We're halfway through filming the two-parter, "A Voice in the
Wilderness," which is coming along nicely. From a CGI and sets point
of view, this is the largest and most ambitious thing we've shot yet,
with ore of each category than in any other episode.
In the two-parter, btw, [Christopher Franke] went absolutely full-out and
gave us some of the best scoring of the season...gorgeous stuff, second only
to either "Sky" or "Chrysalis."
...Delenn has quite a few moments when she's laughing,
and funny, but always in a dignified fashion; it's a strange but very
appealing combination. (And there's one scene she's in that is played
*absolutely* straight, but is fall-down funny.)
It was always intended to be a two-parter, and was written that
way. Background: the B5 2-hour pilot has done VERY well overseas in
cassette form. Many of the prejudices in the american press that caused
us problems don't exist overseas (it's done *extremely* well in Japan on
laserdisk, in Germany, and England, among others). So they asked if we
could do a two-parter that could be sold as a two-hour episode overseas.
By all means, sez I. So I structured it accordingly.
Bit of B5 trivia: during the dead of winter last year, I got hit by
the flu as badly as I've ever been hit. Temperature so high that I was
near delerious at times, but refused to go to the hospital (I don't like
doctors, and I was under deadline and couldn't afford the potential time
away.) We're talking mondo sicko here. It was during this time that I
wrote "The Quality of Mercy," a script which I have *no* memory of ever
writing. I know it's here, and I know I wrote it on an intellectual
level, but the process...gone in the fever.
It was also around this time -- either at the top or bottom of the
flu, I can't remember now -- that I wrote the "Voice" two parter. And
here's the trivia part...this isn't the original two-parter that I wrote.
My brain already deteriorating, I wrote something that even I could see
wasn't up to par. Wrote the entire two-hour script. Printed it up, and
gave it to Doug and John. Before they could even respond, I looked at it
and decided it had to go. So I trashed the entire script. By now we
were getting very close to pre-production, and I was getting sicker and
sicker...but I more or less locked myself in my office, swallowed down
massive amounts of vitamins (as much as my stomach could handle), kept
forcing down coffee, and wrote 12 hours a day for about six days, after
which the original draft was finished. Turned it in; did some mild
polishes thereafter, but what was filmed was essentially what I turned
in in first-draft stage. In this case I do remember some of the process
because the only way I could focus was to keep the stereo up full blast;
in the writing of "Quality," it didn't help...I was beyond recall.
I tried to develop a basic language structure for each of the races
on B5. There are certain commonalities to the structure of names. I
came up with some prefixes and suffixes, and assigned meanings to them,
the same as real names. For instance, Rathenn (referred to by Delenn
in "Voices") and Delenn have the same suffix, which has a specific
meaning. You can break it down; Ner-oon (Legacies), Del-enn, Rath-enn,
Der-onn, and so forth. The various parts do have specific meanings,
but I generally keep that to myself, just for amusement.
I try not to hype shows that I like unless I know beyond a doubt that
it's absolutely kick-ass. I like "Voice" a lot; it is the point at
which we really start cranking, speeding things up as we barrel
toward "Chrysalis." I think the CGi is nothing less than terrific,
Christopher Franke went balls-to-the-wall and did an *amazing* job
with the music, the performances are good. I like it a lot. I haven't
commented upon it a lot because it's kind of the weird child in the
brood; when I write, I generally write tight and fast. By the third
act, you're *moving*. In this case, you have to pace yourself out
*very* differently, so part of my brain keeps doing this "c'mon, speed
it up, speed it up" when I'm watching the first part because I'm used
to a different one-hour kind of pacing.
Kathryn says I'm nuts. But then this is nothing new.
Anyway, I do think it's pretty cool, and does a lot with virtual sets
and composite sets.
Re: the elevator/transport tube gag...yes, we set this stuff up WAY
in advance. The first time is in the tube where he tells Talia
about his second favorite thing in the universe. The second time is
in "Mind War" when he gives her the mental once-over and she belts
him. And then we paid it off later with her line about him always
One nice thing about the way we're doing this show is that we don't
just have to set up gags within an episode; we can set them up *weeks*
ahead of time, as long as the payoff is self-contained, but then when
you see the earlier shows, now you get more out of it.
