Battle of the Line
In the Babylon 5 fictional universe, the Battle of the Line was the final battle of the Earth-Minbari war. The Battle of the Line was a desperate attempt by the Earth Alliance to stop a Minbari combat fleet from attacking Earth. Over 20,000 Human defenders fought in the battle; including most of the remaining warships of the Earth fleet. Despite this armada, the Minbari fleet easily destroyed most of the defending human warships, and fewer than 200 humans survived the battle. Incredibly, however, the Minbari suddenly surrendered to the almost-defeated humans with no explanation.
The first commander of the Babylon 5 outpost, Earthforce Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, was captured by the Minbari during the battle. One major plot element of the first season of the television show involves his attempts to regain his memory of those events.
Approximately two years before the Battle of the Line, the first contact between Humans and Minbari had ended in disaster; the captain of the lead Earth ship, thinking that the Minbari were about to attack, panicked and opened fire. This resulted in the death of Dukhat, whereupon the remaining members of the Grey Council declared war against the humans.:192
The resulting war was largely a one-sided affair, as the Minbari were far more advanced in weapons and technology than the humans. Since the humans fought the Minbari advance tenaciously, it was slow and brutal. Commander John Sheridan succeeded in destroying the Black Star, the Minbari flagship—it was the only Minbari capital ship lost during the entire war, and it was ultimately a fruitless victory.:174
After two years of bloody warfare, the Minbari came within striking distance of Earth's solar system. The President of the Earth Alliance requested that "every ship capable of fighting" take part in a "last stand to defend our homeworld", a complement of over 20,000 human defenders. Confident they could quickly destroy any human resistance, the Minbari fleet bypassed Mars and Io to strike at Earth directly. The humans fought valiantly, but the technologically superior Minbari destroyed the human ships with little difficulty. Lt. Commander Jeffrey Sinclair's entire squadron was destroyed in under 60 seconds. After his Starfury fighter suffered serious damage, he attempted to ram the nearest Minbari cruiser.:192
As the battle drew to an end, the Earth fleet was virtually annihilated, and the Minbari fleet virtually unscratched. The devastation of Earth and extermination of the human race seemed inevitable, but the Minbari suddenly ceased fire and broadcast their surrender. There was much speculation as to why the Minbari chose to surrender when their victory was all but assured, but the Minbari’s governing Grey Council never explained its decision, even to its own warrior caste. Earth losses were catastrophic with more than 20,000 deaths and fewer than 200 survivors.
Minbari surrender 
Sinclair had attempted to ram the nearest Minbari cruiser after his squadron had been wiped out, unaware that the ship he targeted was in fact the Grey Council's flagship. They instead chose to capture and interrogate him in an attempt to better ascertain Earth's defenses. He was rendered unconscious and was brought before the Grey Council, and scanned with the triluminary. To their profound shock, it indicated that he not only possessed a Minbari soul, but that soul was none other than the Minbari's most revered cultural and religious figure, Valen. Because of the Minbari belief in reincarnation, they believed that Sinclair was the current host of Valen's soul, since the triluminary was coded with Valen's DNA and said to only 'react' in his presence. For generations, fewer and fewer Minbari were being born and many wondered where the souls were being reincarnated. Now convinced that these Minbari souls were being reincarnated within human bodies, the Grey Council was horrified at the fact that, by killing humans, they were harming their own souls in this war. In response, they ordered Sinclair's memories of the examination purged, followed by his release. Delenn volunteered to stay close to Sinclair to observe him. The Grey Council then ordered the Minbari to immediately cease hostilities, but they refused to explain this unexpected move; due to the xenophobic views of the warrior caste, they believed that explaining the reason would have only resulted in the warriors refusing the order.:192
When Sinclair had tried to ram the Minbari warship, he had passed out. When he awoke, he found himself drifting in his damaged fighter, 24 hours later, after the war was over. As the first season of the television show begins, Sinclair has struggled with survivor's guilt and been bothered by his amnesia.
The near-annihilation prompted the Earth Alliance to expand its diplomatic and technology efforts, prompting the Babylon Project. Post-war Earth-Minbari relations were somewhat tense, but the Minbari helped fund Babylon 5.
