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Posts Tagged ‘Sleeping in Light’

So, and possibly not before time, we come to the final six episodes of Babylon 5 – the end of the series, something long-planned, at the very least, and – some might argue – slightly overdue. Well, I wouldn’t say that, but neither would I go all the way to the ‘nothing in the series’ life became it like the leaving’ position.

Some description first, before we get into the analysis. The six split quite easily into a duo, a trio, and a standalone, beginning with Movements of Fire and Shadow and The Fall of Centauri Prime, detailing the course of the Centauri war and its immediate aftermath. I’m not sure any of this quite hits the heights of the episode immediately preceding, and Movements in particular feels very rushed, but this is still powerful stuff. I remember that at the time these episodes were originally transmitted, the US was launching bombing missions against Iraq on what felt like similarly dubious pretexts: events since 1998 have done nothing to make these episodes feel less relevant and powerful. The Fall of Centauri Prime is really the story of the final fall of Londo Mollari, and this inevitably makes it a memorable story and a powerful conclusion to the main arc of the season – and the series as a whole.

After which we essentially get Wheel of Fire, Objects in Motion, and Objects at Rest – three episodes suggesting the destinies of the various regular characters – or, if one was to be more critical, three episodes of everyone saying goodbye to each other. There’s an occasional grab at a genuine plot (someone tries to assassinate Garibaldi, there’s a somewhat unsatisfactory conflict between Sheridan and Lennier) but mostly it is just a protracted set of farewells. To a new viewer, therefore, I suspect these episodes would prove baffling, pointless, and dull – but then the same could be said of a lot of later Babylon 5.

Personally, I think the series moves towards its conclusion with considerable grace – there’s obviously a lot of potential here for mawkishness and schmaltz, but on the whole things are admirably restrained, and when JMS does let sentiment get the better of him you are inclined to let it pass.

Which brings us to Sleeping in Light, or the SF geek equivalent of Les Miserables (in my case at least). Yes, I Went a couple of times the first time I saw this episode, never looked at it again out of a vague sense of embarrassment, but then – what do you know? – found myself Going again twice viewing it again now. Once again, there really isn’t much in the way of plot, just the last days of Sheridan and the station itself. The chronology of the series means that G’Kar and Londo can’t actually be in it, which obviously stops it from being absolutely premium B5, but – even though I never really warmed to either character – Bruce Boxleitner and Mira Furlan wring every ounce of emotion from Sheridan and Delenn’s final farewell to each other (yes, this is one of the bits which always makes me Go).

Pass me a tissue while I try to think of a cynical and witty caption.

Pass me a tissue while I try to think of a cynical and witty caption.

So what are we to make of the end of the series? I know I questioned the point of season 5 when I started watching it again, but I think it is without doubt a better and braver conclusion to the series than season 4 would have made. The best Babylon 5 is all about complexity and ambiguity, and these episodes have that in buckets – it’s an extremely courageous decision to conclude the main story with the protagonists effectively defeated by the machinations of the Drakh, and still in the dark as to what exactly has happened – before we even get to the fate of Londo. The same could be said of the decision to end the main series with the fall from grace of Lennier (although this could have been better handled). Leaving the manner of Lennier’s passing, and Lyta’s fate, obscure, is also rather brave.

Is this then a case of all being well that ends well? Well, for one thing I’m facing the prospect of various TV movies and spin-offs, so it doesn’t feel quite like it’s ended yet. But – the least you can say is that these episodes constitute a very worthy ending to a classic and hugely influential piece of TV science fiction.

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