The Omega-class destroyer is a fictional vessel used by Earthforce, the military branch of the Earth Alliance, in the science fiction television series Babylon 5. The CGI model of the ship created through an early version of Lightwave made its first appearance during the opening scene of the opening episode of the second season, "Points Of Departure", which was initially aired in the United states on November 2nd, 1994.
It also appears in the later, and short lived, Crusade television series, the TV movies A Call to Arms and In the Beginning as well as The Lost Tales (the first in an anthology series which were to be released on DVD, now aborted due to funding issues) plus a number of written short stories and novels based in the same Fictional universe.
Origin and design
As with most of the computer generated models seen in the first 3 seasons of Babylon 5, the Omega was both designed and built by a member of Foundation Imaging. In this instance, Paul Bryant who co-founded the company in 1992 with partner Ron Thornton.
The model was referred to as the "Aggie" in house due to the name of the first ship to appear in the script, the Agamemnon. The original, fully detailed version contained over 250,000 polygons although it was designed so that layers of detail could easily be removed to reduce the polygon count. This was necessary due to the limits of the computer systems at the time, primarily the amount of RAM (Random Access Memory) they could use. Removing detail (and thus the number of polygons) would permit reduced rendering times and allow the computer animations for the various television episodes to be created in a practical time scale due to the tight production schedules. This stripping down process was normally only required when a large number of models appeared in an animated sequence (such as the season 4 episode "Endgame") and was usually limited to the vessels appearing in the background.
The closer adherence to real physics with regards to how human (not alien) vessels would be portrayed in Babylon 5 was introduced by Foundation Imagining and is the reason for the inclusion of rotating sections to designs, such as the Omega, in order to emulate artificial gravity. The design also originally included a complex engine design to continue the theme of a more scientifically realistic approach, as it was necessary to accurately portray how such a massive spacecraft, with a large rotating section, could maneuver.
"Originally the engine section was a complex gimballed affair because when turning a large centrifugal mass the turning thrust axis is not intuitive. For example if the centrifuge is rotating clockwise, to turn the ship to port the thrusters should be pointing down thrusting upwards. I explained this to the guys and they looked at me like I had two heads. I think it was Ronny who said 'Look, just stick some big engines on the back and walk away'. We were under a time crunch as always and that's just what I did." — Paul Bryant, Source: B5Scrolls (2008)
This design bore similarities to Syd Mead's design of the Leonov, a fictional Russian space ship that appeared in the 1984 movie 2010: The Year We Make Contact. When asked for an explanation, J. Michael Straczynski stated on the rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated newsgroup:
"The ships on 2010 and Babylon 5 operate out of the necessity of traveling without standard SF artificial gravity. These designs have been discussed among scientists (in general) for ages; so there's no intention to be close to 2010, but when both are based upon the same scientific principles, there will be echoes. Form follows function." — J. Michael Straczynski, Source: jmsnews quote archive (1995)
However, years later Paul Bryant shed light on the subject:
"Yes, I can confirm that I ‘lifted’ the centre section off the Leonov in 2010 for the centrifuge. That's why the profile is exactly the same. I was feeling mischievous, so I added this little nod to the design. I thought someone was going to spot it immediately but no, it was years before anybody called me on it (it would have been an easy fix to change the profile)." — Paul Bryant, Source: B5Scrolls (2008)
The Omega was also designed to appear both un-aerodynamic and imposing. Part of this approach was the inclusion of what later became known as the 'hammer head' by some fans of the show. Namely, the 'cheeks' on either side of the forward-facing fighter recovery bay which were inspired by the Smoke deflectors (or lifters) that appeared on some later steam locomotives.
Designed but never used
The original description of the vessel within the script handed to Paul Bryant implied that if one of these ships appeared in your system you would be in trouble. So part of the idea behind the design of Omega was to make it appear visually imposing and carry enough firepower so it could erupt with projected destruction. However, a number of these design elements which can be seen on the Lightwave model were never used in any animation sequence in which it appeared.
There are two cannons beneath the forward-facing fighter recover bay.
"The turrets on each forward cheek were just there to get your attention, they were the 'light' weapons. :) . . . . . . the dual Big Ass Cannons under the ships return bay that were supposed to launch gigaton class mines – yes those things were there for a reason." — Paul Bryant, Source: B5Scrolls (2008)
The 72 red hatches that can be seen along its hull were missile compartments.
" The detail was designed for a 19th century broadside effect. You know, camera scraping down the side of the Aggie as all the hatches open sequentially just like every swashbuckling movie you've ever seen. Then open to a wide shot as the entire ship's side erupts in flame and missiles." — Paul Bryant, Source: B5Scrolls (2008)
Located at either end of the model's central rotating section are a series of fighter launch bays which would operate in a similar way to those housed in the Babylon 5 space station, known as Cobra Launch bays. Namely, the Centrifugal force created by the rotating section would essentially push the fighters out.
