- I'm going to hold the title of 22 confidential as long as
- By the last few episodes, pretty much all of my cards are on
the table. But by the last episode of this season, we find that the
game we've assumed we've been playing ain't necessarily the game at
all. The show takes a fairly subversive direction, and of all the
seasons so far, the one that follows, year four, represents the
greatest writing challenge to make this actually work.
Which is another reason why it's important to get the B4
storyline and several other threads out in the open, and clear the
decks, because this is gonna take every bit of whatever talent I've got
to pull off.
Year four is the point in the novel when you're just past the
halfway mark; you know the reader thinks he or she has got the story
sussed out. The reader knows all your tricks by now, or thinks he/she
does. You've been pulling doves out of your hat for 243 pages.
Now you'd damned well better be able to pull out an alligator.
- February 27, 1996
Well, it's done. I have today turned in the first draft of
script #22 for year three, which I suppose could be called a
cliffhanger episode. This marks the first time in the 50+ year history
of American television that one person has singlehandedly written an
entire season of a series. (The closest record is Terry Nation, who
wrote the 13-episode first season of Blake's 7.)
(I have no plans to do this next season, btw; this was
necessary because of the substantive changes in the B5 universe this
season. Next season is a very different story...literally as well as
So far the film based on those 1,000+ pages represents some of
our best work on Babylon 5. There's some nifty stuff coming.
We are currently filming episode #18. Four more after this,
and we'll be finished shooting year three, as of April 9th. Not long
after, we should get the word on year four, probably by late
April/early May. But the writing is finished...and for the first time
in 8 months, I will be able to go out, see a movie, play Wing
Commander, find something that vaguely resembles a life. This is where
I now also become a director's worst nightmare: a writer-producer who's
finished writing and finally has time to hang out on the set and give
lots and lots of helpful advice.
It was a hideous task; two-thirds through I began to understand
that there was a *reason* nobody's ever done this before...you'd have
to be outta your ever-loving mind to even try. But as with everything
else on B5, if we don't know it's impossible, we just go ahead and do
The title, as stated elsewhere, is classified, though you may
get a sense of what's coming in the two eps that precede it.
Regardless, the writing on year three is now complete. Overall, I'm
quite pleased, and I think by the time you hit this episode, you'll
feel the same.
- Well, there's what one would *prefer*, and there's that which is
*sensible*. And the sensible answer is that no, once the last S3
episode airs in the UK, there's no way on earth you're gonna keep that
out of the public eye, and there ain't much sense to protecting it or
hitting it with spoiler regs. I'd let it go at that point.
(And, frankly, it'll probably slip out some time before that; when it
hits, it hits, I've decided to let it go at that point...you just ain't
gonna hear it from ME, that's all.)
- "Or is it a matter of the title being a spoiler for an episode between
now and then?"
Yes, that's my concern.
While I'm on the subject, an advisory: I gave a short interview to
Entertainment Weekly the other day for their story about cliffhanger
endings for various shows. Now, the piece is going to run in May since
that's when most shows (most *sensible* shows) will be doing their
cliffhangers. Ours won't run until July or October, depending on who
you talk to.
There's a point where you have to decide between publicity (good for
show) and secrecy (good for viewers), in the process of keeping the show
on the air (also good for viewers). So I let a few things out of the
bag. If you don't want to be spoiled, then you may want to avoid
picking up and reading that story.
- Why a cliffhanger, if WB is likely to delay the final episode
until the start of season four?
Because the story calls for it. Whether they show the cliffhanger three
months or two weeks before the fourth season (assuming renewal), this is
where the story goes. It was constructed like a series of novels, a
multi-volume saga, and like any good series of novels, you end on
And this year, season three ends on something really honking big.
- It has some surprises, with teeth....
- Why did you reveal the title at the San Diego
convention but refuse to do so earlier in Chicago?
At Chicago, the assumption was still that the UK wouldn't be
getting the final 5 until the US did. But since now they'll be getting
new (to the US) episodes starting in August, keeping the title quiet
now seems kind of a moot issue.
