Babylon 5: In the Shadow of Z'Ha'Dum
July 29, 2018 9:21 AM - Season 2, Episode 16 - Subscribe

Much is revealed about Kosh and Mr. Morden. "I'd like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. I would gaze up into your lifeless eyes and wave, like this. Can you and your associates arrange this for me, Mr. Morden?"

-Delenn explains the nature of the Shadows and Kosh: "There are beings in the universe billions of years older than either of our races. Once, long ago, they walked among the stars like giants. Vast, timeless... they taught the younger races, explored beyond the Rim, created great empires. But to all things, there is an end. Slowly, over a million years, the First Ones went away. Some passed beyond the stars, never to return. Some simply disappeared. [...] Not all of the First Ones have gone away. A few stayed behind. Hidden or asleep, waiting for the day when they may be needed. When the Shadows come again. [...] We have no other name for them. The Shadows were old when even the ancients were young. They battled one another over and over across a million years. The last Great War against the Shadows was ten thousand years ago. It was the last time the ancients walked openly among us. The Shadows were only defeated, not destroyed. A thousand years ago, the Shadows returned to their places of power, rebuilt them, and began to stretch forth their hand. Before they could strike, they were defeated by an alliance of worlds, including the Minbari and the few remaining First Ones who had not yet passed beyond the veil. When they had finished, the First Ones went away. All but one [Kosh]. [...] That is why Kosh cannot leave his encounter suit. He would be recognized. [...] By everyone."
-In "Chrysalis", the question Delenn asks Kosh--and to which she receives the answer "Yes"--is revealed to be "Have the Shadows returned to Z'Ha'Dum?" This is enough to convince her that it is a time prophesied about in Minbari scripture, and she begins her metamorphosis.
-While Sheridan muses on the nature of his wife's death (in roughly 2256, 3 years ago), Garibaldi recognizes one of the 'dead' crewmembers on the log -- Mr. Morden. This makes Sheridan go ballistic, stick Morden in the brig (and claiming Morden has no rights, as a dead man), and try to poke holes in his story to get him to tell the truth. Morden claims to have amnesia after a space walk accident, and someone happened upon him and picked him up. Garibaldi and Ivanova both protest Sheridan's behaviour and refuse to help him, leading to Garibaldi's #2, Zac, taking over. He tricks Talia into contact with Morden, but all she senses is a great darkness.
-Delenn helps Sheridan discover the truth about the Icarus. They awakened the Shadows on their expedition and the crew was either enslaved to the Shadows, or killed. Kosh shows a video of the incident, somehow.
-Delenn and Kosh convince Sheridan to let Morden go, and continuing to insist on this point will tip the Shadows off that B5 knows about them. Right now, all Morden knows is that Sheridan is furious over his connection to his wife. They compare it to the Enigma code in WWII -- by not revealing that they had cracked the code, they gathered more strategic advantage than if they had immediately acted on the information. Morden is released.
-Meanwhile, B5 is overwhelmed with more injured Narn refugees than it can handle. Franklin is a "Foundationist" (trying to define god is limiting god) and has taken to using to stims to work double shifts to process the refugees.
-Recap of the basic timeline right now:
Distant past: the First Ones emerge, and eventually recede from the universe. They helped keep the Shadows at bay.
1000 years ago: The great Shadow war, with a confederation of allied races and the Vorlon (by another name) beating back the Shadows. Time of Valen and the creation of the Minbari scriptures. Time of Narn prophet G'quan, who mentioned the Shadows in his Book (as revealed in season one). Creation of the current Centauri class structure and defeat of the last non-Centauri sentient races on Centauri Prime (season one, episode two).
2100s: Early in this century, beginning of Centauri occupation of the Narn. Mid-century, Centauri-Human contact; first human-alien contact.
2245-2248: Minbari-Human war. Battle of the Line. Beginning of the frequently-destroyed Babylon Project.
2256: Babylon 5 goes online. Anna Sheridan disappears.
2257: events of season one, including the reappearance of Babylon 4, contact with the planet below B5, and the assassination of Santiago and elevation of Clarke. First appearance of Mr. Morden.
posted by flibbertigibbet (13 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Fun Fact: Mr. Morden now owns Waterstone Construction and Development Inc., according to the Old School Science Fiction Blog.
posted by wittgenstein at 12:25 PM on July 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

... that's sort of mind-blowing, wittgenstein. Also: corroborated by both wikipedia and Ed Wasser's twitter.

