29 thoughts on “Zocalo: Spoiler-free Discussion of “Severed Dreams””

  1. there is nothing I can say here that others won’t say better. So much goodness – one of the top B5 eps full stop.

  2. For my money, the best single instance of pure space opera in televised SF. Not the best episode of Babylon 5 by any means, and perhaps not even the best episode in S3: spaceships and explosions only count for so much. But the best use of spectacle in the whole series.

    One non-spoiler piece of info for the new viewers that someone is bound to mention, so it might as well be me: Major Ryan is doubly an accident. On the one hand, the character only exists because the actor who played General Hague in S2 was double-booked and did an episode of Deep Space 9 instead. On the other hand, JMS made a mistake with the name of the actor that he wanted cast, and the person playing Major Ryan was not who he intended. It’s interesting that, in a show in which we tend so much to emphasize planning, a successful if secondary aspect of one of the most pivotal episodes is shaped so much by chance.

    I also appreciate the presence of Captain Hiroshi. Babylon 5 is pretty good with representation as far as the regulars go, but it can fall down in these guest characters. So it deserves noting when it doesn’t.

  3. Historical context: I think this was mentioned in the podcast for “Point Of No Return”, but keep in mind that there were several weeks of repeats between that episode and “Severed Dreams”. The guys at the Foundation Imaging render farm probably appreciated that delay, but the rest of us…

    1. And this although as the lurkers guide states they filmed this episode as one of the earliest of the season, long before the Points of no Return

  4. I feel like a git for saying anything negative about such a great episode, but the Minbari ranger around 10m is just so hammy it makes my head spin. Tone it down dude!

    On the plus side, it makes everyone else’s performances look even better.

    “I say fight.”


    So good 🙂

  5. IMHO the best Babylon 5 episodes. I remember when I 1st saw it when I was young teen, I saw it w/my mom and brother and we all were in shock we couldn’t stand up from the couch lol When episode of tv gets you that reaction you know it’s good episode..

    Also need to credit JMS the actors and the director it felt like watching war movie when you can’t even breath for a second bc second after second you have action..

  6. Awesome performance by Mira Furlan as Delenn. Can’t decide whether the Council speech or her threat to the Earth attackers is better.

    1. Oh, I’d definitely go with number 2: best Big Speech Moment in the entire series, for me. And the series is notoriously not short on speeches…

    2. yeah for me its clearly #2, the council speech was fine, but doesn’t rate in the top speeches of B5 at all for me 😉

  7. To Steven’s question about the title, it absolutely (okay, in my interpretation) is refering to Babylon 5’s original mission statement, which Chip touched on, “Bablyon 5 was a dream given form.” That dream has now severed itself from Earth, the government that had put its hopes of peace into it. It also in that way a calls back to the opening monolog of Season 3, “The Babylon project was our last, best hope for peace. It failed.” By this point in the series the idea that it has failed at establishing peace is no more apparent than this moment, as even the people who built it in the hopes of avoiding war are now at war with each other.

  8. The podcast suggested that B5 space battles weren’t “realistic” because they didn’t have energy shields like Trek.

    Since we’re obviously short of actual experience, our ideas about space combat reflect what underlying assumptions the writer(s) make.

    Trek has energy shields, because the writers wanted space battles in the style of Nelson and Hornblower, or dreadnoughts in World War 1. Big ships pounding each other, slowly battering opponents into submission, no aircraft to spoil things.

    Babylon 5 looks like naval or air combat since the 1960s. Armour doesn’t work any more, if you can’t shoot down the incoming missiles you’re dead. And powerful lasers, just starting to move from research to deployment, take time to charge and you only get a limited number of shots.

    It’s different, but it’s still realistic. Arguably more so, since B5 is “low tech” compared to Trek.

    1. The way I took “realistic” on the podcast was “visually convincing” rather than actually true to how things would work.

      B5’s version of space combat is well suited to exploit what CGI could do, which is a lot of dynamic motion. Hence, fighters.

      I’d someday like to see a film or TV version of space combat that really reflected just how long the distances might be, the likely importance of detection, etc. Something of the feel of a submarine movie: tense scenes in a control room, in which the viewer can only see the same sensor displays as the characters. Cheap on the VFX budget!

      1. We saw a long distance battle between the Narn and Shadows in The Long Twilight Struggle. B5 is right next to a jumpgate, which would compress the action into a smaller space.

        And it probably doesn’t help the staging and presentation to have original 4:3 CGI chopped off at the top and bottom 🙁

  9. And while I’m on this MilSciFi rant, someone said that the Narn weren’t good at tactics.

    I disagree. The Narn in Severed Dreams understand the nature of the battle better than Garibaldi does, which is why they ignore him.

    B5 security are police. Some of them may be very good, like SWAT teams today, but they’re still police. The Earthforce invaders are soldiers. In a firefight between police and soldiers, the soldiers will win. The Narn realise this and turn the fight into a hand to hand brawl where numbers count for more than weaponry.

