Is it possible to learn from the mistakes of the future? Michael J. Strazinsky and the Babylon 5 Universe
2. History and Myth
a. The Myth before the Myth: the First Shadows War and the One Who Was
3. Social Structure
a. The crews as microcosms of society
b. The Women
c. The Social Outcasts
d. Homosexuality and Lesbianism
e. Inter-Racial Relationships
4. Forms of Government
d. Other Forms
5. Politics and International Relations
b. Treaties and Conventions
6. Law and Order through Space and Time
a. Traditional ways of settling legal disputes and reaching verdicts
b. About the contemporary legal system
c. Examples of contemporary Legal Dilemmas
Protection of Privacy
Freedom of Information
d. About the futuristic legal system
The Prime Directive
Time Travel and Time Machines
The use of Telepathy and Telekinesis
Definition and Rights of Intelligent Life
Laws of Robotics
The Internet and the Control of Information
Election Laws and Procedures
"Babylon 5" was designed from the start to be of limited duration (five seasons). It was constructed with one central plot line from start to finish, with many twists and turns along the way.
The choice of name for the station, Babylon, was not accidental, since it was constructed as a Tower of Babylon, and was destroyed like the Tower of Babylon, but why 5? Because four other preceded it (makes sense, doesn't it?) The first three exploded one by one; as for the fourth, we know that Jeffrey Sinclair, the first commander of Babylon 5, took it back in time and arrived to the past just in time to save the Minbari in the first Shadows War:
"There is a leaked report that Babylon 4 reappeared at its original location in Sector 14 in 2258, 4 years after its disappearance. The crew on board were recovered, and then it disappeared later again. Sector 14 has since been declared off-limits. Rumors persist that Babylon 4 disappeared into a time-space rift, and is being pulled through time by an unknown entity known as "The One" for use in a great war."
Valen and his family disappeared after the war. Some of his descendants returned to Minbar, but he vanished, and his fate remains unknown
A thousand years later, in 2260, Sinclair takes Babylon 4 back in space and time. Like Earendil, Sinclair transforms into another race (Delenn, his descendant, used the same machine in order to transform herself into a human/Minbari hybrid in an effort to bring about peace betweethe two species).
War broke out in the year 2245 when a First Contact situation with the Minbari went wrong. A human commander interpreted the open gun ports of a Minbari ship (a Minbari sign of respect) as threatening and fired on it, destroying two Minbari ships and killing their leader (Dukhat rings a bell?) The Minbari began a holy war, which lasted two years. War Hero John Sheridan managed to destroy the Minbari Flag Ship.
The climax of the war was the Battle of the Line (2248), during which Jeffrey Sinclair was taken prisoner by the Minbari. His intention was to go on a suicide mission, but Delenn, a member of the Grey Council, chose at that moment not to kill him, but to take him prisoner instead. When it was discovered that not only does he have Minbari DNA, but that he is the long lost Valen, an immediate order was given to stop the war. Delenn, one of the most ardent supporters of the war, was the first who realized that Sinclair was indeed the long lost Valen, and therefore did everything she could in order to put an end to the war, but Sinclair's memories of their encounter were erased, and as a result the question of why the Minbari stopped the war right on the verge of the final victory became such a mystery that a senior Minbari general committed suicide in protest, and the debate sparked a civil war in Minbar.
After the war and as a result of its lessons, the Babylon station which bore the number 5 was finally constructed, as the last best hope of the world for peace.
In 2260 Sinclair became ambassador to Minbar and was the first Human who was granted permission to reside on Minbar. In this capacity he contributed a lot to the strengthening of relations between Minbar and Earth (including incorporating Humans into the ranks of the Rangers) before the second Shadows War (already a part of the show's plot).
b. on the Inspirations
One of Straczynski's main sources of inspiration was without a doubt "the Lord of the Rings", and he does not deny it (as if it would help him if he did), and he is quoted as saying,
"Of course I've read and enjoyed Tolkien. But as I've said, I have no interest in doing LoTR with the serial numbers filed off."
Here are some notable examples:
1. The Minbari are very similar to Tolkien's Elves, as seen in the Movie adaptation of the Return of the King, especially the final scene where the Elves are standing and waiting for Frodo and Bilbo to board the Boat;
2. The Narns resemble the Dwarves;
3. Sinclair and the Rangers bear a great similarity to Tolkien's Strider and Forrest Rangers;
4. Delenn gave up her immortality to be with her beloved Sheridan just like Arwen gave up her immortality to be with her beloved Aragorn;
5. The first Ones were any of a number of races which first appeared on the galaxy thousands of years ago, and have since disappeared. The only known remaining First Ones are the Vorlons and the Shadows
6. Z'ha'dum is Khazad-dum
The Babylon 5 universe is a universe of war and intrigue amongst some major peoples and races, the three most important of which are:
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An international space station manned by a mostly human crew and inhabited by many other species. The commanders are military men subject to Earth Alliance (at least until the rebellion and the secession).
