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This page covers tropes found in Babylon 5. Tropes beginning with letters A-H can be found at Tropes A to H and tropes beginning with letters I-P can be found at Tropes I to P. Subjective tropes go to the YMMV page.

Babylon 5 provides examples of:

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  • Quantity vs. Quality: Between the Vorlons and the Shadows. The Vorlons go for Quality, the Shadows for Quantity. It's much harder to kill an individual Vorlon than an individual Shadow, but the Shadows are nearly always found in groups while Vorlons are usually seen on their own, or at most two together. The same applies to their space fleets; an individual Vorlon ship is much stronger than its Shadow counterpart, so the Shadows compensate with bigger fleets.
  • Quote Mine: The Illusion of Truth illustrates this trope in detail.

  • Rage Against the Mentor: Sheridan against Kosh, in "Interludes and Examinations."
  • Raster Vision: Occurs naturally on the Video Phone CRT screens.
  • Ramming Always Works: Captain Hiroshi's last stand against the EAS Roanoke ("Severed Dreams").
  • Readings Are Off the Scale:
    • The energy readings relating to the alien weapon in "Infection".
    • The energy surge at the climax of "Mind War".
    • The power surge at the beginning of "A Voice in the Wilderness".
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: JMS was fully aware of this trope's existence, and as such he came up with "exit strategies" for each character in case they had to be Put on a Bus.
    • It was only revealed by JMS after Michael O'Hare's death that the real reason the actor left the series was that he was suffering from severe mental health problems. (He and O'Hare arranged this before O'Hare passed on.)
  • Realpolitik: Though expressing reservations toward his government in private, Londo zealously defends the actions of the Centauri Republic when they begin to aggressively raid neighboring worlds, claiming they require a "buffer zone".
    • Even Vir will do this from time to time, as is part of his job, such as when he visited Sheridan to demand Morden's release in In The Shadow of Z'Ha'Dum, despite the fact that he can barely tolerate Morden.
    • In the series as a whole, one of the major conflicts is between "Realism," represented most strongly by the Centauri and to a slightly lesser degree by the Narns, and "Idealism,"note  represented by the Minbari and the Vorlons.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Stephen Franklin to himself as at the end of his walkabout.
    • Sheridan to the Vorlons and Shadows at the end of the Shadow War.
    • Delenn is always giving this to the Grey Council, it seems. It may not be coincidental that she has political troubles back home.
  • Recovered Addict: Garibaldi's Back Story features a drunken past. Then he falls Off the Wagon after realizing he had been Mind Controlled, with his resurgent alcoholism causing trouble for him and everyone around him. A part of the last season is him dealing with it and overcoming it again.
    • Lochley shares this flaw, though with apparently significantly harder substances. This makes her ideally suited to help Garibaldi through his relapse, even though the two of them can't stand each other.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!:
  • Red Alert: With flashing lights and alarm klaxons to warn the station's residents to seek shelter. That said, the flashing lighst and klaxons are not present in Command and Control. Word of God said that he realized such theatrics in the command center would be distracting and unnecessary, as they are the ones who sound those alarms to begin with.
  • Redemption Equals Affliction: Londo taking the Drakh Keeper toward the end. One interpretation of Morella's prophecies regarding Londo ("Point of No Return") would have this be the consequence of "killing the one who is already dead" (which could be read, after a fashion, as Sheridan, Morden, or Refa—but Morden, or possibly rival-to-the-throne Refa, in this case)—although he has much else to redeem himself for—and the total loss of control represented by the Keeper could be read as the "greatest fear" which is then his final chance at redemption. At any rate, he bears the Keeper to avoid the Drakh detonating fusion bombs all over Centauri Prime, potentially killing millions. The Keeper is a living symbiote that can neurally exert control over his actions, as directed by a Drakh controller.
  • Redemption Equals Death: While Neroon had long been the most sympathetic, honorable, and sane Warrior-Caste Minbari, he was only completely redeemed when he sacrificed himself to save Delenn (and end the Minbari Civil War). He does declare himself (in a somewhat Narmy scene) Religious Caste just as he dies; although he most likely truly means it (given Shakiri's disgrace), he's also preserving Delenn's victory.
  • Red Shirts: This role usually falls to the lurkers, though in classic sci-fi fashion, the Security guards tend to be fairly disposable unless named. That role shifts to the Starfury pilots for the space scenes, particularly for any pilot who is Going In For A Closer Look.
    • In fact, Security Chief Garibaldi's name is a bit of a Punny Name based on this trope. He is named for Giuseppe Garibaldi, an Italian historical figure known for leading a band of soldiers known as... the Red Shirts.
    • Lampshaded when the commander of a White Star (and by extension the entire ship's crew) gets this treatment:
    Sheridan (about to order the ship into a suicide mission): "You aren't a married man, are you, Ericson?"
  • Redshirt Army: General Franklin's marines (aka "ground-pounders") in "GROPOS".
    • The Narns who take on security roles after the failed Nightwatch coup, though in their case it's somewhat self-inflicted thanks to their Leeroy Jenkins tactics.
  • Refuge in Audacity: How they smuggle Na'Toth off the Centauri homeworld. No Centauri would admit seeing their own Prime Minister slobberingly drunk snuggling up to a veiled slave girl and staggering toward the spaceport.
  • Reincarnation-Identifying Trait: When a triluminary glows in the presence of Jeffrey Sinclair it is taken as a sign that he is the reincarnation of the Minbari hero and prophet Valen. Sinclair and Valen later turn out to be the same person in a Stable Time Loop.
  • Relationship Reveal: Following a year or two of dropped hints and innuendo, "Divided Loyalties" reveals Talia sleeping in the same bed as Susan Ivanova.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Occurs for Sheridan and Delenn in the back half of the third season, although there's no single defining upgrade moment — he confesses that "I can no longer imagine my world without you in it" in "Ceremonies of Light and Dark", but they don't get their Sealed with a Kiss until "And The Rock Cried Out 'No Hiding Place'" half a dozen episodes later.
    • Interestingly, while it was their first kiss from Delenn's point of view, it wasn't from Sheridan's; he had kissed Future!Delenn in "War Without End, Part 2"
  • The Reliable One: Lennier, in spades.
    • Vir, as well, although to Londo's consternation he can be a little too reliable.
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: Homeguard to the Earth Alliance.
  • The Remnant: The crew of the Minbari warship Trigati.
    • The Centauri Republic in the first season was said to be a shadow of its former glory.
  • Rescued from the Underworld: Lorien finds and salvages the dying Sheridan from Z'Ha'Dum
  • Resignations Not Accepted: The only way out of Psi Corps is "feet first", according to Sheridan.
  • Restraining Bolt: Something that Mr. Bester installed in Garibaldi's mind, to make sure his puppet wouldn't attack him afterward. Bester calls it an "Asimov", a Shout-Out to Isaac Asimov and his Three Laws of Robotics.
  • Restricted Rescue Operation:
    • When the Centauri begin their genocidal campaign against the Narn, Sheridan and Delenn want to help the Narn refugees but their governments are either neutral or allied with the Centauri. They are restricted to unofficially giving them food and medical supplies and smuggling a few out when they can.
    • It's heavily implied that Vir's efforts during the same war fall under this. He was stationed on the neutral planet Minbar and set up a secret identity to smuggle Narn refugees there while declaring them dead in Centauri databases. He would've had to smuggle a few at a time to avoid suspicion without knowing how many he could get away with while spending time on the bureaucracy of it. Whatever ships he used had a limited size. He talks as if he was making decisions on who to get out.
    Vir: They were females and children, some of the local leaders, the ones who kept their language and their beliefs. Most of them were injured from us bombing their world and sending them to forced labor camps. They weren't getting proper treatment. If I hadn't gotten them out they would've died.
    • In "Confessions and Lamentations", a 100% contagious and 100% lethal disease was spreading through the Markab population. After racing against the clock, Franklin found a cure and prepared 500 doses. There were thousands of Markab on the station. Ultimately subverted, as all the Markab died before the cure was finished.
  • Retroactive Precognition: All of Valen's prophecies.
  • Revealing Hug:
    • In "Born to the Purple", Londo and Adira embrace, and the camera lingers on Adira's face as the happy facade she's been putting on for Londo slips away.
    • Sheridan looks behind his wife Anna's back as he hugs her, to see the screen of the report Franklin sent about Anna's scars matching Shadow ships' "wetware" interface.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The carefully plotted out nature of the series means that there's so much about it that you'll never pick up on a first time viewing. Almost every one of Kosh's weird cryptic statements takes on new meaning later in the show. For example; "The avalanche has already begun. It is too late for the pebbles to vote". Think about that after we learn about how the war with the Shadows is basically a sort of cosmic game between them and the Vorlons. With that going on, their concerns really are trivial.
  • The Right of a Superior Species:
    • The Minbari tend to deal with people who mess with them with extreme prejudice. They'll exterminate humanity for what they saw as an unprovoked attack that murdered their favorite leader, and after the Streib captured and killed one of their ships, the Minbari drove them back to their homeworld and made them "understand the depth of their mistake". Plus, they'll take so much offense to anyone who claims they lied that it's implied they'd get to kill the claimant for the insult, even though throughout the series Minbari are seen lying a fair bit, and are disingenuous a lot too.
    • The pak'ma'ra, being carrion eaters who eat the remains of other sentient beings or other decomposing remains, believe they are superior for this fact.
      pak'ma'ra: "pak'ma'ra are chosen of God. Very special, we can eat of all the creatures who walk and fly and crawl, but not of the fish in the sea."
    • The Shadows and Vorlons see themselves as the custodians of the galaxy and the guardians and mentors of the younger races, and are not shy about using force to enforce that role. Ultimately the Shadows and Vorlons fundamentally disagree over what form their mentorship should take and the end result is instead of actually helping the younger races they use them to fight proxy wars over their differing ideologies
  • Road Trip Plot: Due to a blockade, Marcus and Dr. Franklin leave Babylon 5 and embark as passengers on a slow chartered freighter to Mars in order to meet with La Résistance.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • An epic one in "The Coming of Shadows", when G'kar figures out that Londo Mollari — to whom G'Kar finally extended his hand of friendship — has declared war on the Narn colonies. It takes a whole security team and Sheridan to stop G'Kar from breaking into Londo's quarters to kill him, and for moment it looks like even that is not enough.
    • Susan Ivanova turns the crusade to liberate Earth into one of these when she finds out that Sheridan has been captured and is currently undergoing torture.
    Ivonava: God sent me.
    • The Earth-Minbari war was this turned Up to Eleven. The Minbari response to the death of their leader at a botched first-contact was attempted genocide. They would have succeeded too had the Minbari not learned of the entanglement of human and Minbari destinies during the Battle of the Line
  • Room 101: In "Intersections In Real Time" those who are tortured but prove to be unbreakable, unwilling to do as the Government says, are sent to Room 17. Unfortunately for those sent there, the interrogators are very cunning. So what is behind that door is a room with a chair for them to sit in. The same type of chair they sat in before. The stretcher they were brought in on becomes the table for a new interrogator to sit at and start the process all over again. What this room takes from you is not death, but hope of some form of escape from this place. It reveals there is no escape and no hope.
  • Room Full of Crazy: In Thirdspace.
  • A Round of Drinks for the House: In "Soul Mates", Londo is seen celebrating his impending divorces by getting smashed and buying drinks for everyone within range. "Barkeep! Another round for all my friends!"
  • Rousing Speech:
    • The Earth Alliance's President Elizabeth Levy during the prologue movie. "No greater sacrifice has ever been asked, but I ask you, now, to step forward. One last time. One last battle, to hold the line against the night."
      • Subverted in the novelization, where Sinclair laments that for the men and women fighting on The Line, all the speech did was firmly remind them that they were all about to die.
    • Previously mocked in the episode "Points of Departure": Sheridan wants to give one to his crew upon his arrival, believing it to be a good luck charm, but one crisis after another delays it until finally he just ends up giving the speech to an otherwise empty room.
    • Sheridan in "The Summoning". Lennier is one of the few who do not respond with enthusiasm.
      • For that matter, Sheridan in just about every other episode from Season 3 on.
