The Ninjabot

Retro Review: Babylon 5, “In The Shadow of Z’Ha’Dum.”

Posted on August 12, 2013 at 11:00 am by Will Wells

Babylon 5

Oh no! An episode of Babylon 5 with Z’Ha’Dum in the title! It can only be an arc episode.

We begin “In The Shadow of Z’Ha’Dum” with Vir. Normally Vir is more about comic relief than arc plot, but Mr. Morden shows up and attempts to tempt Vir with the “what do you want?” spiel. Vir has an answer for him too.

I love the little princess wave.

“I’d like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I would look up at your lifeless eyes and wave like this.” – Vir Cotto

And that’s why we love Vir.

Meanwhile, Sheridan is looking at his files about the Icarus again. Garibaldi shows up to make a report and notices something – Mr. Morden is one of the crew – the dead crew. Garibaldi, however, has seen Morden around. Sheridan orders him arrested.

This episode brings up a couple of other things too – the arrival of the Ministry of Peace, a new Earth Gov program designed to “ensure peace back home”… by spying on people. Also, the fact that the Narn refugees have Doc Franklin overworked and almost narcoleptic. Ivanova orders him to go sleep.

And this brings us to Morden and Sheridan in a holding cell. Morden asks what he’s being charged with. Sheridan hands him a photo of his dead wife and plays a video of the news report about the Icarus’s destruction. Morden claims that he was found floating in a space suit – that he was working outside the ship when it exploded and that the trauma left him hospitalized and too shaken to report in. Sheridan calls him a liar and tells Morden that, since he’s officially dead, he has no rights, no recourse, and no one to come looking if he goes missing.  And that he’s going to sit here until he tells Sheridan what really happened. Not long thereafter, we see Sheridan grilling Morden, yelling accusations at him, and trying to pick his story apart.

Meanwhile, Doc Franklin has slept. He talks a little about his personal faith. This is a nice touch since many science fiction shows (particularly from the same time period) avoid mentioning religion when at all possible, or make points about it when they do. Babylon 5, meanwhile, discusses faith without being concerned with religion itself.

While that is going on, the Ministry of Peace holds a meeting and introduces a new organization: the Night Watch.

He looks like someone animated a Ken doll.

Nothing sinister at all about those Night Watch armbands. Nope. No sir. Nothin’ at all.

Zack Allen, Garibaldi’s new second, is at the meeting. For joining the Night Watch (and wearing a black armband), any security officer gets an extra 50 credits per week. Zack is impressed by the idea of getting paid 50 extra per week for something he does anyway, so he joins. Talia Winters, also at the meeting, looks rather more disturbed by the Night Watch’s philosophy – that a word or an idea can “damage” the station.

Garibaldi is upset about the whole holding a man without charging him thing and when Sheridan won’t let it go, Garibaldi resigns over the issue. Sheridan lets him and puts Zack in charge.

Vir shows up in Sheridan’s office and, on orders from Londo, extends Diplomatic Immunity to Morden. Sheridan spontaneously puts Morden in “protective custody” so that Diplomatic Immunity doesn’t apply.  Ivanova tries to talk him down, but he won’t back down.

Next up is Talia Winters, who refuses to scan Morden, even when Sheridan points out that he’s technically dead and has no rights. Talia calls bullshit on him and leaves. So Sheridan has a new idea – he transfers Morden to a new cell just as Talia is leaving so that they’ll pass one another in the hallway.

Talia sees… something. A shape similar to a giant spider. She clutches her head and screams. When Sheridan tries to apologize, she slaps him and stomps off.

Then Delenn and Kosh show up to demand Morden’s release. Sheridan has finally had enough – he demands answers from them.

Delenn tells Sheridan about the Shadows – the first time their race gets a name in the show – and about the previous Shadow War. Aside from the Shadows, all of the First Ones have left… except for the Vorlons.  Kosh gives Sheridan a flashback, showing him the fate of the Icarus. It didn’t blow up – it landed. On Z’Ha’Dum.

Z'Ha'Dum appears to be oddly brightly lit all things considered.

The crew was captured by the Shadows – who look like giant spiders.

Delenn says that if Sheridan cracks Morden, the Shadows will launch their attack early. The Minbari and Vorlons aren’t ready for war yet – the Shadows will crush them and win. They need more time – so Sheridan has to let Morden go to prevent that from happening.

Sheridan (after confirming that three Shadows are guarding Morden) releases Morden.

One wonders how people manage to not bump into them all the time.

Then Sheridan re-hires Garibaldi. Ah, TV resignations – they never last more than an episode.

Sheridan visits Kosh and says that he wants Kosh to change their lessons to how to fight them. Since Kosh originally said that he was teaching Sheridan to “fight legends” you’d think Sheridan would have already realized that Kosh is already doing that, but some slack can be cut to Sheridan since he’s pretty upset. First, however, Kosh has something to say: “If you go to Z’Ha’Dum, you will die.”

Sheridan replies: “Then I die. But I will not go down easily. And I will not go down alone.”

Remember both lines. They’ll be back.

Rating: B+

Breakdown: “In the Shadow of Z’Ha’Dum” is very good overall. It explains a lot about what has been going on and sets up much of what is to come. However, it lacks the mystery of some previous installments, and a lot of time is spend on Sheridan being angry, which is not a strength.

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