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Old September 16th 19, 22:31   #1
Raw Shark
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Severed Dreams Questions

I found myself watching Severed Dreams recently. It's a hell of an episode, with a lot going on, but one thing stuck out this time that didn't before. It's because of what B5historyman confirmed (along with JMS’ online posts) about Deathwalker and the Wind Swords: that Shadow agents had influence over the Wind Swords, which led to their attempt to assassinate Ambassador Kosh in the Gathering. Direct, indirect, it's not clear. But they somehow got a fanatical clan of Minbari warriors to act against the Minbari Federation's most important ally, and almost start a new war. If Kosh died, or Babylon 5 was destroyed, the aftershocks from this event would have been astounding. If the assassination had succeeded, the party that would benefit from sabotaging the Babylon Project would be the Shadows, who are supposed to be the true enemy that the Minbari Warrior Caste would make war against when the next great conflict began. That’s their job, their raison d’etre. 'They build, you pray, we fight.' This didn't happen. The Warrior Caste proved unreliable and unfaithful.

In Severed Dreams, Delenn learns from a Ranger, and then from the Grey Council itself, that the Warrior Caste was going to sit out the war, rather than get involved in the 'problems of others.' Were other warrior clans, or the Grey Council itself, the target of an influence operation by the Shadows or their agents? The method seems clear, play to the Minbari warriors’ streak of xenophobia, and their hesitation to fight on the same side as humans, whom they still blame for the death of their leader Dukhat. Humans are the real enemy, after all, ask any Minbari warrior. Whatever it takes to convince them to do nothing while the Shadows rampaged across the galaxy. A few discreet whispers in the right ears might yield a massive coup against an enemy that has been preparing to fight the Shadows for a thousand years, just when the war is kicking into high gear.

Like I said, there was a lot going on in that episode, with the established order of the series being turned on its head before our eyes, so this is an issue I didn't really come back to consider until now. I had my friend record a lot of season 3 on videotape when it first aired, while I was overseas for six months. I got back, stayed up all night and watched ten of them in a row, including Severed Dreams. Sleep was de-prioritized, I'm sure you all understand.

Strategically, if such an operation did take place in the background (and so many important events in Babylon 5 happened in the background), it reminds me of Imperial Germany facilitating the travel of Vladimir Lenin back to Russia during World War I. He told the Germans he was a revolutionary, and that once he toppled the Czar and established a new government, he would pull Russia out of the war against Germany, and he did so. For a very small investment (mainly train tickets), Germany knocked one of its main opponents out of the war when it really counted. Did the Shadows do something similar to undermine the Minbari Warrior Caste? Has JMS ever elaborated on this momentous decision? Saying they would not fight the Shadows is almost like saying it’s not their job, that they are no longer the Warrior Caste and have no responsibilities after all. Where is the honor in that?

The alternative is that we accept that the leaders of the Warrior Caste made this dishonorable decision all on their own, even though we have already seen the Shadows’ corrupting influence over the Wind Swords. The political impact of this decision cannot be overstated. As Delenn said, the warriors broke the covenant with Valen, and the Grey Council itself was broken up over this matter. This was a shattering event in Minbari society, and it led to the Minbari Civil War in season 4. The most ordered society in the story was cast down into chaos, and even started killing each other again after a thousand years of peace. All of this can be explained by their leaders being corrupted by unseen agents.

Raw Shark

“Damn you Lord Papal! Damn your mad war! Damn it all…”
Vanth Dreadstar
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Old September 17th 19, 04:00   #2
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Re: Severed Dreams Questions

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Originally Posted by Raw Shark View Post
I found myself watching Severed Dreams recently. It's a hell of an episode, with a lot going on, but one thing stuck out this time that didn't before. It's because of what B5historyman confirmed (along with JMS’ online posts) about Deathwalker and the Wind Swords: that Shadow agents had influence over the Wind Swords, which led to their attempt to assassinate Ambassador Kosh in the Gathering. Direct, indirect, it's not clear. But they somehow got a fanatical clan of Minbari warriors to act against the Minbari Federation's most important ally, and almost start a new war. If Kosh died, or Babylon 5 was destroyed, the aftershocks from this event would have been astounding. If the assassination had succeeded, the party that would benefit from sabotaging the Babylon Project would be the Shadows, who are supposed to be the true enemy that the Minbari Warrior Caste would make war against when the next great conflict began. That’s their job, their raison d’etre. 'They build, you pray, we fight.' This didn't happen. The Warrior Caste proved unreliable and unfaithful.