A First Contact situation is one unlike any other: you don't want
junior officers around to screw it up. Remember, the Earth/Minbari
War began when a First Contact situation got screwed up. EA's policy
is that it's better to risk two people than a full war, and those two
people have got to be command-level personnel. Soldiers get killed;
it happens. And yeah, you can leave a backup person at the shuttle
...but what if *he's* the one to make actual first contact? You're
screwed. Ivanova and Sinclairhave been trained in this; in "Soul
Hunter," Sinclair makes reference to the rules of First Contact
Protocol. If you like, I'll elaborate on this in some future episode.
Re: the commander and Ivanova going...remember, this is a First
Contact situation, and that requires the presence of at minimum one
command officer under EA regs. Two is preferred. You don't want
junior officers hanging around or taking hostile stances which might
provoke a fight. Remember that the last major First Contact
situation was with the Minbari, which went afoul and gave us the
Earth/Minbari War. EA would rather lose two replaceable officers than
start another war via misunderstanding or a fouled move. This is a
part of their First Contact Protocol, referenced in "Soul Hunter." (I
should probably expandupon this a bit in future episodes.)
RE: the big bridge shot...the storyboard artist came up with 3 shots
we could use. One of them was a wide shot across a crystalline ground
like area, through which a path can be seen at ground level, but it
was narrow and still really didn't convey the scale of what I wanted.
One other was not much different. The third was a downshot designed
to pull back, and though I knew it would make folks say "Krell!", I
knew that it was the right shot for that scene, so chose that one and
decided to live with it.
It's real simple.
Ron Thornton showed me three variations on the
Great Machine shot. Because you're looking at a composite shot, you have
to shoot either sharply angled down, or dead across, and full-figured,
since you have to put them into another piece. That meant either a
horizontal shot, or a 3/4's vertical shot.
Two of the shots on the storyboards were horizontal; one showed our
characters way off in the distance on a ribboned path lined by crystals.
It'd be pretty, but it looked like another tunnel shot, and I wanted to
show something that wasn't claustrophobic. Also, we'd be limited in the
camera move, and our characters would look kinda like peanuts. Not
terribly dramatic. The second shot just didn't work for me, I don't
entirely recall the reason now. The third possibility seemed the most
dramatic...it was a high angle shot, it had depth, it would let us start
on our characters and do a camera move/pullback in post production, it
worked on every level.
My second thought was, "Shit, somebody's going to gig us on the
Forbidden Planet thing." Nonetheless, it was the right shot, for the
right reasons, and we chose to go with it.
How does one come up with stuff like Londo's song? Easy, really; you
start by putting yourself in the position of an alien trying to
understand us. And if you step back for a second, we do some *very*
weird stuff. What he says about the song is exactly right in terms of
Yeah...I love Londo's song, that whole scene. The director wanted to
cut Ivanova's coda after her mantra, but I really felt we needed it,
and it played perfectly with her Russian character, which tends to
have this unusual relationship with higher forces (he said vaguely).
I love character based humor, because it's very powerful once you know
the characters, and it can really blind-side you if done right.
Ivanova's reaction in the core area was about as real as would
probably happen, but it's funny to hear her *say* it.
Londo and Garibaldi really are two sides of the same coin, in some
ways. There's an odd friendship there, almost grudging; Londo had
little to gain by cheering up Garibaldi, except a drink perhaps, but
that's what friends do.
I love monologues. They are a legitimate part of any drama. The MTV
generation has had its tastes so thoroughly bastardized by quick cuts,
lowering the attention span further and further, that any bite of more
than ten seconds and they start to wander, it becomes a block of words
and they blur out.
Go rent Network by Paddy Chayefsky, watch nearly any of the TZs by Rod
Serling, go see "The Lady's Not for Burning" by Christopher Fry...all
chockablock with moments where you park for a moment and let fly with
a chunk of dialogue that smashes your head against the wall. Not every
single exchange has to be foreshortened so that you lose the *impact*
of what's being said. Because people's attention spans have been
greatly foreshortened, suddenly more than 3 lines at a time is somehow
viewed as wrong. It ain't. Just that lots of folks are afraid to try
it, afraid to rely on just the words and the actors. And sometimes it
works, and sometimes it doesn't. But it's legitimate.
