C8: Messages from Earth
Airdates: 19 February 1996 (US), 2 June 1996 (UK)
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Michael Laurence Vejar
Cast: Dr. Mary Kirkish (Nancy Stafford), Nightwatch Representative (Vaughn Armstrong), ISN Anchor (Vimi Mani), Cook (Lorraine Shields), Security Guard (Merrin Dungey)
Date: 4-8 April 2260.
Plot: Marcus Cole smuggles a woman on board the station, Dr. Mary Kirkish of Interplanetary Expeditions. She is attacked and nearly killed, but Marcus saves her and she recuperates in Medlab. Garibaldi visits G’Kar in his cell and discovers that G’Kar has been using his time alone to meditate on his recent revelatory experience and is writing his thoughts and words down to keep them clear in his mind. He tells Garibaldi he can only read it when he is finished, and urges Garibaldi to continue reading The Book of G’Quan. Garibaldi is summoned to a meeting of the War Council and is told that his package has arrived.
ISN reports that the Earth Alliance Senate’s inquest into President Clark has intensified after evidence from Clark’s former personal physician has emerged suggesting he wasn’t ill when he disembarked Earthforce One at Mars before Santiago’s death (B13). Clark’s people continue to dismiss these allegations as lies designed to weaken Earth from within and without. Clark has also been making plans to strengthen planetary security following the detection of a possibly hostile alien race (the Shadow warship seen in Keffer’s footage from B22).
A new Nightwatch liaison has arrived and been assigned to Security. He informs the Nightwatch personnel that evidence is mounting that many high-ranking Earth officials, even Senators and Earthforce Joint Chiefs of Staff, are implicated in a conspiracy to weaken Earth as a prelude to invasion. Arrests are planned to begin in the next few weeks.
The War Council convenes and Dr. Kirkish explains that she has been working for IPX for twelve years. Seven years ago, she was part of a dig on Mars. They had heard rumours about alien artefacts found on the Red Planet but had never confirmed anything. Then one of their seismic probes discovered something buried 300 feet beneath the surface of Syria Planum. They excavated the area and uncovered an alien spacecraft, identical to the one seen on ISN recently: a Shadow vessel. They kept the find secret, at first, but then one of the workers touched the alien ship’s hull and died instantaneously. Earthforce was called in and they ordered the IPX personnel back to their base. For a week unmarked shuttles flew in and out of the region before everything went quiet. Two days later a second Shadow vessel arrived, excavated the first ship, and reactivated it. Both flew off into deep space. Garibaldi confirms the story, since he saw part of the same thing (see comics DC4-DC8). The only thing he recovered from this site was a Psi Corps badge. Kirkish’s team was told to keep quiet about what happened, but over the last seven years they have all met with “accidents”. Kirkish, fearing she was next, fled. But there was another reason she fled as well: just before she left she was called into a dig on Ganymede, Jupiter’s largest moon. They have found a Shadow ship there as well. But this time President Clark’s forces plan to reactivate it and use it for themselves, rather than turn it over to the Shadows. Whilst Lennier arranges for Dr. Kirkish to be given sanctuary in Minbari space, Sheridan debates about what to do with this news. He eventually decides he has no choice: he, Delenn and Lennier will take the White Star to Ganymede and destroy the Shadow ship on the ground before it takes off. Under absolutely no circumstances can President Clark be allowed to get his hands on Shadow technology. Sheridan and his comrades leave, leaving Ivanova and Garibaldi to cover for his absence.
Sheridan’s absence is noted by the Nightwatch personnel. The new liaison notices that Sheridan hasn’t been in or out of his quarters for four days and Zack confesses that he has noticed Sheridan and Garibaldi acting oddly recently. The Nightwatch liaison suggests that Zack work to expose Garibaldi, but Zack is reluctant to betray a friend.
The White Star reaches Ganymede, but too late to stop the IPX team from reactivating the Shadow warship. However, the merging between ship and pilot does not go well and the ship goes mad, destroying the IPX base before hurtling into space. The White Star’s weapons make little impact, so Sheridan decides to lure the Shadow vessel into Jupiter’s atmosphere. He succeeds in trapping the Shadow vessel in the giant planet’s gravity field and in its weakened state it tumbles to oblivion, crushed by the planet’s atmospheric pressure. The White Star is then fired upon by the EAS Agamemnon (B1), responding to the Ganymede base’s distress signal. Sheridan cannot bring himself to fire on his old ship, so instead opens a jump point inside Jupiter’s atmosphere. They leap to hyperspace and the explosion caused by the interaction between the jump energy and the hydrogen atmosphere will hopefully make it appear as if they have been destroyed.
Back on Babylon 5 Sheridan watches the news as ISN reports that an unprovoked alien attack on a Ganymede research base has caused grave concern about planetary security. But this is eclipsed when President Clark suddenly declares martial law over the Earth Alliance...
MORE AFTER THE JUMP
Dating the Episode: This episode spans four days, ending the moment the next episode begins. Senate hearings on Earth are entering their sixth week (triggered by the revelations in episode C5).
The Arc: This episode reveals some of the gaps in Kosh and Delenn’s claims about the Shadows in episode B17. Whilst they claimed that the Shadows were awoken by the Icarus crew, we find out here that some of the Shadows (or at least their allies) were active as early as 2253, three to four years before the Icarus incident at Z’ha’dum. This is confirmed in episode C22.
Garibaldi’s adventures on Mars are recounted in the comics DC4-DC8. There are a lot of facts about this adventure he failed to mention in this episode, such as that Sinclair was with him.
Interplanetary Expeditions were responsible for the situation in episode A4, as well as sponsoring the Thirty-Six Hours on Babylon 5 news special in episode B15. We learn more about them in episode TVM2.
Clark is keen to get his hands on Shadow technology. We find out why in episode D19.
