The Babylon Project

"What do you want?"

The Shadow Question

The Shadows is the name given to an ancient race who were among the oldest of the First Ones. The name "Shadows" was given to them by the younger races as their actual name is unknown, though it is said to be over ten thousand letters long and unpronounceable by any of the younger races.[1]


MordenShadows 01

Morden was never alone

The Shadows resemble a cross between an Earth spider and praying mantis with a small triangular head and seven pairs of pinpoint eyes in two stacked rows (3 above, 4 below). Externally, they're colored in shades of dark purple and black and possess the ability to cloak themselves from most visible wavelengths. They can however sometimes be seen as figures of static in the upper end of the infrared spectrum.[2][3]

Shadow speech sounds like a dynamic screeching that can be understood by their thralls, such as Morden, Anna Sheridan and Justin, through an implant.[2]


"As always, chaos is the way to strength [...] Chaos is the engine powering life. The spread of chaos is our triumph. And the greatest joy is the ecstasy of victory."

A Shadow, 2260 [4]

The Shadows believe that for races to evolve into their full potential, they must do so through a cycle of chaos: growth through pain and struggle, conflict and war. Weak races die. Strong races are made even stronger. With this they developed their First Principles: chaos through warfare, evolution through bloodshed, perfection through victory.[4][5][6]


Though no official name or structure of ruling government was attributed to the Shadows, several facts point to having a sort of Social Darwinistic rule. The Shadows embrace chaos as the defining characteristic of their race and the supreme force of the universe, and that the strong reign over the weak.


Main article: Shadow technology

The Shadows use organic technology in virtually everything. Their ships resembled spiders or huge black tailless whip scorpions and are simply referred to as Shadow Vessels. Capable of phasing in and out of hyperspace without using jumpgates or any known form of Jump point, they require a living sentient being as the central processing unit for their ships; humans have been used for this purpose. They have powerful beam weapons, are capable of de-stabilizing jump points of enemy ships, and can launch shadow fighter squadrons.

The Shadows are also capable of tying their technologies directly into the mind and the body. They can make a person say or do what they want. Such was seen in 2260 with Anna Sheridan.[1][7] By 2262, it was also discovered that they could control alien ships by remote. They used black pods, probably some kind of organic war computer, to navigate the ship, destroy targets and deal with any opposition.[8]

All Shadow tech can be disrupted by telepathic activity. This resulted in the Shadows eliminating some telepaths from the population of some worlds, as with the Narns.[7] The Vorlons, realizing this, created telepaths on many different worlds to be used in the next war.[9] In an attempt to correct this weakness, the Shadows, with help of the Psi Corps, were given telepaths which they adjusted with neural devices in order to fight for them.[7] However, it seems that this was ineffectual since Sheridan, with the help of Bester, got to them first. This allowed the telepaths to be used against their ships very effectively.[10]

Servant races[]


When they were a young race they were found by Lorien and the First Born, who taught and guided them until they were ready to stand on their own. Like the Vorlons, the Shadows opted to stay in the galaxy to guide the younger races when most of the other First Ones went out beyond the Rim, into the void between galaxies. The Shadows believed that races could only grow stronger through chaos and conflict and driving the younger races to war with one another, a diametrically opposite view to the Vorlons' ideology of order and obedience. Initially the two guardian races agreed to honor the each other's positions, respect their boundaries and follow rules of engagement. However, as time went on, one or both of them decided that their way was the only correct way to help the younger races. A series of wars were fought against the Shadows with the Vorlons recruiting several younger races and even some of the last remaining First Ones. The Shadows were repeatedly defeated and driven back to their homeworld of Z'ha'dum, where Lorien was known to have been dwelling. The Shadows believed they were showing him respect by returning every time. After a defeat they would go into hibernation, waiting for the right time to move again.

Around the Earth year 1259 the Shadows were again awake and on the move, setting up bases on remote worlds, forging alliances and seeding conflict among the younger races. One planet resisted their attempts to establish a base and so the Shadows decided to make an example of them by releasing a Bio-genetic Plague into their atmosphere then leaving them to die.[11] One of the younger races, the Minbari, were then new to space travel and were driven back by Shadow forces almost to defeat. When they lost their greatest Starbase, the center of their war effort, it appeared as though they were on the verge of collapse both from without and from within. To their surprise and as if in answer to their prayers a replacement station arrived along with the Vorlons, who had until that point been unknown to them, and a Minbari not born of Minbari named Valen.[12]

