Babylon 5 TV movies - can anyone help?

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by MatthewLouwrens, Aug 10, 2003.

  1. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    I am starting to watch Babylon 5 - I have recently watched the first season, and have just acquired the second season (which was released on DVD in NZ last month).

    Anyway, I need some help about the Babylon 5 TV movies. I understand there were five TV movies made:
    The Gathering
    In the Beginning
    A Call to Arms
    The River of Souls
    Thirdspace

    I have seen The Gathering, as the pilot.

    I am informed by a friend not to watch In The Beginning (contains on the same DVD as The Gathering), as it contains spoilers for events later in the series.

    I can access VHS copies (yuck) of the other three movies.

    So my question is: At which point were each of these movies made? Should I watch one particular film after the third season, but wait until I finish the entire show before watching another one? Any information on the correct viewing order of the films interspersed with the TV seasons would be appreicated.

    Thanks.
     
  2. David Williams

    David Williams Cinematographer

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    Watch In the Beginning at the end of Season 4. Thirdspace takes place during Season 4, around the episode Atonement. A Call to Arms should be watched after Season 5 since it sets up the events for the next series, Crusade. The River of Souls takes place near the end of Season 5.
     
  3. MatthewLouwrens

    MatthewLouwrens Producer

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    Thanks for that.
     
  4. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    Technically, The River of Souls takes place six months after the events of Season 5, with the exception of the last epsiode of Season 5, which takes place about 20 years after the rest of Season 5.

    A chronological list of episodes can be found on The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5 here:
    http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/countr...er/eplist.html

    Although In the Beginning is first on the list chronologically in terms of events being shown, it does spoil some of the storylines that span seasons one through four.
     
  5. Simon Massey

    Simon Massey Cinematographer
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    dont forget there is another TV movie called The Legend of the Rangers which was essentially a pilot for another series (which didn't get made ) I have no idea when this takes place as I havent watched it myself
     
  6. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    The Rangers movie takes place about 3 years after season 5 (except of course the final episode) and about 2 years before A Call To Arms.
     
  7. Lee Jamilkowski

    Lee Jamilkowski Stunt Coordinator

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    THE GATHERING - April 2257; originally aired March 8, 1993; special edition originially aired January 4, 1998

    IN THE BEGINNING - 2278 (during Sheridan's imprisonment from "WAR WITHOUT END"; originally aired January 4, 1998

    THIRDSPACE - 2261 (between "ATONEMENT" and "THE ILLUSION OF TRUTH"); originally aired July 19, 1998

    RIVER OF SOULS - 2264 (between "OBJECTS AT REST" and IN THE BEGINNING; originally aired November 8, 1998

    A CALL TO ARMS - 2266 (between THE LEGEND OF THE RANGERS "To Live and Die in Starlight" and WAR ZONE; originally aired January 3, 1999

    LEGEND OF THE RANGERS "To Live and Die in Starlight" - 2264 (between RIVER OF SOULS and A CALL TO ARMS); originally aired January 19, 2002
     
  8. Sam Favate

    Sam Favate Lead Actor

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    Resurrecting this very old thread, as I was looking for guidance on the order in which to watch the B5 movies in relation to the series. After watching DS9 from the beginning with my wife (who loved the show), we are now turning our attention to B5. It will be my third full viewing (broadcast, DVD debuts, and now) and her first. We watched The Gathering last night, which I told her was a two-star episode of a 5-star series.

    So does the above order for the movies still hold? I'm interested to hear any thoughts or opinions. Also, what is the difference between The Gathering special edition and the original version? Why isn't The Gathering in widescreen - isn't it the only part of B5 on DVD that isn't?
     
  9. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    The order given above is pretty good. See The Luker's Guide for more detail.

    The series was shot in Super35 and protected for both the 1.77:1 and 1.33:1 ratios, even though it originally aired in "standard" TV format. They were future-proofing the series for HDTV and laserdisc. (Since DVD didn't exist at the time they were planning the show.)

    The pilot, however, was shot in standard 35 to save time and money. Although a pseudo-widescreen (cropped) version was produced at the behest of the Sci-Fi Channel (which ran the TV movie as two one-hour episodes at the top of season one when they were airing the series in reruns) The Gathering was never intended to be shown in any other ratio than 1.33:1.

    The differences between the to versions are often subtle, but the cumulative effect is great. The first one is structural. Several drafts into the script, the original "netlet" that aired the show, PTEN, decided they needed to squeeze in more commercials to cover their costs, so JMS had rewrite the show from the standard 6 act structure for a "2 hour" (90 minute) TV movie to a 9 act structure. This meant shifting events around to provide a moment of suspense at each act break, and generally led to story that felt both rushed and plodding, as there would also have to be a quick recap after each act break. Nobody had ever done SFX on this scale for television, so some shots were barely finished.

