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A hidden hand in the Earth-Minbari War?

Raw Shark

Was there a hidden hand in the Earth-Minbari War? I am not aware of discussions on this topic elsewhere, but I have a theory.

I haven’t seen ‘In the Beginning’ for some time, and my copy’s buried in storage somewhere. But I have been thinking about the Minbari stories in B5 generally, and the murky factionalism we have seen.

The story of the war is exciting, violent, jarring. The conflict is portrayed as tragic and unnecessary, born of a misunderstanding. We are told as much in the series, by both humans and Minbari. But do these characters really know everything about this event they lived through? The events leading up to the war are also portrayed in this film, and thinking back to those conversations, perhaps the war was necessary to someone, and served a purpose. Perhaps it was engineered by a party that is unseen in the film, but is mentioned in one of these fateful meetings. And a potential motive is mentioned as well.

We don’t get a sense of how much time is passing between scenes, but the meeting on the Grey Council’s cruiser and the meeting in Earthdome deserve another look.

Let’s start with the Grey Council. First Ranger Lenonn meets with Dukhat and the Council aboard their cruiser. Getting an appointment was kind of tough, but here he is. He tells them that the Rangers are a diminished group with few members, starved of resources, and unable to properly carry out their mission to watch for the return of the Shadows. The prophecy from Valen says that they will return to their homeworld a thousand years after the last great war, and then they will launch a new galactic war. He wants greater support for the Rangers, a rapprochement with the Vorlons, and a reconnaissance mission to Z’ha’dum. Coplann, speaking for the Warrior Caste, is resistant to the idea of sending such an expedition, saying it is too dangerous and unnecessary. He doesn’t want to risk warriors’ lives, but also says they fear nothing. And then he casts doubt on the prophecy from Valen himself, which should raise some eyebrows from the others. He contradicts himself again, saying the system is protected by mines and ancient defenses, and that ‘other races’ have moved into the system to make their home there. That’s ‘races,’ plural, but how does he know that? He even mentions a previous expedition to the system that learned all this, and made it out to tell the tale. Who the hell was that, other Minbari? When, why? Was this JMS getting in a quick line to crack the door open for another story sometime? And why does no one question how the system is too dangerous to visit, and yet other aliens have been living there, apparently unconcerned with these dangers? Z’ha’dum does not look like the most inviting place in the galaxy, and at least three of the major races in our story know it is the homeworld of the malevolent Shadows. Someone should be asking who these ‘other races’ are, how long they’ve been there, where they came from, and if they work for the Shadows. These questions alone warrant an expedition to the system. If the Warriors are going to be at war soon, they should want to know, it should motivate them. If the Rangers aren’t equipped to carry out a reconnaissance mission to Z’ha’dum, the Warrior Caste should certainly be able to do so. Specialized reconnaissance units are common in every advanced military. But according to Coplann, they don’t want to. Why is that? We’ve already learned quite a bit in this meeting, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense. When Dukhat says the Warriors will not have to go, Coplann seems satisfied, thinking the matter settled. He then appears horrified when Dukhat announces the entire Council, their cruiser and their escorts will go instead. It is much like the ripping sound of a needle sweeping across a record player as the music stops. With his stubborn, dismissive refusal to cooperate, Coplann has just made things much worse, and now Dukhat has upped the ante considerably. If Coplann is truly concerned about dangers on this journey, now his life is on the line as well. And he probably doesn’t know there are two Vorlon representatives aboard their ship, that unpredictable element might scare him more. But his alarm may indicate that he knows something has just been set in motion, something that may be impossible to control. Perhaps a line is about to be crossed, and only he knows about it. A key question here is, does Coplann want to prevent a mission to Z’ha’dum for the murky reasons he has laid out for the Council, or for other reasons he has not expressed? Is he in contact, directly or indirectly, with the ‘other races?’ Is there some secret arrangement to stay away? And if there is, is Coplann under an obligation to tell someone the arrangement has been violated? Lots of ‘ifs,’ yes, that’s what this is all about. The theory swamp is a murky and bubbly place. For his part, Dukhat looks pretty satisfied, a smiling fellow waltzing into trouble.

