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Recap / Babylon Five Film 01 In The Beginning

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It is said that the future is always born in pain. The history of war is the history of pain. If we are wise, what is born of that pain matures into the promise of a better world, because we learn that we can no longer afford the mistakes of the past.

The Earth military encounters an alien race called the Minbari. Through a series of accidents and misunderstandings, a war breaks out that nearly results in the death of every human on Earth. The war and its aftermath provide the background for the TV series Babylon 5, especially its first season.


This movie contains examples of:

  • Actual Pacifist: Dr. Franklin is jailed by Earth Force for refusing to hand over his notes on Minbari physiology to the bioweapons division.
  • Attack on One Is an Attack on All: The disastrous first contact causing the death of Dukhat is taken as an assault on the entire Minbari race and they embark on a genocidal holy war of revenge.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: The Minbari are unique among the B5 races in evidently taking this very seriously, which is subverted via Loophole Abuse, below.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Londo's narration misquotes The Bible, saying that the humans have a saying, "Pride goeth before a fall,"note  going on to state that the humans were very proud indeed.
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: G'Kar, the Narn Regime's representative to the Earth Alliance, who is more than willing to sell advanced weapons technology (stolen from the Centauri) to the humans to use against the Minbari, at vastly inflated prices, in hopes of falsely incriminating the Centauri Republic of supplying an enemy of the Minbari Federation.
    • His exact words were that "human currency has been devalued on the interstellar market." If you're on a losing war for the survival of your race/country/planet, your currency will be rendered worthless by others, requiring more to buy the same items. It's economic practicality on G'Kar's part. In fact in the series itself he and the Narn resistance have to buy the same weapons from a human arms dealer, and he remarks the asking price is far higher than what the Narn sold them for.
    • That said, he also agrees to broker a meeting between representatives from Earth and an important Minbari official to try and figure out how to stop the war. Depending on how you interpret his character, this could be anything from Jerk with a Heart of Gold to Even Evil Has Standards (he may have a hate-on for the Centauri, but that doesn't mean he likes the idea of the humans being slaughtered wholesale by the Minbari.) Or that he's simply an opportunist with a Long Game view on things, and figures having a human race grateful to the Narn for helping save them would be advantageous in the long run. The deal was actually brokered from the Minbari end, and had the fairly-obvious second message of "we know where the weapons are coming from."
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  • And Man Grew Proud: Pretty much the theme of the movie.
  • Balance of Power: The primary motivation behind the Narns being willing to sell stolen Centauri weaponry to the Humans to use against the Minbari. If the Minbari track the weapons back to their creators, it will lead them to the Narns' enemies, thus ridding the Narn of the Centauri. Subverted in that the Minbari were aware of the Narn's dealings. They didn't care.
  • Be All My Sins Remembered: Londo's storytelling is interspersed with his regrets over all the hardship he was responsible for, including unintentionally prolonging the Earth-Minbari War, and being personally responsible for the widespread destruction on Centauri Prime.
  • Being Evil Sucks: By the time they reach Earth at the climax of the war, even the Blood Knight Minbari warriors are getting sick of slaughtering so many humans.
  • Berserk Button: Hurt someone she cares for, Delenn will hurt you. Kill her mentor/father-figure, she will start a war to end your race.
  • Break the Haughty: The human leadership believes they can take on any alien species in the galaxy, after they defeated the hostile Dilgar Empire. Then they meet the Minbari.
  • Brutal Honesty: The Earth President doesn't mince words in her Emergency Presidential Address, flat-out admitting that anyone who answers the call will not be coming back, but for every ten minutes the Minbari spend shooting at them instead instead, that's ten extra minutes the civilian escape ships have to get to safety.
  • Call-Forward: Many, given that this is a prequel that is substantially a Clip Show of flashbacks from the original show.
  • The Cameo:
    • Claudia Christian playing a young Susan Ivanova in one scene midway through the movie, visiting her brother Ganya and giving him one of her earrings for luck before he deploys during the war. This is a Call-Forward to the fact that throughout the show, Ivanova always wore a single earring.
    • Michael York has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo as the weapons officer aboard the EAS Prometheus, the clip being recycled from A Late Delivery From Avalon, the episode he guest-starred in as a Shell-Shocked Veteran.
    • Michael O'Hare has a single scene towards the end of the film as Jeffrey Sinclair (originally The Captain on the show itself), leading a squadron of Starfuries at the Battle of the Line and being captured by the Minbari.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • Londo warns his human contacts against sending a fleet of ships to Minbari space, recommending they only send a single ship to avoid provoking them. The humans don't listen.
