Minbari

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The Minbari are a fictional alien race featured in the television show Babylon 5. The Minbari characters of Delenn and Lennier figure prominently throughout the series; Neroon, Draal, and Dukhat are less prominent Minbari characters.

The fictional planet of Minbar is the homeworld of the Minbari race. The planet and race were named by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski after the Islamic pulpit known as a minbar.[1]

They use base-eleven mathematics[2][3] but also place a great emphasis on the number three. They are arguably the most enigmatic of the "younger races" and generally prefer a more isolationist way of life, in fact, in the made for T.V film In The Beginning the Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari warns the Humans against trying to make contact with them for that very reason (a warning they ignored, ultimately leading Earth to almost complete annihilation in the Earth–Minbari War). Although the Minbari are considerably younger than the ancient First Ones, they are among the oldest of the "younger races". The Minbari are more advanced in terms of technology than the humans. During the time-frame in which most Babylon 5 episodes are set, Earth warships and fighters (such as the Omega destroyers) are shown to be inferior in speed, maneuverability, and firepower to Minbari warcruisers and fighters.

Homeworld[edit]

Minbar
Universe Babylon 5
Notable locations Yedor (Capital city)
Tuzanor (Capital of the Interstellar Alliance)
Notable races Minbari
Notable people Delenn
Lennier
Neroon
Draal
Dukhat
Creator J. Michael Straczynski
Genre Sci-fi

In the Babylon 5 universe, Minbar is a planet in the system of Chi Draconis — a binary star system just over 26 light years from Earth. It is the seventh planet in orbit around the local suns and has two moons. Its day is shorter than Earth's, at 20 hours and 47 minutes, and its year is about 1.5 Earth years. Like Earth, Minbar has an oxygen—nitrogen atmosphere. The polar caps are larger than those on Earth; the northern cap covers 23% of the planet's surface and, on the whole, Minbar's climate is colder than that of Earth - more like the climate on Earth during the last Ice Age. The planet is noted for vast crystalline structures; many cities are carved directly from crystal. The population of the planet is about 4 billion, and the capital city is located at Yedor.

Biology[edit]

The Minbari are humanoid in appearance. Unlike humans, Minbari are generally bald; however, due to the intermingling of human DNA into the Minbari gene-pool courtesy of Valen, some males are capable of growing facial hair. They have light-toned skin and a large external bone crest on the back of their heads. Minbari have ears similar in shape to human ears, but smaller and located just above the neck on each side of the head. Minbari have a longer life span than humans do, living as long as 120 standard Earth years and, in some cases, even longer.

The Minbari sense of taste is not as developed as that of human beings but they have a more acute sense of hearing. Because of this weak sense of taste, Minbari prefer hot, spicy foods. Minbari do not drink beverages containing alcohol because it affects their systems in such a way that causes psychosis and homicidal rages, even in small amounts. Minbari also have a lower tolerance for hot and humid weather than humans, due to their race having evolved on the seventh planet of the Minbar Solar System, where one-quarter of the planet's surface is dominated by the Northern Polar ice cap.

The notable bone crest structure on the back and sides of their head is an extension of their skull. Minbari are born with smooth heads; the bone crest grows over time. Female Minbari have a smooth bone crest which tapers to a single point at the back of the head; males typically have crests which taper to several points along the bone, although smooth bones crests among males (especially from the worker and religious castes) are not uncommon. Warrior Caste females are known to have "masculine" headcrests, as seen with the males of their caste.

The Minbari physically have more stamina than humans, and can sustain injuries that would be fatal to a human. They are physically stronger than humans, as demonstrated by Lennier lifting a human male by the neck with one arm in one episode. Their headbone protects their cranium and brain from impacts that would be fatal to other races. Minbari can also tolerate a much greater blood loss than humans can. Dr. Franklin of Babylon 5 theorized that this was one of the reasons why the Minbari were so successful in the Earth-Minbari War - they could survive injuries and battle wounds that would kill or incapacitate a human, and they could keep fighting longer than most human soldiers could.