Around this time one Shadow base of operations was located on of one of the southern continents on the Narn homeworld and the Shadows mostly ignored the natives. After Narn pilots in their small explorer vessels discovered the Shadows were engaged in a war that threatened to overwhelm the very stars themselves and the location of their homeworld in a system at the edge of known space, G'Quan led acts of sabotage to disrupt the Shadows' war efforts. Bringing themselves to the attention of the Shadows, the presence of telepaths in the local population prompted the Shadows to send their dark servants to kill them. Eventually G'Quan, with the support of G'Lan and a number of other such beings, led the last remaining telepaths to drive the Shadows from Narn, never to return.[13][14][15][16][17]

On Minbar, Valen eventually managed to unite the Minbari and alongside the Vorlons and some of the remaining First Ones organized the other races to drive back the Shadows. The Shadows retreated into hibernation once more, though not before burying many of their ships and supplies on hundreds of barren unpopulated worlds including Mars and Ganymede where they would be safe and easy to quietly retrieve when the time was again right for another war. The return of the Shadows was prophesied by many races including the Minbari, Narn, and pak'ma'ra.[18]

In 2253, one of the Shadows' hidden ships was discovered 300 feet beneath Syria Planum by an IPX sponsored dig. As soon as the ship was exposed to sunlight it let off a homing signal and before long another Vessel arrived to retrieve it, though not before the humans managed to install a homing beacon of their own, allowing them to track the location of Z'ha'dum.[19]

In 2254, while the Shadows slept, their allies recognized the newly completed Earth Alliance station Babylon 4 as the same station that appeared with Valen to turn the tide against them. Sending a group of fighters to attach a fusion bomb, they hoped to destroy it and change the course of history in their favor. The attempt failed when an unknown vessel intercepted and destroyed them shortly before B4 disappeared into a temporal rift.[20]

In December 2256, the IPX ship Icarus arrived in the Alpha Omega system. Their long-range probe landed on Z'ha'dum, causing the premature awakening of the Shadows. The Icarus crew were captured by the Shadows on 3 January 2257 shortly after landing and given the opportunity to serve them. All but one - a Dr. Morden - refused and were converted into fresh CPUs for their warships.[21]

In 2258, Morden acted as their emissary to Babylon 5, eventually striking up an alliance with Centauri ambassador Londo Mollari. The Shadows assisted the Centauri in combat against the Narn, apparently without reward. The chaos caused an excellent smokescreen for the Shadows to begin moving openly in 2259.

In 2260, the Shadow War continued in earnest. John Sheridan used a thermonuclear device in a White Star ship in order to destroy the Shadow Capital on Z'ha'dum.


Canonbox default The following is based on The Mongoose Publishing RPG books and contradicts canon sources.

(the following is from the Babylon 5 the Roleplaying Game's sourcebook: Darkness and Light)

Physiology and Augmentation[]

The Shadows are ageless but unlike the Vorlons they are not immortal nor are they virtually indestructible. They reproduce sexually and new members are hatched just as the first Shadows did eons ago. Shadows are insectoid creatures on six multi-jointed legs, with an upper body that possesses two hooked claws and a head covered by a crown of chitinous spikes and horns. On their face are numerous glowing yellow-red eyes. The fractal-edged claws are able to rip through steel as if it were nothing more than paper. Due to the minute protrusions and probes on the claws' edges, they can easily and precisely manipulate micro-sized objects. By lacing the Shadow carapaces with synergistic configurations of carbon and dense metals, they have made them virtually unbreakable. Shadows have evolved beyond the need for specific organs, therefore they are mostly a spongy mass that functions as muscle, digestive system, lungs, and energy storage at once. They augment their bodies with numerous technological implants. Shadows possess massive brains, which are a coiled mass of black tissue whose activity is thousands of times greater than that of younger races. The entire electromagnetic spectrum is visible to their multifaceted eyes, and each pair of eyes possesses its own special perceptive capabilities.

Phasing and Communication[]

The Shadows have mastered the ability to phase directly into hyperspace, with the result that they exist in "phase space", a sub-dimension that is similar to that of hyperspace. They are able to move in and out of that sub-dimension at will, and when a Shadow is out of phase with realspace it is undetectable, immaterial, and intangible, which gives them the ability to walk through solid objects - they can be immaterial or solid whenever they desire. It also gives them the ability to fly by moving in phase space's masslessness, and to dodge attacks by twisting away into phase space. Whenever the Shadows go into hibernation they slip into phase space, to wait out the millennia and return to realspace when awoken. Shadow minds are protected against telepathy, and telepaths who look into a Shadow's mind experience a terrible feedback and suffer a psychic injury. The Shadows communicate via speech and pulses of electrical energy. Shadow language is a high-frequency sonic pulse that is nearly indistinguishable from static, nearly 90% of which is beyond the range of human hearing.

