For a couple months now, I've been looking down the road at episode #7,
because I couldn't quite see the shape of it...I knew what I had to do
in it, but I couldn't break the spine of the story...until ten minutes
ago, and it hit me with all the force of a meat axe right smack between
Hot damn...if I can pull this script off, it may well be the best one
of the series to date. Granted it'll probably give Ron a cardiac
infarction, but what the heck, he's had it too easy lately.
Oh, man, is this gonna be cool, assuming I can pull it off.
Working title: "Messages from Earth."
- A bit of a bland title?
Whether it's "bland" or not depends on what the messsages might be,
yes? The only thing I'll say for the episode is that it may be one of
the biggest whams of the first half of year three, and one of our most
ambitious episodes of the series. Generally, my feeling is that titles
should augment the episode, or add something, or collapse something into
a thematic whole. When you see what convictions are at hand, the
episode "Convictions" as a title works better; ditto for "Messages."
Besides, a nice, quiet, inoffensive little title gives me a better
chance to sneak up behind you and whack the heck out of you....
- "Messages," for my money, is so far the best we've ever done, though
I'll be more able to lock that down once I've seen the final CGI. It
and "Dreams" are real CGI blowouts; in the latter, there are literally
100 shots -- CGI, live action, and compositing -- in *four pages* of
action. This is an all time record for us (and that doesn't count the
stuff earlier in the episode).
I don't usually go this far, but folks, let me give you my personal
guarantee: you're in for one hell of a ride come mid-season, with these
- Not only did "Messages From Earth" come out as well as I'd hoped or
thought it would, it came out *better*. It is, potentially, either
one of the best or the best thing we've ever done in the whole series
to date. There are some episodes that come close this season, like
"Point of No Return," "A Late Delivery From Avalon," "Sic Transit
Vir" (for absolutely different reasons), and parts of "Dust to Dust,"
but so far -- at least until the CGI for "Severed Dreams" is
finished, which has at least a shot at knocking "Messages" out of the
box -- "Messages" is as close to perfect as we've ever come.
Like "The Coming of Shadows" there's a real sense of a *story* being
told, and major events happening at breakneck speed. It's just a joy
- I'd suggest, btw, that if there are any folks you've been waiting to
bring into the fold on B5, you may want to consider 8 and 9 in the new
cycle, the last of that bunch in February. Eight is potentially one of
the best, possibly the best episode we've produced to date.
- Here's something that occured to me today. Any time you have
someone you're trying to convince about the quality of a show, and you
say, "Here, just watch it next week," that's always the one that comes
"Messages From Earth" airing this coming week is possibly the
best thing we've done to that point. It's guaranteed to grab anybody
who watches it. So this would be a good one to use.
Pick ten friends who you know haven't yet tried B5, or are
diffident about it, and give them a call. Tell them to give THIS one a
look. Then all you have to do is sit back, and wait for the jaws to
- "Messages From Earth" - This begins the three-episode mini-arc within
the larger arc that, by its conclusion, totally changes the
structure of the B5 universe. A mega-wham episode. Because so
much comes to a head so quickly, little can be said about it
without spoiling stuff. Our characters begin making the final
and irrevocable steps that will put them on a collision course
with everything they have believed in until now. There are
four or five episodes this season that push the limits of our
effects and CGI to the absolute wall; this is one of the
- Re: an "edge" to the show....I suspect you're going to get all the edge
you could possibly want with episodes 8, 9 and especially 10.
Be *very* careful what you wish for.
- "...I didn't think things would start moving this fast so
Well, this is what I kinda kept trying to tell people was
coming, when they said things were moving too slowly....
- Randy, I honestly don't think, after episodes 8-10 have aired,
that you're going to have any problems with how fast the main story is
progressing. And do bear in mind that the "main story" isn't just the
war; if you wanted to do that, you'd just do Space A&B. It's operating
on a whole lot of other levels. Nonetheless...this entire season is
much faster overall in developing than the two before. The first two
seasons we were mainly putting the guns into position. Now we're
pulling all the triggers.
