(Was: The BABYLON 5 Frequently Asked Questions List (Section II of II) Updated 11/4/92 )
Compiled by Lee Whiteside
Portions of this file are copyright by J. Micheal Straczynski with compilation copyright by GEnie. Copyright for the completed FAQL is by Lee Whiteside.
Section II: The Babylon 5 Universe 1. What is Babylon 5 about? The date: 2257 A.D. We have gone to the stars, and found that we are not alone. We have moved quickly out, establishing relations with other civilizations that has let us leapfrog technologies via an information and cultural exchange with at least one other culture. Many contacts have been friendly. Some have not been quite so benign. From 2236 through 2247, war raged between the Earth Alliance and the Minbari, an alien federation. The EA was losing, badly. As a last resort, a suicide perimeter was set up around Earth, known as the Line. Every last ship we had was on the Line, in a desperate defense of Homeworld. And on the brink of winning the war, just as they were breaking through the Line...the Minbari surrendered. To this date, no one knows why. They could have won, but chose not to. The secret behind their surrender will gradually play a part in our story. But that was now 10 years ago, in our story. There is now an uneasy peace between the Earth Alliance and the four other alien federations. To help cement that peace, the EA has constructed BABYLON 5. BABYLON 5 is a five-kilometer-long space station in neutral space more or less central to all five of the different alliances, human or alien. To get to one or the other, you have to pass through this sector of space. Thus, Babylon 5 has been created as a sort of port-of-call for travelers, statesmen, emissaries, traders, refugees and other, less savory characters. Five kilometers long and two kilometers wide, Babylon 5 is divided into separate, discreet sections that rotate at differing speeds to provide different gravities to accommodate those who come to the station. There are also sections with alternate atmospheres. The station boasts living quarters, customs areas, docking bays, meeting areas, a casino, several bars/nightclubs, command and control spheres fore and aft, and a decent defensive grid. In addition, each of the various federations has one official representative aboard the station (with the station's commander representing the Earth Alliance), so that it also functions as a sort of mini-U.N. It is home to humans and aliens in various roles, some arriving or departing every day, others working there full-time. They live on the very edge of the frontier, in the sense that if they get into trouble, there's no one who can arrive in time to help them. Because of the nature of the travelers, they bring their stories with them to Babylon 5 rather than having to seek them out. The stories are of people in flight, seeking sanctuary; stories of smugglers, assassins, traders, mappers, dignitaries and others, all on urgent missions of one sort or another. If STAR TREK was "Wagon Train to the Stars," then BABYLON 5 is Casablanca in space. It is humanity's last hope for peace, a single hope in the middle of an uneasy, fragile peace. And it *is* fragile, and dangerous. It is called BABYLON 5 because the first three efforts to build the station were sabotaged and destroyed. The fourth one disappeared without a trace 24 hours after becoming operational. No one knows what happened to it. And *that*...is only the beginning of our story. 2. What happened in the Earth/Minbari War? The story of BABYLON 5 takes place in 2257. In 2236 or thereabouts, the Earth Alliance made First Contact with a race known as the Minbari. They were, at that time, only the second major civilization we'd encountered, though we had certainly come across a number of non-aligned worlds and smaller governments, one or two worlds each. The Minbari represent a *major* force on every level, resources, technology, sheer number of worlds involved, on and on. The Minbari are the oldest of the different alien civilizations, and largely kept to themselves. Their interests were (and are) in attaining perfection: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional. They answer to a Council of Elders, whose pronouncements are considered law in an almost biblical sense. Though deeply religious in their way, they have also pursued the ways of technology, and as such they are easily the most advanced of the various alliances. But they view technology as transitory, a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Like Tom Bombadil in LORD OF THE RINGS, they can hold the Ring of Technology but it has no hold over them. And from 2236 until about 2247, we were at war with them. The Earth/Minbari war began as a misunderstanding. The first time a Terran ship encountered a Minbari starship, they studied each other closely. The Minbari ship made a move that they thought would be considered non-threatening. It wasn't. Even