Babylon 5

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Babylon 5 was a science-fiction TV series in the late 1990s. It was unusual in that the plot of the entire 5-year series was worked out in advance, with each story advancing the plot in some way (sometimes minor, sometimes major). Through this device, the series creator was able to tell a much more complex story than would normally fit even into a feature-length movie.

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Certain subplots of Babylon 5 are excellent illustrations of various ethical and political scenarios:

  • The Night Watch story arc illustrates some of the tools used to create power structures – such as arbitrary requirements, gradually increasing requirements, sugar coating, and asymmetric entry-exit.
  • The Morden and his associates story arc shows how subtle influence from a malign third party, backed with carefully-planned displays of force, can both raise an insignificant figure to power while at the same time causing him to make disastrous decisions with the best of intentions.
  • The story arc about President Clark's takeover of Earthgov -- disbanding the Earth Senate, placing military troops in charge of all the Earth's major cities, crushing open opposition, seizing control of the news media (which he then uses as a propaganda machine), revoking the freedoms of speech, the press, and free elections -- and subsequent military action to remove him from power (including the terrible choice faced by many military at the highest level: whether to obey direct orders, or obey their oaths to defend the Constitution) -- have many uncanny parallels with the present (2007) situation involving the Bush II administration's increasing disregard for the Constitution and the legal process.
  • The Centauri sneak attacks story arc offers a possible explanation (paranoid as it may be) for why a leader would start unprovoked wars on multiple fronts.