Babylon 5 - The Scripts of JMS

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Very interesting so far, especially for those interested in the process of making a TV show.

Contents

Volume 1

Interesting. Not some of my favorite episodes, but it's interesting learning the process by which the series came into being.

I started watching the episodes again with mom, so I'm reading the script books as we watch the tapes. It's interesting noticing things that were very subtle before come into new light. More foreshadowing is in these episodes than appears on first viewing. (i.e. How many times did people tell Garibaldi to 'watch his back'?)


Volume 2

And the Sky, Full of Stars

Signs and Portents

In answer to the question "where do you get your ideas?"... the repetition of "what do you want?" is a technique popularized by the Synanon group therapy model. The key to the exercise is to ask the same question repeatedly, with the person at the receiving end of that question forbidden to use the same answer twice [...] Asked across five, ten or fifteen iterations, the answers become consistently more personal and revealing. Give it a try sometime. You'll find the results quite intriguing.

This also applies to the Vorlon question of "Who are you?" and the techniques used by Sebastian in Comes the Inquisitor. It's an interesting "game" to play with yourself.

One thing I have to say is this. Every time I see Morden, I swear he looks and acts like my old roommate Joe.

A Voice in the Wilderness, Parts 1,2

Babylon Squared

GREY COUNCIL #1

What is it that makes the humans so special? What is it that draws you to them?

GREY COUNCIL #2

They fight, they argue, they are ruled by passions and fears.

DELENN

Yes. And that is their strength. They do not seek conformity. They do not surrender. Out of their differences comes symmetry, their unique capacity to fight against impossible odds. Hurt them, and they only come back stronger. The passions we deplore have taken them to their place in the stars, and will propel them to a great destiny. Their only weakness is that they do not recognize their own greatness. They forget that they have come to this place through two million years of evolution, struggle, and blood, that they are better than they think, and nobler than they know. They carry within them the capacity to walk among the stars like giants. They are the future, and we have much to learn from them.

This is one of my favorite quotes from the series. I used to have part of it as my shutdown screen in win95.

An interesting comment from the introduction was that this script was written so the other end of it in World Without End could have either been transporting the station to the future or the past depending on how the series was forced to progress. It's interesting watching the episode with this in mind.

Also, it's sad to note that the actor who played Zathras (Tim Choate) died in a motorcycle accident a couple of years ago. He was quite memorable in this role. Very sad we are to see Zathras go. Yes. Very sad.

I also found out the other day that Johnny Sekka (who played Dr. Kyle in the pilot) died of lung cancer a couple of weeks ago. JMS's comments.

The Quality of Mercy

Chrysalis

--Tometheus 23:43, 28 September 2006 (EDT)

Volume 3

This set of episodes was where I truly got involved in the storyline of B5. The first season was ok, but they were all mainly stand-alone episodes that were establishing the universe. At that point it was hinting at a bigger story, but it was very subtly in the background. It was hard to tell this series from any other Sci Fi series with a reset button at the end fo the episode. However, once season 2 started, we started seeing the background story coming more forcefully into the foreground. That was when I got hooked.

As for the script book, the binding on this one has come unglued :( A little disappointed with the quality of this book.

--Tometheus 12:20, 19 October 2006 (EDT)

Points of Departure

Hmm. Disappointed that he still doesn't tell us the real reason for Michael O'Hare leaving the show. I guess we'll never know.

Revelations

The Geometry of Shadows

SHERIDAN

Eventually, you'll figure it out.

IVANOVA

Maybe. But what if I'm not just not cut out for this?

SHERIDAN

Then you'll fail.

IVANOVA

I hate failing.

SHERIDAN

Then don't fail.

IVANOVA

I think you just contradicted yourself.

SHERIDAN

Not really. You only fail if you give up. If you don't give up, you don't fail.

ELRIC

Then perhaps it is magic; the magic of the human heart, focused and made manifest by technology. Every day you here create greater miracles than the burning bush.

