The Baptism of Contemporary Science Fiction

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Title: The Baptism of Contemporary Science Fiction
Creator: Declan Finn
Date(s): December 17, 2014
Medium: online
Fandom: Babylon 5
External Links: Right Fans: Sci Fi from the Other Side: Guest Post: The Baptism of Contemporary Science Fiction, by Declan Finn, Archived version
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The Baptism of Contemporary Science Fiction is a Babylon 5 essay by Declan Finn.


While I have been both a cradle Catholic and a cradle geek, I can honestly say that the two rarely intersected for a good chunk of my life. Most of the time, my thoughts on faith and science fiction consisted of wondering why the starship Enterprise was a naval vessel without a chaplain.

Then the year was 1993, and the name of the show was Babylon 5.

While never as big a hit as Star Trek, Babylon 5 – or simple B5, as fans call it – was one of the few science fiction shows that fought and won against the Star Trek franchise without being run over by the monolith.

But one thing that made it special was religion.

Originally, Babylon 5 had been easily dismissed as a Star Trek: Deep Space 9 ripoff, even though the creator, Joseph Michael Straczynski (best known as simply JMS) had pitched Babylon 5 to paramount the year before Deep Space 9. Even my family were a little wary of it at first. It was fun, but nothing particularly special.

Then came the episode By Any Means Necessary. A subplot revolved around an alien ambassador trying to obtain an artifact necessary for his religious ritual. The ritual involved burning a plant in the sunlight that touched a particular mountain on a particular day. Since they're in space, the ambassador had to acquire the plant, and lead the ceremony at the same time as his people back home. When the station Commander finds a way to get the required plant, it was too late, the time had past. Until science fiction and faith collided.

At the end of the day, JMS describes himself as an atheist, that he was “born Catholic but it wore off.” Despite this, JMS may have written one of the most Catholic science fiction shows of this generation. He allowed religion into a genre that traditionally wouldn't touch faith with a ten-foot pole, or would blatantly reject it. It was nice to, at long last, find a piece of science fiction that would honestly practice the tolerance it preached, and would let this nerd carry his cross for the ride.