We learn that Dr. Jacobs’ evidence (recovered in episode B13) has been brought before the EA Senate inquiry board, strengthening the case against Clark. This, along with the attack on Ganymede, forces Clark to declare martial law at the end of the episode to stop himself being impeached. Obviously, these events carry forwards over the next two episodes.
According to the Nightwatch representative, some of the Joint Chiefs of Earthforce are suspected of collusion with the anti-Clark conspiracy. We find out in C9 that General Hague has indeed been identified as an enemy of Clark’s.
Oddly, the White Star’s weapon systems are incapable as yet of doing much damage to the Shadow ships. We find out why in episode C14.
Shadow ships use living beings as their central processing cores. This is referred to again in C14 and C22. These beings don’t have to be Shadows, so the Shadow ship rescuing the other on Mars in Kirkish’s flashback may be flown by the Shadows’ allies rather than the Shadows themselves.
This episode confirms the hint in C1 that there is collusion between the Shadows, Psi Corps and some elements in the Earth Alliance government. This plot thread continues to be developed in episode C14.
Background: Earth’s entire star system – or at least the inner system with colonised planets and moons – is covered by a detection grid which can detect jump points forming and route ships to intercept.
Earth has two major colonies in the Solar system – Io and Mars – but it does have bases and scientific outposts on numerous other moons throughout the system.
Getting fresh and unspoiled eggs on B5 is difficult given the transit time from Earth. Ivanova’s willingness to eat bacon confirms that she is not very orthodox.
Mary Kirkish joined Interplanetary Expeditions in 2248, presumably just after the Earth-Minbari War. The Shadow ship was discovered on Mars in 2253.
According to Straczynski, Interplanetary Expeditions is an Earth megacorp which has gotten rich on raiding the remains of ancient civilisations. They’ve been around for between fifty and eighty years.
The White Star is equipped with a previously-unseen beam plasma/laser weapon mounted on the nose of the ship. This weapon appears to be similar to the main beam weapon on Minbari warcruisers, but is less powerful.
The Minbari crew appear to be slightly more conversant in English in this episode, as Lennier translates less often and they seem to understand Sheridan’s “gentle…Minbari” gaffe at the end of the episode.
Minbari sleep at an angle, as they believe that sleeping horizontally tempts death.
The White Star’s library computer is able to replicate the sound of a rainstorm on Earth.
References: “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom” is a misquote of “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty”, a saying mistakenly attributed to Thomas Jefferson. Abolitionist Wendell Phillips made the quote famous in a speech in 1852, but this was likely riffing off Thomas Charlton’s biography of Major General James Jackson, published in 1809. These usages were likely inspired by Irish lawyer and politician John Philpot Curran, who in a speech in Dublin in 1790 said, “the condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”
Marcus suggests that he has badgers living in his trousers whilst trying to see if Ivanova is paying attention to him. He amends this to ferrets. This may be a reference to Doctor Who, as the Seventh Doctor was played by comedian Sylvester McCoy, whose routine involved putting live ferrets in his trousers. Straczynski is a noted Doctor Who fan.
Unanswered Questions: Given that fresh eggs are at a premium, why don’t they just breed chickens on B5? If they have space for a baseball pitch, presumably they could fit in a few chicken coops somewhere.
Mistakes, Retcons and Lamentations: G’Kar says he has been incarcerated for two weeks with six weeks to run on his sentence for attacking Londo (C6). However, this is contradicted by the next episode, set only four days later, where G’Kar say he has three weeks left to run on his sentence. Based on how much of his book he’s written, this latter date appears to be the correct one.
G’Kar is writing from left to right in the long-shots and masters of the cell, but in close-up he is writing from right-to-left. It looks like they flipped the shot for the close-up to match the established way the Narns have of writing, but didn’t have Katsulas write in reverse for the long-shots (where it doesn’t matter, since we can’t see the pad of paper).
Vaughn Armstrong’s character doesn’t get a name, which given he is a major guest star for two episodes in a row is a bit weird.
Given that the White Star is faster and far more manoeuvrable than an Omega-class destroyer (as shows in later episodes), and an Omega can’t break and turn quickly (as episode C10 conclusively states), why doesn’t the White Star just reverse course, break atmosphere behind the Agamemnon and jump? Sheridan’s plan does make it appear that the White Star was destroyed and prevents the Agamemnon from getting a good look at it, but that’s not a consideration when he and Delenn are discussing tactics. According to Straczynski, the Agamemnon likely also picked up the jump point forming and the crew would have to allow for the chances of escaping.
The Agamemnon fires a main beam laser directly downwards, but there isn’t a main beam cannon on the underside of the Omega-class destroyer.
During one of the later establishing shots of Babylon 5, the station’s heat dissipation panels appear to have disappeared. However, this is because the angle of the shot puts the fins exactly edge-on to the viewer.
In one of the shows more notorious mistakes, during the White Star’s jump to hyperspace out of the atmosphere of Jupiter, a single shot of a weird alien city appears. This is from the TV show Hypernauts, produced by Foundation Imaging supremo Ron Thornton and B5 producer Doug Netter. The frame crossed over into the CG mix for this episode by accident. J. Michael Straczynski was not impressed by the mistake.
It’s not possible to “ignite” hydrogen in a free atmosphere in the manner Sheridan ascribes to the Shadow ship here. Straczynski acknowledged that this was an error, and the Shadow ship’s energy weapon was actually creating a fusion reaction. He noted that Sheridan was under considerable stress in that moment and mixed up his terminology.
Behind the Scenes: This is the first of three episodes conceived by Straczynski as a “trilogy” of stories which turns the Babylon 5 universe completely on its head. He did consider making them a proper three-parter, but noted that each episode as its own story which is concluded in that episode whilst furthering the overall arc, so it was more appropriate to leave them as their own episodes.
This episode has a notably different “feel” to many previous ones, in particular with the use of music, slow-motion and voice-overs. Straczynski wanted to change things up a little and start making the show feel a bit different and maybe more mythic.
