Thursday, November 19, 2009

B5 S5 Ep22: Sleeping In Light

Babylon 5 ends "in fire."

Drum roll please..... Yee Haw! We made it! The final episode of Babylon 5. As we know, Season Five, Episode 22, Sleeping In Light, was actually slated to be the final entry in Season Four when it was still not yet determined there would be a Season Five. Fortunately Babylon 5 was picked up for a fifth season and this was shuffled to the back end of Season Five, while Season Four ended with The Deconstruction Of Falling Stars. Both entries take place in the future, while the aforementioned episode took place in the far distant future, Sleeping In Light appears to take place in the not-so-distant future. From the looks of it our friends have aged, so let us conclude with the calming title of Sleeping In Light. It's interesting to note the title of this final episode appears right at the very beginning leading me to believe we will not see the standard opening credit sequence we've come to expect.

The year is 2281, twenty years following the establishment of the Interstellar Alliance based on Minbar. Garibaldi narrates dreading the arrival of this day. With Sheridan resting beside Delenn grey of beard we hear the voice of an old friend, Lorien. This is the day we knew would come. This is the day Sheridan would die. It was way back in Season Four, Episode 4, Falling Toward Apotheosis, that Lorien gave some of his lifeforce to Sheridan to prolong his life. Sheridan sacrificed his life in the battle against evil Kosh a.k.a. Ulkesh by channeling his inner Kosh. Sheridan wakes knowing the day of his expiration is upon him. God, that's got to be an awful feeling. One thing is certain, Delenn and Sheridan are still very much together. Their love has endured. Delenn sits upright concerned for her husband's health. You can see it in her face. She, too, has been counting the days.
The aged John Sheridan is a silver fox of regal splendor. He is a robed leader and his wife Delenn remains by his side. They sit by a Minbari window. Sheridan tells his wife he can feel it in his blood and in his bones. His time grows short just as Lorien had promised it would. Sheridan refers to Lorien saving his life on Z'Ha'Dum, which resulted from his leap off of that balcony in Season Three, Episode 22, Z'Ha'Dum. I know I mentioned Lorien gave some of his life-giving power to Sheridan following his battle against Ulkesh. So which it is? Did he save him twice? Nevertheless, he definitely was saved on Z'Ha'Dum and you'll recall a number of philosophical exchanges between Lorien and Sheridan at the beginning of Season Four in The Hour Of The Wolf and Whatever Happened To Mr. Garibaldi? consecutively. Quite possibly he was saved twice. Time is up apparently and the message has been delivered to friends. Delenn and Sheridan look on as the sun rises.
Next, ahhh, the return of Claudia Christian as our beloved Ivanova. It makes sense she is here given the episode was slated for the end of Season Four. In a way, it also feels that much more nostalgic moving the entry here since it has been some time since we last saw her face. Seeing her we realize how much we have missed her. It would not have had the same impact in Season Four. Ivanova is a general now. A Ranger bursts into her office with a message. She must report to Minbar.
Vir is now a man of confidence and a bit of a player as he would have it. With two Centauri women in his bed, the new Vir is significantly more self-assured than the Vir of old. He is summoned to Minbar. I believe Vir is now the Centauri emperor. He would no doubt be keeper-free I suspect thanks to the understandably absent Londo. Londo was choked to death by his friend G'Kar in Season Three, Episode 17, War Without End Part Two. I'm not sure about G'Kar's cloth wrapped eye in the aforementioned entry given the fact he received a fine prosthetic eye in Season Five, Episode 14, Meditations On The Abyss. I can only assume that potential future once presented has been altered, but we don't know how. This is left to some interpretation.
Garibaldi sits and reads the paper. It was funny to hear him mention the Dodgers. I suppose their franchise is alive and well in 2281. How about the Boston Red Sox? I sure hope those damn New York Yankees have gone bankrupt and folded. Franklin, the chief of xenobiological research, is apparently visiting Garibaldi and has returned from playing a tennis match with Garibaldi's teenage daughter. They receive word on Sheridan's condition/ status.
On Minbar, Franklin looks at Sheridan as a physician. Sheridan asks, "how long have I got?" Franklin suspects four, maybe five days remaining. How exactly could he know? What seems to be the problem here? Delenn and Sheridan prepare in their hearts, but Sheridan prefers celebration over long faces. Later, the group of guests dine and laugh. It is clear Londo, G'Kar and others are absent, but Stephen Furst does a beautiful job with his scene. This is one of those shining moments I will miss.