A bit more on the Grey Council. In 2260, as the final Shadow War is reaching a boil, the warrior-dominated Council makes the decision not to get involved in the Shadow War, the conflict for which they have been supposedly preparing over the last thousand years. The significance of this cannot be overstated. Their sudden ‘never mind’ indicates they (some or all) are listening to someone connected with the Shadows, someone with a different point of view, who is telling them to stay home and do nothing while Shadow warships inflict destruction across the galaxy. It does seem like someone has been whispering in the ears of some Minbari warrior leaders, perhaps the same someone who helped Deathwalker find sanctuary with the Wind Swords after the Dilgar War ended. As I’ve written elsewhere, it’s unlikely the galaxy’s most notorious war criminal would just show up and ask for, much less receive, sanctuary from a fanatical Minbari warrior clan, they would probably just kill her. An introduction would have to be made by another party, someone they already knew and perhaps trusted to some extent. Numerous things point to the Grey Council having been penetrated by alien influence. And Coplann, or someone else, could have tipped off the agents of the Shadows that the Grey Council was on their way to Z’ha’dum. Or, he could be in communication with a cut-out agent, like one of the Wind Swords, and thus be insulated from direct contact with any Shadow agents. He might have no idea what he’s involved in, that tendrils of Shadow influence have reached inside the Council. He might think he is merely talking with another Warrior, someone he knows and trusts. This is all speculation on my part, but working off the numerous red flags JMS has woven into the story. What is less speculative is that such an intrusion into the Shadows’ home system would be inconvenient for their agents, to say the least. I will get back to that below.

On to Earth. When Londo meets with General Lefcourt and the presidential advisor in Earthdome, things go very smoothly, right up until the Minbari are mentioned. Lefcourt says they have recently learned of the Minbari, but he does not say how they heard about them. Clearly it was not the Centauri government who mentioned them, and Londo seems really uncomfortable that Earthforce is planning to make contact. He gets pretty undiplomatic over it, telling the humans that they are being arrogant and stupid. He smells recklessness and trouble. But Earth has made up its mind, and they are going forward, just when the Grey Council is on the move. The timing is beyond suspicious. What’s their hurry? And what’s the opposite of serendipity? But Londo, ever the voice of reason, is ignored.

First contact. Earthforce’s expedition is led by Captain Jankowski, who is stated in the novelization to have been involved in the Omega Incident, which pushed Earth into war with the Dilgar. But he gets another shot at a prestigious first contact mission with a powerful alien race for some reason. I don’t think any of this is explained anywhere. The Earthforce and Minbari fleets encounter each other in deep space, as if by accident, and the odds against this are astronomical. Unless Earthforce was told what route to take, where they would just happen to run into the Minbari, traveling at the very same time. And the Soul Hunters show up, too, literally a moment before the shooting starts. As if they were invited, or again, tipped off. More agents of chaos arriving at the very worst possible time. Or, from another perspective, the very best possible time.

