Humans as the Latest Addition to a Multi-Species Universe: Babylon 5
After speaking about Defiance last week, I would like to go to an older franchise: Babylon 5. Spanning more than a decade of productions, the universe is a strong example of promoting multi-species settings.
Humans are one of the major civilizations featured in Babylon 5, and commanders of the space stations come from Earth, yet lead with representatives from the other prominent species and cultures. From start, the franchise presented core characters from multiple species and stuck to that during its evolution. A level of cohesion in representation has rarely been achieved to such a significant and lasting degree.
The choice of having strong backstory that was featured as the story unfolded, such as the war between Earth and Minbari, helped with skipping the premise of having first contact between humans and aliens in the first season. Humans’ pride and their lack of communication is shown on multiple occasions and also gives strong credibility to the narrative. The other species such as the Minbari, Centauris, Narns and Vorlons, also are displayed with possessing flaws pertaining to their culture and/or a specific individual. These also have backstories brought into the light over the course of the show, which strengthens the compelling dimension of the series, because it doesn’t solely focus on humans and other species, but also shows the history between several of the alien species, like the difficult past between Centauris and Narns.
While Farscape is often brought up as a descendant of Babylon 5, and has displayed a complex and engaging story, Babylon 5 remains a stronger example of a large scale narrative. A space opera in aesthetic and thematic senses, the older franchise depicted strong political entanglements, relying on either diplomacy or military, explored relationships between official organizations, secret groups and specific individuals, from friendship to marriage.
Another element that adds to the layers of multi-species settings and also challenges humans as the most recent addition to this vast universe is that not all alien species are purely humanoid. Even when other species can look alike, the physical differences often stresses out even greater societal and psychological ones. Babylon 5 tackles such issues including with the Shadows, long-lasting enemies.
Staying away from Earth for the most part, even when its presence remains embedded in several characters’ development and certain political schemes, helps give new options to how humankind has evolved, the steps it has reached for better or worse.
What about you? If you watched Babylon 5, what did you think of the universe presented and the character arcs developed?