- Absolutely unlike anything ever produced before for television.
Directorially, and in terms of the visual effects, the CGI, the
performances, right across the board, it's a stunner. And just...I
can't convey this enough...different. It just takes TV SF and yanks it
to a whole other level of complexity.
- As for a production report...things are going swimmingly. Today we started
getting dailies on our first day of shooting on "And the Sky Full of
Stars," which deals with the Battle of the Line. This is not going to
look like your conventional episode of television. We've brought in
equipment that you don't normally see on a television set, certain kinds
of cranes and lenses and lighting packages that will give this
particular episode a very strange, almost surreal look. It's quite
And Ron's pushing the envelope on the CGI...compositing some
live action stuff with CGI that'll blow your TV out.
It's going *well*.
- Spent a very, very, very long day today in editing...not out of any
problems, but because of the *astonishing* amount of detail we're
putting into "And the Sky Full of Stars." Leaving out all the live-
action shots, there are 25 CGI shots in one and a half minutes in
one sequence alone. (By way of comparison, there were 55 or so in
the full two hour pilot for B5.) So we go frame by frame, making
sure that everything meshes properly, through some pretty intense
gistics. You'll understand when you see it.
I've never seen the like of this particular episode before. It's a
- On returns... Garibaldi's aide: yes. Knights: yes, but not
identified as such.
- Lurkers is indeed a net reference.
- Psi Corps, as a government-regulated agency, is prohibited from
endorsing candidates or taking a political stance.
- I would *never* pull a "he wakes up and it was all a dream" on the
series. I hate that kind of story.
- It has *always* been my sense that the body was
slipped out an access airlock in the zero-g cargo area. Every
other access -- like the boarding area and standard cargo area --
is under close security to prevent this kind of thing, or the
influx of contraband. There's really nowhere to GO from the zero-g
section, so it's a little looser. As for how he got the body
there...there is an answer, and a reason, and if you look at this
episode again after the season is over, even the nitpickers who
brought it up will be able to figure it out. I didn't address it
in the issue because I didn't think anyone would make a federal
case out of this, and for other reasons that will in time become
apparent. Several other nits picked at this episode will *also* be
clarified by season's end. It's not easy to sit quietly, knowing
the answer, and being unable to tell it, but that's simply what I
have to do for the time being.
Psi Cops are *authorized* to carry firearms. The Knights had an in
with Security, and by virtue of high government contacts, got their
stuff on board. Those seem to me not requiring much explanation.
I can't believe this "explain how the guns get aboard" discussion is
still going on. This isn't the Enterprise, to use the cited example,
which is a *military vessel*, and only the occasional rare civilian
gets on board. There are a QUARTER MILLION PEOPLE on board at any
given moment. (People = humans and aliens.) Not staying there, but
in a state of flux. Going and coming. Anywhere from 50 to 100 ships
per day dock at B5. Thousands upon thousands of boxes, crates, cargo
loads, pallets, you name it. If you stopped and inspected every
single box that came through, the system would grind to a halt. So
you do the best you can, you catch whatever you can, scan as much as
possible, and accept that some stuff is bound to slip through.
Further, this is the kind of explanation that has nothing to do with
a story, only with someone's need to have something explained to them.
I think the time is spent better elsewhere.
- Yes, that is a triluminary on the grey council staff in "Sky."
(cf. "Babylon Squared")
- Bear in mind, though, that Sinclair really had no reason to doubt what he
remembered happening on the Line until the Minbari assassin uttered those
seven fateful words. As for others...there have been suspicions, but more
broadbased...and we'll deal with those a bit here and there.
- Also, check the readout on Sinclair's screen as he's trying to engage the
enemy. You'll see "negative lock" popping up. One problem in fighting the
Minbari vessels is that they have a kind of stealth tech that makes it very
hard for our weapons to lock on.
Bill Mitchell from "Sky" is a reference to General Billy Mitchell . . .
- Yeah, it was an off-the-cuff reference to Billy Mitchell . . .
(Didn't really mean that much; just thought it wuz cool.)
Re: "Sky"...my theory is to *never* assume prior knowledge of the
background info that goes into an episode. If you never saw the
pilot, you will miss *nothing* going into "Sky" (though it'd be nice
because of one quickie flashback to know where that came from). I
don't think anyone will have a hard time following that one.
This was one segment of the battle; there were others going on in
other areas as well. It's said that no one ever *saw* the Battle of
the Bulge; each saw a small part of it. Same here.
Reality is, no matter how big we would've made it, more would've been
wanted. (If anything, it seems that the more we show, the more is
wanted.) But all things considered, best to have folks wanting more
than wanting less....
