The Coming of Shadows

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"The Coming of Shadows"
Babylon 5 episode
B5 The Coming of Shadows 1.jpg
Shadows destroy Narns in Quadrant 14
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 9
Directed by Janet Greek
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Production code 209
Original air date 1 February 1995
Guest actors

Fredric Lehne (Ranger)
Malachi Throne (Centauri Prime Minister)
Jeff Conaway (Zack Allan)
William Forward (Refa)
Turhan Bey (Centauri Emperor)

Episode chronology
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"A Race Through Dark Places"
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List of Babylon 5 episodes

"The Coming of Shadows" is a key episode from the second season of the science fiction television series Babylon 5. It won the 1996 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.[1]

Entertainment and news website included The Coming of Shadows as "essential watching" for season two.[2] writer Graham Templeton wrote that "one of my personal favorites, this is another pure-plot episode. Its kicks the real-war parallels into high gear, and begins to darken its view of human (and alien) nature significantly."[2]


Despite having health problems which make travel dangerous, the elderly Centauri Emperor decides to visit Babylon 5. The Emperor knows that he will die soon, and he wishes to meet with Narn Ambassador G'Kar in neutral territory and offer a public apology on behalf of the Centauri people for their occupation and enslavement of the Narn homeworld.

G'Kar is unaware of the Emperor's reason for visiting, and he plans to murder him as an act of vengeance for the Centauri's past treatment of his people.

Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari and his ally Lord Refa plan to publicly confront the ailing Emperor about the seeming "decline" and weakness of the Centauri Republic. The Emperor arrives at Babylon 5 and is greeted by the station's human command staff. He tells Dr. Franklin that he wishes to see the Vorlon Ambassador Kosh before he leaves the station.

At a reception for the Emperor, G'Kar shocks many by his attendance; they are unaware of his decision to kill the Emperor. The Emperor collapses before he can arrive at the reception and give his planned speech. In medlab Franklin tells the Emperor that he is dying. The Emperor then asks Franklin to tell G'Kar that he apologizes for all the evil that the Centauri inflicted on the Narn. Franklin goes to G'Kar's quarters and relays the Emperor's message; G'Kar is astonished.

Following the Emperor's collapse Refa and Mollari meet in Londo's quarters. Knowing that the Emperor is about to die, Refa urges Mollari to do something dramatic to give their supporters on Centauri Prime an edge over their rivals for control of the government when the Emperor dies. Londo — acting against the advice of his aide Vir — says he will take care of it personally, and tells Refa to have several Centauri warships sent to the Narn's largest colony on a planet in Quadrant 14. Refa is skeptical and notes that a small fleet of warships will not be nearly enough to take the planet. When Refa leaves, Londo tells Vir to contact Mr. Morden, the spokesman for the Shadows; Vir is to tell Morden to have several Shadow vessels attack and destroy the Narn colony before the Centauri ships arrive. Vir tells him that he will regret his decision in the future.

G'Kar, unaware of Londo's actions and feeling differently about the Centauri since the Emperor's apology, buys Londo a drink.

A fleet of Shadow vessels attack the Narn colony in Quadrant 14; they quickly destroy the colony's defenses and render it helpless. The Centauri warships arrive soon afterward and are spotted by a squadron of Narn fighters sent to investigate the attack. The fighters attack the Centauri warships and send a signal to the Narn homeworld that the Centauri have invaded and conquered the colony.

The Centauri Emperor receives a personal audience with Ambassador Kosh, who tells him that the situation will end "in fire". Refa and Mollari visit the Emperor on his deathbed; the Emperor whispers something in Londo's ear before he passes away. Londo announces that the Emperor said to him that he approved of the attack on the Narn and that he wants Refa and Mollari to carry his people "back to the stars". Outside medlab, Refa asks Londo to tell him what the Emperor really said. Londo responds that the Emperor told him that he and Refa were both damned, which Refa shrugs off as "a small price to pay".

After learning of the attack G'Kar attempts to enter Londo's quarters to kill him, but Captain Sheridan and a security team prevent him from doing so. In Babylon 5's council chambers, G'Kar announces that the Narn government has officially declared war on the Centauri. "Our hope for peace is over," he says.

A second plotline involves a mysterious man who has been following Chief Garibaldi around. When Garibaldi confronts and arrests him, the man gives him a recorded message from Jeffrey Sinclair, the Earth Alliance Ambassador to Minbar. Sinclair tells Garibaldi that a "terrible darkness" is coming and that he has become involved with a military force called the "Rangers" to fight it. Garibaldi agrees to allow the Rangers to operate on the station and to keep their presence a secret, even from Sheridan. In return Garibaldi asks the Rangers to provide him with information they learn which could affect the station's security, to which the Ranger agrees. Delenn is also given a recorded message by the Ranger.

