Time Travel in Babylon 5

Hey gang,

I’ve been re-watching Babylon 5, and I just finished the “War Without End” two-parter. That concludes the three-part time travel thing that started with Babylon Squared back in the first season.

I’ve always really liked this little aspect of the B5 saga, and that’s always kind of perplexed me, because I seldom enjoy time-travel fiction. But I think I know why I like this one…

I find that in just about every example of Time Travel fiction I’ve run across, there’s some kind of paradox that doesn’t make sense. Star Trek is rife with examples of the giant re-set button, where everything returns to the way it was at the beginning of the “temporal anomaly” … except for that one little thing…

Anyway, I don’t want to rant on Trek, or anyone else’s fiction. What I was wondering was, did the Babylon Squared/War Without End storyline have any errors? Was there anything that didn’t add up, or violated causality, or just didn’t seem to make sense? I can’t think of a thing.


From here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0517722/goofs

Aren’t the triluminaries paradoxical products of the time loop, too? The Minbari got them from Valen in the past, who had received at least one of them from the Minbari as Sinclair in the future. Closed loop.

IIRC, they were Vorlon technology. Sinclair learned about them from the Mimbari, and the Mimbari learned about them from Sinclair, but the actual technology was developed and disseminated by the Vorlons, who presumably provided the triluminaries Sinclair gave to the Mimbari in the past.

You mean, it started the thing that concluded back in the first season.

And the Triluminaries were Great Machine tech, not Vorlon tech. I’m not sure if there were actually three of them or just one, looped, but it’s not a closed loop.

Actually, they were brought onto the White Star by Zanthras. If you look closely when he drops his supplies in the very beginning, you will see them.

ETA: Beaten once again…

In completely arbitrary fashion, I will dismiss different colour clothing and wether or not we hear station announcments as continuity gaffes, rather then story-telling errors. As I say, arbitrary of me.

But the male grunts instead of female hints to me that the writer(s) hadn’t decided yet that it was Delenn inside the suit. And the thing about who/what stopped the station from slipping through time is a big one. I’d have to watch them agin (again) to be sure, but is it possible that the two events aren’t mutually exclusive? Could it be that what the B2 crew thought was The One helping them evacuate was really the major powering up the reactor, or that the Major really did power up the reactor, right as The One took their own actions?


thwartme said:

Based totally on my witnessing of events, and not, say an interview or something, that is absolutely correct. When the first episode was written and filmed, “The One” was supposed to be Sinclair. JMS intended him to be the hero throughout the whole B5 saga, then finish the story with him going back to become Valen.

However, during the first season, for reasons I’m not fully informed about, the actor decided to leave the show. Part of releasing him from his contract was returning to finish that story arc in some manner. JMS rewrote the premise to let Sinclair become Valen, but he had to create a new hero (Sheridan) and had to make Sheridan important. So he tied the story up by making all three of them “The One”. Which was preposterous, but there you go.

I could have sworn that, the first time I saw “Babylon Squared”, The One took off the helmet at the end of the episode, and it was Sinclair inside the spacesuit. Which confused me when in “War Without End”, it turned out to be DeLenn.

Did they re-edit the episode, or am I completely misremembering?

Babylon Squared can be viewed on Hulu: http://www.hulu.com/watch/17527/babylon-5-babylon-squared

There’s a funny blooper around the 29:00 mark: At 29:11 a crew member wearing jeans and a utility belt is visible, and staring right at the camera.

Thank god…

I don’t know. We were stuck with Bruce Boxleitner istead, so I don’t know if it was really an improvement.

What show were you watching? O’Hare is a goddamn 2x4. He’s so wooden I expected him to sprout apples. Boxleitner (while no Barrymore) at least can act like an actual human being. The 2nd-5th seasons are infinitely better for the absence of Michael O’Hare (his brief return for War Without End is forgivable if only because it brought back Zathras, too).