    • "The Reason You Suck" Speech that Franklin gave himself (in the form of a trauma-induced hallucination) managed to turn into one of these towards the end when Franklin finds the will to live on.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: The most infamous is of course the Centauri who don't even rise to the "rubber forehead" level and are basically people with unlikely haircuts and sharp teeth. (And many other bits that aren't obvious on television.)
    • But while B5 does have its Rubber-Forehead Aliens, it also has a far wider assortment of semihumanoid and completely nonhumanoid species than is usually seen in TV Sci-Fi: the giant mantis crime boss (n'grath) from the first season, the Shadows (the show's Big Bad), the pak'ma'ra, the Nakaleen Feeder, and of course the Vorlons (an entire race that spent most of the series acting as The Watcher), just to name a few. And it's indirectly implied that the Rubber-Forehead Aliens are the result of genetic tampering by Vorlons, as the humanoid species are generally the ones with telepaths, and the projected form of an unsuited Vorlon is a Winged Humanoid found in most races' major religions, even though the Vorlons' true form is nothing like that.)
    • Lampshaded in an amusing scene in "There All Honor Lies" which features a Drazi wearing a rubber human mask.
    • Also played with and mocked in "Midnight on the Firing Line" in a conversation between Garibaldi and Londo, where Garibaldi says that the Centauri tried to claim humans were just a long-distant tribe of Centauri until Earth got a hold of Centauri DNA and found there was no tie between the two whatsoever except for outside appearance.
    Londo: I'm sorry. Here. Open my wrists.
    Garibaldi: The Centauri don't have any major arteries in their wrists.
    Londo: Of course not. What do you think I am, stupid?
    • On the whole, the show tried to avert this trope, coming up with really interesting and extensive designs for the alien makeup. Of course, being a weekly TV series with a limited budget and limited time, there are a few notable cases of "slap some forehead putty on an actor and call it good."
  • Ruins of the Modern Age: The San Diego wastelands. The city was nuked by terrorists in 2150 AD.
  • Ruling Couple: Sheridan and Delenn.
  • Running Gag: Every time Ivanova makes a joke about all Russians sharing a bleak and cynical outlook on life, take a shot.
    • It's not cynical, it's realistic.
      • glug
    • Every species has a food that is equivalent to Earth's Swedish meatballs.
    • It only comes up on two occasions, but Garibaldi seems to have a habit of absent-mindedly abusing borrowed holy books.
    • A minor one during the first season that one might miss the first time through: every time we see Talia get into a transport tube, Garibaldi is already inside. Eventually lampshaded during "A Voice In the Wilderness".

  • Sacred Scripture: The President of the Alliance is sworn in on a sort of meta-holy book created from the first page of every known holy book of all the sentient races.
    • G'Kar is a follower of the Book of G'Quan. As it turns out, G'Quan knew what he was talking about, and much of the book is eventually proven to be a Narn history book, detailing the last time the Shadows operated a base on the Narn homeworld, long in the past. Garibaldi borrows the book from G'Kar to see what they can learn about the Shadows from it, later on tapping the book excitedly while declaring it has the information they need.
    G'Kar: Do not thump the Book of G'Quan. It is disrespectful.
    • Later on, many Narn begin following a new faith, based on the Book of G'Kar. Much to G'Kar's chagrin not least because the copies were made before he finished it. Every copy of it has a brown ring on it, a faithful recreation of a coffee stain that Garibaldi left in it while borrowing the first draft. One wonders why anyone trusts him with their books.
  • Sarcastic Clapping:
    • The assassin in "The Parliament of Dreams", in response to Na'Toth's attempt to convince him she's his secret back-up.
    • Garibaldi expresses how moved he is (or not) by Bester's soliloquy about how he's just a misunderstood family man.
  • "Save the World" Climax: Starts out with rather minor border skirmishes between the Centauri and Narn, some diplomatic tensions among other races, and an Earth Government moving slowly in a xenophobic direction. When the Shadows reemerge into galactic affairs, they manipulate and cultivate these existing tensions into a galaxy-wide war among the younger races which escalates to an apocalyptic scale.
  • Scavengers Are Scum: Averted. While the pak'ma'ra come in for some Fantastic Racism (in part because they smell bad from eating carrion), they're no more inherently good or evil than any other species, and join the Army of Light in the later seasons.
  • Scenery Gorn: The effects of the Minbari Civil War and the Interstellar Alliance bombardment of Centauri Prime are depicted with devastated versions of those locations' Stock Establishing Shots.
  • Schmuck Bait: Marcus escapes his jailer by pretending that his collapsible pike is some sort of medical scanner, and that you activate it by staring down the hole at the end. Pow. Marcus repeats this feat with another mook down the hall, this time using a tennis ball ("Exogenesis").
  • The Scottish Trope: On one occasion, Marcus refers to "the Scottish Play." According to JMS, neither Jason Carter nor the character Marcus had a problem with saying the name of the play (Marcus essentially does so jokingly), but he wrote it that way to avoid offending anyone else. Why? Because...
    • During the filming of A Late Delivery From Avalon, guest star Michael York took this very seriously. A member of the filming crew who slipped up and mentioned The Scottish Play by its given name around him was required to perform various rituals to prevent any mishaps from befalling the production of the episode.
  • Screw Destiny: The main cast eventually decides this and enlists the aid of the First Ones to fight both the Shadows and the Vorlons, ending their constant struggle for dominance.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!:
    • Why Franklin turns Dr. Hendricks in at the end of the episode "Infection".
    • When confronted with Londo's announcement that he plans to divorce two of his wives, Timov passes up ample opportunities to win his favor or (failing that) murder him. She instead saves her husband's life via a blood transfusion, on the condition that Franklin cannot reveal that she's the donor. In the end, Londo begrudgingly keeps Timov as his spouse, since she's the least dishonest.
    • Played for laughs during Garibaldi's war against the post office. ("A Late Delivery From Avalon")
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Mere hours after Jack is arrested, President Clark calls Sheridan to demand his extradition to Earth. Shortly after leaving the station, the prisoner 'mysteriously' vanishes while en route.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Typically invoked by the Psi Cops.
    • And at least once by Sheridan, as the station commander.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: several times, sometimes quite extravagantly as when Delenn broke the Grey council and Sheridan seceded from Earth.
    • Vir's underground railroad to save Narns.
  • Script-Reading Doors: The automatic doors on the station are standard-issue space opera Script Reading Doors. There's a particularly striking moment near the end of "And the Sky Full of Stars" where a door opens the moment Sinclair decides to leave, before he's actually started moving toward it.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Londo's first wife Timov. It's indicative, too.
  • Second Episode Introduction: Several of the cast regulars were not present in the Pilot Movie; Dr Franklin didn't show up for the first proper episode either. (He was present for the first proper episode taped, however.)
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: The Grey Council.
  • Secret Keeper: Per Lumati custom, Correlimurzon tries to celebrate his species' alliance with Earth by getting into Ivanova's pants. She delays him for a couple hours before offering to go through with it "human style," which involves 10 seconds of dancing but little else. It's implied that his servant, Taq, saw through Ivanova's ploy but was nonetheless impressed by her cunning.
  • Secret Police: Nightwatch, in their snappy brown shirts and armbands.
  • Secret Test of Character:
    • G'Kar pulls this on Lyta in "Darkness Ascending." She passes.
    • From time to time, Garibaldi will pull this on other characters who he suspects of doing illegal things for noble reasons. As long as they tell him the truth, he will usually help them find a better way to accomplish it. Of course, he only does this for characters who he believes will tell him the truth, but he always leaves them a little room to disappoint him.
    • Ivanova invites Corwin to her quarters to get to know him better. She asks him if he would follow orders, even if they went against the good of Earth. He says that he doesn't have the authority to make that kind of decision, and the heroes decide they can't bring him in on their conspiracy. Later, when they are forced to break away from Earth, he decides to stay with them rather than return to Earth.
  • Seeking Sanctuary: Following the fall of their homeworld, the remnants of the Narn Regime order G'Kar to seek political asylum on Babylon 5. The decision is particularly hard on G'Kar, who is worried for his family back home.
  • Self-Poisoning Gambit: The interrogator from "Intersections in Real Time" uses this trope, Acquired Poison Immunity, and some Exact Words to get Sheridan to eat a sandwich that will make Sheridan sick.
  • Serial Killer: Karl Mueller. Though convicted of killing three people on Babylon 5, his true body count is somewhere in the dozens, as shown when Talia peeks into his mind.
    • Also Charles Dexter, the Black Rose Killer, AKA Brother Edward.
  • Serious Business
    • Drazi politics. Every five years they divide the entire species into two halves based entirely on a random draw. The one who takes the leader cloth is the leader even if said person is not a Drazi, as Ivanova found out. And to try and put a Green cloth on a Purple Drazi results in a very violent result from any surrounding Drazi.
    • The Hokey Pokey, at least in Londo's eyes. He spends a week trying to figure out what the song is about, and becomes enraged just explaining to someone that it doesn't mean anything. It has to be seen to be fully appreciated.
  • Sham Ceremony: President Clark's installation ceremony.
  • Shame If Something Happened: Refa to Londo, after the latter voices his disgust at the Witch Hunt perpetrated on his friend Urza Jaddo.
    • Also Londo to Lyta:
    I understand the Psi Corps is looking for you. I would hate it if they were to find you here.
    • Lyta replies by relating a story about what a telepath is capable of doing to a person, very strongly implying that if Londo sold her out, that would happen to him.
  • She Knows Too Much: Despite intentionally leaving Talia alive as a witness, Abel Horn is later ordered to terminate her after she scans his mind.
  • Shell Game: The literal shell game is seen in "Soul Hunter", where a hustler tries it on in Downbelow and gets knifed by a suspicious mark.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran:
    • Sinclair and Garibaldi, though both have had time to deal with most of their problems. Both mention having nightmares about their experiences in the Earth Minbari War.
    • From "The Long Dark", Amis is the full-blown crazy variety. Except it wasn't the war that messed him up, it was the rest of his squad being wiped out by an invisible alien which could move through walls and killed its prey by ripping their organs out through their mouths.
    • Michael York's character from A Late Delivery From Avalon. He's so full of guilt and remorse and becomes so divorced from reality for a time that he thinks he's King Arthur.
    • In "The Long Dark" Dwight Schultz plays an EarthForce vet with cripplingly-bad PTSD (exacerbated by a Shadow creature).
  • Shipper on Deck: Marcus, towards Dr. Franklin and Number One.
  • Shock Collar:
    • In the first season episode "The Parliament of Dreams", G'Kar is forced to wear one as an act of revenge by one of his recently deceased political enemies.
    • Delenn undergoes a torturous test of her allegiance by "the Inquisitor", who zaps her with electrified manacles every time she gives an unsatisfactory answer.
    • Much later on, Sheridan finds himself trapped in one by an Earth Force torturer, not as the torture implement itself, but as a way to show that he can't attack him if unchained.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Sheridan advises against it: the door his opponents are trapped behind is made of an alloy immune to PPG blasts.
    Sheridan: Ricochet's a killer.
  • Shoot the Bullet: For the most part, Deflector Shields do not exist in this setting. A common method of defending against incoming fire is to shoot it down using weapons known as Interceptors. Interceptors can be overwhelmed by sufficient weight of fire, especially if they are also having to deal with enemy fighters (which are easy pickings for the Interceptors, but if not targeted, can destroy anti-ship weapons and other systems).
  • Shout-Out: In one of President Clark's propaganda moves, he has ISN and a psychiatrist make up Minbari War Syndrome, which is similar to Helsinki Syndrome.
    • The PSI corps greeting "Be seeing you", complete with the eye-in-the-forehead gesture.
    • As Clark's regime turns more totalitarian, more than a few nods to 1984 crop up.
    • All the telepath motifs appear to be pulled from the novel The Demolished Man. The author's name, Alfred Bester, also becomes used as the name of a high-level Smug Snake telepath.
    • General Hague dies while on the EarthForce Destroyer Alexander. When a fan asked if that was meant as a Shout-Out to Alexander Haig, JMS responded that it hadn't been intentional, and must have been a subconscious connection. Foxworth was written out of the script because of a scheduling clash; he was playing a role for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine the same day and went there instead.