(And remember, we're managing to do all this with roughly *half* of
TNG's budget. Give us their budget, and I'll show you ALL of the
Battle of the Line, and the ENTIRE Earth/Minbari War, PLUS all their
Nonetheless, as we go deeper into the season, the CGI/action sequences
do get bigger and more detailed in many places. In "Signs and
Portents" (formerly "Raiding Party"), you'll see three pretty good
sized squadrons of ships engaged in a very fast-paced battle that goes
on for most of an act and a half, as opposed to just a few scenes in
"Sky." Big battles weren't really the *point* in "Sky," it was more
about his REACTIONS and his personal fate. There were a number of
action/battle shots we had on hand, but decided not to use because we
didn't want to dilute the *point* of the scene.
And as stated elsewhere...yes, you'll be seeing the Minbari war
Actually, as you'll see in "Sky," sometimes the Good Guys *do* get
their ships hit; sometimes they blow up and kill the person (as you
will see), and sometimes they do damage without destroying the ship,
in which case there is an eject mechanism that separates the cockpit
part from the rest of the fighter, which contains the volatile
So in those circumstances, a flight suit is a *very* good idea....
We actually had a lot more shots we could've used to prolong the
sequence, but felt we *really* had to get to Sinclair, and go into
his point of view more. Also we step-printed the CGI to give it a
more dream-like appearance, since we're seeing this from inside
Sinclair's memory, and he wasn't really able to *see* all this,
particularly stuff happening around and behind him, this is more his
*sense* of the events of that time. The sections we didn't step-print
were those where he was RIGHT THERE, to make a subtle distinction.
What? Who, me? Near as I remember, the Question was, "What happened
at the Battle of the Line?" Answer: Sinclair was taken aboard the
Minbari cruiser, tortured, interrogated, mind-wiped and shoved back
into his ship.
The Question *now* is, "WHY was Sinclair taken aboard the Minbari
cruiser, tortured, interrogated, mind-wiped and shoved back into his
That question was not asked heretofore...so how could it be still
A number of people have commented that they weren't much surprised by
Sinclair being taken aboard, because on the nets -- and this has ONLY
taken place on the nets -- this speculation has been bandied about
for some time. We now have ten zillion speculations on the reason
*why*. I will not comment on them one way or another (though I
suppose I could point, without making the real comparison between
types of typists, to the idea that an infinte number of monkeys typing
on an infinite number of keyboards would eventually produce Hamlet
simply by chance combination; sooner or later, something close to the
reality might be stumbled upon...and let me ask a simple question:
what purpose does that serve? It only lessens the enjoyment of those
who would simply like to enjoy what happens WHEN it happens).
Any good detective knows that you can't really begin to speculate
about motive until you have all the information right at hand. At
this point there is information you don't have...and absent that, any
guesses will either be wrong, or close enough to hinder the fun but
still essentially incorrect. It's like trying to guess the contents
of a box without knowing the size of the box...it could be a marble,
it could be an elephant or a pre-fabricated house.
All I'm suggesting is that you consider not trying to come up with
every possible angle, and let the show progress on its own. Right
now everybody seems to be scrambling to make sure every even remotely
feasible possibility is covered, and there an infinite number. As an
organized activity, this will in time only prove frustrating. By the
end of the season, as with being near the end of a movie, you'll have
enough info on hand to start making some educated guesses. To do so
now is to begin the proess of calling out possible endings during
the first five minutes of a movie...you'll miss the important things,
and annoy the people sitting behind you.
I'm not saying stop; I'm just saying...relax, a little, I guess, and
simply be aware that you *cannot* scatter-shot this thing without
having access to all the information. It's like trying to guess the
beginnings of World War One without knowing *any* of the background of
the countries involved. Suffice to say that the reason would not be
simplistic, or cliched, or *easily deduced*. One thing I learned in
two years on "Murder, She Wrote" was to come up with a fairly complex
mystery, something that can't be easily solved going in, but which
makes perfect sense after you have all the facts and know which clues
were the real ones, and which were simply red herrings.
Just a thought....
We'd initially offered Walter [Koenig] the role of Knight Two in
"Sky," but when his health prohibited using him, we went to Patrick
McGoohan, who loved the script, wanted to do it, but was going to be
out of the country at the time of shooting. We then shifted Walter
to "Mind War."
Thanks. I love Patrick's work. Problem is he's *very* fussy on the
roles he takes. (And justifiably so.) He has to be sold on the
script or there's no deal. We'd sent him a copy of "And the Sky Full
of Stars," which would have had him as the main interrogator, Knight
Two...and he liked it, and was prepared to do it...when we checked our
respective calendars and discovered that he was going to be out of the
country when we were scheduled to shoot.