in the present of our story, no one is quite sure who fired first. The Minbari ship was greater in power, but taken by surprise, was destroyed, and the Earth ship limped back to base with tales of a terrible new enemy. Minbari ships, arriving to investigate, were interpreted to be the first wing of an invasion force by the base commander, and ships were launched in response before receiving formal authorization from Earth Central. The war put a great strain on the Minbari, who have always been strongly divided between the religious caste, and the military caste, who were now forced to work together. The religious caste were quietly opposed to the war, but were generally vague about their reasons when asked. The climax of the war was the Battle of the Line. Earth had all but lost the war. In a last-ditch attempt to save Homeworld, every available ship left in the armada was positioned around Earth itself. It was, everyone knew, a suicide mission. And that's, indeed, how the Battle of the Line started out to be. In the course of that battle, a lone ship -- a one-man fighter with very little in the way of armaments -- took several heavy hits. His instruments failing, other ships blowing up all around him, he aimed his ship at the nearest Minbari cruiser, deciding to ram it in the hopes of destroying at least that one ship. He kept his ship on course for as long as he could hold out. Then, abruptly, he blacked out. When he awoke, he was still in his ship. Drifting. He fired up the engines, ready to continue, only to discover two things: first, that he had been out of it for a full 24 hours. When he lost consciousness, he had 16 hours of oxygen left in his ship. When he awoke 24 hours later...he had 12 hours of oxygen left. Second...the war was over. And, incredibly, the Minbari had surrendered. On the very verge of success in the war, they had rolled over and sued for peace. No one in the Earth Alliance quite knew why, but they weren't about to debate the issue, and accepted minimal compensation for the war. Now, ten years later, the Earth Alliance is no closer to figuring out why the Minbari surrendered. It is, in fact, one of the great puzzles of that era, debated on a hundred different worlds. Only a few strange clues have slipped out. One is that the military genius who led the Minbari into the war committed suicide the day of the surrender, though it is unclear if his death took place before or after the surrender. And the rift between the military and religious castes apparently came to some sort of climax, with the religious caste taking complete control. There are rumors of some sort of religious vision, of a prophecy of great things, and a prophecy of complete doom. But since almost nothing is known of Minbari religion, what this might be, no one knows. At the conclusion of the war, those Terrans who fought in the Battle of the Line were proclaimed heroes. One of these men was Captain Jeffrey Sinclair...the pilot who still cannot account for the 24 hours he was out of contact with Earth Central. 3. Who is in charge of Babylon 5? Commander Jeffrey Sinclair has come far in the 10 years since the war. He's had some rough times, but overall he's progressed. And he has at last been given a major assignment, perhaps the most important job of his life, concomitant with his promotion to Commander. Jeffrey Sinclair is the Commander in charge of the Babylon 5 space station. As stated, Commander Jeffrey Sinclair is the titular head of BABYLON 5. His concerns, though, tend to be more broad in scope...acting as the informal representative of the Earth Alliance, dealing with questions of policy and procedure, and keeping an eye on the Ambassadors. 4. Who are some of the other main characters? Vice-Commander Laurel Takashima: The day-to-day operations of the station are handled by Vice- Commander Laurel Takashima. (In case Sinclair is incapicated or off- station, Laurel is also empowered to take his place on the Council and speak for the E.A.) Laurel can usually be found in the B5 Command and Control Room (also referred to as the Observation Dome), where ships are coming and going, keeping an eye on who's going where. All departments report directly to her, and she is answerable only to Sinclair and Earth Central. If, as happens early on in "The Gathering," a ship's crew refuses to submit to a weapons search (a requirement for coming aboard B5), she has the authority to lock them out. (To one complaining ambassador, she stands firm on this, though noting, "I'll be happy to send them a fruit basket if it'll make you feel any better. But other than that, they can sit out there for the next solar year for all I care.") She has considerable interaction with the ambassadors and others coming aboard the station. All day-to-day operations are very much her purview. Laurel is a rarity among the B5 crew, in that she is one of the few actually born on Earth. (Sinclair was born on the