    • At one point, the Babylon 5 computer systems annoying, self-pitying AI (voiced by Harlan Ellison) is activated by mistake. It immediately wants to send someone to level forty-two.
    • Emperor Cartagia remarks about one of the heads in his "shadow cabinet" that the beheading cured his coughing. In I, Claudius Emperor Caligula (John Hurt) had one of his relatives beheaded for the same reason.
    • In In The Beginning, the head of the Rangers is named Lennon. When asked about this on Usenet, JMS joked that "all he (Lennon) was saying was give peace a chance"
    • President Clark's ultimate fate in Season 4 episode "Endgame" is almost identical to that of General Ripper in Dr. Strangelove. The method by which Earth's defense grid—which Clark had turned on Earth itself in a Salt the Earth gambit—is deactivated in particular is exactly identical.
    • Garibaldi spends the break between Seasons 1 and 2 in a coma as the result of his injuries in Chrysalis. When he wakes up in Revelations, his first words are "What's up, Doc?", similar to Mel Blanc's first words after being put in a coma after a car accident.
  • Show Within a Show: The ISN Special Reports, which form the focus of the episodes "And Now For a Word" and "The Illusion of Truth." The fouth season finale "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars" features more special reports, and other video records, being examined by a Ranger one million years in the future.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: After seceding from the Earth Alliance in Season 3, the human main characters all trade in their Earthforce uniforms for a spiffy black ensemble.
  • Silly Reason for War: The Drazi conflict in "The Geometry of Shadows", in which the Drazi split into two entirely arbitrary groups chosen by pulling scarves out of a barrel and then fight for the right to rule for the next five years.
  • Signature Item Clue: In one episode, Garibaldi goes to find a witness to an attack but someone gets to him first and kills him. Garibaldi is left only with the body, and what appears to be a coat button which is later identified as coming from the coat of a Centauri royal guard.
  • Single Tear: Lennier sheds one after Delenn enters her cocoon state.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: G'Kar has this mindset about Emperor Turhan of the Centauri Republic in "The Coming of Shadows." The Emperor's family, but not Emperor Turhan himself, was involved with mass slaughters of Narns during the Centauri occupation, stealing territories, and other atrocities. Emperor Turhan, however, has gone out of his way to appease the Narn by returning the territories and making what amends he can. Despite these actions, G'Kar cannot see the difference between the man and the family he came from and fully intended to kill the Emperor when he came to the station.
  • Sitting Duck:
    • Londo invoked this trope on the Shadow base on his homeworld.
    • Prior to his arriving on Babylon 5, Captain Sheridan's defeat of the Minbari warship Black Star came despite his ship being a Sitting Duck (having been crippled by the Black Star in a previous engagement), via some previously placed nuclear bombs in an Asteroid Thicket.
    • Captain Sheridan attempts to invoke this against a Shadow Battlecrab buried on the Jovian moon of Ganymede, but arrives just in time to see the ship launch and lay waste to the facilities there.
  • Skewed Priorities: Lampshaded by Franklin when Marcus starts probing him for tips on dating Ivanova... while the two of them locked in a steel cage.
  • Sleeper Starship: Earth dispatched several before first contact with the Centauri, most were recalled. One that wasn't appears in one episode.
  • Sliding Scale of Continuity: Level 5 (Full Lockout) later on, though the first season or so was more level 4 (Arc-Based Episodic).
  • Slipping a Mickey: Happens to Londo in "Born to the Purple".
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: The uncultured, obnoxious and brutal Narn versus the cultured, decadent and brutal Centauri. Choose which you dislike least.
    • The Narn tend to garner more sympathy, if only because their dogs get kicked far more often (usually, but not exclusively, by the Centauri). That said, the Narn tend to be collectively sympathetic only when they are the underdogs. They are shown as aggressive instigators in the first season, and they go back to that role in the back half of the fifth season.
  • Slow Clap: Having survived the tumultuous events of "Severed Dreams", Sheridan and co. take a lift down to the Zocalo, where a large crowd applauds them for taking a stand against Clark.
  • Slow Doors: Zack diving under a shutter door just as the docking bay is locked down, thereby springing the trap on Nightwatch.
  • Slow-Motion Pass-By: Talia detects Morden's shadowy 'entourage' by simply passing him in a corridor.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Adira Tyree only appears in one episode and dies before her next 'appearance', but her death incites Londo to frame Refa, who he believes was responsible for it, and join forces once more with Morden — who actually was responsible for it.
  • Smug Snake: Allison Higgins, ISN anchor and the face of Clark's propaganda machine. One wonders if perhaps she's also a Stepford Smiler.
  • Snowy Screen of Death:
    • From the episode "And Now For a Word", a firefight breaks out outside the station. A couple of cameras display this as they're hit by the crossfire.
    • Keffer's final, fatal encounter with a Shadow vessel. The data from this video is later broadcast throughout the Earth Alliance, striking a small blow against the Shadows' conspiracy. Delenn implies that this is not necessarily a good thing.
    • At the outbreak of the Earth Alliance Civil War, a news anchor reports that ISN Headquarters in Geneva is under assault by the military. Cue static.
  • Society Marches On: Garibaldi's puppy-dog like behavior around Talia. Garibaldi conveniently and habitually riding in the elevator Talia needs to go to work (always standing in the car when the door slides open) gives off a creepy stalker-vibe. It's in-character for Garibaldi to abuse his authority for personal gain, and Talia could easily kill him with her mind should his advances go too far. He saved her in the comics from an assassin walking out of the same elevator, so chalk up the creepy stalking to his character spec (being properly paranoid all the time).
  • Society-on-Edge Episode: While much of Babylon 5 involves political conflict and warfare, there's a particular segment of episodes in Season 3 before and including the station's secession from Earth where it becomes inevitable that station interests and Earth Government policy will irreconcileably clash, with the station itself coming into direct danger. Probably the range of episodes from "Voices of Authority" through "Severed Dreams" would fit the trope, although it could arguably start with Season 2's finale "The Fall of Night".
    • And again in Season 4 after the events of Season 3's finale "Z'ha'dum", once we see the Vorlons bring out their planet-killers, with the Shadows following suit, destroying many inhabited planets ("The Summoning"), ending with "Into the Fire".
    • And there's a third segment in Season 4, from "No Surrender, No Retreat" through "Endgame", when Babylon 5 and allied forces finally confront the Clark regime's forces and liberate Earth and her colonies.
  • Something That Begins with "Boring": Marcus and Franklin on the way to Mars in a cargo hold.
    Marcus: I spy with my little eye, something that begins with "B."
    Franklin: Boxes
    Marcus: Very good. Hm. I spy with my little eye something beginning with "M."
    Franklin: More boxes. And that's when I shot him, Your Honor.
    Marcus: I spy with my little eye something beginning with "E."
    Franklin: I give up.
    Marcus: Oh, come on!
    Franklin: It's not...
    Both: Even more boxes.
  • Sons of Slaves: The Narns used to be enslaved by the Centauri Republic, and only gained their freedom because the empire was in decline anyway, and holding on to the Narn Homeworld had become too expensive. To say that there is cold air between the Narns and the Centauri at the beginning of the show is putting it lightly, and the Narn cloak their every misdeed in wounded pride. "How can you blame us for destroying their unguarded, unarmed farming-colony when they bloodily enslaved us a hundred years ago?" Of course as the show goes on, the Centauri Republic returns to its former glory, culminating in a re-invasion and re-enslavement of the Narn Homeworld, somewhat proving the Narn's continued obsession with their bloody past justified.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Lord Refa is brutally (and deservedly) murdered to the sounds of a gospel chorus. Doubles as Awesome Music. Oddly, it's both dissonant and fitting, as the subject of the song is how you can't escape from your choices, and you can't hide from the consequences. In addition, it's titled "No Hiding Place (down here)" which also fits given that Refa is, quite literally, underground and cannot hide from the Narn who are going to kill him.
  • Space Cadet Academy: Earthforce Academy. It also included the "Air Dome", a premiere pilot training center and its Officer Training School.
  • Space Fighter:
    • The Star Furies, a comparatively hard example of the trope.
    • And the Minbari's Nial fighters, being a much softer example, thanks to their advanced technology.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Magnificiently averted. Sort of lampshaded/subverted with the Minbari Sharlin cruiser, which looks like a fish (However, one could argue that Hyperspace is an ocean). The Minbari also practice what they call "going to the sea", in which an elder spends their last days journeying into space, searching for a place where they can be of use.
  • Space Is Noisy
  • Space Mines: In "Matters of Honor", we see a Centauri minefield deployed to interdict access to a planet.
  • Space Opera
  • Space Station: Kinda the whole point of the show.
  • Special Effect Branding: Ships from every power look far different from each other, and even their propulsion systems and weapons are different, making the species owning them readily identifiable once they're introduced.
  • Speech-Centric Work: Two episodes, "Comes the Inquisitor" and "Intersections in Real Time" are based on interrogations and hence feature nothing but dialogue.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": The pak'ma'ra spell the name of their species in all lower case letters. Both fans and the production crew have often unwittingly capitalized it to match the way that every other species spells their name.
    "In all of my scripts, I always spelled pak’ma’ra in all lower case letters. Our script coordinator kept changing it to Pak’ma’ra. Finally, I had to tell her to stop changing it. She wanted to know why. I said, “Because that’s how they spell it.” It’s great being able to win arguments by citing non-existent rules of punctuation created by equally non-existent species."— JMS
  • Spoiler Opening:
    • The episode in which Na'Toth first appears attempts to keep the audience wondering whether she's really an assassin sent to kill G'Kar. The fact that she's been listed in the opening credits as a regular character since the start of the season pretty much kills the suspense on that one.
    • The second season opens with one of the regular characters in a coma, a second in a cocoon, and a third mysteriously missing. This would be more worrying if they weren't all still in the opening credits. (Partly averted in the case of the second character; the opening credits in the first few episodes used a headshot from the previous season, thus at least concealing that on the character's return she would be a Half-Human Hybrid with long flowing hair. Even then, some reruns and DVD releases don't even get this right, using the later opening with the spoilery headshot for the whole season.)
    • That also happens in the beginning of Season 4, where G'Kar's line gives away the fact that they retake Narn, and Sheridan being listed means that he somehow survived his self-nuking in Z'ha'dum.
  • Spring-Loaded Corpse: A (supposedly) dead Markab discovered by Sheridan in Grey Sector ("Knives").
  • Space Cold War: Earth and Minbar. Earth and Minbar are slowly mellowing their relation at this time. Vorlons and Shadows are a straighter example of this.
  • Space Clothes: The Minbari have the best. Of course.
  • Spikes of Villainy: The Shadows' spaceships. Clark's Advanced Destroyers as well.
  • Spit Take: G'Kar, on being unexpectedly hailed by his straight-laced assistant while he's relaxing in a seedy nightclub, in "Born to the Purple".
  • The Spymaster: Ivanova is occasionally implied to be one. None of the other good guys seem to be able to run any secret project of their own without her finding out about it, including Sheridan and Garibaldi working with the Rangers, who specialize in being as discreet as possible. They usually only find out she knows everything once they try to let her in on the secret. Ivanova remarks that when something's up on the station and she doesn't know about it, then they should worry. Late in the third season, Sheridan sarcastically appoints her as the station's Official Sneak In Residence.
    • Late in the third season, Brother Theo is revealed to be one: He is coordinating efforts amongst religious leaders around the world to monitor communications and collect reports of things happening on Earth so that they can be smuggled out to La Résistance on B5.
    • Londo has tons of spies. It's a Centauri thing.
    • Marcus Cole is always getting or seeking info from various contacts and other Rangers, but then of course, being a Ranger, that's pretty much his job.
    • Sheridan has shades of this from time to time, especially in the second season, which introduced the government counter-conspiracy against President Clark.
      • Sheridan also remarked in one episode that he "collects secrets".
    • Garibaldi, in addition to his participation in the Conspiracy of Light and in keeping with his role as security chief, has a network of police informants throughout DownBelow and the rest of B5's criminal underworld.
