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Babylon 5

"Babylon 5 meets Lord Of The Rings"


Wait -- haven't we met before?

With no B5/Crusade on TV, and Lord Of The Rings hype everywhere, a poor Fiver takes out his dusty LOTR trilogy from the shelf. This time I'm gonna read it! The original version in English! No matter whether the word order is screwed up, no matter half of the words cannot be found in any decent dictionary! And -- meanwhile suffering from a deadly vocabulary overdose -- lo and behold: When looking at The Lord Of The Rings through the eyes of a Fiver, a few passages make you believe JMS (the author of Babylon 5) must have been influenced by LOTR when he sat down to write B5... :-) Gotcha. A few examples?

Time: The Third Age

B5 is set in the Third Age of Mankind, which closely resembles Tolkien's wording that his story takes place at "the end of the Third Age":

Londo: "I was there at the dawn of the third age of mankind. It began in the earth year 2257 with the founding of the last of the Babylon stations"
(B5, The Gathering)

"Those days, the Third Age of Middle-Earth, are now long past"
(LOTR, Prologue)

Space: Lorien and Khazad-Dum

On a Tolkien map, two place names strike a Fiver's eyes, Lorien and Khazad-Dum. In LOTR, Lorien is the beautiful place near Mirkwood where the elves live:

"There lie the woods of Lothlorien!" said Legolas. "That is the fairest of all the dwellings of my people."
(Book II, Chapter 6, Lothlorien)

In B5, Lorien is the First One, the oldest being in the galaxy (Season 4, 'The Hour of the Wolf', 'What ever Happened to Mr. Garibaldi?', 'Falling Towards Apotheosis'). Lorien saves Sheridan's life on the planet Z'ha'dum -- Oh. This reminds the reading Fiver why Khazad-Dum sounded so eerily familiar!

"No matter whether you go to Khazad-Dum or Z'ha'Dum, you'll die."

While we're at it: The whole part of the story where Gandalf faces the Balrog at Khazad-Dum might as well have inspired Sheridan's attack on the Shadows on their planet Z'ha'dum at the Rim of the galaxy. Talia, too, describes her telepathical impression of Mister Morden similar to Gandalf's fall.

Gandalf: "Long time I fell. Long I fell, and [the Balrog] with me. His fire was about me. I was burned. Then we plunged into the deep water and all was dark. Cold it was as the tide of death: almost it froze my heart. [...]
Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day. In that despair my enemy was my only hope, and I pursued him, clutching at his heal. Thus he brought me back at last to the secret ways of Khazad-dum. [...]
There was none to see, or perhaps in after ages songs would still be sung of the Battle of the Peak.
[description of fight] I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountainside where he smote it in his ruin. Then darkness took me, and and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.
[Gwaihir the Windlord bore Gandalf away] Thus it was that I came to Caras Galadon and found you but lately gone. I tarried there in the ageless time of that land where days bring healing, not decay. Healing I found, and I was clothed on white. Counsel I gave and counsel took. [...]"
(Book III, Chapter 3, The White Rider)

Talia [after telepathically meeting Morden]: "It was terrible, like falling into a bottomless well and cold, so cold and just for a second and I thought I saw this... [...] shape."
(Season 2, In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum)

In B5, while Sheridan's WhiteStar Ship kamikazes onto the Shadow capital during tea time, he himself escapes from the Shadows' tearoom by jumping into a handy abyss close by. He too seems to fall for ages, while the explosives in the WhiteStar's trunk do their destructive work above.

Kosh Naranek to Sheridan: "If you go to Z'ha'dum, you will die."
(Season 2, In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum)

Like Gandalf's Battle, Sheridan's attack is not watched by any eye-witnesses. [None that lived to tell, at any rate. Or ... Technomages, maybe?] Sheridan, like Gandalf, is declared dead by his crew, but he too returns, alive and kicking, and does not tell exactly how he survived and got back to the Spacestation. All we know is that the First One Lorien was involved. (see also Tic Toc)

Sheridan: "I went to Z'ha'dum. I've seen the face of the enemy. They're not gods and they're not indestructible. [...] You tell your government, that the only man to survive Z'ha'dum sends this message. We can end this, not just for now, not just for the next thousand years, but forever! I stand before you as proof that it can be done. We can fight and we can win, but only if we do it together! Can I count on you?"
(Season 4, The Summoning)

Zathras meets Smeagol

Now look here -- doesn't Zathras speak a bit like Smeagol/Gollum? :-) Of courses not in every aspect, but both of them have trouble using first person singular, they repeat phrases to stress them, both are eager to help (or at least pretend so), and both are a bit weird, pessimistic and uniqe. Smeagol hisses and Zathras tsks, they talk to themselves, and both move in an alien way.