The Minbari reproduce sexually, in a manner similar to that of humans; their sexual anatomy is also similar to that of humans. As a rule, Minbari do not mate outside of their species, believing that it would disrupt their racial purity. However Ambassador Delenn married former Earthforce Captain John Sheridan (later President of the Alliance), and their union produced a son, David. This would normally be impossible, as Minbari and humans are not genetically compatible, but Delenn's transformation into a Human/Minbari hybrid, in addition to the fact that she was a descendant of the "Minbari not of Minbari" (Jeffery Sinclair, former CO of Babylon 5, who went into the past and was transformed himself into a Human/Minbari hybrid - Valen) made it possible for her and Sheridan to have a child together.

As with Humans and most other sentient species in the Babylon 5 universe, a small percentage of the Minbari population are telepaths. They seem to be evenly divided among all three castes, though most of them are expected to live as part of the Religious caste from birth. For Minbari, telepathy is seen as a gift from the Universe, and telepaths are highly honored in Minbari society.

A million years in the future, the Minbari will eventually evolve to First One status, as do the humans ("The Deconstruction of Falling Stars").

Government[edit]

The Minbari Federation is the government of the Minbari worlds and colonies; it is based on Minbar, the ancestral home world. The Federation is an oligarchy ruled by the Grey Council. Although there is a capital city on Minbar, Yedor, the Grey Council usually meets on board a starship, the Grey Sharlin, also known as the Valen'tha or "Hand of Valen".

The Grey Council is made up of nine individuals, originally three each from the Minbari's three social classes, Warrior, Religious, and Worker. Delenn, a former member of the Grey Council, broke the council, in accordance with Valen's prophecy, in response to their refusal to act during a time of galactic crisis, stating "the problems of others are not our concern". Later, after a civil war among the Minbari, and Delenn enduring a pre-Grey Council Minbari ceremony to select a leader, known as the Starfire Wheel, Delenn established a new Grey Council that was now composed of two Warriors, two Religious, and five Workers. The position of leader was held vacant in memory of Neroon who had died in Delenn's place in the Starfire Wheel. This gave the long-overlooked Worker caste a majority voice. Members of the council are addressed by other Minbari with the honorific title "Satai".

Society[edit]

The Minbari society is structured around three quasi-ethnic castes, similar to Georges Dumézil's trifunctional hypothesis. These castes are called Worker, Warrior, and Religious; Neroon succinctly describes their roles to Delenn thus: "They [the Worker Caste] build; you [the Religious Caste] pray; we [the Warrior Caste] fight", though in an early episode, Lennier states in an interview conducted by a human character that the Minbari have only two castes, Religious and Warrior before pointing out that he and Delenn are both of the Religious caste.[4] Membership in a caste appears to be a hereditary matter - children of parents from one caste will usually follow their parents. If the parents are of different castes, the mother's caste takes precedence - any children would belong to the mother's caste. Sometimes Minbari who have a deep feeling for one caste - which they refer to as a "Calling of the Heart" - will join a different caste. The castes are not as limited as their titles would suggest, and to some degree try to be self-sufficient. For instance, all three castes maintain armed security forces. However, the only caste permitted to maintain a full military force among the three has always been the Warrior Caste, with the exception of the Grey Council's Sharlin Class Warcruisers. In 2260, the Religious Caste broke this tenet held so importantly by the Warriors, in having their members work as assistants to the Rangers, crewing the White Star Fleet in battle, and helping the Worker Caste to build the ships. Although never explicitly stated, it is implied that the worker caste is much larger than the warrior or religious castes.

Each Minbari caste has leaders which are referred to as elders. These elders oversee the governance of the internal matters of the caste. Until the breaking of the Grey Council in 2260 each caste held equal power, an institution created by Valen a thousand years before to put an end to civil war between the castes and unite them against a common enemy, the Shadows. Following the reformation of the council, the workers were given a majority of 5 satai, with the warrior and the religious castes both having 2 representatives.