Which brings me back to the ‘other races’ mentioned by Coplann, a reference that sounds like it includes the Drakh. JMS has stated in online comments that there was a connection between Deathwalker and the agents of the Shadows, who were awake and active while their masters ‘slept,’ continuing the work of sowing corruption, chaos, destruction and death (possibly including the Dilgar War). Naturally, they would be keeping an eye on what’s going on in the galaxy, collecting intelligence for when their masters wake. And they would almost certainly have instructions to keep outsiders away from Z’ha’dum by any means necessary. Given the signs of heavy bombardment on the planet’s surface from some event or events in the past, a little bit of proactive paranoia would be justified. Arranging a war between two of the galaxy’s major powers would be an excellent way to change the subject, while simultaneously continuing their masters’ grand mission. It would plant the seeds of distrust and division between Minbar and Earth, and the result even has human ships firing on the Grey Council’s cruiser, which has two Vorlons aboard. If a couple of high-ranking Vorlon representatives were killed by Earthforce, and the Shadows and their agents were not directly responsible, it would drive a wedge between the Vorlons and Earth, which the Vorlons have been cultivating as a potential ally for centuries. All of this would mean more galactic discord, and thus more success for the Drakh. These results would be very pleasing to the Shadows when they wake up, and learn just how devoted the Drakh have been to the cause. And as far as we know, the subject was changed, the expedition to Z’ha’dum was not executed by the distracted Minbari, there was a war on instead. So if my theory is correct, the grand distraction worked perfectly. All it cost was a few dead Minbari, and 250,000 dead humans. And as always, the Drakh get away clean, without anyone suspecting their involvement, or even their existence.

A bit more on the timing. ‘Lines of Communication’ aired in the U.S. in April 1997, and ‘In the Beginning’ aired in January 1998. Following the departure of the Vorlons and Shadows, the Drakh were introduced as the new villain race, and they excel at galactic-level skullduggery. A year after they appear, they engineer a war between the Interstellar Alliance and the Centauri, while seeking to keep their fingerprints off that conflict as well. Acting in secret to turn major powers against one another is their modus operandi. My theory fits their patterns.

Another indication that Shadow agents are manipulating the Minbari warriors: During the Earth-Minbari War, the Wind Swords offered the Council what Lennier called ‘terrible weapons,’ for use against their hated new enemy, Earth. We do not know what these weapons were, if the Council accepted, or if they were used. Nor do we know what became of them, or if they are still extant. This is the sort of offer the Shadows would make to entice new allies into the fold. Advanced weapons are sexy and tempting, and the Shadows know it.

So after writing all of the above, I dug my copy of ‘In the Beginning’ out of storage and found that the scenes of the meetings I was writing about were not in the order I thought they were. My theory would make more sense if the Grey Council meeting took place before the EarthDome meeting, providing an unspecified amount of time between the two meetings for other parties to make covert moves. I have rewritten all this quite a bit, but decided to leave my mistake as is. The Shadows’ agents would still have a need to keep outsiders away from Z’ha’dum, that motive would be unchanged. And the Drakh M.O. fits like a glove, just nine months after they were introduced in the series. To paraphrase JMS, they have been hiding in the shadows, but operating covertly, the entire time. Not unlike the two Vorlons literally hiding in the shadows in Dukhat’s quarters aboard the Grey Council’s cruiser. The Forces of Light have their hidden hand, too.

The Minbari force posture for apparently the last thousand years is kind of baffling. The Warrior Caste maintains vast forces and guards their territory against vague threats, while downplaying the prophecy, from Valen of all people, that the Shadows will return. They present the primary threat, clearly, the existential threat. Valen even tells them when, a thousand years after the last great war, but they tend to ignore this vital piece of information from a highly-trusted, and even revered, source. Why? Even though they are equipped with large numbers of fast, powerful warships, they don’t really bother to look around the galaxy for signs of trouble. Even at the well-known homeworld of the Shadows, Z’ha’dum, they do not have regular patrols or surveys to scan for signs of activity. Again, why? Were the Vorlons protecting the Shadows during their ‘sleep,’ by instructing the Minbari to stay away? Minbari reconnaissance and intelligence operations seem to be sorely lacking. Let’s be honest, they aren’t that busy. Surely they could spare a handful of cruisers to go check things out. That they simply don’t want to is very suspicious, and I don’t think it can be explained away by them simply being difficult. They’re standing guard against the ancient enemy, but not really. And they’re prepared to fight the Shadows once they return, but not really. Even before the distraction with Earth, they were not really focused on the threat from the Shadows. I think there are reasons for this, which involve someone trying to discredit Valen, his prophecy, and the Grey Council itself. But that’s another huge, convoluted subject, which would take us back to Babylon 4, and back a thousand years to the last Shadow War.

