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'Babylon 5' Characters: G'Kar

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Babylon 5 Characters:
Londo Mollari | G'Kar

Babylon 5 (1993-1998) is a 1990's American science-fiction television series written by J Michael Straczynski. The story arcs are set around the titular space station, Babylon 5, the fifth and last Babylon station to be built. The station was created to ensure peace between the galaxy's space-faring races, including the human race.

The series became one of the most popular SF TV series ever. The most important difference between Babylon 5 and previous science fiction series is that it was conceived as a five-year-long story, with one story that would span five years and five seasons of episodes. So from the start the outline was clear to the producers and astonishingly, a record 92 of the series' 110 episodes were written by Straczynski himself1. Unlike traditional science fiction series in which most episodes would have little lasting impact on the crew, each episode was a step in a complex, unfolding drama in which characters grow, change and develop.

Perhaps the character that evolved the most over the series was G'Kar, played by Andreas Katsulas2 (1946-2006). G'Kar is the Narn's ambassador on Babylon 5.

Please note that this entry contains spoilers.

The Narn

Despite appearing reptilian, the Narn are a marsupial species that had been dominated by the Centauri for over a hundred years. Even with their physical prowess, the Narn were unable to withstand the technical superiority of the Centauri3. The occupation left their home planet, also known as Narn, exploited, mined and drained of all valuable resources by the Centauri.

During the occupation, G'Kar's family were enslaved by a Centauri household. After seeing his father whipped and hanged for accidentally spilling a hot bowl of jala on his Centauri mistress, G'Kar fled and killed his first Centauri. Later he joined the resistance and eventually the military.

After a century the Narn successfully rose up against the Centauri, whose Imperial Republic was on the decline, driving them off-world. The Narn then established themselves as one of the strongest races in the galaxy while the Centauri's influence waned. Despite this, the resentment caused by a century of slavery left the Narn with an unquenchable thirst for revenge on the Centauri.

During the Earth-Minbari War, G'Kar was involved in trying to negotiate a peace deal at a secret meeting between the two races. This proved unsuccessful as the Centauri, unaware that it was a peace attempt and believing the meeting was an arms deal, attacked the conference site.

Representative of his People

A Narn would never stab a Centauri in the back. It has always been our tradition to go for the chest. That way you can see the life go out of their eyes as they fall.

G'Kar was a member of the third circle of the Kha'Ri, the ruling body that led Narn, and their ambassador on Babylon 5. Ten years after the Earth-Minbari War almost led to the complete destruction of the human race over a misunderstanding, Babylon 5 is a space station dedicated to diplomacy. It is home to representatives of the galaxy's five dominant species:

  • Centauri Republic
    A republic ruled by an Emperor, the Centauri were the first species to encounter humans. Despite once ruling much of the galaxy, the Republic has become decadent and is in decline. Their ambassador is Londo Mollari, assisted by Vir Cotto.

  • Earth Alliance
    The Earth Alliance gained power and prestige when they aided the League of Non-Aligned Worlds against the Dilgar, who had launched a war of genocide. Despite Earth's defeat in the Earth-Minbari war, the Earth Alliance was able to regain its superpower status, although the war left many humans xenophobic. The Earth Alliance constructed and control Babylon 5 and the station's commander is its representative.

  • Minbari Federation
    A deeply religious, caste-based race who have been allies of the Vorlons for a thousand years. When their leader was accidentally killed by an Earth ship, they retaliated and almost obliterated the human race before mysteriously surrendering4. Their ambassador is Delenn, assisted by Lennier.

  • Narn
    The Narn, united by a desire to free their homeworld and their experience in warfare, have gained a prominent position. G'Kar's assistant is Na'Toth.

  • Vorlon Empire
    The last of the First Ones (the name by which the first sentient races that evolved in the Galaxy are known), this powerful, highly secretive, mysterious race are hidden inside encounter suits when in close proximity to other species. They represent Order. The Vorlon are represented by Kosh until his death, when he is replaced by another Vorlon called Kosh.

  • Other species are represented by the League of Non-Aligned Worlds, which includes the Drazi and Pak'ma'ra.

G'Kar clearly enjoys his position on Babylon 5 and enjoys the company of other races, especially that of females. On our first encounter with G'Kar in the feature-length pilot episode 'The Gathering', G'Kar propositions human telepath Lyta Alexander. He requests access to her DNA to try to breed Narn telepaths, although he makes it clear he would prefer to mate with her directly. G'Kar would later sleep with one of Londo Mollari's wives, and even spied on Delenn and Captain Sheridan on their wedding night.

At the time Babylon 5 begins, the Narn are aggressively enlarging their sphere of influence. Yet they are not the only ones.