- Thanks. Bruce did an excellet job in this episode, I agree.
As did everyone else. This is, in my opinion, about as flawless an
episode as we have ever made. It's one of those cases where the sum is
even greater than the sum of its parts...and the sum of its parts ain't
From here on through the next batch, the intensity level
continues to crank up.
We definitely pushed the envelope in terms of EFX this time
out; mixing and matching, and in sheer amounts of shots, and their
complexity. But the result, I think, is eminently worth the effort.
- I entirely agree; I think she did a dynamite job as Kirkish. Totally
convincing. When she walked into the audition, and did the part, there
was no question...it was her.
- About the alien city
The executive producer thinks, "He's mistaken, has to be; it must be
a series of patterns in the image that look like a city." Being a
thorough person, however, the executive producer fires up his copy of
the tape, and fast forwards to the shot in question. Pauses, then
advances, frame by frame.
Then stops. The executive producer stares at the screen for a very,
very long time. Eventually, words form. The executive producer knows
that if he posts those words here, not only will they throw him off the
system, they will come to his house, burn it down, and sow the ground
The executive producer knows what that single frame is, knows that it
has nothing to do with his show, knows that it's a frame from Hypernauts
that somehow crossed into the EFX shot in double-exposure via a computer
glitch while rendering. No one saw it. No one noticed it. Until now.
Tomorrow morning, the executive producer is going to make phone
calls, and say all the words he can't say here. When he is finished,
twenty seven miles of telephone coaxial cable are going to hang melted
from the telephone poles. Shortly thereafter, the executive producer is
going to put a gun to his head and blow his brains out, in the sure
knowledge that if he does not do so, he will most assuredly do it to
The executive producer thanks you for bringing this to his attention,
and would write further, but is currently modeming from a laptop
computer on top of his roof, from which he is considering jumping, and
the wind up here is causing line noise.
- The White Star looked different.
Different camera work, mainly.
- The Eternal Vigilance line is from history, not Wing
Commander. Ten Green Drazi points to the person who can name its
- Where's the press during all this Nightwatch buildup?
You'll find more on this in the next three episodes.
- You need a clear and present danger, and with a
population that nearly got wiped out by the Minbari, who are skittish
to begin with, you drag out the possibility of someone else doing the
same thing and it makes it a lot easier to do what you want to do.
- Why aren't eggs and bacon available?
Mainly it's the expense involved per volume. It still costs big bucks,
and you generally need refrigeration.
- Basically, it's the cost involved in transporting something as
basically trivial as eggs. Yes, it can be done, but the cost per egg
would be quite substantial, given limited space in ships. Space flight
is still very expensive.
And yes, a shadow vessel has one "core" sentient, and once in,
it's very difficult for that person to ever get out again.
- Wouldn't Ivanova's religion keep her from eating
Ivanova's not what you'd call orthodox under any circumstances.
- What was the blue goop?
Actually, I think it was blueberry yogurt.
- Any relation to the moment of perfect beauty in
"There All the Honor Lies?"
Yes, the way Sheridan removes his EA pin here is an
echo, or a shadow, so to speak, of his moment in "Honor." The latter
is meant to sort of indicate what might be ahead for him, what he may
have to do at some point along the line. He has to give up things that
mean something to him. (We'll get more of this philosophy in a few more
eps, I don't want to get too specific here.) Visual foreshadowing.
From here on in, things get very interesting....
- Yes, what he's writing will, in time, become the Book of G'Kar.
And correct, I went for a different feel in this episode, on
the theory that a little change is a good thing, if used to a purpose.
It's built like a series of waves, with quite moments in between.
This is the second so far to strongly tie into the comic, yes.
- Does G'Kar consider his book on par with G'Quon's?
No, he hasn't thought of it that far yet...but it will find
- IXP has been in business, in one form or another, for between 50-80
- Who was the human in the Shadow ship?
It doesn't really matter in the long run; some poor shlub who
got conned into it.
- Would a human be sane after piloting a Shadow ship?
Almost certainly not.