"On the centrifuge, if you look closely in some shots, you can see sealed Starfury launch bays. I wrote a whole tactical description of how Starfury flights were deployed in battle. If the launch was defensive then as the centrifuge rotated the 'Furies' were deployed evenly around the ship by releasing them at regular intervals. If it was an attack then they were released at a specific degree of rotation closest relative to the target" — Paul Bryant, Source: B5Scrolls (2008)
The exact reasons for the omission is unclear, though it may be related to the fact that J. Michael Straczynski, the creator, main writer and executive producer of Babylon 5 usually (or at least in the first three years of the show) deferred to the designers and animators when it came to providing detailed functionality to a model. That, and all but one of the major battle sequences involving the Omega design took place after season 3 (the last year Foundation Imagining worked on the show).
According to J. Michael Straczynski and director Michael Vejar on the DVD commentary for the episode The Face of the Enemy, the bridge set for the destroyer Agamemnon was actually a redress of the set for the circular command observation dome on the Babylon 5 station. Platforms were placed over the pit areas to enable the actors to walk over these sections, and additional displays were added to the set. Clear displays with crewmembers on the far side of the screen were added to make the set appear larger and more intricate. These were merely plexiglass panels with tape applied.
Shortly after his arrival to command the Babylon 5 station, at the start of season 2, Captain John Sheridan (played by Bruce Boxleitner) describes the role of the Agamemnon (the Omega destroyer he had previously commanded) during an interview by an ISN reporter, in the episode "And Now For a Word". He mentions it was one of the first Omegas to be built after the Minbari war and that their job was part military patrol, part diplomatic mission, visiting many in the non-aligned worlds (smaller alien races), putting in an appearance and helping keep the peace.
The patrol aspect of its mission appears to be why, in the earlier season 2 episode, "All Alone In The Night", General Hague (played by Robert Foxworth) was able to call the Agamemnon (which was in the area) to help in the search of the captain who had been abducted by a group of aliens named the Streib. This episode states it is the fastest vessel in the area and its forward weapons are used effectively against what appears to be an advanced race. Its ability to create a jump point to enter hyperspace (the method used in Babylon 5 to cover great distances) is also demonstrated.
By the season 3 episode "Severed Dreams" it becomes apparent, from the number appearing onscreen, that the Omega design is the primary capital ship used by Earthforce at that time (the others being the Nova and the Hyperion). Its ability to carry Starfury fighters is also shown.
The dominance of the Omega design within Earthforce is confirmed throughout the later episodes of season 4 beginning with "No Surrender, No Retreat", which depicts what is essentially an Earth Alliance civil war. Further episodes of the fourth season state it carries life pods, is not capable of flying in atmospheres and that its rotational section reduces its maneuverability and energy efficiency compared to ships without one.
The television movie, "A Call to Arms", set four years after the final year of the Babylon 5 series, shows the Omega is still the most ubiquitous capital ship being used by Earthforce – during the large battle sequence against the alien race known as the Drakh.
While some technical details for the Omega were released in publications such as the Babylon 5 Security Manual and the B5 CD-ROM reference guide, most were considered to be incorrect by some fans who closely scrutinised the images of the vessels seen in the show.
A number then went on to publish, on various web sites, sometimes highly detailed and imaginative facts and figures based on their own observations while occasionally incorporating officially released details. This has essentially resulted in no universally accepted technical information appearing for the Omega on any fan, reference or sci-fi Internet site—though some are more widely quoted than others.
For example, in the show the crew numbers of an Omega destroyer is mentioned on three occasions: 547 (season 4 episode, "Intersections In Real Time"), a little over 1,000 (season 4 episode, "Endgame"), and 347 (Crusade episode, The Needs Of Earth). Although no explanation is given for the differences, a quite logical consensus was generally reached among interested fans that it depended on the deployment of the individual ships. Of course the actual crew numbers that appear on fan sites is often none of the above.
The ship's length is often stated to be 1714.3 meters. This is in fact the only officially released number quoted for the Omega destroyer to appear on most Internet sites. It was created by Tim Earls, who joined Babylon 5 in season 4, as part of a size chart he was asked to create by the show's executive producers, shortly after becoming the Art Director for Visual Effects, at the start of the fifth season of the show. (He was not the CGI Director, which is another incorrect detail that is sometimes published on various sites.)
