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The Vorlons ask "Who are you?" and  the Shadows ask "What do you want?", and from these two questions we experience the conflict that is Babylon 5.  Which philosophy is evil and which is good?

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hich philosophy is evil and which is good?

I like the book's (Techo-Mage 3) answer which is neither is good or evil. I think that is one thing that B5 got right. There was alot of grey in the universe.

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JMS has said that one of the best moments during the making of the show was reading people's reactions after the season 3 finale, where we learned the motivations of the Shadows, and saw that so many people thought they were right. It had always been his intention to make the conflicting philosophies of the Vorlons and Shadows more complicated than simply good vs. evil, and that was when he knew for sure that he'd done it. It's ultimately an argument against absolutes, with both of them having good points but refusing to acknowledge that an opposing view could be just as valid.

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It's interesting, because (as a result of my Catholicism) I was certainly primed to think of the Vorlons as good, especially at the end of Season 2.  But learning that they were manipulating people via their religious and cultural beliefs, and Kosh 2.0 being a total jerk, meant I had to reconsider what they were doing.  On the other hand, I never saw the Shadows as anything other than evil; it's one thing to think that conflict and chaos bring out the best in people, but another thing entirely to actually start wars and encourage fighting and death.

I think I read somewhere that JMS thought the order of the questions asked (Who are you, What do you want, Why are you here) was critical, and answering the Shadows' question first without knowing who you are would lead to disaster.  It implies that the Shadows are a little more wrong than the Vorlons.

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I think that Kosh helping Sheridan defeat Kosh 2.0 also points to the Vorlons being slightly more right. Or at least not as far down the path of those who don't believe as they do must die. Because there was no Shadow that didn't fall in line with all the others.

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To me the Shadows philosophy is right up there with "the needs of the many outweigh the few" and the Prime Directive as horrific things that pose as noble intent.  

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A place to discuss particular episodes, arcs and moments from the show. Please remember this isn't a complete catch-all topic -- check out the forum for character topics and other places for show-related talk.

Edited by maraleia · Reason: changed description to conform with new guidelines

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The Shadows were influenced by a central figure but the Vorlons weren’t so it keeps things even for me or maybe tips the scales a little in the Shadows favour. A very powerful central figure pushing out feelings of chaos to them. It was enough to lose your individually by it.

It reminds me a lot of Earth: Final Conflict when Sandoval’s Taelons tech stop working. The bad guy who sent thousands to their death or to be experimented on was a different person. Without the tech he loved his wife and wanted to do what was right but with it he all he cared was serving the Taelons and getting ahead.

I can’t judge the Vorlons better than the Shadows because I wonder how many of them would have a different opinion if they were free of the influence of Z’ha’dum.

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Also, we only saw two Vorlons, and we have no idea how many Shadows we saw, much less how many differences of opinions existed among Shadow ranks.

We know that they both enslave sentient organisms, but at least the Shadows do it for useful things, like running a space ship. The Vorlons'll do it just so they can have an obligatory Jack the Ripper episode. Vorlons be crazy.

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For the record I watched Earth: Final Conflict too. I preferred the Taelons over the guys who came later. As for the Vorlons and the Shadows, maybe it was their insect like appearance I always got the feeling the Shadows were more of a hive mind mentality. The masses went along with whatever the leaders said. The Vorlons, on the other hand, spent millions of years as religious/spiritual figures for all of the lesser races and it kind of went to their heads. It's hard to know for sure what sort of personalities the individual Vorlons had though, since we only ever got to meet Kosh and Kosh 2.0.The first seemed to be somewhat fond of Sheridan at least and the second just seemed like kind of an ass. I wonder if maybe the first Kosh wasn't some kind of an anomaly, hence why he was sent out in the first place, while the second Kosh may have been a more standar Vorlon.

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I based my opinions of the show and books. In the techo-mages books, they showed some of what Kosh was thinking and what the Vorlons opinions of him and what he was doing. There is more insights into the Shadows. If it is based on the show than I think the Shadows were less evil. The Vorlons were ready to destroy everything that was touched by the Shadows even if it meant destroying everyone in the universe. The Shadows while willing to destroy planets didn’t care if someone was touched by the Vorlons. If you were willing to go over to their side, they took you.

If I had to go back to the questions, I believe that neither is good or evil. It is what you do with those questions and both races actions were so far beyond those questions.

