For anyone who has any real understanding of Babylon 5, this is the one episode which leaves an indelible impression. I know for myself that I cannot watch it without leaking tears in multiple places, though I’ve seen it now too many times to count. I suppose that tells me that I’m not just interested in these people; I’m invested in them. I buy into the B-5 universe, and Sheridan and Ivanova and Franklin and Delenn and G’Kar and Londo and all of them aren’t just characters to me; they’re people
, utterly three-dimensional, real, believable people … who have come to matter to me. Accuse me of drinking the Kool-Aid and I’ll just wipe a red stain off my lips and reply, “Say what?”
It is an episode filled with moments, from Sheridan and Delenn watching the sunrise to the Ranger arriving in General Ivanova’s office to that one shot of Sheridan looking in the mirror his last day on Mimbar and his last conversation with Lorien as the sun at once rises and sets for this former Earthforce captain. There is no part of “Sleeping” which is insignificant or unnecessary. There is one moment, though, which I particularly cherish, and it belongs to Stephen Furst – Vir Cotto. You know the scene: the party is in full swing and Garibaldi and Sheridan are laughing themselves sick about a long-past incident between them and a Pak’ma’ra:
Emperor Vir Cotto
: You know, Londo never liked the Pak’ma’ra. I mean, they’re stubborn, lazy, obnoxious, greedy…
: Kinda look like an octopus that got run over by a truck.
Emperor Vir Cotto
: That, too … but one day Londo and I were walking past their quarters … and we heard them … singing.
: Singing? They can sing?
Dr. Stephen Franklin
: There’s nothing about that in the literature.
Emperor Vir Cotto
: Apparently it’s something they only do certain times of the year as part of their religious ceremonies. You may not believe this but it was the most beautiful sound I ever heard. I couldn’t make out the words but I knew that it was full of sadness and hope and wonder and a terrible sense of loss. I looked at Londo and, this is the amazing part, there was a tear running down his face. I said, “Londo, we should leave. I mean, this is upsetting you.” But he just stood there and listened. And when it was over he turned to me and he said, “There are 49 gods in our pantheon, Vir. To tell you the truth, I never believed in any of them. But if only one of them exists, then god sings with that voice.” It’s funny … after everything we have been through, all he did … I miss him.
What is significant to me about that moment is that we’re looking at a Vir Cotto we haven’t known up until now. If you listen to the commentary by JMS or the cast in the previous years, they can’t mention Furst without bringing up “Flounder” of Animal House
infamy, but this isn’t that guy. It’s not the Vir Cotto who came to B-5 a naïve, wet-behind-the-ears provincial, not even the more self-assured and newly appointed ambassador to the Centauri who decimated a Drazi’s fruit stand in the Zocalo (“NOW! Wanna finish our little conversation, spoo-for-brains?”). This is someone else, someone with the weight of the title “Emperor” on his shoulders, someone far more seasoned and mature and actually having perhaps more than a little gravitas … but it sure as hell isn’t “Flounder.”
The last comment I wanted to make is in Susan Ivanova’s closing comments, which I think are especially significant, because they are true whether you live in the 23rd century or the 21st, very true for us as rational thinkers or anyone who seeks to live their life responsibly. It is a capstone to five years of mostly brilliant writing and believable acting and a story I am certain I will never tire of.
Thank you, Joe … and thanks to all those who made Babylon 5 the brilliant work that it is.
General Susan Ivanova
: Babylon 5 was the last of the Babylon stations. There would never be another. It changed the future and it changed us. It taught us that we have to create the future, or others will do it for us. It showed us that we have to care for one another because if we don’t, who will. And that true strength sometimes comes from the most unlikely places. Mostly, though, I think it gave us hope that there could always be new beginnings, even for people like us.