However, this length for the ship is often quoted, without caveats, along with lists of other details that are purely fan conjecture (for example, that the Omega can carry 36 Starfury fighters). This figure originates from a fan's direct observation of a fighter launch sequence viewed during the season 3 episode "Severed Dreams". In fact, the relevant scene opens after the launch sequence had already begun and ends while fighters were still leaving the two vessels. The largest number viewed during the sequence was 34, which was launched from the Omega named the Churchill.
Advanced Omega Destroyer
One variant of the Omega design was seen during the season 4 episode "Between The Darkness And The Light". A Battle group made up of what was referred to as Advanced Omega Destroyers were deployed against, and subsequently destroyed by, a large number of White Stars that had been dispatched to engage a previously unseen type of Earth vessel. However, the cost of this victory proved to be high, as all the White Stars who fought these EarthForce ships were damaged, and Susan Ivanova was critically injured when a piece of debris struck the leading White Star she commanded. Even though the Advanced Omega Destroyers were lost, EarthForce still possessed Shadow technology and possibly other ships sharing Shadow characteristics as well. EarthForce later developed an even more powerful shadow hybrid ship as seen in the Crusade episode "A path of sorrows".
During the season 3 episode "Messages From Earth", it had been revealed that humans had taken samples from a recently discovered inactive Battle Crab (an organic vessel used by the Shadows, one of the highly advanced ancient races that were collectively known as the First Ones), for study.
During the episode "Between The Darkness And The Light", the viewer is shown the result of the organic technology being retrofitted onto the hull of the standard Omega design. The character of Susan Ivanova (who was commanding the force of White Stars) expressed surprise at how quickly this was achieved.
These advanced destroyers also carried a number of apparently unmodified Thunderbolts (a class of Starfury fighters) and had received some weapon upgrades as the turreted particle pulse cannons located along the hull had now been replaced by some form of unspecified particle stream weapons.
Like the Omega destroyer's technical specifications, more or less all the various details relating to this variant that appears on the Internet such as the Omega-X name, plus how, when and why it was created, were worked out over a number of years by a small number of fans creating supplementary material for the design, since no 'official' information existed. In the unfilmed script for "The End of the Line", an episode of the short-lived Babylon 5 Spinoff Crusade, the crew of the Excalibur come across a secret Earthforce base that is running illegal experiments using Shadow tech, and it is openly stated that this base has been doing so since several years before the Earth Alliance civil war. It is reasonable to assume, then, that this base was in some way connected to the construction of these Advanced Omegas, but this is never actually addressed in the script for the episode. Furthermore, since the series was cancelled before the script was filmed, the canonicity of where the Advanced Omegas were actually built is unclear.
The series strongly implies that the production of the Omega destroyer began after the Minbari war, though no specific year was ever mentioned. This conflict took place around 2248, a decade before the first season of the show. However in the television movie, In The Beginning, which focused on that war as well as the events leading up to it, some fans believe they saw the "Omega" destroyer in the film. This is actually incorrect, as the ship seen in the movie was the most recent Nova-class design, which looked very similar in appearance to that of the Omega class destroyer.
Known Omega-class vessels
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Most Omega class ships appear to be named for entities in Earth mythology. However, some have been seen named for famous figures in history.
- EAS Acheron - Delivered Captain Elizabeth Lochley to Babylon 5 in 2262 so that she could assume command of the station following Captain John Sheridan's election to the post of President of the Interstellar Alliance.
- EAS Achilles - First Omega destroyer built.
- EAS Agamemnon - John Sheridan was the Captain of this ship before being reassigned to the command of Babylon 5. He later commanded the final battle of the Earth Civil War from this ship.
- EAS Agrippa - Captained by Dexter Smith, one of four ships sent by President Clark to seize Babylon 5 on 4-14-2260 to prevent its secession from the Earth Alliance. Destroyed on 4-15-2260 when the EAS Alexander fires on it point-blank. Sheridan offered to take on survivors, but the Agrippa exploded before this could occur (note that Sheridan incorrectly identifies the Agrippa as the Roanoke in that scene, despite the fact that earlier, the Roanoke had been rammed and destroyed by the Churchill).
- EAS Alexander - One of the key vessels involved in the Earth civil war of 2260 - 2261. Commanded by General William Hague, then by Major Ed Ryan upon Hague's death in combat.
- EAS Anubis - Mentioned by General Thompson in 2267.
- EAS Apollo - General Lefcourt's flagship during the final stages of the Earth Civil War in 2261. Led a fleet of Earth destroyers to oppose Sheridan near Mars. Saved Sheridan by destroying the orbital defense platform he was about to ram.
- EAS Cadmus - Fought for President Clark in the Earth civil war. Commanded by Captain Leo Frank.
