At the start of the Babylon 5 series, the Council of Babylon 5 consists of five main ambassadors - human, Minbari, Centauri, Narn, and Vorlon - and a bunch of misfits from the League of Non-Aligned Worlds, such as the Drazi, Pakmara, and so on.

The humans are clearly entitled to one of the primary seats on the council: they built Babylon 5 and set this whole thing up. So are the Minbari: co-sponsors of Babylon 5, and a civilisation easily powerful enough to destroy humanity. So are the Centauri: they might not be in their prime any more, but they're at least the remnants of a great empire, as well as the first aliens to form relations with humans. The Vorlons are, as usual, a total mystery, but at least they're undoubtedly powerful.

So where do the Narns come in? They were a Centauri colony until recently (within living memory). What makes them more important and powerful than, say, the Drazi - enough to merit one of the five main seats on the Council, rather than a place on the benches with the less powerful races?

  • I can't provide any references for this, but I got the impression the Narn were more aggressively colonial and expansionist than most of the league, either by intent or ability. In technology they may not be much ahead of the Drazi, but they're pushing the envelope more, thus the seat. – gowenfawr Feb 1 '18 at 19:04

Military might, for one.

The Narn have a mighty war machine in place. They're constantly building weapons, or stealing them, or salvaging them, and when they're not using them, they're selling them. The Drazi may love a good fight, and it's likely they're the strongest military within the League on that basis alone, but we never see battlecruiser level ships from them.

It's a peaceful mission...

... and the Narn-Centauri conflict is just about the biggest threat to peace that Earth can currently see, other than pissing off the Minbari again. If the conflict goes hot, Earth would get drawn into one side or another, as Earth has been tentative allies and customers of both empires. Ignoring that particular elephant - or provoking the conflict by ignoring one side - would be a disaster.

Earth is just as young, and they're setting the table.

The discovery of Earth by the Centauri dates to approximately the same time as the discovery of Narn by the Centauri. Within that timeframe the Narn not only suffered Centauri occupation, but threw off that chain and proceeded to outbuild their former masters. That would make them fairly similar to Earth, and Narn might have been even stronger, if they hadn't given up several opportunities to make allies, like Earth did with the Dilgar War.

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    "If the conflict goes hot, Earth would get drawn into one side or another" - but when the conflict DID go hot, Earth (and the other powers, barring you-know-who) refused to weigh in on either side, leaving the Narns to get hammered. – Rand al'Thor Jan 31 '18 at 1:29
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    @Randal'Thor - at that point Earth had already had a "change of heart". Via assassination of the leader that actually did care about keeping peace and B5's mission. Or put it another way, I am assuming the pre-B5 Earth government actually gave a crap. – Radhil Jan 31 '18 at 1:31
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    The Narn had also supplied weapons and ships to the Humans during the Human-Minbari war, so were on reasonably good terms when the Council was established – HorusKol Jan 31 '18 at 1:50
  • @HorusKol - everyone there (save the obvious exception) was there due to their ties to Earth, so I didn't really feel that was good evidence one way or the other. – Radhil Jan 31 '18 at 2:03
  • Well, it seems to go someway to explain what separates the Narn (and other full council members) from the species the Non-Aligned worlds... – HorusKol Jan 31 '18 at 2:06

First, let me say that I like @Radhil's answer a lot and that he hits on some very solid points. I think the primary reason the five governments were who they are shown, not from them, but from the name of the group containing everyone else. The League of Non-Aligned Worlds. This gives me the impression that the five "Major" governments are aligned. The question then becomes, how are they aligned, and to that, I fell the answer should be obvious. Babylon 5 itself. This group is called the "Babylon 5 Advisory Council." So, what makes the Narns important enough for a seat on the council? The fact that they were offered and/or asked to be part of the council.

To answer the other part of your question, about power, you are essentially correct that they are the youngest of the five council members. So how is it then that they are considered one of the major powers. Ironically, the Centauri can be thanked for this. When the Centauri first discovered the Narn, the Narn were an agrarian people with only a few colonies and very primitive spacecraft. Over the course of the next hundred years, the Centauri brutalized the Narn, but the Narn were able to study the Centauri technology either through observation as slaves or reverse engineering after theft. So, after fifty years of being free, the Narn were able to incorporate what they had learned from the Centauri into their own technology and made subsequent improvements. So, at the beginning of the show (2258), the Narn have been able to advance to the point where they are considered a major power in the galaxy.

Also, while I haven't been able to find concrete proof, from inferences from the dialogue I kind of assume that the Narns have been going through an expansionist phase and have a rather large territory at this point, more so than the members of the League. At least, that's my take on things.

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