"Welcome back from the abyss."
He is the closed circle. He is returning to the beginning.
-Vorlon on Minbar about Sinclair
On the Minbar homeworld, a Minbari, Rathenn, is shown delivering a box to a hooded figure. Rathenn explains that he and his fellow priests are obeying its instructions written nine hundred years prior, to open it exactly today. The figure reaches and looks inside and sees an envelope addressed to Jeffrey David Sinclair. He removes his hood, revealing himself as Ambassador Sinclair(!), also known as the Entil'Zha, or leader of the Rangers. Rathenn wonders aloud how "he" knew where Sinclair he would be in 900 years. How, indeed...
In Babylon 5, C&C is picking up a distress call from the quarantined Sector 14, the place where Babylon 4 disappeared. Ivanova asks to put it through and, to their amazement, her own voice is heard calling out for help, with explosions in the background. It is dated eight days into the future.
In the temple in Minbar, Sinclair, with the letter still in his hand, is waiting for his ship to Babylon 5. Rathenn announces that it is ready and offers his help if Sinclair would confide in him, but Sinclair tells him that this was meant for him alone. Rathenn watches Sinclair leave, somehow sensing that they will never meet again. The Vorlon Ambassador to Minbar joins Rathenn and tells him that Sinclair "is the closed circle" and "is returning to the beginning". Whatever that
means. Even a Minbari can't make heads or tails of anything Vorlons say.
In the War Room, Sheridan, Ivanova and Garibaldi are listening to the phantom message. Garibaldi suggests the possibility that, because time does not work properly in that sector since Babylon 4 disappeared, the message could be coming from the future. He asks Sheridan's permission to go to Sector 14 to investigate in case they need to prepare for some calamity.
Zack Allen is having quite a time trying to process the identicards of those in the station's docking bay, but while he is overlooking them, he comes across a very interesting one — that of Ambassador Sinclair. Zack welcomes Sinclair back to the station, and asks him if he plans to be staying long. Sinclair says that is a more interesting question than Zack knows, and disappears into the crowd.
Lennier enters Delenn's quarters and finds her troubled and praying. "He is here", she tells Lennier, close to tears. Lennier replies that it "must be done", or the consequences will be dire. On the table by the candle, we see that Delenn received a letter, as well.
Marcus and Sheridan are in the War Room discussing the latest reports. It seems that the Shadows have ceased their attacks now that the Vorlons are kicking their butts, but it won't last long. Delenn interrupts and asks Sheridan to join her on the White Star
immediately; that's Sinclair's cue to enter through the back door. The two legends exchange pleasantries (and a private joke about running this god-forsaken station), but before Sheridan can ask how Delenn knew about Sinclair's visit, a communication comes in from Garibaldi: the temporal rift in Sector 14 is twice as big as usual, and that this is caused by a powerful tachyon field generated by the Great Machine on Epsilon 3.
Sheridan argues with Delenn that they should be going to Epsilon 3 to find out what is happening there, but Delenn tells him that there is not time for that, and that she will explain everything once they're underway. As their shuttle embarks for the White Star
, a skeptical Sheridan muses that Sinclair's timing is uncanny, to which Sinclair replies that There Are No Coincidences. Marcus tells Sheridan to quit while he's ahead, since "Ranger One" has a reputation for seldom giving straight answers. (There's a lot of that going around, old bean.)
Garibaldi picks up a replay of the distress signal from Future Ivanova, who a reports that the captain is dead, the enemy is boarding them, and that Garibaldi is rigging the fusion reactors to explode. She switches to external cameras, and the enemies attacking the station are indeed Shadows. The timestamp on the recording is eight days into the future.
On the White Star
, Delenn shows everyone an old recording from the time of the last great war against the Shadows, 1000 years ago. Just as all hope seemed to have been lost, their salvation appeared out of nowhere: Babylon 4. With it, the Shadow fleet was destroyed and the Shadows were driven away from Z'ha'dum. The Shadows, shrewd as they are, sent fighters to destroy the station six years ago (coinciding with Babylon 4's initial "disappearance"). Another archive video shows the White Star
traveling back in time to prevent their attack. Unless Sheridan sticks to the script, the Shadows would win the war against the Minbari, or at least force a stalemate, and therefore much of their military might would still be intact in the present. This would enable them to destroy Babylon 5 in just eight days.
Sheridan orders Garibaldi to return to Babylon 5 while a small vessel carrying Zathras docks with the ship. Draal has sent Zathras to deliver equipment that is crucial to sending Babylon 4 back in time, including a homing device that must be placed on the central power core. Sinclair recognizes him as the strange alien he encountered aboard Babylon 4 last time, and Zathras greets him as "The One". Sinclair, wary of any more paradoxes, warns Zathras not to divulge any future information when they meet again in the past. Zathras is totally confused (he's not alone), but since he is good at doings, not understandings, it's all good. Before they proceed, Sinclair takes Sheridan aside to asks him not to mention his presence to Garibaldi.
Zathras hands out small devices to everyone, saying that without them, they may become unstuck in time. These devices, time stabilizers, will protect them and keep them from drifting. After everybody has dutifully strapped on their stabilizer thingies, the White Star
moves into the temporal rift.
