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The Scripts of J. Michael Straczynski, Vol. 1

samzenpus posted more than 8 years ago | from the dawn-of-the-third-age-of-mankind dept.

347

chromatic writes "It's hard to overestimate the influence that Babylon 5 had on American television, especially science fiction and dramas. When it debuted, it was a smaller, scrappier competitor to Paramount's revitalized Star Trek franchise. When it ended, it had proven that not only could you tell a complex, layered story over multiple years (and through the demise of syndication, yearly struggles with funding, and often frustrating and unexpected troubles with schedules and actors), but that a lean, creator-driven show could succeed artistically." Read on for chromatic's review.

Through the course of the show, its creator J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) wrote 92 of the 110 episodes filmed, including every episode of seasons three and four and all but one episode of season five-- a record-breaking achievement. Now he's publishing all of his scripts, as written, in multiple volumes from Babylon5Scripts.com.

There are plenty of books about screenwriting and many include a few examples of actual scripts (another book from JMS himself reprints the script to the Hugo-award winning second season episode "The Coming of Shadows"). Yet what other book or series of books even promises to show the development of a series from inspiration to the final frame of the final episode? What's in the book (and the forthcoming volumes) for a Babylon 5 or sci-fan, let alone someone interested in the mechanics of television?

The Scripts of J. Michael Straczynski, volume 1 includes the first five JMS-penned episodes from season one, as well as the unfilmed draft of the pilot movie "The Gathering". Each episode includes a short essay with notable information about the writing, planning, or filming of the episode. There's also a short section of photos at the end, along with seven memos from the start of the project through the filming of the pilot.

Subsequent volumes reportedly will include similar information. The second, including the remaining seven episode JMS wrote for season one, is out and shipping now. The rest will follow every few weeks. Positives

The big draw, of course, is the scripts themselves. In particular, the draft of the pilot episode, "The Gathering", has a few major changes from the filmed version. Delenn, the Minbari ambassador, is still a masculine character in this draft. Kosh, the Vorlon ambassador and victim of an assassination plot, has a lifemate travelling with him on the station. For the most part, the changes made before filming are obviously for the better. (Though cutting Kosh's lifemate was the right choice, losing a line of dialogue about one reason for the Vorlons's obvious paranoia about their biology was a pity.)

The scripts appear as written, including typos and, occasionally, vague hints to what will occur later in the series. For example, the first appearance of a First Ones ship (the Walkers at Sigma 957 in the episode "Mind War") has an explicit note that the as-yet unmentioned "Shadowmen" ship will look very different. Another suggestion during the scene of the battle with raiders recommends using real-world physics for the Starfury crafts to differentiate from other dogfights-in-space shows.

If you're interested in scriptwriting, directing, acting, or editing, comparing the script to the finished product may be very educational. Straczynski writes sparse action, leaving most of the interpretation out of the script. Of course, the episodes so far are mostly character and background pieces with comparatively few action or effects scenes needing guidance. It may be that larger battles and flashbacks have more description; it's too early to tell.

The new material is interesting, and in a few places tells stories that never actually left the set. One explains why the change of station telepath from Lyta Alexander to Talia Winters took place between the pilot and the first episode. Another expands on the trials of pitching a show to television executives, especially during the first few attempts of the late '80s. None of this is essential to enjoying the show, but it does provide background for why things in the series happened the way they did. Drawbacks

Other scripts contain scenes that never actually aired. It's not always obvious whether this was due to time constraints, edits, or other decisions. Aside from a few mentions in the episode introductions, there are no notes in the scripts themselves related to what did and didn't make it to the screen. This may not be a drawback; they're much more readable this way and serious students may want to watch and read the episodes simultaneously anyway.

Though the scripts represent the bulk of the show and the introductions and memos provide some detail, there are plenty of decisions made during filming that don't actually have explanations in the book where you might expect them. Walter Koenig's character of Bester, the Psi-Cop, has a crippled hand, yet the book doesn't mention this at all. It's difficult to know how much detail to include -- and the permissions and availability of the material may make it difficult to include (production notes? director notes?) -- but this is by no means the whole story. Keep the Lurker's Guide handy for more details.

The book itself is solid but not remarkable. The script formatting reproduces faithfully an actual shooting script in length and layout. The print quality is good.

Very picky readers may quibble about the length and weight of the book -- most of the non-script material uses whitespace a little too generously, with large top and bottom margins and more than double-spaced type allowing only around twenty lines of text on a letter-sized page. Hopefully subsequent volumes will tighten the layout somewhat. Conclusion

While it's always possible to find bootleg or transcribed scripts online or at conventions, often at vastly inflated prices, the chance to read the official versions as filmed is worth considering for serious students of film or television as well as Babylon 5 fans. The bonus materials are nice, but they're probably more interesting to fans than students; more information about the process of how a script went from the paper to film might satisfy both groups.