Raw Shark

“You do have a suspicious mind.”

Captain Sheridan
I think there's enough clues to suggest that the original intention was for the Wind Swords to be in touch with the Shadows, or at least their servants. Whether the Wind Swords realised it was the Shadows/Drakh is another matter, Morden was pretty subtle and Londo didn't realise until too late who'd he'd allied himself with. I wonder what the details of that would have been if it had played out as JMS originally intended, with the Wind Swords attacking Babylon 5 in the flash forward Sinclair and Garibaldi had.

However, as it is, if someone manoeuvred the Minbari and Earth into a conflict to prevent the prophecy, then wouldn't they have needed to know the connection between the Minbari and humans? And nobody knew that until after 2260 and Sinclair and Zathras took B4 back into the past. But of course in the original outline Sinclair never went back in time, and the connection between Earth and Minbar and their souls must have been something different, so maybe there was more to the Earth–Minbari War in the original outline than we know?

I always thought that JMS was trying to suggest that the Warrior Caste had dug their heels in because the status quo suited them, they had power and influence in Minbari society, and had grown arrogant. Therefore anything that threatened to upset the apple cart, to change that status quo, and to actually put the focus on them in fighting a war they might not win, wouldn't be something they'd actively pursue. Fighting the Earthlings was easy, and could strengthen the Warrior Caste's influence over Minbari society.
My gut says "Never explain anything with malice that can be explained by incompetence." Or in this case, complacence. I also think JMS loves to set up characters who are stubborn and dig in their heels for no particular reason, because... well, because humans do that all the frickin' time.

But yes, the Wind Swords were absolutely in contact with the Shadows, directly or indirectly, and the Shadows or their agents were absolutely working with the Dilgar (or at least Deathwalker). So it's possible that there was something else going on here. Moreover, it is indeed odd that the Warrior caste was the one least interested in fighting the ultimate war.

Perhaps the Warrior Caste was the caste least delighted by Valen. He put an end to Minbari fighting Minbari, and he also spoke of alliances and rapprochement with aliens. He created the Grey Council, which probably diluted Warrior Caste power. Perhaps the Warriors were digging in their heels at the prophecies of Valen because they lost the most from his teachings.
My gut says "Never explain anything with malice that can be explained by incompetence." Or in this case, complacence. I also think JMS loves to set up characters who are stubborn and dig in their heels for no particular reason, because... well, because humans do that all the frickin' time.

Londo is a good example of a character who dug in his heels and stayed on his chosen path. I think the line from Point of No Return was "Oh there's always choice. We say there is no choice only to comfort ourselves with the decision we have already made."
JMS loves to set up characters who are stubborn and dig in their heels for no particular reason, because... well, because humans do that all the frickin' time.


So very human of you.

I LOVE this sort of expanded Universe speculation and will completely validate it by saying of course the Shadows and their allies were trying influence Minbari policy. I'd love to see JMS go back and redo the entire series from the perspective of everything we didn't see like what might have happened here. Every off station move. Get me Ed Wasser, William Forward, John Vickery, and about fifty others. We've got a lot of work to do.:D

BTW, missed if it was mentioned, but remember Soul Hunters were drawn to such events. They might have shown up just because their Spidey-Sense tingled and brought them there. (This is a plot device I've never been a fan of.) :rolleyes:
Looney, let's get into that. The Soul Hunters say they are 'drawn to the moment of death,' do I have that right? I haven't seen the episode in a while, forgive me if I get the wording wrong. But I'm not convinced the Soul Hunters know what they're talking about, even though it drives their mission. I was thinking about that a while ago, and it's widely open to interpretation. If someone wakes up at 7am every day and finds a bottle of milk on the doorstep, and they've never heard of a milkman, then it might seem like magic. And if they never wake up in time to see the milkman dropping off bottles at 6am, then it might always remain mysterious, like bottles of milk just coming down from the sky to land on the doorstep. Especially if no one ever explains it, because someone is screwing with them. Or using them.