'Yess, yes indeed,' said Gollum sitting up. 'Nice hobbits! We will come with them. Find them safe paths in the dark, yes we will. And where are they going in these cold hard lands, we wonders, yes we wonders?'
(Book IV, Chapter 1, The Taming of Smeagol)

'Yes, yes,' agreed Gollum, skipping about. 'Off we go! There's only one way across between the North-end and the South-end. I found it, I did. Orcs don't use it, Orcs don't know it. Orcs don't cross the Marshes, they go round for miles and miles. Very lucky you came this way. Very lucky you found Smeagol, yes. Follow Smeagol!'
(Book IV, Chapter 1, The Taming of Smeagol)

Zathras: "Yes, yes, Zathras is used to being beast of burden to other people's needs. Very sad life. Probably have very sad death. But at least there is symmetry. Go, go, Zathras take care."
(Season 3, War Without End I)

Compare these too, and you see what I mean.

[...] Gollum returned; [...] His fingers and face were soiled with black mud. He was still chewing and slavering. What he was chewing, they did not ask or like to think.
'Worms or beetles or something slimy out of holes,' thought Sam. 'Brr! The nasty creature; the poor wretch!'
Gollum said nothing to them, until he had drunk deeply and washed himself in the stream. Then he came up to them, licking his lips. 'Better now,' he said. `Are we rested? Ready to go on? Nice hobbits, they sleep beautifully. Trust Smeagol now? Very, very good.'

(Book IV, Chapter 2, The Passage of the Marshes)

Zathras: "So Zathras talks to dirt. Sometimes talks to walls or talks to ceilings, but dirt is closer. Dirt used to everyone walking on it. Just like Zathras, but we have come to like it. It is our role. It is our destiny in the Universe. So you see, sometimes dirt has insects in it. Zathras like insects. Not so good for conversation, but much protein for diet. "
(Season 4, Conflicts of Interests)

'Ach! No!' [Smeagol] spluttered. 'You try to choke poor Smeagol. Dust and ashes, he can't eat that. He must starve. But Smeagol doesn't mind. Nice hobbits! Smeagol has promised. He will starve. He can't eat hobbits' food. He will starve. Poor thin Smeagol!'
(Book IV, Chapter 2, The Passage of the Marshes)

Zathras: "No one every listens to Zathras. Quite mad they say. It is good that Zathras does not mind. Has even grown to like it. Oh, yes."
(Season 3, War Without End II)

'Where iss it, where iss it: my Precious, my Precious? It's ours, it is, and we wants it.
(Book IV, Chapter 1, The Taming of Smeagol)

Zathras: "Very damaged. Zathras can never have anything nice."
(Season 3, War Without End I)

PsiCorps meets Palantir

The description of the Palantir resembles many of the later descriptions of telepathy in the Fantasy/SciFi genre.

Sinclair to Bester: "Get out of my head! If you want to talk to me - TALK to me!"
(Season 1, Mind War)

[Pippin about Sauron] "He did not speak so that I could hear words. He just looked, and I understood."
(Book III, Chapter 11, Palantir)

The Shadows

When I read the following passages from LOTR the first time, I pictured their meaning literally, as if the Shadows were giant beasts that would walk or lie down -- maybe that's how JMS has gotten the idea of the alien race of the Shadows?

"Then Minas Anor was named anew Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard; and these two cities were ever at war, but Osgiliath which lay between was deserted and in its ruins shadows walked."
(Book II, Chapter 2, The Council of Elrond)

"One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them /
In the Land of Mordor where the shadows lie."

(Book I, Chapter 2, The Shadow of the Past)

"The shadow takes another shape and grows again.
(Book I, Chapter 2, The Shadow Of The Past)

Do you remember the episode (or the flashback scene respectively) where Londo Mollari watches a fleet of giant Shadow vessel crossing the sky on Centauri Prime, or the Shadow vessels that Keffer watched? Sounds just like a Nazgul attack crossed with Shelob...

