Thursday, September 25, 2014

Third Age Thursday 2

Main Cast - Season 1
"It was the dawn of the third age of mankind, ten years after the Earth-Minbari War. The Babylon Project was a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent another war by creating a place where humans and aliens could work out their differences peacefully. It's a port of call, home away from home for diplomats, hustlers, entrepreneurs, and wanderers. Humans and aliens wrapped in two million, five hundred thousand tons of spinning metal, all alone in the night." - Jeffrey Sinclair

Welcome back to Third Age Thursday, an ongoing feature here at UnfetteredBrilliance! Along with Ensley, who's posting the wonderfully-named "Tuesdays with Mollari" over on his blog (click here for the latest!), these posts are written to keep you up to date on the writing and publication of Dreams Given Form: The Unofficial Companion to the Universe of Babylon 5. Please feel free to comment, re-post, tweet, plus-one, pin, and all sorts of other ways to pass along the news that a comprehensive Babylon 5 book is in the works! And remember that you can always search through these posts to find all the "Third Age" posts by using the search feature on the right. Just use "Babylon 5" or "Third Age" as your search term. 

Last week, I talked a little about the "why" of the project and this week, I want to talk a little about what I'm finding as I go through Season 1 for the project.

Creator J. Michael Straczynski (from here on out, just "JMS" to save time) envisioned Babylon 5 as a novel in television form, with each season being a part of the traditional novel structure. This makes Season 1 the exposition. In a novel, this is the portion where the writer sets up the chessboard, letting the reader know who, what, when, where, and why. Themes and motifs that the writer plans to explore are planted here and revisited as the novel unfolds. The problem JMS faced was that - well, no one saw television as being suitable to tell those sorts of stories. He stuck to his guns, though and television is better for it. Londo's prophetic dream of events twenty years in the future, the spooky Psi Corps, the key questions of "Who are you?" and "What do you want?" - all are introduced in the first half dozen episodes.

Before a show airs, a sample episode - a "pilot" - is produced to give executives a taste of the overall vision. For Babylon 5, it's especially interesting to compare "The Gathering" which can be viewed as the prettied-up-for-broadcast pilot to "Midnight on the Firing Line" which is the first episode that actually aired. Much is the same, but wow! are there some differences, including some casting changes. (In and of itself, not that unusual - the pilot episode for Whedon's Buffy, for example, looks much rougher by comparison. Then again, that's a pilot that remains unaired, so the effects weren't cleaned up. You almost expect them to hold up a sign that says, "Put vampire-dust-poof here." Oh, and Willow is played not by Alyson Hannigan, but by another actress named Riff Regan.) JMS was clever here - changes were necessary from the pilot to "Midnight," but roles (the chief medical officer and and Sinclair's second-in-command) weren't simply recast. Instead, the roles themselves change and we learn in "Midnight" that Dr. Benjamin Kyle (played by Johnny Sekka) and Laurel Takashima (played by Tamlyn Tomita) had both left the station for posts on Earth, which paved the way for Dr. Franklin and Susan Ivanova, who would become key players in the Bablyon 5 universe.

Oh, and the minor role of a technician named Guerra - well, there's a face we'll be seeing again.

Such careful planning. It's that attention to tiny details that sets Babylon 5 apart from the herd. 

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