    • Honestly, the list of major characters who don't get hip deep in spycraft and espionage are pretty slim, due to B5's status as a City of Spies.
  • Stable Time Loop: See You Already Changed the Past
  • Standard Alien Spaceship: Zig-zagged with the alien designs, depending on the race. While some such as the Centauri and the Narn follow a design closer to the humans' own Standard Human Spaceship fleets, others such as the Minbari (and ships made of adapted Minbari tech, such as the White Stars) resemble flying pieces of modern art made of purple-white coral and the ships of the Shadows and the Vorlons dip straight into Eldritch Starship territory.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: Several of them, operating everything from fighters to kilometer-long battleships. Battlestars are quite popular. Interestingly enough, no two species use terminology consistent with each other for their fleets. The biggest ships in Earth's fleet are called Destroyers. The Narn, Centauri, and Minbari all use variations on "Cruiser"note  for their heaviest hitters, in contrast to the Earth Alliance Heavy Cruiser, which is portrayed as a smaller support ship.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Susan and Marcus: He spends years getting her to warm up to him and just when he seems to be succeeding, she is mortally wounded. Marcus then give his life energy to heal her (its complicated), leaving Susan with life-long regret that she never told him how she felt. Director's commentary reveals it took her two decades to say his name again.
  • Starfish Aliens: The Shadows and at least on other race are insectoid. The Vorlons are some sort of tentacular energy beings.
  • Star Killing: Implied to have been done to the Dilgar, and in the Distant Finale, according to Word of God, the same thing may have happened to Earth.
  • Starter Marriage: The relationship between Captain Sheridan and Captain Lochley. As she puts it, "We met, fell crazy in love, got married, realized it was a huge mistake, fell crazy out of love, and divorced." It's implied the entire process took no more than a couple of months.
  • State Sec:
    • Psi-Corps.
    • More blatantly, the Night Watch. They even have black armbands and posters proclaiming "TRAITORS CANNOT HIDE."
  • Stating the Simple Solution:
    • Boggs' flunky suggests just killing Sheridan. Boggs blows him off, unwilling to turn Sheridan into a "martyr".
    • Sheridan asks servants of Shadows on Z'Ha'Dum why can't they just kill him. They explain it does not work, since someone else will simply take his place as the nexus of events.
  • Stay on the Path: Generally speaking, ships traveling through Hyperspace must take care not to drift too far from the signal transmitted by the Hyperspace Beacons (beams transmitted between Jumpgates), lest they become lost. Some ships have more advanced navigation systems, however.
    • Also, it is generally accepted as fact that anybody who goes to Z'Ha'Dum never comes back. It gradually becomes apparent that this isn't entirely true, though it is very likely that you will not come back unchanged.
    • When Ivanova is hooked into the Great Machine ("Voices of Authority"), she is advised by Draal to "stay on the path" when the Eye of Z'ha'dum somehow detects her probing and almost succeeds in mentally compelling her to go towards it. The "path" was a mental visualization given by the machine as a guide away from this Eye.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Lennier's dryness and calmness sometimes give the impression of this.
    Initiating the "getting the hell out of here manuever".
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Mr Morden pulls one on Londo at the end of "Signs and Portents".
  • Stealth in Space: The Minbari warships have some kind of electronic countermeasure that prevents Earther ships from being able to get a solid lock on them. Sheridan intentionally has the White Star fleet go without their stealth systems running during the Earth Alliance Civil War in order to show his opponents that he isn't just trying to slaughter them. Notable that this isn't "true" Stealth In Space, with Minbari ships able to vanish or go undetected. Rather, it's a kind of hyper-advanced ECM that makes computer fire control for hostile weapons much less effective.
    • The Vorlons are able to fold Hyperspace in on itself, creating pockets that are nigh-impossible for the younger races to locate.
    • The Shadows ships appear to cloak, but they are actually phasing in and out of hyperspace.
  • Stealth Insult: Londo tells one of Emperor Cartagia's ministers that when he previously met the man, he was an infant, drooling on himself, and later a teenager trying to peek up girl's skirts...
    Cartagia: Ah, Mollari! It's wonderful to see you again!
    Londo: And you, Your Majesty, I could swear you have not changed since the last few times I saw you. *smirk*
    Cartagia's minister rolls his eyes
  • Stealth Pun: In "A View From The Gallery", the station's defense grid fails during an alien attack. A maintenance tech digs around inside and removes an alien roach-analogue that had gotten in there, and the system comes back online. He debugged the computer.
  • Stims Are Bad
  • Street Urchin: Alisa Beldon, when we first meet her.
  • Stock Footage: Most of the establishing shots at the returns from each ad break were CGI images of whatever planet the next scene was on, or the station from various angles (if the scene was set there). One in particular (a shot of the station being cast into shadow and lights coming on all over it as it moves behind the planet it floats above) is widely known as the "all alone in the night" scene, because it was used precisely when that line is said in the season two opening credits.
  • Stock Star Systems:
    • Subverted — the Centauri Republic is not from the Alpha Centauri star system, they just call themselves "Centauri." This lead humans to drop the "Centauri" from their star names to avoid confusion, so someone referring to a colony on Proxima III is referring to Proxima Centauri.
    • Babylon 5 itself orbits a planet in the Epsilon Eridani system.
  • Subspace Ansible: Tachyon relays.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: Lorien and the other First Ones. And Not Quite As Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, the Vorlons and the Shadows (who happen to worship Lorien as something akin to a god). Also, Word of God says that Humans and Minbari will eventually reach this state; in "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars" we see it happen.
  • Suicide by Cop: Abel Horn (or what's left of him) provokes station security into shooting him. His body promptly self-destructs, concealing any evidence of his cyborg implants.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: You think the Shadows can kick your ass? Wait until the Vorlons decide that they're done tiptoeing around the younger races and bring out their Planet Killers!. But wait! Turns out the Shadows have a Planet Killer of their own—they're just as big a fish as the Vorlons! So, with a galactic apocalypse coming down around their ears, what do the terrified and desperate younger races do? They go and find ALL THE OTHER OLD ONES THEY CAN TO JOIN IN THE FIGHT! Of course, by this stage they were so far beyond the Godzilla Threshold that Godzilla looked like a newborn puppy.
  • Super-Fun Happy Thing of Doom: Quite a few of these in Clark's regime, starting with the Ministry of Peace, or "'Minipax' as we like to call it around the office".
  • Super Registration Act: The PsiCorps.
  • Superior Species: The Minbari, who are elegant, refined and more technologically advanced than nearly any other race. With a link to The Fair Folk, they are also quite willing to wipe out an entire species if provoked.
  • Suppressed History: In the episode "Secrets of the Soul", the Hyach race had a missing period in their archived history from about 1200 to 800 years ago. It turned out this was a period when they committed genocide against a cohabiting sentient race called the Hyach-do, which led to certain genetic deficiencies in the Hyach (who used to interbreed with them) leading to their present infertility crisis, which Dr. Franklin was investigating at their ambassador's request.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Elizabeth Lochley for Susan Ivanova, John Sheridan for Jeffrey Sinclair, Susan Ivanova for Laurel Takashima, Stephen Franklin for Benjamin Kyle, Talia Winters for Lyta Alexander, and later Lyta Alexander for Talia Winters.
    • JMS even used this to his advantage in the case of Ivanova. He had let slip that if Takashima had stayed on the show, she would have turned out to be a traitor. So when Ivanova showed up, people in the know assumed that Ivanova would now be the traitor. He even put subtle hints here and there that she might be a traitor to facilitate Wild Mass Guessing. When it turned out that Garibaldi's second was in fact the traitor, fans were caught completely off-guard. And that wasn't even the last of it; the next season, it again looked like Ivanova might be a traitor (albeit unwittingly), so it was a surprise to the audience when it turned out to be Talia Winters instead.
    • Word of God is that JMS had "trap doors" ready for all the characters, and Suspiciously Similar Substitute characters ready to go, knowing well the vagaries of TV production and the fact that any given actor might suddenly become unavailable for a variety of reasons.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Deliberately invoked by Sheridan when he plants a news story that "Absolutely nothing happened today in Sector 85 by 9 by 12. Please remain calm." He is telling almost the entire truth. Three White Stars, under his orders, did go to that sector and spend a little while shooting at nothing. Otherwise, absolutely nothing happened there.
  • Switching P.O.V.: The stories aren't always anywhere near the space station, and the narration switches accordingly.

  • Take That!:
    • In a single episode, swipes are taken at both Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and merchandising generally.
    • In the series finale, an inspirational message doubles as a dig at the show's doomsayers.
    • Another, more political Take That! was hidden in the first season episode By Any Means Necessary. The Rush Act mentioned in it, giving EarthGov the power to break up labor strikes by any means necessary, was named after Rush Limbaugh. Amusingly, when asked by a viewer from the UK who Rush Limbaugh is, JMS answered "Leading American proctologist. Trust me." Zing!
    • At some point in the show's past, San Diego was nuked by terrorists (a Covert Group has its base underneath the city's ruins). Word of God is JMS picked it because he was mugged and almost killed there one night.
    • The episode The Deconstruction of Fallen Stars is a Take That! against Cultural Studies and Deconstruction (the philosophical movement, not the Trope).
    • A less-serious zinger appears in season five: an Expy of McDonald's called McBari's (complete with "golden headbones") that is generally held in low regard.
  • Take a Third Option: Once Sheridan learns that Franklin is running the "underground railroad" funneling telepaths away from Psi Corps, he finds himself in an impossible situation: betray his oath, or turn Franklin in — triggering a PR disaster, and giving Earthforce enough pretext to scrap the B5 project. Talia suggests an alternative: all the telepaths merge their psychic abilities at once, overpowering Bester and making him believe all of the rogue telepaths have been killed. His mission 'completed', Bester leaves the station, allowing the telepaths to migrate to safer quarters without interference.
    • How the shadow/vorlon war was resolved
    • In the ''Lost Tales'' direct-to-dvd series episode "Over There", this is what Sheridan decides to do with Centauri Prince Vintari, who Galen reveals will be responsible for a massive destructive attack on Earth in the future unless something were to happen to him. He suggests to Sheridan that he sabotage a Starfury fighter and invite the prince—an avid fan of Earth military hardware—to fly it. Galen seems to imply that the only choice is to either kill Vintari before he takes the throne, or allow the attack to happen. At the last minute, Sheridan decides to instead take him into his household for a couple of years where he can befriend his similarly-aged son David, with the experience hopefully opening his mind and preventing future hostility toward the Human race.
  • Take Off Your Clothes: In one scene in "The Quality of Mercy", Ivanova walks into a slum clinic run by Dr. Franklin, and Franklin, without turning around, tells her to start by removing all her clothes. Ivanova replies by asking for flowers and a dinner first.
    • The fifth season episode "A Tragedy of Telepaths" has Londo ordering a female Centauri servant to strip and give her clothes to him so he can give them to Na'Toth, who he and Vir are smuggling out of a prison cell. The servant remarks that Cartagia 'used to play this game' with her, in a context that implies that Cartagia was a transvestite rather than simply taking advantage of the help.
  • The Talk: Once Vir realizes he's been shafted into an arranged marriage, he makes a beeline for Ivanova, asking her advice about courting women. Things get very awkward for both when Vir mentions just how Centauri have sex.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: The resolution of "Infection", where Sinclair persuades the alien bioweapon to deactivate itself by bringing it up to speed on the history of the world it was built to protect (dead for centuries, because the population was wiped out by the weapons intended to protect them).
    • The Shadow war is resolved in this way when the protagonists realise that the shadows and Vorlons have lost their way and tell them so in no uncertain terms, though in this case it's talking them into leaving rather than dying.
  • Talking Your Way Out: In "The Parliament of Dreams", G'Kar tries the "whatever you were paid, I'll double it" tactic on the assassin. It doesn't work because, the assassin explains, the assassin's guild has a reputation to uphold and comes down very hard on members who let themselves get bought off.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: In the old days of the Centauri Republic, poison was a commonplace negotiating tool. After exchanging a toast with Refa, Londo announces that he poisoned his drink.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: When Londo's trap for Refa is sprung and Refa trapped in a room with several angry Narns who Londo told that every war crime done to their people was by his order or had his influence Refa tried to say Londo was lying. The recording of Londo playing adds, "On the off chance [I'm not believed]" Londo prepared an offer those standing before Refa couldn't refuse.