    • Sheridan warns General Lefcourt that Jankowski is a loose cannon of an officer that will probably botch the first contact mission. Much later, after the battle with the Black Star, Lefcourt admits he was right.
  • Clip Show: This film was produced, editing new footage in with footage used for flashbacks in the original series, in order to help familiarize new viewers with the show's universe when it jumped networks to TNT.
  • Commanding Coolness: John Sheridan, serving as Number Two to Captain Sterns.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The children Londo tells the story to are Luc and Lyssa Deradi, nephew and niece of the late Urza Jaddo.
    • The children's governess is Senna, the daughter of recurring character Lord Refa.
    • Londo watches the conversation Sheridan had with Delenn while visiting from the past.
    • Londo admits that Luc's answer to "What do you want?" was better than his.
    • Lyssa seems to have hair under that cap. Centauri women are not naturally bald; they shave their heads.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Almost every fight between the Minbari and the humans. In one battle sequence, we see a sizable fleet of human ships wiped out in seconds.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: The humans win a single battle against a Minbari cruiser, at the cost of most of the task force that ran into it. Otherwise, it is made clear that despite their horrific losses, the humans are making the Minbari pay in blood for every inch of territory they take. According to Londo, the fact that Earth Force managed to keep the war going for over 2 years against such a superior opponent was proof of how badass they were to the rest of the galaxy.
  • Damage Control: After the Lexington's task force is hit by a Minbari attack, Sheridan begins reading off damage reports to the captain. When Captain Sterns fails to respond to his report, Sheridan turns around to find his superior has been killed, leaving him in command.
  • David vs. Goliath: At one point, a small Earth Force corvette and a squadron of Starfuries face down a fleet of dozens of giant War Cruisers. The humans charge into battle regardless, and are wiped out in seconds.
  • Despair Event Horizon: As the end of the war approaches, Earth is nearing this. Delenn also is nearing it as her ship prepares for the Battle of the Line. She is out of ideas, and her plea to the Vorlons is answered only with a cryptic (though surprisingly useful for a Vorlon) response.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In return for the death of their religious and political leader, Dukhat, the Minbari set out to wipe out all of humanity.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: As Londo narrates how hard the Humans fought back we are shown examples of it, including a Starfury chasing and shooting down a Minbari fighter just as two or three other Minbari were shooting at it from behind, a Nova-class dreadnought ramming a Minbari warcruiser in spite of being shot by the same warcruiser at least three times before the contact, and a unarmed human fighting a knife-wielding Minbari warrior, punching it after being downed and still trying to stand up and fight after being knifed in the heart.
  • Emergency Presidential Address: One of the defining in all of fiction, with the Earth President's lump-in-the-throat-inducing desperate plea for aid for aid.
  • Face Death with Dignity/Obi-Wan Moment: Londo's story to the children can be seen as both as he knows he will soon die and chooses to tell those who will come after him about one of his greatest failings so that they will not end up like him.
  • Faking Engine Trouble: A Minbari flyer fakes an engine flame out to lure the Lexington's battle group into a kill zone.
  • First Contact: A human recon expedition into Minbari space accidentally stumbles across a Minbari ship, and are spotted before they can withdraw. A series of misunderstandings leads directly to We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing:
    • The Minbari realize their error in using the Warrior Caste's customary greeting towards strangers who might not react kindly to having guns pointed at them (particularly when their stealth technology prevents the humans from knowing whether or not the guns are running hot, and when their sensors accidentally knock out the humans' jump drives), immediately before the humans open fire on them in response.
    • Similarly, Sheridan figures out that the disabled Minbari flyer is bait for an ambush and voices his concerns to Captain Sterns, just before a jump point opens in the middle of the Earther formation and the shooting starts.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Everyone who's watched the show knows how the war ends, but that doesn't make it seem any less tragic.
  • Framing Device: The story is told by Londo to a pair of Centauri children.
  • Futureshadowing: Plenty, but the most dramatically significant is when Londo speaks of his admiration of
  • Greeting Gesture Confusion: The Minbar's gesture of respect is mistaken by Janskowski as a hostile action, prompting him to preemptively fire.
  • Hold the Line/You Shall Not Pass!: The purpose of the Battle of the Line was to buy time for civilian transports to escape off of Earth. The President's final speech makes makes it clear those who fight will likely die but with their deaths many civilians might be able to escape.
  • Hopeless War: For the humans. Londo assumes humanity knew this near the start of the war but that did not stop them from fighting. When other species might crumble with despair, the humans reforged their efforts and made the Minbari taste blood at every inch. There are plentiful examples on this page of just how hard Humanity fought against the odds.