In Severed Dreams, Delenn learns from a Ranger, and then from the Grey Council itself, that the Warrior Caste was going to sit out the war, rather than get involved in the 'problems of others.' Were other warrior clans, or the Grey Council itself, the target of an influence operation by the Shadows or their agents? The method seems clear, play to the Minbari warriors’ streak of xenophobia, and their hesitation to fight on the same side as humans, whom they still blame for the death of their leader Dukhat. Humans are the real enemy, after all, ask any Minbari warrior. Whatever it takes to convince them to do nothing while the Shadows rampaged across the galaxy. A few discreet whispers in the right ears might yield a massive coup against an enemy that has been preparing to fight the Shadows for a thousand years, just when the war is kicking into high gear.

Like I said, there was a lot going on in that episode, with the established order of the series being turned on its head before our eyes, so this is an issue I didn't really come back to consider until now. I had my friend record a lot of season 3 on videotape when it first aired, while I was overseas for six months. I got back, stayed up all night and watched ten of them in a row, including Severed Dreams. Sleep was de-prioritized, I'm sure you all understand.

Strategically, if such an operation did take place in the background (and so many important events in Babylon 5 happened in the background), it reminds me of Imperial Germany facilitating the travel of Vladimir Lenin back to Russia during World War I. He told the Germans he was a revolutionary, and that once he toppled the Czar and established a new government, he would pull Russia out of the war against Germany, and he did so. For a very small investment (mainly train tickets), Germany knocked one of its main opponents out of the war when it really counted. Did the Shadows do something similar to undermine the Minbari Warrior Caste? Has JMS ever elaborated on this momentous decision? Saying they would not fight the Shadows is almost like saying it’s not their job, that they are no longer the Warrior Caste and have no responsibilities after all. Where is the honor in that?

The alternative is that we accept that the leaders of the Warrior Caste made this dishonorable decision all on their own, even though we have already seen the Shadows’ corrupting influence over the Wind Swords. The political impact of this decision cannot be overstated. As Delenn said, the warriors broke the covenant with Valen, and the Grey Council itself was broken up over this matter. This was a shattering event in Minbari society, and it led to the Minbari Civil War in season 4. The most ordered society in the story was cast down into chaos, and even started killing each other again after a thousand years of peace. All of this can be explained by their leaders being corrupted by unseen agents.

Raw Shark

“Damn you Lord Papal! Damn your mad war! Damn it all…”
Vanth Dreadstar
How I would LOVE to see JMS write a more detailed history of the aforementioned Minbari Civil War. It is REALLY a chapter we were robbed of in the series. We know it happened. We know it was brief. We know we didn't get enough details of the actual events.

And sorry I don't have answers to your questions.
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Old September 17th 19, 09:59   #3
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Re: Severed Dreams Questions

Non-story answer: I remember Mira Furlan saying that scene and the attitude of the Warrior Caste had echoes of how the superpowers had ignored what was happening in the Balkans and refused to step in, and that JMS had written it that way as he knew it would resonate with the actress.

Possible story answers: I'd always interpreted it as the Warrior Caste – who by then were the real power on the Grey Council – being too inward looking and perhaps seeing themselves as superior to the other races. They probably went round with slogans of 'Make Minbar Great Again'. Draal and other Minbari had talked about a malaise spreading on their world, a general dissatisfaction. The Shadows seemed to have agents everywhere that mattered, and maybe they were spreading discord on Minbar to try and make sure they wouldn't get involved. Ditto the same thing happened on Earth, so maybe the Shadows recognised that the Minbari and humans were the two species most likely to organise everyone together to stand against them. Of course that turned out to be the case, through Delenn and Sheridan.

