Babylon 5: In the Beginning

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Babylon 5: In The Beginning
B5-ITB.jpg
TNT promotional poster for Babylon 5: In The Beginning
Genre Science Fiction
Distributed by TNT
Created by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Michael Vejar
Produced by John Copeland
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Starring Bruce Boxleitner
Mira Furlan
Richard Biggs
Andreas Katsulas
Peter Jurasik
Reiner Schöne
Michael O'Hare
Music by Christopher Franke
Cinematography John C. Flinn III
Editing by Skip Robinson
Production company Babylonian Productions
Country United States
Language English
Original channel TNT
Release date January 4, 1998
Running time 94 minutes

Babylon 5: In the Beginning (1998) is a science fiction television movie set in the Babylon 5 fictional universe. It was written by J. Michael Straczynski and directed by Michael Vejar.

The film originally aired January 4, 1998 on the TNT cable network, a couple of weeks before season five of the series began. It focused mainly on characters part of the established Babylon 5 cast, but it did include the notable guest star Reiner Schöne (playing Minbari leader Dukhat).

Synopsis[edit]

In the Beginning tells the story of an important event in the history of the Babylon 5 universe. Ten years before the television series Babylon 5 is set, Earth becomes involved in a deadly conflict with the just-discovered Minbari race. This war nearly leads to the extermination of the human race, but it is mysteriously halted at the last moment by the Minbari leadership for reasons that would remain secret for over a decade. This near-destruction of the human race led to the Earth Alliance creating the Babylon space stations as a means of preventing further wars.

A large Minbari fleet jump from hyperspace during the Battle of the Line at the end of the Earth–Minbari War

During the first four years of the Babylon 5 TV series, numerous hints about and glimpses of the Earth–Minbari War were offered. When the program moved to the TNT cable network for its fifth season, a set of television movies were ordered to promote it, and Straczynski chose to use the first of these to tell the story of the war he had so often alluded to in previous episodes.

The movie opens with a view of Centauri Prime in flames. A man is seen looking out of the window of the Royal Palace looking at the destruction. A boy and his younger sister are seen playing in the royal throne room and looking out of the window watching numerous buildings go up in flames. Their governess finds them and tells them that it's the Emperor's window and that only he can look out of it. The Emperor hears them and tells them to come in front of him. It is then revealed that he is an aged Londo Mollari. Mollari allows the young boy to be Emperor of the Centauri Republic for five minutes, during which time he may give any order he wishes. He wishes that he be told a story of great battles and heroes and villains. His sister wants to hear a true story. Mollari decides to give them both what they want and tell them the story of the Earth–Minbari War that happened 35 years ago while he was ambassador to Earth.

The movie begins before the war, when the human race--feeling cocky following their defeat of the Dilgar—is rapidly expanding into space. Word reaches them of the mysterious Minbari race. Though they are warned by Centauri ambassador Londo Mollari to leave this race alone, they seek to research the species first-hand.

Meanwhile, the Minbari Grey Council, led by Dukhat, have become concerned that the Shadows may have returned to Z'ha'dum in fulfillment of Valen's prophecy. They are taking a roundabout route to the dark world to investigate when they encounter Earth ships, specifically the Prometheus, seeking to investigate the Minbari.

A misunderstanding then follows. The Minbari ships turn towards the Prometheus and engage their long-range sensors to gain more data on the unknown Earth ship. Unknown to the Minbari, the intense EMP field generated by their long range sensors has the unexpected side effect of disabling the Prometheus' jump engine, preventing the Prometheus from retreating. As the Minbari ships draw closer, they open their gun ports—a sign of respect in their culture. The interference from the Minbari sensors also prevents the Prometheus from determining whether or not the Minbari ships are charging their weapons. The captain of the Prometheus, with his jump engines disabled and the Minbari ships approaching in apparent preparation to fire weapons, misinterprets this as a sign of aggression and opens fire. The Minbari ships are heavily damaged, and their beloved leader Dukhat killed. In retaliation, the Grey Council announces a holy war against humanity, and the Earth–Minbari War begins.

Earth–Minbari war[edit]

The war lasts three years and countless humans are killed, being overwhelmed by superior Minbari technology. Several battles are seen: a lone corvette is witnessed charging a Minbari fleet; a Nova class dreadnought rams a Minbari war cruiser. Colonists are seen saying goodbye to family and children before flying to certain death. Lieutenant Commander John Sheridan, first officer of the EAS Lexington, is part of a battle group engaging the Minbari. After a Minbari ambush, Sheridan's commanding officer is killed. He assumes command of the damaged ship and lays a trap for the enemy, seeding the local asteroids with nuclear mines. The Minbari flagship Dral La Fi (Minbari for "Black Star") closes in to finish off the remaining Earth ship but is destroyed by the mine blast. This is Earth's only real victory in the war, and the faction of Minbari that feel the war has caused enough senseless bloodshed pushes to use this as an opportunity to engage in peace talks with Earth. Privately, Earth's political and military leadership is even willing to accept unconditional surrender should the Minbari ask it, rather than risk complete annihilation. However, when the Centauri intelligence division discovers that the Humans are having a secret meeting on a neutral planet that is being brokered by the Narn, they incorrectly fear that it is to secure a shipment of advanced armament to aid the Humans in their struggle. The Centauri therefore bomb the peace conference, with neither the Humans nor Minbari suspecting them and each assuming a rogue commander from the other side of the war carried out the attack. All hope for peace is lost, and humanity's destruction at the hands of the Minbari continues.

