Vorlon

The Vorlons are a fictional alien race in the Babylon 5 universe. The Vorlon race is a member of the First Ones, a group made up of the earliest species to gain sentience in the galaxy. When in the presence of other races, Vorlons wear encounter suits.

Homeworld

Little is known of the Vorlon homeworld other than its name, which is also Vorlon. The atmosphere inside Ambassador Kosh's quarters is unbreathable to humans. The human telepath Lyta Alexander was modified by the Vorlons, however, and was able to breathe the Vorlon atmosphere. Still, it is not sure if the Vorlons need this atmosphere, or any at all for that matter; it has been suggested on the show that the Vorlons keep this air mix just to keep out too many visitors.

Only two humans are known to have ever gone into Vorlon space and returned. One is Lyta Alexander, Babylon 5's first commercial telepath. After being touched by the Vorlons, she travelled to the borders of Vorlon Space to find them again. She was picked up and taken to the Vorlon homeworld, from which she returned as the assistant to both of the Kosh Ambassadors (the second called himself Kosh, though his true name was Ulkesh). A small part of Lyta's experience on the Vorlon homeworld is revealed, along with the secret that the Vorlons had been manipulating many different races to produce telepaths that could be used in the war against the Shadows. [cite episode | title = Secrets of the Soul | episodelink = Secrets of the Soul | series = Babylon 5 | serieslink = Babylon 5 | airdate = 1998-03-04]

The other human is Sebastian, formerly known as Jack the Ripper, whom the Vorlons took from 19th century Earth in order to employ him as an Inquisitor. His ultimate fate after the Vorlons left is unknown, though Sebastian himself hoped that after centuries of "penance and service" he would finally be allowed to die. [cite episode | title = Comes the Inquisitor | episodelink = Comes the Inquisitor | series = Babylon 5 | serieslink = Babylon 5 | airdate = 1995-10-25]

Physiology

When in the company of aliens, Vorlons wear encounter suits to conceal their physical form. The stated reason for the use of encounter suits – that they provide the specific environmental conditions their users need – is a front. The race is capable of functioning in an oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere for a time; even a vacuum seems to produce no ill effects. The true purpose of the suits is to protect the Vorlons from being viewed.

It is only under very exceptional circumstances that a Vorlon abandons its suit and shows itself. When a Vorlon appears outside its encounter suit, observers will usually perceive it as a being of pure light. Many, if not all, of the younger races associate a white-clad, winged figure as a benevolent, supernatural guardian. For example, a human might see an angelic form such as the Archangel Michael or any other angelic being from any of the Abrahamic religions (whether or not it would manifest in the form of other Earth deities, i.e. Hindu gods, is unknown), a Drazi might perceive a being known as Droshalla, a Narn would see a G'Lan, a Minbari the being named Valerian, and so forth. This perception is due to Vorlon genetic manipulation of younger species, according to their enemies the Shadows. Apparently this process is draining, as Kosh required time to recover after being seen by so many beings.

When Ambassador Londo Mollari of the Centauri Republic observed an unsuited Vorlon, he claimed to have not seen anything at all. Show creator J. Michael Straczynski has said about this that "Londo saw what he said he saw".cite web | url=http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/countries/us/guide/044.html | title=Guide page: "The Fall of Night"] It is not clear whether Londo alone saw nothing (perhaps because of his relationship with the Shadows) or if Centauri generally cannot see Vorlons. Similarly, it is unclear whether the Vorlon was invisible to Londo, or if this can be taken less literally to mean that Londo saw nothing of spiritual significance. At least one "Babylon 5" novel contradicts Straczynski's statement, instead stating that Mollari saw a very bright ball of energy. ["David, P". , Del Rey; 1st ed edition (October 31, 2000)]

Little is known about Vorlon evolutionary history. Jason Ironheart who transformed due to the tampering of the Psi Corps, eventually became a being of psionic energy similar in appearance to a Vorlon; in "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars", humanity have also achieved a similar form.