That's enough to choke up the softies, especially when Franklin moves to toast Marcus and Ivanova jumps in. That was special. The reunion truly is a celebration as all are united and embrace their friendship.
Susan Ivanova leaves the room for a moment emotional in knowing her friend John Sheridan will die. I recall, as you will, Ivanova's reaction to losing Sheridan and believing him dead following Z'Ha'Dum. She was always his loyal second-in-command and loved him dearly as a friend. Those things don't change even with the passage of time. I'm sure there are friends you have you feel just the same about despite not seeing them with the distance of years between you. Delenn understands what must come, but she remains strong in knowing he will be gone. She tells Ivanova how she has had twenty years to talk about it and prepare. Wow.

Can you imagine knowing your end date? Can you imagine knowing that day is upon you? As you know, I'm always thinking about death and the finality of it. You think about it, you prepare in your own way to accept such ends and yet you don't know when it will come. No matter how much you plan for it, is any one of us ever prepared to go? Maybe these things have a way of working themselves out. I'm not interested in finding out anytime soon.
Delenn speaks of how much she will miss Sheridan. Boy, I know how much I miss my father and think of him from time to time. He's been gone from my life now for about six years. Honestly, it seems like he passed just yesterday. You remember the smiles. You remember the laughter. You remember the embrace of a goodbye. What you wouldn't give to experience all of it once more sometimes. Ivanova talks of losing so many in her life. "There's no one left to play with, there's no joy anymore." I suppose it must feel that way for the aged who lose so many in their lives when they feel they are all alone. Ivanova must be in a tough place after losing Marcus so many years ago. Ivanova mentions David. David is the son of Delenn and Sheridan. He is on a ranger training mission. It was John's wish his son not be there when he passed so that he would remember him as he was. I definitely understand that. Still, if you have lost loved ones like me, even when my father was frail and a shadow of what he once was, I still remember the strapping, vibrant man. Those final moments in the end did not take those wonderful memories away from me. I remember his strength as clearly today as if it were yesterday. I remember handing him a Del's Lemonade while he delivered mail on his route. I remember his appreciation in July with the beads of sweat on his brow and that satisfied smile. Yes, those don't go away.
Two years ago Sheridan declined re-election to the Presidency of the Interstellar Alliance. Delenn was appointed his replacement. As a result, Sheridan headed up the Rangers. Delenn has asked Ivanova to be his replacement, a worthy successor. Ivanova heads off to do some sleeping. An anxious Sheridan asks if Ivanova will take the position. A hopeful Delenn tells him she needs some time.
Delenn and Sheridan retire for the evening. As he sits upright in bed I couldn't help but wonder what it was like to be sitting there waiting to die. He is taking it rather well. Sheridan shares a story of his father with Delenn about how he used to take him for a drive when he was a kid. He tells Delenn he needs to go out one more time for a ride to feel the space beneath him. Sheridan considers his end on his own terms. He's "always thinking strategy" as Delenn puts it. Come the next day, Sheridan wants it to be a happy one.
The next day dawns and Sheridan suits up in his old uniform. Delenn greets him in the hall. She hasn't seen him in his suit in quite some time. "It's a pretty day. A perfect day for a Sunday drive" speaks Delenn. I had a moment. I never expected their embrace goodbye to touch me, but it did. It was powerful, very emotional. I was choked up. I thought no way is this episode going to get me. It's not going to happen. Up until now I really wasn't feeling any kind of emotional connection of the sentimental kind. I was wrong. This is a poetic stunner, a real beauty given all that has come before and affected these two individuals. It resonates because of the bond they share and all they've been through.