Plot significance 
Series creator J. Michael Straczynski cites the mystery surrounding the Battle of the Line as a key aspect of introducing Babylon 5 to the audience: "The Battle of the Line and the hole in Sinclair's mind was always intended as the entry point or trigger to the story. It's like Frodo being given the Ring in LoTR. The story isn't about that, that's how we get INTO it." Straczynski further explained that actor Michael O'Hare's departure at the end of season one did not impair the resolution of the storyline: "The only difference in the resolution of that aspect is this: we had originally intended to resolve the missing 24 hours, and the Battle of the Line, by episode four, season two. We've simply moved it up 3 eps to the first episode." The Babylon File author Andy Lane calls Sinclair's memory loss "one of the most important plot threads to run through the series".:76
Straczynski claims to have always intended the Battle of the Line storyline to be resolved in early season two: "I said, from the very beginning, that once the series got rolling, no single primary question could be allowed to go more than about one season before answering it, otherwise you get into a frustrating Twin Peaks situation where *nothing* is resolved".
In American Science-Fiction TV: Star Trek, Stargate, and Beyond, author Jan Johnson-Smith notes "the Battle of the Line reminds us of the flotilla of little ships at Dunkirk or perhaps the Spitfires and Hurricanes of the Battle of Britain." James Iaccino, writing in the Journal of Popular Culture, notes of Sinclair that "The mysteries which surround this hero's past are in keeping with those encircling the Jungian prototype".
The Battle of the Line is referenced as a major plot element in the following Babylon 5 episodes:
- The Gathering, series pilot, in which the backstory of the Earth-Minbari war and Sinclair's blackout during the Battle of the Line are revealed. During the pilot, Sinclair is told by a Minbari, "You have a hole in your mind.":75-76, which becomes a recurring theme throughout season 1.
- And the Sky Full of Stars, Season 1, episode 8, in which Sinclair is captured and interrogated by two humans convinced that he knows more than he is saying about the Battle of the Line.:115-118
- Legacies, Season 1, episode 17, in which a diplomatic incident results after the disappearance of the corpse of the Minbari war leader who oversaw the Battle of the Line.:148-150
- Points of Departure, Season 2, episode 1, where the full story of Sinclair's questioning by the Gray Council is revealed.:173-178
Additionally, the event is mentioned or referenced in the episodes Soul Hunter, A Late Delivery from Avalon, and the Crusade episode Patterns of the Soul. The television movie Babylon 5: In the Beginning, developed between seasons 4 and 5 of the television series, provides a complete look at the events of the Battle of the Line; while the movie is set chronologically earlier than the events of season 1, it aired after season 4 to an audience who had already seen the mystery evolve throughout seasons 1 and 2.:191-199 A separate book adaptation of the film was published in 1995.
- "Everything You Need To Know About Babylon 5". Io9.com. 2012-01-18. Retrieved 2012-12-16.
- Lane, Andy (1999). The Babylon File Volume 2: The Definitive Unauthorized Guide to J. Michael Straczynski's Babylon 5. Virgin Books. ISBN 0-7535-0233-X.
- Lane, Andy (1997). The Babylon File: The Definitive, Unauthorized Guide to J. Michael Straczynski's Babylon 5. Virgin Books. ISBN 0-7535-0049-3.
- "A Late Delivery From Avalon". The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5. 2004-07-13. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- Yates, Steven (2003-03-29). "The First Casualty of War". LewRockwell.com. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- Sprange, Matthew (2006). Babylon 5: the Role Playing Game. Mongoose Publishing. p. 2. ISBN 1-905471-20-3. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- "About Michael O'Hare's Departure". GEnie, via The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5. 1994-05-20. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- "Points of Departure". The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5. 2004-07-13. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- Johnson-Smith, Jan (2005). American Science-Fiction TV: Star Trek, Stargate, and Beyond. I.B. Tauris. p. 204. ISBN 1-86064-882-7. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- Iaccino, James F. (2001). "Babylon 5's Blueprint for the Archetypal Heroes of Commander Jeffrey Sinclair and Captain John Sheridan with Ambassador Delenn". Journal of Popular Culture 34 (4): 109ff. ISSN 0022-3840. Retrieved 2009-07-23. (Registration required)
- "And the Sky Full of Stars". The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5. 2004-07-13. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- "Legacies". The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5. 2004-07-13. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- Janulewicz, Tom (2000-10-25). "Babylon 5 - 'Points of Departure'". Space.com. Retrieved 2009-07-18.
- "Patterns of the Soul". TV.com. Retrieved 2009-07-18.``
- David, Peter (1995). Babylon 5: In the Beginning. Random House. ISBN 0-345-48363-4. Retrieved 2009-07-18.