Mars colony, for instance.) Thus, she has strong roots on Homeworld, which gives her a perspective that's quite important at times. She's tough, and smart, and resourceful (conning one of the hydroponics guys into setting aside a couple of planters on the QT to grow coffee beans...very much against policy, but if you report her, you can't have any). She has a long- standing relationship with an off-world mapper who works for the E.A., but is gone quite a lot of the time. She can also take care of herself physically QUITE well. Carolyn Sykes: Carolyn Sykes has been romantically involved with Sinclair for a couple of years when we meet her. She knows quite a bit about him, but there are some things he still hasn't told her. They have a very adult, sexual relationship, and they are both independent and equal. She is the owner, and pilot, of the trading vessel ULYSSES...a self-made woman who's an established and respected trader in a variety of goods. She works mainly within the Earth Alliance colony worlds, though in the last few years she's added routes in the Centauri sector. She's sophisticated, sharp, and no-nonsense...screw around with her too much, change the terms of your agreement in hopes of taking unfair advantage of her, and she'll jettison the cargo right into the sun. She has a reputation to protect, and would rather lose the deal than be dealt with unfairly. It sets a bad precedent...and on some of the worlds she has to deal with, the perception of strength is vital. Her feelings about Sinclair's position are mixed. On the one hand, she feels that he's the right man for the job, and he's doing a terrific job. On the other hand, she knows that part of him longs to be back in the pilot's seat of a starship, and when things start to get bad, she offers him that chance...to tell them all to piss off, and the two of them will pool their resources, buy a bigger ship, and go off on their own. Because of their schedule, she must find time together when they can, stolen hours before the next run to another world, another system. They are both supportive of each other, though that doesn't remove the occasional conflict common to any relationship. She isn't dark and driven, she's a strong female character who's *happy* in her work, she enjoys it -- the freedom, being responsible -- and wouldn't change it for the world. They are very much involved with each other, but because of their different lives, both know that there's every chance that this might all end between them. So they don't often deal with that question, though it's a thought that is sometimes expressed in the bedroom, at night, in soft tones. They might drift apart, find someone else, or something co uld happen to one or both of them; their jobs are not exactly conducive to longevity. So they seize every moment and enjoy it as best they can. Dr. Benjamin Kyle: Dr. Benjamin Kyle is Babylon 5's resident xenobiologist. He's in his late forties or early fifties, black, very thoughtful, very dignified...with a sly sense of humor (not sarcasm) that tends to catch one off guard. He began as a physician on Earth, and was a leading researcher into xenobiology there, gaining a quick grasp of the ins and outs of the few alien cultures that we (then) were in contact with. Naturally inquisitive, early on as a much younger man he began to "hitch-hike" onto deep-space ships, always hungery for new information that could be used by humans and outworlders alike. (His deal was that he would act as ship's physician without charge, in exchange for a bit of freedom whenever they made planetfall somewhere.) He has seen, catalogued and operated on more alien lifeforms than just about any other Earther in this time. And had his share of close scrapes, as well. Some races consider is sacrilege for any other race to "enter" their bodies through surgery...Ben will take the risk if it means saving a life. He's detailed, methodical, single-minded...and if one route is closed, he'll go another, even if it means getting into a fair amount of trouble. (Which happens in the pilot.) One scene omitted from the script for purposes of time is kind of illustrative of Ben's humor. During a crisis -- there's someone in the medical area (I'm being deliberately vague) who's in trouble, and Ben's on stims, staying awake to see the patient through -- he at one point has to talk to Sinclair. Sinclair is asleep, Carolyn beside him, when the call comes in via the bedside monitor. Noting Carolyn's state of undress, Sinclair tells the monitor to receive the call, "audio only." Ben starts in on his report...then stops. He can't see Sinclair. Sinclair, noting Carolyn who stirs beside him, says, of the monitor, "Slight malfunction." "Ah," Ben's voice comes..."Hello, Carolyn." He knows she's there, and tells Sinclair c'mon, let me see you while I'm talking to you...I'm a doctor, I'm not going to see anything I haven't seen before. With a shrug from