Author Archives: Natacha Guyot

Humans as the Latest Addition to a Multi-Species Universe: Mass Effect

Following up my posts about humans as latest additions to a multi-species universe, I would like to talk about the Mass Effect franchise. Besides being a huge Bioware fan because of their storytelling, I find that Mass Effect could be considered a “true” legacy to Babylon 5.


Mass Effect depicts a universe with multiple important alien species, which also have history among them. This is both brought to light in actual missions but also through discussions. One thing I love in video game is being able to interact and learn more about not only my character’s companions but also the larger picture thanks to the companions’ (or even other NPCs encountered) backgrounds.

Like in Babylon 5, the story engages at a point where humankind already works with alien species in an established setting. Yet, humans as the most recent addition still have to prove themselves and negotiate certain remaining barriers. The first game shows that well since the protagonist works on being the first human allowed into the prestigious Spectre force. This elite group answers directly to the Citadel Council. It is interesting to see that while nothing new in Science Fiction stories, Mass Effect featuring a hub of activity on the Citadel space station, also ties into the kind of successful setting Babylon 5 provided, as well in its treatment of political and underground organizations.

Mass Effect 2 Companion Team.

Mass Effect 2 Companion Team.

Mass Effect has a stronger military aspect than Babylon 5 did. The game is indeed strongly combat-oriented in how the player can progress. Yet Bioware storytelling approach, including the moral choices allowed in the conversations give a certain degree of realness to the interactions and the character development. The interactive nature of a video game is obviously different from how a spectator responds to watching a television show, but building credible characters, lead or supporting, remains a strong storytelling component.

It is interesting to see how humans are perceived and handle interaction with numerous alien species. The fact that the games allow for a solid level of customization as well as choice span, which can impact friendships, rivalries, or even romances, helps the player get a more complex experience. The game can be enjoyed for gameplay, story, the pondering on a possible trajectory for humankind in the future can certainly be a very engaging asset of the franchise.


If you played Mass Effect, what did you think of the different civilizations interacting? Did the evolution of humankind’s place in the grand scheme of things have an impact on your experience?

Humans as the Latest Addition to a Multi-Species Universe: Babylon 5

After speaking about Defiance last week, I would like to go to an older franchise: Babylon 5. Spanning more than a decade of productions, the universe is a strong example of promoting multi-species settings.


Humans are one of the major civilizations featured in Babylon 5, and commanders of the space stations come from Earth, yet lead with representatives from the other prominent species and cultures. From start, the franchise presented core characters from multiple species and stuck to that during its evolution. A level of cohesion in representation has rarely been achieved to such a significant and lasting degree.

The choice of having strong backstory that was featured as the story unfolded, such as the war between Earth and Minbari, helped with skipping the premise of having first contact between humans and aliens in the first season. Humans’ pride and their lack of communication is shown on multiple occasions and also gives strong credibility to the narrative. The other species such as the Minbari, Centauris, Narns and Vorlons, also are displayed with possessing flaws pertaining to their culture and/or a specific individual. These also have backstories brought into the light over the course of the show, which strengthens the compelling dimension of the series, because it doesn’t solely focus on humans and other species, but also shows the history between several of the alien species, like the difficult past between Centauris and Narns.

Babylon 5 cast (season 1).

Babylon 5 cast (season 1).

While Farscape is often brought up as a descendant of Babylon 5, and has displayed a complex and engaging story, Babylon 5 remains a stronger example of a large scale narrative. A space opera in aesthetic and thematic senses, the older franchise depicted strong political entanglements, relying on either diplomacy or military, explored relationships between official organizations, secret groups and specific individuals, from friendship to marriage.

Another element that adds to the layers of multi-species settings and also challenges humans as the most recent addition to this vast universe is that not all alien species are purely humanoid. Even when other species can look alike, the physical differences often stresses out even greater societal and psychological ones. Babylon 5 tackles such issues including with the Shadows, long-lasting enemies.

Staying away from Earth for the most part, even when its presence remains embedded in several characters’ development and certain political schemes, helps give new options to how humankind has evolved, the steps it has reached for better or worse.


What about you? If you watched Babylon 5, what did you think of the universe presented and the character arcs developed?

Humans as the Latest Addition to a Multi-Species Universe: Defiance

To start my new series about humans as latest addition to a multi species setting, I will focus on the recent TV show Defiance.


While aliens invading Earth is a longtime Science Fiction trope, including on TV, with series such as V, Falling Skies or even The X-Files, Defiance brings an interesting flavor. Defiance is set far enough in time for the change of Earth to have happened, with both pre-existing species and some having emerged prior to the start of the story. Instead of going through a strong invasion setting, the story is more interested in the coexistence of all the species, whether with peaceful times or violently conflicts.

All species still have their biases and issues, regardless of how long they have existed. While the story takes place on Earth, it has been terra-formed so extensively that there isn’t that much left of previous Earth times and cultures, besides a very Western-like feel. Contrary to Firefly, this one has a lot more alien diversity, which is one of the strengths of the shows.