When he was writing the episode, J. Michael Straczynski asked Ron Thornton of Foundation Imaging if he would prefer to do a massive space battle with “lots of ships” or have a fight in the atmosphere of Jupiter. Although daunted by the work involved, Thornton opted for Jupiter.
The Jupiter cloudscapes were generated inside a smoke tank, similar to the mechanisms used for depicting the Mutara Nebula in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Rendering the atmosphere entirely in CG would have taken too long in rendering time.
Familiar Faces: Merrin Dungey (Security Guard) has had recurring roles on Summerland and The King of Queens, but is best known for playing Sydney’s friend Francie Calfo on Alias.
Vaughn Armstrong is a very well-known American television actor. He had his first screen role in 1977 and has acted regularly since then in dozens of American TV shows and movies. Vaughn is best-known for his regular appearances in the Star Trek franchise, due to his comfort appear in heavy makeup. He played Klingon Commander Korris on The Next Generation’s Heart of Glory, Danar in Deep Space Nine’s Past Prologue and Seskal in Deep Space Nine’s When It Rains… and The Dogs of War. He was prolific on Voyager, appearing in Eye of the Needle, Survival Instinct, Fury, Flesh & Blood and Endgame. He was finally rewarded with a recurring role on Star Trek: Enterprise, playing Admiral Forrest in all four seasons of the show. He did some double-duty, however, playing both a Klingon and a Kreetassan in other episodes. Armstrong is one of the few actors to have played a Klingon, a Romulan, a Cardassian, a Borg and a human in the Star Trek franchise. He continues to act, having recently chalked up a recurring role on Decker and guest spots on Criminal Minds, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Modern Family.
Nancy Stafford (Dr. Kirkish) has likewise had a long career in Hollywood, debuting on screen in 1982. She is best-known for her recurring role as Joan Halloran on St. Elsewhere, where she worked with B5 alum Stephen Furst. She also had recurring roles on Matlock and Sidekicks. She most recently had a recurring role as a news anchor on Scandal.
Review: After two and a half seasons of slowly building up the story, Babylon 5 pulls the trigger and everything starts to come crashing down and out into the open. This kind of bravery was unknown on American television in 1996 and seeing the status quo actually change on screen in front of you was exciting and somewhat unnerving. It can’t quite have that same effect again, but it’s still a dramatic and taut story, let down a little by the ever-present problem of dialogue and the show’s occasionally questionable depiction of life-threatening events (Sheridan, Delenn and Lennier calmly have lengthy discussions about science in the middle of a firefight with a Shadow vessel). The CGI is still very impressive in the battle scenes, and the sequence where the Shadow ship flies slowly over the surface of Mars can’t fail but give anyone the “screaming willies” to quote Draal. ****½
Franklin: “If Earth and the Psi Corps are working with the Shadows, this is too big. How can we fight something like that?”
Marcus: “Did I mention that my nose is on fire and that I have fifteen wild badgers living in my trousers?”
Garibaldi: “No good deed goes unpunished. The important thing is, we got away with it.”
Sheridan: “So far.”
C9: Point of No Return
Airdates: 26 February 1996 (US), 9 June 1996 (UK)
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Jim Johnston
Cast: Lady Morella (Majel Barrett), Ta’Lon (Marshall Teague), Nightwatch Liaison (Vaughn Armstrong), General Smits (Lewis Arquette), Lt. General O’Reilly (Ed Trotta), Lt. David Corwin (Joshua Cox), Minbari (Jonathan Chapman), ISN Reporter (Maggie Egan), Centauri Official (Milton James), Nightwatch Guard (Gunther Jensen), Man (Tony Rayner)
Date: 8 April 2260.
Plot: Vir arrives back on Babylon 5 for another visit from Minbar. Londo tells him that the Lady Morella, the third wife of the late Emperor Turhan, is to visit the station for a goodwill tour, but the real reason is that she is a prophetess, a seer. Londo wants Morella to tell him that his destiny will not proceed as he has foreseen it. Suddenly chaos erupts in the corridors outside: the Earth Alliance martial law declaration has just been made public.
Sheridan and Ivanova contact General O’Reilly, one of Hague’s supporters on Earth, and learn that near-anarchy has broken out. President Clark has just issued an executive order dissolving the Earth Alliance Senate in direct violation of the Constitution. Open fighting has broken out as the Senators’ security forces defend themselves and the Senators from arrest. The Presidential Elite Guard opens fire on the Senate Building in Earthdome. As the city becomes engulfed in open fighting, Sheridan is told that General Hague was heading back from Io but has since vanished. For now, Babylon 5 stands alone. Garibaldi releases G’Kar from Security since he has more important things to worry about. G’Kar goes back to his quarters and finds that Ta’Lon has been maintaining a vigil for his return. G’Kar then goes and offers his support to Ivanova and Sheridan.
Sheridan receives orders to place Babylon 5 Security under Nightwatch control immediately. Garibaldi resigns in protest after furiously going down to Station House and confronting his former subordinates, enraged that Nightwatch is subverting the team he has spent three years putting together. ISN reports that General Hague’s flagship, the EAS Alexander, has been surrounded by Earthforce destroyers near the Io jump gate and ordered to surrender. The Alexander and its support ships refuse and manage to disable two enemy destroyers long enough for them to jump. Nightwatch tries to disperse the celebrations in the Zocalo, sparking off a full-scale riot. The martial law order comes through and Sheridan is forced to obey it, but then discovers something unusual about the wording of the order for Nightwatch to take over B5 Security.
