Only a Dream | Episode 31
Aired: October 11th, 2003
Heroes: Batman, Wonder Woman (dream), J'onn J'onzz, Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkgirl and Superman
Supporting: Penny Dee
Villains: Dr. Destiny, Solomon Grundy, Joker(dream), Lex Luthor (dream), Ultra-Humanite(dream), Shade (dream), Copperhead, Simon Stagg(dream), Cheetah(dream), Grodd(dream), Star Sapphire(dream), Deadshot(dream), Volcana, Firefly and Luminus
Objects: Materioptikon, Nth Metal, Power Ring, Battlesuit, Night Stick, Sapphire Gem, Utility Belt (Grappling Gun), Justice League Communication Link, and Holograms
Places: Striker's Island, Justice League Watchtower, Metropolis, and Detroit
Written By: Stan Berkowitz
Directed By: Butch Lukic
Only a Dream | Episode 32
Aired: October 11th, 2003
Heroes: Batman, J'onn J'onzz, Green Lantern, Flash, Hawkgirl and Superman
Supporting: Lois Lane (dream), Al & Chris McGee (dream), Snapper Carr, Perry White (dream) and Jimmy Olsen (dream)
Villains: Dr. Destiny and Solomon Grundy (dream)
Objects: Justice League Communication Link, Power Ring, Batmobile, Utility Belt, Javelin, Lifeboat, Green Lantern, and Eccaine
Places: Central City, Justice League Watchtower, Metropolis, Detroit, Striker's Island, Daily Planet, Smallville, and LexCorp
Written: Stan Berkowitz
Directed By: Butch Lukic
ReviewReview written by Mahoney
The best thrillers start out ominous and go straight to creepy without a lot of ado. "Only a Dream" starts out kooky, wanders over to action-y, thinks about working in a bit of British mystery drama, and then finally settles down into it's best Stephen King (or Neil Gaiman, or Tim Burton, whoever;pick your creep-meister, insert the name here) impression just before the end of part one.
But it's such a fantastic Stephen King impression that I can't hold the rocky start against it. I try each time I've watched these episodes, I started out wondering why I'm so in love with what starts out as an average story. But by the time Flash dozes off next to sleeping Hawkgirl, with Dr. Destiny's laughter whispering around them, I know. That full-on spooky gets me every time.
I can't illustrate it for you, either. If you haven't seen the episodes, you'll be under whelmed by descriptions of Superman's nightmare world in which his powers are out of control and he's killing everyone he ever cared about; or Flash's static, monochrome nightmare where the people don't seem to move because he's locked in super speed;a world where, as he says, he'll live his whole life in the time it takes other people to tie a shoe. It doesn't sound particularly scary, does it? Wretched, sure, but terrifying enough to drive them mad, to kill them while they sleep?
But it is. When we hear that John Dee's wife has died of fright without ever waking up, and that the same could happen to the Justice League, we believe it. It's not just the story that makes us believe, it's the atmosphere.
The episode does exquisite things with sound. John Dee's voice seems so unassuming and innocuous at the beginning of the episode. But sliding out of the silence, Dr. Destiny's voice drones like restless sleep. His voice is the sound I hear in my mind when I'm driving down the dark interstate at ungodly hours of the morning, knowing that the edge of the road is waiting for me to take it at eighty miles an hour, and I'm trying to stay awake but I can't. His voice sounds like the reason silence is so much more terrible at night than it is during the day.
The episode knows this about silences, too. Several times we get those absolute, dead silences that only come in the middle of the night, the silences that seem just to wait for a nightmare to come screaming out of them.
We get the screaming nightmares, too, besides the quiet, surreal nightmares like Superman's and Flash's are the hysterical nightmares: Green Lantern in agony as the Lantern light erupts from his cracking skin, and Hawkgirl in free fall, then buried alive, relentlessly screaming.
The animation backs up the creepy soundtrack. Dr. Destiny enters and exits scenes like moving shadow. His cloak swirls and billows; sometimes it casts out ragged tendrils that writhe and twist and grasp. In the background, reality looks like nightmare, and nightmare looks like reality, until neither is more or less real than the other.
And because the Justice League has Batman as an ally, we also get a nasty little twist at the end, in which the nightmare is turned around onto Dr. Destiny. Only Batman could literally be a villain's worst nightmare. Batman warns Dee that "my mind is not a nice place to be" but Dee goes there anyway. Unwisely. The terrible fantasy Dee tries to impose on Batman is usurped by the dark reality in which Batman lives. And, of course, the soundtrack again gives the darkness dimension. Batman keeps a song running through his mind to block Dee out, but it's not just any song. It's a children's song, hummed in a harsh, minor off key, backed by groaning cellos. It echoes, and we don't know if the echo comes from the empty warehouse, or from the dark corridors of Batman's mind.
I have a feeling the Justice League's creative team had an absolute blast making this episode. I know I have a blast watching it. It's just spooky. Deliciously spooky.