24

The Vorlons in the Babylon 5 saga are very secretive. As far as we know, only two humans ever visited their empire and lived.

Vorlon territory was restricted to other alien species and (almost) every known expedition into Vorlon space failed to return to their respective governments. Much like the Shadow homeworld, Vorlon is protected by an array of highly advanced and automated defense systems designed to keep out intruders and primitive spacefaring races. These defense systems remain in place and active even after the Vorlons abandoned their home and left known space; evidence suggests that the systems will not allow outsiders entry to Vorlon until 1,000,000 human years have elapsed.

They wear encounter suits and very rarely leave the suits because they don't want others to see how Vorlons appear.

enter image description here

Despite their secretiveness about their empire, their history, and especially their physiology, somebody poisoned the Vorlon ambassador to Babylon-5. How would anybody know how to poison a Vorlon?

In the pilot episode, The Gathering, ...

a member of the Wind Swords, a militant section of the Minbari warrior caste, disguised himself as station Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, and attempted to assassinate Ambassador Kosh with poison.

A person could not pick a chemical at random and hope it works. If they tried sodium-cyanide, they might discover it just makes Vorlons hallucinate, but does not injure them. Or if somebody tried, potassium-chloride, they might discover that Vorlons use that the way we use table salt, sodium-chloride.

Later in the episode ...

Doctor Benjamin Kyle decided to risk treating Kosh, which meant opening the encounter suit. Determining that a cure would be impossible without knowing where the poison entered the Vorlon, Dr. Kyle convinced newly arrived Psi Corps telepath Lyta Alexander to scan the Vorlon. Despite the very strict Psi Corps rules in such cases, Lyta performed the scan.

So we have a separate, but related question of how could a doctor know how to treat a Vorlon for poison if he doesn't understand Vorlon physiology, which poison was used, or the effect of the poison on the body? While this second question is intriguing, it's not the focus of this post.

I prefer answers backed by canon sources; such as comments from the producers, novelizations, or screenplays.

  • 9
    Almost like someone who didn't like Vorlons provided the information to the assassin. Who could that possibly be... – Radhil Jul 7 '17 at 0:13
  • 1
    @Radhil If you're thinking of Shadows, that would make sense. Got any sources for that hypothesis? – RichS Jul 7 '17 at 0:15
  • 4
    @RichS - The Shadows aren't the only suspects. The militant Vorlons (Ulkesh's faction) didn't like Kosh very much, either. Civil war is a big theme of B5, and JMS's early plans for the B5 universe had assassination as the means of promotion in Vorlon society. – Gaultheria Jul 7 '17 at 7:28
  • 3
    @RichS - This review of the B5 series treatment mentions an early plan for conspiracies within the Vorlon government. I saw another document years ago---maybe the series treatment itself---that mentioned the bit about assassination as a standard tactic in Vorlon politics. I'm pretty sure that document showed a drawing of Sinclair with a beard (maybe that'll jog someone's memory). – Gaultheria Jul 7 '17 at 7:53
  • 3
    I doubt the Vorlons were the discorporeal beings of light they turned out to be later in the series when pilot was filmed and any explanation for the poisoning/curing will just be some half-assed after the fact attempts at explaining the discrepancy. Just like Delenn's telekinesis ring never gets used or mentioned again. – CodesInChaos Jul 7 '17 at 13:06
15

Sinclair wondered this too, but never got an answer

In "The War Prayer", Sinclair wondered how someone could possibly administer a poison on a Vorlon. And not just what kind of poison, but to know the means of poisoning his hand while it was in a suit.

Sinclair: [The Minbari assassin] used poison, administered through the hand. I was talking with Kosh earlier and I remembered something I never could quite figure out. Kosh wears an encounter suit to protect him from our atmosphere, so how did the poison get into his system? His hand should have been completely covered.

Ivanova: Vorlons are very secretive. They don't want anyone to know what they look like, what they breathe, or how their biology works. I mean, who knows how much that suit is really necessary and how much is just…camouflage to keep us from seeing what's inside.

Sinclair: The only person who does know is Dr. Ben Kyle, who saved Kosh's life. Since he's bound by a doctor's oath of confidentiality, he never told me what he saw when he opened that encounter suit.