I liked how certain things remained undeniably linked to human history, such as brothels. The NeedWant’s owners were human (including one of my favorite characters in the show, Kenya Rosewater); and a significant part of the sex workers (Night Porters) were human as well, although patrons are from multiple species.

It was also plausible that the screenwriters kept humankind as one of the populations exhibiting racism, notably with some nasty reactions to Irisa, human Nolan’s adopted Irathient daughter.

Nolan and Irisa.

Nolan and Irisa.

I admit not having watched the third and final season so far, as I am horribly behind on TV catch-up! I have also been more curious about the eponymous MMORPG. I never played it but was surprised that it was still going on even after the end of the show. As I was preparing this blog post, I found out that earlier this year, the game released a significant update they promoted as a season four equivalent to the show.

I wonder how the ratio of humans and aliens is in the game when it comes to character creation, and whether the game will have a sustainable future?

If you watched Defiance, what did you think of humans’ interactions among themselves and with the other species? If you played the game, what was your experience like?

Human-Centric Diversity in Science Fiction: Bands of Space Misfits

After talking about human-looking alien supremacy in Farscape and human-centric Cyborgs, I will speak about heterogeneous, albeit very human, bands of space misfits.


Where Farscape showed a multi-species main cast, even as the series evolved and made for several character turnovers, not all Science Fiction shows have been so willing to do the same. Farscape‘s precursor, Babylon 5, also provided a strong multi-species main cast throughout the seasons, especially with strong protagonists like G’Kar, Delenn and Kosh. Such franchises take into account how likely it is that space travel leads to encountering alien species, even if humankind was originally able to propel themselves into new territories by themselves.

While humans can be the core of a narrative arc, it seems surprising that fictional universes involving space travel as a primary aspect would reduce the interaction to human ones, but it is the case in some well-known fictional universes.

Firefly Cast.

Firefly Cast.

A fan favorite despite its short lifespan, Firefly, is an example of human-centric band of space misfits, who for the most part, chose to work together and coexist from the beginning. Though the franchise has a strong multicultural aspect of current civilization, it still remains all about humans – even the Reavers pushed back at the edge of space. Indeed, these are humans who returned to a savage state and even have cannibalistic ways.

As for the more recent Dark Matter, it also emerged as a strongly human-centric universe, with yet another band of space misfits – actually prisoners – thrown together, in a way much more akin to Farscape in terms of main cast’s premises.

Both Firefly and Dark Matter introduce a diverse cast, including in terms of representation in the lead group. Yet they both remain quite human-centric when the premises themselves could have allowed for a broader approach of world building.

How do you feel about such human-centric universes?

Human-Centric Diversity in Science Fiction: Cyborgs

After looking at human-looking supremacy in Farscape, this week I will explore the human predominance in Cyborg representation and ponder on whether Cyborgs should be called Cyb-humans (or any better-sounding variations on that theme) instead of their usual denomination.


Cyborgs are a type of characters I find most fascinating in Science Fiction. I love the idea of technology and living flesh blending with more or less ease, as well as the questions about identity it can bring up. There is such great potential with Cyborg characters.

Yet I find myself sometimes wondering why so many Cyborgs are human looking and specifically mix human and technology parts. It makes sense to have a significant number of Cyborg characters be as such but they amount for a smothering majority.

Cameron (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).

Cameron (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).

Some most famous Cyborgs emerged either from literature and/or movies. The Replicants from Blade Runner and the different Terminator models from the eponymous franchise have significantly paved the way for later Cyborgs. The latter originally introduced more single dimensional Cyborgs but the franchise then offered more layered ones, even beyond the personal arc of the original Terminator model’s journey. Even the Alien franchise continued to include more androids into their stories, up to the related feature Prometheus.

It is noticeable how these Cyborgs are all a product of human and machine, although the term itself doesn’t require human to be the organic part. Blending cybernetics with alien species would be all the more compelling especially since Science Fiction opens up so many possibilities in terms of world building and character depiction.

Cyborgs even tend to fall on the Caucasian human and machine blend more often than not. The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica in the early 21st century remains one of the few example that included more diversity to the gene pool aspect. Indeed, one of the most important human-looking Cylon models, with two major copies, was Number Eight, portrayed by Grace Park, an American-Canadian actress of Korean origin. A couple other Cylons were portrayed by non-Caucasian actors, including one of the Final Five, Tory Foster, portrayed by Rekha Sharma, of North Indian heritage. Yet, Park’s characters remained the most fleshed out and remembered of these.

The Android (Dark Matter).

The Android (Dark Matter).

Even a currently airing show such as Dark Matter introduced a Caucasian female Cyborg as their ‘Android’. While it is heart-warming to see a fair number of female Cyborgs in the past decades, it would be worth seeing more diversity in the human-based Cyborg landscape, and even greater, to also see alien-based Cyborgs equally involved in Science Fiction universes.

What Cyborg characters are your favorites? How do you feel about an alien Cyborg compared to a human one?