Episode Review of Babylon 5 Season 1: "Babylon Squared"

Warning: all of my reviews contain spoilers.

If you have any comments on this review, please email me at the address at the bottom.

Episode Information

Title: "Babylon Squared"
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Director: Jim Johnston
Rating (out of 4 stars): ****
Reviewed on: March 14, 2009

Synopsis from The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5


Babylon 4 makes an appearance from the past.

Strange readings of tachyons have been coming from Sector 14, so Ivanova ordered a starfury to investigate. When the pilot gets there, we see a large station similar to B5 briefly, and then there's a flash of light and the pilot dies. His starfury returns to B5 on autopilot. Dr. Franklin's autopsy determines that he died of natural causes: old age, despite being only 30. Garibaldi discovers that the pilot scratched "B4" into his seatbelt buckle. They are mystified as to what that means, because all they can think of is the prior station that disappeared, Babylon 4.

The bridge begins receiving a distress signal - from Babylon 4. A check of the message's verification code confirms that it is from Babylon 4, but the date on the message is from four years ago (when B4 disappeared). The commander of B4 begs for assistance, because they are caught in some kind of flux. Sinclair responds, but doesn't say where or when he is from. He promises to bring ships to evacuate the approximately 1300 crew on B4. Ivanova stays on B5 to coordinate the starfuries and transports heading to B4, while Sinclair and Garibaldi take the first transport - it's a 3 hour trip one way, all in normal space.

When the B5 ships finally approach the source of the message, they find B4. The ships go through some kind of field around the station, but arrive and dock with no problem. Sinclair and Garibaldi meet up with Major Krantz, commander of B4. Sinclair reveals that they are from B5 and that B4 has traveled four years into its future, and Krantz becomes frantic that his crew be evacuated.

There's an odd flash of light, and Sinclair suddenly appears on B5 in the middle of a horrible battle. Civilians are fleeing everywhere, while security men, led by Garibaldi, fight defensively. The enemy is cutting through a bulkhead. Garibaldi tells Sinclair to evacuate with the others, since he's set the station's fusion reactors to blow; Garibaldi will stay behind to provide cover. Sinclair protests, but is dragged away by panicked civilians, and then suddenly he's back on B4. Krantz says that they experienced a flash to an event either forward or backward in time, and the experience is different for everyone.

Krantz explains that they noticed time problems soon after the station became operational, and then suddenly "all hell broke loose". They discovered an alien called Zathras, who is from an unknown race. When Sinclair enters the room where Zathras is being kept, Zathras gets excited as if he knows Sinclair, but then says that Sinclair is not "The One."

Sinclair and Garibaldi question Zathras, who has a very unusual but simple way of speaking. Zathras says that he was told that B4 was needed to fight a great war against darkness, or it will be the end of everything. So whoever he is working for is taking B4 through time to where (when?) it is needed. He follows a mysterious being called "The One", for whom he is willing to die if necessary.

Sinclair and Garibaldi can't make any sense of this, but there is a commotion in the corridor. They all run out to see, and a figure in a spacesuit and helmet appears - Zathras says it is "The One". Sinclair reaches his hand out to the figure, but some kind of repulsion builds up and they are thrown apart violently. Zathras uses the distraction to give an object to "The One" that he has fixed, and the figure disappears. Zathras is taken back into custody, and he very intensely tells Sinclair that they must leave the station now, or they will be trapped.

Garibaldi goes to help speed up the evacuation, while Krantz and Sinclair question Zathras more. Zathras says that the object he gave "The One" was a "time stabilizer" to keep him safe when the station next travels through time. Now Zathras doesn't have one, so he'll die in the next time travel. Krantz wants to evacuate Zathras with them, but Zathras says that will kill him, too. "Either way, it is bad for Zathras," he pronounces fatalistically. Krantz doesn't believe Zathras and orders him brought with them.

There's another "time flash", and we see Garibaldi facing Lise (whom we first met in "A Voice in the Wilderness, Part 2") in what seems to be their breakup before Garibaldi left for B5. Garibaldi seems confused into silence by the abrupt flashback, and can do little more than stutter as Lise storms off. Then he comes back to the present time, and urgently calls for the remaining command staff to evacuate.

As they head toward the docking bay, a large structure falls on Zathras and pins him. Krantz abandons him, but Sinclair stays to try to free him. Zathras urges Sinclair to leave him behind, saying "You have a destiny." Sinclair finally gives up and evacuates with Garibaldi.

Sometime later, things seems to have quieted down a bit, and The One approaches Zathras to free him. The computer says that the atmosphere is breathable now, and The One removes his helmet to reveal a much older Sinclair. He sadly remarks that he tried to warn "them", but that events occurred just as he remembered. We hear Delenn's voice off-camera consoling him.

