Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- "Who am I? I am Susan Ivanova. Commander. Daughter of Andrei and Sophie Ivanov. I am the right hand of vengeance, and the boot that is going to kick your sorry ass all the way back to Earth, sweetheart! I am death incarnate, and the last living thing that you are ever going to see. God sent me."
For many, Babylon 5 was exemplified by the character of Commander Susan Ivanova, second in command of the Babylon 5 station. Ivanova, portrayed by Claudia Christian, avoided many of the cliches endemic to modern sci-fi television. She was tough, assertive and self-confident, while being cynical and playfully witty. Her character was complex and evolving, never taking the easy path of stereotype.
Much of her appeal came from her quick-witted dialogue, which often lightened tensions in the serious, dramatic scenes that were the hallmark of the series. Marcus Cole, who contributed his own light-hearted banter in Seasons 3 and 4, made an excellent foil for Ivanova. Their verbal fencing, disguising an unrequited intimacy, often provided much-needed comic relief during the ever-increasing darkness descending on the Babylon 5 universe in these years.
A Russian Jew, Susan Ivanova (pronounced "ih-VAH-noh-vah") was brave and intense, often quoting her Russian customs and traditions. As the series progressed, Claudia Christian's increasing confidence in this role allowed her to bring a large chunk of sarcastic humour to the series, while her characteristic anger evolved until the very last episode. The commander's personality did soften as time went on, which made her bitter outbursts all the more poignant.
Her character was absent for the final season, but returned for the last episode as a dignified, grey-streaked Admiral Ivanova. Wearing authority like a uniform, she was much more at peace with herself but still retained the wry humour that drew so many fans. This episode was notable for the way in which Ivanova was the thread that tied the plot together, bringing together many of the old characters for one last reunion.
Arguably, this was the role Susan Ivanova played on Babylon 5; a guiding influence that, with her constant devotion to duty, gave the other characters something to be measured against.
Tragedy and loss
Like many of the characters, Susan Ivanova seemed locked in a tragic cycle. The particular millstone around Ivanova's neck was love—not only romantic love, but familial. Deep down, she believes that "all love is unrequited", perhaps believing that she is undeserving of true happiness.
Interestingly, Babylon 5 creator Joe Stracynski often spoke of Ivanova's "Russian" temperament and character. His comments, as well as Ivanova's own quips, hint that her world view may have been shaped by the difficult history of the Russian people. In the future Earth shown on Babylon 5, the Russian people have united in a consortium and are clearly an important power on Earth. Yet, if Ivanova is any example, they remember vividly more difficult times under czars and communism.
While Ivanova fights the cruel Shadow race as a member of the Army of Light, the fascist and Nazi-like Psi Corps is her personal nemesis. Ivanova's bitter hatred of the Psi-Corps is central to her view of the world; it is one of the first things we learn about her character, and her most strongly held belief. She blames the "Corps," the Earth organization that maintains control and discipline over telepaths, for the death of her mother. Her mother, a latent telepath with two small children, Susan and Ganya, had been discovered by the Psi-Corps at age 35. For ten years, Ivanova's mother Sophie was forced to take suppressive drugs, injections that dull telepathic ability and led to a deep depression.
While Ivanova is still a child, Sophie takes her own life. Ivanova is grief-stricken, and this tragedy leaves her with a lifelong suspicion of telepaths. Later, it is revealed that Ivanova too is a latent telepath, who had occasionally shared thoughts with her mother. Long before the events of Babylon 5, then, she has lost the closest and most unique relationship in her young life.
Approximately five to seven years after the death of their mother, Ganya, Ivanova's older brother, is killed in the Earth-Minbari War. After Ganya's death, Ivanova insists on joining the Earth Force against her father's wishes. Ivanova's decision to enlist drives a further wedge between herself and her father, the last survivors of a family which has known much tragedy. Sadly, the two do not fully reconcile before Ivan's own death.
Ivanova is more comfortable with platonic love. After her father's death, she increasingly relies on her comrades on Babylon 5 as family. John Sheridan and Michael Garibaldi have also suffered and lost loved ones (Sheridan's wife, Garibaldi's father and best friend). It is through their brotherly friendship, and that of Dr. Franklin and Minbari ambassador Delenn, that Ivanova begins to trust again.
In the episode "Divided Loyalties", she and the resident telepath, Talia Winters, became romantically involved. Winters had been slowly developing doubts about the Psi Corps, an organization she had been raised in from childhood. However, Winters' personality was destroyed by an implanted hypnotic trigger , and she rejected Ivanova's love for her as foolish and weak. Ivanova was left weeping and vulnerable when Winters returned to Earth.
Ivanova's most painful loss came when Marcus Cole, who had slowly fallen in love with her over 44 episodes, sacrificed his own life to save her from a mortal wound she received in the episode "Endgame". The scene where Marcus lay slumped beside an unconscious Ivanova, transferring his life-force to her via an alien execution device, was a high point of dramatic pathos.
Over the course of her life that is dramatized in 'Babylon 5' Ivanova was involved in a series of relatonships with both men and women, all of which ended badly. Ivanova would be characterized by present-day standards as bisexual, a label which is never actually used in Babylon 5, but which actress Claudia Christian has used to describe her character in interviews.
The expression of Ivanova's love for Talia is notable in its break with the way same-sex relationships have traditionally been treated by television in general, and science fiction television in particular. People in the B5 universe are not automatically considered to be heterosexual, and over time, some characters—most notably Ivanova—were involved in same-sex relationships. Many have pointed out the contrast between this approach and that of Star Trek, a series that was criticised for keeping homosexuality at arm's length.
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