- I'm definitely looking forward to the reaction.
instance, we did the final audio mix of "Z'ha'dum," our third season
ending episode. All of the EFX were in place, the sound, the
music...and after we did the piecemeal mix, layering in things in a
stop-and-go fashion, we did our playback, watching it straight through.
I don't think anyone was breathing for the fourth act. Everyone was
just wog-boggled. The emotional impact of it all is quite strong.
When the lights came up, and I looked around to the stunned
faces in the room, the only thing I could say was, "Welcome to history,
- Who was in the room?
The only people in the room are those involved in the mix,
this isn't a screening, it's part of post-production. It's me, John
Copeland, co-producer George Johnsen, the sound editors, mixers, sound
supervisor, a few others on the periphery.
At one point, one of the mixers was working on putting in the
sounds as he went, hadn't yet gone through it all...and kept telling
the sound supervisor (who was asking questions about how we wanted to
handle some later scenes) "don't let me hear this, I don't want to
know, I just want to see what happens next, this is great." Which in
this town, from folks who work on a lot of shows, is a good reaction.
- It's a lovely episode. This is the one where, after we
watched the final audio mix playback, prompted me to say to the other
producers working on the show, "gentlemen, we have just entered
- One of the things I like about the episode is the emotional
content, as it builds toward the end of the ep. I've watched it (in
finished form) a half dozen times or more...but certain sequences never
stop being interesting.
- An emotional rollercoaster is a good image for that episode;
it takes you in every direction and then just drops you.
Re: the Revelations scene...we actually shot that entire sequence,
with the notion of possibly re-editing "Revelations" and inserting the
Melissa piece instead...sort of TV by way of soviet revisionism...and of
course it was *always* that way...what other version was there?
- It's something we're considering; we had her do the entire
message, and shot Bruce in those sequences, so we have that option.
Sort of a Soviet revisionism approach to television....
- Was using Melissa Gilbert instead of Beth Toussaint
No, since it was my idea re: Melissa. It was a scheduling
situation involving availabilities. If it wasn't her, it would've had
to be someone else...so I figured, why not?
- Were the wedding photos in the episode actually photos
from Bruce and Melissa's wedding?
Yes, we used their actual wedding photos.
- The flashforward in "War Without End" seemed to not be quite the
same as the scene in this episode.
Sometimes there are practical considerations in the overall
staging; when we shot the flash-forward, Melissa wasn't there, so when
she was, there was some interest in restaging things.
- As for the music, no, it's the same orchestra Chris
has always used. I've seen times when people assumed he was using synth
and wasn't. He uses the Berlin Film Symphonic Orchestra for a goodly
amount of the work for the show.
- The other crew of the Icarus shown on Z'ha'dum were all done CGI.
- Was G'Kar's makeup different, or was it just the lighting?
Probably the lighting.
- "So basically, what I'm asking is does the fact that
G'Kar gets the last major speech in season 3 mean that he gets to do
the voiceover for season 4?"
Not as such, no....
- Andreas did a terrific job on the end monologue. Very
- Andreas did two takes on it; I think we used the first of
The writing of it...this is just an estimate, trying to
remember, but I think it took me about 10-15 minutes. Which is
actually a long time for me to stay parked on any part of the page.
Obviously I already had kind of a sense of what was going to go into it
before hitting the page, but the actual shape of it had to come in the
- Is G'Kar's willingness to sacrifice himself a sign that he'd be
sympathetic to the Shadows?
I think that reasoning can be applied to any side.
- "I hate you."
Thank you. I try.
- Was the destruction of the vessel in "Walkabout" the catalyst that
caused them to send Anna?
It's certainly gotten their attention...but it's the events in
"Shadow Dancing" that tipped them into moving directly.
- If the Shadows can get to Kosh and kill him, why
are Delenn and Sheridan still alive?
A good question, which we'll answer in the last episode of this
- The shadows are *much* older technologically than a
thousand years...that's just what Anna promised Sheridan we could jump
ahead, between 1 and 10,000 years. They're profoundly older than that.
- What was behind the door
Anna warned John away from?
In a way, I was going more for the visual, the image...the whole show
is a matter of what door you choose to go through, and the door not
taken. If you wanted to take the scene *absolutely* literally, then
since that room adjoined Justin's, the shadows were inside. Or you can
take it a little more metaphorically.
