There are multiple incidents of major security lapses on Babylon-5.

This is not even counting all the incidents of theft, murder, and drug dealing on the station.

Babylon-5 is among the most important places in the political galaxy. There are diplomats and government officials and heads of state visiting it every few weeks. It simply can't afford even the appearance of sloppiness.

You'd think every ambassador would hire their own security force.

Why didn't Babylon-5 hire a lot more security guards? Or hire a more professional security force?

  • 11
    It's like something happens every week...
    – Valorum
    Mar 12, 2017 at 10:05

2 Answers 2


Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski was very active online during the shows's run, and addressed many of these questions. Even from the earliest days, he acknowledged that security was a problem, and would cause issues on the station.

Lots of people and lots of stuff coming and going means inevitably, things are going to slip through

There is a security problem on B5, yes. And we hope to deal with it at some point. It's inevitable, really; 250,000 residents, huge crates being moved in and out every day, people going and coming...they try to confiscate what they can, but a lot slips through. (Usenet 3/23/1994)

As JMS points out, security is hard when you've got that many people and that much stuff, and inevitably something is going to slip through. Even in our modern day, this is a problem. In 2015, the United States' Transport Security Administration (TSA) had a 95% failure rate for letting dangerous objects through during undercover tests. Babylon 5 is doing pretty well actually given how few incidents there were over five years.

Confiscating weapons smuggled by diplomats will likely cause a diplomatic incident

A prominent example we see of this is when Londo Mollari assembled a hidden weapon in Midnight on the Firing Line in an attempt to murder G'Kar. JMS notes that pretty much all of the ambassadors have smuggled in weapons via diplomatic pouches and confiscating them could lead to a diplomatic incident.

My thought, at the time, was that if we play the reality of this for a moment, probably *all* of the ambassadors have some kind of weapon, smuggled in via diplomatic pouches. Garibaldi and Sinclair know they're there...question is, is it worth starting a diplomatic incident over, as long as they're not being used? Garibaldi is saying, in essence, "Okay, you know it's there, and I know it's there, but now you've made a point about it. Lose it or hide it, or I'm going to have to charge you, and we're BOTH going to be up to our ears in it." If Garibaldi confiscated it, there'd be a whole diplomatic hassle...and Londo would just have another one sent to him via diplomatic pouch. (GENIE 1/23/1994)

Note too that Babylon 5 security, before breaking away from Earth, was a regulated part of Earthforce military. After they broke away, many Narns joined the security force. Having a human kick down the Minbari ambassador's door, or a Narn kick down the Centauri ambassador's door, is just asking for trouble. Given that Babylon 5 is the "last, best hope for peace" between many enemy races, they would rather not risk this so long as they are not actually using the weapons.

A known fixer on the ship is better than one who is unknown

Although he primarily does forgeries and stuff, some weapons appear to be available from N'Grath, who was a fixer on board the ship throughout Season 1.

Garibaldi is quite aware of n'grath...and knowing that if he just vanished, somebody'd take his place in five minutes, prefers the trouble he knows to the trouble he'd have to track down.(Usenet 2/18/1994)

Ironically, he did disappear, although that was because JMS felt he didn't work out as well as intended. Again, knowing who is supplying people is better than not knowing. Heck, Garibaldi even approached N'Grath himself when he was on the run, although he insisted he was just a "legitimate businessman."

The station is 5 miles long, and some areas are poorly monitored

Dr. Franklin went on walkabout for much of Season 3, and Babylon 5 staff had no idea where he was for most of it. While he didn't do anything wrong, I think this shows that keeping tabs on someone who might be a threat is next to impossible if they are hanging out in relatively unmonitored sections of the station, like Brown Sector.

JMS notes that there are places that are less monitored by security, like an air lock in the zero-g section where a body was dumped out in And the Sky Full of Stars.

Yes, it was always my assumption that the body was dumped out through the zero-g section, since that has more traffic with cargo loaders and unloaders and less security than the passenger-oriented bays and airlocks. (Usenet 3/23/1994)

Even if there were security cameras in places like these, Babylon 5 security can't monitor every inch of the place all the time, so they can't necessarily provide a timely response when incidents like this occur. Plus, it's easy enough to disguise yourself during this.

Sheridan acknowledges that someone trading their life can't easily be stopped by security

Since many of the things on your list are assassination attempts, I'd like to point out an exchange from Season 5's No Compromises in which an assassin threatened to murder Sheridan at his inauguration.

Sheridan: I can't go along with postponing the ceremony.

Garibaldi: Just for a few days until we can bring in more security. Now whoever this guy is, we know he's killed one person already. The message he sent you is untraceable, that tells me he knows our system inside and out. He's smart, he's deadly, he's after you. That's good enough for me. [...]

Sheridan: Our new friend just said "All the security in the world can't stop a loan gunman dedicated to exchange his life for the target." And he is right. So you may as well live instead of being a prisoner.

Presumably, he had some of this attitude in previous seasons as well when he was in charge of the station. If someone really wanted to trade their life, security can do all they can to stop it, but ultimately, they have limits on what they can do.

Regarding the missing Grey 17…

I don't really see this as much of a security issue. The station schematics did not show a missing sector, and until Garibaldi started timing the elevator ride (because he was bored, mind you), nobody even suspected that there was a missing sector. After all, there was an official Grey 17 level.

Recall too that Grey Sector had a reputation for being the "B5 Triangle" with lots of unexplained occurrences. Say that someone goes missing in Grey Sector. Security searches, finds no clues, and eventually has to let the case rest. You can have all the security officers in the world, but it won't change a situation like that.

  • 2
    "...Garibaldi started timing the elevator ride (because he was bored..." The chief of security was bored? I can't imagine why with all that happens on B-5.
    – RichS
    Mar 13, 2017 at 5:15
  • 3
    @RichS In the episode, he was checking floor by floor and seeing nothing for the first dozen. He started getting bored and began counting the three seconds it took to go to the next floor, only to realize that going from floor 16 to 17 took 6 seconds. Mar 13, 2017 at 15:31

Babylon 5 has a population of around 250,000. Low level crime can't be entirely prevented in such a large civilisation. Most of the more serious incidents were organised by groups with a lot of resources. The attempt to assassinate Garibaldi in Objects in Motion is one good example: behind this was Edgars Industries, a company large enough to take on the Psi Corps (albeit unsuccessfully). Add to this the fact that a large number of experienced security guards were members of the Nightwatch, meaning they couldn't be trusted, and had to be deported at the end of Severed Dreams.

Could the commanding officers have hired more security guards?

  • Sinclair: No. The station budget was stretched already (see By Any Means Necessary).

  • Sheridan in S2: Maybe, but given the situation on Earth, it would be difficult to find guards who could be trusted.

  • Sheridan in S3: He does, but only after being forced to sack security guards who were Nightwatch members.

  • Sheridan in S4: No. Resources were stretched to the limit.

  • Lochley in S5: Maybe, but given that Earth had just been through a civil war, the government would be unlikely to provide the funds. Moreover, turning B5 into a police state would lead to conflict with the Interstellar Alliance. A police state was exactly what Sheridan was fighting against.

Ultimately, the series is set during extremely troubled times, with several major wars occurring over five years. There are technologically advanced and well-funded antagonists, with lots of attractive targets on B5. Add to this a lack of funds, and the fact that a lot of humans supported President Clark, and it's remarkable that the security team managed as good a job as they did.

Finally, please don't mention Grey 17 is Missing. Don't mention it ever again. I want to forget about that episode, and I expect that everyone else does as well!

  • 1
    Plus the fact that it's a 5 mile-wide city... that it has to operate as a business hub and trade port to bring money in... and it's very very hard to de-escalate every situation where one diplomat needs to beat the crap out of another without making an incident out of it (how many Londo/G'kar fights did they stop, before G'kar finally made one work?)
    – Radhil
    Mar 12, 2017 at 14:49
  • @IanThompson Grey 17 was my least favorite episode. Even JMS said he hated it. I'm surprised he wrote and produced it.
    – RichS
    Mar 12, 2017 at 15:36
  • @RichS --- There is an episode in S5 that is even worse. I can't bring myself to type its name. Mar 12, 2017 at 15:43
  • @IanThompson Now I am curious. What could be worse than Grey 17?
    – RichS
    Mar 13, 2017 at 0:41
  • @IanThompson I have no idea what S5 episode it could be. Looking on a bunch of forums, I see worst episode candidates being "Grey 17 is Missing", "Infection", "TKO", and a few other Season 1 episodes like "Survivors" and "Eyes". Not a single person I could find listed a Season 5 episode as their least favorite, and personally, I don't think any of them were worse than the ones I've already mentioned. Mar 13, 2017 at 4:53

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