In the books Galen went to Z’ha’dum and found out there was a massive machine in the planet and that machine was sending out thoughts of chaos. He lost himself for a bit while he was near it. He also cut the connection and ask Morden if he wanted to be saved but Morden didn’t because of a promise he made to the Shadows and the possibility of the reward he was promised.

Spoiler tags In case someone haven’t read the books and they want to. I highly recommend reading the Techo-Mage series. Most of it happens during the war and it adds much to the story.

 

There isn't many sci-fi shows that I haven't watched or at least tried to watch.

Edited by xfuse
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Sorry, of course people in this thread would have watched most sci-fi shows, I'm just unused to that. In real life I know people who watched Star Wars (or at least heard of it) and that's about it.

The books sound intriguing, I'll check them out.

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I found the books well done or the ones I have read. Also, check out the Psi-Corp ones if you can.

In RL, I do not know of many people who know anything about sci-fi beyond Star Trek or Star Wars. I have explained the jokes from Big Bang Theory more than once. Usually when sci-fi is mentioned there is a look of confusion and/or disapproval. It is usually equated to bad tv. I would gladly trade just about everything that is on network tv for a good sci-fi show. If I had to list tv shows that were cancel that I want back they are all sci-fi. I find that sci-fi most often finds a way to ask the hard questions in one way or another. Maybe that is why i'm drawn to them.

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Funny you should say that about BBT because a few weeks ago I was telling someone I loved sci-fi and their response was, "so, like, you get all the jokes on Big Bang Theory?"

And I just remembered that one of those jokes was that Sheldon doesn't like B5, heh.

Anyway, sorry for derailing this, back on topic! It's interesting to me that I probably would have said the Shadows were the evil ones if I was just answering off the top of my head, because the one we got to "know" was a Vorlon, and so often it seems like that makes all the difference. I think maybe we'll make excuses for/try to understand/have empathy for the party we know vs. the one we don't, so that even if all things were equal otherwise, the people we know would come out on top.  And maybe that's the mistake the Shadows made - they should have sent someone to represent them as well.

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The only problem with the Shadows sending someone was that for most of the show they were hidden to the general universe. The Vorlons weren't. We were told that they were the good ones but they manipulated certain races. It was all to win the next battle against the Shadows but how good are the Vorlons when it was for them.

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I don't think JMS ever intended it to be as simple as Vorlons=Good and Shadows=Evil.  And I've always said each view had merits. The Vorlons espoused unity but what they really meant was obedience. The Shadows were all about breaking things down to rebuild them stronger. The problem is both sides thought their was was the only acceptable one and neither blinked about wiping out civilizations to prove their point. It took Lorien, the one being older than either of their races, who had been watching them the whole time to point out how idiotic it was to continue this never ending cycle of conflict and leave the galaxy.

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Great debate in this topic - I'm enjoying reading everyone's thoughts.

Tossing out another thought here: to me, it's not just the Vorlons vs Shadows debate that I find fascinating about the show, but the way that JMS used the series to explore the concept of the universe and creation as a whole. For example, one of the best moments in the show for me was from the episode "Mind War" - the infamous "Ant Analogy" scene.

To me, that scene really helped me finally understand my own thoughts and feelings about the vastness of the universe, the possibility of a higher being and so on. Just love love love it.

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I've been semi-binge watching, about a season a month, then my son grabs the DVDs so he can watch, and calls me up to say that he'd forgotten how GOOD it was.  I had missed bits and pieces of it when it originally aired, so that's rather interesting.

 

Just finished "The Corp is mother, the Corp is father"< one of those I had not seen before.  But I did see where it was going....

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I think I've watched the series about 5 maybe 6 times. When it was airing every night on SciFi M-Th I would leave it on when preparing dinner etc. I have yet to see a show, overall, story-wise that still holds up as well as this 2 decades on. 

Just yesterday, the news was talking about the latest payload to go up to the space station and they'll be growing their own food now. I can't help but think of Sinclair's monologue to the news anchor about why we have to go into space. 

With the Boston Marathon tomorrow, I was thinking about how Sheridan had to deal with the guy who was bombing on the station and how they talked about terrorism. Even more relevant in our world now than it was then. 

Just off the top of my head, thinking about how we're worried about the NSA spying on us and collecting all this data: there's the psy-corps. 

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What a strange place to be discussing Earth: Final Conflict. Liked the first few seasons, thought it went downhill in a spectacular fashion.

I think what amuses me most about the Vorlon and Shadow conflict is the petulant nature of their conflict. It's less a matter of being right, as it is the other side being wrong. I love the duality of Order/Chaos, it's an interesting dynamic.

