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Spoilers for Season 4 of Babylon 5:

In the war between the Narn and the Shadows, the Shadow vessels easily destroyed all of the Narn vessels that they engaged. From my understanding, Narn and Earth ships were at relatively the same technological level. However, when the White Star fleet engaged the Earth vessels at the Proxima colony, the White Star vessels encountered significant resistance from the Earth vessels.

Since White Star vessels are based on Vorlon technology, I would have thought that they could have trivially destroyed the Earth vessels. Why not?

Is there a valid reason why the White Stars verses the Earth vessels didn't look like the attack of Shadow vessels against the Narn?

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    White Stars are smaller ships than the (main) ones being encountered. So while technologically better, they were still outgunned. And outnumbered. The Vorlon tech makes them smaller, able to create jump points, and probably better weapons than ships of their size. But even bigger ships can have bigger guns than them. – Philip from Australia Apr 3 '13 at 5:57
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They could have trivially destroyed Earth ships, if they were fully active and adapted, and if that was what Sheridan wanted.

Defences

The Vorlon skin of the ship adapts to weapons as it "learns" about them - this was shown most especially with the Shadow vessels, which lost effectiveness against the White Stars as the war went on. Sheridan was surprised at the ineffectiveness of one of their weapons at one point, and had to ask about it - I believe it was Lennier who explained, in that episode. (Unfortunately, I can't find which episode. Lennier's explanation ended with something like, "leaving just the kinetic energy to deal with", after the weapon energy was deflected)

However, Shadow weapons are different than Earth weapons, so the skin of the ships had not yet adapted, making them a little more vulnerable.

Jamming

The White Stars are also partially based on Minbari technology, whose defensive capability seems to be primarily based on preventing opponents from locking on - which can be disabled as it was in Points of Departure, when the Trigati moved on the station. But Sheridan couldn't utilize this technology, thanks to the message he had sent to all Earth ships: They will only be considered hostile if their weapons lock on to a White Star.

They had to leave the Minbari jamming technology disabled so they could distinguish who wanted to defect from President Clark and who was with him.

JMS

A couple similar questions were posed to JMS (the creator of the series) when that episode aired, and he had this to say:

"It seems to me that the White Stars (particularly in the numbers I perceived in this Ep) should have been able to deal with the Earth ships like lamb to a slaughter."

Yeah, if all you want is to slaughter fellow humans and officers; if you want to try to minimize the body count of your fellow officers, who you want to eventually side with you, it's more difficult, you have to keep the kid gloves on...which endangers you in the long run.

"were these White Stars tired or something? I would've expected that a couple of them could just go slice-slice, sever the rotating sections on the EA ships and have 'em for breakfast."

Sure, if all you're interested in is slaughtering the opposition...they were designed for "destroy"...when you have to pull your punches to avoid just going in and killing EVERYthing in sight...which will only work against you in the long run, it becomes more difficult.

  • +1 Much better answer than mine, the same argument only taken from the horse's mouth as it were. – NominSim Apr 3 '13 at 13:00
  • It's also worth noting that President Clark had the Earthforce ships Sheridan fought upgraded with reverse engineered Shadow technology. So in addition to the Whitestar's being deliberately handicapped; the ships they were fighting were significantly more capable than the Narn ships in use at the start of the Shadow War. – Dan Neely Apr 4 '13 at 18:52
  • @DanNeely Only a handful of them, and that was a couple episodes after they liberated Proxima 3 – Izkata Apr 4 '13 at 19:09
  • @DanNeely Additionally Sheridan himself didn't fight those ships, Ivanova did. – NominSim Apr 10 '13 at 21:14
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The White Star vessels did not struggle to defeat the Earth vessels in the battle of Proxima 3. This was the first time that Sheridan's forces went up against their own (i.e. Earth Force) and Sheridan was reluctant a. to fire on their own ships, and b. to fire on ships that were avoiding attacking civilian targets. Due to this reluctance, it made the battle much more difficult than if he only needed to destroy the Earth Force ships.

Even with the fact that Sheridan intentionally did not fire first the only White Star to be destroyed was one that slammed directly into an Earth force battle-cruiser. It appeared as though it lost control when it was shot and could not avoid the impact (the impact also destroyed the battle-cruiser). It should also be pointed out that this was the only Earth force ship to be destroyed because Sheridan did not want to destroy them, but to get them to change sides.

Finally, although the White Stars are based on Vorlon technology, they still struggled against Shadow vessels, since they are much smaller than the capital shadow ships.

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    Additionally the Narn losses against the Shadows came as much from the fact that they were surprised and didn't know what they were going up against as it did from technological inferiority to the Shadows. Surviving/rebuilt/new Narn ships that supported Sheridan's Alliance in the war later fared much better. – BBlake Apr 3 '13 at 12:40

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