Tag Archives: Farscape

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?

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: Farscape

Hello everyone! I am back to Comparative Geeks with a couple of blog series. This first one will focus on human-centric diversity in Science Fiction screen production, primarily TV shows. I am starting this week with a look at Farscape and human-looking alien in its universe.

Farscape was a TV show that gave strong room to diversity of characters, with multiple compelling characters of different genders. This heterogeneity ranged from characters portrayed by regular actors, to ones handled by puppeteers to computer-generated ones. The numerous outstanding female characters are also to be praised in this show.

So what might have been problematic and thus done differently?

The main character, human male John Crichton was often mistaken for a member of a dominant alien species in the area of space he found himself transported to. Their military prominent group, the Peacekeepers, was the most portrayed in the series. A totalitarian and xenophobic civilization, their hatred for otherness was a recurring pattern in the show, even when some then former Peacekeepers learned to think for themselves and evolved in their beliefs.

The human-looking Peacekeepers didn’t only provide the main female character, Aeryn Sun, but also the first main antagonist, Bialar Crais.

Bialar Crais.

Bialar Crais.

Other members of the main casts were from multiple alien species, including the later additions over the seasons. Another strong enemy emerged in the second half of the show, with the Scarran species. Another main cast member’s people was also depicted as a potential threat: Chiana’s species, the Nebari appeared in a couple of episodes and their wrath and power were mentioned. Yet the show never got to investigate this narrative path.

The narrative worked well with the choices the writers made. With such a vast choice of alien species to draw from, it would still have been an interesting angle to mix things up some more and not necessarily let the Peacekeepers be as dominant as they were in much of the story.

John Crichton and Aeryn Sun.

John Crichton and Aeryn Sun.

I personally am a die-hard John Crichton/Aeryn Sun fan and their romantic relationship is a favorite of mine. Yet I can’t help wonder what greatness other options could have brought as well. The show never shied away from building strong cross-species friendships, and even built a strong alien romantic relationship between two other main cast members: d’Argo and Chiana, so why was there the need to keep the lead and the main couple so human looking?

What about you? Was there any other alien species you would have liked to see developed in greater details in Farscape?