Delenn

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Mira Furlan as Delenn in Babylon 5

Delenn, played by Mira Furlan, is a fictional character in the universe of the science-fiction television series Babylon 5.

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Character

Delenn, an alien ambassador and leader from the planet Minbar, is one of the most pivotal characters in the Babylon 5 "novel" for television. Like Mr. Spock on Star Trek, her character is one of the most popular and influential 'aliens' in popular culture - and just as instructive when it comes to exploring our shared questions about "humanity".

A wise woman who still manages to find humor and whimsy in life, Delenn changes over time from a shy, respectful priestess to a decisive military and political leader. Her character is complex: she's passionate, articulate and strong-willed, but retains insecurity and ambivalence about her place in prophecy. She is morally upright, always attempting to act for the better good - yet forced to keep deadly secrets and tell lies of omission. Delenn normally does not like violence, but prefers to be a consensus builder. Her decisions have repeatedly been the catalyst for violent change and war. Delenn is also quite willing to fight - as shown in the episode Severed Dreams, and during her encounter with the Drakh. She is both one of Babylon 5's key religious figures (assumed to be chaste, like most priestesses) and its key romantic heroine.

Delenn was originally conceived as being a male character played by a female actor, in order to give the character female mannerisms and so on and therefore make him more "alien". The Babylon 5 pilot "The Gathering" was filmed with this in mind, but the computer alteration to Mira Furlan's voice to make it sound masculine didn't end up looking convincing, so the idea was dropped and Delenn changed to being a female. The Minbari makeup used from then on gave Delenn a much more feminine appearance.

History

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Mira Furlan as Delenn in Babylon 5 after her transformation in the second season premiere episode.

The Earth-Minbari War

The Minbari are broken up into three castes - religious, warrior, and worker. Delenn is leader of her race's religious caste, and a key member of the Grey Council, a mysterious and powerful group that governs Minbar.

Ten years prior to the opening scene of the series, an Earth military commander hastily attacks the Minbari flagship, killing their spiritual leader Dukhat. This single mistake leads to the bloody Earth-Minbari War, in which the human race is almost exterminated. Delenn, a young acolyte, is Dukhat's protege, and her vengeance and grief upon his death have far-reaching consequences.

And yet, at the Battle of the Line, the human race's last attempt to save itself, it is Delenn who postpones the final annihilation, attempts to find a greater truth, and decides that the war must suddenly end.

The First Year

Much of Babylon 5's drama and sweep comes from the intersections and conflicts of different races and ideologies. The most compelling dynamic is between the human and Minbari races, which become closely intertwined mere years after being mortal enemies. Delenn, along with Jeffrey Sinclair and John Sheridan, is the catalyst for this change.

When we first meet Delenn, she is the mysterious yet apparently benevolent Minbari ambassador to Babylon 5. Her aide Lennier calls her "Satai," when he first comes aboard, indicating that she is one of the leaders of the Grey Council, but Delenn chooses to keep this information quiet. When a renegade Soul Hunter comes aboard the station, willing to murder important historical figures and steal their souls, he focuses his attention on Delenn, indicating that she will have great importance in the future.

Delenn is one of the most respected and well-liked diplomats aboard the station, and the command staff trust her to help sooth tensions and conflict between different races.

She quickly forms a friendship with Jeffery Sinclair, the first commander of Babylon 5, who the Minbari had specifically requested as the station's leader. Sinclair considers her a friend and confidante, but nevertheless suspects that Delenn is withholding information from him.

At the end of the first year, as power transfers from Sinclair to Sheridan, Delenn transforms herself, undergoing a strange and painful hibernation. When she resurfaces, it is as a half-human, half-Minbari - initially treated with suspicion by her own people, as well as Earth's humans. (Incidentally, at the time when Delenn was intended to be a male character, the character would have also changed gender as well as species and become female.)

The Second Year

There are hints that this transformation, making Delenn a half-Minbari, half-human, includes her reproductive system. Delenn's mother, like a Catholic nun, had renounced her family to become a "Sister of Valeria" - so we may infer that Delenn was also married to her faith and would not have taken a lover. Her transformation is therefore not simply physical, but spiritual and emotional as well. She will not only be the first Minbari to take a mate from another race, but choose the controversial John Sheridan as her partner.

Sheridan is the singular Earth war hero of the Earth-Minbar War, derisively known as "Starkiller" by members of the Minbar warrior caste. The warrior caste continues to resent his unorthodox tactics, which killed many of their clansmen, and is infuriated when Sheridan is given command of the Babylon station.