The Vorlons' true form was seen only three time in the series: The first time was when Amassador Kosh saved Sheridan's life, after Sheridan jumped into free fall inside Babylon 5; to avoid being killed by a bomb planted on the rail transportation system. The second sighting was on Babylon 4 as the Minbari came to investigate the station. Two Vorlons were seen out of their suits and appeard in "angelic" form. The third sighting took place, when the second Vorlon ambassador to Babylon 5 is forcibly ejected from the station. In this form, the Vorlons are still insubstantial beings of light; however they appear to be cephalopods equipped with two rows of tentacles. It is disputed if there is any physical substance left in a Vorlon whatsoever and it is also very unlikely that this is the form to which they originally evolved millions of years ago. Whether the change to such powerful beings was a natural one resulting from reaching a certain level of mental or physical advancement or if it was helped along by technological means is unknown.

The Vorlons are very nearly immortal, are able to fly, and can pass through solid objects. [cite episode | title = Falling Toward Apotheosis | episodelink = Falling Toward Apotheosis | series = Babylon 5 | serieslink = Babylon 5 | airdate = 1996-11-25] However, Vorlons are at least in some way "physical" beings, capable of physically striking objects with their bodies (this might be matter/energy manipulation; however, the evidence is vague).cite web | url=http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/countries/us/guide/070.html | title=Guide page: "Falling Toward Apotheosis"]

They supposedly are/were heavy methane, sulfur, and carbon dioxide breathers, however, being outside of the encounter suit in a nitrogen/oxygen environment does them little or no harm. Apparent nutrient circulation is carried out by "blue cells". Vorlons are susceptible to the poison Florazine (a rare poison only found in the Damocles Sector), however, it may be that just some vital part of their encounter suits is susceptible to this poison, the Vorlons themselves being primarily energy beings.

Among themselves, they seem to communicate telepathically, or use some form of communications built into their suits. This is implied when Kosh Naranek and Ulkesh Naranek are together in the TV movie, 'In the Beginning' and the novel 'To Dream in the City of Sorrows' where both look at each other pointedly during pauses in conversation.

Mental capabilities

Vorlons appear to be extremely powerful telepaths and telekinetics. Vorlons have infrequently tapped into the minds of sleeping or distracted beings and communicate with them in this way, typically disguised as a father or other authority figure in order to deliver a deeply philosophic message. When "seen" outside their encounter suits, their projected form has been known to be taxing for them, especially when presented to multiple beings at once; Kosh Naranek, who was seen by thousands of people from the majority of races present at Babylon 5, took weeks to recover. At the very least, Kosh's death was instantly known to the Vorlons, which suggests that all the Vorlons are linked together in some fundamental way.

Their other capabilities can only be guessed at, but it is possible for them to have some special abilities with regard to time. One interpretation is that they can plan actions involving time loops and can predict some predetermined events. For example: foretelling that Sheridan would die if he went to Z'ha'dum and the immediate presence of the Vorlons as soon as Jeffrey Sinclair appeared in the past might suggest some level of prescience or observational time-traveling. In contrast, it might have been that Kosh was able to logically deduce Sheridan's death given that Z'ha'dum was a stronghold for the Shadows and his language was chosen to be typically enigmatic rather than a statement of established fact. Similarly, precursors to the time distortion effects that sent Babylon 4 and Jeffrey Sinclair to the past could have been detected by technological means enabling the Vorlons to immediately investigate it upon arrival (the Great Machine on Epsilon 3 created the effects, and it is plausible that the Vorlons had the technology to detect the precursors of the station's arrival). Ultimately, the series material is very much open to interpretation and the true bounds of Vorlon inherent abilities is extremely vague.

They are capable of breaking off parts of themselves and storing them in other beings, and routinely do so, at least in part to let other beings be their eyes and ears throughout the galaxy.

Nature

While almost all the other species of First Ones left the galaxy, the Vorlons stayed behind to act as guardians and guides for younger races. Vorlons shepherded these worlds, the inhabitants were enthralled by their appearance and some worshipped them as gods. [cite episode | title = Thirdspace | episodelink = Babylon 5: Thirdspace | series = Babylon 5 | serieslink = Babylon 5 | airdate = 1998-07-19]

The Shadows took on the same mantle with a diametrically opposed philosophy. In this conflict, the Vorlons represent Order. They act as architects, building alliances, encouraging the rule of law and inspiring cooperation. In reality however, Vorlons enforce strict adherence to their rules and unquestioning obedience to their authority. Their philosophy is embodied by the question "Who are you?" Sometimes called "The Vorlon Question", it encourages introspection, patience, and places identity as the proper motivator over personal goals.