The quibbles are minor; if you're already a Babylon 5 fan, you know what to expect here. If you're not a fan or a screenplay geek, this isn't the place to start -- but if you find the creative processes behind television or movies fascinating, this is an easy way to soak up wisdom and hard-earned experience. It's well worth your time to compare a few episodes in script and filmed form.


chromatic's life goals include writing a novel (done), a comic book, and an episode of a television series. Then he can sleep. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Huh? (4, Funny)

flyinwhitey (928430) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167362)

"It's hard to overestimate the influence that Babylon 5 had on American television, especially science fiction and dramas."

No it's not, you just did it with that sentence.

Re:Huh? (1, Redundant)

RapidEye (322253) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167438)

You were a tad quicker off the draw that I was - that single sentance scares me: are there really people that stupid??? I hope they don't drive...

Re:Huh? (1)

StarvingSE (875139) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167612)

If my commute this morning was any indication, then yes they are out on the road and in full force. Aren't the editors supposed to catch this stuff and proofread the summaries anyway?

Re:Huh? (4, Insightful)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167469)

Hey, if nothing else, they were able to convince networks to pick up a non-Star Trek sci-fi show. That was one of their biggest obstacles to getting on the air: networks thought there was only room for one space-based science fiction show on the air at a time, and that was Star Trek.

Re:Huh? (4, Insightful)

Golias (176380) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167677)

Actually, I remember vividly that the networks premiered several other non-Trek sci-fi shows around the same time. It's just the rest of them were flops, while B5 was a (very) modest success.

SeaQuest DSV: 1993
Adventures of Brisco County Junior: 1993
Time Trax: 1993
Earth 2: 1994
Sliders: 1995
Space - Above and Beyond: 1995 ... the list goes on.

Oh... and then there was this other little sci-fi show which came out a year before B5 which did pretty well. It was about two FBI agents investigating aliens. Maybe you've heard of it.

In terms of getting sci-fi accepted on TV, I would say that "Quantum Leap", "Alien Nation", and "V", all shows from the 80s, were vastly more important than B5.

Re:Huh? (4, Insightful)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167901)

Um, did you miss the "space-based" part of "space-based sci-fi?"

And B5 first aired in January 1993 (the network chickened out and aired the pilot as a stand-alone movie, so the series launched the following year), so I'm not sure what you're trying to say with Earth 2 or Space: Above and Beyond.

As for the big sci-fi launch of '93, all I can remember is B5, DS9 and Space Rangers. JMS had been shopping B5 around for about 5 years, much longer than DS9 had been in development, and I seriously doubt anyone spent much time on Space Rangers.

Selective memory (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167931)

It was picked up because it was a CGI show that could be done on the cheap and the studios were rushing to see if the concept would work.

I don't recall which network picked up B5 but NBC went with 'Seaquest DSV' and CBS went with 'Space Rangers,' a 'space-based science fiction show' and they all came out within a week or two of each other.

Re:Huh? (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167688)

I was going to reply with the same quote and then something or other about Reality TV but I like the way you did it better.

Re:Huh? (1)

brarrr (99867) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167982)

Yes he did. Hell, I've never even seen it or know anything about the story. Didn't even both to read beyond that sentence. This means I'm PROUDLY saying that not only did I not RTFA, but that I didn't read the summary of the review of TFA.

Here's to overstatement.

A Bit Late Maybe...? (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167386)

It seems a bit after the fact to be reviewing a show that everyone who ever had an interest in it probably already knows as well as the reviewer. Or was this just a Slashdot story that stayed in Pending too long. :^)

And while MJS may have written the vast majority of the episodes, the very best one was written by David Gerrold! That's my review.

Re:A Bit Late Maybe...? (2, Insightful)

gilroy (155262) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167565)

Blockquoth the poster:

It seems a bit after the fact to be reviewing a show that everyone who ever had an interest in it probably already knows as well as the reviewer.

Indeed. That's probably why the reviewer didn't review the show. He/she reviewed a book about the show.

I can overestimate it! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167395)

Babylon 5 is a show that 15% of the population of the United States has ever heard of!

Re:I can overestimate it! (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167474)

Babylon 5 is a show that 15% of the population of the United States has ever heard of!

Not to mention 80% of the rest of the world.

Re:I can overestimate it! (1)

Shipud (685171) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167574)

more like 99....

Re:I can overestimate it! (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167645)

I was trying not to make an overstatement. I guess I overestimated the show... (hope i'm not overstating the pun).

can I get it on kazaa? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167728)

I don't have a tv, you insensitive clod!

(and hence, are morally suprior to you.)

Fifth Post! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167396)

The first 3 posts were sabotaged, and the fourth disappeared.

Re:Fifth Post! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167454)

"But the fifth one stayed up. And that's what you're going to get, Lad, the strongest post in all of Slashdot."

Re:Fifth Post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167866)

thanks, now Im going to have to explain to other cubicle cell mates why Im laughing hysterically.

Re:Fifth Post! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167927)

If the set of cubies where intersection of knowledge of (Slashdot) and (B5) and (Monty Python) is empty, just tell them that you're off your meds. Simpler that way.

Mod parent up! (1)

GammaRay Rob (452271) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167513)

It's funny!
Redundant, sheesh....
-GRR

Not that I didn't LOVE babylon 5 but... (1)

LilHapaGirl (931548) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167398)

I really did LOVE B5, my mom and my sister and I all used to watch it religiously together. But I'm not sure why this deserves a book review.... Either you want to read the scripts or you don't.

Not true... (1)

hackwrench (573697) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167663)

I liked B5, and may or may not read the scripts. The article tells me a little about them that makes my reading them seem more likely (for the scenes that didn't make it, for example). If it just covered exactly what happened on-screen, I would be less inclined to read them. Plus, this collection hadn't made a very big blip on my radar.

Well... (3, Insightful)

GmAz (916505) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167402)

I tried so hard to get into that show, but just couldn't. I saw it as corny just too out there. I do like Star Trek, but am not a devouted trekkie thinks everything else sucks, but that is just my opinion.

get over it people (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167408)

FANTASY == NOT REAL

Re:get over it people (1)

chris_mahan (256577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167514)

That should read:

Fantasy != Reality

Ho Lee Fook, you got it wrong! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167958)

Turn in your nerd credentials immediately, B5 may be fantasy, but every nerd knows deep in his little nerdy heart that Star Trek is REAL!! [direwolf.com]

Re:Ho Lee Fook, you got it wrong! (1)

chris_mahan (256577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14168003)

No no no no... Real nerds know that Reality as we know it is a Fantasy. The real reality is much darker, grimy, and unforgiving. It's a live and let die kind of thing...

The Klingons are right.

come on... (3, Funny)

mangus_angus (873781) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167409)

When you have Will Robinson in your show you know it's going to be a hit!

Re:come on... (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167994)

When you have Will Robinson in your show you know it's going to be a hit!

Especially when Will Robinson is adept at kicking ass.

Well, no wonder! (3, Funny)

daeley (126313) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167412)

including all of seasons four and five and all but one of season five -- a record-breaking achievement.

I can see why no one had ever been able to do that before! ;)

Re:Well, no wonder! (4, Interesting)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167448)

It darn near killed him, too. I'd seen him at various conventions during Babylon 5's run, and it was clear the stress was getting to him. I saw him again at this year's San Diego Comic Con -- 5 years after the show ended -- and he looked 10 years younger.

Re:Well, no wonder! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167554)

Time stabilizer damaged. JMS unstuck in time. Zathras warned, but no one listen to Zathras, no.

Re:Well, no wonder! (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167606)

Me too- but it's interesting that nobody else seems to have noticed that 100% of season 5 scripts is NOT equal to 100% of season 5 scripts -1.

Re:Well, no wonder! (1)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167738)

I think it's one of those things like the joke/mind teaser about the sign that says:

KEEP OFF THE
THE GRASS

If you know what it's likely to say (3, 4 and 5, rather than 4, 5 and 5) and you just skim it, you're not going to notice the typo.

Re:Well, no wonder! (1)

Otter (3800) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167730)

Ridicule aside -- this achievement broke what record?

The background material is a fun read. (1)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167424)

I haven't read any of the actual scripts yet, but I've read the entire 40-odd-page intro and the memos. The introduction is fascinating not only for the "making of" information and the stories it tells, but for the self-deprecating, occasionally humorous writing style.

I'm not sure I'd spend $40 just for the background material, but I have no regrets about spending $30 for the combination of background and the scripts themselves. (There's a $10 discount on each volume for the first week that it's on sale.)

All or all but one? (1)

X (1235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167426)

Through the course of the show, its creator J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) wrote 92 of the 110 episodes filmed, including all of seasons four and five and all but one of season five -- a record-breaking achievement.

I'm normally not one to gripe about things that should be fixed by an editor, as I'm one of the worst offenders, but I'm at a loss here to figure out what this sentence was intended to mean. Can anyone clarify?

Re:All or all but one? (1)

chromatic (9471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167547)

Good point. Replace "including all of" with "including every episode of".

Re:All or all but one? (1)

X (1235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167706)

Through the course of the show, its creator J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) wrote 92 of the 110 episodes filmed, including every episode of seasons four and five and all but one of season five -- a record-breaking achievement.

That leaves me still equally confused. It would seem to suggest he both wrote all of the episodes and all but one of the episodes of season five.

Re:All or all but one? (1)

chromatic (9471) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167799)

He wrote every episode of season 3. He wrote every episode of season 4. He wrote all but one episode of season 5.

Re:All or all but one? (2, Informative)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167552)

Just a typo. He wrote all of seasons three and four, and all but one episode of season five.

So with one exception (Season 5's "Day of the Dead," written by Sandman writer Neil Gaiman) he wrote three entire seasons in a row -- plus more than half of the first two seasons' scripts.

Re:All or all but one? (1)

X (1235) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167685)

(Season 5's "Day of the Dead," written by Sandman writer Neil Gaiman)

I loved that one. ;-)

Re:All or all but one? (1)

Golias (176380) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167723)

Nobody had ever written 92 episodes of Babylon 5 before, therefore he holds the record. I guess.

Then again, if you count all the "shipper" fan-fics floating around out there on usenet, he might not even rank in the top ten.

The creative processes behind television or movies (-1, Troll)

fireboy1919 (257783) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167430)

I don't know that Babylon 5's process can be generalized to all things, or even that all the decisions were good ones.

I mean, who thinks "Special Effects? Lets get some old Amiga computers and use this 'Video Toaster' software. That works great!."

I think that has a lot more to do with the quality of the visuals than a lack of money.

Re:The creative processes behind television or mov (1)

Shadow Wrought (586631) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167588)

mean, who thinks "Special Effects? Lets get some old Amiga computers and use this 'Video Toaster' software. That works great!."

Me. But if you knew me, you wouldn't trust me either.

Re:The creative processes behind television or mov (2, Informative)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167623)

Back in that time, those effects were not bad.
Believe me.
You might not remember it, but back then, when the enterprise of STNT had only canned model shots and only moved left/right, the quality downsides of the rendering was vastly offset by the increase of in creative possibilities.

And you know that Star Treck had about 4-5 times as much money per episode?

Re:The creative processes behind television or mov (4, Informative)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167647)

Those Video Toasters were state of the art back then if you wanted to do it in house, on time, and within budget.

J. Michael Straczynski (2, Interesting)

ajdowntown (91738) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167433)

Does anyone know what J. Michael Straczynski is up to these days? I keep hearing rumors that he is "doing something big", but nothing ever materializes out of it...

Re:J. Michael Straczynski (2, Informative)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167519)

Sounds like you want this fan site [worldsofjms.com] .

Mainly he's writing comic books -- Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four and an original project with Colleen Doran called The Book of Lost Souls. (I haven't read his Marvel Universe books, and Lost Souls is too early to tell.)

There's also a couple of potential TV series coming up next year, but the TV industry is volatile enough you never know until the last contract is signed whether you've actually got a deal. JMS has a habit of not letting too much slip until the deal is finalized, which is probably a good business practice.

He's writing Spider-man for Marvel. (1)

CyberLord Seven (525173) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167523)

He's probably doing other things as well, but that's one thing I know he's currently writing.

Re:J. Michael Straczynski (1)

HokieSeas (560745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167533)

From what I recall, writing comics, a few novels. I know every once in a while something pops up that development moves ahead, then stops, goes backwards, moves forward, dies, rebirths, etc on a new feature film set in the Bab5 universe called "The Memory of Shadows". The last news was that production was supposed to start in April of 05, then early Feb of 05 financing fell through and all has been quiet.

Re:J. Michael Straczynski (3, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167589)

He was going to try to get Paramount to accept his ideas for a new Star Trek show (PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, anyone but Beavis & Butthead), but he heard from his contacts that Paramount wanted the show to sit for a while. As a result, he took an offer to run the television show Jeremiah [imdb.com] .

He's had an interesting career in SciFi, and got his start in the little known show, "Captain Power and the Soliders of the Future!" Sadly, the show went off the air just as people were starting to get into it. Stupid networks. :-(

Re:J. Michael Straczynski (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167666)

Ah, good old Captain Power. Mind blowing stuff, for a 12 year old, at the time; a personal favourite was the episode where Masters (flying guy) gives shelter to a kid who was built to be a plague carrier.

The season (and, unfortunately, series) finale involving the self-sacrificing death of a major character and utter fuxxoring of the goodguys was also something rarely seen on TV, let alone on Saturday-morning fare.

CP was an awesome concept, and could really stand another go.

Re:J. Michael Straczynski (2, Informative)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167695)

Actually, Jeremiah predated his Trek pitch by a couple of years. He basically went straight from B5 to Crusade to Jeremiah, then dropped out of TV for a while. (Well, dropped out of TV that's aired. He's had several deals that fell through before ging into production, like Global Frequency.)

