BABYLON JIVE: Sci-Fi Fans Send Wacky Mask to the Museum of the Moving Image

Written by Ben Lasman on . Posted in Arts & Film, Posts.

NYC’s Museum of the Moving Image is the new home of an original, prosthetic mask worn by late actor Andreas Kastulas in his role as Narn ambassador G’Kar on the marathon sci-fi series Babylon 5. This news is probably most exciting for the 11 die-hard fans who, after meeting in a Usenet forum and pooling their finances, purchased the latex artifact off of eBay for an undisclosed sum and donated the prop to the Musuem’s roughly 130,000- item collection of television, film and video apocrypha. For the rest of us, it’s the kind of incident that reinforces the notion that even though people like this are probably crazy and difficult to hang out with, they can still find companionship in one another (online) and come together to do great things (buy souvenirs online).

“This is a wonderful story of how members of a fan community gathered online from around the world to preserve an artifact that otherwise would have gone into a private collection,” gushed museum director Rochelle Slovin via press release, “The mask itself is a beautiful example of special-effects makeup, used in the creation of a principal character on the show.” The mask, which looks like this, probably wouldn’t qualify as “beautiful” or “makeup” amongst the non-cognoscenti, but it’s significance within the series, which ran five seasons, spawned six TV movies and engendered a spinoff dubbed Crusade, is undeniable. G’Kar, a major figure in the B5 universe, played a crucial role in founding the Interstellar Alliance, and wrote its Declaration of Principles, which, ironically, sounds a lot like this quote from Amy Guskin, the primary force behind the mask’s purchase:

”To say that I am humbled by my fellow Babylon 5 fans’ ability to trust, and willingness to donate money for something like this, would be correct; however, it’s not all that surprising, considering how much Babylon 5 means to so many serious science-fiction fans all around the world. It’s a deep, meaningful, incredible show that engenders deep, meaningful, incredible feelings in those who watch it. By donating the mask to Museum of the Moving Image, we wanted to carry on the show’s legacy.”

It’s stirring stuff, an even more so considering that the matter under discussion isn’t the sentencing of a Dilgar war criminal or the overthrow of the Centauri Republic, but the extradition of some anthropomorphic plastic from the private collection of a TV writer. Has Obama been watching this show?

Of course, it’s super-easy to poke fun at these kinds of dorky escapades in commerce. All the tropes are here: costumes, aliens, wacky stentorian dialogue. But for those of us feeling superior to these cosmically-inclined spenders, just wait for the June 11 unveiling of the new iPhone, which I’m sure we’re all going to buy. If sitting in that lawn chair outside the Apple Store gets boring, I hear there’s this old sci-fi series on DVD that’s pretty awesome.