The action revs up in season 3 of Babylon 5, bringing both new characters and higher stakes. Here’s how we rated this season’s episodes:
- “Matters of Honor” – 5.5
- “Convictions” – 2.5
- “A Day in the Strife” – 4
- “Passing through Gethsemane” – 5.5
- “Voices of Authority” – 4
- “Dust to Dust” – 5.5
- “Exogenesis” – 2
- “Messages from Earth” – 5.5
- “Point of No Return” – 8
- “Severed Dreams” – 8
- “Ceremonies of Light and Dark” – 4.5
- “Sic Transit Vir” – 6
- “A Late Delivery from Avalon” – 3
- “Ship of Tears” – 4
- “Interludes and Examinations” – 6
- “War Without End, Part 1” – 7.5
- “War Without End, Part 2” – 8
- “Walkabout” – 4.5
- “Grey 17 is Missing” – 4.5
- “And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place” – 6.5
- “Shadow Dancing” – 5.5
- “Z’Ha’Dum” – 8
There’s a step up in the ratings this season, with the average hitting 5.4 after the previous season’s 4.5. Most episodes are comfortably in the 4-6 range of “okay, but not great,” with only a few lower and several standing out higher.
This season sees a couple of changes to the cast. The Minbari-trained human ranger Marcus Cole joins the station, bringing a distinctive wry quirkiness. At times the witty, roguish, smooth character veers perilously close to being a Mary Sue, but the warmth and charm of Jason Carter’s performance is usually enough to save him from tipping over the edge. In addition, the telepath Lyta Alexander returns in a shake-up of the cast (the previous seasons’ telepath, Talia Winters, was reportedly a casualty of contract negotiations with the actor). Lyta’s return is welcome, and Patricia Tallman plays the ambiguity of the character—a human serving the mysterious Vorlons—well enough.
Along with the changes to the cast we get some significant forward motion in the larger story this season. The war with the Shadows heats up at the same time that the Earth government goes full-bore fascist. Our heroes on the Babylon 5 station are caught in the middle of both developments and have to move fast in response. Meanwhile, the Centauri invasion of Narn enters a dangerous new phase.
Our lowest-rated episode of this season is a side-story without much connection to the larger arcs. In “Exogenesis,” a 2, Marcus and Dr. Franklin investigate strange goings-on among the station’s homeless. The episode does offer Marcus and Stephen a chance to bond, but beyond that there’s not much substance to the story. It feels more like a first-season episode, a self-contained story building the background of the setting but not connected to much else.
For the best episode of this season, though, we are spoiled for choice. Four episodes get an 8 from us, with a fifth one close behind at 7.5. First there’s “Point of No Return” and “Severed Dreams,” not properly speaking a two-parter, but two episodes in a row that both see the Babylon 5 crew have to deal with the consequences of Earthgov’s violent power grabs, culminating in a watershed moment when Babylon 5 declares itself independent. The next is a proper two-parter: “War Without End,” Parts 1 and 2, a clever revisiting of the first season’s time travel story “Babylon Squared” in which we see the reappearance of the Babylon 4 station from a new perspective, and Captain Sinclair gets his send-off. Finally there’s the last episode “Z’Ha’Dum,” in which Captain Sheridan sets off to the homeworld of the Shadows to discover what drives them.
Season 3 effectively builds on what seasons 1 and 2 accomplished, and it sets the stage for the dramatic events coming in season 4. Overall, quite a strong season and worth a rewatch.
Image: Babylon 5 season 3 cover via IMDb
In the Seen on Screen occasional feature, we discuss movies and television shows of interest.
I should perhaps mention “Passing through Gethsemane” with truly powerful acting by Brad Dourif; his performance makes it memorable and really opened my eyes to his acting chops. (I’d previously only seen him in roles I didn’t think much of.) However, the mob violence and its depiction were so repulsive to me that it directly impacts my rating of the ep, bumping it down to a mid-range episode.