I was talking a bit about Babylon 5 last night, comparing it to Firefly, another favorite SF show of mine, and I think that I’ve figured out part of what appeals to me about Babylon 5. In Firefly, the characters are all rogues, on the run from the law. In Babylon 5, the focal human characters are members of Earth’s military. This affects the issues being addressed and, more importantly, the way in which they are addressed.
Firefly could be best summed up using Bob Dylan’s quote: “To live outside the law, you must be honest.” Mal Reynolds has no allegiance to anyone or anything outside the crew on his ship; everything else has been taken away from him. “Just keep flying” is his motto. As a result, the show focuses on the interactions of his crew, which has become his “family”.
Babylon 5, on the other hand, is about living honorably in dishonorable times. Captain Sheridan has duties and commitments placed on his: his duty to the station, to the military, to the protection of Earth , and to the preservation of peace. Much of the show has been watching him wrestle with the conflicts between these duties, as his duty to protect Earth has brought him into conflict with the government of Earth. How does one live honorably when surrounded by dishonorable enemies?
For example, in the last episode that we watched, Sheridan is in an unmarked warship, performing a secret raid into Earth space to destroy a captured Shadow vessel. He is successful in this endeavor, but then an Earth battleship arrives to secure the area. In fact, it is the battleship that he once commanded. Sheridan is still a member of the Earth military, and his sense of honor refuses to allow him to fire upon one of his own ships, even though they are firing at him. Mal (from Firefly) wouldn’t have this sort of concern; his allegiance doesn’t extend past his own ship.
I am not a member of the military; however, I am the citizen of a nation that is rapidly becoming an enemy of the God that I love. As a result, I find that I and my family are increasingly at risk, simply by continuing to practice our beliefs. I love my country, and I desire no conflict with my government. All I want is to live at peace with those around me by being a good citizen and productive member of society. But I fear that my circumstances will not allow this. Stories teach us things, and as I watch Captain Sheridan wrestle with his circumstances, I hope that perhaps I can learn for my own.