The Vorlons shown on the series tend to be enigmatic, usually speaking only brief, cryptic phrases to beings from the younger races. They also appear to take some pride in their enigmatic nature (emphasis added):

*Sheridan: Well, as answers go, short, to the point, "utterly useless", and totally consistent with what I've come to expect from a Vorlon.
* Kosh: Good.
[...] I have always been here.
* Sheridan: Oh yeah? You said that about me, too.
* Kosh: Yes.
* Sheridan: "I really hate it when you do that."
* Kosh: Good.

By the time of the series, both the Vorlons and Shadows have long since lost sight of the original goal. Originally, the intent of both elder races was to encourage the growth of younger species through the competition of order and chaos. The conflict metamorphosed into a game for ideological, rather than military, dominion. The Vorlons began to treat the younger races as pawns. This outlook took a more extreme shift following the death of the first Ambassador, Kosh Naranek, ending with a mad move to eliminate any and all worlds ever touched by the Shadows by means of a planet killer, a huge ship that could reduce a planet to rubble with a single shot. With the Shadows soon reciprocating the move with a planet killer of their own, the younger races would have been wiped out to the last one were it not for Sheridan´s forcing the ugly truth out.

History

Before recorded history

Over mya, the Vorlons decided to build a jump gate to open a doorway to what they believed was the Well of Souls, the source of life. The gate which was built travels neither to normal space nor to hyperspace but to a "third" space. Thirdspace was inhabited by a violent telepathic race that posed a threat even to the Vorlons. The purpose of the Thirdspace Aliens was simply "wiping out all life that is not their own". They took control of many Vorlons with telepathy and in the ensuing battle, the Vorlons forced the aliens back into their own dimension, and sealed the portal. A group of Vorlons, still under the control of the Thirdspace aliens, captured the artifact and jettisoned it into hyperspace, hoping to recover it later.

10,000 years ago

By this time many of the First Ones moved beyond the Galactic Rim to explore the vast emptiness between galaxies, and to allow the younger species to evolve on their own. Several of the First Ones decided to stay behind and shepherd the younger races until they were fit to control their own destiny. The primary caretakers were the Vorlons and the Shadows.

At first there was a balance between the two sides. Then the Vorlons began tinkering with races on a genetic level, in an effort to make the younger races evolve more like them. Among this genetic dabbling, the Vorlons manipulated the younger races to make them see the Vorlons as angelic prophets. Through this action the Vorlons were able to control the perceptions of the younger races. Finding the actions of their fellow ancients appalling, the Shadows and the Vorlons began to fight amongst themselves and those who tried to mediate, like the Walkers of Sigma 957, left the conflict embittered.

Circa 1260

Over the course of the centuries that passed, the wars between the Shadows and Vorlons persisted. Then at some unknown point in time they decided to have the younger races fight for them, in an effort to prove which side was right. This led to the Great War.

The exact date of this war is unclear, but it first began roughly one thousand years before the founding of the Babylon 5 station. This war raged between the Shadows and the combined forces of the Vorlons and many younger races such as the Minbari. The Vorlons were eventually forced to ask the other First Ones for assistance in curbing the Shadows' advance. The war was so bloody and so violent that virtually all of the younger races except the Minbari were wiped out or bombed back to the literal stone age. In the aftermath of the war, there was no clear winner to decide if the Shadows or Vorlons had been right.

Despite these tremendous losses, the Vorlons and Shadows continued to squabble. As the Shadows went into their thousand-year seclusion, the Vorlons began to once again tinker with the DNA of young races all across the galaxy, creating telepaths to use in the next war against the Shadows.