    1. I think I was the one who brought that up, and I meant that the Narn were headstrong in that situation. Garibaldi had made a tactical decision and the impression onscreen is that the Narn were too full of their equivalent of adrenaline to stop and follow orders. And we also know that plenty of the B5 security team are military/former military, so I don’t know that you can diss Garibaldi’s plan – it would have been the same number of opponents coming out of the pod no matter where they were met.

      1. Yes, the Narn are certainly headstrong. This is my head canon reasoning as to why the Narn charge is not only more effective dramatically, but makes sense within the story.

        Garibaldi’s plan isn’t bad, but probably won’t work. Even with ex-military (including Garibaldi) among B5 security, the Earthforce are the professionals at covering fire and outflanking and that sort of thing. What they’re not expecting is a brawl. Sure they’ll be trained for hand to hand as well, but here B5 security have a lot of recent experience themselves with the riots we’ve seen.

        A Narn shooting a PPG is no different to a human shooting a PPG. But we saw earlier in the episode with the wounded ranger that Narn are much stronger than humans or Minbari, so again a hand to hand fight gives them an advantage over the Earthforce attackers.

        1. Well, the Narn looked kamikaze to me but it’s interesting you bring up Earthforce military, as it does make an argument for the Narn tactics, ie. We know there are unaccounted for Nightwatch on the station. If they’d infiltrated Garibaldi’s group, wouldn’t this combat situ be the perfect time for them to strike?

      2. I don’t think the Narn were exactly “full of adrenaline” so much as they were voluntarily placing themselves in the line of fire as the first wave of defenders. It’s true we didn’t see any sort of coordination among the Narns ahead of time, but basically what they did was be Human (err, living) shields to help the B5 security people do their job.

        A standoff battle would have favored the attackers: they’d have the initiative, the positioning, and the ability to try to find ways around the defenders. As Hugh points out, a brawl favored the defenders.

        The Narn charge was just a literal example of the “let’s sacrifice ourselves so others may be saved” philosophy, and it tipped the balance in B5’s favor.

          1. All trough the show we had people willing to die to save others and save the cause.. Season 2 when Jakar tried to look for the Shadows the other narns in his mission died to save him, the same goes in the beginning of season 3 Marcos only arrived to Babylon 5 bc the Drazi pilot sacrificed himself to save Marcos. So this episode is written in this theme

  10. Another great podcast about one of my favourite episodes. Thanks team and Steven.

    Very favourite comment to date – Shannon discussing Clarke’s sending ships to B5 saying
    ..and then we see all the shoty shooty in space… (@ 36 mins)
    which about sums it up rather succinctly. I’ll be quoting this…

  11. Posting this in the most non-spoilery way I can:

    There is an infamous gag on the Babylon 5 Season 3 Blooper Reel involving Bruce “McGuyver’s friend” McGill.

    It’s absolutely hilarious, and bang on point! I’m actually a bit disappointed that our dear hosts didn’t mention it in the episode.

    I recommend searching it out after you have finished watching season 3. The reel contains bloopers and gags from the entire season, so there are spoilers for the rest of the season. After you’ve finished the season, it is on the dvd set as an Easter egg. It’s also available on YouTube. But again, it contains spoilers for all of season 3, so wait until you are finished the season!

  12. No doubt there are people looking at the military tactics discussion threads and wondering why.

    Because, IMHO, Babylon 5 is one of the rare shows/films where the battles are as carefully written for story and theme as any other aspect. They’re not just pyrotechnics to amuse the viewer.

    If you’re one of the people who tune out during the fights, that’s fine. Everyone has a different way of watching and appreciating. For example, I don’t notice the directorial choices that our hosts do – but I’m enjoying the commentary anyway.

    1. i agree I think Babylon 5 always put focus on how the battle will be fought than just showing fight scenes. you always see some thinking from the Babylon 5 characters on strategy, Sheridan is known for always thinking on his feet when his back is against the wall..

      I think Babylon 5 is more military focus than other shows that show military in the future including Star Trek.

  13. At first, I thought the use of the hologram to announce independence from Earth was a bit silly. Kind of a “we have these cool toys and aren’t using them” situation. Then I thought about it from the perspective of everyone on the station and combined it with the idea from some of the non-human species that the station is “blessed” by their local deity. If you thought your god appeared on the station and then all of a sudden Sheridan’s hologram appeared above you, wouldn’t that be a bit overwhelming and awe inspiring?

  14. I’m in the midst of my own-rewatch and just hit Severed Dreams. I do have to say I disagree with a few of the comments re: Direction that were mentioned in this episode.

    First, the “dolly zoom” shot. I give a bit more credit to the creative team for this one. It wasn’t just a “show-off” shot, it was used in that moment in an incredibly effective manner to highlight the turmoil in Sheridan. Notice how the effect wasn’t just in the shot itself but also that the other characters in the room kept talking but their volume was turned down and Sheridan just sat there silent.

    The other big one was the pan through C&C right before the big battle started. I found this choice to be particularly effective and moving, sort of emphasizing the calm before the storm, and having a more focused view on one or two characters looking tense would have been the more obvious and hackneyed choice, IMO.

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