Garibaldi returns to Babylon 5 where Sgt. Allan tells him of Sinclair's visit, to Garibaldi's utter shock. He goes to his quarters and checks his messages, discovering one from Sinclair, but it is password-encoded. Garibaldi is trying to find the password unsuccessfully until it hits him: "Hello, old friend". The message from Sinclair is a Goodbye, as he will not be coming back from Babylon 4, and if Garibaldi had gone there as well, he would not return either.
Ivanova is able to fire at the Shadow fighters, destroying the fusion bomb before it can reach Babylon 4. A huge blast is created, and the White Star
is caught in it. Sheridan's time stabilizer is hit by a blast of energy, and he vanishes. Zathras explains that Sheridan has become unstuck in time, and could be in either the past or the future. Delenn wants to try to find him, but Sinclair insists that their best chance is to board Babylon 4 now that its scanners are temporarily blinded by the blast and complete their mission.
Meanwhile, a deeply confused Sheridan is handcuffed and facing an unhappy-looking Londo Mollari in full imperial regalia, right before he's thrown down onto the floor and kicked by the imperial guardsman. Sheridan recognizes the Emperor on the throne as Londo, who looks quite a bit older than Sheridan remembers him.
The White Star
moves to grapple onto a stable area of Babylon 4. Delenn has been deeply disturbed by Sheridan's disappearance. Sinclair insists that he will be all right, and, to her stunned surprise, tells her in fluent Minbari that he knows what is coming. Sinclair confides to her that he always sensed something was amiss with his existence, but that now, his path is clear.
Back in the future, Mollari rants about how Sheridan and his allies drove the Shadows away, but that the Shadows' servants wrought vengeance on Centauri Prime, and Sheridan allowed it to happen. Sheridan is dragged to a window, where he looks out upon the burning, smoking city around him.
- All There in the Manual: The canon novel To Dream in the City of Sorrows tells us exactly what Sinclair's been up to in the two years since he was recalled to Earth. (Answer: Restarting the Rangers, being Earth's Ambassador to Minbar, and letting Catherine Sakai in on all of it. Among other things.)
- Bad Future: A bloodied Ivanova pleading for help as the Shadows attack B5, moments before the station explodes.
- The Centauri Prime of 2278 has seen better days. Emperor Mollari is irate at Sheridan and his allies for allegedly throwing the Centauri homeworld under the bus. Subverted in that Centauri Prime's destruction is a fixed point in history, and won't be averted.
- The Bus Came Back: Sinclair makes his triumphant return in this two-parter, though he's previously been seen on wall monitors.
- Call Back: To "Babylon Squared" obviously. It's also revealed that the destruction of Babylon 5 seen by Lady Ladira in "Signs and Portents" was in the alternate future avoided by going back in time here.
- Camera Abuse: Future Ivanova switches the viewscreen to transmit from one of B5's external cameras, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that The Shadows are slated to destroy the station in eight days. A Shadow vessel clips the camera, cutting the feed.
- Continuity Nod: Garibaldi's attempted passwords. "Peekaboo" is Garibaldi's personal password ("Eyes", "Ceremonies of Light and Dark"). "Socks," "fasten," and "zip" are taken from a Seinfeldian Conversation between Sinclair and Garibaldi in "Babylon Squared". Lastly, "hello, old friend" was Sinclair's opening line in his previous message to Garibaldi ("The Coming of Shadows").
- Cryptic Conversation:
Marcus: There was a saying on Mimbar: Anyone who wanted to get a straight answer out of Ranger One was to look at every reply in a mirror - while hanging upside-down from the ceiling.
Sheridan: Did it work?
Marcus: Oddly enough, yes! Or, after a while, you passed out and had a vision. Either way the result was pretty much the same.
- Did I Say That Out Loud:
Draal gave Zathras list of things not to say. This was one. No—Not good. Not supposed to mention "One", or "The One". ...You never heard that
- Do You Trust Me?: Delenn asks this of Sheridan before they depart for Babylon 4. It's supposedly the single "most important question" she has ever asked him. (He does, with his life.)
- Evil Old Folks: Emperor Mollari is pretty grouchy. He's seemingly been seething at Sheridan for an untold number of years.
- Fan of the Past:
Besides, I think we'll work well together. Like Butch and Sundance. Lewis and Clark. Lucy and Ethel
. [Sheridan looks nonplussed with that last one.]
- Lennier outlining the capabilities of the White Star's bio-armor.
Sheridan: As my great-grandfather used to say, "Cool."
- Flashback: Zathras' previous encounter with Sinclair two years ago. ("Babylon Squared") His momentary confusion while in Sinclair's presence is explained by Future Sinclair, who warns Zathras not to let on that they've met previously.
- When Garibaldi boarded Babylon 4 with Sinclair two years earlier to evacuate the crew before it disappeared again, he experienced vision of a battle inside Babylon 5, and they were losing it. Sinclair experiences the same vision while onboard the White Star.
