Fans of Babylon 5 and Lost suffered waves of grief today as it was revealed that beloved actress Mira Furlan had passed away. As she was only 65 years old, the loss of Furlan feels akin to the pain Star Wars fans felt when Carrie Fisher died suddenly in 2016. For those who were nurtured on '90s sci-fi TV, Furlan wasn't just a character actor, she was an inspiration. But her inspirational performances will live on, and if you're a Babylon 5 fan, there's a good chance you're thinking of one scene in particular.
B5 people know what I'm talking about here. You know the episode. You know the moment. The moment when Minbari Ambassador Delenn laid down the law and forged a new kind of sci-fi badass. We're talking Babylon 5, Season 3, Episode 10: "Severed Dreams."
In "Severed Dreams," the good people on Babylon 5 are forced to leave the Earth Alliance in order to combat the corruption of an autocrat named President Clark. When this happens, all hell breaks loose at B5, a space station that is, in theory, in neutral territory; a space station literally created so warring planets could have a place to meet and settle their differences. We all know about Star Trek's optimistic future, but Babylon 5 did its own version of it, too. In this show, it wasn't just that people were peaceful, but that they were also actively trying to work out their differences. (Anyone who saw the Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 finale probably felt some Babylon 5 vibes.)
Anyway. The big Delenn moment. When it looks as though B5 is going to get crushed by their enemies, Delenn arrives with the Minbari Fleet — former enemies of Earth! — and delivers an ultimatum that she will protect Sheridan and the space station. And don't you dare test her. Here's what she says:
"Only one human captain has ever survived battle with a Minbari Fleet. He is behind me. You are in front of me. If you value your lives, be somewhere else!"
BE SOMEWHERE ELSE! This Babylon 5 mic drop is just one of many, many excellent scenes that Mira Furlan totally owned. The performance isn't over the top or particularly menacing. It's just matter-of-fact. She is going to wreck your spaceships if you cross her. It's Mira Furlan's version of "Do you feel lucky, punk?" And it correctly went down in sci-fi history as one of the greatest speeches ever.
But, the reason this moment is such a great way to remember Furlan is that her character wasn't exactly a snarling badass. Normally, we'd expect this kind of braggadocious thing from Ivanova (Claudia Christian) or certainly from G'Kar (Andreas Katsulas). What was interesting and compelling about this scene is that Delenn was, ordinarily, a peacemaker. What Furlan's performance in "Severed Dreams" did was to prove that to be kind does not mean you have to be weak. Delenn was probably the nicest character on the show. If Babylon 5 were a sitcom, her character would have never been given this kind of moment because she would have been relegated to the "goodie-goodie." Furlan's strength in playing Delenn was unique because it communicated something that sci-fi shows sometimes struggle with: How to convey that someone is awesome without making them snarky, sarcastic, and rude.
What made Mira Furlan's performance as Delenn so great was that, yes, she played an alien fairly convincingly, but that she was also playing a good person. We tend to praise actors who play conflicted characters, like say, Adam Driver playing Kylo Ren. But, characters who are good and pure and also not to be trifled with are rare. With Delenn, Mira Furlan created such a character. Yes, she had the writing of J. Michael Straczynski as a foundation, but the believability of the character's kindness and strength were created by her.
In a time when the world needs heroes who are as kind as they are unwavering, the example of Mira Furlan's Delenn will live on. She stood between the candle and the star. She will be missed, but our memories of her great performances will make us all stronger.