Sunday, January 04, 1998

Babylon 5 Movie: In The Beginning

Synopsis: (many thanks to Wikipedia)

In the Beginning tells the story of a pivotal event in the history of the Babylon 5 universe. Ten years before the television series Babylon 5 is set, a terrible event occurred: Earth became involved in a deadly conflict with the just-discovered Minbari race. This war almost led to the extermination of the human race, but it was 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 made-for-TV 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. A boy and his younger sister are seen playing in the royal throne room and looking out 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 that window. It is then that the Emperor hears them and tells them to come in front of him. It is then revealed that it is an aged Londo Mollari. Mollari allows the young boy to be Emperor of the Centauri Republic for five minutes in which he may give any order he wishes. He wishes that he be told a story of great battles and heroes and villains. His sister wants to hear a true story. Mollari decides to give them both what they want and decides to tell them the story of the Earth-Minbari War that happened 35 years ago and in which he was present at the time while he was ambassador.

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 Centauri ambassador Londo Mollari to leave this race alone, they seek to make first contact.

Meanwhile, the Minbari Grey Council, led by Dukhat, has 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 make first contact.

A tragic misunderstanding 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 have the unexpected side effect of disabling the Prometheus' jump engine, preventing the Prometheus 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 prevent 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 gun ports open, 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 mankind, 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 good bye to family and children, before marching outside to certain death. Commander John Sheridan, first officer of the Lexington is part of a battle group engaging the Minbari. After a Minbari ambush, Sheridan's CO 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 Warcruiser closes in to finish off the remaining earth ship but is destroyed by the nuclear blast. The ship is the Dral La Fi (Minbari for Black Star) the Minbari flag ship.

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 stave off the final Minbari obliteration of the human race. This, the Battle of the Line, is the final battle of the war.

During the battle, Satai Delenn (Mira Furlan), a member of the Grey Council, abducts a human pilot 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. The Grey Council concludes that Minbari souls have been reincarnated 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 cease-fire 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. (It takes five tries to get it right.) The movie 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.

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