|Cast: Dylan Neal (David Martel); Alex Zahara (Dulann); Enid-Raye Adams (Firell); Myriam Sirois (Sarah Cantrell); Warren T Takeuchi (Kitaro Sasaki); Dean Marshall (Malcolm Bridges); Jennie Rebecca Hogan (Na'Feel); David Storch (Tafeek); Gus Lynch (Tirk).|
To Live and Die in Starlight
This 90-minute telemovie was intended as a pilot to a new spin-off TV series which did not eventuate.
First broadcast week of
The Ranger ship Enfalli is fighting a losing battle against Raiders, who have been terrorizing Alliance shipping lines for the last few months. The ship's Captain, Gregg, is injured during the battle, leaving his second-in-command, David Martel, to take over. The Enfalli is crippled and would not last much longer if the attack is continued. Martel orders the crew to stand down - many of the Minbari are unhappy with this, they think it goes against the conduct of a Ranger. They Live for the One, they Die for the One.
Back on Minbar, Citizen G'Kar of the Narn meets with Sindell, a Minbari Council member (it is not clear if this is the Grey Council itself), who shows him a recording of mysterious new ships seen in space, apparently hostile. He wants G'Kar's help at a meeting with a group who may know something about these strange invaders; G'Kar agrees to do what he can.
Two weeks after the Raider attack, Martel is growing restless with menial tasks assigned to him as punishment. One of the Rangers, Tannier, accuses David of violating the Ranger code, that he was wrong to stand down from a fight. David's fellow crewmembers, Sarah Cantrell and Malcolm Bridges, defend his actions, starting a fight with Tannier, which Martel wins.
David confides to Sarah that he wants to command a ship again - he had hoped for the Valen, a newly-constructed hybrid of Human and Minbari technology, but concedes that it may well go to Tannier instead. When David faces the council, his Minbari friend Dulann - a telepath - appears with him, and tells the Council that Martel acted to save the crew above himself, and that he, Sarah and Malcolm will leave the Rangers should David be removed. The Council is not swayed by the argument until G'Kar intervenes and points out that the Ranger philosophy is not only to Die for the One, but to Live as well. The Council decides to give Martel the command of the Liandra, a 20-year-old vessel whose previous crew died in mysterious circumstances - and whose ghosts may still haunt the ship. Despite this, David is pleased with the outcome.
Aboard the Liandra, Martel discovers the ship is virtually falling apart. Dulann begins to have visions of fire and death. The records of the fate of the previous crew are wiped, but Dulann seems to know what happened: the ship was damaged beyond repair and the crew suffocated from lack of air. Tannier informs David that he has been given command of the Valen and his first mission is to transport a group of Alliance ambassadors to a secret meeting, to discuss the new alien ships. He has specifically requested that the Liandra be his escort. Despite the fact that he now only has three days to get the ship operational, Martel agrees.
David meets his crew, some old, some especially chosen: Dulann as First Officer; Sarah Cantrell as his combat specialist; Malcolm Bridges as covert operations; the Minbari Tafeek as first contact specialist; Human Kitaro "Kit" Sasaski as navigations and communications expert; the quiet Minbari Firell as healer; the Narn Na'Feel as engineer, because nobody else would have her; and the Drazi Turk (he carries very large things). With some heavy encouragement, the Liandra finally lifts off from the launch pad after the Valen. As they enter hyperspace, they are unaware that they are being followed by two of the alien ships.
The ships are heading for Beta Durani 7: the location of an archaeological dig. However, when they arrive, they are attacked by the alien ships and the Valen is badly damaged and cannot fire back. The Liandra still only has limited firepower, but Cantrell puts up a good fight. Dulann is injured. The diplomats flee the Valen in the escape pods, and Martel pleads with Tannier and his crew to do the same: he won't, they need to give the Liandra time to get away with the ambassadors. Tannier rams the Valen into the last enemy ship, destroying it. The Liandra's weapons, long-range communications and jump engines are down: if more alien ships come looking for them, they will be defenceless. One of the alien diplomats, Minister Kafta, pleads with G'Kar to ask the commander to take them somewhere safe. In sickbay, Dulann has a vision of one of the Liandra's former crewmembers. The dead Ranger claims they had been betrayed.
G'Kar visits Martel, who has suspicions about the alien attack. The ships only crippled the Valen rather than destroying her outright, and did not attack the escape pods. G'Kar tells Martel why they had been travelling to Beta Durani 7: the archaeological dig had unearthed a giant city 8 miles beneath the planet's surface, a city billions of years old - far older than anything else yet discovered. According to hieroglyphs in the city, the inhabitants had fought off a great darkness, driving the enemy out of normal space. Within the city is a giant pyramid, a pulsing red light at the apex - a door to another dimension. The hieroglyphs also warn that the enemy may one day return.