Years 2260-2261

The final Shadow War occurred one thousand years later in 2260. In this war the Shadows battled the combined forces of Babylon 5, the Minbari Federation, the Narn Regime, the League of Non-Aligned Worlds, and the Rangers. The Vorlon Empire originally consented to aid this combined force. However, following the death of the Vorlon Ambassador Kosh Naranek at the hands of the Shadows and Captain John Sheridan's trip to Z'ha'dum, the Vorlons became convinced that the only way to stop the war was to destroy all the planets that had been touched by the Shadows. The Shadows decided to pursue the same policy following the destruction of one of their major cities. Billions of sentients died when the two forces began destroying the planets influenced by the other.

Sheridan brought the two forces into direct contact at Corianna VI, and then launched a suicidal assault on both sides at once. An armada of allied ships and the remaining First Ones managed to stop the Vorlon planet killer, but more importantly demonstrated that the younger races were in open defiance against their "protectors," that both the Shadows and Vorlons had failed to act as guardians, parents and teachers to the younger races. Faced with either letting them go or exterminating them completely, the Vorlons and Shadows finally stepped down and left the galaxy with the remaining First Ones to join the others beyond the rim.

After the Departure

After the Vorlons left the galaxy, their homeworld was left abandoned, but they left their defense systems on their homeworld. As a result, several expeditions to the planet were destroyed. The Vorlons also left a message with Lyta Alexander that the planet was not for the younger races. The Vorlon Homeworld was not to be theirs until they were ready; at least another million years.

Lyta Alexander was also left with other information as well. She was left with a command to activate the self-destruct systems on Z'ha'dum, which was destroyed when she arrived there. [cite episode | title = Epiphanies | episodelink = Epiphanies (Babylon 5) | series = Babylon 5 | serieslink = Babylon 5 | airdate = 1997-02-10] In the movie "Thirdspace", she was able to give information on the Thirdspace aliens. When the Drakh used Shadow control pods to operate Centauri vessels during their war with the Alliance, Alexander was able to identify the devices as such due to information left with her.

In 2262, Lyta revealed that the Vorlons had modified her to be a living telepathic superweapon - a doomsday machine to be used against the Shadows if the Vorlons lost the war. They made her into the most powerful human telepath in existence, with the possible exceptions of Jason Ironheart, who had already transformed into something similar to a First One; and Kevin Vacit, former Director of Psi Corps, who had carried a Vorlon fragment inside himself. ["The Nautilus Coil", by J. Gregory Keyes (August 2000, "The Official Babylon 5 Magazine")]

One million years after the events of Babylon 5, the humans had become like the Vorlons. The humans had left the solar system and left for a planet called "New Earth." J. Michael Straczynski indicated that New Earth was in fact the old Vorlon homeworld in the DVD commentary for the episode "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars".

It should be noted that the Vorlons and all the other first ones have left the galaxy, having gone past the rim.

pacecraft

Vorlon spaceships are organic in nature and at least partially sentient. Vorlon transports at least have a skin that can change color and an external shape that is pliable enough to allow passengers in and out. It was mentioned that Vorlon transports "sing", and can have an unnerving effect on non-Vorlons around them. [cite episode | title = Hunter, Prey | episodelink = Hunter, Prey | series = Babylon 5 | serieslink = Babylon 5 | airdate = 1995-03-01] Vorlon ships use jumpgates similar to those of the younger races. Vorlon technology was also used along with Minbari technology to help create the White Star spacecraft.

Transports

The most frequently seen Vorlon ship is the Vorlon transport. According to the Babylon 5 video game, "Into the Fire", Vorlon transports are 131 metres long and heavily armedcite web | url=http://www.firstones.com/b5games/sim/sim_dockingbay.html | title=Babylon 5 Combat Simulator: Docking Bay] There is a strong bond between a Vorlon and its transport.cite episode | title = Hunter, Prey | episodelink = Hunter, Prey | series = Babylon 5 | serieslink = Babylon 5 | airdate = 1995-03-01] When its pilot is in danger, the transport becomes extremely agitated and will try to help its Vorlon escape.cite episode | title = Falling Toward Apotheosis | episodelink = Falling Toward Apotheosis | series = Babylon 5 | serieslink = Babylon 5 | airdate = 1996-11-25]