- Could someone on Sheridan's side "pilot" a Shadow ship, or are
the ships intrinsically evil?
It's certainly a *very* good question.
- No, I wouldn't say there's a corrolation to life force and the shadow
ships; they need a living organism as the central processing unit
because an organic unit can think faster than most computer systems, and
react faster in terms of formulating strategy and the like.
- What condition was the ship on Mars in?
It was dormant. The core element was dead, certainly.
- Yes, the first batch of eps from season 3, up through 9
or so, give a lot more background on the shadow ships, what they are and
how they work. And as you say, virtually everything in this show is
here for a reason; there's an offhand remark from Garibaldi in
"Infection" about his long struggle out of the Martian desert that pays
off in both the comic, and in a third-season episode. So some of the
year three stuff was being set up as early as episode 2 of year 1, in
what was designed to look like just plain old throwaway dialogue.
- Is a Shadow ship itself a kind of Shadow?
It's not a kind of shadow, no.
- Is there an official name for the Shadow ships?
I just call them shadow vessels. For now.
- Why didn't Sheridan use the jumpgate trick again?
Because there wasn't a jumpgate he had access to, only a jump
point created by the White Star. In the prior situation, he blew up a
standing jump gate. The only one in the vicinity would be at the
transfer point near Io, which if destroyed would seriously harm Earth
- Three days is the time to the jumpgate off Io. Once
you're within our solar system, it takes another several days or more
to reach Earth itself. It's fairly common to keep your jump gate a bit
removed from your "core" planet so you have warning if any aggressors
come out of it.
- How could the Agamemnon detect the White Star?
It can be for a number of reasons. The White Star was moving
through a highly charged atmosphere, which would leave detectable
trails; it was being fired at by the shadow vessel, which would've
attracted considerable attention from the flares; diving at that speed
and coming back up there would be considerble heat on the surface of
the ship (not normally a problem in space); and it was pretty much
shaken up/partially damaged during the fight. Also, at that range,
once you're near enough, you can pick it up visually as it gets close;
it's not a cloaking system, only a stealth system.
- Neither situation relied on introducing new technology, only on
taking advantage of what's known currently. It's a simple equation:
ship A is more powerful than ship B. In a head-to-head situation, ship
A (shadow) will destroy ship B (white star). If you can't directly
confront a stronger enemy, you have to find some way to work around it,
outsmart it. (And fortunately, this one was flawed, "insane," as
Delenn put it.)
And the minbari know more than they're saying. But then that's
generally true of them.
And yes, the shadow ship arrived with a new "core" for the
- How does Delenn know so much about Shadow ships?
The info came from the Vorlons, and from the last war the Minbari fought
- The ship was hidden there to avoid it being destroyed during the war.
May or may not see General Franklin again anytime soon.
- The shadows had allies, who watched over their cities,
maintained their machines, waited for their awakening...one of their
tasks was to send out one of the few dormant shadow vessels whenever
one was discovered or unearthed. This way, slowly, over centuries, the
fleet would be built back up in strength.
- There are no shadow vessels buried on Narn, no. The shadow influence
on the Psi Corps has been growing for about 7 years now.
- Who sent the second ship to Mars?
They had some of their servants and allies taking care of
things; whenever a signal was sent, and a ship found, they'd dispatch
one of the standby ships to go and pick it up, slowly regathering their
- How is Sheridan going to defeat a Shadow ship head-to-head?
Exactly. The goal would seem to be impossible. So how do we
do it? Is there a vulnerability that's been laid out but not picked up
yet? Is there an advantage we don't necessarily see yet?
We have to be smarter. Humans are at our best when against the
wall. And we have to do it ourselves, in the final analysis, nobody
else can do it for us.
- Was the spine that the White Star shot off the Shadow vessel
- The shadow vessel was still a little wobbly
from its long hibernation and the improper melding.
- Given that we're looking at a high-energy weapon capable of
burning through a four-mile wide Narn orbital base as though it were
made of butter, it's putting out enough energy, I figured, to lead to a
reaction with the hydrogen, whether it's a fusion reaction of some
We're talking a concentrated level of energy equal to a
thermonuclear reaction on a controlled level, or a fusion weapons
system with an energy output well beyond contemporary science to
calculate (particularly since this system is capable of delivering the
energy, undiluted, to targets tens or dozens of miles distant).