    A WB exec (no longer with the studio) objected to the characterization of Laurel Takashima (the 2nd in command.) He thought she came across "too harsh". So they made the actress come back in and loop all of her dialogue to "soften" it.

    Speaking of "harsh" females, probably the biggest change involving the pilot was one that never made it to the TV screen. As originally conceived the Minbari were an androgynous race that had few external signs of gender. Delenn was intended to be a young male Minbari up until the Chrysalis transformation. Because Delenn would be female for four of the five seasons, and because he wanted the characterization to remain consistent, JMS decided against casting a male actor and switching to a female for S2. Instead he cast Mira Furlan from the beginning, had that hideous make-up designed, and planned to use small-framed actors as Minbari for the rest of the run. (Hence the Minbari assassin and possibly the seeds of the idea of casting Bill Mumy down the road.)

    They were going to complete the illusion by electronically altering Mira's voice make her sound convincingly male - and that's where things fell apart. They could not (with the time and money available) find a voice that "worked", and having a male actor dub Mira's lines would defeat the purpose of casting her in the first place.

    Since everybody was very happy with Mira's performance as it was, JMS gave up on the idea of a male Delenn and Mira's own unaltered voice was used in the pilot as broadcast. A pleasant side-effect of this decision was that separate and less-distorting male and female Minbari make-ups could be designed, and we could thus see how cute Mira was for a Minbari.

    What should have been a cool glimpse into the alien sector was shot in such a way that on film it looked like a cross between a zoo and "Muppets in Space" and finally the director spent so much time proving that he was a director (by lingering on fancy overhead shots and the like) that important character and story moments had to be cut. Since this was JMS's first project as a show-runner, and first time in the editing room, he was probably too deferential to the director when it came to final cut. Finally the musical score was completely different. Series composer Christopher Franke wouldn't join the show until months after the pilot was completed.

    When TNT acquired the rights to reruns of the first four seasons in 1998 they commissioned two original TV movies and also offered JMS the money to re-edit and re-score the film. (A new score would have been needed even if they hadn't wanted to make the new edition more consistent with the series, because re-editing the film would mean the old score no longer "fit", both literally and figuratively.)

    There was a limit to how much JMS could do (money was limited and many original film elements had been lost - some of the negatives had actually been chewed by rats at the Warner Bros. storage facility) but he was able to make a number of key changes that produced a pilot much closer to what he'd envisioned when he wrote earlier drafts of the script. The first was restoring the original six-act structure and re-arranging the scenes to fit. Ultimately he and his team cut out about 14 minutes from the original version and replaced it with 14 minutes of material omitted from the first broadcast version. This mostly took the form of trimming scenes, eliminating redundant expository material that was no longer needed because there were fewer act breaks or because scenes that had been widely separated in time were now played closer together. The previously dropped footage that went back in mostly clarified plot-points or deepened characterization.

    (Sinclair's risky take-down of the drug-dealer at the top of the film and Takashima's confession about her coffee plant - a bit later transferred to Ivanova - are two such moments.)

    A lot of the time-consuming "pretty camera shots" were also dumped in favor of things that moved the plot along, and several new FX shots were added to make the movie look more like the series.

    There was one last addition - or restoration. When Lyta enters Kosh's thoughts to re-live his arrival on the station she hears Kosh think to himself "Entil'Zha Valen" when he first sees Sinclair. (A lot of people mistakenly believe Kosh is saying this out loud to the pseudo-Sinclair, but this is clearly his thought. We never hear the musical sound of his translator.) JMS cut the line at the script stage, fearing it would be a potential spoiler, and it was never recorded for the pilot. (In fact, no actor was hired to voice Kosh until the series began production - he had not audible lines at all in the pilot as originally shot.)

    By 1998 JMS thought that a) most people new to the series would never pay that much attention to the line, much less still remember it the first time we hear the term Entil'Zha in the series proper and b) that many of the "mysteries" that first-run viewers had so enjoyed wouldn't be mysteries to a lot of later viewers anyway, since a lot of them would only become interested in the series because they had caught an episode here and there that would have "spoiled" them.

    That was also his attitude towards when to watch In the Beginning. There are basically two kinds of suspense. One where neither the characters nor the audience knows what is going to happen next, the other where the characters don't know, but the audience does.

    Which is the more thrilling scene?

    1) The hero is making his way through a dark, vaguely threatening warehouse. Suddenly he touches a shelf and a bomb explodes.

    2) We see the villain plant a bomb on the shelf and set the trip wire. Then we watch the hero approaching that shelf, knowing what he doesn't.

    Also the movie doesn't give away quite as much as some people suggest. We learn why the Minbari ended their war with the Humans, but we don't know what that means. So a certain moment near the end of S3 is just as big a shock for someone who has watched ItB as it is for someone who hasn't.

    I have on nit to pick with Lee's list:

     

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