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9 hours ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Babylon ... · 0 replies · +6 points

As I recall, her tone and delivery here is not unlike her actual news delivery... which is part of why her station wasn't our station of choice when she was a local news anchor.

11 hours ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Babylon ... · 4 replies · +9 points

  • So there's this well-known incident that happened around this time. JMS and the cast had been invited to a big convention. "Each half-hour, another star went before the audience in rotation. My turn was set for three o'clock, when I was to follow Andreas Katsulas out onto the stage for my talk before an audience of well over four thousand fans. As I waited backstage, too far to hear anything other than muffled laughter and applause, I paced nervously, having never been in front of a crowd that big before. A B5 music video had been cued up to precede me, which I knew to be a crowd-pleaser, so all that remained would be to walk on, switch over to jms mode, and everything would be fine.
    "A page came to get me, escorted me to the back of the platform,and I listened as Andreas introduced me. The music video boomed out across the auditoriu,. As it crashed to a finale, I stepped up onto the stage, into the lights, smiled and waved--
    "--into absolute dead silence.
    "No applause. No cheers. No sound. No nothing. Just silence.
    "Maybe they don't know who I am, I thought, since I'm not exactly the most visually compelling figure on the planet, and since I'm not an actor in front of the camera I'm not immediately recognizable. So I introduced myself.
    "Nothing. Silence. Even the chirr of crickets would've been welcome at that point, but instead... just a silence as deep and profound as space.
    "At that moment, jms ran off stage and left joe behind... the joe who is still twelve years old, blushed and practically faints at the idea of being in front of people.
    "I told jokes. I told stories. I waved. Not a sound came back. It was as though the auditorium were absolutely empty, just bright spotlights piercing into my eyes out of the general darkness. I was instantly drenched in sweat.
    "This went on for nearly ten minutes. That may not seem like a long time until you put yourself in that position, at which point ten minutes becomes an eternity, a nightmare from which there was no escape until suddenly Peter Jurasik took to the stage, put an arm around me, and explained the joke. Andreas -- knowing I was a bit on the shy side -- had told the crowd to remain absolutely silent upon my arrival until given permission to the contrary. Now that permission had been given, they roared out their approval and they were a great crowd from that point onward.
    "Nonetheless, at that moment, I swore that I would take my revenge."
    [JMS promises to tell the tale of his revenge in future volume because it took him "well into the next year" to pay back this particular event. So stay tuned?]

11 hours ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Babylon ... · 5 replies · +10 points

Volume 7 Introduction: Over the Hump

Man, with all of these JMS scripts, the volume introductions are coming fast and furious.

  • As JMS explains it, by mid-season three, everyone was getting a bit silly to break up the monotony of the 10-12 hour days, which manifested itself in "practical jokes and general weirdness."
  • Like the Breast Bowl. So it seems that "some of the ladies in the wardrobe department had hit upon the idea of taking photos of their breasts to see if the men could figure out which set matched which person." Once word got around, some of the female cast members wanted to join in, and it all culminated in a binder full of photos.
  • A few weeks later, another binder full of photos showed up, this time representing the Butt Bowl -- "the female members of the cast and crew had decided that turnabout was fair play and demanded reciprocity. Thus the Butt Bowl was launched with a binder full of photos of the butts of the male cast and crew, which their female counterparts would now attempt to match up with the right person."
  • Apparently JMS is a blusher. When some crew members were fired for "shall we say, frolicking behind the sets on a daily basis during lunch," no one wanted to tell him because of the blushing: "You blushed at the Breast Bowl, you blushed at the Butt Bowl, you blush when an actress has to come in to audition for a part requiring partial nudity... you blush." According to one crew member, he blushes, "like a street-light."
    "Okay. Fine. I admit it. I'm shy. Which is why the jms persona I created to get up on stage at a convention can handle being in the public eye, but joe cannot."

11 hours ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Babylon ... · 0 replies · +11 points

  • "Writing for Bester has always been kind of a guilty pleasure for me, because as a character he's like one of those inflatable punching bags; you can hit him in the face all you want, he just pops right back up again, still smiling."
  • On writing a show like Babylon 5: "If you think of it as someone spinning a great number of plates, you have the really big plates, containing the story elements of the overall plots, and below them the smaller but just as important plates, one per character, that you have to keep constantly in motion. You can't let their arcs peter out, or forget to move them ahead. So you spin the big plot-plate, then jump back to the smaller character plates, make sure they're still in motion, race back to the sub-plots, then leap for the big one again before it loses speed and crashed to the floor."
  • "Going into the series, it was essential to ensure that all our alien races were distinct from one another, not just in makeup and prosthetics, but in how they felt to viewers. One key to this was to carefully control their environments in terms of color and design.
    "The Narn, and G'Kar's quarters, are always bathed in a ruddy red glow, which connotes their homeworld, dry and arid and hot. For humans, we generally went with earth tones, whereas for the Centauri we created a palette of strong primary colors and royal tones against a backdrop of strong white light, which helps those colors to pop on-screen, making them more powerful. For the Minari, we went with pastels, cool and meditative, mostly in the burgundy, opalescent or light purple range, but with lots of variation, giving them color but not aggression. [Footnote: We extended those pastels to the White Star, but made them deeper and more intense, in order to support the idea that while this ship was of Minbari origin, it was nonetheless strong and dangerous.] This helped viewers not just get the differences between them, but to feel those differences visually."
  • "[T]he Book of G'Quan was intended primarily for close-up work on a few select pages. So when it was built, there were a number of properly inscribed pages in hand-written style inserted up front, with woodcuts and other illustrations. The rest of the book was made up of pages torn from newspapers, appropriately worn along the edge. As Jerry sits at his desk in the tag, flipping through the Book of G'Quan, you can clearly see some of the typeset newspaper pages, including some with advertisements."