The Trek pitch was, IIRC, either 2004 or 2005 -- after it was clear that Enterprise was foundering.

Re:J. Michael Straczynski (1)

dargon (105684) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167810)

Uhm, hate to throw a wrench into your message (actually I don't but thought I'd be polite ;) ) JMS had nothing to do with Global Frequency. it was directed by Nelson McCormick, written by Warrne Ellis, and produced by Mark Burnett. To bad it got canned before it got to the public, I found the pilot to be not half bad with a certain amount of potential (much more than Threshold or Surface). Go find the torrent if you haven't seen it yet.

Re:J. Michael Straczynski (2, Informative)

Kelson (129150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167956)

What wrench? JMS has gone on record [jmsnews.com] saying:

Since it's no longer an issue, because the show was not picked up, the series I'd mentioned that had come to me to talk about coming aboard as an EP was Warren Ellis' Global Frequency. I'd met with the people involved, been approved by the network, went by to meet Warren during filming in Vancouver, who seemed like a very nice sort, and was waiting for the next round of serious conversations...but the show has not been picked up by WB.

He wasn't involved with the pilot, but he would almsot certainly have been involved in the series.

Trek fans know it... (1)

transami (202700) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167444)

B5 Rules

Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning

http://www-fi3.starwreck.com/ [starwreck.com]

Funny!!!

B5 (5, Interesting)

tenchiken (22661) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167445)

It's easy to forget in the world of Firefly, Stargate, Farscape, etc just how hard it was to get any real sci-fi series that were not named Trek on the air prior to B5. Babylon 5 struggled it's entire existance with ratings, but the fact that someone actually aired a 5 season arc without having to dumb it down, and change it radically to accomidate the Least Common Denominator is impressive.

My dream is that some day we will get JMS and Joss Whedon to sit down and do a sci-fi series together. With JMS's strengh in plotlines and story development and Joss's characters it would be one of the best series ever. Certainly better then the upcoming SW:TV series. Han with wookies indeed.

Re:B5 (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167586)

In the UK, Babylon 5 suffered the same fate as Firefly - Channel 4 moved it around a lot, and put it on at idiotic times (e.g. 12:40am) for a lot of its run, making it impossible to follow. A few years later I downloaded a few of the episodes from the Internet and then bought the whole thing on DVD so I could watch it in order.

Re:B5 (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167771)

Fox did the same thing in the States. I missed well over half of the shows when it originally aired because the timeslot kept jumping around so much that my local newspaper's TV listings were always out of date.

It wasn't until years later when TBS aired the series in order and in a stable timeslot that I was able to really appreciate it.

Re:B5 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167684)

Actually, it's a mixed bag.

Firefly == suck
Stargate == suck (ok, atlantis isn't as bad as SG1)
B5 == Awesome up till the last season (We missed you Ivanonva!), then suck
Farscape == As far from suck as one can get. Nothing short of a masterpiece from beginning to end.

While B5 may have opened some opportunities for SciFi, it also allowed a lot of garbage to make it on the air. I don't care what anyone says about Firefly either. There's a reason it got canceled - they may as well have named it "Little house on the prairie in space".

Firefly versus Farscape (2, Insightful)

GlenRaphael (8539) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167808)

Firefly == suck
[...]
Farscape == As far from suck as one can get. Nothing short of a masterpiece from beginning to end.
That's odd; I had the exact opposite impressions. Based on the DVDs I thought Firefly was the best TV show I'd ever seen in my life (though it lagged a little towards the end), and Farscape was so bad I couldn't stand to watch more than the first DVD. Farscape reminded me of those cheesy seventies kiddie shows like "Jason of Star Command". Really dumb plots, reasonably dumb one-note characters, cheap-looking Dr. Who-caliber sets. Does it get better later on? How many bad Farscape episodes does one have to slog through to get to the good ones?

Syndication was poor (2, Interesting)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167473)

"(and through the demise of syndication, "

I had wondered as a kid why CTV suddenly stopped showing Bab 5. It used to be on right before Star Trek TNG on my CKCK TV station, then poof it was gone, or moved to Saturday afternoon. Then it was on here and there, and I realized they were trying to kill it off. There were times when I felt I couldn't go on, not knowing what was going to happen next on Bab 5, but I sadly got over my addiction and ended up not watching most of the last two seasons since they weren't readily available to me. One of these days I'll have to get ahold of the DVDs and watch the series in its entirety...

So ... this is about Hill Street Blues? (4, Insightful)

podperson (592944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167497)

When it ended, it had proven that not only could you tell a complex, layered story over multiple years (and through the demise of syndication, yearly struggles with funding, and often frustrating and unexpected troubles with schedules and actors), but that a lean, creator-driven show could succeed artistically." Read on for chromatic's review.