I agree it would have been great to have seen more of what was happening on Minbar. We only heard and saw snippets. It's things like this that I could see a reboot, if one were ever to be made, improving on.
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Old September 18th 19, 07:56   #4
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Re: Severed Dreams Questions

Yeah, I don't know if the Shadows organised things, but they were definitely happy about the direction it went.
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Old September 18th 19, 18:24   #5
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Re: Severed Dreams Questions

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Possible story answers: I'd always interpreted it as the Warrior Caste – who by then were the real power on the Grey Council – being too inward looking and perhaps seeing themselves as superior to the other races. They probably went round with slogans of 'Make Minbar Great Again'. Draal and other Minbari had talked about a malaise spreading on their world, a general dissatisfaction. The Shadows seemed to have agents everywhere that mattered, and maybe they were spreading discord on Minbar to try and make sure they wouldn't get involved. Ditto the same thing happened on Earth, so maybe the Shadows recognised that the Minbari and humans were the two species most likely to organise everyone together to stand against them. Of course that turned out to be the case, through Delenn and Sheridan.

I agree it would have been great to have seen more of what was happening on Minbar. We only heard and saw snippets. It's things like this that I could see a reboot, if one were ever to be made, improving on.
As much as I'd like to agree with the "Shadow Agents" theory I don't know how well it would work with Minbar. My impressions were that visitors were few, far-between, and pretty much invited so heavily scrutinized. Please let me know I am wrong.
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Old September 18th 19, 19:39   #6
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Re: Severed Dreams Questions

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As much as I'd like to agree with the "Shadow Agents" theory I don't know how well it would work with Minbar. My impressions were that visitors were few, far-between, and pretty much invited so heavily scrutinized. Please let me know I am wrong.
Maybe the agents were themselves Minbari?
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Old September 18th 19, 21:14   #7
Raw Shark
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Re: Severed Dreams Questions

Sure, the Shadows would be happy with the result, but why would they leave it to chance? They knew they were about to launch their latest Great War, and they were quietly making preparations all over the galaxy. Morden had dealings with President Clark and Psi Corps on Earth, and with Mollari and Refa in the Centauri Republic. The Ranger in Severed Dreams stated that League worlds were making deals with the Shadows, because they feared their secret proxy force, the Centauri. They created the Technomages, and demanded that they all join their war, prompting the Mages to run like hell and go into hiding. Dealing with the Minbari in one fashion or another would certainly be on the Shadows' list of things to do in preparation for war. Subverting them would be the most economical and effective, and would really pull the rug from beneath their enemies.

Yes, Minbar would probably be a difficult place to infiltrate, as would the Grey Council's cruiser. But the Drakh didn't appear to have had much trouble penetrating the Centauri royal palace, and taking control of key figures in the Royal Court via the use of Keepers. Morden appeared to approach Emperor Cartagia openly, and he was welcomed in the palace several times. We don't know if anyone on Centauri Prime helped the Drakh gain entry to the palace after the Shadows departed the galaxy, they may not have needed it. The Drakh appear to be experts in infiltration and subversion, and I wonder if JMS intended them to be a parallel for the remnants of the KGB taking power in post-Soviet Russia? The Drakh, however, did not have a Russia to inherit, their home, Z'ha'dum, was of course destroyed. And so they need what their leader told Londo, 'Our new home...'

A few of the Minbari storylines seemed to disappear over the course of the series, some of them very large ones. It's understandable, as the series focused more on the Narn-Centauri conflict, and then the problems back on Earth, and then the Shadow War. Delenn and Lennier were the two main Minbari through whom we got to learn about their world and their people. We were occasionally treated to appearances by Neroon. The Wind Swords did not appear after The Gathering, although their past actions in sheltering Deathwalker were discussed in that episode, and then nothing. The appearance of the Trigati was certainly interesting, but was wrapped up with no loose ends.

Lennier's explanation for the surrender at the Battle of the Line was also intriguing, largely because it was so fishy. The Grey Council stopped the war to protect Minbari souls in human bodies, and can’t tell their people because they wouldn’t understand. Okay, maybe, but what we saw in the Babylon 4 story was more revealing. Apparently this all would have been dealt with further in an unproduced TV film, probably involving the Great Machine, the life and times of Valen, the Babylon 4 time travel operation, and the strange artifacts known as Triluminaries. I imagine that would have been quite interesting. It is a convoluted and mysterious series of events that drastically altered the course of Minbari civilization and history, including their being thrust into war against the Shadows a thousand years ago, as well as the obligation to fight the Shadows again in the next great war, and the vast majority of them know almost nothing about any of it. Their greatest leader, Valen, during that very war, was a Minbari who used to be a human, and they don't know that either. The Vorlons apparently thought it best to keep them in the dark on just about everything, blind faith is key to their grand manipulation of the Minbari. And yet they trust the Vorlons, and to some extent revere them. Secrets, lies, religious devotion and galactic war, there's so much to unravel. And that rather huge matter was never addressed again. As Londo told the young girl in the palace during In the Beginning, 'That... is another story.' Yes, I would think so.

