Favorite Fictional Characters, #46: Londo Mollari
I always regarded Babylon 5 as the poor man's Star Trek (specifically, the poor man's Deep Space 9). A few years back, at the urging of my great friend RJ Burns, I watched the series. I had to overlook the amateurish effects and clunky dialogue of the early episodes, and at first I saw little reason to alter my assessment of this as clearly the junior varsity of science fiction. But as I watched, and allowed myself to become invested in the series, a funny thing happened: I began to see what they were trying to do. It wasn't trying to be Star Trek. This wasn't about humanity coming together to venture into the stars on a collective mission of peace and learning. This is an older, more fragmented, less understandable universe, one peopled with races we aren't meant to relate to, or to perceive through a human lens. This is a universe fundamentally broken, and one we find ourselves over our heads in. It is about power, not peace. And, as the story of Babylon 5 unfolds, about honor, losing it, and recovering it.
For me, the pivotal character is Londo Mollari, ambassador from the Centauri Republic. At turns jovial and depressed, Londo is the failing scion of a fading house, clinging desperately to the frayed nobility of his ancient family, reminiscent of the decadent European princes of the 19th century. He is defined by his rivalry with G'Kar and the upstart Narns, though we see the shreds of Londo's inherent goodness as he respects his enemies even as he schemes against them. Londo's honor is his armor and the chink in it, the flaw through which he is seduced by shadow and betrays his nobility in a quest to restore it to his people. He is a victim of his own hubris, but in the end he proves his worth.
Babylon 5 is still, to me, lesser stuff than Roddenberry's world. But then, almost everything is. Coming in second to the best there is is hardly faint praise.