It seems to me that Babylon 5 was an attempt to produce something a little like Hill Street Blues in space. It wasn't as well written, acted, or ... good as HSB. By the time Babylon 5 appeared, there were numerous TV shows imitating HSB's layered stories, mixture of short and arc plots, ensemble casts, etc. -- including thirtysomething, St. Elsewhere, and so forth. Almost all of these shows were better than Babylon 5, they just weren't science fiction.

Not really (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167833)

Hill Street Blues followed in the footsteps of Dallas and the Soap Operas. That's a close metaphor but not really the same thing. Babylon 5 had a charted existence of five years with foreshadowing in season 1 that paid off in season 4 and 5. It was more like an epic novel that was filmed than an ongoing series. This gave a lot of power to the show that those that never got into it, or came in late, probably don't see.

And Hill Street Blues never played with the scope in other ways. Wars that lasted seasons, destruction of planets, occupation and genocide. Epic stuff that certainly Star Trek never really tried to pull off and that is far to wide fro the scope of a cop show, even a very good cop show.

Soap Operas and Hill Street Blues never tried that kind of scope, its nearly impossible to do, partially because audiences forget, and partially because the planning involved.

What?! (1)

_PimpDaddy7_ (415866) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167850)

C'mon HSB?! Everyone here knows T.J Hooker was the best! :)

What a gyp! (1)

ENOENT (25325) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167503)

From the article title, I thought the book would contain all of the scripts from "Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors"!!!

Re:What a gyp! (1)

Ossadagowah (452169) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167932)

Agreed. I just got the first dvd of Wheeled Warriors
and would love to have a complete collection of
scripts for the show.

I used to love this show (1)

SlashAmpersand (918025) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167529)

When I first started watching it I thought Vir looked familiar, but I couldn't place the face. Then I watched Animal House, and there was Flounder! I had no idea that one guy wrote most of the scripts.

B5 was fun, but.. (2, Interesting)

penguin-collective (932038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167531)

B5 was fun and entertaining, but I wouldn't hold it up as an example of great writing. I think in the end, the show was just taking itself too seriously, and I could never quite shake the suspicion that JMS seriously believed that he was conveying some profound philosophical message with B5.

The Facts (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167570)

Sorry to tell you Fan Boys but, the "Star Trek franchise" blew chunks in comparison to the original show, not just is the number of viewers/fans but also in the longevity of the series and its reruns. As for Babylon 5, there are few people beyond you lot that even have a clue what that is. Babylon 5's impact on American television is almost completely nonexistent.

Stop trying to pass off your personal feeling as those of the vast majority of Americans, very few Americans feel the same way that you do. And fewer still look as pathetic.

I think not... (1)

ovit (246181) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167573)

That show was not "casual watcher" friendly...

If you tuned in, and had no explanation of what had happened up to that point, you would not get it. It would probably take weeks and weeks before you were up to speed.

        td

Re:I think not... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167762)

If you don't like long complex plots, fsck off and watch star-trek you twat!

WHAT? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167584)

When it ended, it had proven that not only could you tell a complex, layered story over multiple years but that a lean, creator-driven show could succeed artistically.

You're talking about ST:DS9, right? No? Oh.

As far as I can tell, all B5 proved is that really crappy Sci-Fi can still well enough to stay on the air for a few years. It beat ST:Voyager and ST:Enterprise to the punch, sure, but who cares?

I've been renting B5 from Netflix so I can watch them all in order. Frankly, I'm surprised it made it past the first season. The writing was horrible - especially the dialog; The special effects weren't even up to BSG:TOS standards (fifteen years later!); And the acting was horrible (thank god they ditched the Sinclair character).

The improvement between Seasons is noticable, but the writing still sucked through Season 2. It's improved in Season 3, but the dialog _still_ sucks.

It's fun to watch. It's enjoyable. But only in a campy, 90's-retro, I-probably-could-do-this-myself-and-maybe-better kind of way.

You can't save them all! I can try. (2, Informative)

Leontes (653331) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167716)

Midseason three and season four are when it really gets to be excellent, like biting the nails, I, Claudius, excellent.
Payoff for all the previous crud you had to shift through. Keep the netflix faith. It's worth it.

Season 5? You can pretty much skip it entirely.

<grandiose statement> (1)

Sax Maniac (88550) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167595)

It's hard to overestimate the influence that Babylon 5 had on American television

WTF? I thought I filtered out JonKatz stories years ago.

Yes, Law and Order, CSI:*, and all the other top-rated shows that everyone knows about owes deep allegiance to... what was that again?

"succeed artistically" (1)

Caspian (99221) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167611)

...and fail financially.