By "person", Sinclair really means "human" (although at this point, Sinclair was probably unaware of the Vorlon's connection to the Minbari). Unfortunately, this is something that he never got an answer to. The only two people who could provide evidence, Dr. Kyle and Lyta Alexander were transferred off the station. By the time Lyta returned, so much time had passed that she didn't feel the need to talk about it.

Remember though that this was a Minbari assassin and that the Minbari have worked with the Vorlons for a long time. It's not outside the realm of possibility that in the thousand years they've worked with together that they may have learned how to poison a Vorlon. Unfortunately, we see things from a human perspective and were never shown this aspect of Minbari culture.

  • The problem I kept running into in researching this is that the focus was more on how the assassin got the poison to Kosh in the first place. The mystery the series ultimately focuses on (as it's a huge plot point later on) is why Kosh would expose himself so much to someone he thought was Sinclair that he could get poisoned, and not about how the assassin gained said knowledge. – Machavity Jul 7 '17 at 12:18
19

Yes, only two humans ever returned from the Vorlon homeworld. But the Vorlons were fairly active with the Minbari. They were there when

Sinclair/Valen delivered Babylon 4 to the Minbari during the Great War

They were on Delenn's ship, especially when

the Minbari were set to wipe out the human race at The Battle of the Line.

Delenn even knows what Kosh looks like without his encounter suit. So if anyone knows how to poison a Vorlon, it's going to be the Minbari. Which it was.

As to how the doctor treated Kosh... He's guessing but we know the poison was Florazyne. From the unofficial transcript (cleaned up for our purposes here)

GARABALDI: One last thing, Doctor. You said you were finally able to analyze the poison. What kind was it?
KYLE: Florazyne. It's pretty rare. It only comes from one system that I'm aware of. The Damocles sector.

So if he knows what the poison is, it's likely he can work backwards as to how to treat it. Either way, you kinda have to try because the Vorlons were pretty pivotal to B5 working (as a space UN). Kosh dying would have meant the end of the entire project.

The series creator only ever dealt with how the poison worked, unfortunately

If Vorlons are amorphous energy beings, how was Kosh poisoned in "The Gathering?"
Remember, they do have a certain physicality about them, even in that form, and the nature of the poison was such that it would affect that kind of life form using a crystalline base (note in the pilot the screen reads analyzing crystalline structure, and you filter light or refract or distort it using a crystalline structure).

  • Humans have only interacted with the Vorlons for a short time, but it's not outside the realm of possibility that in the thousand years the Minbari have worked with them that they learned enough about how to poison one. If any race would know how to do it aside from the Shadows and their underlings, it would be the Minbari. – Thunderforge Jul 7 '17 at 2:22
  • 6
    @Machavity "...only two humans ever went to the Vorlon homeworld." More like, only two humans ever returned from the Vorlon homeworld as far as we know. They did abduct Jack from London in 1888, so they could have abducted others too. – RichS Jul 7 '17 at 4:45
4

While there are many secrets surrounding Vorlons, some important details are somewhat accessible to everyone.

The Vorlons assigned quarter contains a breathable atmosphere for them, allowing guesses as to how their physiology if working. This can then be used as a potential attack vector, e.g. by binding it destroying essential elements.

In addition, Vorlons aren't pure energy beings (you can't compare them to Stargate's Ancients). They engineered the DNA (and therefore the perception) of the younger races to perceive them as what humans would interpret as angels. This is different for other races as shown when Kosh leaves his suit.

  • You can improve your answer with quotes from canon sources. – RichS Jul 7 '17 at 7:08
  • 3
    As I recall, it's left up in the air as to how much Kosh really needed the different atmosphere, and how much it was obfuscation and orneriness on his part. He could survive outside his encounter suit in normal atmosphere, after all. – Dranon Jul 7 '17 at 13:53
  • Sure, he can survive outside his encounter suit for a little while. But that doesn't mean indefinitely. After his initial reveal in season 1, he took a long time recover. He claimed it was because being seen by so many exhausted him, but it's possible there was a physical strain as well, it's never really addressed. The only time you see a Vorlon out of his suit longer than, the Vorlon ends up dead (although not from simple exposure). I think it's intentionally an unanswered question of how important the suit actually is. – Bryce Wagner Jul 8 '17 at 0:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.