24 thoughts on “Earhart’s: “Z’ha’dum” Spoiler Space”

  1. So what was Anna? A constructed personality just like Talia? A meat puppet controlled by a Keeper? A downloaded Shadow? Because that eldritch screech it emitted just before it got vapourised suggests there was more to whatever was controlling her.

    And, how complacent are the Shadows and their underlings? Did it not occur to them to smell a rat when Sheridan so willingly went along with his wife? To not check for a second gun? To not take him somewhere he couldn’t get a signal out? Do they think they’re so shit-hot at Game theory that nobody else could ever game them?

    1. A marvellous episode to be dissected in the days to come. I’d like to skip ahead to Justin and his gang, which can seem underwhelming from some views. At it’s best, I’m thinking Black Lodge, tea instead of coffee, comprehensibility with the same unreality, and viewed without the foresight, the perspective the three of them lay out to Sheridan, reads more like a simple devil’s advocacy. The anti-Vorlon statements don’t really have the OOMPF until next season when they’re entirely the twats that Justin’s Tea Room leads us to believe. And as for Anna, I can’t recall if the revelation of what she is was a surprise to me, but it climaxes in one hella eerie sequence, oh yeah.

      1. “Fire!”and then *that* theme music, and you realize “God, that’s where this episode *ends.*” It’s been years since I saw it, and it’s still one of my most vivid memories of watching television ever.

        Sheridan’s words to Delenn at that point strike me as a remarkable misjudgement on the part of JMS, because the logic is so faulty that – at least for me – what should be a powerful emotional response to one of the most important moments is pushed aside by “What the [expletive deleted]?”

        I would be curious as to know why he rejected the simpler and possible option of having Sheridan say “I know that I’m going to pay a terrible price for this, but I just *had* to do it, and I’m hoping that, with my foreknowledge, I can find a different route to the future.” (But better written, obviously.)

        My speculation would be that JMS wanted Sheridan to be powerful and in control at that moment – but this is based on my (at this point expressed ad nauseam maximam, I’m sure) views about Sheridan as a character.

        But I’d argue that there’s a middle ground here: Sheridan can be human and vulnerable, thinking that if there’s any chance that he can save Anna, he has to take the risk. (Until the Justin scene, when, exactly as in the episode as written, he can conclude that Anna would never have gone along with this, and that therefore this is no longer Anna.)

        And then it can still work that Sheridan is resourceful: he can have thought that he could find a way to go to Z’ha’dum and still win, because perhaps in the other future (he thinks) he didn’t load up the White Star with nuclear weapons. That would be very Sheridan, to try to find a way out of an apparently impossible situation.

        This is, admittedly, complicated by the way time-travel seems to work in B5, which is the version in which nothing can change, and any alterations brought about by time-travel are already factored in. But from Sheridan’s perspective, it would be reasonable.

        This is making it sound as if I dislike what is one of my favorite episodes. Let me compensate by noting how effective it is that JMS doesn’t bother trying to come up with something to explain how Sheridan gets from firing on the Shadows to the confrontation with Anna on the cliff.

        Works incredibly well, in part because it’s one of Boxleitner’s best performances – the expression on his face when we see him again is just riveting, before he’s even said anything – but not just that. I wish JMS used this device more often, because he’s a master at figuring out ways not to explain things.

        1. Sheridan’s stated motives here are one of those many moments where I’m left wondering if the character was being stupid or if the show was being stupid. Did JMS intentionally write Sheridan to be driven by fridge logic or did JMS fall into fridge logic himself in a failed attempt to make Sheridan look smart?

          The show has a bad habit (which, sadly, gets much worse from this point forward) of making missteps where I’m left wondering whether I’m supposed to dislike the characters for their mistakes or if I should dislike the show for being sloppily written.

          If the time travel fridge logic is stripped away then Sheridan’s only motivation to nuke the Shadows is because they stuffed his second wife in the fridge. Aside from the fact that this kind of plot is unpolitic, it’s a deeply uninspired cliche at this point. The fridge logic might have been there in an effort to make Sheridan have more noble motives. It backfires, of course, by making Sheridan look like an idiot.

          One of my criticisms of this episode is whatever was Delenn thinking to allow Sheridan to run off with one of her White Stars? The show increasingly ignores this, but the White Stars belong to the Minbari, not Sheridan, and there’s no reason for the Minbari to let Sheridan take one of their best ships to somewhere where the Shadows could reverse-engineer it to find weaknesses.

          Play out Minbar’s national interests and Sheridan ought to have been stripped of his control over the White Stars the moment he got cozy with shadow!Anna.

          I don’t feel the show gave Delenn and the Minbari any dignity by reducing them to Sheridan’s props instead of letting their natural motives play freely. But that’s a subject I’m going to give both barrels to shortly–because it gets a lot worse.