If ever I questioned their love and their devotion to one another and I recall times along the way that I did, I do not question its authenticity now. This felt real, genuine. I had my doubts about Delenn especially, as you know, but no more. That was painful [in a good way]. That's just crushing.
Sheridan returns to Babylon 5 one last time. He arrives at a very quiet station. Budget cutbacks have resulted in plans to shut down the station. Babylon 5 has been decommissioned and broken down. Sheridan grows tired and faint. The station is like a ghost town or more appropriately a ghost station. None of the thriving stalls of business dart the halls. There is no hustle and bustle of the alien cultures that once was in the Zocalo. It is a desolate place. Sheridan recalls moments from his time aboard the station. Zack surprises Sheridan with a personal greeting. The two reflect on the station. Sheridan remembers Lorien and knows the moment when he will "simply stop" is upon him. Zack escorts Sheridan out.
Sheridan departs in the White Star. His destination is Coriana 6, where they won the Shadow War. Sheridan arrives there. Meanwhile, back on Minbar, Delenn reaches for her missing husband while she sleeps, but he is gone. That moment is powerful in illustrating how hard it is to let go of those we are so used to holding onto. You really feel for Delenn in that moment. Poor thing.
Sheridan orders the computer to turn off all systems as he grows tired, weak and begins to fade. Like something magical out of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Sheridan is greeted by the glowing arrival of Lorien. Lorien informs Sheridan "they" have been waiting for him beyond The Rim. Lorien tells him his journey has ended and "another begins." It is time for Sheridan to rest as a beautiful, white light brightens his face. I can only imagine the whole sequence was fairly symbolic of Sheridan's passing into the next life, or in this case The Rim with Lorien and company.
Ivanova narrates indicating Sheridan's ship was recovered days later. His body, of course, was never to be found.
Back on Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski himself, as a member of the "shut down crew" turns down the power. His part in this was bittersweet. It had to be bittersweet for him. It's the perfect decision to be apart of the series in this way as the man always firmly at the helm, steering the series and in charge of its inevitable fate. As the shuttle exits the station along with other space vessels from a variety of alien races, the station ignites in the final act as it explodes illuminating the darkness of space. I wonder why you would have to turn off the power if you planned on blowing the station to smithereens anyway? I know, I'm being a smart ass. Besides, there's far more beauty including the Straczynski moment.

"Babylon 5 was the last of the Babylon stations. There would never be another. It changed the future. And it changed us.... Mostly though, I think it gave us hope that there can always be new beginnings ... even for people like us." It might seem Ivanova might find a little hope in this message for her future.
Every morning Delenn would watch the sun rise on Minbar, with John, in spirit, by her side.

The final montage of images is comprised of a rapid fire flash of all those involved in the making of Babylon 5. The final credits really close out the series recalling all of the actors involved in its making. The split screen emphasizes how far each actor had come as the character they played. The changes in many of the characters' appearances is sometimes dramatic as well. It was interesting to note how they slipped a little additional information in there about Marcus. Ivanova has requested he not be properly buried in the hopes of "new resuscitation technology." Poor Ivanova, she is lost without Marcus and in a way you can see how alone she looks without him in her eyes. Of course this information was documented many years ago and perhaps she will move on with some closure. Still, as far off in the future as Babylon 5 takes place there's still no such resuscitation technology and I don't believe there ever will be. Cryogenics is a nice bit of science fiction, but if you're dead you're not coming back.
What a universe. What a journey. What an epic tale.
I enjoyed the reflective mood of Sleeping In Light. It was lovely and thoughtful and sincere. It's a real tribute to Straczynski's writing and the caliber of talent in his cast that really delivered such a fine slice of closure. While state-of-the-art at the time, the special effects were always a bit distracting for me in general, but it's the story and acting that make it so special and ensure the epic tale's sense of timelessness.

Sleeping In Light: B+
I do hope to bring you some of the remaining Babylon 5 films as well as the Crusade spinoff in the future. My sincere thanks to all of you who have been part of the journey and enjoyed the ride with me throughout my personal Babylon 5 discovery. There have been some terrific comments and insights along the way. The Babylon 5 faithful are a loyal, thoughtful base of science fiction thinkers.

And on that note I leave you with a nod to our dear boy Garibaldi. Ebbity, ebitty, that's all folks!


Anonymous said...

Thank You,My Most Favorite episode !!!!!,it makes me cry every time I see it,Thank You !!!, can't wait for more B5 and Crusade TOO :),You ROCK.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Glad you enjoyed it- thank you.

Erasure25 said...

I also loved the final moments when we see the destruction of the station as the ships from the other races fly in formation. B5 didn't just impact humanity, but the all the other races as well. It really did change the galaxy and changed how the remaining "younger races" would shape that galaxy. The music during that scene is also fantastic.

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

It's funny you should come by today Erasure25. I just finished debating this morning with The One To Be Pitied that Lady Gaga reminds me in sound and style of Erasure. Just a thought.

I should have mentioned the score. It was a grand, sweeping finale to be sure.

Anonymous said...

