In the Babylon 5 fictional universe, the Grey Council is the governing body of the Minbari Federation. Its members carry the title satai. Delenn, one of the main characters of Babylon 5, is a member of the Grey Council.
Early history and structure
Founded by Valen 1,000 years before the Shadow War, the Grey Council comprised three representatives from each of the three castes - Worker, Warrior, and Religious - for a total of nine individuals. From time to time, the council had an additional member, a leader who served as a guide for the council. It is not known if this person had a vote or not; nor is the scope of their authority known. Dukhat, who served in this role, indicated that he could override the Council, but it is not clear if this power arose from his personal authority or qua the leader of the council.
For about 1,000 years, the Grey Council ruled over nearly every aspect of Minbari life, choosing its own membership and meeting in space aboard a Sharlin class Minbari cruiser. Its name is interconnected with its purpose through a sacrament repeated by its members: "I am Grey. I stand between the candle and the star. We are Grey. We stand between the darkness and the light."
The title of Satai is used exclusively for members of the council. Ambassador Delenn is satai, but wishes her title to remain secret on the Babylon 5 station (the reasons for this are given to the viewers very early in the plot, in the movie Babylon 5: In the Beginning). Commander Jeffrey Sinclair first learns about Delenn's title (and, inferentially, membership of the council) in the second episode of season 1, Soul Hunter.
Earth - Minbari War
During a period concluding in the mid 2240's, the Grey Council was led by Dukhat, until his death during a disastrous first contact with humans. The Council's cruiser encountered a flotilla of Earth Alliance ships, and approached with gun ports open, a gesture of respect in the tradition of the Minbari Warrior Caste. The earth ships (under command of a captain with a reputation for recklessness) misinterpreted the gesture as prelude to an attack and attacked the Council's ship. Dukhat suffered fatal injuries in the attack. Voting 5-4 - the fifth vote provided by a grief-stricken Delenn - The Council declared war on humanity. Over the next two years, the Minbari overcame tenacious resistance and routed Earth forces.
During their final assault at Earth, a battle that became known as the Battle of the Line, the council took Jeffrey Sinclair prisoner for questioning. Interrogating him using a triluminary, the council learned that Sinclair had the soul of Valen. Minbari believe in a form of reincarnation, where the souls of each generation are reborn into the next; faced with a human with a Minbari soul, the council concluded that Minbari souls were being reborn in Humans. Traditionally, Minbari do not kill Minbari, presenting the council with an acute ethical dilemma: the war against the humans had become a war in which Minbari were unwittingly killing people with Minbari souls. The Council decided, however, that neither Minbari nor Humans were ready for this truth. Sinclair's memories of the interrogation were erased, and the Warrior caste Generals were told to surrender - but not why. The perception that this was done by the Religious Caste (although the decision was made by the council, in which the Warrior Caste had as many votes as the Religious Caste) resulted in a rift forming between the Religious and Warrior Castes, culminating in a brief civil war after the Grey Council was broken by Delenn.
Aftermath of the Earth-Minbari War
When the fifth and final Babylon station—Babylon 5—was built, the Minbari provided support for construction on the condition that they got to choose the commander. The Grey Council used this to have Sinclair selected as the Commander of the station. Council member Delenn became the Minbari Ambassador to the station in order to remain close to Sinclair.
In 2258 Delenn was recalled to lead the Grey Council. Delenn felt that she should remain on Babylon 5. She asked the council to reconsider their decision, which they did, although they warned her that they were not certain if she would be permitted to keep her position on the council. She returned to the station, and underwent the triluminary metamorphosis, becoming half human.
In 2259 Sinclair was reassigned to be the first Ambassador to Minbar. Later in 2259 Delenn was removed from the Grey Council, who felt her actions, and her status as a hybrid, made her unsuitable for leadership. She was replaced by Neroon—a member of the warrior caste. This led to four warriors on the council, a break from the balance of the past.
Shadow War and the aftermath
As the Shadow War engulfed the galaxy, the council as a whole took a "wait and see" approach to the situation. In 2260, President Clark of Earth declared martial law on Earth, the colonies, and outposts. In response to this and other recent events, such as wars among members of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds and the fall of Narn, the Grey Council said, "The problems of others are not our concern."
Delenn was enraged when she heard of the council's response, and felt that the council's unwillingness to act was jeopardizing their chances of winning the war. Delenn defied the Council's refusal to see her and entered the Council's chamber. She denounced their cowardice, shamed them for abandoning their duty, shattered the Council's ceremonial staff, and broke the Council in accordance with Valen's prophecy. When Delenn walked out of the council chambers a few minutes later, five of the nine members went with her. It is not documented who remained behind; it is often assumed that these were the four members of the Warrior caste (one of those who remained tried to restrain the last to leave, indicating that one of the warriors may have gone with her, while a worker remained).
Once the council was broken, the Minbari people were focused on winning the Shadow War. The disagreements between the castes were put aside during the conflict.
After the war was over, and with no active Council, Minbar was left with a vacuum of power. The rift between the Religious and the Warriors continued to grow, and soon became a full blown crisis. On Minbar, in one city that sat on the edge of the southern polar cap, those of the warrior caste who lived in the city evicted the religious caste members from the city. Those Minbari were forced to walk across the polar region to another city, and many of them died from hunger and exposure. The warriors also stopped honoring agreements that the religious caste had made on behalf of the Minbari people with other species. Delenn became aware of the crisis, and returned home to Minbar.
Eventually the rift erupted into a brief civil war between the two castes. Delenn surrendered the Religious caste to the Warriors. She then went into the Starfire Wheel. This tool was used to choose leaders in the time before Valen. The Wheel directed energy into a circle. Eventually it would consume those who stood in the circle. Those who were not meant to lead would leave the circle before it consumed them, and the caste that the consumed candidate belonged to would assume rulership. The Warrior leader joined Delenn in the circle, but he could not stand the energy and jumped out. Delenn nearly died in the circle, but was saved by Neroon, who underwent a deathbed conversion to the Religious caste before the Wheel consumed him.
The New Grey Council
After Delenn had endured the Starfire Wheel, she rebuilt the Grey Council to lead the Minbari people. Again, nine individuals were called forth to serve on this council.
However, the makeup of the council was changed. Instead of three from each caste, Delenn changed the structure. Five from the Worker caste were called. Two members each from the Religious and Warrior caste were called to serve on the council. Delenn did this to give the Worker caste a majority voice among the Minbari people - who she felt were ignored for far too long considering that when temples for the Religious caste or ships for the Warrior caste were needed, it was the Worker caste who built them. When presenting the new Grey Council, Delenn said that religion and war had to exist in the service of the people, not the other way around.
The one additional spot for the leader was reserved by Delenn in memory of Neroon. She said that the spot was reserved for The One that was to come. After that, she left the council floor to give them the opportunity to lead the Minbari people.
Delenn later convinced the Grey Council to participate in a joint Earth-Minbari project to construct a destroyer-class White Star vessel. Eventually this cooperation resulted in the creation of the Victory-class destroyers.