          1. I’m basically in agreement with you that the show tends to reduce Delenn to being a prop for Sheridan, but I’m not as far down that road as you are. Some thoughts:

            – I don’t get the sense that the White Stars are meant to be Minbari national property. They’re attached to the Rangers, specifically, of which Delenn is now head. Since the breaking of the Grey Council, there is no unified Minbar as such, really, just different factions, one of which has Delenn at its head.

            So the question is why Delenn does what she does. A mixture of guilt and adoring trust in Sheridan, both as her romantic partner and as the head of the Army of Light, I think. Also, I think the show implies pretty strongly that this particular White Star is Sheridan’s and was given to him to command, with all the codes etc. that he needs.

            – I don’t feel that Sheridan’s motivation for nuking the Shadows is all that implausible. As far as he’s concerned, they’re the bad guys, and nothing Justin said gave him reason to think differently. They gave him an opportunity to slip a WMD past their defenses, and he took it.

            – second wife. Well, it’s clear that no first marriage to Lochley existed at this point – the character is the product of Claudia Christian’s departure. Not sure that it really matters one way or the other, though.

            – on the fridge logic, though – I can’t see any way that we’re supposed to think that Sheridan is being stupid, so I’m going with the show. The thing is, this isn’t a mistake that a stupid person would make. Or an intelligent one. The only way to make this mistake would have been not to have heard what Delenn said in the flash-forward at all.

          2. “The only way to make this mistake would have been not to have heard what Delenn said in the flash-forward at all.”

            It seems sensible enough to me. Delenn says that Centauri Prime’s devastation is an unavoidable side-effect of the way they won the war, and with sixteen years of hindsight, she knows no way it could’ve been avoided without losing the Shadow War altogether, so Sheridan has to go back and do everything exactly as she remembers it, and cannot try any alternate approach. She’s very emphatic about that. Almost as emphatic as she is when she tells John a little later that under absolutely no circumstances should he go to Z’ha’dum.

            Sheridan’s interpretation of her instructions hinges on whether or not he thinks Delenn changed her mind between the conversation in the cell and her last words to him, whether “Don’t go to Z’ha’dum” was a contradiction or a reiteration of what she told him earlier. So, what basis does he have to think Delenn was having a moment of weakness before he left, rather than just wanting to remind him not to do a stupid thing she’s sure would’ve cost them the war if he had?

            And if it’s the latter (as Sheridan deduces, wrongly), he’s been trained over the past two seasons to trust his seat-of-the-pants crazy human thinking over hidebound Minbari doctrine. He defeated the Black Star, two Shadow ships, and anticipated the ambush in Sector 83, and in all those cases, the Minbari in general or Delenn specifically either disapproved of his tactics or genuinely believed they wouldn’t work. If Delenn thinks John not going to Z’ha’dum is what won the Shadow War, well, by God, she hasn’t counted on him going to Z’ha’dum the John Sheridan Way. That’s what he’s thinking.

            The other interesting avenue for speculation is what would’ve happened if he listened? Delenn obviously wasn’t thinking of anything beyond it being her only chance to keep her husband from dropping dead in three years when she told him not to go to Z’ha’dum, but would it even have been possible for them to have survived another way? If Sheridan ignores Anna, he never finds Lorien, but the Vorlons never have an incitement to start destroying planets. It’s entirely possible we get another run-of-the-mill Shadow War, where the Shadows’ fleet is either depleted to the point where they can no longer fight, or Sheridan’s alliance splinters, the galaxy descends into a mass of all-out interstellar wars, and the Shadows eventually, I don’t know, go back into their caves on their own when they get bored. Though, it’s also possible the Vorlons would’ve gotten impatient and started destroying planets anyway, and Sheridan’s underhanded attack on Z’ha’dum was just an excuse they used. In which case, everyone probably would’ve died horribly without Lorien and what Sheridan learned on Z’ha’dum.

          3. I think David pretty much has it nailed. Delen says “No, this cannot be changed or we would have lost the war.” And then says “Don’t go to Za’Ha’Dum!” This implies fairly heavily that he should not go to Za’Ha’Dum if he is to create the victory-at-the-expense-of-Centari-Prime future he saw. He has no idea what “price” Delen is talking about, and for all he knew Centari Prime WAS the price she meant.

            Sounds like a reasonable reason to try something different to me.

            As for Sheridan taking the White Star, he makes a big show of getting the crew off the ship to be processed with station security. He basically steals it more than the Minbari let him take it. And him having the command code makes perfect sense since Delenn has granted him equal authority over the Rangers.

          4. And the security chief is Ranger liason, for bridgework on that decision.

            You’d should all click on the link to David’s website for some remarkable B5 and Trek CGI rendering.

