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In the above episode (linked below) there are multiple stories running at the same time. One of which is a first contact with an alien probe of 'Unknown' origin.

This threatens to destroy the station in the end if they can answer all the questions it poses to the station. A way of sweeping clear civilisations that are advanced enough to pose a threat to the originating species.

My question is this, the probe, technology, design, and everything appears very much to be Vorlon in nature:-

  • Why did they not ask Kosh, the resident vorlon ambassador for help in the questions when they werent aware of its true nature, and secondly,

  • why did they not ask Kosh to identify the probe, and finally

  • is it or is it not a vorlon design.

Beserker Probe Vorlon Fleet Episode in question:-

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    Kosh doesn't exactly have a track record of giving helpful answers. – CodesInChaos Jan 22 '15 at 14:28
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    Kosh: Ah, you seek meaning. Then listen to the music, not the song. – MrDobilina Jan 22 '15 at 15:41
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It is not vorlon, but meant to look ancient. The similarity is due to the design criteria of the B5 computer graphics. As a rule of thumb, species on an equal footing with humans have ships with a metallic look. See for instance the markab transporter below or the babylon five station itself.

Ancient races in a league above humans, such as the vorlons, shadows and the beings from thirdspace, are all depicted with ships that look more biological, perhaps reminiscent of an octopus or a spider. It is also stated explicitly that vorlon ships are "alive".

When we then see a bio-like ship of unknown origin, we are meant to conclude that it has been produced by a powerful, ancient, mysterious and likely vanished species.

Asking Kosh ruins several mysteries. Both the ship of unknown origin and the Kosh character represents the unknown and mysterious in the B5 universe. While scifi set in the present day can use aliens to represent the vast unknown, dark and mysterious of the world, akin to how sea-monsters were used in earlier prose or forest-dwelling creatures in even older stories, it doesn't work at B5. Aliens are "mundane" on B5, so you need special mystery-aliens to set up the border between the known and unknown, the border between farmland and the wild forest.

If Kosh takes an active part in studying the unknown probe, he both deflates the probe's mystery and his own aloof reclusiveness, making him more like a normal crew-member. Keeping the probe a mystery, even after its destruction, re-inforces that not only are there a set of named mysterious races in the B5 universe, but "unknown unknowns". We don't know what's out there!

Bringing in the vorlon cavalery also makes for bad story-telling. Anything can be fixed by a super-powerful being. I can recall only one instance of the Vorlons appearing as a "deus ex machina" in the series, and that was only to cut off a single-episode storyline.

enter image description here Thirdspace fighter, powerful enemies of the vorlons and looks biological

enter image description here Ranger vessel one million years into the future. Biological vorlon-like style to indicate that humans have reached the same level of development as the vorlons.

Markab transporter Markab transporter, cool but clearly metallic

Why bio-ships? The B5 designers drew on several tropes and trends to establish the ship design criteria. Bio-like textures and shapes were a big thing in 90's computer graphics. Biotechnology was also the next big thing in scifi, so making the elders masters of this made sense. But B5 (as well as Star Trek TNG) also makes use of the energy being trope. Namely that energy beings are the next level of development after biological sentience. If a species upgrade itself from wet meat to energy beings, such as the vorlons have done, there's an appealing symmetry in seeing their machines upgraded from base matter to living beings. The whole idea of ascending to energy has some deep roots in fiction which got covered in my answer to " In Starcraft, are the Protoss inspired by anything special? "

  • Ah so ship design is directly proportional to plot. I feel Star Trek and B5 have shared some designers/writers. – MrDobilina Jan 22 '15 at 12:50
  • @MrDoblina: They shared a few, but not as many as is thought. DS9 and B5 were actually competitors, and shared almost no staff at the time. After B5's run finished, DS9 began employing the former's computer design staff. – James Sheridan Jan 22 '15 at 12:52
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit: Kosh is not a tool. At least, not a tool of a lesser race. – Codes with Hammer Jan 22 '15 at 19:38
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit: In general terms, you're right. In B5 terms, whirr click hum "yes." (That's a reference to a season 1 quote from Kosh.) – Codes with Hammer Jan 22 '15 at 19:47
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    "I can recall only one instance of the Vorlons appearing as a "deus ex machina" in the series, and that was only to cut off a single-episode storyline" - are you thinking of the Season 1 episode "Deathwalker"? I'd argue that what the Vorlons did there was less a deus-ex-machina resolution and more ... whatever the opposite is. After everyone had spent the whole episode struggling over the thing that was finally on its way out, poof: the Vorlons breeze in, nuke it, and breeze out. That's more destroying the story than resolving it. (First time the Vorlons ever 'wowed' me too, I think.) – Rand al'Thor Jan 14 '18 at 0:47
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  1. The station was an Earthforce station. Since the probe offered technological advantages to any species capable of deciphering it, it was in Earthforce's best interests to not let any of the other species in on the probe's existence or promises. While it would make sense to ask Kosh or another ambassador for help if the human race were legitimately stumped and the odds of failing to answer the questions were high, the fact that the Earth Alliance was capable of answering the questions themselves meant there was no need for them to share.

  2. See my first point above. There was no need to inform other races o the probe's existence, and ample reason to keep them from knowing. It was even more important to keep the Vorlons in the dark than other species; they had a history of destroying valuable artifacts that could help the lesser species advance more quickly than they liked.

The destruction of Jha'Dur's anti-agapic and all her notes - along with the Warmaster herself - just two years earlier, in Babylon 5 space, during the events of "Deathwalker," was an excellent example. If the probe's offer was genuine, and Kosh knew of it, there was a distinct likelihood that the Vorlons would blow up the probe before allowing it to pass on its knowledge.

  1. No, it's not a Vorlon design. While it is visually similar, it also bears similarities to Streib, Drazi, Drakh and Soul Hunter vessels. It seems to have several relatively common design features, possibly as an intentional misdirect, to avoid the probe's creator species being identified.

The Vorlon reverence for life would not have allowed the creation of such an indiscriminate attack probe, especially when the Vorlons' mission as guardian to the younger races is almost the exact opposite of the probe's goal. The Vorlons wanted species to evolve and grow, eventually becoming the equal of the Vorlons themselves, whereas whoever created the probe wanted to destroy possible competitors. The probe-aliens have more in common with the Shadows than the Vorlons, design philosophy aside.

  • Nice answer, however on that final point, the vorlons were willing to destroy Centari Prime just to get at Londo for his involvement with the Shadows. I feel that it has the potential to be a vorlon weapon (especially given the power and we never see any race with similar power except the first ones/shadows/third space) that may have been released during the 'first' shadow war (evidently it wasnt the first one ever but the first that the Minbari have recorded). Or at least even one that had been tampered with by other races. – MrDobilina Jan 22 '15 at 12:47
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    @MrDoblina: The Vorlons took a much harder line after Kosh's death, which is something Joe Straczynski acknowledges, as does Lita on the show. They did not act so callously prior to his murder. Their actions towards Centauri Prime and other pro-Shadow worlds during the latter stages of the Shadow War were entirely in contrast to their previous actions. As Kosh II said; "[John Sheridan] has opened an unexpected door." I feel you are jumping to conclusions. – James Sheridan Jan 22 '15 at 12:51
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The probe looks more Drakh in style than Vorlon. I am fairly certain the probe was a subtle attempt by the Shadows and their allies to destroy B5.

  • You should base your answer on verifiable content and not on what you think. – fabikw Dec 29 '16 at 3:35
  • Can you provide any evidence of this? Also, what about the other sub-questions? – Adamant Dec 29 '16 at 3:46

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