Should its pilot die, Vorlon transports are said to grieve. When Kosh died, his ship cremated itself and Kosh's remains in a nearby star. Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski put it thus: "It was made for Kosh, as Delenn points out, was almost a part of him; it wouldn't function as well, if at all, for anyone else. There was nothing else to be done."cite web | url=http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/countries/us/guide/059.html | title=Guide page: "Interludes and Examinations" |accessdate=2006-10-16]

One Man Fighters

Little is known about Vorlon fighters. According to the Babylon 5 video game they are about 25.5 metres long.cite web | url=http://www.firstones.com/b5games/sim/sim_dockingbay.html | title=Babylon 5 Combat Simulator: Docking Bay] Externally, they lack exhaust ports of any kind, suggesting that they use some type of gravimetric drive similar to that used by the Minbari. In groups they perform very effectively, being able to cause severe damage to a Shadow vessel.cite web | url=http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/countries/us/guide/059.html | title=Guide page: "Interludes and Examinations" |accessdate=2006-10-16]

Unlike other small fighters in the Babylon 5 universe, Vorlon fighters appear to have independent jump capability, where large numbers come out of hyperspace without the apparent need for a capital ship's support. [cite episode | title = Into the Fire | episodelink = Into the Fire (Babylon 5) | series = Babylon 5 | serieslink = Babylon 5 | airdate = 1997-02-03] Vorlon fighters have a much weaker bond between themselves and their pilots than Vorlon transports.cite web | url=http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/countries/us/guide/059.html | title=Guide page: "Interludes and Examinations" |accessdate=2006-10-16] Indeed, it is not at all certain that they are even manned.

Capital Ships

These large ships, called Star Dreadnoughts are said to be over 1300 metres long and capable of destroying a medium sized Shadow Battlecrab in a single hit.cite web | url=http://www.firstones.com/b5games/sim/sim_dockingbay.html | title=Babylon 5 Combat Simulator: Docking Bay] They likely carry a large number of Vorlon fighters, and, according to J. Michael Straczynski, carry a full crew of Vorlons.cite web | url=http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/countries/us/guide/059.html | title=Guide page: "Interludes and Examinations" |accessdate=2006-10-16]

Planet Killers

The biggest ships in the Vorlon fleet appear to be the Vorlon Planet Killers, huge starships capable of destroying entire worlds. [cite web | url=http://www.b5tech.com/vorlon/vorlonships/vorlonplanetkiller.html | title=Vorlon Planet Killer: Babylon 5 Tech-Manual |accessdate=2006-10-16] [cite web
title=Planet Killers
url=http://www.stardestroyer.net/Empire/Essays/Planet-Killers.html|accessdate=2006-10-16
] Based on comparison, they are said to be 26-36 miles (42 to 58 km) long. The first planet to be hit by a planet killer along the course of the series is called Arcata 7. It has been utterly destroyed, reduced to rubble, slag, dust and asteroids, killing the 4 million people who inhabited it. [cite episode
title = The Summoning
series = Babylon 5
airdate = 1996-11-18
]

Bioengineering

It is implied throughout the series that they have interfered with the evolution of many races, including humans, Minbari, Narns, and Drazi, in various ways. In particular, each of these races "see" Vorlons outside their encounter suits as a some religious or mythological character particular to their culture. The Centauri, or at least Londo Mollari, apparently see nothing when looking at Vorlons directly. It could imply that they have not been influenced or altered by the Vorlons, or be an indication of Londo's status as an ally of the Shadows. During the episode "Secrets of the Soul" a flashback is shown of Lyta Alexander floating in a Vorlon test tube, the camera then pans past two other test tubes showing a Drazi fetus and then a Centauri fetus. This implies that the Centauri have been altered by the Vorlons.

The Vorlons also have the ability to alter alien species to better serve their purposes. Lyta Alexander was given "gills" on her neck that allowed her to breathe the atmosphere within the Vorlon ambassador's chamber, though the Narn can do much the same. [cite episode
title = The Gathering | episodelink = Babylon 5: The Gathering | series = Babylon 5 | serieslink = Babylon 5 | airdate = 1993-02-22
] Vorlons also use other beings as receptacles for a fragment of their personality, allowing them to travel widely without being noticed.

References


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