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|Created by||J. Michael Straczynski|
In the fictional Babylon 5 universe, Z'ha'dum is the homeworld of an ancient, mysterious race known as the Shadows. The planet is near the galactic rim. The Shadows return to the world every time they are defeated, until their final departure from the galaxy in 2261.
Probably inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's 'Khazad-dûm', the dwarvish name for Moria in Middle Earth.
Z'ha'dum has extensive mountain ranges composed of igneous rock and lava fields from volcanoes of glittering obsidian that tower over sediment-covered plains. Weather patterns are violent, with dust storms covering one-quarter of the planet's surface at any given time. Shadow structures cover 30% of the planet's surface, though most habitats are below ground.
The surface is mostly desolate, with raging dust storms lashing the rocky surface. Stone obelisks covered in Shadow Runes pierce the land. Roughly translated, they say "every light carries a shadow". The obelisks, made of native sedimentary rock, range from 100 to 150 yards high. They are spaced at a constant 2.43 miles apart and are spread over large parts of the planet, and appear to be concentrated in areas near cave entrances where Shadows dwell. Any other structures that were on the surface, however, have not survived.
Prior to 2261
By the twenty-third century the planet has been devastated by previous wars. As a result, the Shadows have begun living underground. All that is left on the surface are a few ruins. The atmosphere is not breathable by humans, who require oxygen masks to move about on the planet.
The Icarus, a science vessel from Earth, finds the Shadows and inadvertently wakes them from their long hibernation. After this the Shadows give the crew a chance to agree to work with them. Morden agrees to do so, and becomes the liaison between the Shadows, the Centauri Republic, and President Clark's government on Earth. Others who refuse, like Anna Sheridan, are either killed outright, or taken and plugged into Shadow ships to act as central processor units. The Shadows build a complex on the surface to accommodate those humans who agreed to assist the Shadows.
When the Shadows learn that Anna Sheridan is plugged into a Shadow vessel, they remove her and send her to Babylon 5 to bring John Sheridan back to the Shadow homeworld in the episode "Z'ha'dum". Sheridan discovers Anna has been plugged into a Shadow vessel, and that her personality has been destroyed in the process. When the Shadows try to attack him, he shoots at the approaching Shadow, and escapes to a balcony overlooking the Shadow capital city. He orders the White Star to nose dive into the city, and sets the two nuclear devices on board to detonate. Upon hearing the voice of Kosh, Sheridan jumps into the great pit below the balcony. The White Star explodes, killing Anna Sheridan and destroying the Shadows' capital.
After the capital city is destroyed, Sheridan awakes to find himself underground, with another being named Lorien. Sheridan soon learns that Lorien is not just one of the "First Ones" (a group of several of the oldest races), but rather the First One. Also, Lorien is the reason for the Shadows' presence at Z'ha'dum over the past millennia. The original home planet of the Shadows is unknown, but they always come back to Z'ha'dum for the singular reason that it is where Lorien chooses to dwell. This reverence for Lorien on the Shadows' part seems to date back to the time when even their ancient race was young and Lorien was their teacher and guide. However, in light of the Shadows' misguided ways, Lorien considers this an empty gesture.
During his conversations with Lorien, Sheridan learns that he is trapped in between life and death. Eventually, Lorien convinces Sheridan to let go of his life and then manages to restore Sheridan's broken body, effectively bringing him back from the dead. Lorien's power is great, but not unlimited; he says he cannot create life anew, but he can revive the recently deceased, apparently with the flick of a thought. Lorien then returns with Sheridan to Babylon 5.
Once they arrive, Sheridan learns that Delenn has been staging a massive attack against Z'ha'dum. He arrives on Babylon 5 to find support wavering, and a large demonstration against Delenn's plans underway. This dispute is resolved when Sheridan suddenly walks in on the gathering.
In the episode "Into the Fire" Sheridan is able to trick the Shadows and Vorlons into revealing their true intentions to the younger races – that being that the younger races under the two titans' respective influence fight each other in a war of ideology, the advancement through order of the Vorlons versus the strength through chaos of the Shadows, until one of them proves themselves right, presumably by defeating all of the other's acolytes. The Shadows and the Vorlons are long past having any real hostile intent against each other and have systematically, over tens of thousands of years, reduced themselves to bickering parents, as Sheridan puts it, with countless infant races paying the price for their pettiness. Sheridan and Lorien are able to convince the two races to go beyond the galactic rim to join the other First Ones who had left aeons before. Ashamed, the Shadows and the Vorlons accept, and Lorien and the other First Ones also depart the galaxy, leaving it to the purview of the younger races. Apart from Lorien alone returning to bring Sheridan back to the other First Ones in 2281, no First One is ever seen in our galaxy again.
Soon after the end of the war, Alfred Bester arrives on the station. He wants to be taken to Z'ha'dum to see if there is any technology there that can help free his lover Carolyn from the implants the Shadows have put in her brain. Sheridan takes Bester to Z'ha'dum on board a White Star vessel. Delenn and Lyta Alexander accompany them. When they arrive, they find the planet deserted. They find a large evacuation in progress – the Drakh and other Shadow minions are leaving the system for the last time.
Upon seeing the evacuation, Sheridan realizes something is wrong and orders the crew to turn the ship around. Within a few minutes, the planet explodes. After their return to Babylon 5, Sheridan confronts Lyta Alexander in her quarters, all but accusing her of telepathically triggering the planet's self-destruct mechanisms. While she does not admit to tripping the self-destruct either intentionally or unintentionally, she states that, hypothetically speaking, she might have for any one of several reasons with revenge being the motivator: the Shadows' murder of Ambassador Kosh and the treatment of telepaths by Psi Corps in general, and Alfred Bester specifically, chief among them. Sheridan tells her that if she ever decides to make such strategic decisions on behalf of Babylon 5 ever again, without consulting the command staff, there will be hell to pay.
- "Z'ha'dum is the homeworld of the Shadows. No one leaves the same as they arrived." - Delenn
- "If you go to Z'ha'dum you will die." - Kosh to John Sheridan
- "Is that it? It looks like hell." - Alfred Bester
- Johnson-Smith, Jan (2005). American science fiction TV: Star Trek, Stargate, and beyond. Wesleyan University Press. p. 218. ISBN 0-8195-6738-8.