SHERIDAN

Maybe . . . but God was there first and he didn't need solar batteries and a fusion reactor to do it.

ELRIC

Perhaps. Perhaps not. And it is within that ambiguity that my brothers and I exist. We are dreamers, shapers, singers, makers. We study the mysteries of laser and circuit, crystal and scanner, the way our fore-runners studied grimoires and spells. Holographic demons and invocations of equations, those are the tools we employ. And we know many things.

IVANOVA

Waitaminnit... Are you saying that by holding this now, I'm Green leader? But I'm human.

GREEN DRAZI #1

(grudgingly) Rules of combat older than contact with other races. Did not mention aliens. Rules change caught up in committee. Not come through yet.

I believe this is one of Luke's favorite episodes.

I, as well as many other fans of the show, really liked the idea of the technomages. It's a pity JMS wasn't allowed to do more with them when they reappear in Crusade, due to the series being cancelled early. At least we have the Technomage novels that are considered canon. (I still need to get the final book in the trilogy, then I'll read it.)


What do we want?
We don't know!
When do we want it?
Whenever!

JMS Generic Protest Chant

This chant is from the introduction to this episode. The anecdote associated with it is so funny I spent days laughing about it.

A Race Through Dark Places

The Coming of Shadows

LONDO

I am an old man . . . what is lost by trying? As the humans say, "Who dares, wins."

VIR

Who dares sometimes gets his head cut off and stuck on a pike.

(cut from aired episode)

EMPEROR

The past tempts us, the present confuses us, the future frightens us . . . and our lives slip away, moment by moment . . . lost in the vast, terrible, in-between. (beat) But there is still time to seize that last, fragile moment . . . and choose something better. To make a difference, as you say.

SINCLAIR

And watch out for shadows. They move when you're not looking at them.

This episode is the first winner of the Hugo Award for the series. It was a good episode, yes. However, the episode isn't very stand-alone in the series. To be truly grabbed by it, you have to have been involved in the overall arc of the series, so I wouldn't recommend it as a 'first' episode for people.

All Alone in the Night

This episode has one of my least liked ploys in a science fiction series. A dream that Means Something. Don't science fiction characters ever have normal dreams that don't Mean Something? And it's always a Cryptic Dream that Means Something. The nice thing about reading the script books is that he finally tells us what the dream actually Means.

That said, JMS also tells us about Mira Furlan's history in the former Yugoslavia, living during the civil war. It's really an interesting story and brings further depth to the actress and the character.

Acts of Sacrifice

This episode has some very good acting in it.

When I heard that Andreas Katsulas had died, this was one of the first episodes I went back to watch. Particularly the scene in the hall at the end of the episode where he both laughs and cries. He laughs because he's gotten Something, but he cries because it's not the Military Aid that they need. The actor's performance is one of those rare scenes IMO that really get you at the gut level.

Peter Jurasik's scenes are also well acted.

While the central characters in the series are the humans, it's the acting of these two actors who really make the series work.

This episode is one of those pivotal episodes in G'Kar's storyline that make you realize you're not watching a normal show. Up to this point, G'Kar has been primarily portrayed as the "bad guy", although in such a way as to hint that "No-one here is exactly what they appear". This episode, more than any of the others to me, really showed that JMS had pulled a bait-and-switch with the audience. G'Kar may not be the "bad guy" after all and Mollari was not just the "comic relief". We had seen this in the episodes leading up to here, but this one basically finalizes the deal.

Volume 4

Hunter, Prey

And Now For a Word

In the Shadow of Z'ha'dum

Confessions and Lamentations

A warning to James... this is a preachy episode :D

Religion plays a huge role in this story, as guidepost, tradition, and liability. I wanted to hilight the reality that religion has served a great many positive purposes over the centuries, but that at the same time we must accept the fact that on more than one occasion it has worked against humanity's best interests, in the currency of crusades, jihads and intolerance. Science and religion both emanate from the same wellspring, the desire to understand who we are, where we came from, and where we are going. The problem comes when the means of answering those questions is framed in the negative, i.e.: we are who we are because we are not those people over there, the infidels, the unbelievers, the heathens. The moment you do that, you create an atmosphere of us vs. them, of true believers vs. enemies. It is my opinion that very little good comes from that dichotomy.

