I remember that Mira Furlan played Ambassador Delenn in Babylon 5. In that universe, she is first shown as looking like a Minbari, but later changed to look more human.

Can anybody tell me if there was an in-universe explanation for this change?

  • 4
    The character's reasoning was fairly obviously explained at the end of Season 1 as I recall.
    – Xantec
    Mar 15, 2016 at 18:15

2 Answers 2


Spoiler heavy. Understand that this is one of the major story arcs of B5 as a whole. If you've not watched the series and want to watch it unfold as JMS tells it, you've been warned

So let's start from the Minbari War. At the Battle of the Line (where humanity was facing extinction at the hands of the Minbari) Delenn picks a fighter at random to interrogate. It turns out that she picks Sinclair's fighter. She uses the Triluminary (the triangle shape in the top of the device Delenn is looking at) and it indicates that he has the soul of Valen. As we learn in another episode, the Triluminary is designed to detect the DNA of Valen, the sacred hero of the Minbari.

Sinclair, as it turns out, is the reason that Babylon 4 vanished. B4 was stolen to provide a base to the Minbari during the first Great War. When B4 was stolen, it was sent to the future where the crew of Babylon 5 (including Sinclair and Garabaldi) rescued them. The temporal field affected all who went though it. So when Sinclair completes the cycle by stealing B4 in the first place,the field begins to age him. This is why he leaves Garabaldi out of the plan to steal B4. He realizes the temporal field will age him rapidly if he returns to the present, so he decides to take B4 back personally. During the trip, he uses Chrysalis and becomes half Minbari, and when the Minbari arrive he introduces himself as Valen. Delenn realizes this after he leaves and she ties it all together. She becomes half human so Sinclair could become half Minbari. In fact, many Minbari are actually descendants of Valen, and therefore part human.

  • 2
    Your character intentions are a bit mixed up in the first half of the second spoiler'd paragraph. Forward was an accident, and he was always planning on going back.
    – Izkata
    May 25, 2016 at 3:36
  • Why does she need to become half-human for Sinclair to become half-Minbari?
    – einpoklum
    Jan 9, 2022 at 22:13
  • @einpoklum Should probably ask that as another question. It's... complicated
    – Machavity
    Jan 9, 2022 at 22:36

She willingly subjected herself to a procedure whose outcome was this change.

She underwent a profound transformation using the Chrysalis device, in the final episode of the first season.

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The process encased her in a cocoon:

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After emerging from the cocoon and a period of recovery, she looked like this:

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The reasons for the transformation (in-universe) tie into one of the fundamental story arcs of the series. I won't spoil it here, other than to say there is a surprising connection between humans and the Minbari!

  • 1
    The "out of universe" explanation is that Mira Furlan found the make up annoying and threatened to quit unless something was done about it.
    – Moo
    Mar 15, 2016 at 14:45
  • 1
    @Moo , do you have a link for that?
    – Jim2B
    Mar 15, 2016 at 14:50
  • 8
    @Moo : That's a long-running rumour, but JMS had actually planned the transformations from the beginning (they were going to go even further, with a sex change!). See discussions here.
    – Praxis
    Mar 15, 2016 at 15:04
  • 3
    @Moo Perhaps you are confusing it with Julie Caitlin Brown who played Na'toth? She did cite the trouble with makeup as one of the reasons she decided to not continue the role after Season 1. Mar 15, 2016 at 17:20
  • 6
    @Thunderforge Many B5 actors (including Brown, Jurasik and Katsulas) reported arduous makeup. Furlan, too, but her transformation was always described within arc logic. I'll look for some of JMS's old UseNet stuff about this, but at an anecdotal level I point to Jurasik and JMS talking makeup at BabCom 95. And Furlan's makeup had already developed a lot for S1. Look at the pilot (The Gathering), where both makeup and her performance push a far more androgynous presence, set up to be overturned in her planned transformation ('Chrysalis') to being far more 'human' and emphatically she. Mar 15, 2016 at 21:43

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