- Flashback with the Other Darrin: Borderline example. In a vision depicting Babylon 5's destruction at the hands of the Shadows, Sinclair and Garibaldi both have different hairstyles than they do here. In particular, Jerry Doyle sports his easily-identifiable Season One hair, which only emphasizes his rapidly-deteriorating hairline.
- Foreshadowing: Both Sinclair and Delenn receive letters from an anonymous source (later revealed to be Valen) instructing them to deliver Babylon 4 to the past. As revealed in part 2, Valen is actually Sinclair, reincarnated as a Minbari and transported 1000 years into the past, where he aids in the original overthrow of the Shadows (Hence "a Minbari not born of Minbari"). This also explains the Vorlon's cryptic statement regarding Sinclair as "the circle".
- Futureshadowing: The disappearance of Babylon 4 is the single greatest mystery of the century. Now Sheridan's being told that he's the guy who stole it, and what's more, he hasn't done it yet!
- Londo's ascension to Emperor, and the destruction of Centauri Prime.
- Good Scars, Evil Scars: Sinclair now sports an L-shaped scar on his left cheek, the origin of which is unmentioned. (It gets some explanation in the novels, specifically To Dream In the City of Sorrows.)
- Gone to the Future: Sheridan winds up in the future after his stabilizer is damaged in an explosion.
- Half Truth: Sinclair backs up the testimony given by Delenn, claiming the information came from "a very reliable source". (i.e. himself)
- Have We Met Yet?: Zathras meeting up with Sinclair again. This is their first meeting for Zathras; the Zathras of "Babylon Squared" originated from a later point in time.
- In the Hood: Sinclair during in the Cold Open.
- Intertwined Fingers: Sheridan and Delenn do this almost unconsciously on the arm of his command chair. Sinclair seems to approve.
- Sinclair approving was on purpose...him being a Shipper on Deck makes the lack of fulfillment of HIS UST with Delenn more reasonable.
- "Join the Army," They Said:
Sheridan: When I joined Earthforce, the sign said, 'The Greatest Adventure of All'. ...If they only knew.
- Lost Technology: The time stabilizers are a deus ex machina, courtesy of Draal and the Great Machine.
- Make It Look Like an Accident: The Shadows are racing to plant a fusion bomb on the hull of Babylon 4, intending to make its destruction look accidental. Presumably, they don't like temporal paradoxes any more than the heroes do.
- Make Wrong What Once Went Right: The Shadows apparently got wise to the Minbari's plans for Babylon 4, sending fighter ships through the time rift in order to destroy the station in the past. However, we know that the White Star intercepted their plan and guided Babylon 4 to safety, because Draal (thanks to his predecessor Varn) has a recording of it.
- Man in White: Emperor Mollari.
- Necessary Fail: Sinclair seems to sense his number's almost up. Delenn is also aware of it, but his sacrifice is somehow crucial to repairing the timeline.
- Ominous Message from the Future: The transmission from Sector 14 of Babylon 5 about to be overrun, dated eight days in the future.
- The Password Is Always Swordfish: Justified; Sinclair sends Garibaldi a password-protected message without providing the password (presumably so no one else could open the message before it reached Garibaldi), forcing him to guess. The password turns out to be a phrase that very few other people would guess, as it had started a previous message sent specifically to him: "Hello, old friend".
- Phlebotinum Breakdown: Sheridan's time stabilizer. (What a surprise.)
- Portal to the Past: The Great Machine is responsible for opening the time rift and allowing Babylon 4 to be pulled backward through time. However, opening the rift strains the Machine, and Draal, to its limits.
- The Reveal: Sinclair removing his hood.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Jerry Doyle has a vocal dislike of Michael O'Hare, evidently due to their differing acting styles, but possibly due to O'Hare's schizophrenia causing...issues. Rumor had it that Doyle refused to share any scene with his former co-star for this one, which necessitated a plot in which Sinclair continually dodges Garibaldi.
- Sapient Ship: The White Star is outfitted with a "bio-armored" hull similar to those on Vorlon ships. This adaptive skin is capable of learning from experience in order to better protect the crew in future engagements; its previous encounters with Shadow vessels have strengthened its resistance to some Shadow weapons. It also has an ability to 'heal' itself after sustaining damage.
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Sinclair and Delenn's mission to deliver Babylon 4 safely through the temporal rift.
- Snowy Screen of Death: Future Ivanova's distress signal is terminated with static. Poor Garibaldi gets to watch it five times in a row.
- Stable Time Loop: Sinclair telling Zathras not to let on to his past self (the Sinclair from "Babylon Squared") that they've met already.
- There Are No Coincidences: Directly stated by Sinclair when Sheridan starts asking a few too many questions.
- Time Travel Tense Trouble: Zathras seems to be channeling the audience's confusion in certain scenes.
- What Could Have Been: The exposition duties were meant to be shared between Delenn and Draal, but John Schuck wasn't available so poor Mira Furlan had to handle it on her own. The original script is included in the official script volumes.
- What Year Is This?
- Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Directly quoted by Zathras after he recovers Sheridan's busted stabilizer. "This is why Zathras can never have nice things!" (Priorities, dude, priorities.)
- Write Back to the Future