It was the dawn of the third age of mankind, ten years after the Earth-Minbari war... Every time I re-watch Babylon 5, I immensely enjoy the lead-in voice of Commander Sinclair, it's so powerful to me, always has been, not just after his passing a few years back. I remember from way back I really had to get used to commander Sinclair but by the time the first season was winding down, I adored him, a great commander, perhaps not so much in delegating because he sure was not shy from life and death situations but one thing is for sure, if I had to name a commander I would have to serve under, I wouldn't mind it to be commander Sinclair. He really grew on me. I've always been a Bruce Boxleitner fan, so when I heard he was replacing commander Sinclair as Captain Sheridan, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, excitement, on the other hand disappointment, that last sentence he speaks "Nothing's the same anymore", always had quite an impact on me.
Of course before recently It always was an assumption that there where 3 possibilities why commander Sinclair was replaced: 1. The actor Michael O'Hare was not popular enough 2. Story-wise it was the intention from the start that with season 2 the commander was going to be replaced 3. The actor Michael O'Hare wanted out himself. It turned out to be number 3, more or less, but the reasoning behind we only learned a few years ago after his passing. Michael O'Hare's character Commander Jeffrey Sinclair will forever be one of my favourite characters, I always am eager to start watching the first season and when it's almost done, I always think of the last sentence of him on that last scene "Nothing's the same anymore".
It almost takes a year after the pilot before the first episode "Midnight on the Firing Line", it is a strong opening episode, I think it is one of the better episodes of the season. It establishes, or so it appears, that the Narn regime are going to be the baddies in this series. Of course we soon learn that is not the case, although not in the first season, not yet because in the season finale, the Narn regime retake Quadrant 37, what used to be theirs, before the oppression of the Centauri upon the Narns.
From the start it becomes clear Babylon 5 is not a "standard" show, a new story each week, neatly closed at 41, something, minutes. Early on it already drops hints of a bigger story, like in the second episode where the Soul hunter says to Sinclair: she is Satai, they, the Minbari, are using you. And when Delenn is still foggy after the ordeal, she says to him that "we, again the Minbari, were right about you". With every re-watch I watch every episode, every time, but of course there are a few episodes which could have been better, episodes like "Born to the Purple", "Infection", "TKO" and "Grail". Those to me are the weakest of the season, still, all the mentioned episodes are required viewing if you don't want to miss any clue, even in those episodes, there are clues which lead to the larger B5 story. And besides those clues, every single episode has some characters moments you love and want to see with every re-watch. Sure, they aren't as good as the other ones, but in order to not miss anything, you have to watch them all!
Only a handful of weaker episodes in a first season sci-fi show is something miraculous, of course the first season is not only story-arcs, it's characters building, there certainly are episodes where the arc is touched upon just lightly but there always is a mention of the Battle of the Line, or the current situation on Earth changing, not for the better, or the mentioning of a new and mysterious race. The best episodes of the first half of the season are the earlier mentioned first episode " Midnight on the Firing Line", but also "The Parliament of Dreams", Where G'Kar is being targeted by an old enemy. Of course "Mind War", where we learn more about the insidious Psi-corps and we meet Bester (Walter Koenig) for the first time. "The War Prayer", where an old lover of Ivanova comes to the station, turns out he's become a prominent person of a racist group. "And the Sky Full of Stars" is one of my favourites where two operatives come to the station, they kidnap Sinclair because they want to know why the Minbari stopped at the eve of victory. They think Sinclair is a traitor. "Deathwalker" is another strong episode where we, for the first time, see a show of force from the Vorlon Kosh! "Believers" is another strong show where Dr Franklin (Richard Biggs) really shines. Some great scenes between Sinclair and Franklin. I personally also like "Survivors", the 11th episode of the first season where Garibaldi falls of the wagon after he's been accused of murder. But of course that's not the reason he grabs for the bottle again.
