"Only A Dream" is the 31st and 32nd episodes of Justice League. It originally aired on October 11, 2003.
John Dee has a grandiose daydream in which he single-handedly defeats the entire Justice League with an enormous robot. He snaps out of the dream and returns to reality: he is a convict in Stryker's Island Penitentiary. He has been volunteering as a guinea pig for experiments with the Materioptikon, a device that gives its subject extra-sensory perception. He is eager to try an increased dose, but the scientists say that would be dangerous.
Dee is told that he has been turned down for parole; more bad news comes when his wife, Penny, says she is leaving him for another man. His chance comes when a prison riot breaks out and several dangerous inmates escape. During the riot, he breaks into the laboratory and turns on the Materioptikon to maximum. After the riot is quelled, Dee is found in the lab in a catatonic state.
Batman and John Stewart capture Volcana and Firefly, and return them to Stryker's. Batman yawns, explaining that he has gone for three days without sleep. While there, they are told that Dee has escaped the prison infirmary, now littered with the bodies of other men in similar catatonic states. Lantern leaves to join the others, while Batman is determined to track down Dee.
That night, Dee is watching the house Penny shares with her new man. Through telepathy, he appears in her dreams, adopting a new, terrifying appearance and the name "Dr. Destiny". Asleep, Penny begins to scream, and her man is unable to wake her.
Superman, Flash, Hawkgirl, J'onn J'onzz, and Lantern are able to capture the remaining escapees. (Hawkgirl nearly breaks down inside a trap made of shrinking walls conjured by Luminus, showing that she is claustrophobic). The League decides to call it a night, except for Batman, who tracks down Penny in a hospital, and J'onn, whom Batman calls in. J'onn probes Penny's mind, but is unable to bring her out of her delusional state, though he gleans Dee's new persona, and that he wants revenge against the League.
As the rest of the League falls asleep, Dr. Destiny chuckles as he sees the perfect opportunity to strike.
Batman quickly calls the other members, but they are already asleep. In their dreams, each of them lives out their worst nightmare:
- Flash is trapped in a world where he's moving so quickly that everything and everyone around him appears practically motionless.
- Superman's powers increase beyond his ability to control them, and he accidentally causes massive destruction and kills all those he loves, including Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White.
- John Stewart is trapped in a world where his bond with the power ring has literally alienated him from his loved ones to the point that he is unable to understand their language or make himself understood, and the energy of his ring is consuming him from the inside.
- Hawkgirl is trapped in a coffin and buried alive, after having her wings restrained.
Batman determines to track Dee down, reasoning that he has probably chosen someplace familiar as a hideout. J'onn takes the other Leaguers to the Watchtower for medical attention. Hearing a news report that Penny has died as a result of Destiny's torture, J'onn decides that he has to risk entering his teammates' minds.
Batman searches Dee's house and his regular haunts, but his lack of sleep is threatening to catch up with him before he can find Dee. His computer tells him that Dee was a low-level LexCorp employee arrested in a warehouse for guarding a supply of smuggled weapons, after a sweep by the League.
One by one, J'onn meets his teammates in their dreams, and brings them out of their delusions, mainly by telling them they can control their power. He is frozen by Flash's perception of his nightmare, but manages to give enough information for the speedster to realize that he simply had to slow his heartbeat.
As J'onn frees his teammates, Dr. Destiny attempts to stop him, using taunts in Superman's dream world, and directly attacking in John's nightmare. By the time Flash is freed, Dr. Destiny has resorted to manifesting as a giant that proves nigh-invulnerable. Although they defeat him, Hawkgirl is still trapped, and Destiny focuses all his energy on blocking off her mind from J'onn's telepathy or Hawkgirl's mind has a strong resistance against telepathy.
Batman tracks Dee down at the warehouse. Dee is close enough that he can enter Batman's mind even though he's awake, but Batman keeps him out by humming “Frère Jacques” over and over again. Relying partly on projecting telepathic illusions, Dee attacks Batman hand-to-hand, trying to stab him with a syringe containing a sedative. In the fight, Dee accidentally injects himself, and falls unconscious.
