|First appearance||Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers (Valen Mk. I)
Voices in the Dark (Valen Mk. II)
The Valen class cruiser is a class of starship in the fictional universe of the TV series Babylon 5. The class is used by the Interstellar Alliance, a confederation-type affiliation of races including humanity and the Minbari, among others. There is some ambiguity concerning the use of this name in the series, as there have been two distinct types of ship of this same name. However the two types are visually very different.
Valen Mk. I
The first Valen class cruiser is seen in the movie Legend of the Rangers which reveals that it is a joint project between the Minbari and the Earth Alliance to create a ship for the Interstellar Alliance. This ship was apparently the only one of the type ever constructed. The discontinuation of the model line had several reasons. First, this was the first ever ship constructed as a blend of Earth and Minbari technology, and as such had many design flaws, not the last of which was its being rather ugly. One of the characters in the movie described the first Valen as an "ugly flying brick". Also, constant problems integrating the technology were mentioned.
Where design is concerned, the prototype certainly took more after its Earthforce heritage than the Minbari one. The ship consists of a main bulk with massive, short wings, and a long, straight, thick protrusion at the head of which the bridge is placed. The ship is approximately 1300 meters long (by comparison to the 160-meter Liandra), doesn't possess much in the way of maneuvering capabilities, complementing its lumbering appearance. Weapon systems are not known, but presumably included both Earth and Minbari weapons. It may be of interest that the Valen, despite its considerable size and bulk, was capable of landing on planetary surface. (However, be it noted that very little information is available as to which ships of which races had or had not this capability.) Although this vessel wasn't superior to the Minbari Sharlin class war cruiser, it held one primate in the Alliance: speed. Thanks to a combination of Earth advancements in ion propulsion and some of the Minbari magnetogravitic propulsion principles, it was, according to one of the movie's protagonists, "the fastest ship in the Alliance". It is not known whether this included the Whitestars as well, because the Rangers (to whom all of the Whitestar fleet was reassigned after the Shadow war) operate in at least partial autonomy, answerable only to the Entil´zha.
The first Valen class vessel was destroyed on its maiden voyage when ferrying diplomats from applicant worlds to an IAS expansion summit. Under the command of the Ranger Sindell, it was ambushed by warships belonging to the thralls of a mysterious, old and powerful alien race known as The Hand. They had been tipped off by a traitor, Minister Kafta from one of the applicant worlds, and so had succeeded in critically damaging the Valen before it ever had the chance to return fire.
Valen Mk. II
The new Valen class cruiser is apparently also serving with the Interstellar Alliance. Being first seen several years after its predecessor had been destroyed, this vessel is a more mature product of cooperation between the Minbari and humans (both races having learned from the Victory project). Very little is known about the vessel, as it was only seen onscreen once, briefly. It incorporates technology that was left behind by the Vorlons, following their departure from known space, namely, the ability to enter the quantumspace. This appears to be some kind of alternative to hyperspace and enables the ship to travel twice as fast, compared to the conventional hyperspace.
The Valen Mk. II's design strongly reflects the traditional Minbari approach to shipbuilding, as opposed to the Valen Mk. I. The Valen Mk. II is the craft pictured at the head of this article.
Origin of the name
In the Babylon 5 universe, Valen is a historical figure of great importance to the Minbari people. He is considered "the greatest Minbari who ever lived", according to Delenn. He is mainly credited by unifying the Minbari society and leading them to victory in the last great war with the Shadows one thousand years ago. Valen himself was actually Commander Sinclair, the commander of Babylon 5 before Captain Sheridan.