Babylon 5: The Coolest Ships

Category: Babylon 5
Last article published: 16 November 2014
This is the 139th post under this label
Though visually, the ships in Babylon 5 looked like they came out of a video game, they made up for it in sheer variety, making alien ships LOOK alien, and injecting a lot more color than seemed possible in the big space opera franchises' design aesthetic. Today we look at what I think are the five coolest ship designs featured on the show, using the Babylon 5 RPG's Ships of the Galaxy sourcebook as a reference guide. Not gonna lie, you won't find any Earth ships in here. The cruisers look like blocky Rob Liefeld-drawn guns and the fighters (Starfuries et al.) are much too derivative of X-Wings. So what DID make the list?
Sharlin Warcruiser (Minbari). The Minbari don't just have coral on their heads, their ships also seem to be made out of it, or at least, some kind of shellfish. The graceful, conch-like, building-sized Sharlin class is elegant and graceful, but of course, packs a devastating punch. Bonus points for being just a Transformer-step away from full mecha, what with the "legs" and "head" that are part of its profile. Someone should do some crazy fanfic about Minbari mech fighting giant Shadow kaiju.
Vorlon Destroyer. The Vorlons also have an underwater theme (maybe that's why Earth's Starfuries kind of feel like shark cages to me), but instead of shellfish, their inspiration is cephalopods. Looking at their fleet, I think I'm most drawn to the 6-tentacled Destroyer (a hexapus?). I like the color better, certainly. None of that sickly yellow. But it just looks more vicious, with its kind of insectoid head crowned with deadly "tentacles" that create an electromagnetic arc to discharge powerful energy blasts.
White Star (Alliance). This is essentially the hero ship, commanded by Sheridan through the back half of the series and while I agree with some that it looks like a bird carcass, it's the ship we know best, that we see in the most action, and so it's cool as hell. In a universe of giant cruisers and tiny fighters, it's somewhere in the middle, but has enough maneuverability and firepower to deal with much bigger ships than itself. But one reason I like it is that it's a crossbreed of Minbari and Vorlon technology, which represents changing politics in the universe, one of the things that made Babylon 5 so engrossing.
G'Quan Heavy Cruiser (Narn). I love Narn ships. They're so tribal. Not afraid to paint their hulls with alien glyphs, these tigers of the spaceways are among the sleekest and most overtly aerodynamic of B5's designs, and consequently, I respond well to them even when my brain tells me spaceships don't need to be aerodynamic. The Regime's other ships look good too - it's just a great color scheme - but the G'Quan feels like the purest of their battleships.
Shadow Cruiser. Benefiting from appearing prominently in the show's opening sequence, there's something Lovecraftian and mysterious about these bio-ships, just dark shapes flying over shining planets, blotting out the light. They're monsters more than ships, and perhaps the most distinctive and immediately recognizable of B5's flotilla. No stargates for these space-sea urchins, they just pop out of hyperspace out of nowhere and strike. The show sold them as bogeymen and you were always afraid when they showed up. And so, the coolest of the cool.

What about you? Are you perhaps a fan of the bulbous Space Liner, the Centauri Vorchan class, or Crusade's Excalibur? Let us know in the comments!


LiamKav said...

I actually like the EA ships with their form-over-function design and the spinning middle highlighting how far behind Earth tech is in a lot of areas. And I do have a soft spot for the Starfuries... The X-shape is familiar, but I think they are different enough from an X-Wing not to seem like a copy (although the Thunderbolt model vears closer).

The White Star is fine, and like you I like the concept and story, but it's not a fav. Shame as I do love the Minbari cruiser. Nothing is going to top the Shadow Cruiser though. The look, the unique way it entered hyperspace, the sounds they made... All awesome.

In some ways the ships looking similar to the actual alien race is a bit silly, but hey, it's a TV show, and it does make for very distinctive ships. And them being such different colours seems obvious but it's still appreciated.

Tallgeese said...

I also love the G'Quan, as well as the Narn fighters. I always loved the fact that Shadow fighters "spit" at their targets! Shadow ships are scary, and so are the Shadow Omegas, and one wonders about the long term health effects of serving on one.

Anonymous said...

I'm on Team White Star. They remind me of those crappy little earth fighters in terms of sheer maneuverability, so that's another influence on them (if more thematic than in-story).

Basically, the White Stars are the ship from Omega Race:

Unknown said...

Talking of the ships. That the latest update to B5Scrolls up and running. A lot of new stuff on it, and all free to download as always. There’s now 21 interviews on the thing from those who helped create the show – and designed these ships - along with a ton of production artwork. A pile of the original 3D models used on B5 now feature throughout the site.

40 odd of the rotating ship animations behind the ship screens now show the ORIGINAL 3D models used on the show as well. There’s even a bit of video with re-rendered FX showing what the CGI looks like without the widescreen conversion!

Here’s the link

For those unfamiliar with it, it really is free to download with no strings attached. For those familiar with it, the download zip file has jumped in size quite a bit (560 meg) due to all the video and other new stuff.

Doc_Loki said...

I always loved the Vree ships, with their classic flying saucer design. Especially when we finally get to see one in combat, and it rains plasma bolts from the central aperture. So cool!


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