Delenn, the Minbari ambassador to the Babylon 5 station, is one of the most complex characters on the show, and also seems to be one of most misunderstood. I’ve spoken to many people who regard her as a “Mary Sue,” where the audience is constantly told how wonderful she because everyone loves her. I disagree.
As part of the Minbari Religious Caste, she was raised to value all life and to seek peace at all times, but as part of her people’s ruling Grey Council, she was partly responsible for the xenocidal Earth-Minbari War, which threatened the extinction of an entire species. Once on the station she finds herself dealing with other races who hold wildly different views on diplomacy, peace, and religion from her own. Throughout all of this, it becomes apparent that she is destined to fulfill ancient prophecies.
Delenn’s story is one of the most central to the story of Babylon 5, which is essentially the story of how one person can make a difference, whether on a personla or even galactic scale. Delenn is constantly forced to make choices, some of which go against the grain of her being. Some choices turn out to be wrong, and others turn out to be right while causing tremendous pain for her or others in the process.
One of the best aspects of how the show treats Delenn’s controversial actions is by actually making them controversial within the context of the show. When she violates her people’s traditions to do something that she thinks is right, she is not lauded as a revolutionary, but made a pariah, and is distrusted even by those that she is trying to help. Despite her devotion to the greater good, her actions often place her in the same moral grey areas as other characters such as Londo Mollari and G’Kar, and the characters within the show recognize this.
At one point, she finds herself forced to explain to someone why she did nothing to aid his people when they were in need: she had to consider the long-term ramifications of her actions.
“I had to choose,” she tells him, “between the deaths of millions, and the deaths of billions. I can only pray that someday you will be able to forgive me.”
“Someday, perhaps,” he responds. “But not today.”
Some people have accused Delenn of being a Mary Sue character, perfect and loved by all. I don’t think they have been watching the same show that I have.