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Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


Blindeye posted:

This is the first TV show that heavily relies on CGI and it improves substantially over the years. Part of the frustration is the models are higher res but were never remastered:

To add to what's already been shared: the CGI on the show was extensive for the time, and it was done in Lightwave on Amiga computers. Personal computers.

They made the foresighted decision to shoot the show in widescreen, anticipating that in the future that format would become standard. The guy running the CGI shop went to one of the executive producers and said he needed $10,000 for a widescreen monitor and they could render all the CGI, both composite shots and full CGI scenes, in widescreen. The EP said no.

So when the time came for the Sci Fi channel to snap up the show for rerunning and they opted to pay to get the widescreen version, but none of the CGI was in that format. Solutions ranged from stretching the image to putting black bars at the top and bottom of the screen for CGI-rendered scenes. None of this has helped with the image quality, which was much better on original broadcast.

The EP who I'm fairly sure nixed the widescreen monitor purchase, Doug Netter, also replaced the original CGI folks on the show in the fourth season with Netter Digital, run by you can guess who. It's unclear whether that, plus the collapse of that company soon after the first B5 spinoff got canceled, is responsible for all the apparently missing CGI models, or whether they were handed over to Warner Brothers appropriately and WB either lost them or is deliberately withholding them.

It's probably worth briefly covering the B5/WB thing: B5 was a show on the PTN network, which was essentially a syndicated package of shows developed and peddled by a subdivision within the WB corporate structure. This subdivision was NOT the WB TV subdivision, which had been working on a WB network. That effort ended up competing with PTN. The other PTN shows died out, with B5 remaining in syndication, but the WB TV executives didn't consider it theirs and believed its success would undermine them. Creator JMS has said that one WB executive despised the show and did everything possible to damage it, including screwing with advertising, and that person is still at WB in a senior position.

So WB, despite owning the show, has been actively disinterested in doing anything even vaguely like what Paramount did with Star Trek. JMS claims WB demanded that film masters of every episode, in its original airing format, be submitted to them by the production, and that they still have these masters in the vault. WB shows no interest in making them available for a potential original aspect Bluray set, or even for a higher quality digital source.

Doctor Who had the cheapskate BBC funding it, and at least at times wasn't very popular with their execs. B5, when produced, had amateur execs who essentially allowed the production team to do what they wanted, which was good, but that same circumstance means that the show had no champions at WB later on, only enemies.

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Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


Koenig was originally going to be cast as one of the Knights in “And the Sky Full of Stars” but was unable to do the show after suffering a mild heart attack. He was given the Bester part to make up for it.

Another interesting bit of trivia: for the most part, the performers playing human leads were not especially “method” and would break character after every take. Conversely, Andreas Katsulas would come in for his G’kar makeup and then stay in it all day, leading visitors to the odd experience of seeing a Narn on a smoke break.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


Anonymous Zebra posted:

My point from all this hurf blurf is that B5 is a good show, that looks like a cohesive story in the end because the show-runners kept the themes consistent and developed plot points based on information previously given to the viewers in early seasons. But by no means was any of that actually planned, and in fact, how far things went off the rails is actually pretty amazing.

Once everyone’s posted their thoughts on the final episode, I’ll be happy to post a synopsis of the original plan for the Five Year Arc (the original is eight pages long) from the B5 Script Book series. That’s also a good time for our posters to reflect on how things developed in comparison to their thoughts now in S1, and maybe even for the rest of us to chime in as well.

Also, when “off the rails” describes the normal conditions of TV development and production, I don’t think the analogy fits. No show survives first contact with actual production. When the time comes, I’ll be interested to hear what the new viewers think of what we got in comparison to the original plan, and we’ll see whether “off the rails” or “massively revised and improved” work better to describe what happened.

TheAardvark posted:

One thing that's helping me with the sets is trying to think of the show more as a play than as television. It fits with some of the acting, too, you can tell Michael O'Hare spent a lot of time on stage.

Another thing to keep in mind is that B5 was on the air at the same time as TNG and Deep Space Nine, but its budget was half as much as for those shows. The sets might be cheap, but on things like alien prosthetics and make-up or costuming, B5 can compete.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


1 X 12 "By Any Means Necessary" was written by Kathryn Drennan, who at the time was married to JMS. (He had to be hands-off through the whole process and she got extra vetting as a writer/contributor, so the relationship was a hindrance as much as a help.) In her section of the B6 script books, she answers a bunch of questions about the episode. I've extracted a few comments related to our new watchers' responses; spoilers for this episode only:

She doesn't remember where Zento's name came from, just that she wanted a name that didn't sound like a 20th century name (for a change).

