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Life, the Universe, and Babylon 5

At some point during the year, I get all nostalgic for Babylon 5.  I usually break out the dvds and watch my favorite episodes.  (Still waiting on the Blu-ray edition.)  Three times, I’ve gone from beginning to end.  It’s about time to do that again, I do believe.   When that mood strikes, I can’t help but think that so many things could have gone wrong with Babylon 5.  It could have been like any other science fiction show set in the far future: encounters with strange, ancient aliens, intergalactic wars, and at the center, a small band of heroes always willing and ready for action.  Luckily, it wasn’t.  In fact, it wasn’t like any other science fiction show that had ever been on television before.  Sure, the comparison between it and Star Trek, especially Deep Space Nine, were easy to make just looking at the surface: a mile and a half long station, space ships, plenty of actors with prosthetic pieces glued to their foreheads.  But that’s about as far as comparisons can go.  From conception to production, the show was truly visionary.   

Creator, producer, and writer, J. Michael Straczynski knows that characters drive stories with what they say, think, and do, and from the first episode to the last, it became obvious that Babylon 5 was not about the station or about the aliens or about the wars.  Babylon 5 was about the people.  It was about the choices they made and the consequences they were forced to face.  In short, Babylon 5 was about life.   

But, you say, it is merely a story.  True, but isn’t the stories we tell, how we understand ourselves?  We are entertained, we are moved, we are enlightened.  Truly good stories – no matter when or where they are set – are about life.  Therefore, to celebrate the vision that was, is, and continues to be Babylon 5, I’ve put together a list of quotations.  Yes, all these happen to be my personal favorites.  If you’ve watched, you’ll probably remember who said what and which episode or season they’re from.  If not, enjoy nonetheless (and then maybe go give it a try).  Either way, hopefully you will be entertained, moved, and more importantly, enlightened. 


  1. The universe is driven by the complex interaction between three ingredients: matter, energy, and enlightened self-interest.
  2. We are all slaves to our histories. If there is to be a bright future, we must learn to break those chains.
  3. As the humans say, "up yours!"
  4. We are the universe, trying to understand itself.
  5. You can never go wrong with garters.
  6. Understanding is a three edged sword.
  7. Ivanova is always right.  I will listen to Ivanova.  I will not ignore Ivanova's recommendations.
  8. Narns, Humans, Centauri: we all do what we do for the same reason - because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
  9. The third principle of sentient life is the capacity of self sacrifice.
  10. A darkness carried in the heart cannot be cured by moving the body from one place to another.
  11. The past tempts us, the present confuses us, and the future frightens us.
  12. No boom today. Boom tomorrow. There's always a boom tomorrow.
  13. Evolution is vastly over-rated.
  14. Every day, here and at home, we are warned about the enemy.  But who is the enemy?  Is it the alien?  Well, we are all alien to one another.  Is it the one who believes differently than we do?  No, not at all, my friends.  The enemy is fear.  The enemy is ignorance.  The enemy is the one who tells you that you must hate that which is different.  Because, in the end, that hate will turn on you.  And that same hate will destroy you.
  15. Faith and reason are the shoes on your feet: you can travel further with both than you can with just one.
  16. You take, Zathras die.  You leave, Zathras die.  Either way, it is bad for Zathras.
  17. There is always choice. We say there is no choice only to comfort ourselves with the decision we have already made. If you understand that, there's hope.
  18. Greater than the death of flesh is the death of hope, the death of dreams.
  19. The universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice.  The language is not Narn or Human or Centauri or Gaim or Minbari. It speaks in the language of hope.  It speaks in the language of trust.  It speaks in the language of strength and the language of compassion.  It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul.  But always it is the same voice.  It is the voice of our ancestors speaking through us and the voice of our inheritors waiting to be born.  The small, still voice that says: 'We are one. No matter the blood, no matter the skin, no matter the world, no matter the star . . . we are one.  No matter the pain, no matter the darkness, no matter the loss, no matter the fear . . . We are one.'  Here, gathered together in common cause, we begin to realize this singular truth and this singular rule – that we must be kind to one another.  Because each voice enriches us and ennobles us and each voice lost diminishes us.  We are the voice of the universe, the soul of creation, the fire that will light our way to a better future.  We are one.
  20. Where is it written that all our dreams must be small ones?



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Reader Comments (2)

This is without a doubt my favortite seris of all time. The characters journies through the seris is and was epic and two about once a year whatch the whole seris from the begaining to the end. Great read Mr Sergent.

February 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFerrell

#19 -- is the Interstellar Alliance Declaration of Principles penned by G’Kar, Narn Ambassador from “The Paragon of Animals,” in the fifth (final) season. I keep a copy of that above my desk at home.
#16 is of course, Zathras - however at our house we prefer the following Zathras quote "Zathras tried to warm them. Nobody listens to poor Zathras."

I remember all of the other quotes, but I can't attach a character to them. But "Evolution is vastly over-rated" seems like a very Centauri thing to say given their foundness for tradition.

March 3, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersue

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