- EAS Cerberus - destroyed by an Earthforce Shadow Hybrid vessel. Ensign Matthew Gideon was the only survivor.
- EAS Charon - Captained by Leonard Anderson. Fought on the side of President Clark during the Earth Civil War in 2261. Later, Anderson took over command of the Victory during Babylon 5: A Call to Arms.
- EAS Churchill - Captained by Sandra Hiroshi. One of the ships on the resistance side of the Earth civil war. Destroyed on 4-15-2260 when her captain rammed her into the EAS Roanoke after taking heavy damage defending Babylon 5 from President Morgan Clark's forces. The Churchill's only appearance was in the Season 3 Episode "Severed Dreams".
- EAS Damocles - Fought on the side of President Clark during the Earth Civil War in 2261. Disabled in battle near Beta IX.
- EAS Delphi - Fought for President Clark in the 2261 Earth civil war.
- EAS Excalibur - damaged in battle near the Jovian moon Io while attempting to prevent the escape of General William Hague in one of the first battles of the Earth civil war.
- EAS Furies - Involved in the 2261 blockade of Proxima III. She decided to stand down rather than fire on Sheridan's forces. She joined Sheridan's forces following the battle.
- EAS Heracles - One of two vessels that attacked civilian vessels attempting to leave Proxima III in 2261. Flagship of the Proxima III blockade force. Commanded by Captain Trevor Hall, who was later relieved of command by his executive officer, Commander Sandra Levitt. Taken to Beta IX for repairs following liberation of Proxima by Captain John Sheridan. Commander Levitt kept the Heracles a neutral ship for the rest of the war.
- EAS Hermes - Flagship of the fleet that fought the Drakh during the Battle of Earth, 2267.
- EAS Hydra - Fought for President Clark in the 2261 Earth civil war.
- EAS Juno - Involved in the 2261 blockade of Proxima III. Withdrew without engaging Sheridan's forces.
- EAS Medusa - Stationed near the rebellious mining colony at Regula 4 in 2267.
- EAS Nemesis - Involved in the blockade of Proxima III in 2261, where she was disabled and surrendered to Sheridan’s forces. However, she is seen amongst General Lefcourt's fleet at Mars near the end of the Earth Civil War, so it seems the ship rejoined Clark’s forces following after-action repairs.
- EAS Nimrod - Sent by President Clark to support the seizure of Babylon 5 on 4-15-2260. Retreated following Delenn's arrival.
- EAS Olympic - Sent by President Clark to support the seizure of Babylon 5 in 2260. Retreated following Delenn's arrival.
- EAS Orion - Fought on the side of President Clark during the Earth Civil War in 2261, when she was disabled in battle near Beta IX. In 2267, was stationed with EAS Medusa at Regula 4.
- EAS Persephone - Lost in action following the Drakh attack on Earth in 2267. Pursued and forced a Drakh ship down on Ceti 4, but was destroyed when battle damage caused the fusion reactors to overload. Only a message drone survived.
- EAS Pollux - One of two vessels involved in illegal attacks on civilian vessels in 2261. She was destroyed in 2261 when a severely damaged White Star vessel collided with her.
- EAS Pournelle - On Mars patrol in the 2250s and saw action during the 2258 Mars Rebellion, where she shot down Abel Horn's escape ship. However, it is indicated on screen that this is not a destroyer, but rather a cruiser. It is therefore possible that the Pournelle is a different ship based on the Nova/Omega heritage. However, it should be noted that the ship is mentioned when Talia Winters performs a scan on Abel Horn. Not being an Earth Alliance officer she might not know the ship class.
- EAS Roanoke - Sent by President Clark On 4-14-2260 to seize Babylon 5. Destroyed by EAS Churchill which, on fire from earlier combat, rammed into the Roanoke broadsides, destroying both vessels. (In a later scene, Captain Sheridan offers to take on survivors from the Roanoke, but it had already been destroyed. Sheridan was actually referring to the Agrippa.)
- EAS Talos - Supervised decommissioning of Babylon 5 in 2281.
- EAS Theseus - Part of Sheridan's fleet during the assault on Earth's Planetary Defense Network near the end of the Earth Civil War in 2261.
- EAS Vesta - Involved in the 2261 blockade of Proxima III. Commanded by Captain Edward MacDougan. Refused to fire on civilian refugees, and stood down rather than fight Sheridan. Following the battle at Proxima III, the Vesta joined Sheridan's fleet and fought in a number of engagements against Clark's forces.
- EAS Zeus - Part of General Lefcourt's fleet near Mars near the end of the Earth Civil War in 2261. ("Endgame")
- Creating layers of model detail described in page 5 of Adam "Mojo" Lebowitz interview at B5Scrolls.]