…or some such mystical-sounding hoo-ha. They being the Vorlons, the Shadows, and the other Ancient Ones of the Babylon 5 tale. Most of these old, old races have “passed beyond the rim” or died off, or just… left. There are a few still around, like the Tiki-headed ones Ivanova mocked into committing themselves to fighting, if the need arises. Fighting the new Shadow War, that is.
Ten thousand years ago the Shadows were, if not defeated, exactly, then at least pushed back hard enough to be no threat to the younger races. It seems the Ancient Ones take an active interest in younger races. Then, one thousand years ago, there was a small Shadow war. A skirmish, maybe, but still a pretty big deal, according to the reports we have. The Shadows apparently weren’t quite ready for the level of resistance they met. They were pushed back again, and started getting all sneaky and stuff.
The ancient races, including the Vorlons, seemed pleased with the results. Though, really, they probably weren’t pleased, exactly. After all, the way the story comes down to Our Heroes, the Shadows were on the verge of success until the missing space station Babylon 4 popped up, captained by the Greatest Minbari Ever, Valen.
This isn’t the time to linger over the strange facts of that particular event: that Valen is the pen name of Jeffrey Sinclair, that Sinclair is a post-human turned into a Minbari by technology left unexplained, that Sinclair is from 1,000 years after the war he helped win, and that the records are surprisingly spotty for something that happened a mere 1,000 years ago to a space-faring race involved in what was, to that point, the greatest war in (their) history. This is also not the time to think too much about just how strange it is that the arrival of 1 person with 1 space station engineered by young races–one of whom has been space-faring for slightly less than 300 years (dating from the 1969 moon landing)–was able to turn the tide of an interstellar war. Particularly given that the war, from what we’ve been told, had 1 ancient billions-of-years old race winning against the combined might of more than 1 ancient billions-of-years old races, plus the Minbari.
No. It’s actually the time to linger over the question of the Minbari’s role in the Shadow War of 1,000 years ago. But before going on about that, let me go on about this: I expect that at least some of the questions raised in this post are answered in novels, comic books, and various JMS Speaks postings available on-line. I’m limiting myself to what I’ve seen on screen and can remember from previous geek-search. I don’t do research specifically for these posts since I’m basically lazy.
Who are the Minbari’s peer group? Currently, it looks like the Humans, the Centauri, the Narn (sort-of), and even the races of the League of Non-aligned Worlds, since the Minbari are pretty inclusive, even though the Minbari could kick all of their asses all at once if they chose to–all of them, the major and minor races. When the war 1,000 years ago took place, it’s less clear who their peer group was, since there doesn’t seem to be anyone else on par with the Minbari from that time still flying around. One thousand years ago, we know what the humans were up to–not much of interest to interstellar civilizations. Same with the Narn, though we know that the Narn homeworld was a base of operations for the Shadows. We don’t know about the Centauri. We also know that the Vorlons have visited most races, and fiddled with them so each race sees–literally sees–Vorlons as embodiments of supernatural goodness. Not gods, exactly, but more like angels.
Except the Minbari see Vorlons as Vorlons, an ancient race, and vastly powerful. The Minbari have been told the truth about things, though not, as we find out in season 4 of the show, the whole truth. The Shadow Wars are more complex than a good/evil, or even than a light/dark, dichotomy. It’s an order/chaos thing, and in the final analysis, the Vorlons are as ruthless as the Shadows. But… behind even that there lurks another facet to the question of who are the Minbari’s peer group?
The Shadows are one of the very oldest races in the galaxy. Old even by the standards of the Ancient Ones, and apparently older by far than even the Vorlons. (And there are even older beings in hyperspace and in thirdspace, but they need not delay us in this discussion.) But, when the other older races decide to move on from this universe, a few stick around for their own inscrutable purposes, and two–the Shadows and the Vorlons–stick around to bring up the new, younger races. Who are these younger races?
We get, after this Final Great Shadow War, some idea of the Minbari peer group. There are a few races in the Shadows’ Army of Darkness (if you will) who show up to cause trouble even after the Shadows and Vorlons skedaddle. It seems reasonable to make the assumption from this, and from some other details that emerge over the course of the series, that some of these races were Shadow allies 1,000 years ago, and maybe even 10,000 years ago.
The Shadows have been around for billions of years. The Vorlons, too. Billions of years. In all that time, the first set of younger races to reach a level of intellectual and technological mastery are just coming around in the last few thousand years? And that, of all of them, up until recently, only the Minbari took up with the Vorlons?
Anyway. The galaxy is a huge place, with so many space-faring races close enough to Babylon 5 (and each other) to make an interesting mix of races for the story, I wonder how many other races there are, and how many other Great Shadow Wars have taken place in the galaxy before? Where are they? Why aren’t there earlier younger races running around? Where are the other races even on a par with the Minbari? Did the Vorlons and Shadows take the last few billion years and fight their proxy war around the galaxy, and in each pie slice essentially destroy the space-faring races before moving on to the next iteration of their order vs. chaos pissing match, and it wasn’t until meeting up with Our Heroes that they finally met their match and slunk off to greener pastures?