The Woman who gave Sanctuary to all

April 2013 Silmarien Szilagyi

Helen Magnus, Sanctuary. Mother. Genius. Victorian. Abnormal. Born in England in 1850, Helen Magnus is not your conventional Victorian woman. Instead of marrying and remaining meekly behind closed doors, as was expected of women, she refused to accept society's treatment of women. With the influence of her father--a renowned scientist--, Magnus boldly enrolled at Oxford and, despite being the only woman, quickly gained the friendship and intellectual respect of four male students. These men would soon join Magnus in a secret experiment that would test the meaning of what it meant to be "normal."

The Five, as Magnus and her colleagues called themselves, injected a serum created from vampire blood to test the evolutionary potential of humans. As a result, each member gained a different ability and became something more than human, more than what a human was in the evolutionary present, what a human would become in its evolutionary future. Magnus, who'd been gifted with enhanced intelligence and longevity, and her friends became abnormals, simply because they now deviated from the biological norm of the human species.

At some point, the Five splintered apart. Magnus created a sanctuary network for a vast variety of abnormals, whose existence was mostly unknown to humans, not just for the abnormals' safety but for the humans' as well. While Magnus studied abnormals and even kept an eye on the dangerous ones, I think she also empathized with them. Even before she became a sort of abnormal herself, Magnus fought against the limitations Victorian society placed on women and was viewed with disdain for it. She, like the abnormals she protected and studied, had a history of hiding her true nature--that of a female genius who was far ahead of her times.

However, there's more to Magnus than just revolutionizing evolutionary science. She is, despite her tough, no-nonsense attitude, a woman; like her fellow femme fatale Teyla Emmagan, she chooses diplomacy over violence whenever possible. She shows compassion to even the most dangerous abnormals, yet if anyone--be it humans, abnormals, friends, or loved ones--are threatened, she won't hesitate to kill. And funnily enough, after 247 years, she still holds stringently on to certain Victorian English sensibilities, such as her refusal to drink coffee over tea and her rather formal, Victorian-inspired fashions.

Magnus has certainly achieved more than most women, yet for all her remarkable accomplishments, I believe the most remarkable was Ashley Magnus, her daughter. Because at the end of the day, Helen was a mother first and a scientist second. It is this unique combination of intelligence, strength, tenacity, warmth, and motherhood that make Helen Magnus one of my all-time favorite female characters and such an effective femme fatale.