    2. Anna’s post-Z’ha’dum (the planet, not the episode) story is covered in the canon Technomage novel-trilogy.


      In the first two books, she’s mostly just a ship, going around, cutting Narns to ribbons and having a grand old time. The third book covers what happens when the Shadows realize how much more useful she could be as a human, after John becomes a big wheel in the Army of Light. The Shadows’ programming was substantial, and there’s essentially nothing left of the old Anna except her body. She’s got the personality of a puppy. She’s eager to complete her mission, but she doesn’t understand why she has to do it in the crappy puny human body, instead of her giant badass spaceship body, and why she has to talk to John, instead of simply blasting him with purple lasers until he dies. Morden and Justin try to teach Anna how to play human, and have a bunch of little stage-play rehearsals trying to anticipate everything that could happen on Babylon 5 (here’s what you do if you meet Delenn first, he’s what you do if he asks about the rest of the Icarus crew, so on, so forth). Morden finds it especially frustrating, being the only one who actually knew the real Anna, and that this thing the Shadows made her into just can’t get it right. And Anna’s frustrated, because she’s a spaceship and wants to be doing spaceship things. They finally tell her that all she has to do is go to Babylon 5, play out exactly the game-plan Justin and Morden have taught her, not screw up anything, and then they’ll put her back in her damn Machine.

      I don’t recall whether her final moments were something she was told to do by Morden or Justin in a “fix this, or else” way, or if she was winging it on her own.

      Unfortunately, the Technomage trilogy didn’t explain one of my biggest unanswered B5 questions: Who is Justin? How did he come to be on Z’ha’dum? What’s he doing with his hands, does he know the Jedi Mind Trick or something? However, it does include a number of frustrating Forest Gump-esque crossovers into on-screen events and blatant retcons, including rewriting an entire episode. Don’t get me wrong, they’re good books, but while the parts I like are great, the parts I dislike are really irritating to me.

      1. Oh, and the novel does explain why the Shadows were caught so flat-footed by Sheridan’s fairly obvious tricks. I don’t remember why they missed the second gun, but the White Star not being shot down was covered.

        1. I also like the explanation for why Anna screams as the White Star comes crashing down. Granted the scream makes sense on its own, but the underlying reason given in those books gives it a nice creepy undertone as she basically reverts back to her “I am a ship!” in her final moments.

  2. back in the 90’s on “general hospital” there was a story when one character gets married and then when he is ready to say his vows his dead wife shows up! Sheridan Delenn Anna is such a soap. soap in space lol

  3. I have an interesting thought that maybe puts a new spin on things…

    Did future!Delenn tell Sheridan not to go to Z’ha’dum because that’s what he told her that she told him? In other words, was she doing it because she knew she’d done it “before”? She knew all about Sinclair becoming Valen, about the importance of prophecy and how the past can’t be changed. Well, Sheridan going to Z’ha’dum WAS the past, for her.

    In other words, future!Delenn knew he wouldn’t listen to her. And the emotion in her voice would be because she knew that he had to go to Z’ha’dum, meet Lorien, and discover the way to end the Shadow-Vorlon war. And her emotion, too, in secretly hoping that he might listen to her, even when that would be very selfish and ultimately ruin the victory they’d won.

    That still means that Sheridan didn’t think the whole thing through. But he hasn’t thought it through since he first met Morden; he’d ALWAYS planned to go to Z’ha’dum, no matter what anyone else told him.

    1. That has long been my interpretation of the flashforward: Delenn was acting to preserve the timeline in the full knowledge that she was sending Sheridan to his early death by doing so.

      If she wanted to break the timeline by preventing Sheridan from going to Z’ha’dum she could have phrased her warning differently, such as ‘the Centauri were destroyed and you will die before our son grows up because you went to Z’ha’dum.’

      But, in the end, I don’t think future!Delenn was willing to risk breaking her past (Minbari are, after all as JMS has said in relation to this scene, uncomfortable with change) so she said what Sheridan told her she said to make sure her past was unchanged.

      1. Put like that, I don’t buy it. Delenn is a manipulator but values love highly, too high for that. I guess the question is, what does Sheridan actually accomplish by going to Z’ha’dum? He pauses the war, sees who’s behind the curtain, blows up a city: but not s whole lot else. (And someone said he gave the Vorlons the impetus to retaliate, is that so?)

        I say her plea was genuine. Sheridan does not do a lot by going. His journey, viewed from the future, is maybe not selfish for the character but it is good for the audience.

        1. Yeah, Darth-Kosh specifically sites Sheridan’s actions as “opening an unexpected door” or something like that which serves as their jumping off point for obliterating whole planets, innocent bystanders be-darned.

        2. Actually, Sheridan accomplished A LOT by going to Z’ha’dum. Not directly by blowing up their city. But by going to Z’ha’dum, he met Lorien.

          If he didn’t meet Lorien, he wouldn’t have discovered the meaning behind the Vorlon-Shadow war. If he didn’t meet Lorien, then Lorien couldn’t have helped find the other First Ones, who helped “convince” the Vorlons and Shadows to leave the galaxy.