As a last, desperate effort to stave off the inevitable, the President of Earth orders all available ships to form a "line" around the planet in a vain attempt to delay the final Minbari obliteration of the human race. This "Battle of the Line" is the final engagement of the war.

During the battle, Satai Delenn (Mira Furlan), a member of the Grey Council, abducts a human pilot, ostensibly to learn about Earth's defenses. This pilot is Jeffrey Sinclair (Michael O'Hare). The Grey Council is startled to discover, upon using the triluminary, that he appears to carry the soul of Minbari religious leader Valen. After examining several other humans, the Grey Council concludes that Minbari souls have been reincarnated in whole or in part in humans.

Since Minbari do not kill Minbari, they surrender to the defenseless Earth forces rather than kill Minbari souls in human bodies. Because of the damage this revelation could do to their own culture, they keep the reason for the surrender a secret.

In the wake of the war, Earth decides to build a space station that can serve as a kind of "United Nations in space", with the intent of preventing future wars. This was the Babylon Station, destroyed by terrorists during construction. Various fates befall later iterations of the station (Babylons 2 and 3 are also destroyed, and Babylon 4 disappears without a trace shortly after going online), until the completion of the Babylon 5 station and the pilot of the Babylon 5 series, set in the year 2257.

The film ends right before the future seen in the episode "War Without End", when Delenn and Sheridan are held captive in the Centauri palace and Londo is drinking massively to put his Keeper to sleep so that he can let the captives escape.

Babylon 5 TV seasons and films
1993–2007

In order of series chronology:
2245–48 • In the Beginning (1st film)*
2256 • Babylon 5 station commissioned
2257 • The Gathering (Pilot)
2258 • Signs and Portents (Season 1)
2259 • The Coming of Shadows (Season 2)
2260 • Point of No Return (Season 3)
2261 • No Surrender, No Retreat (Season 4)**
2261 • Thirdspace (2nd film)***
2262 • The Wheel of Fire (Season 5)
2263 • The River of Souls (3rd film)
2265 • The Legend of the Rangers (5th film)
2266 • A Call to Arms (4th film)
2267 • Crusade (spin-off series)
2271 • The Lost Tales: Voices in the Dark
2278 • In the Beginning (1st film)*
2281 • Babylon 5 station decommissioned

* The framing story is set in 2278.
** The final episode of the season includes scenes of future events up to 3262 and beyond.
*** The story is set between the two wars in season 4.
The final episode of series is set in 2281.

Story arc and continuity[edit]

In the Beginning focuses significantly on what major characters of the TV series were doing during the Earth–Minbari War. In the process, it creates a few apparent contradictions to series continuity. It also uses significant footage taken from the television episodes. In fact, Michael O'Hare (Jeffrey Sinclair) appears only in file footage, despite his pivotal role, since the actor was on the East Coast and could not economically be brought to Los Angeles for filming a few additional scenes.[citation needed]

Some of the contradictions in the film are disputed. For example, in the first season episode "And the Sky Full of Stars", a member of the Minbari Grey Council tells Delenn that Sinclair must be killed if he remembers his missing 24 hours at the Battle of the Line. J. Michael Straczynski has stated that this is not a contradiction, as unlike Kosh and Ulkesh (AKA Kosh II), the Grey Council did not know of Sinclair's destiny to travel back in time and become Valen, rather believing that it was the other way around. They had concluded that rather than see Minbari society destroyed, as they were not prepared for the truth about Valen at the time, it would be necessary to kill Sinclair if he remembered.[1]

The level of interaction between G'Kar, Franklin and Mollari with Sheridan and each other in the film is not easy to reconcile with seasons one and two of the series, in which Sheridan is known to most other characters principally by reputation, and there is no hint of any interaction between these characters before the construction of the Babylon 5 station. For example, one of the scenes in the film has Franklin, Sheridan and G'Kar going on a secret mission to the Epsilon system, but in the series, Franklin's dialogue suggests that he had never met or worked with Sheridan before the latter took over administration of Babylon 5. (However, given that that Epsilon events were a secret mission, this could potentially be interpreted as intentional pretense rather than retconning.)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Straczynski, J. Michael (1998-01-15); "In The Beginning"; The J. Michael Straczynski Message Archive.[clarification needed]]]

External links[edit]