Erasure25 I also love the music,The Sci-Fanatic,awsome screen shots and comentary !!!!,speaking of screen shots,and I know you probably don't do requests,butnext time you do more B5,you PLEASE do some screen shot of Na'Toth,she is my favorite :).

Havremunken said...

Yo yo!

Been out of it for a while, but how can I not comment on this... :)

This episode was shot at the end of S4 because the show was pending cancellation (explaining Ivanova), but it was moved to the end of S5 when B5 was "un-cancelled", and the future-looking-thingy was put in as the S4 finale instead.

I had read a lot about how the cast and crew had been in tears over this episode prior to seeing it (believe it or not, out here in the old world we don't get dibs on new sci-fi), and being a big ol' softie, I feared it (I had avoided any spoilers before seeing it). As soon as I realized when it was taking place, I was crushed. The whole episode just feels so sad and real. Hey, here's our friends, only they're old and fragile and sad looking.

Vir's story about Londo and the Pak'ma'ra song was beautiful, and when Susan actually said Marcus' name at the table (this was never mentioned on screen, but it was actually the first time since his sacrifice that she had spoken his name out loud), there was just such a heavy dose of sadness going around.

Needless to say, when Sheridan and Delenn said their final farewell, I was crushed. I tried not to, but the tears came and kept coming. The amazing depth of sadness in Franke's score here are enough to make me mushy even today (I got lucky and ended up with CD # 112 out of only 200 with the score to Sleeping in Light signed by Franke and jms, yay, don't hate me!).

Sheridan's death seemed "right", i.e. not a cheat or cop-out, so it didn't seem as desperately unfair as some of the other things.

And then the moment that had been talked about since season 1. The centauri seer chick told Sinclair about the lone shuttle escaping before the destruction of the station (in the episode where we first saw the Shadows). It didn't happen quite the way anyone expected, and you can really see the years in jms' eyes as he shuts off the power. The music as the station is destroyed (and again as we see the characters for the first and last time in the end credits) is absolutely perfect and is like a bucket of kicks to the stomach.

One weird thing about this is that after this episode, I started REALLY liking sad movies. Before B5 I thought the ultimate movie would be two people kicking each other in the head for two hours. Now sad is the new happy. Go figure.

Anyway, this is not the best of B5, but it is one of the best IMHO, and in my taste, it is the best finale of any show, ever. Talk about proper goodbye.

Episode highlight: The amazing acting by Mira Furlan when they embrace for the last time. The desperation, sorrow and fear in her eyes is REAL. Bruce Boxleitner is also amazing as the sad, tired old man.

Man, I have to see this episode again. But I am hoping to get my fiancee through this show at some point, and we can't start with the end. It won't have the proper emotional impact. How can I get her to believe me that it IS going to be worth it? :)

Ah well, off to prepare the house for Christmas I guess. After I read and comment on the S5 summary. :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Another fantastic contribution from Havrenmunken!

You had mentioned this episode was one of the all time best series finales thanks in part to an emotional climax. I would agree. It ranks up there. I can't say there are many shows that have the chance for this kind of beautiful closure. Babylon 5 was one of the lucky ones. I think Stargate SG-1 did right by that series with Unending as well. It's one of my all-time favorite endings. I think I may like that one just a touch more.

From one big ol' softie to another, that may be why I fully appreciate this episode. Perhaps the riff on aging for Unending was taken right from the pages of Babylon 5's Sleeping in Light. It's not a direct copy or anything but there is a feeling of closure, nostalgia, peace about both of them which is why I like them both so much.

Plus, you know how I feel about aging and gorwing old. It's a process and one that I respect and feel should be cherished otherwise it could be feared. I'm doing my best to embrace the former.

In reference to some of your thoughts, I concur. When Susan mentions Marcus at the table, that is a heavy emotional moment.

You have to completely brag about collectibles like your Sleeping In Light CD. I'm envious, but I have my fair share of cool things that I treasure like my four different Space:1999 Eagle diecast ships. I love them.

Sheridan's death was note perfect. That's a great point H! His passing was handled beautifully and really closed out that storyline. You really couldn't ask for better than that. It's extremely well done. While, the whole handling of Lennier felt a little unfair and somewhat false. You didn't say Lennier but the implication is there and he is definitely a sore spot for fans I would think.

The escaping shuttle never came to pass and I know that was always in the back of my mind, but you're right prophecy doesn't always happen exact. Great way to put it.