Not quite true, in the original plan for the series (which JMS released in the final script book), Sinclair did not end up as Valen. What we saw on screen for the whole saga was very, very different to what the original plan was. What we now think of the main arc of Babylon 5 - the Shadow War and the fight against Earth - wasn’t even going to happen in the series, although aspects of it were planned for a possible spin-off series “Babylon Prime”, in which Sinclair, Delenn and their son (who had been rapidly aged to an adult by their time-travelling), are on the run from Earth in a now-mobile Babylon 4, which had been bought forward in time to replace Babylon 5, which had been destroyed by the Minbari in a second Earth-Minbari war.

At the end of the saga, Sinclair would have ended up alone, retired and fishing.

Summary of the original 5-year arc here and here.

I think I liked the televised version better.

They did that on purpose. Both of them at one point in time wore the suit, so you think it was Sinclair, but then turns out to be Delenn…though it seems it might originally have been planned to be Sinclair when it was first filmed.

I’m one of the few people who prefers O’Hare to Boxleitner.

No accounting for taste.

As I recall, in “Babylon Squared” Zathras is seen coming up to Sinclair’s shoulder. When Zathras runs up to the Suit, Zathras and the Suit are about the same height. Therefore, it was never Sinclair in the Suit at that moment.

The time travel conundrum in babylon 5 is wrapped around the triluminary device and the central character of Sinclair/Valen. The time loop that we see, spanning over a thousand years whereby Sinclair becomes Valen, travels back in time via Babylon 4, and becomes a catalyst that changes everything. There is a massive timeline change, seemingly orchestrated by the Vorlons, who are seen to accompany Valen on meeting the more primitive Minbari civilization.
This means that the original timeline sequence, where Valen and Babylon 4 never appeared back in time, was where the last great war between light and dark forces ended with the Shadow forces defeated but still largely intact. The consequence of which is that in the subsequent war between light and dark, the Shadows prevail. It seems that only the Vorlons and their allies possess this time travel technology, so that they must have devised a way of “cheating,” and going back in time to win the war. Although it is never mentioned in Babylon 5, it must a very different universe without the Vorlon created time loop; the Minbari civilization without the influence of Valen, and the changes that resulted. Somehow, in this postulated timeline, the Vorlons must have used the triluminaries to change a Sinclair, whose life experience is totatlly different than that observed in the series. He is trained and instructed to be Valen, and be a catalyst to radically alter the timeline and establish a stable time loop. There is probably no Earth-minbari war in this original time line.

original time line; vorlon send a Sinclair version one, back in time to be Valen version one , catalyst to alter Minbar civilization, create caste system etc. The triluminaries used to alter Sinclair to Valen are sent back in time without a Babylon 4, and become holy artifacts in Minbari culture.

The result of Valen version one, being introduced to alter the timeline is that the new timeline is closer to what we see in the series but where Shadows get defeated in the last great war but with a great deal of their forces intact. A new Sinclair version two, is born and grows up being much like the one seen in the series. The earth minbari war occurs and the a triluminary is used to determine that Sinclair version two, has the “soul of Valen” or Dna of Valen or something along those lines and the war ends, and the humans avoid being exterminated by the Minbari. This triluminary is the same as that which created Valen version one, as it got sent back in time in the first place, same as the one which alters Delenn.

However, in the new timeline, the origin of the triluminaries is epsilon 3. In fact, there are two sets (used future set in Minbari possession and unused set from epsilon3) of the three triluminaries for an unknown period of time, possibly a thousand years, much like there were two sets of Sinclairs version two, during the episode where Babylon 4 is stolen in the time loop. The original set of triluminaries are used to alter Sinclair version 2 into Valen version 2. These triluminaries are sent back with Babylon 4 with Valen version two, to become the set that the Minbari had in the series, for the past thousand years. Valen version two replaces valen version one due to the time loop. Because Valen version one and Valen version two do not share the same life experience, their actions and influence will probably differ and alter the timeline each time more and more subtely each time the loop is played. Finally leading to a stable timeline after the time loop sequence.

In conclusion, the Vorlons are cheaters of fate, by using time machine to alter the timeline, for the win!

If there was one definite lesson from the B5 story arc, it’s that the First Ones were generally not anywhere near as benevolent as they claimed to be, whether Vorlon or Shadow or whatever. The only First Ones that actually appeared to care about the younger races were Kosh and Lorien.