Babylon 5 is an epic science fiction television series created by, produced, and largely written by J. Michael Straczynski.

The series consists of a five year story arc taking place over 5 seasons of 22 episodes each and is centered around a large space station, Babylon 5. The five mile long, 2.5 million ton rotating colony is built to be a gathering place for fostering peace through diplomacy, trade and cooperation - "Our last best hope for peace". However, it becomes the center of political intrigue and conflict, and latterly a pawn in a massive interstellar conflict from which it emerges with a pyrrhic victory over forces of darkness and chaos.

Unlike most television shows, this series was conceived as a novel, with a beginning, middle and end. The entire arc - the overall story - of the show was plotted out in some detail before the first episode was ever shot. While conceived as a whole, and with Straczynski writing most of the episodes (including all but one of the episodes after the second season, a feat rarely accomplished in television), it was necessary to adjust the plotline to accommodate external influences. The replacement of actor Michael O'Hare as the station commander after the first season, reportedly either at the insistence of studio executives or due to different developing plot requirements, and covering the unexpected departure of actress Claudia Christian proved to be major challenges.

Renewal of the show after each season was never assured, and cancellation after the fourth season was almost certain. This resulted in a hasty telescoping of the end of the Shadow War and subsequent events in the latter half of the fourth season were modified to incorporate remaining elements of the planned story arc. In the event, the show was unexpectedly picked up for a fifth season on a different US TV network (TNT), which may be why the fifth season contains disparate, unconsidered story elements according to many long-time viewers. Some even say that the series should have ended after the season arc covering seasons 2-4, which is widely acclaimed as the prime period of the series.

As a long-term science fiction fan himself, Straczynski was determined to produce a science fiction series where, for once, things would be done properly: consistent technology, "no kids or cute robots", no new "particle of the week" to tie up a plot.

As a demonstration of his seriousness about this, he took on board Harlan Ellison as a consultant to the series - Ellison is not known for suffering fools quietly, and had seen a projected series of his own (The Starlost) ruined by the studio's interference and budget-cutting. Having a (loosely) predetermined plot was advantageous in many respects, as longer-term planning greatly reduced the working budget required on sets and costumes. The planned plot arc, allowing largely fixed sets and economies of scale, favorably compared with more episodic series which might require a whole new set of props or costumes for each episode.

Table of contents
1 Cast and Primary Characters
2 Civilizations
3 Real Life Themes
4 The episodes
5 Spin-off series
6 Related articles
7 External links

Cast and Primary Characters

Regular Cast

Recurring Guest Characters

  • Alfred Bester (Walter Koenig)
  • Morden (Ed Wasser)
  • David Corwin (Joshua Cox)
  • Lord Refa (William Forward)
  • Neroon (John Vickery)
  • Ta'Lon (Marshall Teague)
  • Emperor Cartagia (Wortham Krimmer)


One of the show's many themes is the cultural and social interaction between civilizations: the station is after all a diplomatic meeting-place. The show is as much political thriller as science fiction.

There are five dominant civilizations represented on Babylon 5, and a dozen or more less powerful ones.

Note: the interactions between civilizations causes profound alterations through the course of the show. The descriptions given below are applicable during the first two seasons of the show (depicting the years 2257 through 2259).

Earth Alliance

Although humanity has expanded to Mars and Io and occupies several dozen colony worlds outside the solar system, the Earth Alliance is still dominated by Earth. Since the end of the Earth-Minbari war, when Earth stood on the brink of annihilation, it has prospered in interstellar trade; some factions, however, have grown xenophobic and isolationist. Following the suspicious death of President Santiago and the rise to power of vice-president Clarke, the new President forms a Night Watch. This ominously named paramilitary secret police organisation is dedicated to internal security against external threats.

Increasingly powerful in the Earth milieu is the Psi Corps, a quasimilitary organization which both regulates and is controlled by human telepaths. Psi Cop Alfred Bester (Walter Koenig) is the face of the Corps commonly presented to viewers; he was named by Straczynski after science fiction author Alfred Bester, the Psi Corps being loosly based on elements of Bester's novel The Demolished Man. The station is staffed by the Earth Alliance military, Earthforce; the station's commander (first Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, then Captain John Sheridan, and finally Captain Elizabeth Lochley) also serves as Earth's ambassador. Commander Susan Ivanova is second in command, Michael Garibaldi is security chief, and Dr Steven Franklin is chief medical officer.

Centauri Republic

The Centauri Republic is a slowly declining empire that has grown decadent. The Centauri, a humanoid race, are a proud and aristocratic people who have seen better days; the Emperor and his scheming nobles leap at any chance to regain the glories of yesteryear. Centauri males run toward obesity; females are traditionally bald, while males wear their hair in fanlike crests. The Centauri ambassador is Londo Mollari, a minor noble considered past his prime, and his assistant is Vir Cotto.

Minbari Federation

Ancient when humanity was young, the Minbari Federation is a caste society, its people divided into workers, warriors, and religious scholars. The Minbari are led by the Grey Council, which contains nine representatives, three from each of the three castes. This arrangement was founded by Valen, the legendary prophet from ancient Minbari history, who the Minbari revere above all.

Minbari are humanoid, usually thin and pale; they are bald, with gray bony crests across the back of their heads. The Minbari ambassador to Babylon 5 is Delenn, a female Minbari of the religious caste and member of the Grey Council.

Narn Regime

Another "young race" like humanity, the Narn Regime were previously occupied and enslaved by the Centauri, and bear them deep ill-will because of the brutal methods of control employed. Narns are widely perceived to be primitive and barbaric, a stereotype the Centauri engendered during their occupation. This perception continues due to Narn fears about Centauri aggression, and increasing calls for retribution against their former masters.