- Yeah, perhaps a better word than ignite could've been used.
But hey, the guy was being shot at...I'd be sitting in a corner going
- About the massing Shadow forces
The forces will continue to build over the course of this
season. The White Star would be detected because it was inside the
atmosphere, where it could be picked up by its emissions, the
disruption caused in the air by the engines, and frankly by plain
- What's the symbol at the front of the White Star bridge?
The symbol on the WS isn't on the floor, it's the top of a
console that can be used for holographic tactical displays.
- The shot of G'Kar writing was flipped!
Not a gaffe; we flopped the shot because the writing was done
left to right, instead of right to left, which is Narnish script.
- Thanks. We've featured Minbari script going straight up and
down like Japanese, right to left with Narns, and other variations.
Because they would naturally occur.
- Also, bear in mind that Sheridan went into Earth-space knowing
the risks. For him to fire on the Aggy would be selfish, and wrong; he
knew full well that this could be a one-way ride.
If you're going to have a situation where Sheridan fires on EA
ships, it has to be the ONLY way of dealing with the situation, and it
has to be SUPREMELY motivated, so that it's not just him or one of our
guys who's at stake. It has to be a big situation to merit taking the
lives of fellow officers, in the same service.
- Nobody seemed to be translating Sheridan's orders
to the White Star's crew.
Lennier was muttering his translations off-screen.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
- I think they know the White Star (aka the unidentified ship)
got away, but they put the best face on it back home. Which is one
more reason why Clark's declared martial law. Things are spinning out
of control, he's in increasingly hot water back home, and he has to
seize control. Whoever was in that alien ship knows too much about his
operations...if that were to come out, he's finished.
- Are rights suspended during Clark's martial
Yes, right to assemble, free speech rights, they're all open to
abridgement. Travel can also be restricted.
- What happened to Ivanova's discovery in
"Voices of Authority?"
That information was sent to Earth, where it's led directly to the
series of current investigations that were launched...and which forced
Clark's hand into declaring martial law to distract from all that.
- Are we near the end of the Nightwatch plot thread?
The thread will diminish for a while, then return down the road
in later seasons, after the story takes its third major turn.
- Why does anyone on Earth believe Clark?
It all depends on how you frame the issue...i.e., the attacks
are groundless, baseless, and part of a campaign to destroy the
government, he's the attacked innocent....
- Sheridan's conspiracy should be falling apart about now.
Of course it can't hold. And they're going to go through
plenty of fire. Remember, this is the first of three that accomplish
that. Each escalates upon what went before. Don't worry...you'll get
- Yes, the current mini-arc (8-10) is the second major turn in
the storyline. The third starts with the last episode of this season,
going into the fourth year. Then you've got one more big turn about
the last quarter or one-third of year four, and then a bit of a flip at
- We already knew everything this episode revealed.
If I can, let me address one aspect of this, for your
Back when I was working on MURDER, SHE WROTE, we'd sometimes
get letters saying, "This wasn't a good episode because I figured out
the ending. It wasn't a surprise." (Which is, to some extent, your
The problem we had with that particular letter was this: of
COURSE you figured it out. Because you were paying attention to all
the clues we had put out there in the episode.
There seems to be this notion that nobody should be able to
jump ahead, or else something's wrong or bad about the episode.
Absolutely not true. If you're going to play fair with the audience,
whether it's B5 or M,SW, you've got to put enough bits of information
out on the table so that the person who's really following it can
figure it out...so that at the end, those who *didn't* figure it out
can back up the tape, watch for the clues or leads, and see where it
all came from. That's playing fair.
If NObody gets it, you haven't done your job right.
If EVERYbody gets it, you haven't done your job right.
The best case scenario is a bell-shaped curve. Some don't have
a clue what's coming, some manage to figure it out, and the majority
have a kind of vague sense where it's going, but there are still
surprises along the way. If the bell-curve shifts one direction or the
other, then you're in trouble.