  • Tasty Gold: Somebody in a low dive in Downbelow tests a coin this way in "Survivors".
  • Tattooed Crook: The thug in "Survivors".
    Garibaldi: All that tattooing seeping into your brain? You think I have nothing better to do than bust you every few days?
  • Team Hand-Stack: In "TKO", Walker Smith, Garibaldi, and Caliban do one before Walker goes into the ring. (Caliban gives the other two a "what is this strange earthling custom?" look before he joins in.)
  • The Teaser: Used in most every episode.
  • Technology Uplift: The Centauri sell "Star Gate" (and later "Jump Drive") technology to humanity, allowing spaceships to engage in interstellar travel and commerce.
    • They also make a few attempts to justify their first conquest and enslavement of the Narns as bringing them to the stars.
    • The Earth Alliance's policy is to construct jump gates in new systems and charge any natives tolls to use them.
  • Techno Wizard: The Technomages.
  • The Teetotaler: The Centauri Regent. When Londo is informed that the Regent has been drinking himself into a stupor lately, Londo responds that the Regent had purposely cultivated sobriety as his one vice.
    • Subverted, in that the Regent is under the influence of a Drakh Keeper. As the Keeper is incapacitated by alcohol, this is the only way the Regent can make any decisions in something resembling his right mind. Londo later learns this first hand when he becomes Emperor and is himself given a Keeper.
    • Garibaldi plays this one straight, as he is a recovering alcoholic (he does fall off the wagon when he's under intense psychological pressure, and this plays a role in at least two episodes).
  • Telepathic Spacemen: Due to being Touched by Vorlons, every race has some (except the Narns, due to Shadows killing all of them in the past, but the genes are still latent in them).
    • Even races the Vorlon never visited have psychics.
  • The Tell: Ivanova knows something is up when she sees Garibaldi "eating like a man starved", but she doesn't know him well enough to be sure there's a reason behind it. It turns out it is something Garibaldi does when faced with death (in this case, a ship full of colonists he came across who were killed by Space Pirates).
    • In the second season, Captain Sheridan, who does not know Garibaldi yet, is able to tell that he is contemplating suicide, based on the fact that Garibaldi is sitting alone in his quarters idly loading and unloading his sidearm. Of course, given the recent events that had happened, Sheridan was right to be on the lookout for warning signs.
      • Which is intriguing because, the season before that, Garibaldi caught a tell on Sinclair contemplating suicide. He knew Sinclair was at the Battle of the Line and had seen from his experiences veterans trying to throw themselves into suicide missions in hopes of not coming back.
  • Teasing from Behind the Language Barrier: In one episode Marcus Cole told Susan Ivanova "You are the most beautiful woman I've ever met." in Minbari, saying that it was a Minbari greeting. In a later episode, it's revealed that Ivanova has an eidetic memory, and in that time she's actually learned a bit more Minbari, enough to know what it really means.
  • Temporal Paradox: The storyline involving Sinclair going back in time to become Valen is rich with both the Object Loop (the device that he and Delenn use to switch between being human and Minbari) and the Information Loop (everything he teaches the Minbari as Valen, which he learned from the Minbari, who learned it from Valen).
    • Object loop is actually averted. There was a set of triluminaries on Epislon 3, that are recovered by Zathras. They are handed to Sinclair. Sinclair goes in the past, uses them to transform into Valen, they become holy artifacts...and are the ones seen in the show.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • At the beginning of "Mind War", Catherine Sakai makes the mistake of pointing out that everything's been quiet for a week, and asking "What could go wrong?"
      • Babylon 5 loves this trope. Anytime someone comments that it's been quiet lately, or that they haven't heard from so-and-so in a while, the scene is pretty much guaranteed to immediately cut to something bad going down. Especially if said comment is made during the teaser.
    • As part of a gambit to overstretch the Centauri forces, G'Kar's uncle orders the fleet to "temporarily" leave their homeworld unguarded.
    • Sheridan on armed escorts: No thanks, "I can take care of myself." (cue sniper crosshairs)
    • An especially painful example - Londo saying, "I feel happy" before the only woman he ever loved is murdered.
    • "Don't worry, even one as arrogant as this would not take it upon himself to imprison his own Prime Minister!" CLANG.
  • 10,000 Years: When Delenn explains the Shadows and the First Ones to Sheridan, she tells him the last time they made open war with each other was 10,000 years ago. The last war against the Shadows, on the other hand, was a mere 1,000 years ago.
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Lampshaded by Ivanova in "A Voice in the Wilderness".
  • That's What I Would Do: In one scene, Sheridan predicts a particular move by the Shadows because "that's just what I'd do." Delenn is horrified by the notion of Sheridan thinking like the enemy.
  • That's No Moon!: Babylon 5 orbits a planet called Epsilon 3. Only it's not a planet — it's a planet-sized machine.
  • The Big Guy: G'Kar.
  • Theme Initials: John Sheridan and Jeffrey Sinclair. Which surely has nothing to do with the show being created by Joe Straczynski. The Theme Initials of the romantic leads matched those of JMS and his wife.
    • Also, the first names of the crew: John/Jeffrey, Michael, Susan.
  • Theme Naming: Earth Alliance ships are frequently named after references to classical mythology. This also frequently doubles as Foreshadowing.
  • There Are No Therapists: The crew finds a man suffering severe delusions, thinking he's King Arthur. Seems there's no shrinks on B5 as Dr Franklin then decides to immediately break the man's delusion by reminding him who he is (and the terrible guilt he carries for what he did). (That, or Franklin was simply driven to do this himself.) Of course it goes poorly, as the man has a breakdown and goes catatonic.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: "Death Clouds". These weapons, developed by the Shadows, consists of a giant net of Nanomachines which enclose over a planet, before launching thousands of multi-megaton thermonuclear missiles that penetrate the crust before detonating, thereby tearing the planet apart from the inside.
  • They Do: John Sheridan and Delenn.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: The "interrogator" in "Intersections in Real Time." If you saw him walking down the street, you'd probably peg him as an accountant.
    • Also Justin, the man Sheridan meets on Z'ha'dum. He's a willing servant of the Shadows, and tries to get Sheridan to switch sides. But in appearance and manner, he's like someone's kindly grandfather.
    • To a lesser extent, Morden. He gives off a creepy vibe, especially once you know who he works for, but in his first appearance, he comes off as little more than a slightly weird handsome young man.
  • They Would Cut You Up: This is what Jason Ironheart is afraid of in "Mind War" (though to his credit it's not really his own fate that worries him so much as what They will do with what they learn from cutting him up).
  • Third-Person Flashback:
    • In the pilot show, this is notable averted when Kosh got poisoned and an telepath saw the events as seen from Kosh's eyes.
    • Most mental flashbacks avert this and are viewed from the sight of the viewer.
    • In "Revelations", when Garibaldi attempts to recall who attacked him, most of his flashback is just a rerun of the actual scene of him getting attacked, including several shots of Garibaldi in third person. The sequence does contain one new shot, representing Garibaldi noticing a detail that passed him by at the time, and this is in first person.
  • Third-Person Person: Zathras.
  • 13 Is Unlucky: Ambassador Kosh's ship, which scared off the dock workers assigned there, is located in Bay 13.
  • This Is the Part Where...: The assassin in "The Parliament of Dreams":
    Assassin: (claps sarcastically) And this is the part where I'm supposed to decide I trust you, drop my guard, and let you shoot me in the back. Sorry.
  • This Means War!: "The Coming of Shadows" inaugurates an all-out war between the Centauri Republic and the Narn.
  • This Was His True Form: The end of "Infection" plays out like this for the guy taken over by The Corruption though it's quickly established that he's only unconscious, not dead. Notable because it's a supposedly science-based weapon, and it took hours to transform him into the monstrous form, but once it leaves him he's back to normal in seconds, just like magic.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock:
    Sheridan: "I am shocked. Shocked and dismayed! I'd remind you that we are short on supplies here! We can't afford to take perfectly good clothing and throw it out into space. Always take the jacket off first, I've told you that before! (to the reporter) Sorry, she meant to say 'Stripped naked and thrown out an airlock.' I apologise for any confusion this may have caused."
    • For the Earth Alliance, this is an execution method reserved for mutiny and treason.
    • In "The Corps Is Mother, the Corps Is Father," Bester and another Psi Cop hyperspace a "mundane" who killed one of their colleagues.
  • Tie In Novels — notable for having the tie-ins be Canon, with series creator J. Michael Straczynski reviewing them and/or providing outlines. Events described in the novels were more than once later referenced in the series.
  • Time Abyss: Lorien and all the other First Ones. The Vorlons who are the youngest of the First Ones have been a space-faring race for at least a million years.
  • Time Travel: "Babylon Squared" and the two-parter "War without End". Notable as the episodes (set two seasons apart) are both sides of the same time travel event.
  • Title Drop: It's the name of the station. Also, each season has a title that it shares with one episode in that season. When you see a title card reading "Signs And Portents" or "The Coming Of Shadows," you know that something big is coming.
  • To Be Lawful or Good: Explored by different characters in different ways.
    • This is averted with Sheridan. He knows early on that Clark was involved in the conspiracy to assassinate President Santiago so that he could assume the presidency of Earth Alliance himself. His superior officer General Hague in fact is one of several key members of Earthforce that suspect foul play. So Sheridan can justify his defiance towards Clark on the grounds that Clark gained the presidency through illegal means. As Clark increasingly assumes dictatorial powers, dissolves the Senate by military action and imposes martial law, Sheridan is able to further rationalize his rebellion in that Clark is openly violating the Earth Alliance Constitution and Sheridan presents this argument to other Earthforce commanding officers as justification for forcibly removing Clark from office. When the nascent Interstellar Alliance begins its offensive against Clark's Earth late in season 4, he also uses the law to uphold the good, such as calling on his enemies to surrender on account of their actions violating the Fictional Geneva Conventions.
    • Ivanova, despite her rigid by-the-book persona, tends to favor good over law. Partially because her mother was legally persecuted for being a telepath, and partially because Ivanova's own military career, and personal freedom, could be taken away in an instant if Psi Corps ever learned that she is a latent telepath.
    • Garibaldi prefers to rely on his personal sense of ethics, as he distrusts authority figures by default. Plus he has to deal with Down Below, which he knows he can never clean up or successfully impose order upon.
    • Dr. Franklin always puts what he believes to be the best interests of his patients first, even if it means violating regulations or even breaking the law.
    • When Nightwatch first comes to B5, Zack ecstatically joins. Over the next year he is slowly horrified by Nightwatch's fascistic nature. After witnessing firsthand the arrest of a shopkeeper who dared to badmouth President Clark, Zack (eventually) agrees to help remove Nightwatch from the station.
    • Played very straight with Delenn however. Even working on the basis of prophecy (which she knows was really just Jeffrey Sinclair/Valen recounting what he knew about the future), she has to defy the opposition of the Grey Council which rules the Minbari Federation in order to prepare for war against the Shadows. This is not easy for her, and her actions do have consequences for Minbari society.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore:
    • Each civilization seems to have its own version of this. Delenn is well schooled in Minbari Eldritch lore. G'kar is obsessed with the Narn variation.
    • When Aldous Gajic comes calling looking for leads on the Holy Grail, Vir cheerfully hands over a data crystal containing all possible references from the Centauri version. Londo, hoping to hustle Gajic for money in exchange for the information, is not at all pleased.
  • Torture Is Ineffective:
    • Near the end of the Shadow War the Centauri capture G'Kar, and Emperor Cartagia starts torturing him for fun. G'Kar does his damnedest to ruin the Emperor's fun by remaining unbowed and even refusing to scream, except when Londo convinces him to do so to keep Cartagia from killing him and screwing up their Batman Gambit to assassinate him and free Narn.