Bruce Boxleitner as Captain/President John J. Sheridan [ 2-5, TVMs 1-4 ]
Claudia Christian as (Lt.) Commander Susan Ivanova [ 1-4, TVM 2 ]
Jerry Doyle as Michael Alfredo Garibaldi [ pilot, 1-5, TVMs 3-4 ]
Mira Furlan as Delenn [ pilot, 1-5, TVMs 1-2 ]
Richard Biggs as Dr. Stephen Franklin [ 1-5, TVMs 1-3 ]
Stephen Furst as Vir Cotto [ 1-5, TVM 2 ]
Bill Mumy as Lennier [ 1-5 ]
Andreas Katsulas as G'Kar [ pilot, 1-5, TVM 1 ]
Peter Jurasik as Londo Mollari [ pilot, 1-5, TVM 1 ]
Michael O'Hare as Commander Jeffrey David Sinclair [ pilot, 1, eps 60-61, TVM 1 ]
Tracy Scoggins as Captain Elizabeth Lochley [ 5, TVMs 3-4 ]
Patricia Tallman as Lyta Alexander [ pilot, 2-5, TVM 2 ]
Andrea Thompson as Talia Winters [ 1-2 ]
Julie Caitlin Brown as Na'Toth [ 1, ep 98 ]
Mary Kay Adams as Na'Toth [ 2 ]
Robert Rusler as Lt. Warren Keffer [ 2 ]
Jason Carter as Marcus Cole [ 3-4 ]
Jeff Conway as Zack Allan [ 2-5, TVMs 2-4 ]
Gary Cole as Capt. Matthew Gideon
Tracy Scoggins as Capt. Elizabeth Lochley
Daniel Dae Kim as Lt. John Matheson
David Allen Brooks as Max Eilerson
Peter Woodward as Galen
Marjean Holden as Dr. Sarah Chambers
Carrie Dobro as Dureena Nafeel
We see from the beginning strong female characters in middle levels of command - my interim rank of the command (Ivanova, Takashima, Leeta, Lockley, and not only among Humans see Delenn), but there were all sorts of female Admirals and senior commanders who that were created only so that the male commanders in the field could disregard their orders By the way, one of the most notorious villains of the show was also a woman (Deathwalker).
The two female members of the Crusade crew are a thief (the last of her kind?) and a doctor.
Ivanova both a Russian Jew by origin and a lesbian, but interestingly enough, she didn't become an outcast because of either of those qualities.
The number of inter-racial relationships is very small The most prominent example is, of course, the affair between Delenn and Sheridan; as I've mentioned before, Delenn had to give up part of Minbariism in order to be with her beloved Sheridan (just like Arwen the Elf gave up her immortality in order to be with her beloved Aragorn in LotR).
The structural constraints of the show (the 5 season limit) affected the discussion of social and political issues, but even in such a short period of time the creators managed to squeeze in a lot of social and political turmoil.
Three major races with different forms of government and Earth Alliance
(Inter)Galactic Empires, whether or not headed by (evil) Emperors
In the B5 universe, only one race, the Shadows, comes close to the definition of a Hive Society, why? Because we never get to see an individual representative of this race. They are always referred to as the Shadows, in the plural. The Vorlons, however, do have an individual representative, Ambassador Kosh.
(Image 2e, mine)
The convention outlawing the use of mass drivers by every civilized society (see technical details here).
Babylon 5's Earth Alliance also practices a form of a Prime Directive, as Exec. John Matheson tells his Commanding Officer, Captain Matthew Gideon, who wants would launch a full spread of modified probes uploaded with considerable information about Earth and other Interstellar Alliance worlds (including certain recent events which had transpired aboard the EAS Excalibur) at a pre-hyperspace planet where Humans had been cast (by the local government) in a role reminiscent of the Grey Aliens in our culture, in order to expose the locals to the truth. Naturally, Gideon ignores his Exec.'s warning.
The Centauri are the first Alien race to make contact with Humans in the middle of the 23rd century.
The Minbari made First Contact with Humanity 1000 years after the first Shadows War. The result was as usual catastrophic, and as usual due to mutual misunderstanding.
The Vorlons uphold the prohibition against intervention, although it is not meant to prevent sharing advanced technology in itself, but to prevent the fall of advanced technology into the hands of those unprepared for it. They denied humanity access to advanced technology, see for example the episode Deathwalker, in which a demonic scientist offered medicine that bestows eternal life, but at a high price - half of Humanity will kill the other half in order to get the medicine. The Vorlons destroyed her and her questionable medicine claiming that "the younger species are unprepared for immortality"; Lyta Alexander also used her telepathic powers in more than one occasions in order to prevent Humans from obtaining advanced Vorlon technology, claiming that they are not ready for it.
See the legend of Babylon 4.
Telepathic ability can be lost, not just developed.
A permanent space station, much like DS9 (and the International Space Station).
The Technomages "using science to create the appearance of magic" (in order to prevent its falling into the wrong hands?)
Straczynski too had writing partners, including Robert Sheckly (A call to Arms), Harlan Ellison (Eps. 92 & 108) and Neil Geiman (Ep. 96).
In the Beginning
The River of Souls
A Call to Arms
Legnd of the Rangers, describing the birth of the Rangers
The Lost Stories, which takes place 10 years later
Plus one spin off, Crusade, telling the story of the Rangers.
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