“Babylon 5” – Between the Darkness and Light

Today I want to talk about the Rangers, not just any Rangers, but the Anla-shok from Babylon 5. You might not know this about me but Babylon 5 is one of my all time favorite shows. I loved the character development, the costumes, and the drama… pretty much everything about it. (If anyone can get a Sheridan Bear into my hot little hands there will be a prize! LOL!) The Anla-shok, or Rangers, were a particular detail I really loved about the show.

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The Anla-shok is based in Minbari culture.

The Anla-shok were the only real constant between the First Shadow War and the next. They patrolled the frontiers of space, keenly alert to any signs of the Shadows return. They were experts at gathering information and, more importantly, getting that information where it needed to go. Their creed was:

“We walk in the dark places that no one else will enter. We stand on the bridge, and no one may pass.”

Ranger

Strider the Ranger from “Fellowship of the Ring.”

If that sounds a little familiar you’d not be mistaken. J. Michael Stracynski has openly admitted to drawing inspiration from J.R.R. Tolkien and other sources. Let’s look at the first half of the Rangers vow. Now, take a gander at what Strider said of his Rangers of the North.

Lonely men are we, Rangers of the North, hunters – but hunters ever of the servants of the Enemy.”

Just like Tolkien’s Rangers, the Anla-shok hunted for signs of the enemy, the Shadow, and those that served them. Like Strider’s Rangers, the Anla-shok tended to solitude, their numbers being fairly small and the universe so very large. Both groups were devoted to their cause and generally unwavering in pursuit of their goals.

Looking at the second part of the creed, “We stand on the bridge, and no one may pass.” Sounds an awful lot like Gandalf’s words to the Balrog in Moria on the bridge: “You shall not pass!” Much as Gandalf sacrificed himself (or who he was at the time) to save the Fellowship, so too were the Anla-shok prepared to throw themselves between the light and shadow to save lives.

Marcus Cole

Human Anla-shok Ranger, Marcus Cole.

Now, Tolkien’s Rangers are not the only group that Anla-shok have been compared to. There’s the ever popular debate about the Rangers and the Jedi, and there certainly are similarities. I find, however, that these are superficial, at most. Yes, both Jedi and Anla-shok were secretive organizations in place for the defense of the universe, or galactic peace. Yes, both groups enjoy a certain mystique. Each has a weapon pretty much unique to them, the Jedi had their light sabers, and Anla-shok had the Minbari Fighting Pike, or Denn’bok – a retractable weapon of utter awesome.

Let’s look at some differences. The Jedi worked for galactic peace, primarily as arbitrators and negotiators. The were ready to defend when needed and did not take the offense (except when absolutely necessary.) The Rangers, on the other hand, worked behind the scenes more than the Jedi. They weren’t supposed to be seen, they gathered information, and they acted more as scouts and messengers. (I should note that the Jedi held many roles and I am sure messenger and scout were among the things they could do when required to.) Unlike the Jedi, the Rangers were preparing for war, that’s what they were watching for, they knew the time for them to fight would come, they weren’t so much interested in stopping the Shadows because they pretty much knew they couldn’t on their own. The Rangers were there to help those that would lead the war.

The Anla-shok brooch worn by all Rangers.

The Anla-shok brooch worn by all Rangers.

One of the biggest differences I see between the Jedi and the Anla-shok is in the “becoming.” Jedi are by and large born into it. Whether you go with the more old school “Force Sensitive” people with an innate talent to work with it or you are all about midichlorians. Jedi have “super powers,” they can do mind control, telekinesis and perform amazing feats of physics defying acrobatics! Rangers, on the other hand, are just kind of normal. They’re not super powered, although the Minbari Anla-shok does enjoy superior strength, flexibility and stamina over their human counterparts. Anyone can be a Ranger; you don’t need to be born a certain way. It’s not even like a religious calling. Rangers do what they do because they believe in the cause, and that’s all.

In the end the Anla-shok are who they are, unique, vital and pretty freaking awesome.

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2 Responses to ““Babylon 5” – Between the Darkness and Light

  • Aloysius got me to watch Babylon 5 awhile back and it was one of the first scifi shows that I really got into. I had such a crush on Marcus.

    • You and me both, Ginny. I confess my crush is still strong. Im all a-twitter about possibly meeting Jason Carter at Pandoracon… I just hope I don’t make a complete fool of myself! (Maybe if I just offer him some Kraken’s Delight…)

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