Zack goes off-duty and finds Sheridan, Ivanova and G’Kar waiting for him in his quarters. He goes to see the Nightwatch commander and tells him that Sheridan is bringing in 200 Narns from one of their colonies to replace the Nightwatch personnel. They wanted him to help but he couldn’t do it. The Nightwatch commander lays a trap at the docking bay, but it turns out to be a double bluff. Zack leaps through the airlocks as they are sealed and Sheridan goes on the PA system. He tells the Nightwatch that the order for them to take over B5 Security came from the Political Office, not the military chain of command. This makes it illegal under Earthforce regulations. As a result, all Nightwatch personnel are being arrested for insubordination. G’Kar has kindly “donated” the entire Narn population of Babylon 5 to help with Security until the orders are clarified. G’Kar again asks to be brought into the War Council and Sheridan agrees to consider it in light of his support.
Lady Morella arrives and gives Londo his reading. She tells him that three chances await him for redemption, but he has wasted two others: he must save the eye that does not see, he must not kill the one who is already dead and, at the last, he must surrender himself to his greatest fear, knowing it will destroy him. But one thing is unavoidable: he will be Emperor. Shockingly, Vir will also be Emperor.
Ivanova informs Sheridan that four of the five cruisers that defected along with the Alexander have been destroyed, leaving only two ships free and making it unlikely that his attempted coup will succeed.
Dating the Episode: Sheridan provides the date as 9 April halfway through the episode, so presumably the episode begins the day before.
The Arc: After (at least) some sixteen months of plotting, President Clark’s plans come to fruition as he dissolves the EA Senate, arrests Senators and senior military commanders and places the Nightwatch in control of security forces across the Earth Alliance. This plot thread continues in episodes C10 and C14.
General Hague is leading a rebellion against Clark with support from some Earthforce vessels. According to Ivanova five ships defected along with the Alexander but four have been destroyed. That just leaves the Alexander and one other ship free. We find out what ship that is in episode C10.
Morella’s prophecies provide much to puzzle over. One of the two previous chances for Londo to redeem himself was almost certainly episode B9 (when he could have chosen not to involve the Shadows in the attack on Quadrant 14). The other is uncertain, but was probably him either accepting Morden’s offer in A22 or giving Morden the answer he did in A13. The three chances to come are even more difficult to pinpoint: saving the eye that does not see is possibly a reference to episodes D4-D5; not killing the one who is already dead is either a reference to C11 and C20 or NOV13 and NOV15 (the same events also seen in C17 and TVM1); and surrendering to his greatest fear is probably a reference to his dream of dying with G’Kar’s hands wrapped around his throat (in B9; we see this in C17 and NOV15). Straczynski noted that the spelling of the “eye that does not see” is incorrect: it’s actually “the I that does not see”.
The EAS Schwarzkopf is mentioned. This ship visited Babylon 5 in episode B10. Another ship, the Excalibur, is also referred to. This ship is presumably destroyed off-screen later on as a different vessel with the same name turns up in TVM4 and the spin-off series, Crusade.
Background: Although it operates as a police force, with far more responsibility for criminal investigation and liaising with civilians than any ordinary military force, Babylon 5 Security is nevertheless handled under the aegis of the Earthforce military. As a result, it can only accept orders passed down through the military hierarchy and is not answerable directly to the political office.
The Earth Alliance has a constitution similar to that of the United States, including strict rules for the behaviour of the President.
Babylon 5’s airlocks are made of a solid beryllium alloy.
Ragesh IX is a Centauri colony. Presumably, it’s in the same star system as Ragesh III (from episode A1).
References: The EAS Alexander is named after Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), the King of Macedonia who conquered Greece and destroyed the Persian Empire. He died, appropriately, in ancient Babylon.
Straczynski wrote some of the lines for Majel Barrett so they could be read as referring to her recently-deceased husband, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, as well as Emperor Turhan.
The EAS Excalibur is a reference to King Arthur’s legendary sword. It was dropped into this episode as a minor bit of foreshadowing for episode C13.
President Clark’s coup was strongly inspired by the Russian Constitutional Crisis of 1993, when Boris Yeltsin illegally dissolved the Russian Parliament in contravention of the constitution and used military force to back up his demands, to the point of having troops open fire on the parliament building.
Security Officer James Johnston is named for co-producer Jim Johnston.
Unanswered Questions: What was the name of the Nightwatch liaison officer in B5’s security force?
What were the chances Londo had to evade his destiny?
If G’Kar is trying to keep his offer to Ivanova and Sheridan on the quiet, why does he – now just an ordinary civilian – walk straight into C&C in full view of everyone? Or is this public display meant to back up Zack’s cover story?
Mistakes, Retcons and Lamentations: G’Kar says he has three weeks left on his sentence for attacking Mollari. However, in C8, set just four days earlier, he said he had six weeks left on his sentence. The date given in this episode appears to be correct, based on the substantial amount of material that G’Kar has completed for his book.
According to Sheridan, the beryllium alloy in the airlocks would result in ricochets. But PPGs are energy weapons (phased plasma guns) so it’s unclear how that would happen.
Londo rewriting Vir’s report is a recurring gag from episode C6 and is quite funny, but the dialogue is very similar, almost identical in places.
When Zack jumps through the airlock blast door, the door clearly “bounces” up and down in a manner a supposedly massive metal blast door shouldn’t.
Sheridan openly discusses Hague’s plans in front of several security personnel at the end of the episode, which seems unwise even if these are loyalist security personnel that Garibaldi has vetted.
In an odd repeat of the previous episode issue with the Agamemnon, the Alexander fires a main beam laser directly sideways to disable the Excalibur, but there isn’t a main beam cannon on the side of the Omega-class destroyer, nor does it have a turret mounted beam weapon.
Behind the Scenes: Straczynski had heard that Majel Barrett was enjoying watching the show and was recommending it to people at Star Trek conventions. He wrote the role of Lady Morella specifically for her.
Peter Jurasik and Stephen Furst part-improvised the concluding “awkward conversation” on the sofa and felt they could have riffed off that for ages, as they thought it was hilarious.
The CG space battles were rendered full-screen (and appeared on promos for the episode), but Straczynski decided it was more realistic to have them on monitors in the back of the bar, so the audience would only see them the same way the people watching would.