- The portrayal of [the Shadows'] motives is somewhat more elaborate, but
the sense is there, and as you yourself note, there's a certain cold
logic there which can be agreed with at some level.
- Is the Shadows' story true?
What Sheridan is told, in that episode, by them, concerning their
motives, is absolutely true, certainly from their point of view.
- Does the Shadows' story "explain it all" about this
Well, it sorta answers all the questions...it's hard to explain until
you've seen the episode and the ones that follow.
- If that's really their goal, why are they attacking
the younger races directly?
Well, look what happened when the shadows came out and attacked
a couple of places...first they did so without anyone knowing it was
them doing it, as we've shown. So now everyone's running around like
ants, scurrying for cover and trying to figure out what the hell's
going on, accusing one another...then the Centauri got the credit/blame
for it, causing further conflict...then they came out and sent everyone
scurrying again, some to make alliances they thought would protect
themselves (and thus enable them to make war on their neighbors, as
shown), only to have that fall apart and they turn on themselves/each
- The First Ones, Vorlons and Shadows aren't parents in any sense of
the word...we all evolved on our own, there's no common genetics, and
they didn't seed life here or elsewhere.
- What do the Vorlons and Shadows get out of this game? Why did
the other First Ones leave?
All those get answered in the first part of season four, so I'd rather
leave it to that.
- The Vorlons and Shadows don't seem to know who they
are or what they want.
That's an extremely good and cogent analysis. And you hit the
theme right on the head, one we'll explore in year four with the
Vorlon/Shadow situation...and which was presaged in "Infection," right
in the first season, the first episode shot. Sinclair says, in the
ultimate moment in that conflict, "You forgot the first rule of the
fanatic: When you become obsessed with the enemy, you *become* the
enemy." That is what is happening here, with these two and other
It all comes together....
- Did either side foresee Sheridan's leap?
I think the two sides have been too caught up in their own
agendas to realize what was happening right under their noses until it
was too late... except for Kosh, whose last traces did what they
did...for a number of reasons.
- I thought I heard Kosh say, "If you go to Z'ha'dum,
will you die?"
No, he says "you will die." Very odd...check it again. We used
the same audio track from before.
- I've checked it, and I think it was just the actor sliding a
vowel to make it clearer; "if you go to Z'ha'dum (ah) you will die."
- Did Justin go to Z'ha'dum on the Icarus?
No, he was assigned there later.
- Was Justin's description of who he was and who he
worked for a reference to anything?
No, it's not from anything I'm aware of, though it's a concept that
seems very natural.
- What influence did Justin have over the Shadows?
Justin thought he had some influence...but perception and reality are
often at odds.
- Justin is the man in-between...the "middle man," as he
- Why weren't there ships guarding B5?
Most would've been getting repaired from their recent
engagement. And the shadows phased in too close to B5 for either ship
to ship combat, or anything from Epsilon 3. Any attack on them
would've also destroyed B5.
- One thing to also note is that when the shadows appeared, they swarmed
all OVER B5 as fast as they could, circling it without slowing down
much. So if Draal *did* launch an offensive, it'd take out B5 in doing
- The props department found the teapot, and found it very
suiting to the environment, so they went with it.
- Why didn't the door make a sound as it opened to let the Shadow
The shadows entered through a different door/entrance; it was to the
right of the room, which would've adjoined the room next door. Anna and
John came through the door on camera left.
- It's just a sound of stone grinding on stone. With a slight animal
like sound, as though entering someone's maw. Which is what I wanted.
- How did Sheridan get bloodied?
Basically, my thought was that it was just the one shadow in the room,
and there was a tussle with some others, and he started running, made a
break for it...didn't seem worth the time to show what would've been
only a few minutes of hit 'em and run.
- He was in close quarters with a small group, and fought
his way out. This picks up right after that.
- The PPG bursts would've wounded the shadow, allowing him
time to scramble out of there before Morden could draw. He then had
to fight some other humans in the area, scramble down some ridges into
the cave areas, and then walk out.