(I am passingly relieved that's nowhere near me, because I dunno if I could resist the urge to stop by and wave. That reference never died in my household.)
posted by mordax at 10:43 PM on July 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Please tell me that when he first meets with clients he asks them "what do you want?"
posted by traveler_ at 10:30 AM on July 30, 2018 [8 favorites]

The Shadows probably do all the work, so there is really no overhead. It's no wonder he makes money.
posted by wittgenstein at 5:09 PM on July 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

traveler_: He'd probably stop the first time someone quotes Vir's speech at him in response. God knows I'd have a hard time restraining myself.
posted by Grimgrin at 8:21 PM on July 30, 2018 [5 favorites]

When they had finished, the First Ones went away. All but one [Kosh]. [...] That is why Kosh cannot leave his encounter suit. He would be recognized. [...] By everyone."

I think the line should be read as "...the First Ones went away. All but one [the Vorlons]..."

That is, Kosh is not the only Vorlon left around; he's a member of the last group of First Ones still around. Which raises the question of why he would be recognized.

Fun further side note about Ed Wasser: He also appears in "The Gathering", the pilot movie for B5, as a member of the crew. That character was not Mr. Morden, just a small role in the pilot, but it's a little funny to go back and see him as part of the B5 staff.
posted by nubs at 9:22 AM on July 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

At thisI meant more that Delenn gestured at Kosh. According to the Lurker's Guide, there was actually fan speculation if Kosh was the only 'First One' at this point.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 3:17 PM on July 31, 2018

Coming at this episode naively, I was indeed confused about that line and could have sworn they'd described other Vorlons as being around even if we haven't seen them yet. But I couldn't really discount the idea of a whole civilization of leftover semisentient ships either. There's a few places in this show where I think to myself "oh they've forgotten about X, that's a plot hole" and then a couple episodes later there's the plot going "you probably forgot about X now watch how it mattered all along!"
posted by traveler_ at 5:01 PM on July 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love Vir in this. Dude knew what he was dealing with.

posted by jenfullmoon at 4:50 AM on August 1, 2018 [6 favorites]

There's a few places in this show where I think to myself "oh they've forgotten about X, that's a plot hole" and then a couple episodes later there's the plot going "you probably forgot about X now watch how it mattered all along!"

In generally, B5 is really good at that - past plot points and threads get picked back up and used. There's a couple of balls that do get dropped, but I know at the time it was airing, I found it really refreshing that B5 would weave those elements back into the story; you didn't have things like somebody having their back get broken one week and facing weeks/months of recovery just back at their station the next episode or the miracle tech that saved everyone last week isn't brought up ever again. Here, Garibaldi gets shot in the back and spends several episodes dealing with the physical and emotional consequences; technologies used at one point tend to resurface; everyone's decisions have ongoing impacts, in general.

It was one of the things that made the show relatively unique for SF TV of the day.
posted by nubs at 8:42 AM on August 1, 2018 [3 favorites]

This was the moment I fell a little in love with Vir.
posted by corb at 9:13 PM on March 22, 2019 [4 favorites]

I love this episode for so many reasons. Vir's moment of glory is one-- and it's been pointed out elsewhere that of all the characters who answer Mr Morden's "what do you want?", only one character actually gets what they say they want.

But it won't be soon. We spend this episode dying for Mr Morden to be unmasked and face consequences now that the Good Guys have him in their power... and he is unmasked, but we find out that that means consequences can't be imposed on him. If this were an episodic show in the Star Trek mode, the writers would have to find an ingenious way for Sheridan to neutralise Morden by the end of the episode... but this was the great innovation of B5's continuous plotting, that Realpolitik could mean satisfactory resolutions weren't possible, so plot tensions could build over an entire season. Morden is now essentially untouchable and free to continue being an unpleasant plot engine for many, many episodes to come. The bastard.
posted by Pallas Athena at 4:29 PM on April 15, 2021

My spouse and I have been rewatching this for the, I dunno, 5th time or so, and as usual we're sort of wondering when it actually kicks off, and it's always sort of a surprise that it's almost three quarters of the way through the second season. Yeah, there have been bits and pieces leading up to Z'Ha'Dum, but this felt like the first episode where Sheridan shows some of his eventual spine, and the scale of the fight ahead of them sort of opens up.

Mmm-mmm, good times.
posted by Kyol at 12:00 PM on September 1, 2022

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