Straczynski was happy with the episode but thought that the solution to the Nightwatch problem could have been a bit more organically reached. As it stands, the solution was maybe a little too neat and tidy for the show.
The episode required a much larger number of extras than normal. To save money for later episodes, behind-the-scenes crew members were recruited to stand in as Nightwatch and security personnel.
Some B5 fans complained that the Earth Alliance turning into a propaganda machine, believing fake news and following a clearly unfit President was highly unlikely and improbable, given the warnings from history. Straczynski noted that this is what the people of Germany thought in the 1930s and still fell into the spiral that led to World War II.
Vir’s report, which is being read and amended by Londo, is actually written in the Centauri script developed for the show.
Familiar Faces: Majel Barrett is, of course, the widow of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and was well-known for playing the role of Number One in the original Star Trek pilot, The Cage, and Nurse Cristine Chapel in the rest of the series and several of the feature films. She then played the role of Lwaxana Troi in multiple episodes of both The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. She also played the voice of the Starfleet computer system in The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and even a few times on Enterprise (despite its status as a prequel). Straczynski met Barrett at a convention and offered her a role on Babylon 5 to help end the feuding between the fanbases. She was happy to comply. Sadly, she passed away in 2008.
Marshall Teague reprises his role as Ta’Lon in this episode. A bit oddly, he doesn’t appear again until E12, but the intimation is that he’s still on the station serving as G’Kar’s helper and assistant in the meantime.
Lewis Arquette (General Smits) was a well-regarded American actor, best-known for playing J.D. Pickett on The Waltons. He had numerous roles on television and film throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He was also known for being part of the famous Arquette acting dynasty: his father was Cliff Arquette (who played a character called Charley Weaver on many different talk shows from the 1950s to 1970s). He was the father of Patricia, Alexis, Rosanna, David and Richmond Arquette. He was also the former father-in-law of Courtney Cox, Thomas Jane and Nicholas Cage. He sadly passed away in 2001.
Ed Trotta (General O’Reilly) is best-known for his association with the video game company Blizzard. This began in 2000 with him playing the voice of Tyrael in Diablo II, a role he reprised in Lord of Destruction (2001). He then voiced the character of Malfurion Stormrage in WarCraft III: The Frozen Throne (2003), World of WarCraft: Cataclysm (2010), Hearthstone (2014), Heroes of the Storm (2015) and World of WarCraft: Legion (2016).
Review: There is a real sense of barely-controlled chaos in this episode, with massive events happening just off-screen and our heroes being too far away to intervene. All they can do is watch helplessly on TV…until the fight comes to them and they can take control of the situation. Some tension is lost because it’s clear that Zack is not going to betray Garibaldi and without that we haven’t got a vested interest in the “bad guys”, but otherwise this is a great episode with an absolutely terrific performance by Majel Barrett as Lady Morella. ****½
Londo: “Vir, intelligence has nothing to do with politics!”
Morella: “Greatness is never appreciated in youth, called pride in mid-life, dismissed in old age and reconsidered in death. Because we cannot tolerate greatness in our midst we do all we can to destroy it.”
Morella: “We say there is no choice only to comfort ourselves when the decision has already been made. If you understand that, there is hope.”
Morella: “You must save the I that does not see. You must not kill the one who is already dead. And, at the last, you must surrender yourself to your greatest fear, knowing it will destroy you.”
Ivanova: “I never thought it would end like this.”
Sheridan: “Me either.”
C10: Severed Dreams
Airdates: 1 April 1996 (US), 16 June 1996 (UK)
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by David J. Eagle
Cast: Captain Sandra Hiroshi (Kim Miyori), David Sheridan (Rance Howard), Lt. Bill Trainor (Phil Morris), Major Ed Ryan (Bruce McGill), Drakhen (James Parks), Lt. David Corwin (Joshua Cox), Religious Minbari (Jonathan Chapman), Narn (Kim Strauss), ISN Reporter #1 (Maggie Egan), ISN Reporter #2 (Matt Gottlieb)
Date: 12-13 April 2260.
Plot: The situation on Earth has calmed down somewhat with the fall of the Senate Building and the arrest of most of the Senators, but a new crisis has flared up: the Mars Provisional Government has rejected the martial law declaration as a violation of the EA Constitution. President Clark is said to be considering “all options”.
The EAS Alexander, General Hague’s flagship, is ambushed in the Orion system by the EAS Clarkstown and is heavily damaged, although it manages to destroy the enemy vessel. Major Ryan orders that they set course for Babylon 5 for repairs.
Sheridan receives advance warning that the Alexander is on its way and tells Ivanova and Garibaldi that this what they have been dreading. Once the Alexander comes through the jump gate they will be committed to the cause. Garibaldi installs a cut-off switch in the communications system so that Clark loyalists will not be able to get word to Earth about the Alexander’s presence in the system when it arrives.
A Minbari Ranger, Drakhen, comes on board the station, heavily wounded. Franklin and G’Kar get him to Medlab, where Delenn and Lennier question him. According to Drakhen, the Shadows are moving. They have established alliances with many in the non-aligned worlds and forced them to go to war against each other. Delenn is horrified that the chaos they have been long anticipating is now spiralling out of control and demands to know what the Minbari are doing about it. She is shocked when the Grey Council claims that the affairs of other races are not their concern. Angered beyond reason, she takes a ship to rendezvous with the Minbari flagship.
The Alexander arrives and repairs commence. Major Ryan regretfully informs Sheridan that General Hague is dead, killed when the Alexander was hit amidships by the Clarkstown near Orion VII. He explains that the martial law decree on Earth has been popular for cutting down on crime, but there is growing resentment at the way Clark has handled the situation. Several Senators have escaped from Earthdome and are organising resistance forces, whilst Mars is refusing to submit to martial law. Hopefully Mars can rally support from the colonies and push Clark out of the power, but news arrives that Earthforce has started bombing the Mars colony.
