Babylon 5: Thirdspace (1998) is a made-for-television film that is part of the Babylon 5 science fiction universe. It was written by J. Michael Straczynski and directed by Jesús Salvador Treviño.
The movie was originally shown on July 19, 1998 on the TNT cable network, during the run of season five (originally being shown between “Movements of Fire and Shadow” and “The Fall of Centauri Prime”). In addition to members of the regular cast of the Babylon 5 TV series, it features the notable guest-stars Shari Belafonte (playing Dr. Elizabeth Trent) and William Sanderson (reprising the role of “Deuce” that he played in the episode “Grail”).
According to Straczynski,the film is based on the writings of H. P. Lovecraft (most noticeably, “The Call of Cthulhu”), although Lovecraft’s creatures (the Old Ones) are not actually referred to by name in the film.
This film seems to have divided fan opinion more than any other episode. Some praise it as a well-executed, and often effective, homage to Lovecraft, accordingly rating it as one of the finest TV-movies, with great action spectacles, intense plot and many references to the Shadow War. Other people criticise it for being a clichéd horror story and lacking in plot.
The action-based story, which ties into the Shadow/Vorlon plotline, centers on the return of an ancient and overwhelming alien force which had once attempted to destroy life in the Milky Way Galaxy.
The film deals with an enormous artifact that is discovered in hyperspace and towed to the Babylon 5 station for investigation, at which point the xenoarchaeology corporation Interplanetary Expeditions sends a representative, Dr. Elizabeth Trent, to take control of the artifact’s examination.
After being placed near the station the artifact begins to influence the dreams of many inhabitants of Babylon 5, eventually controlling many of them during their waking hours as well. These thralls, led by Deuce, first demand that the excavation be accelerated, and then become increasingly violent towards the rest of the Babylon 5 population. After a maintenance bot unwittingly sparks a contact, the device begins drawing power from the station, causing power fluctuations.
Eventually it is revealed by Lyta Alexander that the artifact is a Jumpgate that takes one neither to normal space nor to hyperspace but to a “third” space (hence the movie’s title), built by the Vorlons a million years ago with a purpose that cannot be expressed in human terms except as an attempt to make contact with the gods. In reality, Thirdspace is a parallel universe inhabited by a violent, telepathic alien species even older and more powerful than the Vorlons that is bent on exterminating all life other than their own. Once through, the Thirdspace aliens telepathically converted a small army of Vorlons to fight and die for them. The ensuing battle ended in a stalemate; the Vorlons shut down the gate, but the remaining Vorlon thralls captured the artifact and absconded with it into hyperspace, in hopes that it might one day be reawakened. Lyta then telepathically informs Sheridan how to deactivate the gate.
When the device is finally reactivated, the Thirdspace Aliens stream out from the portal in small fighters and begin a devastating assault on Babylon 5, obliterating large cruisers with little effort; the Thirdspace fleet is so advanced that the single-occupant fighters possess deflector shield technology, making them extremely hard to destroy. The violent behavior of the individuals under the artifact’s control is intended to disrupt the station’s defenses. The struggle is ended when John Sheridan enters the artifact via flight suit to plant and later detonate a nuclear bomb, destroying the artifact just as the first wave of Thirdspace heavy warships begin to emerge. Once destroyed, the telepathic influence stops and the station returns to normal. Trent, shaken by the way in which the artifact affected her, turns over her final report and goes on an indefinite hiatus.
Sheridan and the others conceal the true nature of the artifact from those who ask questions, and confidently assure themselves that the incident is unlikely to occur again. In private, Lyta broods with the knowledge that the artifact was only one of many mistakes the Vorlons have made in the past.
The central theme of Thirdspace is hubris. The artifact was created because of the Vorlons’ belief that they were equal in power to the gods, perhaps a reference to the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, and it is as a result of Sheridan’s and Trent’s shared pride and refusal to cooperate that it is activated.
Learn more about the concepts, principles and symbolism behind the subliminals found in this television series: