"pak'ma'ra are chosen of God... very special. We can eat of all the creatures who walk and fly and crawl... but not of the fish in the sea."
- – A pak'ma'ra
The pak'ma'ra are large-bodied sentient multipeds, roughly humanoid in appearance with a distinctive vestigial "hump" on the back. The head itself features three pairs of facial tentacles enclosing a grinding maw and an internal beak used for ingesting food. The beak can deliver a powerful nerve toxin capable of felling the equivalent of an Earth bull elephant in only 10 seconds. Their precise anatomy isn't easily apparent as most pak'ma'ra wear clothing that tends to consist of a long thick robe encircling their entire body except for their head.
Though relatively slow creatures, pak'ma'ra are physically very strong and possess multiple limbs including two arms with three fingered hands and two to five toe-less "legs" used for ambulation. Their hairless skin is extremely tough and thick and can be coloured in pale mottled hues of greyish brown or green with blue patterns.
Unlike most other races which reproduce through sexual coupling of males and females, pak'ma'ra have only one "gender" and instead reproduce asexually though a form of parthenogenesis. The pak'ma'ra anatomy does feature genitalia, located on the flanks of their massive torsos; however, they are solely for waste excretion. The pak'ma'ra do engage in forms of physical pleasure, though none can be considered sexual, at least as Humans would use the term. Despite this, individual pak'ma'ra have been known to engage in couplings with aliens, even going so far as to use "technological assistance" to compensate for any anatomical incompatibilities.
Reproduction cycles for individual pak'ma'ra usually occur around once every five Earth years, during which the pak'ma'ra will develop six to ten nodes on their bodies which grow and eventually drop off, developing into young pak'ma'ra offspring.
Infant pak'ma'ra are born with gills and so spend their first few years of life in seawater before gradually metamorphosing from the larval to the terrestrial form, losing the gills and developing air sacs instead. After emerging onto land and joining the community, a mature pak'ma'ra can reach an average height of 150 to 210 cm and an average weight of 67 to 157 kg.
The pak'ma'ra are carrion eaters, subsisting exclusively on dead putrefying animal flesh, of just about any creature, alien or otherwise, including mammals, reptiles and birds, though not saltwater fish. Feeding usually takes the form of a once weekly gorging on carrion, preferably "five days dead and decayed" (a sight most other races consider extremely unpleasant if not utterly horrifying). Their ability to eat such a wide variety of organic matter stems from their upper intestinal system which can destroy harmful bacteria on a selective basis, making them extremely resistant to bacterial infection. They also have a type of drink called Rmm*zzq!wwx, which roughly translates as "Roadkill Malt". Humans are advised to avoid sampling at all costs. Despite their wide-ranging diet, not everything is acceptable to the pak'ma'ra. As a biological precaution, should they ingest anything their digestive system cannot safely process (for example, inorganic compounds), their systems forcefully regurgitate it.
It was because of their unique method of food digestion and expulsion that Babylon 5 was equipped with special toilet facilities for pak'ma'ra use only. This may, however, have been out of consideration for other aliens as much as for the pak'ma'ra.
Though often overlooked because of their perceived lazy and obnoxious personalities, pak'ma'ra are extraordinarily intelligent and extremely curious. Pak'ma'ra eyes can only perceive the infra-red spectrum and as such see the world around them as blobs of varying heat. Though not true amphibians like the Abbai, pak'ma'ra do breathe water for several years while in their larval state, though they lose this ability when they mature into air breathers. However, once developed their air sacs can process a number of atmospheres including oxygen/nitrogen and carbon dioxide.
Their brains function in a way similar to that of the Markab, in that specialized cells (known in this case as "green cells") manufacture the neurochemicals that are needed for their brains to transmit information between neurons. It is for this reason that the pak'ma'ra were susceptible to the Drafa Plague when it came aboard the station in 2259. Fortuitously, the infection of a pak'ma'ra allowed Dr. Stephen Franklin to isolate the pathology of the plague, leading to him developing a treatment. The pak'ma'ra aboard the station were given a series of injections that boosted their immune systems, allowing their green cells to develop resistance to the plague.
Society & Culture
"... they're stubborn, lazy, obnoxious, greedy..."
"... and kinda look like an octopus that got run over by a truck."
Possessing no concept of marriage, pak'ma'ra generally live alone or at most with one other of their race, called Nish'ka, the thought mate. Not a mate in the usual sense, they are quite simply a very close friend.
Pak'ma'ra habitats are usually natural rather than fabricated structures: caves, grottoes, etc. A clustering of these habitats forms a sort of village; each of these have gathering places in which tasks are divided up by mutual agreement. In this way one group of pak'ma'ra may agree to provide food, another may build, a third may engage in research, a fourth in teaching, and so on. Whatever the tasks at hand, they are worked at diligently and for however long they may take. After completion there is rest and meditation and discussion until needs arise again and the pak'ma'ra again gather to divide the tasks; however, they may fall to different pak'ma'ra than the previous time.
Once or twice each pak'ma'ra year the inhabitants of a village will gather at a designated location to discuss their lives and share any new knowledge gained. Once every five Pak'ma years, all pak'ma'ra journey to a massive plain to do likewise on a much larger scale.
When alien races finally realized that the pak'ma'ra were an almost completely task-oriented society it made interaction with them possible. For example, traders in foodstuffs found that a bargain with whatever group was dealing with food production at the moment would be honoured by whatever group took on the task next.
This has led to speculation that the pak'ma'ra possessed a hive mind. But research showed that this was untrue. In essence, the pak'ma'ra have a hive mentality; they do share all of their knowledge, but it's through discussion, not an automatic process. Many have also believed that the pak'ma'ra are telepathic within their own species but the fact that they have a very complex spoken language tends to belie that idea.
Because of the shape of their mouths, they are unable to form words in the same manner that other races speak. This means that they must frequently make use of a translator device which they are always seen carrying with them. They have no written language of their own.
Pak'ma'ra humour can seem a little odd to other cultures as all of their jokes (including their cat jokes) end with the punchline "properly cooked."
The pak'ma'ra have no organized religion at all. If anything could be considered sacred to them, it would be the idea. They believe thought is the spirit. Despite this, pak'ma'ra believe that they are naturally superior to other beings, or roughly translated "chosen of god, very special". On rare occasions they also partake in what passes for religious ceremonies, one of which involves communal singing. Given its rarity there is very little literature on the subject although those that have witnessed it claim that (surprisingly) the song is a beautiful sound full of sadness and hope and wonder and a terrible sense of loss.
It is perhaps because of their beliefs and their superior attitude that most other races consider them to be, among other things, slow, selfish, greedy, obnoxious, stubborn and not very bright. As a result of this, along with their diet and the associated aroma, they are often socially shunned and ignored by other races; though they are on many alien worlds trading, they are effectively invisible.
First contact with other races came as quite a jolt to the pak'ma'ra concept of the universe. Faced with an influx of new alien ideas, many of which they couldn't grasp, the pak'ma'ra became curious. After a long debate it was decided to add a new task to their lives: the task of discovery. Pak'ma'ra were sent all over the galaxy to simply observe other beings and hear their new ideas.
These ideas would be brought back to the homeworld to be debated and those which seemed logical were then adapted into pak'ma'ra culture, though very slowly. This change is continuous and no one can quite guess where it might lead in the future.
After their first contact the pak'ma'ra joined the League of Non-Aligned Worlds and when the Earth Alliance established the Babylon 5 station, they sent their chosen spokespersons to serve as Ambassadors. In December 2259 pak'ma'ra space was one of the twelve territories invaded by the Centauri Republic, and at the outbreak of the Shadow War, the pak'ma'ra followed along with the other races in the League of Non-Aligned Worlds in the formation of the Army of Light and the signing of the Babylon 5 Treaty.
In 2261, after the Shadow War had ended, the pak'ma'ra were among those who suffered border attacks by the Drakh. As a result the pak'ma'ra were one of the races to accept the protection of the White Star fleet, fearing rumours of a new unknown and powerful enemy.
During the Earth Alliance Civil War the pak'ma'ra joined the rest of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds in declaring all mutual defence treaties with Earth null and void, and later lent their official support to Sheridan’s campaign against the Clark regime.
When the Interstellar Alliance was formed, the pak'ma'ra were among the first to sign up. As members of the new alliance, they agreed to share resources with other worlds in compliance with the Declaration of Principles, including providing the Abbai with food shipments to see them though the winter months.
Along with Alliance membership came the right to send recruits to the Anla'shok and the pak'ma'ra were again among the first. At first however, Sech Durhan and Sech Turval were at a loss for what to do with a pak'ma'ra's refusal to speak anything but its own language, requiring the use of a translator, as well as its dietary requirements and astonishingly foul smell, which necessitated moving its quarters in Tuzanor away from the other recruits. They did consider using it for garbage disposal but there are things that even a pak'ma'ra won't eat. Entil'Zha Delenn however saw that because of this - the pak'ma'ra often being shunned and ignored - they were perfectly suited to serve as couriers, infiltrators and cryptologists.
The pak'ma'ra operate under a unique form of government, perhaps best illustrated by the pak'ma'ra saying that roughly translates as "pak'ma'ra, all same, all different."