Keffer [about the Shadow vessel]: "It was jet black... A shade of black your eye just slides off it... It shimmered when you looked at it... A spider big as death and twice as ugly... When it flies past, it's like you hear a scream in your mind... I saw it, too."
(B5 Season 2, The Fall of Night)

There agelong [Shelob] had dwelt, an evil thing in spider-form...
(Book IV, Chapter 9, Shelob's Lair)

At that moment a shadow fell over them. The bright moonlight seemed to be suddenly cut off. Several of the Riders cried out, and crouched, holding their arms above their heads, as if to ward off a blow from above: a blind fear and a deadly cold fell on them. Cowering they looked up. A vast winged shape passed over the moon like a black cloud. It wheeled and went north, flying at a speed greater than any wind of Middle-earth. The stars fainted before it. It was gone.
(Book III, Chapter 11, Palantir)

Pippin [about what he saw through the Palantir] "I saw a dark sky, and tall battlements,' he said. 'And tiny stars. It seemed very far away and long ago, yet hard and clear. Then the stars went in and out - they were cut off by things with wings. Very big, I think, really; but in the glass they looked like bats wheeling round the tower. I thought there were nine of them."
(Book III, Chapter 11, Palantir)

Various Big Angry Ancient Beings

B5 tells the story of two ancient, powerful, giant races, the Vorlons and the Shadows; In LOTR, the oldest beings are the Ents.

Gandalf: "Treebeard is Fangorn, the guardian of the forest; he is the oldest of the Ents, the oldest living thing that still walks beneath the sun upon this Middle-Earth."
(Book III, Chapter 5, The White Rider)

Delenn: "There are beings in the universe billions of years older than either of our races. Once, long ago, they walked among the stars like giants, vast and timeless. They taught the younger races, explored beyond the rim, created great empires."
(Season 2, In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum)

The Shadows and The Vorlons fight each other at the costs of the 'lesser' sentient inhabitants of their galaxy, such as Humans, Centauri, Minbari and many others. The same picture can also be found in LOTR:

"It is a pity that our friends [of Rohan] lie inbetween," said Gimli. "If no land divided Isengard and Mordor, then they could fight while we watched and waited."
(Book III, Chapter 5, The White Rider)

Sheridan: "We're going into the heart of the fire; on one side the Vorlons, on the other the Shadows, and us in the middle. Whether any of us will ever come back, I don't know."
(Season 4, The Long Night)

In B5, the First Ones have retreated and have not meddled with the affairs of the Younger Races for thousands of years. But they (Lorien, Kosh, or the "Zog!"-Thing; in 'Voices of Authority' for example) are stired into action by the B5 crew to assist the younger races in the great battle. In LOTR, the Hobbits woke the Ents up and made them attack Isengard.

Delenn: "Not all of the First Ones have gone away. A few stayed behind, hidden or asleep, waiting for the day when they may be needed... when the Shadows come again."
(Season 2, In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum)

Treebeard: 'I used to be anxious when the shadow lay on Mirkwood, but when it removed to Mordor, I did not trouble for a while: Mordor is a long way away. [...] But Saruman now! Saruman is a neighbour: I cannot overlook him. I must do something, I suppose.'
(Book III, Chapter 4, Treebeard)

The old Elves leave Middle-Earth westward (LOTR), while the First Ones leave beyond the rim of the Galaxy (B5) -- free beer in the Delta Quadrant, anyone?

"Elves, who seldom walked in the Shire, could now be seen passing westward through the woods in the evening, passing and not returning; but they were leaving Middle-Earth and were no longer concerned with its troubles."
(Book I, Chapter 2, The Shadow Of The Past)

Delenn: "Slowly, over a million years, the First Ones went away. Some passed beyond the stars, never to return. Some simply disappeared."
(Season 2, In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum)

The Ringwraiths and other creatures that obey the evil powers in LOTR might correspond to the Shadows' allies (Drakh, Morden, PsiCorps) in B5 -- allies who might still attack even after the Shadows are gone.

"Long ago they fell under the dominion of The One, and they became Ringwraiths, shadows under his great Shadow, his most terrible servants. Long ago. It is many a year since the Nine walked abroad. Yet who knows? As the Shadow grows once more, they too may walk again."
(Book I, Chapter 2, The Shadow Of The Past)

Londo: "You drove away the Shadows. Oh yes. But you did not think to clean up your mess! If a few of their minions, their dark servants, came to Centauri Prime, well. Where is the harm in that? Yes."
(Season 3, War Without End I ?)