We hope to get him at some later time. He's just terrific.
The CGI scenes were deliberately step-printed to give the shots a
more dreamlike look.
The CGI won't look as good in slow motion because we step-printed
them deliberately, in order to give them a more dream-like appearance.
For us, this wasn't about the ships, it was about one of the men in
the ship, which is why we kept him in sharp focus, and went to step-
printing whenever we went outside (and since we're seeing this from
his memory, clearly he wouldn't actually have *seen* most ofthis,
it's his *sense* of what happened). You'll get plenty of clear CGI
in "Signs and Portents," airing in May.
Actually, there's a second shot in which you can see a body being
thrown out; it's between Mitchell and Sinclair being hit. Remember
that the body is strapped in in an angular fashion, and look for it
as it blows (as I recall) from left to right. It's there.
This weekend, I was at the Space Frontier Foundation to receive an
award for Babylon 5 for Best Vision of the Future, part of which was
its recognition of our *deliberate efforts* to get things right.
Zero-G maneuvering, civilian use of space, a working O'Neill station,
on and on, all the stuff you think happens by "coincidence." And
which has not generally HAPPENED on TV before. In attendence were
the Delta Clipper team of engineers, astronaut Pete Conrad, leading
researchers with NASA, JPL, McDonnell-Douglas, you name it.
And one of the people there, who had been with SDI and the Space
Program for 12 years, currently a top-level NASA consultant, pulled
me aside and said that after seeing the line about the gravity not
letting the body get very far . . . he said he sat down to do the
math required to come up with the actual MASS of B5, starting with
the 2.5 million tons of actual structure, plus likely vegetation,
quarters, occupants, ships docked inside...and when you add it all
up, it came to about the same mass as a fairly small moon...and IT
WOULD BE ENOUGH TO KEEP THE BODY FROM -- AS STATED IN THE SCRIPT --
GETTING VERY FAR.
The body would drift from the station a bit, get pulled back, hit
the hull, bounce, drift a bit, and be pulled back. Or go into a slow
elliptical orbit. (He mentioned that in the history of the Apollo
program, little bits of debris that would flake off the outside of
the ship would remain in proximity to the ship, just on the basis of
ITS mass and gravity, and it's not very big.)
A couple of other high-level engineers backed him up, and said that
it was quite reasonable.
The 2.5 million tons of spinning *metal* refers only to that part,
the metal casing. It doesn't include the furniture, the structures,
the Garden, the 250,000 humans and aliens...so the total mass of the
thing is MUCH greater than the 2.5 megatons. Also, the body was
shoved out of the area around the cargo bay, non-rotating, which
would also cut down on the momentum (as opposed to shoving out out of
the rotating part, where it would speed away at 1g).
Yes, it was always my assumption that the body was dumped out through
the zero-g section, since that has more traffic with cargo loaders
and unloaders and less security than the passenger-oriented bays and
There is a security problem on B5, yes. And we hope to deal with it
at some point. It's inevitable, really; 250,000 residents, huge
crates being moved in and out every day, people going and coming...
they try to confiscate what they can, but a lot slips through.
The second shot to Knight One is a gut-shot, and the security guard
is shot through the chest.
Bear in mind, also, that some of this may be expected by folks here
on the nets because of the ongoing conversations, speculation and the
bits of info I drop here; but for 99.9% of the rest of the nation,
this IS new info. And even with the nets, I suspect that there are
some surprises here....
'Universe Today' Headline
I lived in San Diego from 1974-1981, and it's actually a great place,
so I'm inclined to tweak it once in a while, just for funsies....
The wisp of smoke is a wisp of smoke, nothing more important than that.
If something living in hyperspace bothers you...good, it
should. The Psi Corps article is in frame for a reason. Yes, we
sometimes put additional or important information in the background,
but I don't think we can be fair and assume that everyone sees it, so
if you don't see it in one place, it's stated out loud later on...the
background stuff is to give the alert viewer a fighting chance to
guess some stuff BEFORE it happens; when stuff DOES finally happen,
all the required information is supplied at that time.
Correct, Gregory. One of the things we learned from the pilot was
that we shoved too much information at people too fast. So I
deliberately held back a lot of arc stuff in the beginning of the
series, allowing people to move gradually into the B5 universe, learn
more about it, and THEN start whapping them with the arc. It isn't
until "Mind War" and "Sky" that we really begin cranking the arc.