B5: Legend of the Rangers finally on the way?

Discussion in 'TV on DVD and Blu-ray' started by Joseph DeMartino, Jul 3, 2005.

  1. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Play 24/7 has the unsold pilot for a proposed Babylon 5 sequel series listed for an October 24, 2005 release in the U.K.. The pilot is set in the year 2265 and follows a group of Ranger, including some of the first members to come from ISA member planets other than Earth and Minbar. The Rangers are especially charged with helping the member worlds recover from the ravages of the Shadow War (and in some cases of the mostly-Earth-centered Telepath War.)

    No word yet on the U.S. or the rest of the world, but I would have to assume that an R1 version is pretty much inevitable. Watch this space for futher news. [​IMG]

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  2. Scott Kriefall

    Scott Kriefall Second Unit

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    Thanks for the news. I'll be sure to buy this one when available in R1...
     
  3. Qui-Gon John

    Qui-Gon John Producer

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    This should have been in the Babylon 5 Movies box set. [​IMG]
     
  4. Rex Bachmann

    Rex Bachmann Screenwriter

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    John Co wrote (post #3):


    I agree, notwithstanding the standard apologetics for its absence. Nevertheless, I think it's well worth having on its own. I've always been disappointed that this pilot didn't win clearance for a regular series. It had its flaws (like the silly, repetitive dialog ("We live for the one. We die for the one." [Ho-hum!]), but nothing insurmountable, and a lot of potential for the great mystery-sci-fi that JMS is so talented at bringing to the screen. Too bad.
     
  5. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    I don't have a problem with its being released separately. It is set in the same universe, but in terms of plot, character and focus, it is completely separate from the series, which is not the case with any of the other TV movies. (Only G'Kar among the original cast appears in the film, and that in a cameo, and the most recent major event tied to the main B5 story - the Telepath War that destroys the Psi Corps - isn't even mentioned. One of its results is, but even that is only an oblique reference to the fate of one character.)

    Rangers is clearly the pilot for a new series, not a spin-off from an existing one. (As even A Call to Arms obviously isn't, featuring, as it does, only a couple of characters from the series. It is the last B5 adventure, starring John Sheridan, and concerning technology left over by the Vorlons and the Shadows, not the first Crusade story with Matthew Gideon and crew.) JMS said he just didn't feel it "fit" with the others and I tend to agree. (Also there were a fair number of fans who didn't like the pilot, and who probably would have objected to paying a few dollars extra to have it included.)

    More cynically I think Warner Home Video may have gone along with JMS's wishes because they knew he was talking about doing a feature film (he holds the theatrical rights to the series, not Warner Bros.) that might involve the Rangers at around the same time. Since they weren't going to profit from the film directly, this could offer them a good chance to leverage the publicity surrounding the film by issuing Rangers on DVD at the same time.

    Since that deal fell apart earlier this year, there is no further reason to delay.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  6. todd s

    todd s Lead Actor

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    Kinda off topic. Why was the new movie cancelled??
     
  7. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    The guys who were trying to put it together kept having the financing fall through and after twice extending their option for no additional money, JMS finally had to decline their third request, for fear they either couldn't pull it off at all or that the film would be too badly compromised by the limited budget.

    Although he's neither confirmed or denied reports to this effect in public, I have it on what I consider to be very good authority that another behind the scenes issue was the question of using characters and cast members from the original series. At a certain point the producers trying to attract "name" actors to take at least some of the original roles. Some suggest that this was done in order to attract more financial backing and reassure investors that the film would "open". Others have indicated that the group approached Warner Bros. about taking an equity position in the film along with distribution and that it wsa the studio that said it would only become involved if at least one or two roles went to established film actors.