[...]

In the interests if fairness, however, it is important to make the point that there is something far worse than religious dogmatism: the kind of political, secular cowardice that restricts scientific inquiry because those in office are afraid of being voted out of office. It's one thing to act out of love of heaven or fear of hell, but to act out of fear of losing votes is indefensible on every conceivable level.

SHERIDAN

They're not your own people.

DELENN

I didn't know that similarity was required for the exercise of compassion.

SHERIDAN

In the last seven days we've learned that an entire race can judge itself to death. That fear and silence can be as deadly as the plague that spawned it. We've learned that there is no such thing as someone else's problem, that in the end, we are all connected. (beat) A human writer, John Dunne, wrote 1: "No man is an island, entire of itself. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee." If we can remember that lesson, then all this might not have been in vain, and their deaths will have meaning.


This is an interesting episode in that JMS (an atheist) paints not only the negative side of religion, but the positive side at the same time. Even his final speach is mostly taken from a minister. All told, I like the script as it is in the book much better than as it came to the screen. This is one of my favorite episodes, but there's one major flaw with the premise in the script. Why, with such a contageous, deadly disease does it last for over a year in the population until the day that Franklin notices it and then suddenly the entire species is wiped out on all of their colonies in a single day??

There are three major changes in the episode from the script to the screen.

The Markab isolation is changed to be self-imposed instead of a command decision
While this takes the ethical responsibility off of our heroes and places it on the shoulders of 'bad religion', parts of the episode just didn't make sense to me until I read the script. (The security search teams trying to find the Markab to put them in the isolation zone, Delenn asking Sheridan if she can enter the isolation sector and him saying 'I can't let you out', etc.)
The plague jumps species
While this helps with the 'no man is an island' sermon at the end, it leaves various logic holes at the end of the episode, i.e. why doesn't the Pak'ma'ra species get wiped out as well? (Or at least have more than just one die of the plague before they can get a new antivirus worked up to generate 'green cells'.)
The second quote I have above from Sheridan is given to Delenn and the ending reworked
Personally, I find Sheridan's speech much more moving than the one that was shortened and given to Delenn, particularly the Dunne quote. I also think it was more moving to end with that than the depressing 'Nothing changes' that now ends the episode. Also, giving the quote to Delenn instead of Sheridan nullifies the growth we see in him from the first quote to the second one. Now it seems like he didn't learn anything at all.

Divided Loyalties

This episode is basically a throw-away episode as far as the grander tale is concerned. It's primarily a mechanic to move one character off the show and another in to take their place. Not a lot of deep philosophy in this episode, but it's interesting to learn the reasons why Talia (Andrea Thompson) left the show. (But from a personal standpoint, bringing the redhead back into the show was better anyways ;)) This episode does, however have one of my favorite Garibaldi moments: when he pretends to be 'triggered' by the code word.

The Long, Twilight Struggle

Now the trumpet summons us again—not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are—but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"—a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.

John F Kennedy, Inaugural Address
G'KAR

No dictator, no invader can hold an imprisoned population by force of arms forever. There is no greater power in the universe than the need for freedom. Against that power, governments and tyrants and armies cannot stand. [...] Though it take a thousand years, we will be free.

SHERIDAN

What you said in the council... I think it got through to a lot of people.

G'KAR

Words. Just words. I will believe in them tomorrow. Now....

SHERIDAN

You're right. Just words. But good words. And you can go far on that. Empires and governments have been built, and thrown down, by the right words, in the right place, at the right time.