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I often wonder how well the story would play for younger first-time viewers. At the time, the cold war was recent enough that the Vorlon-Shadow conflict had very strong political parallels, in addition to its religious ones. I'd seen the "both angels and demons are scary on Judgement Day" schtick done before. Black Sabbath's "Electric Funeral" is a great example. And there's been lots of hackneyed "Satan manipulates us into fighting a war" stories. In both types of story, though, the normal world and the supernatural world were seperate things. Once you make the traditional assumptions about sufficiently advanced technologies interacting with lesser ones, though, the division is no longer so clear, and Straczynski was the first writer who I saw really nail what that meant.

As someone who grew up during a time when the world's playgrounds were dominated by two giants, the theme resonated powerfully for me. But, while I'm not necessarily saying it's aged horribly, I think enough has changed that it just wouldn't feel as amazingly spot-on today as it did then. That happens with everything, I suppose, but it's sadder in the case of something that was that brilliant.

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I grew up during the Cold War, too, and that was never the metaphor that came to mind for me with the Vorlons vs the Shadows, so I don't think the Cold War being over for 20 years would make the story less accessible to new viewers.

 

JMS was drawing pretty heavily on Tolkien for the Shadows, at least, so I think if Tolkien still resonates with people, which it certainly seems to, this story would, too.

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I always thought of B5 in AD&D terms - the Vorlons are Lawful (Kosh 1 was Lawful Neutral, Kosh 2 Lawful Evil) while the Shadows were Chaotic (mostly Chaotic Evil, but I suppose the group Sheridan meets at Zhad'dum would qualify as Chaotic Neutral). Evidently, JMS thinks we're meant to be True Neutral!

 

Though I did think the resolution of the Shadow War was weak. If you go with the Ant Analogy, would you really leave if an ant told you to "Get the Hell out of my Garden!"

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The resolution of the Shadow War was weak but I don't think it was really JMS's fault. I seem to recall reading he wasn't sure he was going to get another season so he cut a lot of stuff and condensed it to end in that season.Then, of course, it did get renewed and since I think the Shadow War was intended to stretch over the whole five year plan he had a problem.

 

That said, they didn't leave because of the ants. They left because Dad (Lorien) threatened to turn the car around if they didn't.

Edited by KirkB

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I never really thought about the Cold War when I watched the series on its original run, but I do think the Vorlon/Shadow conflict could nonetheless resonate with viewers, because I think some of its themes (means and ends, order and chaos, "growing up") are timeless.  The Earth government story, on the other hand -- assassinations, PsiCorps, Nightwatch, anti-alien racism, sensationalistic and biased media, the "if you are not for us you are against us" attitude -- that sure as hell is just as relevant today, if not more so.

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This is the place to talk about the Babylon 5 that never was.

I don't think any show has ever released so much information about how it evolved over the years from what it was originally envisioned to be to what we saw. I don't think I've ever read it all but thought it would be interesting to discuss, so I'm digging through the bowels of the internet.

First up, the JMS memo to Warner Brothers. Early season 1 when Sinclair would be there for the duration.

 

The below are my impressions of several interpretations of the published memo {some of which disagree}.  I haven't found a single original version.

 

Interesting that the original plan was for the Shadows to wipe out the Vorlons to the point of extinction. The Vorlons are still revealed to have been manipulating the younger races and the older races still use the younger to fight their war. Do the Vorlons still turn to wiping out everyone and everything touched by Shadows? But it looks like the younger races don't kick them out of the galaxy. It seems as if there would be a relief that the war ended because one warring faction is defeated, but no victory. Also looks like the original plan was that the Shadows played the part that the Drakh eventually took on.

 

No G'kar after midseason 3? I do not like this version. But I have to believe this would have always changed even if they stuck to the original plan because their is no denying the magic of G'kar and Londo.

 

And B5 always blows up in the end. Only originally, she's not decommissioned. The Minbari blow her up. It seems like this change had to be due to a mix of always being on the bubble with no guarantee of the spinoff to wrap up the cliffhanger and needing to replace Sinclair with Sheridan. Making Sheridan the "Starkiller" and the only human to defeat the Minbari, I think to differentiate him from Sinclair, really closed any option of this ending.

 

So that leads to Babylon Prime is Babylon 4. Its interesting that they took so much of the planned spin off ending and condensed it to be the plot of War Without End. So in a very real way the entire five year story was mostly told two thirds of the way through season 3.
 