Reproduction and Population[]

Eggs are laid by queens, with each Shadow colony having one queen. Any Shadow can undergo the biological process that transforms it into an egg-laying queen. The Shadows prefer living beings as hosts for their eggs but they can also use artificial incubators. Every Shadow infant is born with the genetic memory of its race. Soon after being born, Shadow infants are augmented with various devices and artificial organs, and reach full maturity within 5 centuries. The population of the Shadows is in constant flux, changing constantly. Sometimes only a handful are active in realspace with most of them hibernating in phase space, and other times there are billions of Shadows active within the galaxy. The Shadows outnumber the Vorlons several hundred times over.

Shadow Philosophy[]

Throughout their existence, the Shadows have been committed to the cause of chaos. Since time immemorial, the three principles of Chaos have been at their civilization's core. It's their moral code, the operating commands that the Shadows give to their servants and machines, and the guiding principles and ultimate goals of the Shadows' existence.

  • Chaos through Warfare: The Shadows believe that it's in conflict that a creature's true nature becomes evident. To force their true natures to emerge requires more than mere warfare; it requires chaos: therefore the need to inflict chaos by shattering social constructs. The Shadows will deliberately attempt to disrupt established orders and societies to force creatures to stand alone, with the ultimate objective of bringing everything down to its foundations. Chaos through warfare even applies to the Shadows themselves, who during their long periods of hibernation somehow fight among themselves to determine which group of Shadows will reign during the next period of activity. The rule of the victorious Shadows is unquestioned, as dissent or disloyalty is not in the nature of the Shadows. Loyalty to the cause was inculcated into the genetics of the Shadows after their race was nearly annihilated early in their history.
  • Evolution through Bloodshed: States that suffering, bloodshed, carnage, and death must be a part of evolution and progress. In the minds of the Shadows, advancement and death come hand in hand. Therefore the Shadows support slavery and using lower lifeforms as tools and fodder for their machines. It is the obligation of the victors to crush and use the defeated, as the weak must be weeded out, burned out, so that whatever imperfections and failures they had are neither continued nor repeated.
  • Perfection through Victory: It's an ideal, one that the Shadows continue to move closer to but which they acknowledge they will never reach. Perfection can only be achieved through victory, by winning a war, as in achieving victory over external foes and forces. It's one of the reasons that the Shadows were greatly irritated by the "rules of engagement", as it denied the Shadows true untrammeled warfare and they therefore were prevented from achieving a "real" victory. To the Shadows, the Vorlons and the rules were stifling their progress in achieving perfection. For the Shadows, perfection was defined as "being one with chaos", as in a godly state, in which one's whims and desires were so forceful and overwhelming that nothing was able to stand against them.

The Shadow Dominion[]

The Shadows' Dominion is one whose influence waxes and wanes with each great war. During times of peace, when the Darkness sleeps and prepares, the Shadow Dominion only has a few "active" worlds. These are planets which are controlled by the Shadows' servant races like the Zener, the Wurt, or the Drakh. Once war begins and the Shadows have returned, their hidden fortresses and buried ships are swiftly reactivated. In the Second Shadow War, within a few years, every planet within 30 light-years of Z'ha'dum had fallen under the Shadows' influence. At the heart of the dominion is Z'ha'dum, a tomb world. Only the Shadows and their most trusted servants go to Z'ha'dum. Its structure is like that of a theocracy, in which all the Shadows and their servants are fanatical believers in the religion of chaos. The system is reinforced at the endocrine level, as every servant and agent of the darkness feels pleasure and intense enjoyment upon the fulfillment of the three principles.

The Shadows have become a reactive race, one that rarely innovates. Unlike the Vorlons, their technological progress has not stalled, but it's mostly restricted to the refinement of existing weapons rather than creating new ones. When stimulated they are capable of swift innovation, such as creating technological masterworks like the Eye of Z'ha'dum or the Death Cloud, or more recently integrating telepaths into their ships within a few weeks of first encountering human telepaths. Despite this the Shadows don't have much creativity left.

Shadows now rely on the "inferior" races to keep their dominion running. The Drakh and Streib maintain their technology, lesser beings pilot their ships, and advisors like Morden and Justin guide and influence their tactics. None of these servants are considered by the Shadows to be their equals; they are only pawns, but ones whose insight the Shadows need. Most of the time the Shadows are "asleep", hibernating in phase space. They can be awakened by their servants if needed, to complete a specific necessary project, but usually the Shadows will wait until they are awakened by some random event. It's a race that does nothing but slumber and prepare for war, one that feels a fierce, overwhelming, exultant joy when it's victorious.

Shadow's Forces