Zocalo: Spoiler-free Discussion of “Z’ha’dum”

To quote Chip in the episode: “Third season finale spectacular!”

What did you think about having such a massive cliffhanger for ending a season, especially given that at the time the next season was not guaranteed? What worked for you? What didn’t? Pull apart this episode and everything that has led us here in this space.

15 thoughts on “Zocalo: Spoiler-free Discussion of “Z’ha’dum””

  1. Lots to talk about, but here’s one bad thing and one good thing:

    The bad thing: Sheridan’s time-travel reasoning makes no sense, because Delenn made it pretty damn clear that he *did* go to Z’ha’dum in that future.

    The good thing: For my money, the best cliffhanger in American SFTV. You heard me, Best of Both Worlds part I, I said the best. Not quite up there with the end of Blake’s 7 series 2, but close.

    1. Star One was great, pity about Aftermath?

      Sheridan’s reasoning, (while the delivery is a Brucey Prize), well, its close to Homer Simpson logic, except for the ‘I has future times knowledge to help me.’ He’s one of few known people to solo time travel, without direct Vorlon aid.

      Or did he? An excuse in my head canon: that all the off-scene Kosh training sessions included talk about time travel. Which makes little sense continuity-wise but is viable in The-Matrix way.

      Jump, Voord99, jump!

    2. I’d say “Mr. Worf, fire” from TNG’s Best of Both Worlds, part I is a far better cliffhanger. It’s not set up by fridge logic (e.g. your ‘bad thing’), isn’t contaminated by badly thought out time travel that gives away the ending, and was allegedly set up due to contract negotiations that made the outcome unknown even to the writers.

      This cliffhanger looks quite contrived in comparison.

      1. I’m a big fan of many of Trek’s cliffhangers (my favorite is from DS9, when Gul Dukat captured the station). But I have to correct one thing… there were no contract negotiations. Patrick Stewart had a 6-year contract, so they never thought of writing him out of the show. It’s just that everyone got so worked up over the cliffhanger (and no internet) that they assumed he might be leaving.

        As for “Z’ha’dum”, I think you’re being to harsh on the cliffhanger, partially because Sheridan’s flawed argument obscures the consequences. Assuming that his vision of the future was real, there are only two reasons for Delenn to tell him not to go:

        1) Because Sheridan did not go, and he didn’t go because she told him, and she was doing what she was “supposed” to do, or

        2) Because Sheridan DID go, and it ended badly, and she wished that he hadn’t gone.

        The biggest flaw, I think, is Sheridan assuming that he could change events when Sinclair already demonstrated that you can’t!

        So yeah, the logic is faulty, but I don’t think that matters. The best cliffhangers aren’t exciting because you’re worried about who lives or dies. (That’s acceptable, but not required.) The best cliffhangers are exciting because OH MY GAWD I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT HAPPENED, WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?!?!

        (To use a non-sci-fi example, no one was concerned about whether J.R. would survive… everyone just wanted to know who shot him.)

        And by that criteria, “Z’ha’dum” delivered in spades.

        1. I am aware that I’m not normal in what follows…

          For me, one important ingredient in a cliffhanger is that I care about the characters involved. And the main reason who BotB part 1 is less effective for me is that I’ve never been able to muster up much interest in, let alone affection for, the large majority of the characters on TNG.

          Bland *and* smug. Let them all die along with their “improving” hobbies and certainty that they know the one true best way about how to live.

          Worf is about the only complete exception. I’d miss Picard, but not because of the character, but because of Patrick Stewart’s performance. I can see the case for Data, but for some reason the character rubs me up the wrong way. But Crusher, LaForge, Riker, Troi – I’m rooting for the Borg.

          As I said, I know this isn’t a popular opinion. I have a friend who mists up at the thought of All Good Things… and says “It’s about the *characters*” Just don’t feel it, never have.

          1. Oh, but no, Trek tells us how we’d all be in a better world not leaving water on the floor after a shower or pooping. Here, read my book, 42 Ways To Enhance Your Perfection. EVERY good Royal or CEO should have one.

            On the other hand, why *did* Worf shoot at the viewscreen image of Q?

  2. I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since this was first shown! This was an amazing cliffhanger, I much prefer the episodes which turn the story/show in new directions over cliffhangers which are based around “how does our hero get out of this?”. While it was nice to see this ahead of the US, the wait until season 4 aired in the UK was soooooo long. During that wait myself and a friend made this:


    There were a few of these music videos being done by fans at the time (based on something JMS showed at a convention where the production team made a ‘I need a hero’ video for season 1) – but check out that amazing VHS quality!

  3. When Babylon 5 was first broadcast TV watching was controlled by the Vorlons and we couldn’t just download episodes whenever we wanted. We had to wait fragging months between the end of one season and the start of another, not weeks.

    So what did fans do in between? Well, we had books and comics to tide us over. And now we’re at the end of season 3 I think it’s reasonable to mention these.

    The books fall into two groups. First are the “numbered” stand alones, from #1 Voices to #9 To Dream in the City of Sorrows. All but #8 Personal Agendas are now spoiler free for new viewers. (And the reviews I’ve seen of #8 say it’s terrible anyway.)

    Quality varies. My personal recommendations are #7 The Shadows Within and #9 To Dream in the City of Sorrows.

    The second group are the trilogies, one series about the Psi Corp and Bester, one series about the Centauri, and one about the Technomages.

    They’re better, but also unfortunately full of spoilers. Don’t read them. Yes, the first two Psi Corp books are set before the TV series, but could you really read those two books and then postpone reading the third for two more years?

    Anyone want to write about the comics? (And can someone confirm that the numbered books other than #8 are spoiler free for seasons 4 and 5?)

  4. The second I heard them say “Anyone who didn’t agree to work for them, was killed,” I knew Sheridan would have to confront the form of his dead wife.

    My mom died when I was 12, which obviously ends up being a formative experience, but not just in the trauma itself. I was a young boy watching my primary male role model deal with the loss of his partner. For that reason, I really didn’t want to have to watch a man confront a Semblence of his former partner, that I knew he’d have to oppose. It’s rough stuff for me to deal with. I’m glad the emotional beats came from Sheridan feeling like Delenn had deceived him, and her pain at hearing that, rather than Sheridan tearfully putting a knife into the shape of his former partner (which is usually where the trope draws its emotion).

    But, Wow, heck of a way to end a season. I’ve predicted a fair number of story beats, but this is not the direction I thought it would go. Excited to see what’s next.

  5. Also, I really like the way JMS frames his messaging here. The Shadows believe in Progress through Competition, the best survive and thrive. What ends up being unspoken is what we’ve seen through the rest show, Progress through Collaboration, we learn from each other and become better. As a Recovering Libertarian, there is still a part of that Competition argument that resonates for me, but recently I’ve been thinking about the types of Competition our culture elevates, and how we might rather elevate Non-Adversarial Competition. American Ninja Warrior is a Competition, but all the participants cheer on their opponents, and celebrate their successes. They push themselves to go as far as they can, and still have it in them to hope their opponent goes farther. It’s not lost on me that this Non-Adversarial Competition is a product of Japanese culture not American.

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