  • Humans Are Warriors: Londo's description of how they made the Minbari fight for every inch of space.
  • Hyperspeed Ambush:
    • The Minbari have actually made it a standard tactic. They lure Earth warships into a predetermined position then jump right into the middle of them. The vortex itself is devastating to any ship caught near it, and then the Minbari proceed to carve up whatever's left.
    • Another happens when the Centauri interrupt the attempted peace meeting. They emerge from the jumpgate and destroy the Narn cruiser before it can identify them, then fires on the planet, killing the Minbari representative and ruining the only chance to end the war.
  • Hyperspeed Escape:
    • Attempted by Captain Jankowski's scout expedition after they are spotted by the Minbari, but fails due to the Minbari's scanners inadvertently disrupting their jump engines.
    • Once they have disabled the Grey Council's starship and stopped the scanners, the human fleet proceeds to make good their escape. The Minbari proceed to follow them to their base and Kill 'Em All.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Upon seeing Emperor Mollari, Luc blurts out, "Are you really the emperor?" Londo doesn't take offense, as he quite understands the question.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: The novelization has a scene of the Earth forces celebrating their first "Win". Londo chides them for how they have just begun a war they cannot win ("This is not a party. This is a wake! It must be, because all I see around me are dead men.") The admirals and higher-ups brush Londo off as merely paranoid...and then the reports come in of Minbari forces slaughtering entire Earth colonies without mercy.
  • It's Quiet... Too Quiet: Sheridan begins to think something's off when he picks up no Minbari transmissions right before the Lexington is ambushed.
  • Is This Thing On?: Played for Drama when the Earth President audibly asks "are we on?" before beginning her speech, because it's clear that at this point in the war, humanity is far past caring about such matters of political decorum.
  • Just a Stupid Accent: The French-accented Centauri nursemaid in the framing story stands out quite glaringly among every other Centauri we ever hear. In the Centauri Prime Trilogy, she is a major character and is described as having a "northern" accent.
  • Karmic Nod:
    Londo: I know my sins, and the price I will eventually pay for them.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Chronologically, this show takes place before anything else in the series, but if you watch it first, it will spoil many important plot points throughout the first four seasons of the show proper.
  • The Laws and Customs of War:
    • General Lefcourt discusses the legality of Sheridan's tactics against the Black Star, where he issued a distress call with the intent to ambush the Minbari warship when it came to finish them off. The Earth government's read on the situation was that Sheridan's distress call was genuine (his ship was crippled and the rest of his squadron destroyed) and that the only reason the Minbari fell for his trap was because of their known tendency to Sink the Lifeboats in response to Earther distress calls.
    • Discussed again later, when General Fontaine orders Doctor Franklin to hand over his research on Minbari physiology so that it can be used to develop specialized weapons to use against them. Franklin cites his legal right to refuse orders that violate his ethics as a doctor, and is imprisoned for it. He ends up on Sheridan's peace mission later on as a sort of parole.
  • Loophole Abuse: When they determine that Sinclair has a Minbari soul, Delenn uses that as an excuse to stop the war.
  • Lured into a Trap: The Lexington battle group with a lone Minbari flyer as the bait to set up their Hyperspeed Ambush. They return the favor soon after when the Minbari warcruiser Black Star arrives to finish them off and sails into a hastily prepared minefield.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The remnants of Earth Force when hundreds of Minbari War Cruisers appear out of hyperspace in Earth orbit, kicking off the epic Battle of the Line.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • The ship that makes first contact with the Minbari, starting the war that nearly wipes out humanity, is named for Prometheus, the Titan from Classical Mythology who stole fire from the Gods to give to man, and was punished severely for it.
    • Delenn of the Family Mir, was given a Punny Name by J. Michael Straczynski, based on a Bilingual Bonus: "Mir" is Russian for "Peace." The fact that she's played by Mira Furlan might also have influenced the name.
    • Lennon's name was specifically chosen by JMS to reflect his role in the story: all he was saying was "give peace a chance", after all.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard:
  • Military Maverick: Captain Jankowski, regarded by Commander Sheridan and other officers as being a "loose cannon." Inadvertently starts the Earth Minbari War.
  • Moment of Weakness/A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Right after Dukhat is killed, Delenn in her grief, angrily orders the extermination of the humans. When she finally calms down, she is horrified by what she has done.
  • Mundane Wish: When Londo tells Luc he may give any one order he pleases with the authority of the Emperor and asks him "What do you want?", Luc asks Londo to tell him a story. When Senna chastises Luc for wasting his wish, Londo ruefully notes that Luc's answer to that question was much better than his.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Delenn carries this all the way to the end.
