The Legacy of Warrior Love in Babylon 5
!Caution: Major Spoilers Ahead!
Have you ever seen the show Babylon 5? If you haven’t I highly suggest it. In fact, if someone asked me to tell them what my favorite sci-fi show is, B5 would have to be at the top of the list. Well, right up there with MST3K (Mystery Science Theatre 3000) but that’s something else entirely.
During it’s airing in 1993, the show was unknown to me and I was far too busy ardently following the Star Trek Next Generation train. I highly suspect that at the time B5 wouldn’t have taken my interest as much as the adventures of Picard and his crew shooting photon torpedoes did. In a way I’m glad I didn’t watch it because I’m sure the dramatic effect of the dialogue and the intelligent yet emotional exploration of Babylon 5 would’ve been lost on my younger mind.
But around 2005 I was reintroduced to the idea of watching the series and ended up binge watching it over the course of a week (this includes the movie spin-offs and Crusade.) To say I wasn’t prepared for the effect the show was going to have on me would be an understatement. With far too much caffeine in my system, a severe lack of proper sleep, and an emotionally drained disposition; I zombie strolled away from the show with a new look at what sci-fi television could be capable of. I still talk about it with awe and fervor. The show sits in my heart as one of the deepest stories I’ve ever experienced.
J. Michael Straczynski’s vision of the future on the overpopulated interstellar space station called Babylon 5, the characters that inhabit it, their daily lives, and the fantastical war-driven thematic story always manages to get me plugged into its emotional crescendo. Even in the year 2017 I’m in love with every second of it.
After recently sitting down with a friend that decided to take the dive into watching it for the first time, I was convinced that this would finally be the time I grew sick of it. I thought to myself, “Maybe this time I’ll dislike it or fall asleep on the couch.” Alas, I was not disappointed and my love for the show only grew.
Nothing seems to hold a candle to the narrative, character development, and pace of Babylon 5 in my eyes. Believe me, I’ve tried. Even with shows like Games of Thrones I still can’t seem to connect with the characters on the same level. (I do have my favorites, can I get a hoorah for the Khaleesi?)
Now, it could just be me but whenever I watch B5 something new crops ups that I missed the last time around. The plot and the relationships between characters always plucks at my heartstrings. The quirky bad graphics never put me off during the space battles. The ancient enemies and old grudges never bore me. For me, B5 is like an old fluffy comfortable blanket I still pull out of the closet and wrap around my body despite it’s fraying edges that get caught on my toes.
Since I watched the last episode yesterday I’m still stuck with the after effects of the emotional conclusion and I want to focus and celebrate two characters I absolutely adore before it leaves my system.
Babylon 5 is a show based around a space station that receives travelers from many different alien planets and also acts as the home to peaceful diplomatic exchanges between different worlds. Because of this, the dynamics of interspecies interactions is explored a lot throughout the series.
B5 is not like Star Trek in its exposition of exploring the vast ocean of stars in a ship and it’s mission to find new worlds. (Which is why I never understood the whole Star Trek vs Babylon 5 debate, they are both completely different shows in their entirety. But I’m looking at you DS9, you weird B5 cousin.) The writing in B5 brings forward a more personal attachment to the different ways that alien cultures view love, relationships, life, work, death, sex, and even food. One of the more centrally focused races in the show, the Minbari, always catches my attention.
Despite the somewhat stoic and warlike nature of the Minbari, they can be very spiritual and even poetic in the way that they see life. It’s a childlike spiritual wisdom that’s backed up with the strength of ancient warring strategies. While this can lead to some strangely hypocritical standpoints and situations between the different cast systems of the planet Minbari, the race still doesn’t fall flat on it’s back in it’s prideful honor.
You can see this deep exploration as the show furthers its growth when the handsome war hero, Captain John Sheridan takes over the stations duties and eventually becomes romantically involved with the Minbari ambassador Delenn. Originally the peace treaty was formed to keep both races from annihilating one another due to the war between Minbari and Humans. This is explained in the first season when Delenn is introduced.
Watching their relationship unfold from two official alliance brokers, to a friendship of exploration of their differences, to war strategy companions, and eventually lovers; makes for a backdrop metaphor of both races overcoming old hostilities and co-existing despite the odds of impending death barreling down on the universe. The stubborn resolve of the Minbari takes time to break through and this plays with the flighty human nature of adaptability.
That isn’t to say that humans don’t have their racist and hate filled moments towards Minbari or vice versa, they were at war after all, but this brings the willingness to cooperate solely at the feet of Babylon 5 and these two characters. They are shapers of the outcome of peace. They are pioneering in their visionary status. They are both warriors and lovers out of time. They are life preservers of the universe through their actions. These two make big choices that end up affecting thousands in war and peace. It’s damn cool.
I have yet to see someone not get attached to the blossoming story between these two powerful characters. It’s completion is even all the more bittersweet when the show comes to it’s finale. I have even seen those with the strongest disposition be lead to tears or fall silent during the final conclusion. The hope, sincerity, and love that’s generated over time between them is heartfelt. The commitment to their differences becomes a grounding of their union. This solidifies a quality aging of the main narrative and it’s monumental plot by being so closely tied in with their own life and death. Without these two characters and their synergy the show would be a much lesser version of itself. It simply wouldn’t exist.
But as one learns, when watching B5, all things change and come to an end. Death is an inevitability and this theme is especially prevalent in the final conclusion of the show as it takes the spotlight. Even here the writing doesn’t fall short of showing the differences between how both of them see death due to species relation. The changes Delenn goes through on her path of becoming more human never pulls away from her original Minbari nature. Yet somehow the writing still manages to steer her into the waters of personal connection on a human level overcoming the odds of her genetics.
The way that they never had time to be a normal relationship sets the somber tone for the last episode. The writing expunges every unspoken emotion held back between them and Sheridan’s sealed fate in a matter of minutes when death comes to finally claim him. No matter how prepared they both were, it doesn’t change the fact that they are both affected at the outcome. (And so are my tissues or tear streaked forearm..) Sheridan’s tactile stubbornness and Delenn’s strength of character breaks down in mere seconds. It’s clever and emotional writing seems to pull at anyone who gets sucked into their atmosphere.
The exposition of the death of Sheridan and Delenn’s resolute nature comes crumbling down as she watches him accept his fate with a fearless humble humor. Meanwhile she clings on to whatever calculations of passivity she can as she watches him disappear from her arms into the fading expanse of space, never to be heard from again. Their last moment and the brief words exchanged between them. The love between them is felt by all in the room. It’s like watching a wine bottle being opened as the tension releases and the finest moment of these two characters is manifested through their love of one another. It is unique to me and will always stand the test of time as fantastic character progression.
Can we get some more of this in writing television or movies today? Just my thoughts on that.
(This is the part where I tell you to go watch it if you haven’t yet. You’ll love it.)