At least, relatively speaking. How many BILLIONS of dollars have been made off of the Star Wars franchise? How many BILLIONS of dollars have been made off of Star Trek? Shit, probably even the humble Back to the Future trilogy of quasi-sci-fi movies made more money than the entire run of B5.

Why? Mainstream appeal. Regardless of how good a show is, if it appeals only to SlashDot nerd types and "Comic Book Guy" types, it'll get frowned upon and scoffed at by investors.

Sad but true.

It's a duopolist's world. The cola world has Coke and Pepsi, the fast food world has McDonald's and Burger King, the software world has Microsoft and... err... and Microsoft, and sci-fi has Star Trek and Star Wars.

Everyone else, regardless of any amount of genuine merit, is a bit player, and will be treated as such by The Powers That Be (and Joe Sixpack).

Terry Nation (1)

Roj Blake (931541) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167617)

I'd rather have the scripts of Terry Nation.

Re:Terry Nation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167722)

"I'd rather have the scripts of Terry Nation."

From which television series? His *Doctor Who* scripts? His *Blake's 7* scripts? His *Persuaders!* scripts? Or his work on *MacGyver*?

Re:Terry Nation (1)

Roj Blake (931541) | more than 8 years ago | (#14168023)

From which television series? His *Doctor Who* scripts? His *Blake's 7* scripts? His *Persuaders!* scripts? Or his work on *MacGyver*?

Well, seeing as my /. nickname is Roj Blake...B7 maybe?

Babalert. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167678)

BABALERT! BABALERT! BABALERT!

What a silly word. So glad they dropped it. Babcom was bab enough.

B5 guide, quotes and game (3, Interesting)

Lord Satri (609291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167689)

Interesting. B5 changed my life at the time. It helped me see things differently. Even it this is the past and I'm focusing on other issues now, B5 will always have place in my heart.

Some great links:
Babylon 5 Lurker's Guide
http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/lurker.html [midwinter.com]
B5 quotes I gathered (and published in an open book):
http://www.alexandre.leroux.net/quotes/quotes_e.ht ml#b5-anchor [leroux.net]
Free B5 great game:
http://ifh.firstones.com/ [firstones.com]

Cheers :-)

Gimme a break.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167693)

B5 had poor writing, bad acting and so so graphics. Scifi folks were so desperate the time for "semi" good scifi, that B5 became a classic. DS9 sucked at the time, Space Rangers flopped (thank god) and Earth 2 got canceled (It was a bit to slow).

These days we have better writing and acting on shows like Battlestar Galactica. It is a show that could bridge the gap, letting scifi geeks enjoy the tech aspects, and other folks enjoy the good drama.

JMS is so damn full of himself its a wonder he can get through any doors.

Give it up, man... (2, Funny)

Trolling4Columbine (679367) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167699)

"It's hard to overestimate the influence that Babylon 5 had on American television" Sorry pal, it ain't going to be THAT easy for you to validate those hundreds of hours you wasted watching TELEVISION.

Re:Give it up, man... (0, Offtopic)

feijai (898706) | more than 8 years ago | (#14168008)

Who is greedier? The capitalist who makes money or the socialist who takes it?
By definition, the capitalist.

Part of the definition [reference.com] of greed is that the money is beyond what the person needs. Socialism's goal is to assist those in need. That wasn't so hard now, was it?

Bester (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167701)

"Walter Koenig's character of Bester, the Psi-Cop, has a crippled hand, yet the book doesn't mention this at all."

That is because Walter Koenig suggested it when they started filming.

Get a life (1)

airrage (514164) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167715)

For example, the first appearance of a First Ones ship (the Walkers at Sigma 957 in the episode "Mind War") has an explicit note that the as-yet unmentioned "Shadowmen" ship will look very different. Another suggestion during the scene of the battle with raiders recommends using real-world physics for the Starfury crafts to differentiate from other dogfights-in-space shows.

This reminds me of that SNL skit where William Shatner tells the Trekkies to get a life, when posed the question, "Well um, I was wondering if you could settle a bet for me and my friends, okay? Um, like, when you... um, left your quarters for the last time? And you opened up your safe? Um... what was the combination?"

Re:Get a life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167993)

It seems clear then that you don't understand what was meant by real world physics. He wasn't talking about using complex models, and not being off by three inches, he was talking about animating ships that actually had momentum, and turned like spaceships, not planes.

One of B5s major pluses: lack of cliches! (3, Interesting)

hellfire (86129) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167717)

One of the biggest things I loved about B5 was that this is the first Sci fi show I could remember in a long time that copious amounts of sarcasm, quips, snide insults, clever philosophy, and unique circumstances. JMS tried to do something new, and that's what sci fi fans want. Your hard core sci fi fan doesn't want what they saw before and they want something edgy with good dialog, good plot, and a healthy dose of snark. Before B5, the snide sarcasm was something left for the last 3 minutes of a Star Trek episode.

