In 2278, Centauri Prime is burning. From a window, a man observes the planet in flames. Two children, Luc and Lyssa, are playing in the throne room, and looking out the window. Their governess tells them it is the Emperor’s window and only he can look out through it. The aged Emperor Londo Mollari (Peter Jurasik) hears and has the children brought before him. He names them Emperor and says they may have whatever they want. Luc wants a story of great battles and heroes, and Lyssa wants a true story. He gives them both.
The human race, fresh from conquering the Dilgar, is expanding through the galaxy. They hear of the strange Minbari race. Londo says to leave them alone, but the humans are intrigued. The Minbari Grey Council, led by Dukhat, is concerned that the Shadows may have returned to Z’ha’dum as prophesied by Valen. As they investigate, they run into Earth ships, led by the Prometheus.
The Minbari approach Prometheus, studying it with their long-range sensors, not knowing that their powerful EMP field generators disable the Prometheus’s jump engine, preventing the Earth ship from retreating. They open their gunports as a sign of respect, showing that they have nothing to hide, much like the offer of an open hand. The Captain of Prometheus opens fire, killing the Minbar’s beloved Dukhat. The Grey Council declares holy war against the human race and the Earth-Minbari War begins.
For three years, the Minbari are dominant. The humans are overwhelmed by the superior Minbari forces and technology, and the humans are slaughtered. Lieutenant Commander John Sheridan (Bruce Boxleitner) of the Lexington, his commander dead, assumes command and seeds the local asteroids with mines. The Black Star, the Minbari flagship, is destroyed by the mines, which constitutes the only real victory of the humans. A faction of the Minbari leadership is considering peace, but intelligence discovers that the humans are attending a secret meeting booked by the Narn. Fearing that this is about securing superior weapons, the Centauri bomb the peace conference. So much for peace.
Facing even greater losses, the President of Earth orders every available ship to form a line of defense. Satai Delenn (Mira Furlan) of the Grey Council captures a human pilot named Jeffrey Sinclair (Michael O’Hare) to learn about human defenses. They discover that he bears the soul of Valen, the revered religious leader of the Minbari. After examining other humans, they learn that Minbari souls are being reincarnated in human beings. Minbari do not kill Minbari. With Earth’s defenses collapsing before them, they surrender and return home to Minbar, telling no-one why they have done so.
Earth builds a space station to serve as a kind of United Nations in space, to prevent future misunderstandings. The Babylon stations are destroyed by terrorists and other forces until they come to Babylon Five. After the children leave, Londo views Delenn and Sheridan in captivity in the Centauri palace. Then he drinks massively to put his alien Keeper to sleep so they can escape.
Luc and Lyssa (not to be confused with Luke and Leia, of course) are the niece and nephew of Urza Jaddo, whom Londo killed in a duel. The woman Senna who cares for them is the daughter of Lord Refa, whom Londo had murdered. Senna later marries the Emperor Vir and becomes Empress when he ascends the throne. It is common for Centauri to take in the orphans and widows of the people they kill. Robin Sachs plays Coplann, a member of the Grey Council. In an episode of Star Trek Voyager, he plays an alien named Valen. This story and the information within are all available in the series, revealed a bit at a time over five years. But this movie is full of detail and cameos of the characters we know and love. It is told like an engaging fairy tale by the avuncular, if deadly, Londo Mollari to children of his family. It was aired in the hiatus between the fourth and fifth seasons.