To the "things got worse in the future" point: she was inspired by the PATCO strike in 1981, when over 12,000 members of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization went on strike nationwide for shorter work weeks and better benefits for those retiring early due to the stress of the work. President Ronald Reagan declared the strike illegal, ordered them back to work in 48 hours, and fired all the ones who didn't return (11,000+ did not).

The original story got a lot of rewriting, mainly because JMS had to be hands-off and everyone else got their say. Then the director came in and said he preferred her original draft. JMS got permission from her to add Zento into the original draft (he appeared only in later drafts) and also added the ISN reporter: Drennen believes they had the actress contracted for the episode and would have to pay her regardless of whether or not she appeared. (It's possible that was due to the late switch back to the original draft, or she may have been scheduled to appear in another episode and then cut from it before production started.)

For the scenes with G'Kar praying, JMS wrote the prayers but Andreas Katsulas added the chants himself.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


A story or two about 1 X 16 "Eyes" shared by the author, Larry DiTillio:

The actor playing Ben Zayn, Gregory Martin, was apparently going through a nasty divorce during the shooting of this episode. He decided to work through it by playing his part as big as possible. The director desperately tried to reign him in but failed. DiTillio indicates that most of the cast and crew (definitely including Michael O'Hare) genuinely hated him by the end of the shoot.

Both director Jim Johnston and DiTillio wanted the shot of Garibaldi and Lennier riding the motorcycle. They were told it wasn't safe and directly refused permission. They ended up doing the shot anyway and getting into trouble... but they used it in the episode along with the expected digital composite shot.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


Agronox posted:

Don't feel too bad. People have been calling them the Mimbari for 25 years now so a Zorlon for a new viewer is nbd

My favorite is the blooper in a later season where a guest actor who is supposed to be referencing the war between Earth and the Minbari refers to it as "the Minibar War."

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


VideoGames posted:

Ok just watched Deathwalker and that was pretty decent too.


I do like the ethics and morals kinds of stories but in this one it seemed very clear cut that there was no grey area on Deathwalker. What she did was awful and what they were fighting for was also awful.

It was kind of neat that the Vorlons came along and blew her ship up. I had suspected something would happen to prevent immortality being a thing and it made me laugh that we had gone a ton of episodes without seeing Kosh for him to be doing two sneaky things at once. When Garibaldi said Kosh has been a busy boy that was exactly my thoughts!

The vcr race is a super idea. The makeup was also really neat for him. the sinister reason that Kosh was negotiating was also extremely intriguing. Josh wanting leverage over Talia makes me wonder what he is up to.


This thread has now given us Josh the Zorlon and I am here for it.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


Unkempt posted:


Yeah, I think that was what they were going for and I certainly don't think we're supposed to believe anyone there approved of their actions, but the implication here is that people on Bab 5 are allowed to murder, rape, torture or enslave anyone (of their own species) as long as they've got a religion that says it's OK. I'm going to be 'that guy' and suggest that actually that's a bit poo poo.

edit: I guess they could get kicked off the station? That's still a little bit poo poo.


Can this discussion get moved into the other B5 thread?

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


Milkfred E. Moore posted:

I think the DVDs had subtitle/dialogue disagreements, too. Maybe they drew subtitles from the scripts-as-written versus as shot or something?

For the latest example (upthread in TheAardvark’s spoilers), the script book agrees with the spoken line, not the subtitles. Either the subtitler was taking liberties in the name of brevity, or it’s an example of WB’s active disinterest in the show.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


Very mild s2e7 spoilers:
Production story told by Peter David, author and there as extra for Londo’s big celebration scene:
The director, John Flinn (who was B5s director of photography) had all those barefoot extras and was having trouble getting all the coverage for the scene. As midnight approached, it became clear that he couldn’t possibly get all the shots he needed in time, and it’d thus be his fault for extending the shoot into overtime territory. The Suits were on site to cut off filming, allowing only time for one master shot of Londo collapsing and Sheridan saying “Medlab, this is Sheridan!”

Bruce Boxleitner leans in, hits the comm link, and says “Medlab, this is Sinclair!”

Filming comes to a screeching halt, everyone bursts out laughing, with Boxleitner saying “What was I thinking?!” (This blooper is on the S2 blooper reel, but spoilers for other S2 episodes, so I won’t link it.)

The Suits laughed, and authorized the overtime. Flinn was able to finish all his shots.

And Peter David, who was there as an extra in the crowd, is convinced Boxleitner deliberately flubbed the line. Given that he’d not been on the show in S1 when Sinclair was still there, I’m inclined to believe it.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


Groke posted:

I'm sure I've said it already, but Katsulas and Jurasik are the best things about the whole show.

I think Furlan is usually underrated. She gets saddled with a lot of exposition and a lot less opportunity for emotional outbursts, but does a fascinating job. But we should save this discussion for when the blind watchers have finished S5 and are ready to revisit their impressions for the last time.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


Sanguinia posted:

Now I want to somehow see Bablyon 5 in stage play format.