    • After Sheridan is captured by President Clark's forces, he's tortured psychologically and electrically in order to get him to confess to being a traitor to Earth. This was shown to work on other prisoners—ISN at one point broadcasts propaganda videos of several people blearily and unconvincingly confessing and naming others—but Sheridan holds out long enough for Garibaldi and the Mars Resistance to rescue him.
  • Touched by Vorlons:
  • Touch Telepathy: Not required, telepathy functions primarily on line-of-sight. However, physical contact can improve telepathic connection. Human Telepaths with the PsiCorps. wear leather gloves per regulations to minimize the chances of accidental telepathic contact.
  • Tractor Beam: The Minbari have them.
  • Training from Hell: Delenn has to face this from Jack the Ripper.
  • Trap Is the Only Option: In the season 3 finale, Sheridan sees his wife Anna asking him to go to Z'ha'dum is likely a trap. But he wanted to go to try and avert a future and to make the Shadows pay for destroying the woman his wife was and leaving this flesh puppet behind. On the planet, when it is affirmed his Anna is truly gone, Sheridan proves he is not one to be underestimated or tricked with such a tactic
  • Trapped by Gambling Debts: Happens to one of Garibaldi's men early in the series.
  • Trashcan Bonfire: "Chrysalis" has a scene with, in the background, a group of homeless people huddled around a futuristic equivalent, what looks like a large orange light bulb in a frame the shape and size of an oil drum.
  • Traveling at the Speed of Plot: JMS is Trope Namer. This happens to be how fast Starfury fighters travel at. More than once this allows them to show up just in the nick of time.
    • Almost every time someone has to leave the station urgently, someone tells them that "the next transport to X leaves in one hour." then suddenly someone says it is in 2 hours.
  • Treachery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Michael Garibaldi finds himself on both sides of this. At the end of the first season, he's shot In the Back by his second, Jack. When it comes to light, he goes to confront him, demanding to know why, and promising to be the one to push the button when Jack's Thrown Out the Airlock. In the fourth season, Garibaldi, who's been programmed by Bester's telepaths, arranges for Sheridan to be apprehended by Clark loyalists. When she hears about it, Ivanova orders Garibaldi shot on sight if he ever shows his face again.
  • Trigger Phrase: Lyta's "password" for uncovering the Psi Corps agent among Sheridan's ranks.
  • Truce Zone: The Babylon stations were all built to be this. So much for that idea.
    "The Babylon project was our last, best hope for peace. It failed. But in the year of the Shadow war, it became something greater - our last, best hope for victory".
  • Trust Password: In "A Late Delivery From Avalon", a deluded man claiming to be King Arthur gets into a scuffle with station guards. Marcus decides to put his accent to good use, bowing before "Arthur" and claiming that Galahad and Lancelot are onboard, as well. "Arthur's" face immediately darkens; Galahad and Lancelot died at the Battle of Camlann!
  • Tuckerization:
    • Recurring character Alfred Bester, a psychic cop, is named in honor of the author of the classic SF novel The Demolished Man, which is about a psychic cop.
    • In the episode "Survivors" there is a high-ranking soldier named General Netter; Doug Netter was the series' executive producer.
  • Turn in Your Badge: In "Survivors", Garibaldi is suspended from duty and made to turn in his security authorization, communication link and sidearm after being framed for the sabotage he was investigating. True to the trope, he insists on continuing to investigate on his own.
    • Following an order by the Political office allowing Nightwatch to take over B5's security, Nightwatch begin consolidating its hold on the station by firing staff who won't cooperate and join ("Point of No Return"). Ironically reversed at episode's end, when Sheridan relieves them all of duty, replacing the disloyal guards with Narns.
    • Inverted in In The Shadow Of Z'Ha'Dum. Garibaldi resigns in protest when Sheridan refuses to release Mr. Morden when he can't charge him with a crime, but he knows he had to have something to do with the death of Anna Sheridan.
    • And Played With in Conflicts Of Interest: Garibaldi resigned several episodes previously, but never got around to turning in his Identicard and his issued gear until Sheridan and Zack Allen pressed the issue. Zack even knew Garibaldi well enough to ask for his backup gun too. He didn't realize that Garibaldi would have a spare Identicard too.
  • Twin Telepathy: The Centauri place special value on telepathic twins, using specially-trained pairs raised from birth as the Emperor's personal communication system. The Emperor seems to normally have two sets of twins, and one from each pair always accompanies the Emperor when he travels while the others remain in the palace. This provides instantaneous communication and awareness of the Emperor's situation independently of any technology that could be hacked or jammed.
  • Twisted Christmas: The show combined a gimmick of each season covering exactly one calendar year with cliffhanger season endings. As a result, some pretty violent and unpleasant things tended to happen around Christmas time.
  • Twisting the Words: "The Illusion of Truth"
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: Episodes typically feature two to three story lines: the 'A' plot, linked to the overall Story Arc; the 'B' plot, structured as a more conventional Adventure Of The Week; and often a 'C' plot, usually comedy relief.
  • Two of Your Earth Minutes appears sporadically; averted just about as often.
    • G'Kar and Na'Toth both speak of "Earth hours" in "The Parliament of Dreams". Oddly, they mostly do it when discussing a deadline G'Kar is facing — which was set by a Narn, and which they discuss only with each other and with another Narn. So why don't they talk about it in terms of their own Narn hours?
      • Possibly because they're all on a space station run by humans, and any clocks they might encounter will be set according to human units?
    • Neatly inverted in "By Any Means Necessary", with Sinclair pointing out to G'Kar that "The Narn homeworld is twelve light-years from Babylon 5. Ten of your light-years."
    • "A Voice in the Wilderness" has "ten of your hours" and "500 of your years", from two different aliens.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Ivanova is a freaking Token Minority Value Pack. She's a female Russian Jewish bisexual latent telepath
  • Types of Naval Ships: Interestingly, this is one of the few settings that will use the names of contemporary real-world naval ships for their starships (ie: Cruisers and Destroyers), and most of the races even seem to consistently apply these names (For the Narn, Centauri, and the Minbari, their heaviest warships are all some type of Cruiser), and yet the humans don't use the names in the standard way. For the Earth Alliance, a Heavy Cruiser is one of the smallest warships the humans field, with a Dreadnought being bigger and meaner, and their primary front line Battle Star equivalent is called a Destroyer, evidently a new larger warship type introduced after the beating they took in the Earth Minbari War, rather than the smaller warships used for screening and attacking in 20th century warfare. This is easily justified, as the names used for varying types of ships are always changing throughout history. During the 1950's, the biggest surface combat ships in the US Navy were Frigates. A decade later, the exact same ships were Cruisers.
    • Starting with the spinoffs, we begin to see the Interstellar Alliance begin to use Destroyers as well, in this case referring to something with more firepower than a Minbari Warcruiser while being much faster.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Col. Ben Zayn's (short-lived) takeover as Commander of Babylon 5.

  • Unable to Cry: Mariah Cirrus, upon finding out that her husband is dead. Justified because the cryogenic hibernation process caused her tear ducts to dry up.
  • Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Utilized frequently.
  • Undercover as Lovers: When they make contact with the Mars Resistance, Marcus and Franklin are both given their new stolen ID's: "Jim Fennerman and Daniel Lane, a young married couple on their way to Mars for their honeymoon." Although the idea of gay marriage is treated as completely regular, it is mostly used for comedy, and Marcus appears to be having a grand old time playing it up.
  • Underground Railroad: Babylon 5 is host to part of the Telepath Underground Railroad, a network that helps Rogue Telepaths escape the Psi Corps. The stationmaster on B5 is revealed to be Doctor Stephen Franklin.
    • In the second and third seasons, multiple such railroads are set up by various characters to help Narn civilians escape the brutal occupation of their homeworld after their war with the Centauri Republic.
  • Undying Loyalty: Lennier and Vir. Ivanova too, and Na'Toth. In fact pretty much every major character's second (except for Garibaldi's, who in fact turns out to be The Mole and shoots him in the back)
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Girlfriend: Londo may or may not be ugly by Centauri standards, but he's not terribly attractive by human standards, and so by Human standards, Adira is much better-looking than he is.
    • One of Londo's wives is a very attractive woman who's also much younger than him. Possibly his other wives were like that when they were younger. However, as these were all Arranged Marriages, the trope isn't played completely straight.
  • Undisclosed Funds: In "The Parliament of Dreams", Catherine Sakai receives an eye-widening amount of money as a bonus for a job she recently completed. She receives the notification of the amount in writing, and the audience is not told exactly how much it is.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Sheridan after Z'ha'dum.
  • Unobtainium: Quantium-40, used in construction of hyperspace jump gates.
    • The firing coil of a PPG is made out of an alloy called "morbidium", which (according to the 1st season episode "Chrysalis") is a metal that is harder than diamond.
  • Unstuck in Time: Sheridan gets Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Trope Codifier.
  • The Unpronounceable: The Shadows' true name is said to have hundreds of syllables (it's ten thousand characters long!) and to be unpronounceable for the tongues of younger races.
  • Untranslated Catchphrase: Comedy duo Rebo and Zooty, played by Penn & Teller, Zooty (Teller) only speaks through "his machine," which makes a variety of funny noises and voices, including his Catchphrase, "Zooty, Zoot-Zoot!" It's never revealed to the audience what it means, if it means anything. Sheridan and Londo once have a long argument about whether or not it's even funny.
  • Unusual Euphemism:
    • Characters are repeatedly being described as having "Gone beyond the Rim" when the actor playing them dies. This is most noticeable in G'Kar who continued to be a prominent character even after the show ended until the actor playing him died of lung cancer.
    • Many aliens seem to have a habit of saying "As the humans say" before using a well known Earth expression. Or occasionally massacring it, for the funny.
      Londo: "I feel like I'm...what are those Earth creatures? Webbed feet, goes 'quack'?
      Vir: "Cats!"
      Londo: "Yes. I feel like I'm being nibbled to death by cats!"
    • Sheridan: "Well, as my great granddad used to say, cool"
    • A more literal example, Vir's "Spoo-for-brains"
    • In the first season, "stroke" is occasionally used basically as a substitute for "fuck" (with "stroke" presumably referring to masturbation). This doesn't really appear again afterwards, except in the episode "Gropos":
      Sergeant-Major: Where the strokin' H do you think you're going, private?
      • In many languages expletives use disease names, e.g. Dutch equivalent to 'fuck off' is 'cancer off'.
    • In at least one instance, a character refers to himself as being "honked off."
    • And there's Sheridan's exclamation of "Abso-fraggin-lutely!" Delenn repeats it in a later episode, in an inappropriate but hilarious fashion.
    • After Marcus dies, Ivanova regrets ignoring his obvious affection for her: "At least I should have boffed him just once."
    Stephen Franklin: "Boffed"?
    • An example of one that is unusual for the characters but to us is utterly mundane has Sheridan quoting his great-grandfather: "Cool!"
  • Unwanted Assistance: invoked When Vir becomes the Centauri Ambassador to Minbar, Londo keeps offering him advice on how to phrase his reports, much to Vir's chagrin.
    Londo: Say instead "They are a decadent people, interested only in the pursuit of...of dubious pleasures." The "dubious" part is very important. It doesn't mean anything, but it scares them every time.
  • Urban Segregation: The shiny areas seen for most of the series, vs. Down Below. The slums seem to have sprung up almost immediately after the station was built. One episode had a race that uses a Social Darwinist based caste system praise it as a brilliant innovation.
  • Used Future: see above.

  • Values Dissonance: Actually discussed and dealt with quite often in-universe, as the station is a multicultural hub in which the various alien races are largely free to operate much as they would on their homeworlds so long as it doesn't harm other races.
  • Vestigial Empire: The Centauri spend half their time invading the rest of the galaxy and the other half reminiscing about their glory days, back when — one assumes — they were even worse. Lampshaded with Londo's Lightbulb Joke.
  • Vichy Earth: What happens to the Narns after the Centauri get at it. After bombarding Narn from orbit, the Centauri dissolved the Kha'Ri and established an occupation government staffed with collaborators (though generally not Quislings). They put a price on G'Kar's head and appoint a new ambassador to Babylon 5, with whom G'Kar has some serious disagreements.