And doesn't this quote remind you of Babylon 4, Valen and the Minbari driving out the Shadows, but 1000 years later they reappered even stronger?

"It seemed that the evil power in Mirkwood had been driven out by the White Council only to reappear in greater strength in the old strongholds of Mordor."
(Book I, Chapter 2, The Shadow Of The Past)

Delenn: "We have no other name for them. The Shadows were old when even the Ancients were young. They battled one another over and over across a million years. The last great war against the Shadows was ten thousand years ago. It was the last time the Ancients walked openly among us. The Shadows were only defeated, not destroyed. A thousand years ago, the Shadows returned to their places of power, rebuilt them, and began to stretch forth their hand. Before they could strike, they were defeated by an alliance of worlds, including the Minbari... and the few remaining First Ones who had not yet passed beyond the Veil. When they had finished, the First Ones went away... all but one."
(Season 2, In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum)

With a bit of imagination, one could believe "White Council" and other phrases of the above quotes may have ended up later in B5 as the "Gray Council" and "The One" -- even The Nine Zathrases or the Nine Members of The Gray Council are fore...'shadowed' in LOTR! Allright, I admit these might as well be considered a tiny bit far-fetched... ;-)

Zathras: "All Minbari belief is around three. Three castes: Worker, Warrior, religious. Three languages. Light, Dark, and Gray. The nine of the gray council, three times three. All is three, as you are three, as you are one, as you are The One. You are The One who was (Sinclair). You are The One who is (Delenn). You are The One who will be (Sheridan). You are the beginning of the story (Sinclair) and the middle of the story (Delenn), and the end of story (Sheridan), that creates the next great story. In heart you know what Zathras say is true."
(Season 3, War Without End II)

The Fellowship meets The Rangers

To sum it up, the fighting parties of the Shadows and the Vorlons could correspond to the two old Wizards Sauron and Saruman; Kosh Naranek and Lorien could be Gandalf and Treebeard -- mysterious and mighty, but helpful. The Minbari are the most experienced and wisest of the younger people of the B5-universe, like the Elves are of Middle-Earth; the Drakh and other smaller races correspond to the Orcs and Ringwraiths, whereas the Humans, Centauri and Narn play similar roles as Tolkien's Hobbits, Rohirrim, or Dwarves.

Elrond: 'The Company of the Ring shall be Nine; and the Nine Walkers shall be set against the Nine Riders that are evil. With you and your faithful servant, Gandalf will go; for this shall be his great task, and maybe the end of his labours. For the rest, they shall represent the other Free Peoples of the World: Elves, Dwarves, and Men. Legolas shall be for the Elves; and Gimli son of Gloin for the Dwarves. They are willing to go at least to the passes of the Mountains, and maybe beyond. For men you shall have Aragorn son of Arathorn [...]'
'Then, Master Elrond, you will have to lock me in prison, or send me home tied in a sack,' said Pippin. 'For otherwise I shall follow the Company.'
'Let it be so then. You shall go,' said Elrond, and he sighed. 'Now the tale of Nine is filled. In seven days the Company must depart.' "

(Book II, Chapter 3, The Ring Goes South)

The members of the Fellowship of the Ring wear elven cloaks fastened with a precious elven brooch. The B5 Rangers, too, wear a special pin on their cloaks, each containing a Minbari stone called Izil'zha (Season 3, Matters Of Honor).

"Each cloak was fastened about the neck with a brooch like a green leaf veined with silver."
(Book II, Chapter 8, Farewell to Lorien)

Franklin: "You know, I was noticing that pin you wear. All the other Rangers wear one just like it, but I don't know what it means."
Marcus: "The two figures on either side, one human, the other Minbari. They blend together in the middle to signify the two halves of our souls uniting against the common enemy."
Franklin: "This jewel?"
Marcus: "The Minbari call that Isil'zha, means 'the future', 'birth', 'beginning', 'dawn of a new age'.

(Season 3, A Late Delivery from Avalon)

Also the duties of both the Fellowship and the Rangers are similarily heroic, honorable, self-sacrifying and adventurous. Both groups consist of "international" teams (Minbari, Humans, Centauri, Narn etc versus Elves, Humans, Dwarves, Hobbits) who have never worked together before.