In second part of the first season the story-arc is more visible with each episode. Of course still shrouded in mystery, giving hints, sometimes we see a bit more but it's mainly the built-up of something huge and exciting! The second part of the first season starts off with "By Any Means Necassary", although not apparent, also in this one hints are dropped about the current worrisome situation at home. But also, you get a story about the dock workers on Babylon 5, which was refreshing also, I really like this story, really like the way Sinclair resolves this situation by use the rules and regulations in his favour and angering other politicians at home at the same time.
Of course with the next episode, "Signs and Portents", viewers of Babylon 5 really begin to realize that this show is special, for the first time we see Mr Morden, who is "campaigning" with the ambassadors to become the next ally of his associates. The scene where Mr Morden and Kosh cross pads is a very interesting one, clearly they have a history together. Up till now Londo is a character we mostly relate to lighter scenes, being at the casino, considering himself to be "a joke", but his answer to Mr Morden is the beginning of a change around the character Londo Mollari. Londo tells Mr Morden exactly what he would want to see his people become again, which fits the plans of Mr Morden and his associates.
The season continues with two weaker episodes "TKO" and "Grail" but with the great David Warner and then we get to episode 16 "Eyes", one of my favourite season 1 episodes. It guest stars Jeffery Combs, who we DS9 fans of course also know for Weyoun & Brunt. Sinclair's decisions catch up with him in this episode as an internal investigator shows up and relieves Sinclair from this command. Colonel Ari Ben Zayn apparently was in the top 10 list to become the commander of Babylon 5 and Sinclair was way below the top 10.
With the season winding down, we see some exciting episodes, the before mentioned "Eyes", but also "Legacies" where Neroon (John Vickory), from the warrior caste is introduced, where Neroon compliments Sinclair of having Minbari traits, which of course is funny in light of Sinclairs' future.
Then comes "A Voice of the Wilderness" two-parter, an exciting episode where a machine is detected on the planet, which is being controlled by a dying alien. A former teacher of Delenn who is visiting Babylon 5, takes the place of the dying alien in the machine. It becomes clear that Draal probably will become an ally. Unrest on Mars, Garibaldi's old girlfriend is missing and he enlist the help of Talia Winters to find out what has happened to her.
I think episode "Babylon Squared" is not only my favourite episode of the season, I think this the case for many B5 fans. Babylon 4 re-appears and Sinclair and Garibaldi go there to investigate. Meanwhile Delenn returns to the Grey Council, first time we see them in season 1. It's a fantastic story, which, as most of you know, is being concluded in season 3.
"The Quality of Mercy" is an okay episode and it's about machine which is used in season 4 again. So even if this episode is a more on it's own, it still is important for a part of the ongoing story-arc.
The season finale "Chrysalis" is another exciting episode where the Narn again are the aggressors and when the Centauri government chose not to take action, Mollari gets help from Mr Morden and his associates. Garibaldi is shot in the back by this second in command, just before he can tell his commander that President Santiago is going to be killed. Before that, during dinner, Sinclair & Catherine Sakai tell Garibaldi and Ivanova that they are going to get married. The episode ends with Commander Jeffrey Sinclair saying: Nothing's the same anymore....
Season 1 is perhaps not as exciting as seasons 2, 3 & 4, but it certainly is a strong season where the story arcs are being build, where characters get introduced and fleshed out and which has a lot of good stories. Probably my favourite episode is "Babylon Squared". "Chrysalis", Signs and Portents", "A Voice of the Wilderness two-parter" and "Eyes" are my other favourite episodes. But as I said, only a handful episodes which are weak but even those remain watchable because of character moments and story-arc build-up. For me the first season will forever be special because of it's commander, Michael O'Hare did a great job portraying Jeffrey Sinclair and we B5 fans, will always remember him with love. Same of course goes for Jerry Doyle (Michael Garibaldi), Richard Biggs (Dr. Stephen Franklin), Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar) & Jeff Conaway (Zack Allan) and the list goes on unfortunately....