Too funny that Babylon 5 drew you into sad movies. Listen, the emotional currents throughout Babylon 5 were the best thing about the series for me. In fact, you had to have some soul to fully appreciate the series along the way. I can tell you G'Kar crushed me more times than I can count. So, yes, you had to have a little softie in you for this show.

I love action films as much as the next guy, but I prefer something with character and emotional depth on the whole. Example: my favorite part of the NEW Star Wars trilogy was at the end of Revenge Of The Sith when Obi Wan feels betrayed by Anakin and tells him how he loved him like a brother. That killed me. I loved that one single moment more than anything else in the whole film. See- SOFTIE ALERT!

Sleeping In Light was a heck of a sendoff. Agreed.

As far as appreciation of the finale. You are correct. The Norwegian One To Be Pitied must see the series entirely first. It's very hard to pull them in. Mine is fairly science fiction proof. Still, she's a good egg.

Thanks for all the great input! You make me want to go back and watch it.
All the best H!

Havremunken said...

I am afraid I haven't seen any of the Stargate shows. Yes, I am ashamed. I will one day. At least the original. Then we'll see about the rest. :)

The whole "Growing old" thing and the "sad movie" thing is really getting to me as well. I have an attraction for it. Also, I really dig horror movies and Bruce Campbell, so Bubba Ho-Tep is another guilty pleasure here. ;)

The Lennier storyline between his betrayal of Sheridan and his death is probably the biggest hole in what we have seen of B5 so far. That, and one more thing: The telepath war. It has been implied that Lenniers death (and making it all up to Sheridan and Delenn) happens in connection with the telepath war, and I believe jms was saving that story for a feature movie that hasn't happened yet. And until his death (that will come too soon, no matter what), I will not give up on it, damnit. ;)

G'Kar (and his almost symbiotic relationship to Londo) is one of the heavier "burdens" of this show. Starting out as the warrior, then the Cassandra, then the beaten hero, then the victorious hero, then the priest/comic relief, he has done it all. And done it well. It takes a special kind of actor to convey emotion under all that makeup, and Andreas Katsulas will be missed. He was seen again one final time in The Legend of the Rangers movie - the movie itself isn't top B5 material, but to see G'Kar back with that energy.. it was a joy.

I completely agree with you on Revenge of the Sith, but want to add a little more from this softie. ;) First, the moment where Anakin goes postal when his mother dies in Attack of the Clones is SWEET. Then when he comes back with her body and tells Padme about how he slaughtered even the women and the children... the goosebumps on the back of my lightsaber get goosebumps! Then the moment in Sith that you mention is heartbreaking, but I also love the "Execute order 66" part - suddenly all the sound effects are dimmed down for the music, and it all ends with Anakin again slaughtering the children. I am debating with myself if the scene would be even stronger if we had seen any of the horrible child-killing, or if it can't be any better than it already is, with the shocked expression of the youngling about to taste some lightsaber.. But it really is awesome. Oh, and then Yoda takes orders and servers some stormtrooper *ss that would give 3 stars in the Michelin guide!

I am trying (slowly) to "raise" my One to be Pitied to tolerate scifi - she didn't really like Firefly, while I love it. She is kinda getting along with Flashforward and Dollhouse, but the more spaceships there are, the less she appreciates it. At least I got her to admit that she kinda liked Revenge of the Sith, at least more than she liked most of the other SW movies. :)

Ah well, I'll try to schedule a Sin City viewing some time during the holidays in honour of Brittany Murphy. Not really sci-fi, of course, but just a part of the grand scheme to get her to like my stuff. As long as I don't have to watch Sex in the City, it's all good! :D

Merry Christmas, and seasons greetings etc (I have a hard enough time being politically correct in my own language, so apologies if this offends anyone) :)

The Sci-Fi Fanatic said...

Man, do you have the same The One To Be Pitied? Mine likes Sex In The City too. "Good grief" said Charlie Brown.

But you're right, they can tolerate the pseudo sci-fi like LOST. Mine liked that for awhile, but in the end it's just okay science fiction. I did like the first three seasons quite alot.

Sin City- good stuff!

"Execute Order 66" was brilliant! Loved that moment. I still can't get my head around the fact the Emperor cut down all of those Jedi in about 30 seconds flat. There's no way they die that fast! They are FREAKIN' JEDI MAN!

Anyway, more great sci fi commentary from Mr. H! Love it.
Merry Christmas pal!