G'Kar is slight perturbed to discover Malcolm using a holographic image of him to calm the other diplomats. When Kitaro warns that an enemy ship is approaching, Martel decides to hide the ship in the tail of a passing comet, as they are not yet strong enough to take them on. Sarah keeps stray ice chunks at bay with the weapons system; eventually, they leave the comet and discover the enemy ships moving off, not having detected them.
Meanwhile, Dulann has another vision of a dead Ranger, and follows him out of sickbay. He discovers more dead Rangers, who ask him what he wants, before he loses consciousness. When Dulann is discovered, he warns that the last crew had been betrayed by one of their own and that the same is going to happen again. David is skeptical, but Dulann tells him to check the ship's records - one encrypted file still remains hidden. Martel checks the record and discovers that what Dulann is saying is true.
David deduces that someone aboard the Liandra is indeed betraying them - the Valen was crippled so that the diplomats did have time to escape, and one of them is a spy for the enemy. Turk discovers Minister Kafta in the cargo bay tampering with an access panel - and gets shot. Kafta is sending a locator signal to the enemy - but Kitaro detects it. David captures Kafta, but the enemy has already found their location and begins to close in. A minefield is established between the Liandra and the jumpgate, which severely damages the Liandra. Sarah furiously clears a path through the minefield with the weapons system.
Martel loads an escape pod with explosives and Kafta's signal device. The ruse works: the enemy ship takes on the pod, and is destroyed. However, there is still another enemy ship after them, and the Liandra is now so badly damaged it needs extensive repairs in a shipyard. Martel confronts Kafta about the nature of the enemy: his race is only new to the Alliance, on the fringe of Alliance territory, and so far have remained unharmed by the enemy's attacks on shipping. Kafta reveals his race has indeed allied themselves with the aliens: they have no name, but are referred to as the Hand ("the Hand of God, the Hand of Death, the Hand That Reaches Forth and Blots Out Whole Suns"). They once left planets reduced to cinders in their wake until they were banished, but have finally found a way back into the normal universe. The ships that have been attacking them are only "toys" given to races who serve the Hand, preparing the way for them. The Hand reward loyalty, and Kafta has been very loyal. They will be coming to get him.
The Liandra approaches a jumpgate, but discovers an enemy ship blocking their path. A shadowy figure appears on the holo-communicator and offers an ultimatum: return Kafta or be destroyed. Talking to Dulann, Martel is inspired to try and trick the enemy again. He sends an escape pod in a direct line from the Liandra to the enemy ship. A communication from Kafta convinces the enemy that all is well. When the escape pod is taken aboard the alien ship and opened, Kafta is revealed to be bound and gagged - and once again, an explosive device triggered to explode. The enemy ship is destroyed. It was Malcolm, with his holographic disguise, who communicated with the enemy as Kafta, and keeping the escape pod in a straight line with the enemy ship convinced them the communication came direct from the pod.
Safely back on Minbar, Martel is congratulated for his victory. The Liandra is being repaired, and Dulann thinks the previous crew's spirits are settling. Turk is also making a slow recovery, and Sarah is eager for another mission. They transport G'Kar to Babylon 5, where he wishes Martel well on the paths he will travel before he departs.
Notes: This story takes place in 2265, three years after Babylon 5 and two years prior to A Call to Arms / Crusade. G'Kar mentions his travels with Lyta Alexander (see Objects in Motion) and that Lyta is "gone"; as the Earth Telepath War has already presumably occurred, it would appear that she died during it (see the novel Final Reckoning). G'Kar quotes himself (from Mind War): "no one here is exactly as he seems... but then, who is?", and also name-checks President Sheridan (but does not point out to the Council when he comes to David Martel's defence that Sheridan was himself a joint Ranger One). He also makes reference to his belief about Swedish Meatballs being present on the menu of every civilized people (A Day in the Strife).
The Valen was a hybrid of Human-Minbari construction, perhaps one of the first of ships born of Sheridan and Delenn's vision (see Movements of Fire and Shadow), however unlike the ships seen in A Call to Arms the brick-like design of the Valen is more of human construction than Minbari. The Enfalli was a Ranger ship, and so different from other class Minbari ships as seen earlier (the Earth-Minbari War, for example, which were Warrior Caste battlecruisers). The weapons aboard the Liandra function by the weapons officer entering a holographic chamber which responds to their vision and movements to target and fire at an enemy; single hand-to-hand combat, an aesthetic typical to the Rangers.
Presumably any war against the Hand, if there was one, was not significant enough for Delenn to mention in her summary of future threats to the Alliance in Rising Star, or indeed for it to be mentioned anywhere else in the series!
Guest Cast: Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar); Mackenzie Gray (Minister Kafta); Todd Sandomirsky (Tannier); Bernard Cuffling (Sindell); Simon Egan (Minbari Crewmember); Andrew Kavadas (Captain Gregg).
Dylan Neal played Deputy Doug Witter in the TV series Dawson's Creek. The character of Tannier, according to J. Michael Straczynski, is "meant to be the same character, but not the same actor" as the Tannier that appeared in the Babylon 5 episode Learning Curve (played by Brendan Ford).