This episode is rather pivotal for the series. If I were to choose 10 episodes that defined the series, this would be one of them. It was one of three episodes from this season (yes, three) that were nominated for a Hugo award for Best Dramatic Presentation 1. However, JMS declined on this episode and one other one so that The Coming of Shadows wouldn't be competing with other episodes in B5. (The Coming of Shadows won the award of course. As an interesting note, it beat 12 Monkeys, which is one of my favorite movies. It also beat Apollo 13 and Toy Story, but personally I don't really think they're Hugo material, even though I own both of them and think they're good movies.)

It's a pity that last bit of dialog between Sheridan and G'Kar was left out of the final epipsode, I rather like it. The lines Sheridan got at the end of the act about drawing a line against the darkness are a good replacement, however. I think it's one of the more quoted monologues in the series. I think the bit about the right words, in the right place, at the right time would have been a nice tie-in wih the following episode when Sebastian echoes almost those exact words to Sheridan.

This episode has some of the best acting in the series between G'Kar and Londo. It's kind of sad watching it right now since Andreas Katsulas (G'Kar) died last month. He was part of the reason I started watching the show. (Commander Tomalak was one of my favorite villains in ST:TNG) However, the amount of growth G'Kar goes through in B5 and the range that Katsulas brough to the role truly impressed me more than any other character.

It was interesting to read why the Great Machine never really featured heavily in the series. It seems logical that here they have this huge resource that they would try to use it a lot. But alas, after having recast the actor already and trying to explain the different look, then the new actor become unavailable, the storyline was changed. It would be interesting to see how different the story would have been if the Machine had been more prominent.

Comes the Inquisitor

LENNIER

If you do the right things for the wrong reasons, the work becomes corrupted, impure, and ultimately self-destructive. To face the darkness and survive, your heart must be pure, your thoughts calm, your purpose clear. Ambassador Kosh wishes confirmation that the right people are in the right place at the right time.

SEBASTIAN

Who are you?

What a sad thing you are, unable to answer even such a simple question without falling back on references and genealogies and what other people call you. Have you nothing of your own? Nothing to stand on that is not provided, defined, delineated, stamped, sanctioned, numbered and approved by others? How can you be expected to fight for someone else when you haven't the fairest idea who you are?

SEBASTIAN

You would trade your life for his? I thought you had a destiny. Is that destiny not worth one life?

DELENN

If I fall, another will take my place. And another. And another.

SEBASTIAN

But your great cause --

DELENN

This is my cause! Life! One life, or a billion, they are all the same.

SEBASTIAN

Anyone can throw away his life to save a world... or a dozen worlds, knowing his name will be remembered and revered, that past sins will be atoned for. Armies are made up of millions of these... willing to lay down their lives for god, for country, for planet.... (beat) How do you tell the chosen ones? "No greater love hath a man than he lay down his life for his brother." Not for millions. Not for glory, not for fame. For one person. In the dark. Where noone will even know, or see. [...] But when the darkness comes, know this: you are the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

Of course, bear in mind that there *is* no correct answer to Sebastian's question... [Who are you?] because no matter what answer you give, the question will be repeated. It's a process, not a goal, designed to tear down the artifices we construct around ourselves until we're left facing ourselves, not our roles. At some point the "answer," such as it is, must transcend language.


Sebastian represents all the sane voices, all the voices of reason and sensibility that tell us that we must be insane if we believe that we are special, that we have a destiny. More than the voices of anger or opposition or criticism, for an artist of any sort, the most lethal voice is the quiet voice of reason that makes us forget who we are and what we can do, that lulls us to sleep and keeps us safe, since to follow our dreams as we intend can lead only to disappointment. However well intentioned, that voice is the enemy and always will be.


This is one of (if not THE) my favorite episodes in the series.

OK, I was intending to primarily comment on the script book, but I have to make one comment on the production of this episode... The lighting crew did a fantastic job here. Particularly the inquisition scenes. (The episode got an emmy nomination for Outstanding Cinematography - Series [1]) Wayne Alexander's acting is brilliant as Sebastian.

... and about being the right person at the right time, I'll leave with this:

He who seizes the right moment, is the right man.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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