11 hours ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Babylon ... · 1 reply · +11 points

Tales from the Scripts: Ship of Tears

  • This episode properly introduces us to the new model Starfury (called Thunderbolt), so it's a good time to discuss Starfuries in a bit of detail.
  • The intent with the Starfury design was "to come up with something specifically suited to a zero-gravity/zero atmosphere environment. [...] Having thrusters fore, aft and on each side would allow the widest range of movement and be more scientifically accurate. Putting the pilot in the center of the configuration would logically minimize physical stress during high-velocity maneuvers."
  • Of course, the design was so specific to space that they realized they didn't have anything that could work in an atmosphere. Which brings up to the Thunderbolt. Sheridan's briefing is also the audience's briefing.
  • After using the primary Starfury design for about a year, they got a phone call from a NASA project manager. They'd been watching the show and liked the design of the Starfury. "'We've been working for a while now on a design for a forklift in space, something to work in coordination with the shuttle and space station programs, and thought this might fit the bill,' he said. 'Do you mind if we borrow the design and put it in the mix with the others we've developed in-house?'
    "'Not at all,' I said, and when asked what I would require for its use, instead of a fee all I asked was that if they one day ended up using that design... that NASA call them Starfuries.
    "I rather like the idea of looking up at the night sky someday, and knowing that there are Starfuries up there somewhere...."

1 day ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Babylon ... · 9 replies · +17 points

  • JMS has an affinity of appreciation for "magnificent m*dmen," those "who see that there is good and there is evil, that there is honor and there is dishonest, and who choose the former because they cannot do otherwise; who recognize that however much some may try to obscure those distinctions by proclaiming as virtues varying degrees of enlightened self-interest, denial or convenience, in the end there is a right thing and a wrong thing, and we must choose between them. If I might be allowed a moment in the pulpit, we have become a culture too often based on the assumption that greed is good, that if you're rich it's because you deserve it, that if you're poor it's because you deserve it, and that the guy who sticks his neck out for a principle or on behalf of somebody else is a chump. A time when compassion is cliché; a time when men are not supposed to open doors for women, and to avoid first-date expectations that come with the price of a steak, both parties go Dutch to avoid compromise because chivalry is dead; a time when good business means selling out the guy in the next cubicle or shorting the employee pension plan to make the bottom line more attractive for the stockholders. For all our generosities and our accomplishments, for all of our statues to decency and optimism, a meanness of spirit and an unhealthy cynicism has crept into the cultural zeitgeist over the last twenty years. You feel it in line at the bank, on the road when somebody deliberately cuts you off, and when you punch-dial through a thousand voice menus and after being on hold for twenty minutes finally connect with a human being who could not care one way or another about your concerns, and has no compunction in saying as much.
    "When politicians on either side of the political aisle mumble platitudes about honor and honesty and, six months later, show up in all their televised glory being perp-walked out of a courtroom, weeping in the hope that tears will induce amnesia, the idea of simple human decency, of a character who does what is right simply because it is right, without excuse or self-interest, who hews to the concept of honorable conduct, can be highly appealing."
    [Okay, I'm with Joe on just about everything except the stuff relating to dates. Also, holding the door open for people shouldn't be a men-only thing; let's all be nice and hold doors open for people when needed, regardless of the gender of the door-holder or door-going-through-er.]
    [Also, ouch, this is a painfully relevant sermon.]
  • "G'Kar bonds instantly to Arthur because he sees in this m*dman someone closer to him in spirit than just about anybody else aboard Babylon 5. He perceives in Arthur a nobility of spirit that echoes his own."
  • "[A]s amazing an actor as Michael York was in this part, because he could make you believe what he was saying, it was Andreas who made you feel what he was saying, who made you feel that G'Kar genuinely believed that such nobility of spirit, however m*d, had a place in the universe.
    "Because deep inside, I think Andreas, for whom this was one of his favorite episodes, believed those things as well.
    "Because that was how he lived. And ultimately, that was how he left us. With honor, and courage, and laughter.
    "Because in the end, really... what else is there?"
    [The very satisfying thump made when they hit the floor?]

1 day ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Babylon ... · 6 replies · +17 points

  • Michael York's one eccentricity was his superstition about saying Macbeth. As JMS explained in the intro to "Exogenesis" that he has Marcus quote Macbeth but refer to it as the Scottish play. "I've always heard that many actors consider it bad luck to say the name of the play, believing that is is cursed and will bring misfortune, so I left it out of the dialogue as a courtesy. I never actually met anyone who felt that way until we brought in Michael York for 'A Late Delivery from Avalon'.... If anyone said the name around him, he would instruct them, very seriously and very earnestly, to walk around the building three times and perform the rest of the ritual required that actors have developed over the years to undo the curse."
  • Provided in a footnote in this intro is "the complete ritual for lifting the curse that actors feel is invoked whenever anyone references Macbeth by name in their presence: you must step outside the building, walk around it, turn three times, spit over your left shoulder, and say either the filthiest word you know, or 'Angels and minister of grace defend us!', or quote a line from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Then you have to wait around to be invited back into the building again."
    [Any theater folk care to weigh in on this?]
  • "Make no mistake... Bruce Boxleitner was and is an amazing choice for the role of Sheridan, I don't think anyone could have done a better job. But there are times I wonder what the show would have looked like with York in the lead role. It would not necessarily have been better, but it would certainly have been different.
    "Alas, poor Londo. I knew him, Horation, a fellow of infinite jest...."
  • During the spotting session with Christopher Franke, JMS suggested Arthur's scoring should only use natural instruments -- no electronics -- to keep everything about him feeling not of this period.
  • The Post Office story comes from the idea that when we go to the stars, we'll "take with us our frailties as well as our nobilities, our eccentricities as well as our strengths, and there is no doubt that the bureaucracy will go with us as well. That grounding in reality is one of the things that helps separate Babylon 5 from other shows. The pettier the bureaucrat, the more we can relate to it when someone has to confront such an individual. [...] It is, I admit, something of a stretch. As head of security, Garibaldi should be able to resolve this a lot faster than he does here... but what would be the fun of that? Better to watch Garibaldi being wound tighter and tighter until the inevitable snap comes."
    [And no, I didn't just type "snape" instead of "snap," why do you ask?]
  • "Frankly, I've always seen Garibaldi as something of a Warner Bros. cartoon, which was why I had a huge poster of Daffy Duck inserted into his quarters. Jerry always assumed, and said, that this was product placement. Nothing could be further from the truth. We had to fight like heck to get the right to put that poster in there, but it was important because that image was very much in tune with the kind of personality represented by Garibaldi. If you think of Daffy Duck standing in front of the postal clerk here, getting more huffy by the moment, or Wile. E. Coyote, then consider Garibaldi in that position, it's not really that much of a leap."

1 day ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Babylon ... · 19 replies · +13 points

Tales from the Scripts: A Late Delivery from Avalon

  • "With this episode, I was finally able to get the last of the ancient Britain thing out of my system so that I could concentrate on prepping the end of the season."
  • "Ever since we'd heard that Michael York was open to becoming the new lead on B5 (see Episode 201's Tales from the Scripts) I'd been trying to come up with the right role for him to at least guest-star in an episode. In going over my notes concerning the fate of the man who first opened first on a Minbari cruiser, this story came to mind. I've always had a soft spot for glorious m*dmen in theater and film, and this would give me a chance to write a character like that for Michael."
  • So they sent the script to Michael York along with an offer for the part, and he agreed (obviously). "Upon his arrival, I have to say that the case and crew were star-struck. We had a number of well-known actors appear on B5 over the years, but Michael was extraordinary. He'd worked with some of the biggest names in the business, but was nonetheless humble and charming and everyone in the studio fell in love with him at once. Nor did he ever once complain about the facilities, the work conditions... or the costume.
    "And there he could have said much."
  • So here's what happened. Instead of having the wardrobe department make a big ol' set of chain mail for this character, they "shopped around for chain mail that would look really spiffy on camera." They based their decision off of the photographs and descriptions from the catalogs from the various TV-and-movie costume companies. The only problem, which they learned when the chain mail arrived on the first day of shooting -- and it's a big problem -- was that this was, like, proper chain mail, "made of metal links, welded together in tight rows, and it was heavy."
    "We were horrified, because Michael not only had to act in this thing, all day, under hot lights, but there were big fight scenes to be done as well. We showed him the chain mail and said that if it was too great a burden he didn't have to wear it, we'd try to find some other way around it.
    "'Nonsense,' he said. 'Let's just put it on and that'll be that.'
    "And that, exactly as he said, was that. There was no question that it was a hideous burden to wear, but he never once complained. In the mornings, we'd have to add extra makeup to the area around his neck because during the day before the metal links had sunk into and discolored his skin... but there was never a word of complaint. He was smiling and gracious the entire time."

2 days ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Babylon ... · 0 replies · +2 points

Were you there, or did you get the DVDs they put out? I got the DVDs, but I haven't found the time to watch them -- there's a lot!

Though, maybe by the time we get to the Q&A party I can at least watch the full cast reunion and take notes.... Hmm....

2 days ago @ Mark Watches - Mark Watches 'Babylon ... · 2 replies · +4 points

V zrna, vg whfg fubjf ubj jryy ur rzobqvrq gur punenpgre.

(Nyfb, cyrnfr qba'g hfr "vafnar" ba gur fvgr, nf vg'f noyrvfg.)