  • Victory Sex: John thinks this is what Delenn has in mind when she tells him that, after an important battle against the Shadows, they'll spend the night together. She immedieately clarifies that she wants to spend the night watching him sleep as part of a Minbari courtship ritual.
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Hands up, everyone who knew Jason Ironheart's "You cannot harm one who has dreamed a dream like mine," was a Dakota prayer of protection and not a really weird line.
  • A Villain Named "Z__rg": There's a humanoid predator species named Zarg.
  • Villainous Legacy: When The Shadows left the galaxy, they left behind some technology, and at least one planet-killer ship—and their old Henchmen Race race the Drakh, who searched for and obtained some of these items for use in their own designs for conquest.
  • Vision Quest: Dr. Franklin goes on a Walkabout to deal with his addiction to stims. It turns into a true vision quest when he is badly injured and near death, and sees himself.
    • Londo during The Very Long Night of Londo Molari, albeit an entirely involuntary one.
    • G'Kar when he takes Dust (a drug that gives users temporary telepathic abilities) and proceeds to kidnap, beat up, and Mind Rape Londo.
    • Several characters in the episode where the station is partially taken over by an alien Halowe'en. Many people were so changed by it that G'Kar (who arranged to sleep elsewhere out of fear of the event) notes it, and says he wishes he had stayed home and experienced it himself.
  • Voice of the Resistance: Trope Namer. Sheridan notes Ivanova did exceptionally well during emergency announcements in the closing days of the Shadow War, and proposes creating an interstellar broadcast to get the real word out about what Clark and his regime are up to. The call it "The Voice of the Resistance."
  • Volleying Insults: In "Convictions", Londo and G'Kar are trapped in an elevator. They exchange a final volley of insults as a rescue crew approaches — much to G'Kar's annoyance, as he'd seen the incident as a chance to watch Londo die without political reprisals.
    Londo: There, you see? I am going to live!
    G'kar: So it would seem. Well, it is an imperfect universe.
    Londo: Bastard.
    G'kar: Monster.
    Londo: Fanatic!
    G'kar: Murderer.
    Londo: You are insane!
    G'kar: And that is why we'll win.
    Londo: "Go be the ambassador to Babylon 5", they say. "It will be an easy assignment". Ugh, I hate my life.
    G'kar: So do I.
    Londo: Shut up!

  • War for Fun and Profit: The Shadows believe that evolution springs from conflict, and therefore provoke wars throughout the galaxy with the expectation that those who survive will end up stronger and better for it.
  • The War Has Just Begun: Sheridan's speech at the conclusion of "Severed Dreams".
  • War Hero: Both Commander Sinclair and Captain Sheridan are decorated veterans of the Earth-Minbari War, earning the Silver Star of Valor. Sheridan even scored Earth's only victory.
  • War Is Glorious: Seems to be the motto of the Minbari Warrior Caste.
  • The War Just Before:
    • The Dilgar War took place about thirty years before the series and established the Earth Alliance as a major power in the galaxy for the first time, through their joining the fight on the side of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds against the genocidal Dilgar. Garibaldi's and Franklin's fathers both fought in that conflict, and an escaped war criminal from that war, the Dilgar Warmaster Jha'dur, appears in the episode "Deathwalker".
    • The Earth-Minbari War ten years before the series was caused by a Poor Communication Kills mishap at First Contact between the Earth Alliance and the Minbari Federation. The war devastated the Alliance, and the Minbari Grey Council's order to surrender on Earth's doorstep deeply angered their warrior caste; there's still bad blood between the two races. However, the war also led to the creation of the Babylon stations to serve as the United Nations IN SPACE! and prevent another such conflict.
    • Crusade has the Telepath War, which an arc in the middle of B5's fifth season was building up to. This was a rebellion by telepaths against the Psi Corps which was supposed to protect normals' civil rights from telepaths, but had become a Nebulous Evil Organization in its own right. The result was the end of the Psi Corps and telepaths such as Gideon's Number Two John Matheson being allowed to serve openly in Earthforce (though still bound by personal privacy restrictions).
  • The War of Earthly Aggression: On slow burn throughout most of the first four seasons, this becomes the main plot in mid-season 4 after the First Ones leave the galaxy.
  • Warrior Poet: Of the main cast, G'Kar, Sinclair, and Marcus are the most stand-out examples. G'Kar is a former resistance leader who unwittingly becomes a major religious figure. Sinclair considers himself a fighter pilot first and foremost, likes to read Tennyson, quotes Shakespeare, and spent a few years training to become as Jesuitnote  who would go back in time and intentionally become a major religious figure. Marcus is a Ranger, also quotes Shakespeare, and is familiar with Arthurian Legend. He becomes a very minor religious figure in the Distant Finale.
  • Warts and All:
    • Played in a heartwarming manner between Lennier and Delenn in Atonement:
      Delenn, I have pledged myself to your side... come fire or storm or darkness or death. Can understanding be a greater danger?
    • Also from Vir to Londo although Londo's warts were more obvious.
  • We Are Everywhere: Played for laughs (sort of) in a televised Psi Corps recruitment ad.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye, Sinclair and to a lesser extent Talia. Also Lt. Warren Keffer, a more traditional action hero who was added by Executive Meddling and later Killed Off for Real by J. Michael Straczynski at the earliest point convenient for the plot. Plus Dr. Kyle and Takashima in the pilot.
  • We Will Not Have Pockets in the Future: Averted.
  • We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future: Vir creates a phony Centauri bureaucrat named Abrahamo Lincolni to divert Narns away from concentration camps. Ivanova assists him by whipping up a photo ID for "Lincolni": A doctored picture of Sheridan, albeit with a Centauri hairdo and medals.
  • We Will Spend Credits in the Future: It's not a universal currency though; only humans carry credits.
  • Weird Trade Union: As part of a one-shot joke Cartagia complains that the Centauri torturers have insisted on being called "pain technicians" ever since they got organized.
  • Weld the Lock: Garibaldi and the Mars Resistance blow the lock on an Earthforce outpost (depressurising it to immobilise those inside) then weld it shut again.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: General Richard "Old Firestorm" Franklin.
  • Wham Episode: It's the Trope Namer, so there's obviously plenty.
  • Wham Line:
    I'm Anna Sheridan. John's wife.
    Note- this is while Delenn is spending the (first) night with John.
    • The last line of Comes The Inquisitor:
    Sebastian: Good luck to you in your holy cause, Captain Sheridan. May your choices have better results than mine. Remembered not as a messenger, remembered not as a reformer, not as a prophet, not as a hero, not even as Sebastian... Remembered only... as "Jack."
    Satai Delenn: Animals! Brutal! They deserve no mercy! Strike them down, follow them back to their base and kill all of them, all of them! No mercy!
    • "The Babylon Project was our last, best hope for peace. It failed."
    • When gentle Vir rasps "Kill him!"
    • The comic book miniseries In Valen's Name, about the final fate of Babylon 4, ends with Valen's message: " As for me, I've received my own reward, because I've found her. At long last... I've found her."
  • Wham Shot: When asked why no Vorlon had been seen outside of their encounter suit, Kosh only cryptically answered that the Vorlons would be recognized by everyone. When forced to reveal himself, this is proven shockingly accurate — all onlookers see Kosh as a blessed figure from their homeworld's religions. Humans — including the audience — see him as an angel. This reveals how long and how thoroughly the Vorlons have been manipulating the younger races.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Nice one, Sheridan.
  • What Did You Expect When You Named It ____?:
    • Even putting aside the unlucky connotations of "Babylon", Earthforce has already deployed four Babylon stations, each of which has either blown up or vanished. Did it not occur to them to maybe name it different next time? Heck, they even reused the parts from the cursed stations to make the new ones.
    • Here's a tip for all future space travelers: If it's named Icarus, or Prometheus, or some shit like that? Just FUCKING STAY HOME!
    • For that matter, why do people keep insisting on naming ships Marie Celeste?
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Garibaldi's reaction to Sheridan interrogating Morden in the second season episode "In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum".
    • Also his reaction to Sheridan in general during the 4th Season.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Spoo. The Interstellar Animals Rights Protection League's official policy on the treatment of spoo is "Kill 'em.".
  • What You Are in the Dark: Sebastian's inquisition is about establishing what Delenn and Sheridan are in the dark, as the answer to this question is of vital importance to the Vorlons. When he's satisfied that they measures up he gives a rather epic speech on the topic.
    How do you know the Chosen Ones? No greater love hath a man than he lay down his life for his brother. Not for millions. Not for glory, not for fame... For one person. In the dark. Where no one will ever know or see.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • The character of Lennier abruptly departs from the show in the penultimate episode. He is the only major character whose fate at the end of the series remains unknown.
      • He is dead. In "Sleeping in Light" Sheridan offers a toast to absent friends, standard Unusual Euphemism for the dead. Mentioned are Londo, G'Kar, Marcus (known dead)... and Lennier. The plot outline for the Telepath War bluntly states that Lyta and Lennier die during it.
    • Averted with the character of Na'Toth, however. Originally a recurring character of some importance in the first two seasons, she vanished in late Season 2 with no explanation. Much later we got an explanation that she'd returned to Narn and been killed in the Centauri bombardment. Eventually and unexpectedly, she returned in a single episode of Season 5 that satisfactorily resolved her fate.
    • What happened to Captain Lochley? She's not at the party they have for Sheridan, she's not listed among the dead, and she's not on Babylon 5. And it's a little weird that Sheridan would invite everyone else and not his ex-wife.
      • "Sleeping in Light" was filmed at the end of season 4 in case the show got canceled. As a result, Lochley didn't appear since Ivanova's actor hadn't left yet, and thus Lochley's character hadn't been introduced.
    • In the episode "Sic Transit Vir," Vir's fiance has captured a Narn, whom she offers for Vir to kill. After this scene, which ends before Vir takes any action, the Narn is never referred to again.
      • According to Word of God the Narn was recovering in Medlab.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: The pak’ma’ra. Played up as scavenger aliens who are rude, anti-social, and considered filthy by other species. Their dull, bovine eyes and tentacle-faces make them rather appealing in an odd way. Later played for laughs inCrusade when Gideon watches a porno film featuring a dalliance with a pak'ma'ra.
  • When Things Spin, Science Happens: Babylon 5 itself. See also the less-advanced Earthforce warships: they each rely on rotating sections to generate indoor gravity. In all other sections, officers must hold onto safety bars or strap themselves into chairs to keep from floating away. Even the super-advanced Omega class destroyers (built with Shadow technology) have rotating sections. It's Justified because Earth technology to that point hadn't discovered the secret to gravimetrics. It is only later, once the Minbari and the Intersteller Alliance begin sharing their knowledge with Earth thay they begin catching up, beginning with the Warlock-class.
  • Where Da White Women At?: Talia once shared a romance with her black instructor, Jason Ironheart, when they were both at Psi Corps Academy.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?:
    • Lorien explains to Susan that he and his race were born naturally immortal.
    Lorien: At first we were kept in balance by birth rate. Few of us were ever born, less than a handful each year. Then I think, the Universe decided that to appreciate life, for there to be change and growth, life had to be short. So, the generations that followed us grew old, infirm, and died. But those of us who were first, went on. We discovered the Vorlons and the Shadows when they were infant races and nourished them, helped them and all the other races you call the First Ones. In time, most of them died, or passed beyond the rim to whatever lies in the darkness between galaxies. We've lived too long, seen too much. To live on as we have is to leave behind joy and love and companionship, because we know it to be transitory, of the moment. We know it will turn to ash. Only those whose lives are brief can imagine that love is eternal. You should embrace that remarkable illusion, it may be the greatest gift your race has ever received.
    • Subverted in "Deathwalker", when a war-criminal creates a serum for immortality. Every government wants it for themselves. The catch: for the serum to work for one individual, certain components which can't be produced artificially must be extracted from another member of the same race, a process which is fatal to the other person. She intends for the billions who will die for the immortality of others as revenge for the defeat and extermination of her people in a previous war. Even knowing this, Sinclair and the others can't stop her from walking away unharmed. Then the Vorlons blow up her ship with her and her serum in it.