    Either way JMS was reported not to be amused. Others involved in the production got word out to the fans who protested the alleged attempt to recast the film vociferously. In the interest of full disclosure I should say that I was directly involved in this effort, which is believed to have contributed to the ultimate collapse of the feature film project.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  8. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Lead Actor

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    I wonder if the new movie Serenity is a success, Warner will reconsider the vitality of the B5 film franchise? Serenity doesn't have any "name" stars, just the cast of the TV show Firefly and the support of its fan community. If that film is a success, I hope Warner will see the possibilities for B5.

    In any event, kind of strange to have the Rangers movie out there by itself, when every other B5 production is in some kind of box set. Still, I will pick it up.
     
  9. Paul McElligott

    Paul McElligott Cinematographer

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    Depends on how big a success. If Serenity is merely "profitable," Warners probably won't notice. If Serenity is a monster hit (stranger things have happened) than hoo, boy, you betcha! [​IMG]
     
  10. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Hard to say because of the contract quirk that gave JMS the theatrical rights. Warner Bros. wouldn't own the film so there's no particular reason for them to want to finance it. If the theatrical rights had gone to them along with everything else they might well have done something about it.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  11. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Lead Actor

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    I watched this today, and while I enjoyed it, I have to say that the effect of the weapons system on the ship is one of the dumbest I can remember. Having the actress punch and shoot the ships in the 3D environment was like something out of a child's videogame and cheapened the whole show. Also, I thought the lead actor - Dylan Neal - was far too young to carry the show or to be the center of authority.
     
  12. Paul McElligott

    Paul McElligott Cinematographer

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    You've basically summed up my general reaction to this movie. Frankly, I breathed a sigh of relief it was never made into a series.
     
  13. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Well, if the weapons system is the reason you're glad there was never a Rangers series, you picked a pretty silly reason. The weapons system from the pilot would never have made it into the series because it wasn't intended for the pilot, either.

    JMS was trying to get away from the usual "guy sits at a console with a view screen, presses button", bit. So he wrote a system in which the weapon officer's chair would drop into a hollow sphere, which would offer a view all around the ship in all directions. The display would rotate around the fixed position of the chair, bringing the targets to the gunner.

    When the crew got to Canada and actually sat down with the technical people they realized they had grossly underestimated the cost of the system JMS had written. At that point Warner Bros. and Sci-Fi were haggling over the terms of the series deal, with SFC wanting partial ownership of any resulting series and WB holding out for the more traditional network gets first run and limited rerun rights, studio gets everything else including syndication, foreign and home video arrangement.

    With the two sides at an impasse, neither was willing to kick in any more money up-front to fix the weapons system problem. They were literally days away from the start of shooting, about to build a cheap-looking console and view screen, when JMS noticed a Peter Pan-style flying rig lying around the set and said, "Can we use that?" It was an attempt to salvage one of the things he wanted to make different about the show.

    Now I don't know if it was the actor, the director, or what, but it clearly didn't work. (And actors often get blamed for giving the performance the director asks of them.) Of course, by the time anyone could see how much it was not working, it was probably too late to go back and do anything about it. But I have no doubt that if WB and Sci-Fi had settled their differences and a series had resulted, the money would have been found to build the real weapons system. (And the "upgrade" would doubtless have been incorporated into an episode.)

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  14. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    All I have to say is remember "The Gathering" and how much the TV series changed from that.

    No doubt if Rangers went to a series, there probably would have been changes.

    Jason
     
  15. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    Yeah. On that basis I'd say To Live and Die in Starlight wasn't bad at all - and that's having seen only the TNT re-edit of The Gathering. By all accounts the original cut was much choppier and even more plot heavy (not to mention being sliced into 9 acts instead of the usual 6.) Most pilots are bare suggestions of the series that will follow, and I doubt this would have been the exception.

    As for certain objections to some of the plot points...

    Without posting spoilers for those who haven't seen it I would make a couple of observations:

    1. "Nobody here is exactly what he seems" G'Kar said that to Catherine Sakai in the first season of Babylon 5 and the same holds true here. There is much in the film I would not take at face value, and I certainly wouldn't believe everything that comes out of the mouth of a guy who works for the main villains.