The EAS Churchill, the other surviving ship opposing Clark, arrives. Captain Sandra Hiroshi reports even worse news: an Earthforce battle group led by the Omega-class destroyers Roanoake and Agrippa are on their way to Babylon 5 to seize command by force. Clark is intent that Babylon 5 shall not break away from Earth control and is sending his forces to arrest the command staff. Sheridan, Franklin, Garibaldi and Ivanova decide to fight rather than meekly submit. ISN reports that the colonies at Proxima III and Orion VII have seceded from the Earth Alliance in protest over the bombing of Mars. They will remain independent states until President Clark is impeached. The ISN Broadcast Centre in Geneva comes under attack from Clark’s Elite Guard and the signal abruptly goes off the air as the journalists try to reveal information they’ve had on Clark for a year but not been able to provide.
Delenn confronts the Grey Council, demanding to know why they have not acted. She tells them that the time of prophecy has come and that the Minbari must not break their covenant with Valen. She shatters the Staff of the Council and convinces the religious and worker castes to break away from the warriors and begin the fight against the Shadows. They agree, and the Grey Council is shattered.
Babylon 5 rigs for battle and Sheridan announces that the station is seceding from the Earth Alliance. Unsurprisingly, the Roanoake and Agrippa refuse to accept that when they and their escort cruisers come through the jump gate and approach the station. They open fire and a pitched battle erupts. A breaching pod manages to lock onto the hull and the station is boarded, but Security and the Narns manage to hold the marines off. The Churchill is crippled but manages to ram and destroy the Roanoake. Babylon 5 and the Alexander catch the Agrippa in a crossfire and destroy her as well. The remaining enemy fighters retreat to the jump gate, but just as Sheridan starts thinking they’ve won a second Earthforce battle group arrives, led by the Olympic and Nimrod. Four jump points open right on top of the station and three Minbari warcruisers led by the White Star emerge and force the Earthforce destroyers to retreat, Delenn informing them that Babylon 5 is now under Minbari protection. Recalling how Earthforce warships last fared in battle against Minbari cruisers, the Earthforce vessels depart.
The Alexander soon also departs. Major Ryan has received word that other Earthforce vessels have defected and he wants to round them up. Babylon 5 lost one-third of her Starfuries during the battle, but the surviving pilots from the Churchill agree to join the station’s defence force, including a squadron of the new Thunderbolt-class fighter-bombers. Sheridan refuses to put on his Earthforce uniform again until this is over, one way or another. He welcomes Delenn back and they attend a celebration in Downbelow, but Garibaldi is worried about Nightwatch sympathisers that remain on board...
Dating the Episode: It is five days since martial law was declared.
The Arc: The Earth Alliance begins to fragment in this episode. Mars, showing its spine for the first time since episode A19, refuses to submit to martial law and is invaded by Earthforce troops. We discover firsthand how Mars is faring next in episode D10. Proxima III and Orion VII also break away from the Alliance. Orion VII is presumably retaken pretty quickly, but we learn of Proxima III’s fate in episode D15.
ISN goes off-air in this episode. We find out what happened to them in episode C14.
Although we don’t see Major Ryan again, the Alexander does turn up in episode D15.
Minbari warcruisers remain on patrol at Babylon 5 for most of the rest of the series.
Delenn’s actions in dissolving the Grey Council have repercussions in episodes C19, D13 and D14.
The Shadows have encouraged many of the non-aligned worlds to wage war against each other and against the Centauri invaders. The Centauri intervention in this area is followed up on in episode C11. The non-aligned worlds are brought to heel in C13, C15, C18 and C21.
Garibaldi’s worries about Nightwatch sympathisers is addressed in episode C11.
The new Starfuries, the Thunderbolts, are detailed in episode C14. We learn that they are called Thunderbolts in episode D17, but that’s always been their name in off-screen documentation.
The ISN Reporter that Maggie Egan has been playing since A1 finally gets a name in this episode, Jane. We don’t see her again until episode D20.
Sheridan takes off his uniform and decides not to put it back on again, which informs the decision of the rest of the command crew to remove their rank and insignia in the next episode.
Background: The religious and worker caste Minbari control two-thirds of the Minbari fleet, with some warcruisers under the control of religious and worker caste personnel.
The Earth Alliance has just introduced a new fighter, the Thunderbolt-class Starfury variant. The Thunderbolt is larger than the standard Starfury, can carry two pilots and is capable of atmospheric combat.
Babylon 5 loses about 30% of its Starfuries, either destroyed or disabled. The surviving fighters from the Churchill replace them, including quite a few Thunderbolts.
The White Star arrives at Babylon 5 for the first time and its existence to the command staff becomes generally known.
Delenn served on the Grey Council for sixteen cycles, approximately sixteen years.
Xavier Montoya is the head of the Mars Provisional Government, which has ruled Mars since the end of the Mars Rebellion in episode A19.
Shock troops are out in force in Earth Alliance cities including Paris, London, New York City, Moscow and New Delhi.
References: The EAS Churchill is, of course, named for British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), most famous for his indefatigable leadership of Britain during World War II.
The EAS Agrippa is named for Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (64-12 BC), a Roman consul, statesman and general. Agrippa was a friend and ally of Octavian, who became the first Roman Emperor, Augustus. Agrippa proved himself a superior military commander, possibly the finest of his time, a distinction he was rivalled for only by Mark Antony. The two generals fought on the same side at the epic Battle of Philippi, but on opposite sides at the crucial Battle of Actium; Agrippa won the battle with superior tactics, bringing about the end of Antony’s imperial ambitions and leading to his suicide. Upon Agrippa’s death, Augustus went into mourning for a month and paid for the education of his children; Agrippa’s daughter Vipsania later married the Emperor Tiberius.
