Greatest TV Characters - Londo & G'Kar from Babylon 5
The first of a brand new regular feature for The Digital Fix, we look at some of television's greatest TV characters. And we begin with a look back at the iconic duo of Londo and G'Kar from Babylon 5 as the show celebrates its 25th anniversary...
Narn Ambassador G'Kar was played by the late, great Andreas Katsulas. He came from a race whose planet had faced brutal occupation by the Centauri. Now liberated, he sought to use his position to gain power with other races, no matter how nefarious the scheme. But his true nature emerged when Narn went to war with his bitter rivals and lost to the Centauri; with his homeworld occupied once more, he became a symbol of hope and resistance before emerging as a spiritual figure and key member of the Interstellar Alliance.
Centauri Ambassador Londo Mollari was played by Peter Jurasik, a man who dreamed of the glories of days long passed. He was appointed to Babylon 5 as a joke but soon found opportunities to further his own ambitions and that of his people through war and bloodshed and a dangerous alliance with the Shadows.
Few characters on television have ever quite the sweepingly epic and tragic characters journeys as G'Kar and Londo. When the series began, G'Kar was the scheming, manipulative villain, looking for opportunities to fuel his people's revenge against the Centauri. But it was Londo's alliance with Mr Morden and the Shadows that turned the tide, plunging the Narn and Centauri into a bloody war. With the aide of the shadows, the Centauri won the war and occupied the Narn homeworld once more.
G'Kar quickly emerged as a stronger, noble, more spiritual leader, guiding the remnants of his people on the station and was instrumental in the uprising against Emperor Cartagia that ended the war. Londo's path was not so clear, emerging as a hateful villain, attacking everyone and loosing everything he loved in the process (including the dancer Adira, murdered by his political rival Lord Refa). When he witnessed the madness of Emperor Cartagia first hand, he cut all ties with the Shadows and arranged for the murder of his leader to liberate his people, and Narn with it.
Through the death of Cartagia and the liberation of Narn, Londo and G'Kar found a truce and eventually worked together to help Sheridan form the Interstellar Alliance. But their stories didn't end there; G'Kar became a spiritual messiah to his people and was forced into hiding while Londo took a darker path, becoming Emperor and a slave to the Drahk while his planet burned. They reunited one last time to kill each other, not as enemies, but to help G'Kar free Londo of his imprisonment. Their deaths brought hope to a doomed Centauri Prime once more.
Why They Are Such Great Characters
These characters stole the show from their human counterparts, Katsulas and Jurasik delivering performance of deep compassion and conviction. Their stories were some of the most epic, comedic and heartbreaking in the show's history, not out of place in a Shakespearean tragedy, but none of that would have meant anything if it hadn't been the superb performance by these two actors.
From G'Kar's bittersweet moment to the council as his homeworld was lost to Londo's face as the Narn homeworld was besieged to the later, joyous moments as they became good friends and then said their farewells during the fall of Centauri Prime, few could match the emotion and intensity of these two massively influential characters.
G'Kar: No dictator, no invader can hold an imprisoned population by force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power tyrants and dictators cannot stand. The Centauri learned that lesson once. We will teach it to them again. Though it take a thousand years, we will be free. (The Long, Twilight Struggle - season two)
Londo: Do you really want to know what I want? Do you really want to know the truth? I want my people to reclaim their rightful place in the galaxy. I want to see the Centauri stretch forth their hand again and command the stars. I want a rebirth of glory, a renaissance of power! I want to stop running through my life like a man late for an appointment, afraid to look back or look forward. I want us to be what we used to be! I want... I want it all back the way it was. Does that answer your question? (Signs & Portents - season one)
Babylon 5 celebrates its twenty-fifth anniversary, check out our feature on how this show and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (also twenty-five years old this year) challenged sci-fi television here.