So far, B5 seems to be hewing right to the bell-curve. For
every person who says "okay, this was expected," there's been another
saying, "I had no *idea* this was going to happen here, or so fast."
(Many of these have been right on this forum, in fact.)
Finally, do bear in mind that you have an advantage here that
99% of all the viewers don't: the discussion here on CIS, and direct
comments from me. For instance, I just noted elsewhere that we've got
major turns at the end of this season, and one 2/3rds into year 4.
Now, if at those points, somebody says, "Well, I knew this was coming,
that's bad," I intend to whap them, because the reason they likely knew
it was coming was because I *said so* right here.
But that same 99% doesn't have this advantage.
This is the main difference I've noted in the mail that's come
in: the net-folks are constantly trying to figure out what's coming up
next, treating it like a mystery story (which, really, it's not, any
more than ANY novel is a mystery in that you don't necessarily know its
turns and twists as you're reading it), whereas the non-netted folks
tend to just take it as it comes.
See, that's the other part of this. People on the nets tend to
treat it as though it's a mystery novel, and when it doesn't hit that
aspect, say it's flawed as a result...when it was never INTENDED to
function as a mystery novel. It's a novel period. A mystery novel
depends absolutely on the riddle at the center of it. This is a saga,
which uses a different structure. It isn't a mystery any more than
Lord of the Rings is a mystery, even though when I first read it I was
wondering what was going to happen next.
Also, a mystery novel is done when the mystery is finally
unraveled. Not so the B5 story. By the end of this season, most of the
mysteries will be unraveled, and the pieces laid on the table for all
to see. It then becomes a matter of what the characters *do* about it
If I'm doing my job right, and setting up things to come
properly, and giving all the clues to it, then by definition a certain
number of people HAVE to figure out what's coming. As long as it's the
smaller portion, that's as it *should* be. So you'll understand why I
tend to get in here for a moment when that's held up as something bad
or poorly done. (And, again, even you note that the only reason you
knew about the shadows on Mars was via reading it here, or others read
it via the comics. Again, that's a very small portion of the audience;
most I've heard from had NO idea about that aspect of it. If you
hadn't read it here, you likely would have been surprised by it.)
Anyway, just something to consider in all of this....
- "Was the "package" mentioned in Exo the blonde woman
giving us the Mars Shadow info? Or was it the eggs and bacon? Or have
we not seen it yet?"
Yes, the package referred to Kirkish.
"It seems Sheridan is destroying his Shadow ships by using tricks - not
a straight up battle. At some point won't he be one on one with a
Shadow and have to deal with it?"
Sooner or later. Right now he's outgunned hideously. He'll have to
find a way.
"At some point won't Sheridan have to fight Earth? (I really don't
expect an answer to this one)"
- Why didn't Kirkish notice the huge Psi-Corps
installation as shown in the comic?
The building was a lot bigger in the book than it should've been, more
like a quonset hut arrangment hastily erected.
- I don't know if the shadow pilot was aware of the Psi
Corps research installation...they're not really aware of much of
*anything*, except their orders...I'd just suggest that there may be
something beneath that particular installation, and a reason they built
- Why didn't Garibaldi mention he was with Sinclair?
There was an outsider, Kirkish, in the room. Yes, she's helped him, but
he's still going to hold back some info because he doesn't know what
impact it might have on Sinclair. He's protective of him.
- Didn't Sheridan already know about the badge, from the
I believe Sheridan wasn't shown the badge in the comic; and
Garibaldi is always cautious about what he says in front of others,
- Yes, Kosh should've been there. Kosh wasn't. Kosh hasn't been carrying
his weight, if you ask me. I hope this doesn't cause a problem
- Don't have the shadow dimensions offhand; and yes, you'd think Sheridan
might begin to wonder about Kosh's level of involvement.
- Weren't the cameras at Ganymede recording?
Of course. But who controls those cameras? Answer: the very
folks who wouldn't want it to get out what they had there.