Babylon 5
The Complete Fourth Season: No Surrender, No Retreat
(region 1 edition)

Starring: Bruce Boxleitner
Warner Home Video
RRP $99.98
Certificate: Not Rated
Available now

A potted history... Babylon 5 is the last of the neutral outposts, a five-mile long space station designed as a meeting place for diplomats, traders and entrepreneurs, and considered to be the last best hope for peace. Permanently based here are the ambassadors of four prominent races: Delenn of the Minbari, an old race consisting of warrior and religious casts (who also fought a major war with Earth, before mysteriously surrendering when they had the upper hand); Londo of the Centauri, an imperial Romanlike people steeped in blood; G'Kar of the Narn, the reptilian looking race (actually marsupials) which has long lived under the pressure of war; and Kosh of the Vorlons, an ancient race, the identity of which is concealed within encounter suits.

G'Kar extends a hand of friendship, but Londo authorises an attack on a Narn outpost, causing a terrible war. Londo's mysterious allies in the offensive come via a human called Morden. Delenn undergoes a metamorphosis which prophecy dictates will bring the Minbari and human races closer together, and aid in the struggle against the greater threat. Kosh, after revealing his true form (appearing differently to each witness) to save Sheridan from an act of terrorism, becomes even more illusive and somewhat sinister. The greater threat to all races is discovered to be the Shadows, oldest of the First Ones, last seen in local space by other races more than a thousand years ago.

Londo, realising at last who his dangerous benefactors are, tries to sever his ties with them, an act which proves practically impossible. New regular Marcus Cole arrives, a representative of the Rangers, a highly-trained unit created by Sinclair, Babylon 5's original commander (during season one) from the Minbari homeworld - their mission to collect intelligence on the Shadows. Sheridan sets up a regular secret war council with Delenn; and we see the White Star for the first time, a beautiful Minbari warship incorporating organic Vorlon technology, which can generate its own jump points between star systems. Sheridan is given command of the ship by Delenn.

Commander Susan Ivanova enlists the aid of another race of First Ones in the fight against the Shadows, and Sheridan attempts to prevent the re-activation of a dormant Shadow vessel. Earth's current martial law is extended to the Earthforce-run Babylon 5, but Sheridan finds a way to combat the Night Watch enforcers, and declares their independence from Earth. Earthforce destroyers arrive to demand Sheridan's surrender, but the captain decides to fight, aided by Minbari allies. Sheridan forms a romantic as well as strong political alliance with Delenn. Sheridan asks Kosh for help in securing a morale-boosting small victory against the Shadows, but Kosh is killed by Shadow agents in retaliation.

The season three cliff-hanger sees Sheridan journey to Z'ha'dum, from which "no one returns", the home planet of the Shadows, when dubious intelligence reaches him that his wife might still be alive. Once there he walks into a trap. By remote signal he brings in a White Star containing nuclear devices, to crash into the planet's surface. The voice of the replacement Kosh in Sheridan's head urges him to jump into an abyss and certain death.

  • It was the year of fire...
  • the year of destruction...
  • the year we took back what was ours.
  • It was the year of rebirth...
  • the year of great sadness...
  • the year of pain...
  • and the year of joy.
  • It was a new age.
  • It was the end of history.
  • It was the year everything changed.
  • The year is 2261.
  • The place: Babylon 5.

So here we go with season four, and it's difficult to know exactly where to start, there's so much to say. The passages above which briefly describe the story so far are important to newcomers to the series because it's necessary to paint a picture of the Babylon 5 universe before mentioning additional plot points... particularly when they're this good! The opening titles, which change each year, this time has every main character speaking a line of the narrative (see above). However, this is greatly thought out, with the line spoken reflecting that character's direction during the season.

From the very first episode you are dragged along, breathless, by the relentless pace of events. Sheridan is presumed dead, and Susan Ivanova fails to rally alliance members for a scout mission to Z'ha'dum. Security Chief Michael Garibaldi is missing, and G'kar decides to go in search of his friend, but falls into the hands of the Centauri. Londo discovers that Emperor Cartagia, who is as mad as a box of frogs, has made an arrangement with the Shadows, allowing them to base some ships on the homeworld. He must organise Cartagia's death in order to save his people from conquest. Sheridan finds himself confused and alone deep in the catacombs of Z'ha'dum, where he meets Lorien and learns that he is caught between life and death. Phew! And that's just the first two episodes.

Writer/creator J. Michael Straczynski was uncertain at the time whether his five-year story arc would receive backing for a fifth season, so much of what was planned for the last season was brought forward to this one. Consequentially, this season is a rollercoaster ride of anxiety-based events. With Sheridan's fleet caught between a Vorlon conflict with the Shadows, Garibaldi returning changed so that his loyalty and very sanity hang in the balance, the elevated threat of Bester and the Psi Corps, misinformation about the station being broadcast from Earth, and the final battles with the Shadows and Earthforce, by the end of this season either your head will have exploded or you will be sitting in silence thinking, "Bloody hell!"

In short, this is 22 episodes of pure genius. Every part is meticulously and lovingly crafted by J. Michael Straczynski, the writing so tight and the acting carrying such conviction that, whether a character laughs, cries or shouts in anger, you are taken in one-hundred per cent.

Again, excellently packaged, this set contains six discs and includes the following extras: Celestial Sounds, following the remarkable impact of Christopher Franke's music on the series; The Complete No Surrender, No Retreat DVD Suite (music accompanying a well-assembled montage of clips from the season); The Universe of Babylon 5, containing audio/visual Data Files and Personnel Files; a Gag Reel; and three commentaries (two by Straczynski, and one jointly by Bruce Boxleitner [Sheridan], Jerry Doyle [Garibaldi], Peter Jurasik [Londo] and Patricia Tallman [rogue telepath Lyta Alexander]).

A quite staggering piece of work, and the best television ever seen, bar none! Accept no substitutes.

Ty Power

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