The lesbian "subtext" on Babylon 5 is the ultimate
story of what might have been.
If Andrea Thompson had chosen to remain on the show despite the
fact that she was not getting as much screen time as she wanted,
the Susan Ivanova/Talia Winters storyline could have been as groundbreaking
as many of the other elements of the show. As it was it became ultimately as unsatisfying as Star
Trek: DS9's dabble with Dax's bisexuality - a brief flicker
of excitement followed by heartbreak.
It began the way many great romances begin - with outright hatred
and hostility. Ivanova hated everything Talia Winters stood for;
the PsiCorp, her upbringing, and being a quietly obediant telepath.
Susan demanded of others what she demanded of herself - unwavering
honesty, fierce determination and the ability to see beneath the
outer layers of bullshit that cover everything and everyone. As
far as she was concerned, Talia Winters was as corrupted as her
organisation, whether she knew it or not. A victim.
As it turned out, Ivanova was right, but not in the way anyone
thought. Just as Talia showed signs of breaking out of the constraints
of the PsiCorps and the two women had taken the first steps down
the path to real intimacy, the implanted personality was triggered
by Lyta Alexander and the personality of Talia was erased, probably
forever. Talia was a victim, albeit an unknowing one.
The loss of the possible lesbian relationship was not the only
disappointment. All the character development invested in Talia
Winters over the first two seasons of the show was wasted in one
fell swoop. We would never find out why Kosh had used the ViCaR
to record Talia's personality. We would never know what greater
significance the telekinetic powers gifted upon her by Jason would
have in the grand scheme of things. Would Talia and not Lyta have
been the eventual hero, the telepath who helped rescue Sheridan,
defeat the Shadows and take down PsiCorps? Would Marcus have ever
been introduced, and would that have been an interesting bisexual
love triangle? (OK, wishful thinking, but still...)
So many unanswered questions. Eventually Ivanova's feelings finally
boiled down to one tortured confession of love to Delenn during
the ceremony of rebirth, "I think I loved Talia". The
last time Talia Winters was ever mentioned was a brief allusion
to her by Bester as he described her dissection and study by PsiCorp
scientists. All senseless and horrifying, especially for hard
core fans of the Talia Winters character.
Claudia Christian once joked that she was proud to have played
the first bisexual, Russian Jew on television. She confirmed in
interviews time and time again that Ivanova and Talia did indeed
sleep together in "Divided Loyalties", and that a kiss
was planned but ultimately not filmed. Instead what we got were
broad hints allowing for a less "troubling" interpretation
for those SciFi fans not comfortable with Ivanova's alternative
sexuality. A cop-out in other words, a shame of Xena-esque
proportions, though even the repressed Warrior Princess got to
kiss her Bard in the end.
Not quite an evil/dead lesbian stereotype, but not far from it.
What could have become a high point in the history of television
ultimately stands out as being quite ridiculous, a conspicuous
low point in what I consider otherwise to be the most excellent
SciFi TV show ever produced.
But hey, despite all that, Ivanova is still cool. I still have
great hopes that JMS will continue his B5 universe (as is rumoured
he will) and that we haven't seen the last of Captain Susan Ivanova.
Midnight on the Firing Line (1.1)
A Race Through Dark Places (2.8)
Divided Loyalties (2.20)
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