“The Babylon Project was our last, best hope for peace. It failed.In the Year of the Shadow War, it became something greater: our last, best hope… for victory.”
This narration is spoken during the opening credit sequence of this season. The credit sequence is much different this season than its predecessors. Gone is the optimistic theme music of the first two seasons, in its place is the much sadder Requiem for the Line. It establishes very well the dark places that this season will take us.
The production values of the show seem to improve quite a bit this season, and we see more great work behind the camera from directors like Mike Vejar. The whole show seems to hang together very organically now, as even the stories that don’t directly reference that main story arc (the few that there are) are quite good, especially “Passing Through Gesetheme,” which is a true science fiction (opposed to sci-fi fantasy) story that explores the theological issues of telepathy. Even the lesser stories pack an unexpected punch, such as “Dust to Dust” which starts out with a pretty unremarkable story of Garibaldi and Bester hunting down drug dealers, but ends with a beautiful scene that heartbreakingly portrays the spiritual redemption of one of the main characters.
Marcus Cole is a great addition to the season. This character could have gone wrong in so many ways, but good casting and writng made him work wonderfully. The White Star also worked out really well after a rocky start. (The first set design in “Matters of Honor” was admittedly not that great, but they quickly fixed it). These two changes also worked well because they were a natural outgrowth of the direction the story was moving, and not just an attempt to get better ratings (as some shows are known to do).
There is much good drama this season. Here, the show really lived up to its billing as a “novel for TV”. This season was a great examination of pain, loss, sacrifice, redemption, and most importantly hope. The final words of the season sum up the overall message better than I ever could:
“There is a greater darkness than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. The war we fight is not against powers and principalities, it is against chaos and despair. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this peril we can never surrender. The future is all around us, waiting, in moments of transition, to be born in moments of revelation. No one knows the shape of that future or where it will take us. We know only that it is always born in pain.”
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Things are getting more complicated for the crew on Babylon 5 by the day. Not only must they start to figure out some way to defeat the Shadows when the time comes, but they must also deal with the growing threat back home. President Clark is becoming more paranoid and curtaining freedoms at an alarming rate. The crew finds evidence against him, but will it help? Meanwhile, Londo thinks he’s created a monster that has gotten out of hand. G’Kar looks for ways to help in the coming conflict. Franklin is facing a personal problem of his own. And a face from the past returns to the station, with surprising results.
Babylon 5 definitely hit its stride with the third season. Series Creator J. Michael Straczynski wrote the entire season, helping it hang together and tell the story. Bester begins to play more of a role and is fleshed out a little more as a character, and this season also introduces Marcus Cole, the Ranger. While many of the episodes contribute directly to the over all story line, there are still several stand alones, including a personal favorite, “Passing Through Gethsemane” and one I really dislike, “Grey 17 is Missing.” The arc episodes are all top notch. Highlights here include “Point of No Return,” Hugo winning “Severed Dreams,” “Interludes and Examinations,” both parts of “War Without End,” “And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place,” and the best season ending cliffhanger of the series, “Z’ha’dum.”
If you’ve been buying these sets, you know what to expect here. There’s the season intro, two audio commentaries by JMS and one by cast members Bruce Boxleitner, Jerry Doyle, Richard Biggs, and Ed Wasser. While JMS’s are good as always, the cast commentary is better this time around, with Jerry not sidetracking them as often. Either way, it’s a great listen. Disc six continues with more data and personnel files as well as documentaries on designing the world and aliens of the series. There’s a separate feature showing the make up process for getting a Narn ready for filming. The audio continues to sound great, and the video seems to be improving, although I do still notice the occasional flaw. Certainly not enough to really interfere with enjoying the show, however.
With the story kicking into high gear, the show just keeps getting better and better. I’m thrilled the series is being preserved on DVD since I watch it every couple of years.
B5′s third season is clearly the most pivotal of all the seasons. Here is where truths are revealed and new questions are raised. This is where J. Michael Straczynski’s brilliance as the shows creator shines brightly in that with each episode he shows us what is to come, but at the same time, doesn’t give us the how or why which leaves you, the viewer, hungry for more.
