Honoring the Heroine: Commander Susan Ivanova

Babylon 5 is an example for what people think of first when they hear the word “science fiction”: Aliens, advanced technology, a futuristic setting – but above all this it was a show which challenged the audience. Upon its first run it was ground-breaking in not always providing a happy solution, but mercilessly showed the consequences of ignorance and intolerance. At the same time, it allowed the characters to make some very questionable decisions. Nowadays, many shows followed the path laid out by Babylon 5, but the show deserves a lot of credit for its innovative approach, even though it was not as successful as it should have been during the first run. It nevertheless remains unforgotten, especially for its myriad of interesting characters.My favourite was always Commander Susan Ivanova.


There was a trend to in the 1990s (which sadly still didn’t die yet) to write woman in a special way. It didn’t matter how intelligent and competent they were, they all had some dark secrets and if a man put enough effort in it, it will be revealed that under the façade is a vulnerable side, and the deep desire to have a shoulder to lean on. I say BS. Seemingly content woman might or might not have hidden secrets and vulnerabilities, but I have yet to see a romantic relationship which works as a cure for any of this.

Babylon went exactly in the opposite direction by creating a character living in the believe that love gets no requited love. Susan Ivanova was a competent career officer (she kept getting promoted during the show), a good colleague and friend, but she never opened up easily to romantic relationships. And it were not her romantic relationship but her friends (and once her Jewish religion) which helped her to overcome the demons of her past. Often she just dealt with it by herself.

I think the main reason he character worked so well is because no matter what was revealed about her, it was just another puzzle piece to her character but didn’t change what was already there. Also, nothing feels superfluous, everything was in one way or another relevant to the story arc, and everything was connected with each other. Her relationship to her father was connected to the way her mother died which in turn was connected to her dislike of the Psi Corps, which influenced the way she acted towards Talia.

Susan Ivanova was not present for the fifth season of the show, and it was so much less because of it. Her dry humour, witty remarks and sharp mind were solely missed. In a way, she was the voice of reason of Babylon 5, and when it fell silent, the show fell apart too.

Best Episode: 4.20 Endgame

Best Arc: The war against earth

Best Ivanova Arc: Her relationship to Marcus is a strong contender, but I think her development as commanding officer beats it.

Quote: “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.”

Every Science Fiction fan should watch this show at least once, but it is also a good recommendation for people, who like political intrigue and challenging character arcs. The first season starts a little bit slow, but the show becomes really engaging in the second one, and it is hard to tell if the third or the fourth season is the best. The fifth season is a disappointment, though it still has some really good episodes which are absolutely must see moments. Especially the show finale, which features Susan Ivanova for one last time.

3 thoughts on “Honoring the Heroine: Commander Susan Ivanova

  1. I’ve never seen this show and barely heard about it.

    I dunno, I’m just an ignorant male with nigh no experience with women/relationships, but I do feel that most women do fit the stereotype that they do have a vulnerable side inside and want someone to lean on. That’s just me, like I said, I don’t know.

    Good review!

    • Not more than males want….humans are not really made for being alone in general. But they are not necessarily keyed to being in a relationship either. Ivanova had a vulnerable side, too…but that didn’t automatically mean that she would break down on the job, or that she needed a romance to “heal” her.
      I really recommend the show to you. If you can stand some heartbreak, that is.

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