|Babylon 5 character|
|First appearance||Babylon Squared|
War Without End (Zathras I)Conflicts of Interest (Zathras II)
|Portrayed by||Tim Choate|
|Affiliated with||Great Machine|
Zathras is the name (see below for more information) shared by a group of characters in the science fiction television series Babylon 5, all portrayed by Tim Choate. There were ten of these characters who appeared on several episodes throughout the series. The name of Zathras' species and homeworld were never revealed; in "War Without End", Zathras is seen living on Epsilon III and helping take care of the Great Machine with one other member of his race, although there is no evidence that this is their actual homeworld.
The oldest Zathras is the oldest living (110 years old) caretaker of the Great Machine, in the service of the mysterious and messianic "The One" when first appearing.
A slightly shaggy, slightly hunchbacked humanoid, Zathras is prone to deadpan delivery of somewhat cryptic, somewhat humorous, generally self-pitying statements, such as "Zathras is used to being beast of burden to other people's needs. Very sad life. Probably have very sad death. But, at least there is symmetry.", or "No one ever listens to poor Zathras, no, he's quite mad, they say. It is good that Zathras does not mind, has even grown to like it." These speech patterns were patterned after J. Michael Straczynski's Polish-born grandmother's uneasy grasp of English, as JMS wrote in his introduction to the episode "Babylon Squared" in Volume 2 of The Scripts of J. Michael Straczynski.
He also refers to himself in the third person, although sometimes instead of himself, he refers to his brothers, as the story mentions that Zathras is one of 10 different brothers whose names all sound nigh-indistinguishably like 'Zathras'. This fact is revealed by a younger brother of the first Zathras — the second Zathras to be seen — who may appear twice, as "War Without End" features Tim Choate in a dual role as two Zathrases discussing the condition of the great machine. It is explained that the way to differentiate one Zathras from another is to listen to the inflection of the name. However, as he demonstrates the differences to Ivanova, she (and the audience) are unable to detect any difference between one and the others, though it may simply be due to humans lacking the aural sensitivity to detect the subtle differences in the inflections.
The first Zathras travelled 1000 years into the past on Babylon 4 with Jeffrey Sinclair, who (during the trip) transformed into the Minbari religious figure Valen in order to help the Minbari defeat the Shadows. The fate of the first Zathras is not fully known following the Minbari's acceptance of Sinclair as Valen, but Zathras does appear in the comic In Valen's Name and appears to act as Valen's assistant. In the comic, Rashok, a Minbari, attempts to speak to Valen, and Zathras prevents Rashok from doing so and is strong enough to overpower Rashok. Zathras appears to be of some importance as he states, "If Valen can listen to Zathras... you can listen to Zathras!" Rashok also refers to Zathras as Valen's "helpmate". The comic also shows how quickly Zathras' behavior can shift, as he goes from attacking Rashok to offering to make him a snack.