It is the dawn of the third age of mankind, the middle of the twenty-third century. Man is far from alone in the universe.
A hundred years ago, humanity made contact with its first alien civilization -- or more to the point, they made contact with us. Before the arrival of the Centauri, we were confined to our own solar system, forced to use slow sleeper ships to explore the universe. The Centauri gave us the stars, offered us the use of their "jumpgates" -- portals into hyperspace -- and later, taught us to make our own. In exchange for this and other technologies, they asked only for trinkets, novelties to sell back home.
In the eighty years that followed, humanity flexed its muscles, expanding outward at a rapid pace. When a group of less powerful races was attacked by an invading army, Earth came to their aid, cementing its role as a major galactic power, if a young, brash one.
The wave of euphoria came crashing down when humanity made contact with a mysterious race called the Minbari. The Earth-Minbari War began with a misunderstanding, a human captain and a Minbari commander too quick on the trigger. Thanks to bad luck or something darker, our first meeting with the Minbari resulted in the death of their supreme religious and political leader. To the Minbari, what followed was a holy war, vengeance for the murder of their spiritual leader. Earth was no match for the technologically superior Minbari, and they easily beat us back to our home planet.
Then, without explanation, as their ships closed in on Earth and wiped out our last desperate defenses, the Minbari halted their advance and surrendered. Only an elite few knew why.
The Babylon Project was conceived in the aftermath of the war. Modeled after the United Nations, it would be a meeting place, neutral ground where the powers could meet and work out their differences peacefully.
The first three Babylon stations were sabotaged in mid-construction. The fourth was completed, but just as it was about to go online, it vanished without a trace. The Earth government would have stopped there, but some of the alien governments, seeing the value of a meeting ground, offered financial assistance for the construction of a fifth station. Naturally, there were strings attached.
Babylon 5 is the story of the last of the Babylon stations, the last hope for a galaxy without war. It begins in the year 2257 with the opening of the Babylon 5 station.
Unlike most television series, Babylon 5 is a single story, completely planned out from day one with a beginning, middle, and end. Each episode is enjoyable on its own, but is also a piece of a larger whole, a chapter in a five-year-long novel for television.
About the five-year plan.
The setting of the show is affected by events in each episode -- the status quo isn't neatly restored at the end of the hour. Characters die, are reassigned, or are forever changed by their actions and those of the people around them. Because of that, it's impossible to come up with a single introduction to the series and characters that applies to all the episodes.
The rest of the background material in this section of the Lurker's Guide is divided into several parts, one for each major phase of the series. Find out which episodes are playing in your area by going to the Episodes section. If the Guide can figure out which country you're connecting from, it'll show you the schedule for your country, if one exists. Then select the part of the show you're watching from the list below, and you'll get more detailed background information. It goes without saying that if you skip ahead, earlier parts of the story will be spoiled by the information here. Be careful!
In addition to the general background information here, the Episodes section also has, for each episode, a summary of the story up to that point. You can use that to catch up on what's happened since the start of the season you're watching, and on the details of some of the plotlines that pertain to the episode in question.