Carolyn, Sinclair switches on the video. Ben's face appears on the monitor. He looks over to Carolyn. Smiles. "Nice tan." Carolyn's response...is best left unstated. Ben volunteered to come to Babylon 5 for several reasons: as the best in his field, he's most capable of dealing with any emergencies, and this is the sort of place where that is most needed. In addition, he's getting a little old to be hitch-hiking on starships...why not settle down somewhere where the aliens come to *you* instead of the other way around? He's single, his wife having passed away some five years ago, one more reason he's come to B5. There's nothing left at home for him now that she's gone. He has two grown children, one of whom is successful, the other...well, less so. He's been offered research grants from some of Earth's biggest corporations, universities have offered him important posts, the government would LOVE to have him come work for them (where, he suspects darkly, they would have him work on alien biological warfare)...but he's said no to all of them. His place is as a working physician and xenobiologist, at a place where he will have ample time to study the new species they encounter, and do his part for peace. Security Chief Michael Garibaldi: Security Chief Michael Garibaldi has a long and not terribly salutory history. He's been bounced from one job to another for years, always getting into trouble with someone or other, usually because he won't back down from a fight, and won't obey orders that involve hidden criminalities. He's also been framed on occasion...all of which drove him into serious problems with alcohol. He's largely overcome those problems...at least, so he now believes. He's in his late thirties or early forties, with a face lined by the troubles he's survived. He was brought to B5 by Commander Sinclair, over EA objections, because Sinclair wanted someone who would do what was required, even if it involved him. Someone with allegiance only to the truth. He got it. Now he has to figure out if that's really such a good idea or not.... 5. We've heard about the Humans, what about the aliens? Minbari Ambassador Delenn: Although the station was always intended as a sort of mini-U.N. as well as a free-port, with an Ambassador from each different alien alliance present, the Minbari refused to name an ambassador until the station commander was named first. Shortly after Sinclair was named Commander, the Minbari assigned their first ambassador to the station. His name is Delenn. And he stays very close to Commander Sinclair. Some say he is keeping a close eye on Sinclair. Some say he is Sinclair's friend. And some say there may well be something very lethal behind those unreadable Minbari eyes. Centauri Republic Ambassador Londo Mollari: Londo is the most human of all the various ambassadors, and there's some speculation that we might be a long forgotten outpost of the Republic. Of course, the only ones MAKING that assertion are Londo's people, who have much to gain in trying to convince others of that. For a thousand years, the Centauri Republic was a force to be reckoned with. Like the English empire once upon a time, it held hundreds of planets in its control. It was a great military power. But slowly, as can happen, they grew content, and lazy, and gradually their own empire began to slip between their fingers. A world deciding to go rogue was troublesome, to be sure, but it's SO far away, and it's SUCH a bother to go take care of it, when we can easily get the same things from other places...let them go. They'll come crawling back sooner or later. As a result, they are now down to a Republic that consists of barely a dozen systems and thirty worlds. It was, interestingly enough, the Centauri Republic that was Earth's first contact with another major government. The CR was well in advance of Earth science, and we all considered them a terrible power...an illusion they hardly tried to set right. Trade agreements were set up, and we gained an ASTONISHING amount of technical know-how in a very short time, letting us leap-frog a hundred years of progress in a single year. They were most curious to get cultural stuff in return...music, art, philosophy, literature..."native" trinkets that could be resold for more money back on homeworld. In the thirty or forty years since then, however, we've found out the truth, that the CR is really on its last legs. And we've taken the technology we've gotten and perfected it, and now the Earth Alliance is fast becoming one of the dominant forces of this time. And the Centauri Republic is trying to attach itself to us the way a ramora attaches itself to a shark...for preservation, in this case. They are governed by an emperor, and the government works mainly through personal and family influence. It's a very indulgent society, and Londo reflects that. Overweight, prone to gambling constantly (null- pool is his favorite), and fond