Have you noticed just how much snark made it's way into original sci fi series these days? B5 started it. SG1 made it a sci-fi standard. Joss with buffy/firefly turned it into a fine art worthy of hanging in the l'ouvre, if one could hang such things. Even Andromeda, which is an okay sci fi series, still has loads of snark. Snark and sarcasm are the highest forms of humor (I feel) and require intelligence and attention span to get. US TV executives of major networks shoot for the lowest common denominator and these are not traits most Americans have.

Re:One of B5s major pluses: lack of cliches! (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | more than 8 years ago | (#14168036)

Congratulations, sir! You have just set the record for most uses of the word "snark" in single Slashdot post! You win a cookie.

When does the script book for (1)

MelloDawg (180509) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167774)

Straczynski's The Real Ghostbusters episodes come out? :) That was ABC's number one rated animated series at the time when he was on the staff. After the network tried to come in and change the show, Straczynski gave them the finger and quit. The show went downhill soon afterwards.

Does anyone really care? (-1, Troll)

GecKo213 (890491) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167775)

As far as I'm concerned there is only Star Trek (The Next Generation too) and Star Wars. Any other series that I have seen has not impressed me, and is most likely the primary reason for their demise. By no means am I trying to be anti-SciFi here, but seriously has any other show captured anyone as those did? Some of them have "Hot Chicks" in skin tight uniforms, but that's about the extent of the draw. Troll/Flamebait mod me if you must, but that is my opinion and I'm not afraid to post it.

-- Opinions expressed are just that, opinions and by no means should make you feel like less of a person if you happen to have opposing views. Furthermore, I'm not trying to make enemies, merely stating my personal observations.

Generation Trance: [generationtrance.com] What generation are you?

Who really poisoned Kosh? (2, Interesting)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167793)

I still want to know who was really behind the poison attack on Kosh in The Gathering [google.ca] , but I guess it's a bit late to learn more about Vorlon internal politics, although the comment about "losing a line of dialogue about one reason for the Vorlons's obvious paranoia about their biology" perks my interest.

JMS scripts for other shows? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167806)

When is a book of his Ghostbusters cartoon scripts coming out? That'll be sweeeet.

Scripts? (1)

thebdj (768618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167813)

Seriously, avoiding anything related to the show and/or its "competition", do scripts really sell enough or have enough appeal to warrant the paper on which the books will be printed? Not to mention that its not even the scripts for the whole series.

There were a set of companion CDs for some (if not all) the Star Trek series a few years back. Each CD contained complete scripts for the series, synopsis, the original 'next time on...' videos, and pictures. It retailed for $15-20, which is half as much as this for 7 seasons worth of scripts.

Now for the admission, I am a Star Trek fan. I watched B5 sparingly and never was able to get much into it. I am not one of those Star Trek or nothing fans either. I do enjoy other science fictions show, I just never enjoyed B5. While I can see this item appealing to maybe some of the B5 fans, I highly doubt many of them will be too enthusiastic about getting it. I say this because, I have seen Star Trek books on sell for years that I would probably never consider purchasing because they are just too much and are not something with which I would be that intrigued.

B3 was B4 B5 (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167855)

B3 & B4 totally ruled, B5 just ripped them off

Quick, someone call the The Narn Bat Squad

Has anyone else noticed... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14167878)

There are a lot of similarities between the B5 humans under President Clark and the USA under President Bush?

The president illegally gains power... (Clark by assasinating Santago, Bush by fixing elections)

The president puts his supporters (who are incompetent at best) in positions of power (Clark restructures the military, Bush uses Condaleeza Rice, head of the CIA, head of FEMA)

The president uses threats (which he is partly responsible for) of planetary/national security to introduce opressive laws & tighten security. (Clark uses shadow/alien threats, Bush uses terrorism)

The president is supported/backed by powerful/influencial organisations... (Psi Cops & Haliburton)

A police force answerable only to him (Nightwatch/Ministry of Peace = Homeland Security) that spies on the public.

Background checks on citizens without their knowledge (Clark uses Nightwatch & Teeps, Bush uses 30,000 National Security letters & the PARTIOT ACT)

How long until filmmakers are arrested for sedition?

Will Bush use the next terrorist attack to declare martial law? (it'll have to be chemical/biological/nuclear)

It also showed (1)

nagora (177841) | more than 8 years ago | (#14167952)

That when key actors leave the show before the story is over it can totally destroy what you have built overnight (see also DS9).

TWW

Buy it here! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14168012)

Buy his best setlling book here: Rising Stars HC [amazon.com] . And if you use the "secret" A9.com discount [amazon.com] , you can save an extra 1.57%!
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