As M*A*S*H progressed through its 11-year run on American television, it gained enough popularity to be able to experiment around its standard format of a 30-minute dramedy. Certain episodes, such as Season 4's The Interview and, later, Season 8's Dreams, pushed the envelope by, in the former, presenting a hyperrealist mockumentary of the M*A*S*H unit and, in the latter, a surrealist character piece.
Alan Alda directed and wrote Dreams, and in it, he abandons the basic narrative format of television in favor of a series of vignettes in the form of surreal dreams each major character has. It was clear that Alda was influenced somewhat by Freudian psychotherapy - something the viewer can take or leave regarding its real practicality - but if there's one thing Freud knew how to do, it was weave a good story. And through Dreams, we learn more about the characters of M*A*S*H, in particular, what scares them and how the war affects them, than in any of the other, more "normal" episode's tearful monologues ("This damn war!").
As background: the M*A*S*H series followed a group of surgeons and nurses in an American MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) unit during the Korean War. The main characters by Season 8 were:
- Dr. Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda), chief surgeon and antic comedian/indignant pacifist,
- Dr. BJ Hunnicutt (Mike Farrell), surgeon and Californian family man,
- Dr. Charles Winchester III (David Ogden Stiers), Boston blue-blooded surgeon,
- Major Margaret Houlihan (Loretta Swit), Army brat and Army-trained head nurse,
- Colonel Sherman Potter (Harry Morgan), three-war veteran, equestrian and surgeon,
- Father Mulcahy (William Christopher), Irish Catholic chaplain,
- Klinger (Jamie Farr), Lebanese-American Toledo-born transvestite clerk.