Check out Babylon 5: The Lost Tales. Produced with so little budget, it might as well be a stage play with CGI.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


TheAardvark posted:

S2E12 Acts of Sacrifice

G'Kar being a decent sport about only getting civilian aid. I can't tell if he was laughing or crying there wtf.

I’m not going to make a habit of doing this, but the script for this episode helps contextualize the performance here.
G’kar emerges from the room and nearly falls. He puts a hand to the wall to steady himself. At this moment, he doesn’t know whether to laugh because he’s gotten something, or cry because all the pain has not gotten him military aid. And so, as he makes his way slowly into the transport tube... he does both.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


Confessions and Lamentations: They made a whole bunch of Markab prosthetic masks ramping up for this episode, a number of background masks but also plenty that were for specific performers. For a species that would be wiped out in this episode. JMS reports that both the makeup and wardrobe people were disbelieving when they saw the Markab were all gone now and they wouldn’t be using the masks and costumes again.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


Vavrek posted:

You've hit on my favorite dumb thing about the Kosh costume: It doesn't fit through the doors on Babylon 5. This is why Kosh is always mysteriously already standing there in any scene he appears in.

Another example of how a limitation leads to something that greatly enhances the show.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


TheAardvark posted:

Contains some specific thoughts up through S3E3:
I respect him for that, I really do. I think it's an issue of directing - none of the three (Garibaldi/Ivanova/Franklin) gave good performances this episode, and they all have given really believable performances at least once. I think. don't ask me for specifics

the other actors all gave good performances, but the other actors ALWAYS give good performances, they've all got huge presence to carry through any script/directing issues

I think in Franklin's case the poor directing just shines extra hard because he surely has to rely on those around him to cue changes in his performance


B5 took some heat at the time (and to some extent still does) from “bad acting,” which firstly is a dead giveaway of someone who hardly watched the show, but I think it’s largely related to the human characters and largely a matter of the direction they got. The alien actors had some freedom to map their own path—Jurasik coming up with the accent and kinda the hair, for example—and their performers were more confident and experienced. But it’s also much harder to play a human in sci-fi, because you might sort of be like humans today, but how much? What does being a Russian Jew in the future mean, exactly?

On most shows, the performers take possession of their characters, but that was harder here because of the serial story arc and hence the need to adhere to the script as written. Even late in S2, that madman down the hall with the office next to the electrical mains has some plan for your character that you can’t even guess, but every throw-away line might end up not being a throw-away. If the director guides or even just affirms your choices, great, but if you get no direction, or mixed signals, or bad direction, you’re likely to play things uncertainly.

JMS started adjusting characters to their performers over time, and by S3 having just one writer helped with consistency of depiction. Plus the show developed a cadre of good directors, ones distinctive enough you can probably guess them.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


The_Doctor posted:

S2ep21 - Comes the Inquisitor

“Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. How do you apologise to them?”
“I can’t.”
“Then I cannot forgive.”

G’kar railing on the Zocalo, struggling to make sure the people still acknowledge the Narns’ existence, to make sure they’re not as easily forgotten as the Markabs. And Vir watching over it all, his expression a mixed bag of potentials. The later meeting of Vir and G’Kar in the lift was more compelling than Delenn’s interrogation. Vir’s sincere apology is met with blood and the most uncomfortable of penetrating gazes. Ugh, Katsulas is so good, emoting through latex like it’s his own skin. His expression at “Then I cannot forgive.” is honestly amazing. The tone of voice says he is angry at the Centauri for what has happened, he cannot ever forgive those actions, but there’s a little something in there that I can’t help but read as him not blaming Vir personally for this at all, just all that Vir represents. It’s magical acting.


What's particularly wonderful about the performance is that you can clearly sense how much G'Kar wishes that it were possible for Vir to be forgivable; that his question, ultimately, is not rhetorical, but also that he is not the same person we saw in early S1 where he would take pleasure in the discomfort (or worse) of any Centauri. He knows Vir means what he say, and he also knows that doesn't make a drat bit of difference, and he's not going to allow Vir comfort at the cost of his own principles. Just a really amazing piece of work, even without the prosthetic.

Stephen Furst told a story about this scene:
That was horrible for me. I'm telling you, he is such a good actor and it's even harder to act under rubber and these red lenses. I'm in the elevator and I'm nervous around him, the character. We're in the elevator and I'm just trying to avoid his eyes. He takes out a knife and I don't know what the hell he's going to do with a knife. He cuts his hand. Every drop of blood he goes, "Dead. Dead. Dead." Did the scene and they yell cut and I go, "I'm so sorry!" Tears were just streaming down my face! I was just, oh my god, I kept apologizing. Finally at lunch, Andreas said, "Get away already!" (from 20th anniversary conventions annotated panel transcripts book)

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


“No expense spared! We bought you another Amiga this season.”