This season also brought an unprecedented event, no television series before this ever had an entire season written by one screenwriter. With the multitude of variables and directions that J. Michael Straczynski needed to take the series for this season, he felt that he was the only one that could take them there. As it turned out, this was a brilliant decision, despite a few of the episodes being a bit lackluster, the overall feel and theme of the season is breathtaking in its scope and detail.
A brief synopsis of the more intriguing episodes:
Matters of Honor – In this exciting season opener, the Minbari religious cast bestows upon Captain Sheridan the White Star which is a starship built of Vorlon and Minbari technology that no other race has seen until now. Here is where we meet Marcus who escapes a planet where the Rangers are training but have been blockaded by the Centauri. He seeks Sheridan’s help in clearing the blockade so the rest of those in training can escape.
A Day in the Strife – This is an interesting episode that brings to the forefront Steven’s addictions to stims. Meanwhile, Sheridan and Ivanova must deal with a probe that is prepared to annihilate the station if a whole battery of questions isn’t answered properly.
Passing Through Gethsemane – In this intriguing episode, the Narn provisional government has given in to the Centauri and sent a Narn representative to B5 to replace G’Kar and send him home, most likely to his death. Meanwhile, one of the monks who recently came to the station starts suffering through some rather odd delusions.
Dust to Dust – Psi cop Bester makes a return in this brilliant episode in which he comes to the station to track down a shipment of dust which is an illicit substance that when used brings out the Psi ability in anyone, even mundanes. G’Kar hopes to use this as a weapon against the Centauri and tests it himself which brings him to Londo’s door where he learns a great many truths about Mollari and his activities.
Messages from Earth – In this pivotal episode, Sheridan learns that Earth and the Psi Corps has been aware of the Shadows and their vessels and that they have discovered one on Mars. Risking detection, Sheridan takes the White Star to Mars to stop Psi Corps from gaining control of this shadow vessel.
Point of No Return – In this extraordinary episode, Earth has reverted to martial law and extends that to Babylon 5 where Sheridan must find a way to deal with the Night Watch officers who attempt to seize control of Babylon 5.
Severed Dreams – This is the episode that B5 has building to for quite some time in which Sheridan is now forced to make the decision to publicly defy Earth Force and the President. President Clark has sent an armada to B5 to seize control but Sheridan has other plans…
A Late Delivery from Avalon – Sheridan proposes a mutual defense treaty with the League and Michael York of “Logan’s Run” fame makes a poignant guest appearance as a man who comes off a transport and believes he is King Arthur.
Ship of Tears – Bester makes another appearance and he proposes an alliance with Sheridan and crew. He’s searching for a transport vessel that he believes is carrying weapons that he’d be interested in. Here is a where a terrible truth is revealed about the Shadows and their weapons.
Interludes and Examinations – In this incredible episode, Sheridan believes that he must deliver a victory against the Shadows and appeals to Kosh and the Vorlons to get it. They deliver but the victory comes at a terrible price.
War Without End, Parts I & II – With these two episodes, J. Michael Straczynski out does himself as he brings back Sinclair and Babylon 4 and he plays out the story he’s been eluding to in the past and tells the tale of where Babylon 4 went and ultimately who Valen is.
And the Rock Cried out, No Hiding Place – In this brilliant episode we see the true colors of Mollari as he works his political machinations to better secure his position in the royal court.
Shadow Dancing – In this superb episode, Sheridan brings together an alliance and a large fleet to take the offensive against the shadows in an unprecedented space battle involving hundreds of ships.
Z’Ha’Dum – In this extraordinary and stunning season closer, Sheridan’s wife Anna, played by his real life wife, is sent to B5 as an emissary from the Shadows. She implores him to return to Z’Ha’Dum with her to hear their side of the story. For some time, he’s been warned not to go to Z’Ha’Dum, but he trudges on any way, leading to a dramatic conclusion of the…