Hawkgirl awakens and sees the rest of the League gathered around her, smiling – except for a tired Batman, who is snoring in a nearby chair. At the same time, Dee lies alone in the infirmary at Stryker's, catatonic, humming "Frère Jacques" over and over again.
- During Superman's dream, he flies to Smallville and J'onn finds him on his parents' farm, hiding in the garage locker where his spaceship was stored in the Superman: The Animated Series episode, "The Last Son of Krypton".
- Destiny does not reappear until the Justice League Unlimited episode, "I Am Legion", in which he appears in his hooded skeletal appearance.
Home video releases
- Justice League - Season Two (DVD)
- Justice League - Season Two (Blu-ray)
- Justice League - The Complete Series (DVD)
- Dana Delany and David Kaufman are credited for Part I, but do not appear in it; Clancy Brown and Mark Hamill are credited for Part II while only appearing in Part I.
- When Dee accidentally injects himself with the sedative, the plunger of the syringe is stuck halfway along its tube. But since the whole serum was administered, the plunger should be all the way down.
- In his dream, Dee refers to the ESP machine as the Materioptikon. In mainstream DC Comics, the Materioptikon is the mystical stone that grants Doctor Destiny his powers in the world of dreams.
- It is revealed in "Starcrossed" that Hawkgirl, like all Thanagarians, has a strong resistance to telepathy, which would explain why J'onn J'onzz was unable to enter her dream in this episode.
- The entire League appears, except for Wonder Woman (though she does appear in a dream sequence at the beginning of Part I).
- Several villains, including Lex Luthor, The Joker, Shade, Star Sapphire, Gorilla Grodd, Deadshot, Simon Stagg, Ultra-Humanite, Tsukuri, Cheetah, and Copperhead cameo briefly in John Dee's dream sequence.
- In the comics storyline Sword of Azrael, Batman uses a similar technique to resist a truth serum, reciting children's nursery rhymes. He explains that it was one of many skills he learned while training in his youth.
- The use of "Frère Jacques" by Batman to keep Dee out is somewhat a joke which pokes fun at Destiny's powers. The reason behind this is the translation of “Frère Jacques” from French to English is roughly: Brother Jack? Brother Jack? Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? Sound the morning bells, Sound the morning bells. Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.
- The scene where Flash is trapped in his dream and tries to escape by using a pay phone may be a reference to the film The Matrix.
- Upon seeing Jimmy, Superman refers to him as "my pal", a reference to the comic series "Jimmy Olsen, Superman's Pal" (and the episode "Superman's Pal").
- When John Stewart first encounters Dr. Destiny in his dream, a sign can be seen with the word "Humuhumunkunukuapuaa". Despite seeming like gibberish, Humuhumunukunukuapua'a is the name of the official state fish of Hawaii, also known as the Reef Triggerfish.
- Doctor Destiny's line, "You're good, but I'm better!" while fighting Martian Manhunter is a reference to Wolf O'Donnell's quote from Star Fox 64.
|Maria Canals|| Hawkgirl|
|Phil LaMarr||John Stewart|
|Carl Lumbly||J'onn J'onzz|
|William Atherton||John Dee/Doctor Destiny|
|Fairuza Balk||Penny Dee|
|Clancy Brown||Lex Luthor|
|Dana Delany||Lois Lane|
|Mark Hamill|| Solomon Grundy|
|David Kaufman|| Jimmy Olsen|
Kid #2 (uncredited)
|Jason Marsden|| Snapper Carr|
Kid #1 (uncredited)
John Dee: And I thought I'd actually have to break a sweat!
Flash: Say no more.
Flash: What were you working on?
Green Lantern: Look, whatever he is, he's sure not in the same league as Grundy and the others. He's a nobody.
(After Grundy crashes.)
Green Lantern: Good bluff.
Batman: Don't worry. I'm used to late hours.
Batman: (Barging into a coffee shop.) Give me a triple. Now!
Dr. Destiny: Adrenaline rush wearing off? Good. The doctor will see you now.
Dr. Destiny: Coming here was the mistake of your life. You see, the closer I am to someone, the stronger I get. I'll be able to go into your brain even if you're wide awake.
Dr. Destiny: What's that stupid song going through your mind?
Dr. Destiny: You don't have any special powers!