Warrior caste[edit]

Members of this caste primarily serve as members of the military and protectors of the Minbari. The members of the Warrior Caste are the most aggressive of Minbari.

During the Earth-Minbari war, many of the Warrior Caste fought and died during the war. When the Religious Caste called off the war during the Battle of the Line, the Grey Council did not tell their Generals why they were stopping the war. Sineval - one of the war leaders and commander of the Trigati - committed suicide rather than obey the order. The Trigati's second in command Kalain took the ship and disappeared into hyperspace for the next ten years. At this point, a rift began to form between the Warrior and Religious Castes.

There were two further incidents with the Warrior Caste during the first few years the Babylon 5 station was operational. In 2258, the Warcruiser Ingata was carrying the body of the war leader Branmer home after he died off planet. Branmer's second, Neroon, took his body to be viewed by every Minbari population from where he died to their homeworld. When they arrived at Babylon 5, a viewing was planned. Branmer's body disappeared during the night. The disappearance led to a tense situation between the humans and Minbari, until Delenn revealed that she took the body and cremated it because Neroon had ignored Branmer's wishes to be cremated and have a simple funeral. In 2259, the Trigati reappeared when Captain John Sheridan took command of Babylon 5. The Trigati tried to provoke Sheridan into attacking them, but the captain realized their plan and refused to provide the pretext for a renewed war. Instead, he sent a message for a Minbari war cruiser that was standing by in hyperspace on orders of the Minbari government to capture the renegade ship upon word of a sighting. In the ensuing confrontation, that vessel crippled The Trigati's propulsion system, but the crew committed suicide rather than surrender.

In 2260 the Warrior Caste gained dominance in the Grey Council when Delenn was voted off the council and Neroon replaced her. As a result, the traditional balance was upset. The Warrior Caste did not want to become involved in the Shadow War. Later, Delenn would break the council when the council refused to take an active role in the war. For the next year, the entire Minbari race was involved in fighting the Shadow War, and the differences between the castes was largely forgotten during this time. When Delenn became the Entil'za of the Rangers (or Anla'Shok in Minbari), Neroon opposed her initially but when the human Ranger Marcus Cole nearly died forcibly impeding his path to Delenn, the warrior realized that he himself could not inspire such loyalty with the Rangers and forfeited his challenge.

Following the Shadows' departure, a vacuum of power became more apparent. The Warrior Caste began to struggle with the Religious Caste for dominance. They evicted members of the Religious Caste from cities they did not wish to share, and stopped honoring agreements that the Religious Caste made on behalf of the Minbari. Eventually a brief civil war broke out between the two castes. Working with Neroon, Delenn managed to end the war. She and the leader of the Warrior Caste, Warleader Shakiri, went into the Starfire Wheel, and the energy of the wheel began to burn them. Delenn managed to stay in the wheel longer than Shakiri, and when it became apparent that she was going to sacrifice herself, Neroon sacrificed himself, declaring at the end that at heart he was a member of the Religious Caste.

With the war over, Delenn formed a new Grey Council. This time however, the Worker Caste was given control of the council - there were five Worker Caste members, and two each from the Religious and Warrior Caste on the council. She explained that religion and war had to exist in the service of the people, not the other way around.

Several Warrior caste members play a significant role in the series. Neroon appears in several episodes. He is a member of the Warrior Caste from the Star Riders clan. He later became a member of the Grey Council - replacing Delenn and creating an imbalance in the caste system representation on the council. Converting to the Religious Caste in the final moments of his life, he died in 2261 in the Starfire wheel. He was played by John Vickery.