          Without going to Z’ha’dum, the best they could hope for was a continuation of the status quo, maybe fight the Shadows off enough that they go into hiding again. By going to Z’ha’dum, Sheridan was (eventually) able to bring the Shadow War to a final and definitive end.

          Based on what Delenn said, I’m certain that emotionally, she would’ve been very happy if Sheridan did not go to Z’ha’dum. But remember that her warning not to go came after she said that the devastation of Centauri Prime could only be avoided by “surrendering” to the Shadows. It may be a stretch, but surrendering to the Shadows would be equivalent to letting the Shadows do what they wanted… keep kicking over the ant hills.

          The “terrible price” that Delenn referred to wasn’t (just) Centauri Prime. It was Sheridan’s sacrifice. She knew that his actions brought about the end of the war.

          Finally, remember that time travel is effectively unheard of in B5. This isn’t Star Trek or Stargate. No one even believes in time travel, until Sheridan and the gang do it. A stable time loop is the most realistic, and most believable form of time travel. Changing the past is impossible in a stable time loop, because the past has already happened, and your future is the past.

          “Time travel. Since my first day on the job as a Starfleet captain I swore I’d never let myself get caught in one of these godforsaken paradoxes – the future is the past, the past is the future, it all gives me a headache.” — Captain Kathryn Janeway

  4. My biggest question about Babylon-5 relates to the secrets Delenn keeps from Sheridan:

    Does she ever tell him that it was her deciding vote in a moment of rage that caused the Earth-Mimbari war and caused so many humans to die?

    1. From JMS posted to the Lurker’s Guide:

      Won’t Sheridan be upset when he finds out Delenn ordered the war?

      “Listen, honey, while you were out I went to the store and I bought some new candles, you know how we’re always running out, and Lennier took the cat in to be cleaned, and oh, did I mention I was directly responsible for the deaths of two hundred and fifty thousand of your best friends and fellow officers? Pass the sugar.”

      She’ll never tell him.

      Because it’s over…what would be the point, except to ruin what they have now.

      1. I suppose the Mimbari are good at keeping secrets, but I’m sure they also keep very good meeting minutes.

        War secrets come out, I find it hard to believe that he wouldn’t find out.

        What a thing to hang over a marriage…

        1. It strikes me as a unhealthy idea about relationships, frankly. I am charitably going to suppose that JMS was covering up for “I don’t want to write that episode.”

          1. I don’t think JMS could write that episode because I don’t think Sheridan would forgive Delenn if he knew. He might be able to understand her snapping as Dukhat lay dying in her hands, but I don’t think he’d be able to accept her concealing her role in the war for so long. Writing that episode would mean writing a divorce or a murder/suicide and I can appreciate that’s not where JMS wanted to go with his lead couple. However, if he didn’t want to go there, he shouldn’t have written S&D into a hole that they couldn’t be written out of.

            I do find it curious that Lennier’s covered-over belief, that Delenn is marrying Sheridan out of a desire for absolution, is never rejected.

            The show seemed to go out of its way to put S&D’s relationship into an unhealthy space without seemingly realizing it.

  5. Out of replies to respond to the David Gian-Cursio and Akrovah theory of Sheridan’s time-travel logic, so I’m saying this here.

    It’s an interesting argument, and it would resolve things nicely if it works. I’ll have to watch WWE and Z’ha’dum carefully sometime with a view to seeing how well the dialogue communicates it, especially Sheridan’s wording in his message for Delenn.

    I think at a minimum the writing does not do a job of getting this across, but it may well be no more than that. Note however that it strengthens Cassandra’s arguments about there being a problem with the Sheridan-Delenn relationship, because there’s a bigger problem if Sheridan thinks that his beloved partner and equal was telling him something important with superior foreknowledge of the future, and overrides that because “Hey, I’m John Sheridan, and what does she know?”

  6. Right now (or 250 years from now) in this galaxy Yoda?

    Never really thought about Sheridan being Gandalf. His tale in some ways struck me more as paralleling that of Frodo. In that he has to go to Mordor without Gandalf (and Aragorn, though in thinking that more from the film scene where he says he would have gone all the way with him. To Mordor! Get your minds out of the gutter already).

    Wow. You know, it feels like we waited forever for the podcast to reach season three – and now we’re done with it already. Where did the time go?

    Also, I had no idea we in the UK got to see everything past WWE, to Z, before the US & Canada. But then we had to wait till the middle of ’97 to see the cliffhanger resolved so, swings & roundabouts.

    Lastly, a shoutout to my brother who recorded much of the season for me while I was out of the country, and only missed one ep (Shadow Dancing, sadly). Thank God for 90 minute lunch-breaks, and a spare VCR, at work.

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