

    I suppose B5's approach kept Mars, Centauri Prime, Narn, and Minbar from looking like the outskirts of Burbank, CA.

    1. Modern Doctor Who pulls the same trick, except it keeps taking the actors to places like Spain and the US somehow. Meanwhile poor Dark Matter was lucky to take a trip to a nearby forest once a season.

      I think what made the production of Babylon 5 different from other sci-fi series at the time, is that it was a comfortable show to work on (unless you were JMS). Episodes frequently came in under budget because the crew worked efficiently, didn't require overtime and didn't drag everyone out in trucks to film on a redressed street or next to an interesting rock in the desert somewhere.

      I get the impression that Doctor Who has always been harder, messier work, with the production team going the extra mile to work miracles with what they had in every era (even if that extra mile often took them to a quarry). Also classic Who did actually use virtual sets at least as far back as the Pertwee era, with episodes like Terror of the Autons being a real, uh, showcase for their CSO background replacement technology.

  2. This is one of the few B5 episodes that I remember well from the Channel 4 run; it's so good that it burned itself into my brain!