Religion[edit]

The Minbari are a very religious people. The Minbari religion does not have a central god figure, nor does it have a pantheon of gods, though on one confusing instance in an early episode Delenn did speak of "The gods", though that might simply have been a manner of speech. In Passing Through Gethsemane, it is revealed that the Minbari have a belief that the universe itself is sentient, and that the universe has the ability to break itself into many pieces and invests itself in every form of life. Consequently, every being is a projection of a part of the universal soul. They believe that the universe uses the perspective of individual sentient beings in a process of self-examination and a search for meaning (similar to the real-life belief of pantheism or pandeism), this could also be a reference to the quote "We are a way for the universe to know itself"[5] from astronomer Carl Sagan.

Valen is a central figure in Minbari religion.[6] However, Valen is not considered a deity. He was a "Minbari not born of Minbari". About AD 1260, a fortress suddenly appeared in Minbari space, on which resided Valen flanked by Vorlons, who then led the Minbari people against the Shadows. Valen was in fact a human—Jeffrey Sinclair—who had subjected himself to a process that made him into a human/Minbari hybrid. After the war, Valen helped restructure Minbari society, organizing the Grey Council to lead it. These nine individuals came from each of the three castes. This form of government remained stable for a thousand years until the next Shadow War. Valen knew the Shadows would return and wrote prophecies to warn the Minbari when the next war was starting.[7] After these tasks were completed, Valen left Minbar; the remainder of his life and eventual fate is still a mystery, though it has since been kept a secret by the Grey Council that he did have a wife and children in self-imposed exile, most of whom returned to Minbari society in secret, had families of their own, and added human DNA to the Minbari gene pool. Minbari with human DNA are consequently called "children of Valen". Delenn will eventually learn she is herself a "child of Valen".[8]

Minbari people believe in reincarnation. They feel that after an individual has died, the soul of the individual joins with all the other departed Minbari souls. The souls then all meld together becoming one. Then the souls are reborn into the next generation of Minbari. Thus Minbari do not welcome Soul Hunters—their gathering of souls interferes with the reincarnation process.[9] This was the central reason behind the Minbari stopping their genocidal war with the humans, as they had found "that Minbari souls were reborn in human bodies" as well as the fact that the Minbari have some human DNA. Since the Minbari find the concept of killing fellow members of their species horrifically unacceptable, the sudden revelation that their young enemy had this unexpected link to themselves put them under the same consideration.[10]

True Seekers[edit]

Minbari respect the role of "true seekers," which Delenn explains are those who follow the calling of their hearts in a quest. Even when such a seeker's task appears to be folly, other Minbari – especially religious caste – will provide what assistance they can. This was showcased in Grail, an episode during which a human boarded Babylon 5 searching for the holy grail and Delenn aided him in his quest, and in the episode Passing Through Gethsemane.[11]

Language[edit]

The Minbari have three main languages, referred to as Light, Dark, and Grey, a language for each caste. The languages are Lenn-Ah or "Light" (Worker Caste), Adrenato or "Grey" (Religious Caste), and Vik or "Dark" (Warrior Caste). All three languages are based on a root language of Adrihi'e. In common speech all three languages are used, as each is designed for a different purpose. The language of Lenn-Ah is technical in nature, filled with adjectives, and is used when one discusses mathematics or sciences. Adrenato is euphonic in tone and usually slow in delivery. It is the only one of the three with words for spiritual and philosophical abstracts. Vik is concise and sharp-sounding. It is designed to convey orders with few words and no ambiguity. Examples:

  • Adrihi'e: Nu'zen Fel'ani in-a lis'e medran
[English: You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.]
  • Adrenato: Na'chea, Duvea na
[English: Make the sound of gently falling rain.]

Alphabet[edit]

The Minbari alphabet appears on Babylon 5 trading cards, and seems to be a simple substitution cipher of English letters. This is occasionally used to create in-jokes, which at the time were understood only by the staff.