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


Son of Sam-I-Am posted:

If you're talking about the starfuries left to fill in B5's complement, all berths were filled on the surviving ship(s) (I forget the actual tactical situation), so while they could escape, the rebels would always have to have a fighter wing outside the ship, or wait until they join up with another ship that lacked fighters. It's a matter of efficience and practicality.

No, that’s not what he’s referring to. At the opening, the Alexander can’t jump without dealing with the pursuing ship because that would mean leaving the fighters behind.

It’s never explained. We do know fighters can’t open their own jump points and that they have the endurance to travel some distance in hyperspace. It’s possible these fighters were burning fuel during the escape and lack the endurance, and maybe returning via the hangar is too tricky with hyperspace currents. Alternately, the fighters jumping would require the Alexander to hold the jump point longer, exposing it to further attack, though that doesn’t seem to be the implication of the discussion. Presumably the pursuing ship could just jump after them, so there’s other good reasons to disable or destroy it.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


Lemniscate Blue posted:

This implies that something bad happens if a ship that's bigger than the current configuration tries to use a jump gate, which leads me to wonder: could you effectively block a jump gate by moving it's struts to, say, 20 meters apart? And if so what happens when a big ship tries to come through?

It'd be a tactic with very situational application because most bug warships can create their own jump points out of hyperspace, but we see a lot of them still use jump gates anyway so they're not trapped until their jump engines recharge - keeps their options open. But it'd be useful for setting traps.

Assuming it doesn't destroy the gate.

Destroying your own jump gate essentially isolates you, as only large warships have jump engines, not trading ships or freighters. I would assume you’d get maybe one ship coming out, destroy your gate, and the rest jump in manually. As no warship is worth more than a gate, it isn’t worth doing.

It’s also probably true that the jump gate can’t function unless there’s a minimum distance between the struts creating enough room for the jump point to form. If you could form jump points inside solid objects, jump drives would be effective weapons.

Mines might be effective, but as they are presumably cloaked or EM shielded they would probably pose a hazard to civilian traffic even if you deactivated them. It’s unclear how large B5 mines are and there’s a clear reluctance about using them outside an active combat.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


Antifa Poltergeist posted:

Have one jump gate in front of another that leads directly into the first so that you have a jumpgate ouroboros

Just don’t put them too close together. That would be a bonehead maneuver (no offense).

An interesting nuance to consider: an attacking fleet puts itself at something of a disadvantage coming through a jump gate, although that does allow a jump with fighters already deployed. The main reason to attack in this way is to make it much harder for anyone to escape, as only a jump-capable ship can get away; anyone else has to come straight through you to get to the jump gate.

A few systems have multiple gates, but they’re always so far apart that the attackers could jump cross-system to catch anyone fleeing unless they lose the battle.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


B5 is also firmly in the subgenre of theatrical sci-fi, like classic Trek or the original Twilight Zone. Star Wars is absolutely about effects, though not necessarily exclusively so, and it would never attempt something like Trek's "Spectre of the Gun" episode, where the effects were terrible but that wasn't the point.

Dinging B5 on the quality of its effects is like complaining that a Shakespeare play doesn't have any car chases. I'd argue that most of the flaws in S1 are connected with one or two of the directors being in "action" mode, perhaps in part because they thought the dialogue was bullshit. Yes, if you ignore the reason for which the episode exists and concentrate your time on trying to do something you lack the resources to do, the resulting episode doesn't come out very well. So while it's true that an episode like Severed Dreams is great, and that the effects and action portions of the episode are all effective, the heart of the episode is about characters, choices, changes, and relationships.

One might compare with classic Trek's "Balance of Terror." There's action, there's space battles, but every single important thing in the episode has to do with characterization, decision-making, and character conflict. B5 allows characterization and decisions to develop and resonate across five full seasons instead of being episodic.

Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


mllaneza posted:

Wait, what ? That episode is aggressively stylistic, but it's gorgeous. It's not trying to look realistic, and that is the point - the whole environment is a construct, a stage for a morality play. It may not be the most visually appealing episode, but it's certainly the most effective use of design in TOS.

I agree. I also like the effects in B5. But they are not always “good” effects for a value of good that’s more concerned with hyper-realism than theatricality. Some people hate that episode either because they don’t appreciate the difference or they don’t like theater.

My point was that classic Trek and B5 fit into a theatrical tradition. Compare to the “new” Star Trek movie franchise, which definitely does not fall into the same tradition. “This is a big fight scene with effects and Kirk on a motorcycle” doesn’t compute in classic Trek (plus there’s not enough shirt-ripping).

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Narsham
Jun 5, 2008


Mr. Morton provides salts and spices for the Zorlons.

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