Led Not into Temptation

Perhaps because of his reputation for underhanded wickedness, G'Kar is the first ambassador to be visited by the insidious Mr Morden. He is the human agent for the Shadows, a powerful evil race of First Ones believed to have been defeated a thousand years earlier, who now desire chaos and war. The Shadows seek an aggressively ruthless individual who will unleash fury on the galaxy, and test G'Kar's motives.

G'Kar: The Centauri stripped my world. I want Justice. I want to suck the marrow from their bones and grind their skulls to powder, to tear down their cities, blacken their sky, sow their ground with salt, to completely, utterly erase them.
Mr Morden: And then what?
G'Kar: I don't know. As long as my homeworld's safety is guaranteed, I don't know that it matters.

Although G'Kar has the anger and rage that the Shadows seek, it is focused purely on the Centauri who occupied his world. And though he desires revenge, he has no interest in injuring the innocent, so is unsuitable for the Shadow's purposes. Instead, the Shadows turn to use and manipulate G'Kar's Centauri rival Londo, who has both personal ambition and a desire for the Centauri Republic to return to the glory it enjoyed at the height of its powers at any cost.

Relationship with Londo

The relationship between G'Kar and Londo Mollari is one of the highlights of the series. From the beginning it is known that G'Kar's fate is to die killing Mollari, each strangling the life out of the other. For G'Kar, Londo represents all that the Centauri did to his people during the occupation. Yet a strange kind of understanding between Londo and G'Kar develops as the series progresses. At one point, G'Kar even offers Londo a drink, unaware that Londo was the one who had secretly arranged for an attack on a Narn base. This was the first act in the Narn-Centauri War, in which the Shadows aid the Centauri in defeating the Narn. Under Lord Refa, the Centauri bombard the Narn homeworld from space, turning the verdant planet into a dying, dusty desert.

The remains of the Narn homeworld were then easily conquered by the Centauri and G'Kar was the only member of the Kha'Ri still free. The Kha'Ri, though dismantled by the Centauri, were still regarded as the rightful government of Narn by the Narn. G'Kar sought asylum on Babylon 5, which was granted provided he maintained the peace, although he used his position to smuggle weapons to Narn and otherwise aid his people however he could. Of course, as the Centauri Londo Mollari still lived on the station, they were frequently involved in fights, verbal and otherwise.

Epiphany

As his planet burns, G'Kar kidnaps Mollari and, using an illegal drug that creates telepathic powers, mind-rapes Mollari to learn his secrets. During this he experiences a revelation, a vision. He is told to let go of his hatred and serve a higher, nobler purpose. He sees how to free his people from the Centauri without returning to the cycle of hatred and revenge between the two races. Though arrested for the attack on Mollari and imprisoned for 60 days, he spends his time developing his new, profound outlook on life.

After this experience G'Kar is definitely a different man. He starts to write philosophical texts that other Narn consider religious scriptures. As he is the last member of the Kha'Ri, his followers read his words and see him as a prophet who will free them from oppression, even though G'Kar has found inner peace and realised that the best way for his people to win battles is without resorting to violence. Though this causes much misunderstanding among the Narn on the station, they follow his leadership and prove a vital part in the alliance against the Shadows, defending Babylon 5 itself.

Saviour of the Centauri

G'Kar's experience has led him to value and treasure his friends, including Michael Garibaldi, whose ship disappears during an attack by the Shadows. When trying to find the missing Garibaldi, G'Kar is taken prisoner by the Centauri and presented to the insane Emperor Cartagia. After torture, flogging and worse – for instance, G'Kar loses an eye5 because the emperor does not like the way he looks at him - Cartagia decides to hold a show-trial on Narn itself in which G'Kar will be found guilty and summarily executed for his crimes in front of his people.

Yet G'Kar is rescued by Londo of all people. Londo realises that Cartagia is mad when he learns the emperor intends to allow the Shadows to take residence on Centauri Prime, so that the Vorlons could destroy the planet and the entire Centauri race. This is an act Cartagia believes would elevate him to godhood. To save his homeworld, Londo and his faithful aide Vir Cotto plan to assassinate Cartagia. Knowing only a distraction at G'Kar's trial would give him the opportunity, Londo arranges for G'Kar's chains to be weakened to allow him to break free. Although Cartagia has G'Kar's chains replaced, G'Kar's inner strength allows him to break his yoke. Cartagia is assassinated and though Londo appoints a regent, he is fated to succeed to the throne. As a reward for G'Kar's help, Londo orders the Centauri to leave Narn and gives the Narn back their freedom.

In one of G'Kar's most memorable scenes, following the Centauri's departure he is surrounded by his fellow Narns in the government-palace on Narn. As his fellow Narn begin smashing the palace, G'Kar pleads for them to stop:

My friends, do not destroy, this is all ours now!

