Thursday, October 23, 2014

Heroic Women of Speculative Fiction #2: Susan Ivanova of Baylon 5

                                        Commander Susan Ivanova

How can you not love Commander Susan Ivanova of Babylon 5?  An officer of great integrity and sacrifice, her character on Babylon 5 was a favorite for many of us-including me.  Her character was strong and thoroughly Russian in character, morose yet determined to do the right thing no matter what the cost  Her humor was dry and if you vexed her, that seething glare would have sent one of the Shadows running for cover.  Do not confront Ivanova in battle, for wrath of god would be inflicted up on you.

For those of you out of the loop on Babylon 5 or the era it was filmed (90's era), find the series on DVD and watch it.  It is worth the time to see real science fiction.  There was an evolution in the 80s through the 90's in science fiction and fantasy on TV that is now sadly lost.  Babylon 5 is not flashy, oh look at the pretty special effects science fiction, though the series was one of the first to use computer generated special effects.  Babylon 5 had a specific 5 year story arc.  There were alien races galore and the main characters are a variety of ages (and alien races).  There is a mix of science fiction, multi-layered characters, mythology, epic battles of dark and light, mystery, political chaos, and heroes that emerge over that time.  The evolution is slower paced but more satisfying.   There were many amazing characters on B-5, as we fans have nicknamed it. 

Commander Ivanova was a fantastic evolution of women on television.  Of course, it was through science fiction that we received that gift.  Ivanova was not a cardboard one-dimensional warrior figure, but a fully developed woman with flaws and gifts.  She had personal tragedy in her past, as many heroes do, but rose above it with her stubborn Russian  sense of duty.  Romance was hinted for her character, but she had a universe to save.  That came first.  You can try to hide secrets from Susan Ivanova, but she sees everything.  So do not even bother, foolish mortal. 

One thing about Ivanova, is that while she had a few secrets of her own, you could always trust her.  That space station would have gone up in flames without her.  Her co-workers respected and admired her, and I think a few even worshipped her.  She was professional and a great example of a female officer. 

We can credit not only the writing of B-5, but the talent of Claudia Christian, who so brilliantly portrayed Commander Ivanova.  She was truly the best person for the role!  We love you, Claudia.   

Alas, will we ever see characters like Susan Ivanova on TV again?  One can hope-but I sadly doubt it.  But thanks to DVD we can cherish the stoic Ivanova standing on the bridge of Babylon 5, facing down the darkness with stoic and unflinching bravery, ready to fight the shadows.

Until next week, read more fantasy (and science fiction)!

Verna McKinnon






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