"So much has been lost: so much pain, so much blood--and for what? I wonder. The past tempts us, the present confuses us, and the future frightens us. And our lives slip away moment by moment in that vast terrible in-between. But there is still time to seize that one, last, fragile moment. To choose something better. To make a difference, as you say. And I intend to do just that."
- – Emperor Turhan
Turhan ascended the throne sometime after the end of the first Centauri occupation of Narn. While his family had been directly responsible for strip-mining Narn (his father was said to have "personally ordered the execution of over 100,000 Narns"), Turhan himself had had nothing to do with the brutal occupation, and afterward had gone to great lengths to offer concessions and return lost (or stolen) territory.
Turhan oversaw a period when the Republic was in severe decline. More than once they were compelled to withdraw in the face of Narn aggression.
The emperor's son died at some point before 2259. With his death, the Emperor retreated, not appearing in public for over a year. Without his leadership, the Centauri Royal Court lost credibility in the sight of the people, allowing for scheming and machinations of the leading noble houses. One such plot involved Lord Kiro and the return of The Eye, a prized jewel that was an ancient symbol of the Empire. The Eye's recovery disrupted any such coup d'état at the time.
For his part in returning The Eye, for "handling" the situation with the Narn in Quadrant 37, and for his role as Ambassador to the increasingly important outpost at Babylon 5, Londo Mollari found himself growing in favor with the Emperor and was granted an audience in early 2259. The Emperor offered Mollari one wish within his power to grant. Mollari asked for a divorce from his three wives. Turhan agreed to the request, but asked that Londo keep one of the three for ceremonials and other official purposes.
Later in 2259, Turhan found that his health was failing. He decided that he wanted to formally apologize to the Narn for all of the Centauri's past wrongs against them. Prime Minister Malachi would stay behind on Centauri Prime while Turhan made arrangements for his formal visit. The exact reasons for his coming were not disclosed, only that he would be delivering a speech following a reception. He was welcomed on board by Captain John Sheridan and his senior staff. Turhan mentioned that he was hoping to get a glimpse of the Vorlon ambassador, Kosh, as he had heard many strange stories about them over the years.
As the reception began, Turhan suffered a heart attack before he could deliver his speech (and literally minutes before G'Kar had planned to assassinate him). He was taken to Med Lab and treated by Dr. Stephen Franklin, who insisted on not allowing the emperor to be transferred back to his ship. Turhan—knowing his message would never be delivered if he entrusted it to one of his own people—asked Dr. Franklin to deliver his apology and appeal for peace to G'Kar, which the doctor did personally.
At this time, however, Londo Mollari and Lord Refa set into motion the destruction of a Narn outpost in Quadrant 14 and Refa had Malachi assassinated. As his condition worsened, Turhan did get what he had wanted—a chance to see a Vorlon, when Kosh came to his bedside. Turhan asked simply, "How will this end?" Kosh (as he normally did) replied cryptically, saying simply, "In fire."
Before Turhan died, he whispered his final words to Mollari (upon being asked by Refa for his blessing regarding the attack on the Narn outpost), that Mollari and Refa were "both damned." Mollari, however, lied and said that the Emperor's final words were, "Continue: take my people back to the stars."
Following Turhan's death, Refa's faction ensured Turhan's nephew, Cartagia, ascended the throne.
A year after his death, the emperor's third wife Lady Morella came to Babylon 5, angrily confronting Mollari that the Narn-Centauri War was never what her husband had wanted for the Republic.
Turhan had many regrets in the final years of his life, feeling that he had rarely been allowed to choose the path that his life would take, and began to turn against some of the expectations imposed upon him. He rejected the vanity shown by many upper-class Centauri by refusing to wear a wig during his visit to Babylon 5. He also tended to prefer a pacifist approach to conflict with the Narn Regime and with other neighboring powers.
- Turhan's sole on-screen appearance was in ("The Coming of Shadows"), but he is referred to on several occasions, before and after.
- Turhan was not named in his initial appearance and was credited only as "Centauri Emperor". The name "Turhan" was eventually refereed to in ("Knives") and used consistently thereafter.
- Turhan is of course named after Turhan Bey, who would also later play the similarly named Turval.
- Turhan is also the only male Centauri known to be bald; although he had a fake fringe of hair he refused to wear it on his visit to Babylon 5.
- It was customary for Turhan (and other Emperors) to have two pairs of Centauri telepathic women in his employ; one pair to accompany him wherever he goes, and the other pair to stay in his palace. In that way, he can be informed immediately if anything happened back at the royal court, and in turn his ministers can be informed immediately if anything happened to him personally.