Not surprising that Sheridan subbed in for Sinclair in the relationship with Delenn. But its interesting, and I guess a little more conventional, that Sheridan and Delenn became a love match while the original plan was that Delenn deliberately changed to mate with Sinclair and save her people and they broke up in the end.
 

Who would have thunk it? B5 was kind of ahead of its time in terms of "let me tell you an engaging, but really depressing story" but backed off. Chickened out?  Although, I'm much happier with what we got instead.  Four years of will it be cancelled was stressful enough.
 

And in closing, the closing. I have to wonder if they stuck to the original closing scene, would B5 have beat SG-1 to "there are no fish in this pond"?

Edited by ParadoxLost
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I know of a few people who watched as teenagers a few years ago and loved it. It was the 'truths' of human nature that seemed to be what they liked about. The Vorlons vs Shadows was looked at as two bullies more than anything.

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That's really interesting; some of it I knew from other sources.  Is there a link to the memo? I'd like to read it.  The idea that B5 would end with the War without End story is intriguing.  No G'Kar after season 3, however, would be wrong wrong wrong.

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Yeah, I never saw the Cold War Either. First, I was a teen in the nineties, second, I'm Australian. That was all far away and long ago. The show was just plain good, it doesn't need that resonance to lean on. If anything, it was ahead of its time. Some of what happened after September Eleven really reminded me of the whole Earth storyline.

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Some of what happened after September Eleven really reminded me of the whole Earth storyline.

Me too. I remember watching a documentary type news story from the CBC about the second Bush ellection.  The reporter were listing things that US main netowrks were reporting as facts that weren't true. Some of them you were so sure that not even a two year old would believe but then then the reporter was talking to American people and they still firmly believed those lies because Fox news or whoever said it was true so it had to be true.

 

It was probably the second or third time I had watched B5 and it stuck me how Clark's control over the media was similar to real life.

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I like the way the series ended, too.  I still enjoy rewatching (I watch Alias, but there is still a tinge of bitterness about the ending).  Having a true love story unfold made left me with a positive feeling about the show, despite the 'shadow' over David.  I think it's natural for a show to evolve, especially when the chemistry between characters became evident.

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I was 11-15 when I watched it originally, so any Cold War analogy was lost on me, but I still loved it. I think it probably holds up FAIRLY well, for the most part. Compared to some other shows!  I think people today have much more patience for a serialized story now than they did back then too. I rewatched ST:TNG the other year and it is so episodic, with very little ever carrying over from episode to episode and very little change in characters. SUCH a difference.

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I'd also recommend the books, if you can find them

 

...

 

Well, the "Trilogy Books", anyway, the "Numbered" books are hit or miss, with Book 7 ("The Shadow WIthin") being really worth reading for it's take on Anna, Morden and the doomed Icarus.

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I didn't like the Centauri or Technomage trilogies. Some characters work on screen, but not on the page. Psi-Corps is good, and I really second the Shadow Within.

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Another thing I really liked was Edgars take on Clark's takeover - dictators don't seize power, we cede it to them (I reckon he would say that the Patriot Act was a perfect example of that). Even when dictators have been "fairly" elected (they mostly engaged in a lot of voter intimidation, even when they were elected), they generally were not supported by more than a minority of people. "For evil to triumph it just needs for good men to do nothing."

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But the Byron plot wasn't intended to be so substantive as part of S5. I swear JMS said all his notes for S5 were lost and the plot he remembered the most was this one. 

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Why is this show not available on Netflix or another streaming service? I was talking about this with a friend of mine who has never seen the show. She'd really like to watch it, but does most TV watching on her mobile phone while working out etc. and so borrowing my DVDs isn't really helpful.  Is there no interest in the streaming services??? I find it hard to believe since they have so many old genre shows. Are they looking for too much money for the licensing or hoping that DVD sales are more profitable? It just seems like someone should have snapped this series up by now.

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It's absurd that it's not on netflix. JMS said that there won't be new content unless a new audience finds the show and shows that this is a viable property. 

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It is available for $2 an episode through YouTube. I looked for the episodes to watch at work but I don't want to pay $2 an episode for something I own the DVDs

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Yep, much what it sounds like. JMS is planning a reboot movie to start production in 2016.

 

I think a reboot is a good idea. It's been a long time since it was on TV, a good portion of viewers have moved on. Several cast members have passed away. While the stories were very good, some of the acting and effects didn't really hold up well. All in all, I hope this actually manifests.

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