- This article refers to the planet Z'ha'dum. For the Season 3 episode, see: Z'ha'dum (episode).
"If you go to Z'ha'dum, you will die."
- – Kosh
Z'ha'dum's official Earth Alliance designation is Alpha Omega III, meaning it is the third planet of its star. The planet is located on the rim of known space. It is approximately a four day jump from the Epsilon Eridani system.
Z'ha'dum is covered in extensive mountain ranges. The temperature averages 50 degrees Fahrenheit and the gravity is approximately 1.3G. The mountains are made of igneous rock and the plains of sedimentary rock. Violent dust storms cloak roughly 25% of the planetary surface at any one time. The planet has an extremely dry atmosphere with low levels of carbon monoxide, which would prove fatal to humans within about an hour. There is also a background level of radiation, suggesting the planet was nuked approximately one thousand years ago.
Stone pillars ranging from 100 to 150 yards in height cover most of the planetary surface. They are spaced exactly 2.43 miles apart from one another. The pillars are covered in characters from the Shadow language.
By the twenty-third century, Z'ha'dum was a blasted, charred wasteland, its surface marred by the many attacks that drove the Shadows away from the planet eon after eon. When they returned at the dawning of the Third Age, their cities were kept mostly underground.
"Z'ha'dum is the homeworld of the Shadows. No one leaves the same as they arrived."
- – Delenn
It is unknown if Z'ha'dum was the homeworld of the Shadows as a species, but for most of their long history they considered it their home. This was due to the presence of Lorien, one of the First Ones, who lived in a deep chasm on the planet for over one million years.
The last time the Shadows would be driven from the planet would be at the end of the First Shadow War, in 1261. Some of their race managed to remain, but were in a state of hibernation. Nearly a thousand years later, the Shadows returned. They slowly rebuilt their great cities. They also began to recall some of the ships they had hidden throughout the galaxy after the War.
One of their ships had been hidden on Mars. When Earthforce crews uncovered it, they reactivated an ancient beacon. Days later, the Shadows' allies sent a second ship to retrieve the first one. The Psi Corps, however, had managed to plant a homing beacon inside. In 2257, Interplanetary Expeditions was commissioned to send a ship (the Icarus) to Z'ha'dum on an exploratory mission--most of the crew was apparently unaware they were being used, that the planet was where the Shadow vessels had been tracked to. The Icarus' long-range probe awoke the Shadows hibernating there. When the Icarus arrived on Z'ha'dum, they found it seemingly deserted. They were captured by the Shadows, and those members of the crew who would not serve willingly were said to have been killed. However, Morden and Anna Sheridan were "enslaved" by the Shadows. It is possible that the other crew members were simply integrated into various Shadow vessels to fight in the upcoming war.
Third Age of Mankind
Once the shadows had been defeated and left for beyond the rim, the White Star went to investigate Z'ha'dum, only to see a mysterious fleet (almost certainly the Drakh) leaving Z'ha'dum moments before the entire planet exploded.
|The following is based on The Mongoose Publishing RPG books and contradicts canon sources.|
Inhabitants of Z'ha'dum
During peacetime, Z'ha'dum's only inhabitant is Lorien. When the Shadows go to war, approximately 100 million reside in the planet, mostly Shadows and Drakh. To the Minbari it's Z'ha'dum (Death of Futures), to humans it was Alpha Omega 3, and to the Drakh it's Sha'las (The Ending Place). It has been inhabited by spacefarers far longer than any other planet in its region of space. The tombs of Z'ha'dum were already ancient when the Vorlons built their homeworld. The Speakers weren't the first race to walk on the planet, when they arrived to build their tombs bured deep in the planet. For a time, Lorien tended to the tombs of his people, but eventually abandoned them, as he went into silent contemplation. In a million years, no one, not even the Shadows, have seen the tombs.
Cities of Z'ha'dum
The strongholds of the Shadows are located far above those tombs, in relatively shallow caverns. Which have been built in caverns that are deep enough to survive attacks from weapons such as nuclear bombs or mass drivers, but wouldn't be able to survive an attack by either a Vorlon fleet or a planet killer. The Shadows are adept at using jump points and hyperspace folds within the Z'ha'dum's gravity well, in addition to manipulating space within the planet. In Z'ha'dum, the "cities" are simply the places where the Shadows' underground fortresses come near to the surface. Between the "cities', in the underground spaces are vast and timeless labyrinths of darkness. Which contain machines the size of continents, and wonderous and terrifying devices such as the "Eye of Z'ha'dum".
The Eye is located near the "City of Shadow", in a fortified chasm in the midst of the primary research and birthing region. It was within the caves above the Eye, in which the first Shadow ship screamed into the night and it was also the birthplace of the Techno-Mages. The Drakh consider the domed "City of Shadow" the capital of the Shadow Dominion, which darkly amuses the Shadows as every party of a shadows contains the whole. It's the City of Shadow, to which the leaders of the Darkness are brought, it's tunnels and caves being easily converted to the different atmosphere types that are needed for them. In the middle of the city is a chasm that leads into the planet's depths.
Located at Z'ha'dum's north and south poles are the cities of Shiv'mal and Dum'al, two huge living machines that are connected to the Eye. Which are inhabited and tended by thousands of Shadows. The two city-complexes have the responsibility of controlling Z'ha'dum's environmental systems and launching the terraforming probes used to build Shadow bases in other systems. Buried under the two cities are power generators, of such power that if they detonated they would shatter the planet. At the shores of a long-dry sea bed, is the city of Carcosa (which was so named by one of Shadows' human minions). Originally a city of Speakers, it has been inhabited by Shadows for aeons. Much of the original city endures, and whenever the Shadows want to dream of the past, they go to Carcosa.
Defenses of Z'ha'dum
The Shadows' primary defense is secrecy and obscurity, which is why they build their fortresses so deep underground where only those who know where to look can find them. During time of war, a host of unstoppable Shadow vessels defend Z'ha'dum. As an additional defense there are no jump gates or jump beacons that visitors can use to get to Z'ha'dum, not a problem for the Shadows whom are masters of hyperspace. In the unlikely event that some explorer accidentally stumbles onto Z'ha'dum and finds the buried structures, automated defense systems protect their holdings. Soldiers of darkness are common, and so are horrifying biological weapons like poisons and plagues (one of which melts your skin from your bones).
- According to JMS, the name "Z'ha'dum" is of Minbari origin and roughly translates as "Death of the future", while the novel The Shadow Within (considered mostly canon) which details the story of the Icarus and its voyage to Z'ha'dum reveals that the Earth codename for the mysterious planet is "Alpha Omega 3". Alpha and Omega, when used together can often refer to the "beginning and the end" or the "beginning of the end" as they are the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet, respectively. So it appears that both the Minbari and Human name for this world mean roughly the same thing.