In the Season 2 episode "There All the Honor Lies," an important-looking message is displayed on Delenn's computer, which actually reads, "Chester is very spoiled. I guess it's my fault. I loved him too much."[12] Later, in "Dust to Dust," Vir Cotto returns to Babylon 5 from Minbar, proudly wearing a short robe they had given him. The letters on it spell out "ALOHA."[13]

Technology[edit]

Minbari possess arguably the most advanced technology of all the younger races, but this is not confirmed fact. The Minbari have had the capability for interstellar travel for millennia and their ships are advanced. They have done away completely with particle thrust system and use magnetogravitic drives instead (i.e. ones that manipulate gravity around the ship, propelling it in most any direction). This makes their ships the fastest and the most maneuverable craft in the space lanes. However at one point a technomage ship is shown to actually be able to keep up with the White Star and track it in "CRUSADE"; therefore it is not certain if the Minbari truly have the fastest ships. Their weapon systems are some kind of "slicer beam" particle cannons, powerful enough to destroy some capital ships with a single blow in many cases. Power systems are based on artificial quantum singularities (i.e. black holes), both more stable and more powerful than the matter/antimatter annihilation reactors most of the other races use. Minbari military ships are equipped with sensor deflection grids which function as a "cloaking device", making their ships invisible to the sensors of some of the other alien races, but not all. Starship hulls are constructed using a "polycrystalline alloy" more durable than most conventional materials.

The Minbari are quite capable of withstanding an attack by any of the younger races, with the possible exception of the Earth Alliance (that is, only if Earth attacked with its Warlock class ships) and possibly the Centauri Republic. Besides the Earth Alliance and the Centauri Republic, none of the younger races stand a chance against the Minbari. Their might pales, however, in comparison with the terrible power of the First Ones. It did not seem to matter very much whether it were Earth or Minbari ships that found themselves on the receiving end of a Shadow Battlecrab's death ray; they got all destroyed the same. It took the best of Minbari technology combined with significant enhancements by the Vorlons to create a ship capable of at least standing up to the Shadows (the White Star cruisers), though still with quite an unfavorable kill ratio.

The Fighting Pike[edit]

The Minbari Fighting Pike, also known as the Denn'Bok, is the preferred weapon of the Rangers.[14]

It is quite compact and easy to carry, but can open up to be a formidable weapon. The weapon is not dependent on an energy source, unlike the PPG pistols carried by Earthforce personnel. Despite its inaccurate nomeclature, the Denn'Bok is in fact a metal quarterstaff with no piercing spearhead. It takes a great deal of training and skill to use the weapon in an effective and in a relatively safe manner. Most weapons are quite old - the pike Marcus Cole carried was at least 700 years old. As the weapon is handed down from generation to generation, production of new pikes is rather limited. Because of the effort to keep the fighting pikes from falling into the wrong hands, they can fetch a considerable price on the black market.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ J. Michael Straczynski (May 15, 2000). "Minbar, an Islamic term...?". Newsgrouphrec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated. Usenet: 1149950890.204481.35810@h76g20…. Retrieved December 12, 2009. 
  2. ^ "The Quality of Mercy", Babylon 5, orig. airdate 17 August 1994
  3. ^ Minbari base eleven includes fingers...
  4. ^ "Grey 17 Is Missing". Babylon 5. 1996-10-1996.
  5. ^ Quotes, Carl Sagan, Cosmos (1980)
  6. ^ "The Parliament of Dreams". Babylon 5. 1994-02-23.
  7. ^ "War Without End, part 2". Babylon 5. 1996-05-20.
  8. ^ "Atonement". Babylon 5. 1997-02-24.
  9. ^ "Soul Hunter". Babylon 5. 1994-02-02.
  10. ^ "Revelations". Babylon 5. 1994-11-09.
  11. ^ "Grail". Babylon 5. 1994-07-06.
  12. ^ Guide page: "There All the Honor Lies"
  13. ^ Guide page: "Dust to Dust"
  14. ^ Matthew Sprange and J. Michael Straczynski, Babylon 5 The Role Playing Game: Faith Manages (Mongoose Publishing, 2006), 46.
  15. ^ Fighting Pike, The Babylon 5 Tech-Manual

11. War Without End Season 3 Episode 16 & 17 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Without_End_(Babylon_5)

External links[edit]