of women and drinks, he understands his role and doesn't try to push it. Like his Republic, he subsists on old stories and tales of former glory, remarking -- one night, when drunk -- "my god, we've become a tourist attraction. See the Great Fallen Centauri Republic, open nine to five...Earth Time." He is, by turns, a comic figure, and a tragic figure. Londo has a wife, his third, actually, on Centauri Prime, and seven kids. And he would sooner hurl himself into the sun than go anywhere near ANY of them. Vorlon Ambassador Kosh Naranek: Let's talk about the Vorlons...because there ain't much we can SAY about the Vorlons...because nobody KNOWS anything about them. In our opening movie, everyone's awaiting the arrival of the fifth and final ambassador (four if you don't count Sinclair) from the primary alien governments. He is a Vorlon, a race we have tried, without much success, to learn about ever since we first picked up their transmissions. Several scout ships were sent on First Contact missions. All of them met with unfortunate "accidents" upon entering Vorlon space. The Vorlons tendered their most *sincere* apologies. And suggested no further expeditions. Now, at last, with B5 becoming functional, and all of the *other* ambassadors in place, it no longer makes strategic sense to continue in their isolation. So the arrival of the Vorlon is a Big Deal. No human has ever even SEEN a Vorlon. And they play it right up to the hilt. The ambassador -- Kosh Naranek --maintains only audio contact with B5 as his ship makes the long voyage, citing "problems" with audio. He clearly doesn't want to broadcast the Vorlon face all over the quadrant. So no problem, after all, he has to arrive eventually, and they'll see him then. Not quite. The ship arrives. The Vorlon ambassador emerges from his ship...and well, y'see, he comes from a very different environment. Lots of methane and CO2. Our atmosphere is poisonous to Vorlons. So he emerges wearing an Encounter Suit...which covers every square inch of his body except for his hands -- assuming those ARE his hands -- with a dark faceplate in the front. The only place he can remove all of that is in his quarters, and there are no vids in his quarters, no way to observe him or see his true face. So...even now, no human has STILL ever seen a Vorlon. Well, that's not *entirely* true. Legend has it that one human saw a Vorlon. A pilot who crashed, off course, on a Vorlon colony. According to that legend, the human who saw a Vorlon...was turned to stone. But, after all, it's only a legend. At least, that's what our resident xenobiologist sincerely *hopes* when he has to -- Narn Ambassador G'Kar: The Narns once were very much under Centauri control, and they received in many ways the most brutal treatment of any "protectorate" in Centauri jurisdiction. A little under a hundred years ago, as the power of the Centauri Republic was fading, the Narns broke their chains in open revolution and expelled the occuping army, achieving independence. The way they were able to achieve independence was through a strong military mindset and sense of pride...which though useful then, has since become something other...something darker and more menacing. Still smarting from two centuries of occupation, they launched a major effort to build up their own forces. They strip-mined their economy to get their hands on the latest weapons tech, most of it illegally obtained. They began slowly to convince themselves that they had a Destiny among the stars...a destiny of conquest. And over the last few decades, they have been tentatively extending themselves, taking over unallied planets here and there on the fringe of the Narn system, small places that offered strategic and economic value, but which were too far away to fight for, and of too little importance to (in many cases) the Centauri republic, which was busy dealing with its own internal problems. The Narn Regime now is in many ways the X-factor, the new kid on the block with something to prove. They're growing awfully strong, awfully fast. They're cunning, and determined, and quite deadly. Which brings us to Ambassador G'Kar (pronounced JAH-karr), of the Narn Regime, married to a female war hero, whose fathers on both sides were also distinguihed veterans of a hundred campaigns. In the main, his task is to use the facilities of B5 wherever possible to Narn advantage == from arranging tech-smuggling to military objectives and so on --while doing all possible to interfere with the basic purpose of the station, to create the peace. Peace is not in their best interests, though they give the opposite impression. They want to keep all sides divided and at each others throats so that they're occupied while the Narns grow and expand quietly in the background. The last thing they want is an alliance aimed against them before they're ready. One last note about G'Kar...I wanted to create someone specifically who