Babylon 5 (1994 franchise)
An ambitious and complex futuristic space opera charts five years in the lives of those aboard the titular 5-mile-long space station, where personal drama plays out against a tense political backdrop of looming war between bitter enemies the Centauri and the Narn, before uncovering the secret involvement of factions of alien, mysterious, godlike, and terribly ancient "First Ones", and the aftermath of the "Shadow Wars" which expelled the First Ones from the known universe.
The series began with a 1993 TV movie, featured several spin-off movies (including the Lovecraft-lite Thirdspace TV movie), the spin-off series Crusade, and a failed spin-off series about the Rangers introduced in later seasons of the original series, before it eventually burned out in 2007 with a failed attempt to revive the series in the form of direct-to-video short story episodes that expired after the first episode due to funding difficulties (the creators do not seem to have discounted the possibility of future attempts to revive the series). Additionally, there were comic books, novelizations, video games, and other such spin-off media.
- Release Date: 1993 TV movie The Gathering, 1994-1998 series (five seasons), 1998 TV movies (In the Beginning, Thirdspace, The River of Souls), 1999 A Call to Arms pilot and the follow-up Crusade spin-off series, 2002 The Legend of the Rangers: To Live and Die in Starlight (failed spin-off pilot), 2007 Babylon 5: The Lost Tales (a failed pilot for a direct-to-video short story series)
- Country/Language: US, English
- Genres/Technical: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Horror, Drama, Action, Adventure
- Runtime: (generally formatted for a 1-hour commercial television slot, though various TV-movies are longer)
- Starring: (various)
- Creator: J. Michael Straczynski
- Producer/Production Co: Babylonian Productions, Warner Bros. Television
- Thirdspace Bonus Content, referencing Lovecraft: (link)
- G'Kar Describes the "First Ones": (link)
- View Trailer: (Thirdspace), (Year_1), (Year_2), (Year_3), (Year_4), (Year_5)
- TVTropes: (link)
- IMDB Page: (link), (link), (link), (link), (link), (link), (link), (link), (link)
- Rated: generally TV-PG or TV-14 (TV-friendly Violence with mild Profanity and Adult Content)
A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:
- SS___ (Two Tentacles: Barely Lovecraftian; could be a very loose adaptation)
The creators of the series draw from a huge number of influences from fantasy, horror, science fiction, mythology and legend, religion and folklore, and other sources as inspiration for story arc themes, plots, etc., and acknowledge Lovecraft and other Lovecraft Circle writers as important influences on the series.
- Strange, ancient, alien, and terrifying wonders, mysteries, and cosmic horrors of a shadowy and Gothic universe are a recurring theme.
- The bizarre, mysterious "First One" alien races, revealed in detail in the second and third years of the series, correspond loosely to Lovecraftian "great old ones" and powerful "servitor races" from the Cthulhu Mythos, as sufficiently-advanced aliens indistinguishable from gods, angels, demons, and wizards.
- The Thirdspace movie essentially follows the basic plot of Call of Cthulhu (fiction), with an ancient alien 'gate' to the Thirdspace dimension floating in hyperspace standing in for the equivalent of Cthulhu's sunken corpse-city of R'lyeh, inciting madness and chaos in the sensitive when the gate surfaces into normal space, opens, and allows bizarre tentacled eldritch abominations to squirm and ooze out of Thirdspace into normal space....
- A surprisingly benign tentacle-faced race of aliens appearing in many early episodes of the show will likely remind more than a few viewers of Lovecraft's description of Cthulhu.
- The occasional "Mythos Tome" full of First One lore, and other Gothic tropes, make the occasional appearance in the series.
- "First One" cities, spacecraft, and even bodies sometimes play by strange rules of physics, mathematics, form, and matter, in keeping with the "non-Euclidean geometry" and "acute angles that behave as if they were obtuse" themes found in Lovecraft's stories; Thirdspace and hyperspace play by similarly xenophysical rules.
- First One technology, spacecraft, architecture, etc. is frequently based on H.R. Gigeresque Biomechanics.
- An episode dealing with themes of personality-exchange and good and evil featured a character named after Charles Dexter Ward, "Passing Through Gethsemane".
- While many of the aliens standing in for more human characters, cultures, themes, and ideas are of the "rubber forehead alien" variety, the "First Ones" and various monstrous aliens take more exotic "starfish alien" forms; radiate and other bizarre and inhuman body forms, often involving many tentacles and other clearly non-human organs and limbs, are common.
Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.
- Y.Whateley - A rather well-done and well-regarded science fiction franchise which acknowledges the influence of Lovecraft and other "Lovecraftian" writers in painting a backdrop of a vast, Gothic, haunted universe which hides incredibly ancient secrets and mysteries and Wonders for man to explore or flee from in terror with should he leave the shelter of Earth and walk among the stars. The tone of the series generally runs toward an optimistic "Lovecraft Lite", in which human beings, clever, resourceful, courageous, and insightful, are up to the challenges of such a universe, and destined in time to stride the universe alongside the "First Ones" as giants in their own right (a possibility that is not incompatible with Lovecraft's less cynical and pessimistic writing, such as those stories involving Randolph Carter).
Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)
A space station in neutral territory serving as a sort of "United Nations" to maintain an uneasy peace between alien races is the focus of a unique five year saga. The first year introduced audiences to the general setting, the various human and alien races playing important roles in the setting, and the plots and conspiracies, political maneuvering, and conflicts between them.
The second and third year of the series examined the "First Ones" in detail during the "Shadow Wars": the First Ones are a collection of the most ancient (and Lovecraftian) alien races, beings who strode like gods across the universe vast ages before the current era, acting as "mentors and guardians" of younger races (which generally seems to have taken the form of treating them like pets, livestock, tools, or entertainment, if any attention is paid to the younger races at all). As the "First Ones" matured, those who did not go extinct through war and misadventure evolved beyond the status of petty godlike beings, and moved on to dwell in the ultimate mystery beyond edges of the universe, never to be seen again, leaving their less-evolved First One younger brothers and sisters behind to continue interfering in the affairs of younger races and argue and war among themselves, until only a handful of First Ones remained, most living as aloof hermits and outcasts between regions of known space, and the two most well-known First One races, the Vorlons and Shadows, taking leading and opposite roles in mentoring and manipulating younger races, and acting in secrecy for so long that even the most ancient of the younger races only remembered the First Ones as legends and myths: the Vorlons favoring altruism, order, and obedience while engineering younger races genetically and through manipulation of culture and religion to think of the Vorlons as "gods" or "angels" and Shadows as "demons", while seeking from younger races the answer to the central question of their philosophy, "who are you?"; and the shadows encouraging self-interest and hedonism in the younger races and acting through terror and violence, while seeking the answer to the central question of their philosophy, "what do you want?"
Other First Ones have far more mysterious and sometimes more sinister goals for younger races, including the mysterious Thirdspace entities introduced in the Thirdspace movie, which made a dark home for themselves in extra-dimensional "Thirdspace" until the Vorlons accidentally opened a gate to them and freeing the Thirdspace beings to invade normal space, until the combined efforts of the First Ones drove them out.
By the fourth and fifth year, the Babylon station was instrumental in driving the First Ones out of secrecy and into the light during the Shadow Wars, with a coalition of alien races led by humans at last declaring independence from the First Ones and driving the First Ones out of known space, to join the most ancient and mature First Ones outside of space and time to explore the universe's last mysteries. Most of the First Ones may have left the known universe, but they left their mind-shattering ruins, "dungeons" full of powerful technology, servitor races, buried secrets, and other ancient and cosmically horrific messes behind them to trouble unfortunate mortal races that happened to stumble upon anything left behind by the First Ones, and the fourth and fifth years of the original series focused on different kinds of problems left behind by the First Ones, such as ambitious ancient races struggling to fill the vacuum left by the First Ones, incredibly powerful cabals of psychics and sorcerers suddenly left without guidance and protection of the First Ones, buried and forgotten First One weapons and other technologies, etc.
Other spin-off movies and series set in the same universe have followed the new roles and challenges that humans and their alien allies face in a universe free from the manipulation, interference, guidance, instruction, experience, and wisdom of the First Ones.
Comments, Trivia, Dedication
- The series was originally conceived as a five-year "television novel" story with its over-arching story arcs and a definite beginning, middle, and end plotted out before the series began; small changes had to be made to adapt to changes in the cast, but the series that was fleshed out from the original outline developed fairly closely to the original vision, lending the entire series an ambitious, epic, thoughtful, and literary feeling unique among television shows of its era.
Associated Mythos Elements
- TO DO
- race: First Ones, a group of very ancient sufficiently-advanced aliens almost indistinguishable from "gods", "demons", "angels", etc., generally acting as "teachers" and "guardians" (for better or worse) of younger races:
- location: Thirdspace
- race: Tentacle Monsters (various alien species, including Pak'ma'ra, Vorlons and Shadows (and other First Ones), Thirdspace entities, Keepers, Na'ka'leen Feeders, etc. fit the basic description to a greater or lesser degree)
- race: Vindrizi, a race of virtually immortal, insect-like, sentient parasite/symbiotes compared in-universe to living history books (link)
- race: "Keepers", an engineered psychic parasite in the shape of a tentacled eye capable of invisibility and of controlling its host to force it to follow the instructions of the Keepers' alien masters, the Drakh (who also serve as hosts for an earlier stage of the parasite); Keepers are virtually immortal, but can be temporarily rendered unconscious with alcohol or killed by killing their Drakh host/master
- race: The Drakh
- tome: Book of G'Quan
- assorted tomes and artefacts: various other old books of lore and ancient wisdom appear from time to time throughout the franchise; the ancient Third Space gate found drifting in Hyperspace is an artefact equivalent to a tomb or magic gate or other such item; First One/Vorlon/Shadow space craft and other technology are immortal races of living non-Euclidean biomechanical organism-structures that would count as analogues to Lovecraftian artefacts and ruins as well as Lovecraftian races)
- location: Z'ha'dum (a planet equivalent to Lovecraft's Plateau of Leng)