    • Londo describes going through this years later, when he learned that he was responsible for prolonging the war by ordering an attack on an attempted truce brokerage between the Earthers and the Minbari (brokered by the Narn), mistaking it for a weapons deal between the Earth Alliance and the Narn Regime.
    • In the novelization, Captain Jankowski commits suicide; the note he leaves behind simply reads, "On my head."note 
  • Noodle Incident: The Omega Incident. A number of officers feel that Captain Jankowski was responsible for whatever went down there, but he was officially cleared of responsibility by the authorities.
  • Not So Stoic: President Levy is valiantly but obviously (and understandably) struggling to maintain her composure while delivering her Emergency Presidential Address.
  • Nuclear Option: How Sheridan defeats the Black Star.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Humans and Minbari are unable to understand each other during first contact. Things go very downhill from there.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The Soul Hunters were heavily involved in the beginning of the war in the show, a sighting of one their ships cluing Dukhat into the impending disaster just a moment too late and their subsequent boarding attempt to claim his soul being part of why emotions ran so high when the decision was made. They are neither shown or mentioned in the movie, which given they have no further bearing on events is probably wise. JMS says that showing the Soul Hunters would have been too confusing to new viewers unless they took 15 minutes to set it up, which they couldn't fit in. They do appear in the novelization along with a scene in which a wall of Minbari try to prevent them from taking Dukhat's soul.
  • The Quiet One: Lyssa doesn't say anything until the very end. Londo says the quiet ones are the ones that change the universe. The loud ones just take credit for it.
  • Ramming Always Works: One Earth warship destroys a Minbari warcruiser by ramming it.
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: Both sides assume the attack on the peace conference was done by one of these from their own government. It turns out they're wrong.
  • Rock Beats Laser: Human weapons and technology are far inferior to what the Minbari have. That said, nuclear weapons still prove to be quite effective once you manage to get the enemy close enough to the warhead to be caught in the blast. Sheridan does this by way of jury-rigged Space Mines in an Asteroid Thicket. Mind you, this is the only time in the war that any human commander wins a battle against the Minbari until the end of the war.
  • Silent Whisper: We don't find out what Lennon said to Sheridan until he tells it to Delenn. "Isil'zha."
  • Simple Score of Sadness: As Londo laments the state of Centauri Prime, weighed down further by the knowledge that a good portion of it is his responsibility, a piece featuring a lone bagpipe plays, then builds as he describes the human's Hopeless War before trailing off to the bagpipe again near the end.
  • Sink the Lifeboats: The Minbari will home in on Earth Force SOSs and destroy crippled ships, rather than capture them. Sheridan takes advantage of this when planning his ambush of the Black Star.
  • Space Mines: Sheridan mines the Asteroid Thicket around his crippled ship, using the ship's magazine of tactical nuclear warheads, before sending out a distress call. When the Black Star returns to finish off the surviving ship, Sheridan sets off the nukes.
  • Spanner in the Works: The attempt to negotiate an end to the war might have worked if the Centauri hadn't misread the situation.
  • The Storyteller: Londo takes this role.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The Vorlons.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • Sheridan admits to the crew of the Lexington that his plan to destroy the Black Star with nuclear mines is just as likely to kill them as the enemy. But, at least they'll take the Minbari down with them.
    • A crippled Nova-class dreadnought rams a Minbari war cruiser during the Hopeless War montage.
    • At the climax of the Battle of the Line, Sinclair attempts to ram another war cruiser with his crippled Starfury. He even quotes the trope almost verbatim.
  • This Cannot Be!: The Minbari's reaction to learning that their Human prisoner, Jeffrey Sinclair, is somehow their their most honored cultural hero from antiquity, Valen, himself. Then that is compounded by the shocking compounding evidence that there are Humans who have Minbari souls. That means to the Minbari that by waging this genocidal holy war against Humanity, they are violating their sacred religious strictures in the largest and most grievous way possible..
  • Trust Password: After the attempt to end the war ends with a surprise attack, Lennon tells Sheridan something to say to his people. When they arrive they find Lennon's body and bring Sheridan, Franklin and G'Kar aboard. Sheridan tells them what is in Dukhat's sacred space (Isil'zha, the future), which prompts Delenn to let them go.
  • We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill: Subverted: Neither side intended to start a fight, but nobody told the Warrior Caste that revealing your weapons is considered a threatening gesture by the humans, who panic and open fire.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: The entire movie is Londo telling a story to a couple of children.
  • You Are in Command Now:
    • Commander Sheridan finds himself in command of the Lexington, after the death of Captain Sterns.
    • Also played with, as Londo makes Luc emperor for five minutes.

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