The EAS Roanaoke is named for Roanoake Island, located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The island was colonised by Britain in 1585, with 120 men, women and children settling on the island at the order of Sir Walter Raleigh. The first English child born on the North American continent, Virginia Dare, was born on Roanoake Island in 1587. When the island was visited again in 1590, it was discovered that the entire population had vanished. No explanation has ever been provided, although it has been theorised that native American tribesmen had killed or captured the colonists, or the colonists had moved to nearby Croatan Island (aka Hatteras), for which there is some evidence from Native American sources. The Roanoake mystery is one of the most enduring in American history.
The EAS Clarkstown appears to be named for Clarkstown, Rockland County, New York State, a town located the Hudson from New York City. The town is arguably famous for the impressive view from nearby High Tor Mountain, from where the New York skyline can be seen 25 miles away.
The EAS Nimrod is named for the Biblical character, by tradition the King of Shinar (in Assyria/Mesopotamia). According to legend, Nimrod was a mighty hunter and his kingdom was the location of the Tower of Babel, which, after God destroyed the tower, became the land of Babylon.
The EAS Olympic is presumably named for the Olympic Games (776 BC-393 AD, 1896-present).
David Sheridan notes he is having some trouble “with the corn” due to the heat. This may be a reference to Rance Howard’s then-recent starring role in Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest…but probably not.
Unanswered Questions: What was the secret information that ISN had unearthed about President Clark but hadn’t broadcast out of fear? Just what we knew already or had they dug deeper?
Why didn’t the Earthforce ships all jump in at once? If the Agrippa battle group had arrived first, they could have simply held back for an hour or so and then jumped in with the Olympic battle group. Four Omega-class destroyers would have overwhelmed B5 and two Omegas pretty quickly. Of course, the Minbari would have still intervened but the Earthforce captains presumably did not know that. Perhaps President Clark had offered a promotion to whoever took B5 first?
Did the Earthforce destroyers really plan on destroying Babylon 5? 250,000 civilians are on the station, including many from other races. Killing thousands of Minbari may have triggered another war, killing Kosh would have likely not gone down well with the Vorlons and killing thousands of Centauri would have wrecked the treaty with the Centauri Republic as well. Based on the breaching pods and the Thunderbolts trying to shoot out C&C, it might be that they were trying to take the station intact without blowing it up…which given Babylon 5’s massive array of firepower was extremely difficult.
Mistakes, Retcons and Lamentations: Jonathan Chapman plays the Minbari guard on the Grey Council flagship who tries to stop Delenn seeing the Council. Very confusingly, he played a Minbari on Babylon 5 in the preceding episode. Despite being identical, they are not the same character; maybe they’re twins?
The episode features some errors during the major space battle. This was due to the naming files for the Omega destroyers getting mixed up during rendering. At one point the Churchill takes a major hit but the crew of the Alexander is shown responding; the Churchill is shown ramming and destroying the Roanoake but Sheridan then acts as if the Roanoake is still in the fight; he fires on the Roanoake but the CG shows the Agrippa as being hit. Since the last CGI files reached the editing team two hours before the uplink for transmission, it was completely impossible to re-render them.
Major Ryan should have received a field promotion after Hague’s death, but according to Straczynski there wasn’t time and a field promotion for a renegade officer was not high on anyone’s agenda.
The opening battle between the Alexander and Clarkstown has an oddity where the Alexander crew say they can’t jump without losing their fighters. This is because when a ship opens a jump point it can only keep the jump point open from the outside (as we saw with the Narn cruiser in B12). As soon as the ship goes through the vortex collapses. The Alexander was travelling at some speed at sublight as well, which might have been the problem (jump points are immobile, they don’t move in relation to the ship). The Alexander could only open a jump point ahead of it and keep it open long enough for the fighters to jump ahead of it if it slowed down, which would make it vulnerable to the Clarkstown. As a result, the Alexander had to destroy the Clarkstown, slow down, reel in its fighters and then jump. Normally this situation does not arise because ships are travelling much more slowly when they jump or they use standing jump gates, which can remain open for much longer periods of time.
The marine boarding party is shown blasting through a hole in a bulkhead, which some fans pointed out was an error as they should have come through the floor (where the external hull of B5 is located). Straczynski noted that they had burned through behind the bulkhead and then come through horizontally. On top of the other production requirements for the episode, they couldn’t spare the time to explain them coming up through the floor.
It seems…implausible that Hedronn and Neroon would not challenge Delenn’s dramatic rhetoric to the Grey Council and would stay silent. Of course, with the episode coming in way above the normal budget and with a large number of guest stars, the production team simply couldn’t afford to get Robin Sachs and John Vickery back again, hence their uncharacteristically passive reaction.
Starfuries are normally launched from the rotating arms of the Omega-class destroyers (we haven’t seen this previously but it’s in the design of the ship), but all the fighters in this episode launch from the main docking bay. It might be that the bays had not been readjusted for the larger size of the Thunderbolts, so they had to be launched the old-fashioned way.
Why do the Churchill and Alexander wait before launching their fighters? It leaves Babylon 5s three fighter squadrons hanging in the wind closer to the Earthforce ships, rather than presenting a united front.
Why do none of the Omegas use their massive missile batteries? Possibly due to fear of friendly fire, but this is not stated during the episode. This is notable when the Alexander hits the Agrippa from the side with its main beam laser and is facing the Agrippa’s missile battery: a single salvo would have likely finished the Alexander off, given the damage it had sustained previously.
Behind the Scenes: J. Michael Straczynski knew this episode was vitally important and locked himself in his office to write it, telling people not to bother him. He burned through it very quickly, and was relieved when it came out as well as it did.
After delivering the script to the department heads, Straczynski received a call from co-producer Jim Johnston asking if he was insane.
Originally Major Ryan’s role was going to be filled by General Hague, who had previously appeared in episodes B1 and B11. However, Robert Foxworth’s agent had double-booked him on Babylon 5 and a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine two-parter (Homefront and Paradise Lost, in Season 4 of that show). Since that deal was for two episodes and more money per episode, he chose to stick that commitment. Straczynski simply killed him offscreen and transferred his role to Major Ryan.
