I’m late to the game in loving Babylon 5, having dismissed it for years because everyone said it was “better than Star Trek” and that I “should” watch it. I resist those kinds of marketings. Tell me I “should” do something and I naturally resist. This is why I only joined Team Harry Potter long after Book 7 was published. I certainly didn’t like the implications that it might be better than Star Trek.
Be that as it may, I have now binge-watched the whole series, except for the last episode and a few movies–which I will have done by next week. I was waiting to do an essay on the religion and faith I found embedded in Babylon 5, but I think this essay captures something of that–and so I’ll put it on the table to consider. I’ll start the article here, and then provide a link so you can finish it.
I think the author does a great job at highlighting the Catholic-friendly parts of Babylon 5. I think there’s room for me and others to discuss the other faiths in Babylon 5 as well, and when Straczynski goes full tilt away from organized religion. Still Babylon 5 is a great example of weaving in faith subtly into a story. It also deals with multiple faiths well and shows a kind of Buddhist nature at accepting all those faiths together. (You can click on the title to go to the full article, or read part here and follow the link at the bottom of the excerpt.
More on Babylon 5 soon.
Guest Post: The Baptism of Contemporary Science Fiction, by Declan Finn
Stephanie remarks: For many years, I’ve wanted to write an extended essay on the Catholic-friendly philosophical and spiritual undertones of Babylon 5, so when Declan sent this to me, I squealed like a little girl. One day, when I have more time, I will write an extended addendum; for now, please enjoy Declan’s contribution!
While I have been both a cradle Catholic and a cradle geek, I can honestly say that the two rarely intersected for a good chunk of my life. Most of the time, my thoughts on faith and science fiction consisted of wondering why the starship Enterprise was a naval vessel without a chaplain.
Then the year was 1993, and the name of the show was Babylon 5.
While never as big a hit as Star Trek, Babylon 5 – or simple B5, as fans call it – was one of the few science fiction shows that fought and won against the Star Trek franchise without being run over by the monolith.
But one thing that made it special was religion.
Originally, Babylon 5 had been easily dismissed as a Star Trek: Deep Space 9 ripoff, even though the creator, Joseph Michael Straczynski (best known as simply JMS) had pitched Babylon 5 to paramount the year before Deep Space 9. Even my family were a little wary of it at first. It was fun, but nothing particularly special.
Then came the episode By Any Means Necessary. A subplot revolved around an alien ambassador trying to obtain an artifact necessary for his religious ritual. The ritual involved burning a plant in the sunlight that touched a particular mountain on a particular day. Since they’re in space, the ambassador had to acquire the plant, and lead the ceremony at the same time as his people back home. When the station Commander finds a way to get the required plant, it was too late, the time had past. Until science fiction and faith collided. As the commander says:
What you forgot to take into account, is that sunlight also travels through space….The sunlight that touched the …. mountain 10 of your years ago, will reach this station in 12 hours …. But it’s still the same sunlight.
The ambassador agrees, and comments, “Commander, you’re a far more spiritual man than I give you credit for.”
The commander answers, “There are a couple of Jesuit teachers I know who might disagree with you.”
Welcome to Babylon 5, with the first openly Catholic commander in science fiction. My family was hooked.
Later on, in Season 2, there were two strong episodes that hit home. The first was called Comes the Inquisitor. The plot was simple: our heroes are in a war with an ancient enemy that make Sauron inLord of the Rings look nice, and an alien ally known as the Vorlons want to make certain that one of our heroes, named Delenn, is in it for the right reasons. What are the wrong reasons? To be a hero! To be adulated! To be the leader of a holy crusade!
Follow this link for the rest of the article.
Coincidentally, I only recently started watching Babylon 5 as well, and am still partway through the second last season. I find there are lots of religion and philosophy in all the shows, and it’s a great series! I’ve also found that here are a lot of parallels with Lord of the Rings too (the Rangers being an obvious one).
I heard before i started watching Babylon 5 that it was Lord of the Rings rewritten. I think that stopped me from caring to watch it. And yet, even though I could see the Shadow War section as parallel to LOTR, I found the storytelling and characters still fresh and interesting enough that the parallels became echoes. Just echoes. And I didn’t mind the echoes.