Commander Susan Ivanova is intelligent, sharp-witted (and sharp-tongued), dedicated, and, like most characters on Babylon 5, defined by what she does. She is second-in-command of the Babylon 5 space station throughout the first four seasons of the show, responsible for the day-to-day running of what is essentially a small city number over 250,000 humans and aliens. And she does her job very, very well. At one point, when Ivanova’s commanding officer prepares to let her in on a major secret, she responds by revealing that she already knows as much about it as he does. When he asks her how she came by such knowledge, her only response is “When something happens on this station and I don’t know about it, worry.”
Ivanova’s devotion to duty and her cynical wit largely stem from the loss of those she loves. Her mother committed suicide when Ivanova was a small child, her brother Ganya was killed in the Earth-Minbari War, and her estranged father dies shortly after she is assigned to Babylon 5. Ivanova’s romantic relationships are also fraught with loss, leading her to ultimately belive that “all love is unrequited.”
Significantly for a television show, while Ivanova forms close friendships with her co-workers on Baylon 5 (especially Sheridan and Garibaldi, who have also known great personal loss), she does not engage in any romantic relationships contrary to military regulations. Such relationships are often the fallback of lazy writers seeking to create romantic conflict without bothering to develop that conflict based on the characters themselves. On Babylon 5, Ivanova’s conflicts are her own, based on her experiences and fears.
This is really what distinguishes Ivanova from most female characters on television. Consider how many leading female characters take action based on what the plot requires, or on some life experience that is revealed that very episode and then never mentioned again. Ivanova’s actions are based instead on life experiences that are continually built on, rather than introduced and then discarded.