Greatest TV Episodes: Babylon 5 - The Long Twilight Struggle
Compared to the Star Trek franchise and later classic like Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, Babylon 5 often misses the top spot for greatest sci-fi shows. Which is a shame; in terms of pure grandeur, Babylon 5 delivered some of the most epic hours of television ever delivered to the small screen. From the corruption of Earth at the hands of President Clark to the dramatic Shadow war, there are literally hundreds of classic moments to choose from.
Choosing the best episode of Babylon 5 is a tough one. Is it the intense Severed Dreams where Babylon 5 breaks away from Earth? The dramatic two-parter War Without End, featuring the return of Sinclair and Babylon 4 and tying up the Valen story line? Or the heart breaking finale Sleeping In Light. For me the greatest episode has to be season two’s The Long Twilight Struggle.
It may not have been as epic as the Earth conflict or Shadow war episodes but it proved to be a dramatic turning point for the show. First it showed the almighty Shadows in action, obliterating the Narn fleet with ease and proving that our heroes didn’t stand a chance. It reintroduced Draal and the great machine on Epsilon 3 and revealed the Rangers to Sheridan, setting up many plot threads still to come. Most importantly, it showcased the greatest characters of all, Londo and G’Kar, with Peter Jurasik and the late Andreas Katsulas delivering the performances of a life time. As the Centauri-Narn civil war came to a head, the show proved just how far it would go to deliver on the potential of earlier episodes.
There are some momentous moments that stand out in this episode. A broken G’Kar coming to Sheridan to ask for sanctuary. Londo on the Centauri battleship, watching as his people assault the Narn home world, blasting it back into the Stone Age with mass drivers. It shows just how far his deadly alliance with Mr Morden and the Shadows has taken him and from the horrified expression on his face, it is too far. Greater still is his return to Babylon 5. His ‘friend’ Garibaldi looks upon him with fury, but that is nothing compared to G’Kar’s response and banishment. Stripped of his powers, his speech about how tyrants will never succeed is one of the greatest speeches on television ever and sends a shiver down my spine every time. G’Kar has had many, many moments of greatness over the five years, but none comes close to matching that one.
It was the episode that transcended the show into greatness and delivered one of the most heart-breaking, spine-chilling, action-packed episodes of television, not just within the sci-fi genre, but on television period.