      Kosh: You are not ready for immortality.
  • Who Watches the Watchmen?: The Psi Cops monitor the Psi-Corps. Nobody monitors the Psi Cops though, a fact which makes more than a few Corps members uneasy.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: The Minbari like to think of themselves as this, but it's at best an Informed Attribute. Their definition of 'lie' is extremely flexible. Notably it doesn't include lying to save another person's honour (which forms the basis of the plot of the second season episode "There All The Honour Lies") or lying by omission. And some Minbari characters, including Delenn who is easily the most prominent one on the show, just plain ignore this supposedly deeply ingrained aspect of their culture; one fan quipped on Usenet that "the way to tell whether Delenn is lying is to check whether her mouth is moving", and no-one (including JMS, then a regular contributor to that newsgroup) disagreed.
    • This is actually commented upon several times. Sheridan tells his old friend Captain Maynard that "The Minbari never tell you the whole truth." In season four, the Drazi Ambassador publicly states the same thing when speaking out against Delenn. The sentiment is even expressed by Delenn herself, who states that the Grey Council "never tells the ''whole'' truth.". When Sheridan and Delenn meet in front of the "Universe Today" vending machine, she also states that she likes to read the "Eye on Minbar" section so she can learn things before the Grey Council tells her "What she needs to know and no more." The Minbari philosophy is stated on at least one occasion to be "Understanding is not required, only obedience" (no doubt they learnt this from the Vorlons). And of course, most importantly, the Grey Council never told the Warrior Caste why they surrendered at the Battle of the Line. It seems the Minbari do not think omissions are lies.
    • They're also big fans of Exact Words, telling the literal truth while lying like rugs in intent. A sterling example is when an EarthGov investigator comes to the station to ask about the pictures of a Shadow vessel they'd received. He asks Delenn if she's ever seen that kind of ship before, and she replies that she has not. When Sheridan calls her out on this blatant lie after the investigator is out of earshot, Delenn replies that she knows full well it's a Shadow ship, but she has truthfully never actually seen one before.
  • Wiper Start: Garibaldi attempts to use his computer skills to find updated information for Sheridan. Against all logic, this causes the door to Sheridan's office to start opening and closing repeatedly.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Three quarters of human telekinetics are insane.
  • Withholding the Big Good: The Vorlons are initially presented as the Big Good, but midway through the series we're shown they're just as bad as the Shadows (and the Shadows aren't quite as Always Chaotic Evil as we've been led to believe). Around the time we figure this out, we're introduced to Lorien, the first First One, the one who taught the Vorlons and the Shadows and gave them their mission to guide the Younger Races to maturity. Lorien's involvement brings a conclusive end to the cycles of Shadow Wars, making him the true Big Good.
  • The Woman Wearing the Queenly Mask: Except for actual rank, Delenn is very much this. She seems to be required both by Minbari honor code and by the necessities of her position as ambassador to maintain an outwardly regal appearance that belies her troubled and emotional nature inside.
  • The Worf Effect: The Narns often boast about being a strong and effective Proud Warrior Race, but most fight scenes show them being mowed down by weapons fire in large numbers or beaten senseless in unarmed combat. Even their extremely elegant and impressive warships are often ripped apart in short order.
  • The World Is Not Ready: Stock excuse for why advanced aliens won't entrust the Narn, Centuari, or human species with advanced technology. The Vorlons are this way towards all other races even after they depart for good. The stock response for trying to intrude their abandoned space: "Come back in a million years." The Humans eventually do come a million years...and this time they're ready.
  • World of Snark: So much. If you're a main or recurring character and you aren't a Deadpan Snarker when you first appear, you will be one before your final appearance.
  • Working with the Ex: Sheridan deliberately hires his ex-wife to command the station when he has to resign by reason of becoming a president; they didn't work out romantically, but he still trusts her.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech: Ironheart gives one of these to Sinclair in Mind War.
  • Worth Living For: Stephen Franklin, after getting a lengthy "The Reason You Suck" Speech from a trauma-induced hallucination of himself.
    • For Sheridan, this would be Delenn, throughout the fourth season of the show.
    • Delenn says that Sinclair is looking for something Worth Living For during the first season. Garibaldi implies the same, saying that Sinclair is constantly throwing himself into dangerous situations because it's easier to find something worth dying for than something worth living for.
  • Worthy Opponent: Delenn says this about humans while watching them die at Battle of the Line from the Grey Council's shipboard palace. Sinclair says this about Minbari in "Midnight on the Firing Line". As each of these are destined to exchange species it is a kind of Foreshadowing.
    • Neroon, in his first appearance, decides that it is a great honor to his fallen mentor to be considered this by Sinclair, who had every reason hate the Minbari after his squadron was slaughtered at The Line. He later comes to hold the same opinion of Marcus Cole and Delenn.
    • General Robert Lefcourt considers Sheridan to be one, admits to holding some admiration for the man even if he staunchly disagrees on the topic of a soldier's duty to a corrupt government, and manages to avoid several (but not all) of Sheridan's gambits by thinking like him.
  • Wretched Hive: A seedy tavern in Downbelow where Marcus meets with his contacts.
  • Write Back to the Future: After Sinclair travels to the past to become Valen, he leaves behind notes for himself and Delenn to be delivered 1000 years later, with the information about how and why they need to steal Babylon 4.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Telepaths are supposed to be quite rare, but an early episode gives the occurence at one in every 1.000 people, and the occurence of telekinetics at one in 10.000 of telepaths. With Earth's current population, that would mean there are 7 million telepaths, and 700 telekinetics on Earth. This could hardly be considered rare, and would need rather more than a registration act to control reliably.
  • Written-In Infirmity:
    • In the second-season episode "The Geometry of Shadows", Ivanova breaks her leg in a brawl that broke out while she was trying to resolve an internal dispute between two Drazi factions; Claudia Christian had actually broken her leg in an accident and they needed an excuse for her leg being in a cast.
      • In fact, her leg was already broken in the scene where it happens in the show. One can assume that her cry of pain as she falls was not entirely faked. JMS referred to her as "a trooper" for doing this.
    • For a while in Season 3, Garibaldi has his arm in a sling. This is because Jerry Doyle broke his arm during a fight scene in "Severed Dreams". If you look closely at the end of the fight scene, you can even see his arm bend in a way it really shouldn't.


  • You Already Changed the Past: Babylon 4 reappears four years after it disappearance ("Babylon Squared"). In the two-parter "War Without End," it is revealed that Babylon 4 was snatched by the Minbari and taken to the year 1260 AD to help fight the Shadows. To prevent this from happening, the Shadows sent a bomb to Babylon 4 just as it was about to come on-line in 2254. However, the White Star also goes back in time, destroys the bomb, and (as it turns out) takes it back in time as well. However, this is not before the time travel device (sent by Draal and delivered by Zathras) malfunctions, dropping Babylon 4 back into present-day 2258, resulting in the events of "Babylon Squared." Sinclair then realizes that he must take Babylon 4 back in time himself, and then uses the triluminary device to turn himself into a Minbari—specifically, Valen, who led them in the First Shadow War, organized their society, and effectively became the main prophet of their religion.
  • You Are What You Hate:
    • Ivanova's aversion to Psi-Corps, or telepaths in general. As we later discover, Ivanova does not hate telepaths as people, but reacts with hostility toward any threat of being scanned, which would lead to being 'outed' as a P1. OK, hands up, who actually didn't see that coming?
      • In the episode where that particular reveal was made ("Divided Loyalties"), there was a plot that revealed one of the crew was a Manchurian Agent. It was already known among some of the fanbase that the "traitor" plotline existed, and was originally meant for Laurel Takashima, the first officer in the pilot. Between the known "traitor" plotline and Ivanova's reluctance at being scanned, that person was obviously the traitor. Nope, the "obvious" conclusion was a Red Herring; the actual traitor was Talia Winters.
    • The Vorlon Inquisitor is easily peeved by anybody presuming to be 'chosen', or part of a greater plan. As he later confides to Sheridan, the Inquisitor believed he was doing God's work when he committed the Whitechapel murders centuries ago.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Thanks to their relentless tampering with the development of younger races, Vorlons appear in the guise of divine beings, although their appearance can vary greatly depending on the species and individual's own history and mythology. This is accomplished by way of actively projecting a telepathic image which, when used on a large crowd of people, can be a great strain on the Vorlon.
    • Finally averted in the season 4 episode "Falling Toward Apotheosis". Sheridan devises a plan to remove Vorlon Ambassador Ulkesh from the station ( At this point, Vorlons are starting to tear up Shadow-aligned worlds): hit him with everything they have. It made him angry: angry enough to burst from his encounter suit and lash back with no pretense at keeping up appearances. It and the eventual reapparance of the last remaining bit of Kosh is the first and probably only time a Vorlon is seen au natural.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: See "Dreaming of Things To Come", above.
  • You Didn't Ask: Sinclair's excuse for not sharing an important piece of information sooner in "A Voice in the Wilderness". (The real reason is that he just made it up on the spot.)
  • You Don't Want to Catch This:
    • Lennier claiming to have Netter's Syndrome. (Also a Shout-Out to Doug Netter, the show's producer.)
  • You Got Guts: Implied in a scene where Ivanova and Marcus recruit The Walkers of Sigma 957 as their first ally amongst the First Ones. At first the Walkers only speak in their own alien language while understanding English and balk when the Vorlons are mentioned and flatly refuse to help. In a desperate move, Ivanova antagonizes the Walkers by saying the Vorlons are awesome and that the Walkers are cowards. Being such evolved beings, the Walkers see how desperate Ivanova truly is and pledge their full support.
  • You Have to Have Jews: Susan Ivanova and Rabbi Koslov, although Susan was not a practicing Jew.
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: The Mole to Garibaldi, after the latter asks him who is behind the conspiracy that assassinated President Santiago.
  • You Look Familiar: You Sound Familiar: The Drazi Ambassador apparently likes to masquerade as a Narn from time to time.
  • Young Face, Old Eyes: Inverted. When Sheridan becomes "unstuck in time" in the two-part episode "War Without End" , and his consciousness ends up temporarily inhabiting the body of Sheridan 17 years later in a Centauri prison cell with Delenn, and he asks her what is happening, Delenn realizes that what he told her of this timeflash incident later was true, because she sees that his eyes still had an innocence that had long disappeared in the intervening years.
  • You No Take Candle:
    • Alien species that lack prior contact with humans tend to talk like this.
    • The Drazi talk like this even though they've been around humans for a while.
      • According to some possibly-non canon material, the Drazi language is very simple, and they find languages with complex grammar rules (like English) hard to learn. Apparently they're not incapable of learning, however. The Drazi ambassador's English is notably improved in the 5th Season.
  • You're Insane!: Sinclair's reaction in "And the Sky Full of Stars" when the interrogator explains his theory about Sinclair being a Minbari sleeper agent.
    • Morden calls Londo this in "Into The Fire" after Londo orders the Royal Guard to shoot dead Morden's two Shadow bodyguards. Londo doesn't deny Morden's claim, demonstrating Tranquil Fury at what he's about to unleash on him and the Shadows for killing his love Adira and pinning the blame on Lord Refa.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: In "Acts of Sacrifice," Ivanova attempts to secure an alliance with a race of Social Darwinists who are about two steps removed from being Space Nazis. She is extremely uncomfortable with their effusive praise for Babylon 5's "down below" ghetto, which they assume was deliberately planned to separate the "genetically inferior" humans from their superiors.
    • Lorien seems to hold this attitude towards the Shadows, who insist on making Z'Ha'Dum their capital because he happens to be there.
    Lorien: They think they are showing respect. They do not understand.
  • Your Door Was Open
  • Your Soul Is Mine: The Soul Hunters are (usually) a rather sympathetic example. Because they believe that there is no afterlife and the soul is lost with the death of the body, they attempt to locate great individuals, poets, leaders, thinkers, and preserve them when they die. Unfortunately, this puts them directly at odds with the Minbari, whose belief in Reincarnation is directly counter to the Soul Hunters'.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Left, right, and center. Characters on both sides of any given conflict will throw this around quite frequently.


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