While it is difficult for some races to comprehend, understanding this philosophy is essential to understanding the pak'ma'ra government. For example, when other races made first contact with the pak'ma'ra they naturally requested to speak with their leadership and were presented with an elderly pak'ma'ra named something which sounded roughly like "Ssh'ssh'ya'ssh". The next time an audience with the pak'ma'ra leader was requested they were shown to yet another pak'ma'ra with an entirely different name. It didn't take long to realise that the pak'ma'ra had no concept for "leader" or "ruler" and that anyone that wished to can speak for the entire race, since pak'ma'ra are all the same. However, since they are all also different, the "spokesman" can take no action on anything until ALL pak'ma'ra everywhere consider the subject.
In time the alien governments discovered that they could deal with specific groupings among the pak'ma'ra and actually achieve what passed for treaties that would be honoured by the next group to fill that task.
Though pak'ma'ra do not have a currency of any sort, they do have commodities considered valuable to other races. In particular the pak'ma'ra have access to large supplies of Quantium 40, which every race needs to construct jump gates, and have spread far across the galaxy peddling the much sought-after substance.
The pak'ma'ra are not as advanced as the other races, having only developed space flight around 2186. Pak'ma'ra technology is all based on crystalline power sources, similar to those employed by the Centauri and Minbari. Their technological development has been mostly focused on transportation and communication as well as ranged weaponry. However, like their social structure this changed upon first contact when they recognized new needs. Compared to other races, pak'ma'ra technology appears bulky, though this is a result of it being specifically adapted to accommodate pak'ma'ra physiology. One of the more notable pak'ma'ra developments is the translator, a small portable spherical device able to accommodate the languages of most known races. The devices often make the normally soft, whispery voices of the pak'ma'ra sound harsh and metallic when translated into English. The Gaim in particular have made good use of adapting these devices for themselves as, like the pak'ma'ra, they are physically incapable of forming the sounds common in the spoken languages of most humanoid races.
The pak'ma'ra have no interest in conflict but interaction with other races showed them that they needed to be able to defend themselves. Though not very maneuverable, their ships are surprisingly fast and heavily armed with weapons that pack a heavy punch. pak'ma'ra ground defences are even deadlier and the rugged terrain and dense atmosphere of Pak'ma make invasion unlikely for any but the most powerful races.
Glossary of pak'ma'ra Terminology
- Nish'ka: Roughly translates as "the thought mate".
- Rmm*zzq!wwx: A very potent drink which roughly translates as "Roadkill Malt". Humans are advised to avoid sampling at all costs.
- Tosh: Pak'ma solar cycle equivalent to three Earth years.
Behind the Scenes
- According to JMS, the pak'ma'ra do not capitalise the first letter of their name in English:
- "In all of my scripts, I always spelled pak’ma’ra in all lower case letters. Our script coordinator kept changing it to Pak’ma’ra. Finally, I had to tell her to stop changing it. She wanted to know why. I said, “Because that’s how they spell it.” It’s great being able to win arguments by citing non-existent rules of punctuation created by equally non-existent species."
- – Babylon 5 Scripts: Volume 5, page 11. Footnote 5
- Secrets of the Soul
- Dining on Babylon 5
- Confessions and Lamentations
- JMS post on rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated - 4/22/1995
- Babylon 5: The Lost Tales
- Sleeping in Light
- Learning Curve
- Lines of Communication
- Rumors, Bargains and Lies
- Between the Darkness and the Light
- The Paragon of Animals
- Interludes and Examinations
- No Compromises
- Babylon 5 Scripts - Other Voices: Vol 3 (Babylon 5 Alien Guide)
- The Official Guide to Babylon 5 (CD ROM)
|First Born · Vorlon · Shadow · Walkers of Sigma-957 · Thirdspace Aliens · The Hand · Asmodeus' race|
|Minbari · Centauri · Human/Neanderthal · Narn · Dilgar · Drakh|
|Drazi · Brakiri/J/Lai · Gaim · pak'ma'ra · Abbai · Yolu · Hyach/Hyach-do · Markab · Llort · Grome · Hurr · Cascor · Balosian · Onteen · Iksha · Vree|
|Vorlon Empire • Minbari Federation • Centauri Republic • Earth Alliance • Narn Regime|
|Drazi Freehold • Brakiri Syndicracy • Abbai Matriarchate • Drakh Entire • Gaim Intelligence • Hyach Grand Council of Elders • Markab Confederacy • The pak'ma'ra • Androma Republic • Marga Chulda • Mi-Ma-Ti • Ingyo • Ventuki Conglomerate • Sh'lassen Triumvirate|