- Were the creatures chasing Sheridan actual Shadows,
or just their servants?
No, those were definitely shadows.
- The final fate of the first White Star is very moving,
like some great silver bird plunging on fire out of the sky, bringing
retribution and striking one last time. That kind of image is a very
powerful one to me, and it works very well here.
As for what Morden and Justin told Sheridan...I'd say it was pretty
much the truth.
- Do you agree with the Shadows?
Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Motives are one thing; the means to
achieving that motive, however, are a different issue. And those means
I do not agree with. But on some level, their motives can make
sense...as can the Vorlons' motives....
- It's...not that easy. Can I make a pretty good argument
for some elements of what they're about? Yes. (And did, in the ep.)
It's a matter of extremes...their notion is fine, taken in small
doses...in larger doses, no.
- Why didn't the Vorlons reveal the Shadows'
Because they don't trust us. They know what's best for us, and would
rather make the decisions for us. That means controlling information.
- Aren't the Shadows defeating themselves by giving
everyone a common enemy?
Nope. First they attacked careful to not let anyone know who was doing
it, so they'd accuse each other. Then they'd let another take the
credit/blame for it, the Centauri in this case. That'd spin off new
alliances and new...wars, and everyone's scurrying for cover. THEN they
reveal themselves, and now you've got re-scurrying, some who try to make
deals, and then attack others (as stated) thinking they have an
unbeatable ally....most of the killing up until this point was done by
the others, not the shadows. This current campaign would also lead to
scattering the pins,
and watching as they restructure, and they'd pull out again to let them
scurry...and keep chewing at each other, only coming out when necessary
to tip things over, then recede again into the....shadows.
- Did the White Star have a Vorlon consciousness, and
if so, did it eject before the ship exploded?
No, the White Star didn't have any substantial consciousness to eject
before impact. It's gone.
And thanks, on it all... G'Kar's final litany is very moving, and the
music throughout works so well...as you say, it's going to be hard to
But that's what we do around here. Because if we ain't pushing it
every day to get better, what's the point of living?
Having now seen the first two finishedS4 episodes...I think people
are going to be pleased. What strikes me about the new season is that
it seems suddenly very mature, more filmic...everyone's very excited
about it here.
- Who programmed the White Star?
Garibaldi programmed it from the intructions given him by Sheridan; it
would've been set to explode at a certain point. He [Sheridan]
gave it final
detonation instructions when he signaled it via his link.
- Was the talking bomb a nod to the movie "Dark Star?"
- Why were the bombs speaking English?
Who said they were speaking English? In a WW II movie, when you go
to the Germans, you can understand what they're saying on the premise
that yes, it's German, but we're hearing it as English. On the other
hand, if Garibaldi programmed them, then they may have been in
English...there's no way to tell exactly.
- The White Star blowed up real good, so it couldn't save
- Refering to the shot of Sheridan above the city
The parapet shot was one I was very particular about, I
really wanted it to feel *high*, and impressive. That whole sequence is
one I run again and again, it's very moving.
- Why build an easily penetrable dome over an underground
It's an efficient way of lighting an underground city several
miles across; you can open or close it to allow the big vessels in for
construction purposes, and so on. If you build something that big, you
need some way of getting stuff IN there, then lighting it without
consuming vast amounts of energy.
- Yes, you're right, and the first one to pick up on that aspect, that
with Anna, he never had the chance to say goodbye. Finally, here...he
did, with Delenn. Also, the look on his face as he turns to her at the
parapet...you feel every inch of his loss, being trapped, the end of the
road. He did a great job.
- About Delenn and Sheridan's relationship
I don't think Minbari galvanize in quite the same way...with
them, I think it's more a gradual, growing relationship, and as many
do, there's just one day when the closeness crosses a point without you
almost being aware of it...and there it is.
- Whose voice told Sheridan to jump?
That was Kosh's voice, treated the same as always.
- Well, it was either jump or get vaporized....
In that sense, as someone else once pointed out, Sheridan is a hero
in the Heinleinian tradition. He does the logical thing, whatever that
is, to survive. "Okay, I'm about to get vaporized...but if that hole is
several miles deep, it might shield me and keep me alive for another 10
seconds. Yes, there's the *splat* at the end problem, but I'll have 10
seconds in which to figure out that problem...."
