Babylon 5: In the Beginning
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|Babylon 5: In The Beginning|
TNT promotional poster for Babylon 5: In The Beginning
|Created by||J. Michael Straczynski|
|Written by||J. Michael Straczynski|
|Directed by||Michael Vejar|
|Theme music composer||Christopher Franke|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Executive producer(s)||Douglas Netter
J. Michael Straczynski
Susan Norkin (associate producer)
|Cinematography||John C. Flinn III|
|Running time||94 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Babylonian Productions|
|Original release||January 4, 1998|
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).
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.
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. Two children, Luc and Lyssa, 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 the Emperor is an aged Londo Mollari. Mollari allows Luc to be Emperor of the Centauri Republic for five minutes, during which time he may give any order he wishes. Luc asks for a story of great battles and heroes and villains. Lyssa 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 Londo 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 Earth ship 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 with apparent intent to fire, 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.
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
In order of series chronology:
* The framing story is set in 2278.
Story arc and continuity
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.
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.
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 the Epsilon events were a secret mission, this could potentially be interpreted as intentional pretense rather than retconning.)
Luc and Lyssa, the children who hear Londo's story of the war, are the nephew and niece of Urza Jaddo ("Knives").