Arc significance[edit]

  • The title of this episode, "The Coming of Shadows", is so important that it is also used as the title for the entire second season of the series.
  • This episode marked the beginning of the Narn-Centauri War, as well as marking a significant step in Londo's rise to power. Besides marking the failure of Babylon 5 to keep the peace, the Narn-Centauri War also played into the Shadows' hands, creating fear and chaos through the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. The episode also marks a major change in the images of G'Kar and Londo. Previously, G'Kar was often seen as a bullying, even possibly villainous character, but from this episode forward G'Kar becomes more noble and tragic. Londo, who had been previously depicted as rather luckless and often the source of comic relief, becomes much darker and sinister from this episode on.
  • The death of Centauri Emperor Turhan allows for his nephew, Emperor Cartagia, a supporter of Londo and Lord Refa, to assume the throne. Cartagia turns out to be a deluded narcissistic megalomaniac. In order to seize power, Refa has Prime Minister Malachi, a close friend of the late emperor, assassinated. Malachi is also a friend of Londo's, so Refa doesn't tell him in advance about the murder. A man of honor and decency, Prime Minister Malachi would never have allowed someone as evil as Cartagia to assume the throne.
  • This episode also introduces the Rangers, a covert organization sponsored by the Minbari to monitor the unfolding of a "coming darkness". One of their number is sent at the behest of Ambassador Jeffrey Sinclair (Michael O'Hare). This is also Sinclair's first appearance since his recall as Babylon 5's commander.
  • This episode provides the first look at Londo Mollari's prophetic dream of his fate, which includes several scenes that will appear in future episodes of the series. Londo's dream (nightmare) finishes with an image he has previously seen of him and G'Kar strangling each other in their mutual old age.


  • The Emperor and the Prime Minister in this episode are not named. However, in later episodes theirs will be established as "Turhan" and "Malachi" respectively after the names of the actors who played them.
  • The Centauri Emperor made use of four telepathic companions that serve as a means of communicating with his homeworld. However, the subsequent Emperors Cartagia and Londo Mollari didn't appear to utilize them.
  • The Emperor asks the Vorlon, Kosh, "how will this end?", to which Kosh replies "In fire." What is referred by "this" is not made clear, but any of several scenarios can fit into the answer:
  • The Narn-Centauri War will end in "The Long, Twilight Struggle" when the Narn homeworld is bombarded from orbit.
  • The deeper conflict that will become known as the Shadow War will end in the season 4 episode titled "Into the Fire".
  • The propulsion of the Centauri back into glory will end decades later as their own homeworld is laid waste; details of this are gradually revealed in season 3 and beyond.
  • Babylon 5 itself has already been given omens of a fiery destruction; this would be another such omen, though no specifics are given.
  • Viewers get their first glimpse of the dream Londo first described in "Midnight on the Firing Line" and alluded to in "The Geometry of Shadows". In his dream, Londo recalls the threat he gave to G'Kar last year ("Keep this up G'Kar, and soon you won't have a planet to protect") followed by the image of the destruction of the Centauri starbase orbiting Ragesh 3. He then sees the metaphorical "hand reaching across the stars" described by the Technomage Elric. He then sees himself on a sandy plain, looking up and seeing thousands of Shadow ships flying overhead. Next, he sees himself crowned as Emperor, though stricken with a disease of some sort which, combined with his old age in this sequence, causes him to cough uncontrollably. Finally, he sees a one-eyed G'Kar strangling him.
  • Sheridan made a bluff which ensured the safety of the Narn civilians that were attacked by the Shadows. He threatened Londo that Earth will send observers to the area to determine how the Narns were defeated so swiftly, despite Londo's objections. He pretty much tries to do the same thing in "The Long Twilight Struggle" but was firmly rebuffed by Londo that time.

Production details[edit]

  • The 1996 Hugo was won in part due to "campaigning" which was in part done online. Straczynski believes that the series failed to gain a 1995 Hugo nomination due to "too many solid episodes" causing a split.[1]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Straczynski, J. Michael (July 2004). "JMS speaks about "The Coming of Shadows"". The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5. Retrieved October 11, 2009. 'As a result, a lot of folks this year have been campaigning to have participants go for "The Coming of Shadows," which is the highest rated episode in all the informal polls on-line and elsewhere from that time period.' … 'So basically, we lost because we had too many solid episodes to choose from.' 
  2. ^ a b Templeton, Graham (16 January 2015). "Babylon 5 Condensed: How to watch sci-fi's most intimidating masterpiece". Retrieved 2 August 2015.