Then there is also a people mentioned in LOTR explicitly named The Rangers: the last remnant in the North of the great people, the Men of the West, like Strider/Aragorn for example:

But in the wild lands beyond Bree there were mysterious wanderers. The Bree-folk called them Rangers, and knew nothing of their origin. They were taller and darker than the Men of Bree and were believed to have strange powers of sight and hearing, and to understand the languages of beasts and birds. They roamed at will southwards, and eastwards even as far as the Misty Mountains; but they were now few and rarely seen. When they appeared they brought news from afar, and told strange forgotten tales which were eagerly listened to; but the Bree-folk did not make friends of them.
(Book I, Chapter 9, At the Sign of The Prancing Pony)

A little apart the Rangers sat, silent, in an ordered company, armed with spear and bow and sword. They were clad in cloaks of dark grey, and their hoods were cast now over helm and head. [...] There was no gleam of stone or gold, nor any fair thing in all their gear and harness: nor did their riders bear any badge or token, save only that each cloak was pinned upon the left shoulder by a brooch of silver shaped like a rayed star.
(Book V, Chapter 2, The Passing of the Grey Company)

But of course there is no such thing as "The One Ring" in B5 (this would have been too obvious ;-) ). However there is "Entil'zha, The One"!


Trivia: Which of those titles are B5 episodes, and which are LOTR chapters? :-) Does it make any difference? Would anybody notice if Tolkien and JMS swapped a few?

Acts Of Sacrifice, All Alone In The Night, The Coming Of Shadows, The Fall Of Night, The Gathering, The Geometry Of Shadows, In Darkness Find Me, In The Shadow Of Z'Ha'Dum, Matters Of Honor, Points Of Departure, A Race Through Dark Places, Shadow Dances, Passing Through Gethsemane, Voices Of Authority, A Late Delivery from Avalon, War Without End, Shadows Past And Present, There All The Honor Lies, A Voice In The Wilderness, The War Prayer, In The Kingdom Of The Blind, Meditations On The Abyss, Sleeping In Light, The Hour Of The Wolf, The Summoning, Into The Fire, No Surrender No Retreat, The Face Of The Enemy, Soulhunter, ... The Shadow Of The Past, A Knife in the Dark, Of Herbs And Stewed Rabbit, Journey To The Cross-Roads, The Bridge Of Kazad-Dum, The Passing Of The Grey Company, The Black Gate Opens, Many Partings, The White Rider, The Voice Of Saruman, The Passage Of The Marshes, The Window On The West, At The Sign Of The Prancing Pony, The Land Of Shadow, The Two Towers, A Shortcut To Mushrooms, A Conspiracy Unmasked, Three is Company, Strider, The Council Of Elrond, A Journey In The Dark, The Choices Of Master Samwise, ...

Some (almost) literal quotes

No comment... :-)

Gandalf to Frodo: "Expect me when you see me!"
(Book I, Chapter 1, A Long-expected Party)

Galen: "Expect me, when you see me."
(Crusade, War Zone)

G'kar: "Expect me, when you see me."
(Season 1, Chrysalis)

Wizards and TechnoMages coincidentally seem similarily "quick to anger", eh? Also it is said the Elves say both yes and no - like the Minbari, who don't lie, but they never tell you the whole truth.

Gildor was silent for a moment. 'I do not like this news,' he said at last. 'That Gandalf should be late, does not bode well. But it is said: Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger. The choice is yours: to go or wait.'
'And it is also said,' answered Frodo: 'Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.'

(Book I, Chapter 3 Three is Company)

Elric: "Do not try the patience of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger."
(Season 2, The Geometry of Shadows)

Frodo and Ivanova - Brothers of Soul? ;-)

'Wake up, Mr. Frodo! Wake up!'
Frodo stirred and opened his eyes, and smiled, seeing Sam's face bending over him. 'Calling me early aren't you, Sam?' he said. 'It's dark still!' 'Yes it's always dark here,' said Sam.

(Book IV, Chapter 8, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol)

Sinclair: "Sleep well?"
Ivanova: "Sleeping is not the problem. Waking up -- that is a problem. I've always had a hard time getting up when it's dark outside."
Sinclair: "But in space it's always dark!"
Ivanova: "I know. I know."

(Season I, Signs And Portents)