Sinclair and Garibaldi related their experiences to Ivanova, who is quite upset to have missed all the excitement. Sinclair hopes that B4 will be used in a way that no one ever expected.

The secondary plot in this episode involved Delenn taking a trip to meet up with the Gray Council on their headquarters ship. The other Council members say that since it's been 10 years since the death of their former leader, Dukhat, it's time to choose a new leader. They have chosen her.

Delenn is taken completely by surprise, and she does not want the position, because she would have to give up her post on B5. After some time for reflection, she tells the Council that she cannot accept their honor, because the calling of her heart is to study the humans. She believes that they are the future of civilization in the galaxy, and that it's her job to learn more about them and provide a bridge between them and the Minbari. The others are insulted that she has refused them, and dismiss her back to B5 while they ponder whether or not to allow her to remain on the Gray Council at all.

As she leaves the headquarters ship, one of her friends on the Council gives her a triluminary, saying that she may need it soon. Her friend tells her to be optimistic, but Delenn realizes that it's unlikely that she will be able to remain on the Gray Council. She returns to B5.

This is one of the classic, best episodes of the series. It takes the known mystery of B4's disappearance and extends it into a much more elaborate mystery of who took the station, exactly why, and when it will be used. We get all sorts of tantalizing hints, with Zathras's story of war, the appearance of The One, and then finally the revelation that an older Sinclair was involved. It's an especially absorbing episode if one is re-watching the series, because an experienced viewer knows that the other side of events will be seen in season 3.

We could try to estimate when the plan to steal B4 was devised based on Sinclair's appearance...he looks substantially older than in the present day, perhaps 15 years or more. What will Sinclair be doing then that he's involved with "stealing" B4? And if Zathras's story of a war is correct, what kind of war is he fighting at that time? If he's leading the effort to take B4, where did he get the technology to time travel?

We definitely hear Delenn's voice speaking to the old Sinclair. Why wasn't she shown, when we are shown Sinclair? The only explanation is that her appearance must change somehow. Why and how?

Sinclair's "flashfoward" is a fascinating glimpse at the future. B5 seems to be overrun by some kind of enemy, although we don't ever get a look at them. This battle and the imminent destruction of the station seems to fit will with Lady Ladira's vision of the future in "Signs and Portents". Interestingly, in this scene it is Garibaldi who seems to have a death wish, when usually it's Sinclair that seems to be willing to die for a cause. Is this vision of the future a certain occurrence, or just a possibility?

Garibaldi's flashback was not as interesting. It underlines the importance of Lise to Garibaldi, but otherwise it's not really new information or character insight.

The scenes on B4 are wonderfully tense with a sense of events spiraling out of control. I thought Major Krantz overall seemed a little too hysterical for an experienced command officer, but I suppose no one's experience really prepares them to be told that they've somehow jumped four years into the future. What will happen to the Major and the rest of the B4 crew? Being out of the loop for four years isn't going to help one's career; at least they are alive and have some chance to continue their lives.

The plot involving Delenn is also very interesting, although it's much more reflective and subtle, so the interweaving of the scenes between this plot and the B4 plot was a little jarring. We had known that Delenn was supposed to be watching Sinclair in particular, but she does not mention that fact, saying only that she was observing the humans. Does this mean that not even all the Gray Council members know the secret about Sinclair (whatever it is)?

It's no wonder that no one has ever turned down the honor of leading the Gray Council - how much power that must be! However, from Delenn's comments, I think she feels like she'll be able to control and influence coming events more while on B5, even if it's not such a high-ranking position. She mentions prophecy, but the other Gray Council members seem to brush it off. What is the prophecy? Delenn seems to be aware of important events on B5 (such as Morden's appearance in "Signs and Portents") that the others don't seem to know about. Is she not telling them, or do they not think the events are important? And what can she use the triluminary for?

Now that Delenn has been reduced in rank, will it also reduce her ability to get things done? She has previously done favors for Sinclair, mostly in the way of information - will she be able to do so now? If there really are important events coming, will it hurt her efforts that she no longer has the rank of Satai?

This episode also had a good dose of humor based on character. The practical joke that Garibaldi and Sinclair played on Ivanova at the beginning of the episode was funny, although it seemed a bit too elaborate to have been done spontaneously. (I also enjoyed that only Garibaldi would get to experience Ivanova's wrath; after all, she can't let loose on her commanding officer for a joke.) Later, Garibaldi's interrogation of Sinclair's dressing techniques was a great look at his obsessive-compulsive personality. Sadly enough, I have found myself in the situation where I thought too hard about something I usually do instinctively, and then can't remember how to do it. (I fasten, zip myself.) These scenes show us how the characters are getting to know each other and are becoming more comfortable and trusting with each other.

Return to my Babylon 5 reviews page.