And then there's the original ending for Babylon 5, in which the station is destroyed by the Minbari Warrior Caste, while Sinclair and Delenn escaped and made their way to Babylon 4 to continue fighting the not yet-ended Shadow War. There was going to be a Second Earth-Minbari War, which Earth would win. I don't think that story got dropped, I think it got pushed off for later, perhaps during Crusade. What would such a victory look like, if Earth is armed with Shadow hybrid warships like the one that destroyed EAS Cerberus in Crusade?

Perhaps the human telepath Alisa Beldon from Legacies was a Drakh agent at the time she went to live on Minbar? To be certain, there are myriad possibilities.

Raw Shark

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”
Sir Walter Scott
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Old September 20th 19, 14:32   #8
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Re: Severed Dreams Questions

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Originally Posted by Raw Shark View Post
Sure, the Shadows would be happy with the result, but why would they leave it to chance? They knew they were about to launch their latest Great War, and they were quietly making preparations all over the galaxy. Morden had dealings with President Clark and Psi Corps on Earth, and with Mollari and Refa in the Centauri Republic. The Ranger in Severed Dreams stated that League worlds were making deals with the Shadows, because they feared their secret proxy force, the Centauri. They created the Technomages, and demanded that they all join their war, prompting the Mages to run like hell and go into hiding. Dealing with the Minbari in one fashion or another would certainly be on the Shadows' list of things to do in preparation for war. Subverting them would be the most economical and effective, and would really pull the rug from beneath their enemies.

Yes, Minbar would probably be a difficult place to infiltrate, as would the Grey Council's cruiser. But the Drakh didn't appear to have had much trouble penetrating the Centauri royal palace, and taking control of key figures in the Royal Court via the use of Keepers. Morden appeared to approach Emperor Cartagia openly, and he was welcomed in the palace several times. We don't know if anyone on Centauri Prime helped the Drakh gain entry to the palace after the Shadows departed the galaxy, they may not have needed it. The Drakh appear to be experts in infiltration and subversion, and I wonder if JMS intended them to be a parallel for the remnants of the KGB taking power in post-Soviet Russia? The Drakh, however, did not have a Russia to inherit, their home, Z'ha'dum, was of course destroyed. And so they need what their leader told Londo, 'Our new home...'

A few of the Minbari storylines seemed to disappear over the course of the series, some of them very large ones. It's understandable, as the series focused more on the Narn-Centauri conflict, and then the problems back on Earth, and then the Shadow War. Delenn and Lennier were the two main Minbari through whom we got to learn about their world and their people. We were occasionally treated to appearances by Neroon. The Wind Swords did not appear after The Gathering, although their past actions in sheltering Deathwalker were discussed in that episode, and then nothing. The appearance of the Trigati was certainly interesting, but was wrapped up with no loose ends.

Lennier's explanation for the surrender at the Battle of the Line was also intriguing, largely because it was so fishy. The Grey Council stopped the war to protect Minbari souls in human bodies, and can’t tell their people because they wouldn’t understand. Okay, maybe, but what we saw in the Babylon 4 story was more revealing. Apparently this all would have been dealt with further in an unproduced TV film, probably involving the Great Machine, the life and times of Valen, the Babylon 4 time travel operation, and the strange artifacts known as Triluminaries. I imagine that would have been quite interesting. It is a convoluted and mysterious series of events that drastically altered the course of Minbari civilization and history, including their being thrust into war against the Shadows a thousand years ago, as well as the obligation to fight the Shadows again in the next great war, and the vast majority of them know almost nothing about any of it. Their greatest leader, Valen, during that very war, was a Minbari who used to be a human, and they don't know that either. The Vorlons apparently thought it best to keep them in the dark on just about everything, blind faith is key to their grand manipulation of the Minbari. And yet they trust the Vorlons, and to some extent revere them. Secrets, lies, religious devotion and galactic war, there's so much to unravel. And that rather huge matter was never addressed again. As Londo told the young girl in the palace during In the Beginning, 'That... is another story.' Yes, I would think so.