folks would gradually come to expect is behind anything that goes wrong or afoul. "Oh, he's the bad guy." And to a large extent, for the first part, he will be...then something quite surprising will happen, and everything you THINK you know about Ambassador G'Kar will be turned completely upside down. We've all seen the SF standard of The Villain Who Chews Scenery...I wanted to take that and use it just long enough to get folks comfortable with the convention...then pull the rug out from under them. Rent-a-Telepath Lyta Alexander Lyta Alexander works for Babylon 5, but she is available for businessmen who need to make sure that the person across the table can really deliver what's promised. (Note: she is not the only one, they're pretty common in business at this time in the future.) Not an empath, by the way, but a proper, licensed (Psi-Corps, Level 5) Telepath. Bound by all the regs of the P-C. No random scanning, no access to the gaming tables, no unauthorized dipping, all deals must be on record. A telepath peeping into someone's mind or emotions without that person's permission (or that of the next of kin) can likely have his or her license revoked. She's in her early 30s or late 20s. 6. What is inside of Babylon 5? As for locations inside B-5...we've designed a number of very different looks and locations to give it a non-claustrophobic feel. By virtue of being patterned physically after the work of such scientists as Gerard K. O'Neil, the absolute center of the elongated station (which revolves to provide gravity) is a sort of hollow-world look, with fields and hydroponic gardens along the 386-degree circular section (which is about a half-mile, or a mile across)...and as you get closer to the absolute center, where a transport tube cuts from one end of the station to the other, naturally you get less and less gravity until you can literally hang suspended. And there are living areas designed to accommodate different environments and atmospheres and conditions. The alien sectors are off- limits to humans without protection (breathing gear and other measures). Similarly, a heavy CO2 breather or methane breather would have to wear an encounter suit to travel among the humans on the station. In addition, the B-5 station is actually made up of several independent (though connected) sections, each revolving at a different speed in order to create alternative areas of gravity. Parts of the station are still under construction, and parts are finished. Some sections are in daylight, some in night, alternating by level and sector. On the very outer ring, the viewports are in panels ON THE FLOOR, so you're looking down and out into space, revolving beneath your feet. BTW...the Babylon 5 station isn't just floating there. It's at the L-5 point in a binary star system between a moon and a barren, lifeless planet. Well, a *theoretically* barren and lifeless planet, anyway.... But that's Year Two.... 7. What kinds of Language are used? As for language...most times, since other groups know that they're going to a station run by the Earth Alliance, they'll take time to get the basic language down. But, of course, there are always equivilants of the Ugly American who doesn't have the time. In those cases, there will be a computerized translator, under which we will faintly hear their actual language. And, from time to time, it could be fun to have two different species at an impasse because neither understands the other. 8. What about politics in the Babylon 5 Universe? There are, in fact, a number of splinter groups in the world (or the universe, I suppose) of B-5. There are individuals who claim residency in no particular group or government, they're free-traders of the purest sort. Within the Earth Alliance, things are structured more or less along the lines of the Commonwealth of Independent States we're seeing now, with one monolithic voice that speaks in tersm of foreign policy, but within the framework of everything else -- domestic policy, economics and the like -- the independent state makes its own rules. So their are colonies and fringe areas that consider themselves by and large independent. And, from time to time, there will be sparks of secession and the like. I've never much liked the Gleaming Steel Of A Perfect Federation approach; I like things a little more tentative, less sure. And for that matter, even WITHIN the E.A., there are factions and problems and power struggles and the like. Wheels within wheels. ***************************************************************** The Babylon 5 Frequently Asked Questions List Compiled mostly from posts by J. Michael Straczynski on the Babylon 5 topic in the GEnie Science Fiction Roundtable (Page 470; Cat 18; Topic 22). Compiled by Lee Whiteside L.WHITESIDE (GEnie) 76044,502 (Compuserve) firstname.lastname@example.org (USENET) P14942@email.mot.com (INTERNET for e-mail) Sysop of the Magrathea/SEVAC BBS (602)833-9216