Like Sinclair, Sheridan is drawn almost immediately to Delenn's wisdom and charm. Likewise, Delenn begins to explore her "human" side by befriending Sheridan, soon spending more and more private time with him.

When the Markab plague reaches the station, Delenn makes the difficult decision to enter the area where the aliens have barricaded themselves. Even at the risk of her own life, she will give aid and comfort to the sick and dying. Lennier, her devoted aide, joins her. Sheridan begs her not to go into quarantine, but Delenn promises that if she dies, they will see each other again "in the place where no shadows fall." When a plague antidote is found, the quarantined area is opened up - yet only Delenn and Lennier still live, having witnessed the death of hundreds of Markab. Delenn reaches out for Sheridan - showing tears for the first time in the series - and a turning point has been reached in their relationship.

The Shadow War

The choices made in the second year of "Babylon 5" force terrible change, for the station, Earth, and Minbar. Interestingly, the most risky choice is for Delenn and John Sheridan to fall in love.

When Delenn chooses Sheridan, it drives a further wedge between the Minbari religious and warrior castes, who soon break a thousand years of cooperation and begin a civil war against one another. Similarly, by choosing Delenn as his mate, Sheridan is reviled and rejected by many Earthers at home, who believe him to be brainwashed by Delenn's 'alien influence'.

Like Sheridan, Delenn forges a friendship and alliance with Kosh, the Vorlon ambassador to Babylon 5, becoming the first leader of an "Army of Light". She also becomes en'Tilzha, the leader of the Rangers, a dedicated group working for the Army of Light. Most of the Rangers are human or Minbari, coming together as one force to fight the Shadows, an ancient and deadly race.

After becoming en'Tilzha, a rivalry heats up between Delenn and Neroon, the leader of Minbar's warrior caste, who finds Delenn's fascination for humans intolerable. Neroon attempts to kill Delenn, but is surprised when Marcus, a human ranger, offers to give his life for hers. Marcus barely survives a battle with Neroon, who agrees to leave Delenn in peace. Neroon and Delenn are still rivals, but a mutual respect between the two has been established.

After Sheridan and Babylon 5 break away from Earth, it is Delenn who rescues the station with a fleet of Minbari ships. She destroys the symbolic circle of the Grey Council, with the religious caste aiding Babylon 5 and joining the Army of Light. Unfortunately, without the Grey Council keeping order, the divisions in Minbari society become so strong that civil war will break out.

In the Minbari spiritual tradition, there are prophecies about "the One" - a triad of leaders - "The one who was, the one who is, the one who will be." "The One who was" is Valen, the Minbari's greatest leader - tantamount to Buddha, Jesus or Moses. Valen is a human man who has undergone the same transformation as Delenn - apparently becoming part human, part Minbari. In the distant past, hundreds of years before Babylon 5 is built, he becomes a great leader of the Minbari people. Working with the Vorlons, Valen will create a powerful coalition, defeating the Shadows. There are even hints that Delenn is descended from Valen.

A thousand years later, John Sheridan is the "One who will be", who will transform the human race and the planet Earth much as Valen did.

Delenn is the "One who is," representing both halves of the Minbari and human race merged together, more literally merging together in the marriage of Delenn and Sheridan. Together they become war leaders, with Delenn managing to bind together diverse planets and races into a great alliance. This alliance ends the great war between the Shadow and Vorlon races, and ushers in the Third age for Mankind - a great time of growth and change.

Aftermath of the Shadow War

But after the Shadow War ended, both Delenn and Sheridan found their homeworlds embroiled in civil wars. Although her work had saved countless lives and ended the great war, she returned home to a world wraught with chaos and death. Minbari are forbidden from killing one another - but through the destruction of cities, lives were lost.

Delenn and the religious caste surrendered to the warrior clans. She then forced a showdown between herself and the new leader of the warrior caste. This would be a purification in which Delenn could sacrifice herself for her caste and for the Minbari people. With her sacrifice, the leadership of Minbar would continue to be held by the religious caste - not the warriors. Her old rival Neroon saved her life, however. And in his death cries he joined the religious caste, which returned to Delenn the balance of power. Delenn then gave control of the Grey Council to the worker caste, who had for many years stayed in the middle, as the religious and warrior castes simmered with disagreement.fr:Delenn

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