And then there's the original ending for Babylon 5, in which the station is destroyed by the Minbari Warrior Caste, while Sinclair and Delenn escaped and made their way to Babylon 4 to continue fighting the not yet-ended Shadow War. There was going to be a Second Earth-Minbari War, which Earth would win. I don't think that story got dropped, I think it got pushed off for later, perhaps during Crusade. What would such a victory look like, if Earth is armed with Shadow hybrid warships like the one that destroyed EAS Cerberus in Crusade?

Perhaps the human telepath Alisa Beldon from Legacies was a Drakh agent at the time she went to live on Minbar? To be certain, there are myriad possibilities.

Raw Shark

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”
Sir Walter Scott
Okay so quick notes: Reading this made me think that maybe JMS should reboot B5 as a book series in which he can tell the entire series story as it happened on the screen while adding in the bits we were robbed of like the Minbari Civil War as well as other expanded universe tales.

Also, I must admit that I never liked the concept of THE KEEPERS; especially the whole visibility thing.
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Old September 23rd 19, 02:08   #9
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Re: Severed Dreams Questions

I can easily agree that the Shadows were trying to influence the Minbari -- otherwise Morden would not have tried to contact Delenn. It was his bad luck that the Minbari ambassador was secretly Satai, and therefore equipped with a built-in Shadow alarm, and was also someone who already suspected the Shadows were on the move. (The return of the Vorlons was clue enough of that, to those with eyes to see it.) Had the ambassador to B5 been a different style of Minbari, perhaps it would have been a different story. Yes, even another of the religious caste. We saw enough of that caste to know they were capable of being manipulated.

What's more, there's an excellent chance we already know the first Shadow agent on Minbar: Deathwalker herself. It's long been suspected the Dilgar were in contact with the Shadows. She might have been the conduit for Shadow influence. And moreover, if she got onto the planet without being noticed, others could be brought in, too -- although almost certainly not without inside help, as Deathwalker had.

But fundamentally, I think the arrogance and xenophobia of the warrior caste was enough by itself. The Shadows may or may not have encouraged it, but the general aggression and suspicion we saw from the warriors would have undermined any alliance, with or without any Shadowy whispering. The same was true with the Humans, after all: the Shadows didn't need to create the xenophobia (and its underlying fear). Quite likely they could not create it. They were just happy to find it, and happy to use it.

A second point against this theory: G'Kar had almost everything Morden wanted: fear, hatred, and aggression. But he was still fundamentally aggressive toward the Centauri out of love of home, and his ambitions were limited. So Morden saw he would not be all that useful. The Humans the Shadows touched may have loved Earth, but they also had ambitions for dominance (and the incredible fear of coming face-to-face with extinction). The warrior caste was aggressive, but didn't have any such fear or ambitions or need to prove their dominance -- they already knew they were better and they weren't afraid of anything. They already knew they could conquer the galaxy, but couldn't be bothered to do it. The Shadows might not have found the Minbari to be such apt pupils, even if they really did try.

But all this reminds me of a piece of writing advice from Hemingway. He would cut out bits of the story, but said that knowing those bits himself, having them in his head, shaped the story anyway. And so sometimes those bits could be glimpsed. I wonder if JMS left out this story, knowing that the details associated with it that he'd left in would still ring true.
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Old September 23rd 19, 15:49   #10
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Re: Severed Dreams Questions

Very excellent points, especially about Deathwalker. She was poisonous. And yes G'Kar's ambition was not large enough to suite the needs of the Shadows. He cared about the destruction of the Centauri and the safety of his people - nothing more.

I loved this bit,
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They already knew they could conquer the galaxy, but couldn't be bothered to do it.
LOL So true - other than the Vorlon's and Shadows. It is actually an interesting question. Had the Warrior Caste decided to conquer the galaxy would the Vorlons have tried to stop them?

And I definitely want to hear every ounce of story JMS had in his head that progressed the story for him, but never made it on the screen.
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