G'Kar - Prophet and Visionary

If I take a lamp and shine it toward the wall, a bright spot will appear on the wall. The lamp is our search for truth, for understanding. Too often, we assume that the light on the wall is God, but the light is not the goal of the search, it is the result of the search. The more intense the search, the brighter the light on the wall. The brighter the light on the wall, the greater the sense of revelation upon seeing it. Similarly, someone who does not search - who does not bring a lantern - sees nothing. What we perceive as God is the by-product of our search for God. It may simply be an appreciation of the light - pure and unblemished - not understanding that it comes from us. Sometimes we stand in front of the light and assume that we are the centre of the universe - God looks astonishingly like we do - or we turn to look at our shadow and assume that all is darkness. If we allow ourselves to get in the way, we defeat the purpose, which is to use the light of our search to illuminate the wall in all its beauty and in all its flaws; and in so doing, better understand the world around us.

Initially G'Kar came across as the series' villain, seemingly often underhandedly engaging in aggressive and dishonest dealings. Over the next five years he witnessed his homeworld captured and all-but destroyed, underwent humiliation, imprisonment, torture, flogging abd the gouging out of one of his eyes, and emerges from the forge transformed into a pure, serene soul and the holiest person in the galaxy6.

The Narn offer G'Kar the leadership of the people but he refuses, saying that though he will take his rightful place among the Kha'Ri, he will not lead alone. 'Have you not learned at all? Would you depose one dictator just to replace him with another?' Blinded by the need for revenge, the Narn accuse G'Kar of 'hiding on Babylon 5 and not suffering at all while they were being oppressed each and every day'. After a brief silence, G'Kar bursts into laughter and walks away.

As Londo kept his word and freed the Narn, G'Kar and Londo develop a friendship based on shared experiences. He even travels to Centauri Prime as Londo's bodyguard when Londo is appointed Emperor, just to see the reaction of the Centauri court. Despite everything they have been through, G'Kar is the person that Londo trusts most.

Mollari, understand that I can never forgive your people for what they did to my world. My people can never forgive your people. But I can forgive you.

When G'Kar is believed to have died, his writings are published as The Book of G'Kar and considered a work of scripture. Much to his frustration he gains followers who see him as an oracle who will lead them to the light. G'Kar wants his people to understand what he means, not just follow what he says.

Interstellar Alliance

Following the completion of the Shadow War and the Liberation of Earth, G'Kar is instrumental in forming the Interstellar Alliance between the Earth Alliance, Narn, Centauri, Minbari and members of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. Returning to his role as Narn Ambassador, G'Kar wrote the Alliance's Declaration of Principles.

The Universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice. The language is not Narn, or Human, or Centauri, or Gaim7 or Minbari. It speaks in the language of hope. It speaks in the language of trust. It speaks in the language of strength, and the language of compassion. It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul. But always, it is the same voice.

Fate

After Earth has been liberated, G'Kar boards his ship and sets sail for a long journey through known space and beyond, accompanied by telepath Lyta Alexander. G'Kar has decided his people need to think for themselves and leaves in order for them to do so. This gives him an ever greater aura of holiness of course, and it is the start of the construction of legends about him.

16 years after the creation of the Interstellar Alliance, G'Kar dies on Centauri Prime. He dies killing his friend Londo Mollari, who has become possessed by a parasite called a 'Keeper' that controls his actions. He is strangled by Mollari in return. This sacrifice saves the lives of Sheridan, Delenn and their son David.

G'Kar was the only member of the original Babylon 5 cast to appear in the unsuccessful spin-off pilot Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers: To Live and Die in Starlight (2002).

1This included half of both series one and two, all of series three and four and all but one episode of series five, making an unbroken run of 59 episodes in a row.2Katsulas also played recurring Romulan character Commander Tomalak in four episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.3The Centauri are not the first species to oppress the Narn; a thousand years earlier the Shadows visited the planet and eliminated all Narn telepaths and slaughtered any who carried the telepath gene.4When a Minbari ship carrying the Minbari Grey Council and leader Dukhat first encountered an EarthForce fleet, the ship opened their gunports as a sign of respect. The EarthForce fleet, believing they were coming under attack, opened fire, killing Dukhat. The Minbari swore revenge on the entire human race, annihilating all opposition up until their last-second surrender.5G'Kar would later get a replacement, artificial eye when he returns to Babylon 5.6Quite an achievement in a universe that not only contains the Minbari, a third of whose culture are members of the Religious Caste, but also the angelic Vorlons.7Named after author Neil Gaiman, who wrote episode 'Day of the Dead', the only episode after series two not written by J Michael Straczynski.

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