- Is the hole a jump gate?
- How deep is it?
Several miles deep, maybe a lot more.
- Was Sheridan's line in
"In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum,"
"I won't go down easily and I will not go down alone," foreshadowing
of his leap here?
The leap was always in mind, yes, but that line always kinda stood on
- Sheridan murdered a city full of Shadows!
If someone pointed to an aggressor city (and for the shadows there's no
distinction between civilian and military, it's all the same, the only
thing that drives them on), which was unified by its desire to wreak
havoc and commit massive warfare, and said, "By eliminating that city of
100,000 agressors you will save the lives of 8 billion innocent
bystanders," I'd push that button in a hot second, and never regret it.
- The city didn't look very alien. Was that meant to
imply it was inhabited by humanoids?
That wasn't the intent, no. I think it's more the way it ended up. And
it does have some nice elements, but it could've been stranger...if we'd
had more time and more money.
- What happened to Anna?
She's an ex-Sheridan.
- What about Morden? Oh, wait about 7 days, you'll find out.
- "Was he [Garibaldi] captured, or did he volunteer?"
We'll have to see....
- There was a very specific reason why Garibaldi was picked
up, and there's a suggestion of it in what Justin says at one point to
- Nope, I never identified Garibaldi as the support
mechanism, only B5.
- Was Garibaldi going with the Shadows to rescue Sheridan?
Well, given that Garibaldi is any number of light years away at the
moment at which Sheridan is dropping, I'd say any attempt to arrive
before Sheridan would hit bottom would be less than useless.
- If the Shadows were in league with EarthGov, why did IPX send a
ship to Z'ha'dum?
Two different things...the allies of the shadows can know about us,
can have used influence to start infiltrating the Psi Corps, long before
we found out about them. And bear in mind that Earth is not monolithic;
the FBI may not know what the CIA is doing. That some in the Psi Corps
may have had something going on there doesn't mean anyone from IPX knew
- Then why didn't the Corps notice the big building
next to the dig site, 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.
- "1) Why has Z'ha'dum not been destroyed by the Vorlons et
al in one of the previous wars to prevent the Shadows return?"
Funny, that...you'd think maybe there was something of interest there.
"2) If the planet has been there for so long, would not the star that it
orbits have died quite some time ago, given that the Shadows are so
I don't think so. Stars live an awfully long time.
- Oh, be assured, the interesting times for
Londo haven't even *started* yet.
But they will, real soon.
- Would the Hugo people make an exception to their usual rules of
nomination for dramatic presentations and allow all of season 3 to
be nominated as a unit, since you wrote the whole thing?
But is it really an exception? You have two books as potential
nominees. One is 100,000 words long, the other is a huge 300,000 word
potboiler. But they're both written by one author, so they're both
eligible. If a two-part episode can be considered a dramatic unit
because it has one author, and a single episode can be considered
because it has one author, then why not a 22-parter with only one
author? Just because the unit has more pages shouldn't mitigate against
it any more than the 300,000 word novel should be disqualified.
If you stop and think about it dispassionately for a moment, the
exception would be in NOT allowing a whole one-author season be
nominated. The committee has already allowed the notion of
multiple-part nominees by accepting two-parters. You've crossed the
one-episode barrier already. So logically if you've accepted that, why
suddenly change it to just one episode?
Conceivably, I could take all 22 scripts, put a huge binder on it, and
slap a cover page on it reading SEASON THREE, WRITTEN BY J. MICHAEL
STRACZYNSKI, and drop that one single unit on the desk of the committee
and say, "Here, here's one dramatic unit."
On one level, it's really kind of an intellectual exercise; I like to
feather around the rules and see what things mean when little things get
changed, and what the *sense* of the rule is vs. how it's applied
- What about the entire 5-year run?
Actually, I'd mitigate *against* the 5-year story being considered as
a whole dramatic unit because it has multiple writers. I think that
would tend to violate the spirit of the Hugos.
Originally compiled by Jason Snell.