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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 first of the Babylon 5 Made-for-TV movies, In The Beginning is a prequel that tells the story of the Earth-Minbari War ten years before the start of the series proper. It was intended to introduce the series to the new audience on TNT after the network unexpectedly picked up the show for its fifth season.


Riding high off their victory in the Dilgar War, the Earth Alliance military plans to expand their influence and make First Contact with the mysterious Minbari race. Unfortunately, they underestimate both just how much more advanced the Minbari are and also just how alien their way of thinking is. When the First Contact goes disastrously wrong and Dukhat, the leader of the Minbari, is killed, the Minbari launch a war of complete extermination against humanity in revenge.

Featuring much of the main cast from the TV series, it shows many events which had previously only been described in dialogue, and collects in one story a lot of the information that was slowly teased out over the first four seasons of the show.


This movie contains examples of:

  • Actual Pacifist: Dr. Franklin is jailed by Earthforce for refusing to hand over his notes on Minbari physiology to the bioweapons division.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated: Londo explains to the children that the whole reason the Centauri established contact with Earth is because they enjoyed the art and trinkets of the humans.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Averted. Despite appearances, the Minbari do not speak English because they have not had any contact with humanity previously, and vice versa. When one Minbari studies English in preparation for a meeting with Earth envoys he speaks slowly and haltingly to show he is still new to the language.
  • Already Met Everyone: This film shows that many of the main characters had met each other and worked together years before they all came together on Babylon 5. Sheridan, Franklin, and G'Kar were on a secret mission together in the hopes to negotiate an end to the war, and after the mission failed they were captured and briefly held by Delenn.
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  • And Man Grew Proud: Pretty much the theme of the movie.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: The Minbari are unique among the B5 races in evidently taking this very seriously. They take it so seriously, in fact, that they are even able to use this as a loophole to call off their war on humanity.
  • 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.
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Right after Dukhat is killed, Delenn is consumed by rage and angrily orders the extermination of the humans. When she finally calms down, she is horrified by what she has done but sees no way to stop the holy war that she began.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Break the Haughty: The human leadership believes they can take on any alien species in the galaxy, after they defeated the hostile Dilgar. 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: References to the Babylon 5 series proper are strewn throughout the film, to be expected since it 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: Many sequences are composed of pre-existing scenes from the series proper, taken from several different flashbacks strewn throughout the first four seasons. The entirety of Jeffrey Sinclair's scenes are composed of content shot during the pilot and season one of the series, since Michael O'Hare's health problems meant he couldn't return to film any new material.
  • 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 Expanded Universe novels establish that the young woman Londo tells the story to with Luc and Lyssa is named Senna and she's the daughter of recurring character Lord Antono Refa and was taken in by Londo as his ward after her mother Lady Celes died in the Narn-Drazi bombing of Centauri Prime. She's not actually their governess, but is just looking after them for the moment while their family visits the palace. Londo talks about "spending an afternoon on a beach" with her because he's having trouble recalling his more recent memories and doesn't recognize her as his ward. Senna is much nicer and more sensible than her father and eventually marries Vir.
    • 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.
  • 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 the Minbari when they destroy the Black Star. A famed Minbari cruiser, it had just easily destroyed a human fleet and was coming back to finish off the survivors. They managed to mine the area and destroy it when it homed in on their distress signal.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • When the Minbari first detect the human ships, they follow the Warrior Caste custom of opening all gunports (so that the humans can see they approach openly, without hidden intentions or deception). Dukhat, who realizes how this will look to people who don't know the Minbari customs, shouts for the gunports to be closed seconds before the Earth fleet panics and opens fire.
    • 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: The series has already established that the Earth-Minbari war will begin over a tragic misunderstanding, and 250,000 human lives will be lost before the end.
  • Framing Device: The story is told by Londo to a pair of Centauri children. This takes place during the season three episode "War Without End, Part 2" of the series proper, in the time where Sheridan is in the cell with Delenn.
  • Glory Hound: Captain Jankowski rationalizes exceeding his orders because if he can gather enough information on the Minbari to give to his superiors, they will give out "medals by the bucket".
  • Great Offscreen War: There are several references to the recent Dilgar War, and Earth's victory in that war is one reason that the humans are so arrogant here. No significant details are included in the movie, though the series did explain the broad strokes (the Dilgar were an expansionist race who invaded several species in the League of Non-Aligned Worlds, who resisted but were unable to defeat the Dilgar. Humanity, then a relative newcomer to the galactic stage, entered the war in support of the League and helped them defeat the Dilgar, receiving much credit for tipping the balance).
  • Greeting Gesture Confusion: The custom of the Minbari Warrior Caste is to approach with gunports open as a gesture of respect, since it shows that they are not hiding anything and do not have secret intentions. Jankowski thinks this is hostile and the prelude to an attack (especially since the Minbari scanners are overpowering his own scanners and he can't tell their weapons aren't armed), so orders his own ships to open fire.
  • Hold the Line: 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.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: A large portion of the movie is spent on the Minbari and Humans struggling — and ultimately failing — to understand the other.
  • 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 the Minbari's scanners are so powerful that they inadvertently disrupt the jump engines of the Earth ships. Thinking this was a deliberate ambush to trap them here is one of the reasons he panics and opens fire. Once they have disabled the Grey Council's starship and stopped the scanners, the human fleet proceeds to make good their escape.
  • 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 the other Centauri we 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, the story Londo tells takes place before anything else in the series, but it spoils 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 the Prometheus. Prometheus was 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.
    • Lenonn'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:
    • Delenn's mentor, Dukhat, dies during the Earth-Minbari first contact.
    • Captain Sterns presumably, though we don't see much of his relationship with Commander Sheridan before his death propels the junior officer into the limelight.
  • Military Maverick: Captain Jankowski, regarded by Commander Sheridan and other officers as being a "loose cannon." He inadvertently starts the Earth-Minbari War when he exceeds his orders.
  • 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.
  • Obi-Wan Moment: Londo knows his death is near, 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.
  • 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 a fanatical faction within their own government which opposed ending the war, never suspecting that it was actually the Centauri.
  • 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 Lenonn 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 lights the boneheads up.
  • 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.
  • Third-Party Deal Breaker: Londo recounts how he had a Centauri cruiser sent to bomb a meeting between Captain Sheridan and the Minbari Lennon, brokered by the Narn. Londo did this because he thought that the Narns were planning an arms deal. Instead Londo's actions prolonged the war because both the humans and Minbari blamed each other.
  • This Cannot Be!: The Minbari's reaction to learning that their human prisoner, Jeffrey Sinclair, is somehow 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..
  • Translation Convention: The Minbari are all portrayed speaking English amongst themselves instead of Minbari. When one of them studies English for a planned meeting with humanity, in that scene he is shown speaking slowly and haltingly to show that he is still new to the language.
  • Trust Password: Lenonn knows that the Minbari will blame the humans for his death, so he tells Sheridan a specific phrase to get Delenn to let him and Franklin live. Isil'zha (the future), which is in Dukhat's sacred place.
  • We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill: 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:
    • Played with, Londo makes Luc emperor for five minutes and asks him what his commands are for his people. Luc asks for a story.
    • Commander Sheridan finds himself in command of the Lexington, after the death of Captain Sterns.