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As much as I personally love Deep Space Nine, a case can be made that major features of the show were ripped off of Babylon 5. Although the first episode of DS9 hit the airwaves six weeks before the first Babylon 5 television film, it is widely known that Paramount had access to Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski's show bible for some time. (For further reading on this, see here.)

Apart from the broad similarities, I noticed that the same distinctive style of mug appears in both shows.

Raktajino (Klingon coffee) and its preferred serving mug appear for the first time in the Season 1 DS9 episode "Dax", which aired February 14, 1993. Here is a screenshot from the episode, showing Dr. Bashir with the mug:

Bashir holding a Raktajino mug

Now here is a nearly identical style of mug in Babylon 5, as seen in its Season 1 episode "Eyes":

Mugs in Babylon 5

This episode aired on July 13, 1994. The mugs began appearing in Babylon 5 a few episodes prior to this one, but they still appeared in DS9 more than a year earlier.

Is there a story behind the use of these mugs in Babylon 5? Was this a subtle attempt to draw attention to DS9 having copied crucial elements of Babylon 5 ?

Update: As a commenter and an answerer have pointed out, these mugs have a real-world naval precedent, but consider the following:

  • (a) I found it odd that both shows should choose to use that style of mug at the same time, especially as no other spacefaring shows of the time had them;
  • (b) in-universe, the Replimats on DS9 almost certainly produced Cardassian-style drink containers, and so out-of-universe the intention was likely to have a foreign-looking mug rather than a mug tied to human naval traditions;
  • (c) neither Deep Space Nine nor Babylon 5 is a ship — under routine operations, neither station would expect turbulence or "heavy seas", supported by the fact that we often see glassware in use, especially on Babylon 5.
  • 3
    just a speculation, but I remember there were a variety of unusual drink containers shown on Next Generation (do a google image search for next generation ten forward drink to see some), it's possible that they were ordering them from some specialty manufacturer rather than the prop people making the containers themselves, in which case it's possible other sci fi shows like Babylon Five might order from the same manufacturer. – Hypnosifl Aug 27 '15 at 4:22
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    That's not a "Raktajino mug", that's a plain old no-tip mug that you can probably buy anywhere you'd buy other mugs. – mu is too short Aug 27 '15 at 4:31
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    @muistooshort : It's a Raktajino mug because there's Raktajino in it. Just like a coffee mug is a coffee mug because there's coffee in it. – Praxis Aug 27 '15 at 4:37
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    Related question - how on earth can you clean them? Doesn't old coffee get stuck in the ridge at the bottom? – Wikis Aug 27 '15 at 8:04
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    DS9 lifted guest stars off B5 enough, I'm not surprised they borrowed their mugs. – Tyson of the Northwest Aug 28 '15 at 4:17
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About the mugs

The important thing to note is that in DS9 there are two types of Raktajino mugs:

Hotjo mugs (from Quark's)

This site claims that:

These mugs were made by HighWave and were called “HotJo”. The model line was modernized however, so that the older ones are not available anymore. The current HotJo mugs were also used in later seasons of DS9 however.

A quick search on the Highwave site results in this

enter image description here

which look like they've been updated from the ones seen in DS9 and Babylon 5

enter image description here

Mugs from the Replimat

Again from the same site

Here's a picture of one; compare it to the one in the question that Bashir is holding:

enter image description here

Back to the Question

So, we're focused on the mugs from the replimat from DS9. Now, if you look very closely at the photo in the original question, you can see the handle on the Babylon 5 mug is much more angular than the one in the above picture of the mugs from the Replimat:

enter image description here

Nevertheless, there are some clear similarities in the design.

In a quote in 1996 about the similarities between the two series generally from Straczynski said:

For now, I'm asuming [sic] it's all just coincidence.

(Source)

So, considering that Straczynski did suspect there was some copying occurring, but gave them the benefit of the doubt, to me it seems Straczynski wouldn't have ordered this intentionally. To my mind, the most likely explanation for this is that both companies approached a different manufacturer and selected different, but similar, mugs that looked futuristic. The fact that they look awfully similar is probably simply because they were being produced around the same time so the concepts of what constituted 'futuristic' were similar.

Now, I've gathered all the evidence I can find to support this contention, but ultimately it is just speculation based on evidence on my part.

  • 7
    Great research, @N_Soong! I'm particularly happy that you found a statement from JMS on the matter. :-) – Praxis Aug 27 '15 at 5:12
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    Great answer, but I'd quibble with "approached the same manufacturer"--like I said in another comment, it seems to be a preexisting style of mug (search for "no tip" or "no spill" mug and you'll find many) so this style was probably made by a lot of different manufacturers--the very fact that the two mugs have slightly different shapes may suggest mugs from two different companies. – Hypnosifl Aug 27 '15 at 13:05
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    Convergent evolution of mugs, no doubt. – Astravagrant Aug 27 '15 at 19:03
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I believe this style is a no-spill mug for ships in heavy seas. That would mean both shows drew inspiration from the same real-world precedent.

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    Thanks for this. I'm looking for something a little more definitive, in terms of statements from the creative staff, prop people, etc. – Praxis Aug 27 '15 at 5:08
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    I added some points to the end of the question that should clarify what I'm looking for. – Praxis Aug 28 '15 at 3:01
  • Were the residents of DS9 expecting the space station to tilt to one side and spill out the mugs? – RichS Aug 2 '17 at 21:50
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    @RichS, blame the Cardassian gravity technology. – o.m. Aug 3 '17 at 5:11

protected by Often Right Aug 29 '15 at 1:49

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