    2. I don't think JMS became a mental defective between the day production wrapped on B5 and the day he sat down to write the Rangers pilot. So yes, every question that crossed your mind when you saw the film also crossed his when he wrote it. More to the point he knew those questions would be crossing your mind. JMS loves to misdirect and to play with viewer's expectations.

    The Gathering and 3/4 of B5 season one seemed to be focused on the "U.N. in space" angle, Sinclair's missing 24 hours and the mystery of the Minbari surrender. The Vorlons were an exotic alien element, not necessarily something important to the plot. There is barely a hint - except in retrospect - of the great themes of the series that would follow.

    Crusade set-up a "quest" to find a cure to a disease that we already knew was cured before JMS turned in the first script. It was clear from "War Without End", "Sleeping in Light" and "The Deconstruction of Falling Stars" that mankind survived well beyond 2272, the approximate date the plague should have finished wiping out all life on Earth. JMS took a lot of heat for this: "What's the point?" "Where's the suspense?" Fans were assuming that he had somehow forgotten how to write a story, and wasn't as aware of the apparent "problems" with the show as they were.

    In fact, a cure would have been found in season two - by which time the show would have moved on to its real theme of left-over Shadow technology, black ops and government conspiracies. (As well as exploring the backstory of the Telepath War.)

    I don't have any reason to believe that JMS was any dumber by the time he did Rangers than he was when he sold B5. (If anything all that experience would have made him a better writer.) So I'm assuming he had some clever and unexpected explanation for all the seemingly odd things in the script and that he'd have fun gradually revealing them - before smacking me upside the head in the S1 finale with something completely out of left field that would have changed the whole direction of the series. (As he did in "Chrysalis" with B5 and would have done in the unfilmed season one finale for Crusade.)

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  16. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Lead Actor

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    Oh, I agree -- JMS is still one of the most talented writers in the business, IMO. And I'd be willing to bet Rangers would have gone in different directions and dropped the kiddie videogame stuff. (I also suspect the dialogue would have improved -- in the Rangers pilot, I counted ten times in the first hour when someone said "We(I) live for the one, we (I) die for the one.")

    The problem I had with the Rangers pilot is it felt too targeted to a young audience; too much like a product.

    B5 and Crusade remain great achievements, IMO. Alas, with Crusade, we have only "what might have been" but we got the whole magilla with B5 and it remains a singular achievement in television history.

    (So what's the story with a B5 movie?)
     
  17. Jonathan L

    Jonathan L Stunt Coordinator

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    I picked this up the other day, I'm kinda disappointed in the disc itself. Maybe I'm just spoiled by the box sets, but no special features/behind the scenes stuff at all?

    I've always liked the film itself though, other than (as others have mentioned) the weapons system. Always found the hyperspace and jump point effects to be very cool...I've read online that this was how JMS envisioned them originally, but just didn't have the tech to pull off properly.
     
  18. Jonathan Kaye

    Jonathan Kaye Second Unit

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    Not knowing how Legend of the Rangers was shot and post-produced, how possible is a high-def version of this in the future?
     
  19. Paul McElligott

    Paul McElligott Cinematographer

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    That weapons system was only a symptom of what seemed like the Saturday Morning dumbing-down of the B5 universe.
     
  20. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    See post #7 above. Nothing has changed. The last attempt at a film fell through and there has been no further interest that I'm aware of. Also with Rick Biggs, Tim (Zathras) Choate and now Andreas Katsulas all gone Beyond the Rim, it seems less likely every day that the kind of film we'd all like to see is even possible. I'd like nothing better than a full-blown Telepath War story, and it is a little scary to think that Walter Koenig turns 70 later this year. Even the younger actors are getting old enough that it will be harder for them to play their characters in any story time frame that is likely to yield a worthwhile plot for a theatrical film (meaning one that has broad appeal beyond the hard-core of B5 fans.)

    Regards,

    Joe
     

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