Straczynski decided to cast Everett McGill (Twin Peaks) as Major Ryan, but couldn’t remember his first name. The casting director thought he meant Bruce McGill. Straczynski realised that Bruce McGill was quite good in the role so went with him instead.
Actor Bruce McGill joked about the casting situation on-set. When Sheridan asked him “Where’s General Hague”, McGill deadpan replied, “He’s on Deep Space Nine,” causing the crew to crack up.
During the battle sequence Jerry Doyle fell over a stuntman and injured his leg. Whilst everyone was paying attention to that, he then managed to break his arm, which is clearly visible during the final scene where he is sliding down the wall. Despite his injuries he trooped on to finish the episode. However, he did film the final shot of leaning on a cane before he broke his arm, leading to a slight injury mismatch with the next episode.
Bruce Boxleitner enjoyed acting with Rance Howard, noting that he was kind of the quintessential American dad and everyone respected and looked up to him.
Mira Furlan was unhappy with the Grey Council scene, since she delivered a great performance but then had to struggle to snap the staff, which was either too strong or too flimsy, and got very frustrated before the prop team got it right. After reading the script and its nod towards messy politics, Furlan asked Straczynski, “So, how long did you live in Yugoslavia for?”
The CG for the episode completely smashed the record set by episode B22, with more than 120 effects shots in 44 minutes (including the PPG fire and composites). It was Foundation Imaging’s biggest challenge to date and the effects team had to call in extra personnel to help get it all done. The episode required more than six weeks of composition and rendering time.
The PPG blasts for this episode were simplified and nowhere near as complex as they normally were. It was impossible to get them done to the standard quality in time.
The Thunderbolt was designed by Steve Burg during Season 2 of the show and Ron Thornton urged Straczynski to let them show it off in Season 3.
Despite the effects, Straczynski thought it was important to show hand-to-hand fighting, as he thought it was possible that the CGI might be desensitising and remote. He also didn’t want too much triumphalism, which is why the episode fades out on the “TRAITORS CAN’T HIDE” Nightwatch poster.
Severed Dreams was the second episode of Babylon 5 (after Season 2’s The Coming of Shadows) to win the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, which it did in 1997. It beat the films Independence Day, Mars Attacks! And Star Trek: First Contact, as well as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Trials and Tribble-ations.
Familiar Faces: Bruce McGill (Major Ryan) is a well-known face on American television and film. His first major role was as “D-Day” in National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978). His film appearances have included The Last Boy Scout, My Cousin Vinny, Cliffhanger, Timecop, The Sum of All Fears and Cinderella Man. He has a good relationship with director Michael Mann, appearing in his movies The Insider, Ali and Collateral. McGill’s most famous genre performance is probably in Quantum Leap, where he appears in both the very first and very last episode; in the latter episode it appears that McGill is either “God” or whatever force has been directing Sam Beckett on his journey through time.
James Parks (Drakhen) has also appeared in Star Trek: Voyager, Space: Above and Beyond and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (playing Tector Gorch in Bad Eggs). His most recent roles include recurring stints on True Blood (as Mack Rattray) and The Son (as Niles Gilbert).
Phil Morris (Lt. Trainor) has the distinction of appearing on two different generations of Star Trek. At the age of just seven he appeared in the famous Original Series episode Miri, as one of the children in the colony. He later appeared as Cadet Foster in the movie Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, the Klingon Commander Thopok in Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places, the Jem’Hadar Remata’Klan in Rocks and Shoals (both in Deep Space Nine) and Lt. John Kelly in One Small Step (for Voyager). Morris’s father Greg Morris played Barney Collier on Mission: Impossible. Morris’s many other roles include Jackie Chiles on Seinfeld, John Jones (aka the Martian Manhunter) on Smallville and Delroy Jones on Love That Girl!
Kim Miyori (Captain Hiroshi) is best-known for playing Dr. Wendy Armstron on St. Elsewhere in the early 1980s, appearing on the show at the same time as Nancy Stafford (Dr. Kirkish) and Stephen Furst (Vir). Her other roles include TJ Hooker, the 1989 Punisher movie, JAG and Cold Case.
Rance Howard (David Sheridan) was an extremely well-respected American actor. His film roles included Cool Hand Luke, Chinatown, Grand Theft Auto, Splash, Cocoon, Innerspace, The ‘burbs, Parenthood, Ed Wood, Apollo 13, Independence Day, A Beautiful Mind and Frost/Nixon. His TV roles included The Andy Griffith Show, Bonanza, Kung Fu, The Waltons, Gunsmoke, Happy Days, Battlestar Galactica, Dynasty, Baywatch and Bones. Howard was the father of actor/director Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard and the grandfather of actresses Bryce Dallas Howard and Paige Howard. Very sadly, Rance Howard passed away on 25 November 2017, just six days before this entry was written. J. Michael Straczynski publicly praised his performance on Babylon 5 upon learning the news and passed his respects to his family.
Review: Severed Dreams is oft-cited as the hands-down BEST episode of Babylon 5. It’s not quite that good, as it is a little too reliant on set-up from previous episodes and its explosive action scenes and battle sequences are not typical of the series, but it’s hard to argue with the amount of story that happens in this episode, or the way it completely rewrites the series premise at the near-exact halfway point of the show’s run. Both guest stars and regulars are on fine form, the effects are excellent (and only slightly showing their age now) and the show delivers an enormous amount of bang for very little buck. It’s certainly one of the very best episodes of the show and deservedly won a Hugo Award back in 1997. *****
David Sheridan: “What was the first less I ever taught you?”
Sheridan: “Never start a fight but always finish it.”
Thank you for reading The Wertzone. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content weeks before it goes live on my blogs. The Cities of Fantasy series is debuting on my Patreon feed and you can read it there one month before being published on the Wertzone.