The monologue in particular, done right, isn't just to convey
information, it's to create a mood, to paint pictures with words, to
expand on the obvious. Yeah, I could've just written, "The narns hate
us, we hate them, it's equal math." But that doesn't carry the same
meaning, the same sense as "so here we are...victims of mathematics."
The use of the word "victim" connotes, hey, it's not my fault. Yeah,
the former is shorter, but you lose the rhythms, the imagery, and the
*sense* of what is intended. You could say, "The narn hate us." But
to say, "if the narns gathered together in one place, and hated, all
at the same time, that hatred would fly across dozens of light years
and reduce Centauri Prime to a ball of ash," draws a picture, lends
power to the emotion.
Point being...I like 'em, there's nothing wrong with them, and they're
Re: your suspenders of disbelief becoming unhitched....
You will learn how the alien knows English in the next part of the
two parter. (Hint: after all, he's been there for a long while, in a
high-tech machine...you'd think maybe he could monitor transmissions.)
I don't think the Sinclair or Ivanova did automatically believe him;
but they also had no real reason *not* to believe him. And granted
the place was going to hell, quakes and danger. He wasn't armed, he
seems rather sick, had to be helped away, almost carried...they won't
turn the station over to him, they'll keep him isolated on the
station, but there was no reason *not* to try and help him.
How do you know he's a good guy? You don't. But he wasn't exactly
imprisoned in that thing; it was a support, more than anything else,
a was shown by the fact that they were able to get him out fairly
(And yes, your first guess was correct, it is a life support gizmo.)
Regards to your suspenders.
Once removed from his place, Varn was able to lead them back to their
shuttle. It's not terribly dramatic, and I figured that was a fairly
logical leap, so didn't feel the need to put in a scene which would
just consist of Varn saying, "Left....now right...."
Ivanova's line: "We don't know if we can find our way back or not,"
not that it was closed off. So showing them wandering around to find
another open tunnel seemed not dramatically interesting; you have to
pick what's important and what's not, and what will work dramaticall
on screen. If she had said "there's no other way out," then you
would've had to show it. She didn't. One can also argue that the
alien showed them which way to get out. Either way...all you've got
is one hour to tell your story. You can't show everything, you have
to let your audience assume some things.
Roy: there is a quantum difference between a computer game and a TV
show. It's not "lowest common denominator," which means making the
story stupid; I'm saying that if you showed the missiles at full speed,
YOU WOULD NOT SEE THEM AT ALL. And, again, there's nothing nearby
with which to get a sense of how fast they're going, no landmarks, so
it's very hard to convey that. Again, look at space footage; the
shuttle is going *incredibly* fast...but as far as we can tell it
looks nearly motionless, because there are no landmarks.
Re: not explaining WHY the Starfuries can't enter the atmosphere, we
did that. Ivanova says that they're not built to function within an
atmosphere. Now, I could stop the scene for a long dissertation on
the relative aerodynamics of planes with wings vs. starfuries, but
here you say only what you have to. You show, don't tell.
It seems like in the same breath, it's accused of catering to the
lowest-common denominator, and being over the head of its viewers by
requiring them to *think* about what they're seeing.
Which means we're probably doing it right.
It seems to me that every generation thinks that things are changing,
usually for the worse. In some cases, they may be right. The B5
story is set at a point in time where things are very much in a state
of flux. Every so often, the wheel turns. Everybody's feeling a
sense of growing uncertainty, of the chairs being moved around.
Actually, this was not the first B5 or Sinclair had heard about the
escalating problem on Mars; remember, that was the main reason that
Ben Zayn had been sent to B5 in "Eyes," smoking out sympathisers with
the Free Mars movement.
The Mars Colony situation will be raising its ugly head on and off
again for quite some time to come.
Also, the fissure wasn't created by the quakes; Tasaki mentions it
was artificial, but nudged open by the tremors.
No, a shuttle like this, which is designed to function in alternate
atmospheres, and may have to evacuate groups, has about 7 standard or
most common atmosphere cannisters. Medlab has the same thing, but in
larger numbers. This is SOP on the show.
No, the sets weren't redresses of regular sets; they were built new
and entirely for the two-parter; you can get a better look at them in
the second part, and some angles of the first.