'Drawn,' yes. In the Legions of Fire novels, Centauri Prime Minister Durla is sent dreams via a Drakh 'dreamweaver,' which make him think he is having wildly imaginative dreams about advanced weapons systems. The dreams work, and his dreams make their way to the Centauri military. They develop new weapons based on this, but he is not aware of where the dreams come from. The work happens without him understanding how it all really works. And in the realm of fear he has created in the Royal Court, no one questions this for a while. Consider that the Soul Hunters could be receiving messages from others, without knowing anyone is sending such messages. They could be disguised as their own thoughts, or as a vague but powerful sense of being ‘drawn.’ Another word that might fit here is ‘summoned.’ The Legions of Fire novels also reveal that the Drakh are a hive mind, communicating telepathically with one another over great distances, over light years. Human telepaths cannot do this, 'line of sight' is the rule they keep citing that limits their abilities. But we have seen another example of telepaths communicating with each other over such distances. In 'The Coming of Shadows,' two Centauri telepaths travel with the Emperor to Babylon 5, and they communicate to the other two back in the Royal Court that he has had a health crisis. This communication seems to happen very quickly, or instantaneously. Sheridan's dream in 'All Alone in the Night' could also be interpreted as a telepathic communication from Kosh, but I'm not sure. JMS may have left that vague, as he often does. The Great Eye on Z'ha'dum sends operational commands to Shadow warships over light years, which might be telepathic, or not. In 'Voices of Authority,' Ivanova, while in the heart of the Great Machine, unlocks capabilities with her low-level telepathy, which Draal was not aware existed. And she explores the galaxy a bit, as a telepath boosted by a powerful machine. When she accidentally contacts the Great Eye, it knows her name. The significance of this is not clear, but she didn't say her name, so it seems like it was reading her mind. Or, untrained telepath that she is, she may have been absent-mindedly broadcasting her name. Either way, I am comfortable calling this long-range telepathy, though aided by powerful technology. Just what this portends for the true purpose of the Great Machine, I cannot say, but please, speculate! And in ‘Epiphanies,’ Lyta sends a signal to someone or something, from hyperspace, that results in Z’ha’dum exploding. That one was pretty vague, no details on how that worked. That a telepathic signal went from hyperspace to normal space is pretty astounding. If there are other examples, they are escaping me just now. So long-range telepathy seems to be a thing in our story, but it’s more of an alien ability, and less of a human one.

Another oddity about the Centauri is worth mentioning here: They are the only race, as far as we know, that foresees their own deaths, in a dream, as Londo explains in 'Midnight on the Firing Line.' In his case, the death dreams were pretty accurate. While not quite the same as the Soul Hunters being 'drawn' to the moment of death, it's similar enough to make me suspicious (yes, everything about B5 makes me suspicious).

So we have three different alien races with different telepathic capabilities, and details are pretty vague. And I'm not convinced the Soul Hunters understand their 'gift,' or how it works, at all. They could simply be receiving long-range telepathic signals from powerful telepaths, and have no idea what the signals are or where they are coming from. Perhaps each Soul Hunter is hiding a long-range telepathic receiver under that leather flap on the back of their head? At any rate, they could be called to arrive in the vicinity of the Minbari fleet, just as Dukhat is about to die, and have no idea that someone has planted the idea in their minds to show up then and there. They show up suddenly, freak the Minbari out like they always do, and attempt to 'preserve' Dukhat's soul. They battle the Minbari for access to Dukhat’s body, are turned back and fail. The Minbari come out of this fight pretty worked up, including Delenn, who took part in the fighting. Shortly after that, she casts the deciding vote for war against Earth, “Kill them, kill all of them!” That's the part the Soul Hunters play in this momentous event, and they need know nothing about the rest.