The Narn are led by the Kha'Ri council. Their religion venerates philosopher prophets, and most Narn draw strength from various different holy writings. Narns are tall and have a stocky build; they are bald, with a yellowish complexion, mottled with brown and/or green spots. Although they look lizard-like, they are in fact marsupials. The Narn ambassador to Babylon 5 is G'Kar.


Little is known about the Vorlons, except that they are very advanced and secretive to the point of paranoia; no known non-Vorlon who has entered their space has returned to tell about it. Vorlons seem to cultivate an air of mystery, concealing themselves in bulky "encounter suits" during their rare communication with other races, and speaking via voice synthesisers in short enigmatic comments that suggest they know far more than they let on. The encounter suit and the poisonous atmosphere maintained in the Vorlon ambassador's quarters suggest that the Vorlons cannot live in the type of environment the other major races consider normal, but these could simply be more ways in which the Vorlons protect their secrets. Kosh Naranek is B5's resident Vorlon ambassador.

League of Non-Aligned Worlds

In addition to the five major powers, The League of Non-Aligned Worlds consists of other minor powers including the Gaim, Abbai, Pak'ma'ra, Markab, Drazi, and Vree.


There are increasing reports of a black, spidery ship being encountered in hyperspace, which emanates a dark fear in the minds of all who look upon it. Meanwhile, the ancient writings of the Narn philosopher G'Quan tell of a great enemy that rose to power a thousand years in the past. Known as the Shadows, they spread from their homeworld, Z'ha'dum, to rival the stars themselves:

"And the Spirit of Darkness moved upon the land. It screamed in the dreams of the Mindwalkers; and they fell, destroyed by it to their children and their children's children. Then did the Darkness come to Narn until it was driven out by G'Quan and the last of the surviving Mindwalkers."

The text is accompanied by pictures of the black ship, and ends on a chilling note:

"There is a darkness greater than the one we fight. It is the darkness of the soul that has lost its way. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams. Against this foe we can never surrender."

First Ones

The First Ones are a loose collection of ancient beings of which nothing is seen and less is known.

Real Life Themes

In addition to having an ongoing story arc, Babylon 5 found ways to science-fictionalize very real life themes and address social issues relevant to modern times.

Authoritarianism vs. Anarchy & Light vs. Dark vs. Gray

The central theme in Babylon Five is the conflict between order and chaos, and the people caught between.

The Vorlons and the Earth Alliance Government both represent oppressive, authoritarian philosophies: you will do what we tell you to, because we tell you to do it. Who are you? Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for a greater cause, or are you merely serving your own petty interests?

Other groups, encouraged by the invisible Shadows, choose to serve their own glory or profit. Serial murderers and terrorists wreak havoc. What do you want? Money, territory, fame, power?

Ultimately, the main characters and the Rangers (made up of two former enemies: the orderly Minbari and the passionate Humans) strike a balance: sometimes selfish, sometime self sacrificing, making many mistakes along the way. Sometimes they impress us, and sometimes they horrify us. Do you have anything worth living for? Do you love? Do you have a true calling?

Bigotry & Forgiveness

Babylon 5 can be divided into several major armed conflicts:

The naive viewer might interpret Babylon 5 thusly: a television show about space ships blowing each other up. In fact, most of the above conflicts end when the side with superior firepower gives in to the side with the superior understanding. Every conflict has a forgotten "third side," people squished beneath the feet of the powerful. Usually a single individual willing to sacrifice himself is more powerful than the greatest army, while an individual willing to sacrifice everyone else to serve his own objectives can turn worlds into ashes, yet still be defeated.

After all is done, we find members of the opposing sides working together to forge a new future. (Examples: the Rangers, Delenn and Neroon, Delenn and Sheridan, Londo and G'Kar, Garibaldi and Lochley.)

Ultimately, every violent conflict is born out of self interest, perpetuated by prejudice and ideology, and resolved by the realization that each side needs the other to survive. Hatred is associated with stupidity, forgiveness is associated with pragmatism, and wisdom is forged in fire.

Love & The True Seeker

Unrequited love may be the source of all pain in Babylon 5. Ivanova loses everyone she loves. Lennier is the ultimate victim of unrequited love, but also of his own foolishness. Sheridan and Delenn know true love; Sheridan comes back from the dead for love. Marcus: Sometimes love is funny, sometimes very sad. Garibaldi has trouble figuring it out. Vir knows what true love is from the beginning; his problem is getting to "number six."

But there are a few who have forsaken physical desire for a greater calling: finding the holy grail, all the names of God, or fulfilling a thousand year old prophecy.

The only alternative to having love or a true calling is to be insane, addicted to some petty need, a tool for some other power, or to be adrift among the stars. Although it must be said: most everyone in love or walking a true path is insane.

Straczynski never fails to remind us to accept passion when it calls.


Power can be addiction. Work is an addiction. Violence is an addiction. Two of the major characters are alcoholics, but "dust" and "stims" are also prominent drugs.

The episodes

Full list at List of Babylon 5 episodes

  • Pilot Movie "The Gathering"
  • Season One "Signs and Portents"
  • Season Two "The Coming of Shadows"
  • Season Three "Point of No Return"
  • Season Four "No Surrender, No Retreat"
  • Season Five "Wheel of Fire"

Other made-for-TV movies

  • In the Beginning
  • Thirdspace
  • The River of Souls
  • A Call to Arms

Spin-off series

The spin-off series
Crusade ran on TNT for 13 episodes, having been set up by the TV-movie "A Call to Arms". Creative differences between Straczynski and the network caused the series to come to an end prematurely.

A made-for-TV movie aired on the Sci Fi Channel in January 2001, entitled "To Live and Die in Starlight". It was the proposed pilot episode of a new series entitled Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers, but due to poor ratings the series did not go forward.

Related articles

External links