And no one can ask the Centauri telepaths how their abilities worked, because the paranoid Cartagia had them killed. Pity. And the Minbari, for all their terrible fear of the Soul Hunters, have not gotten around to running them to ground so far. Shouldn’t the Warrior Caste have sent some guys to deal with them by now? Shouldn’t they be chomping at the bit to do just that? Or maybe they have tried, that could be a fun story.

Raw Shark

“Minbari. Pale, bloodless, look in their eyes and see nothing but mirrors, infinities of reflection. Will not let us help them, no.”

The Soul Hunter
Ugggggh wait a minute. I have to go read all the books now. ........ ?

Yes it is ridiculous that someone as B5 obsessed as me has never read the trilogy books, BUT they have always been that, "I still have those left" thing. Now with the animated movie coming I have lost that excuse. Now my only problem is time and energy. ?
Looney, I read the trilogies years ago. Honestly, they're a mixed bag, some good, some frustrating. B5 is such a visual story, books aren't my favorite medium for getting into these stories. Each trilogy was loaded with teases about stories we hadn't seen yet, and still haven't seen. So the effect was kind of frustrating, the feeling of having read a book but not getting a complete story. Galen's trip to Z'ha'dum in the Technomage trilogy was interesting, I think it rewrote some of what we saw in the episode 'Z'ha'dum.' It also rewrote the gathering of Mages on Babylon 5 in 'The Geometry of Shadows.' The Psi Corps trilogy was cool, shedding some light on the Corps and its history, and its covert relationship with IPX. But then, for obvious reasons, it had to skip over the Telepath War, while dropping some really vague hints about how it would have played out. I like Peter David's writing, and enjoyed some of the Legions of Fire trilogy, but like the others, it felt like storytelling with one hand tied behind the author's back, so as not to reveal too much about stories JMS hadn't gotten into yet. And he still hasn't, so much of it feels incomplete, and less than satisfying. I'm hoping the animated film project will open the door to more B5 projects, like short stories, and then maybe JMS can flesh out some more of the stories he started teasing so long ago. I love B5, but the loose ends really bother me, obviously.

Game of Thrones (also Warner Bros) DVD releases included animated segments, called Histories and Lore. With one exception, I think they're all under ten minutes in length. They got into some of the historical events, legends and so forth from that universe. I think they're great, all on Youtube as well. B5 could benefit from a series of shorts like this. For instance, we only got the scant details we got on the Dilgar War from the episode 'Deathwalker,' and then nothing further. There are lots of subjects which could get some light shone on them in this way. Greedy, information-grubbing fan that I am, I want more.

And now I'm wondering if the 'previous expedition' to Z'ha'dum mentioned by Coplann during 'In the Beginning' was a Wind Swords mission. Perhaps they made contact with the Drakh, and then they went back home with Jha'dur, Shadow agent, on board their ship. That would have been an interesting meeting, resulting in a very interesting arrangement. Hmm...

Raw Shark

"Our new home..."
- Shiv'kala, Drakh leader
Yeah, I didn't like how the books rewrote some stuff the show showed, especially the Technomage books. That was why the Psi Corps trilogy (which kept to before/after the series) was my fave by far -- especially the first one, which covered an enormous amount of ground incredibly fast and remarkably well.

And now I'm wondering if the 'previous expedition' to Z'ha'dum mentioned by Coplann during 'In the Beginning' was a Wind Swords mission. Perhaps they made contact with the Drakh, and then they went back home with Jha'dur, Shadow agent, on board their ship. That would have been an interesting meeting, resulting in a very interesting arrangement. Hmm...

I'd forgotten the mention of previous expeditions. If the Wind Swords did go, that would explain a lot. In fact, you could extend it a bit more and say that the Vorlons getting in touch with Dukhat could have been a counter-move to that (since we can assume the Vorlons were keeping an eye on the Minbari just as much as they were keeping an eye on us).

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