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#1 Orpheus

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 01:34 AM

A friend has been thinking of Babylon 5 lately, and we were both curious to see how it stood up.

B5 was my first online fandom (of course, in 1994, it was likely most people's first online fandom). jms was an occasional participant,  but not as active as the Andromeda staff that made Slipstream so special.

I dug up my old recordings, but over-the-air analog NTSC recorded from a a local UHF station was pretty ugly, especially up-rezzed to a modern big screen.

I dug up a free/legal streaming site (https://www.go90.com/shows/babylon5) showing all 5 seasons (but not movies), and as it turned out, not all the fuzziness was from my old recordings. The ancient CGI was designed to hide its flaws in the limits of 1994-era analog TV, and doesn't stand up well. The sets are a bit dark for my taste, and though they are more detailed, there's something about them that reminds me of Star Trek, remastered from three decades earlier. The acting also shared a bit of ST:TOS's occasional hokeyness. Did I say "shared"? More like "amplified".

In its defense, I was influenced by starting with my recording of S1, E1. After S1E3, I found the movie-length premiere, which put the series in context and made it all much more interesting.

I always did like Kosh, and it was funny how they made Delenn older, less attractive, and more alien in the movie vs the series.

In any case, it was a blast from my past, and I wondered if anyone else might be interested in rewatching/discussing it.
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#2 FarscapeOne

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 07:34 AM

B5 is one of my favorite shows.  I have all 5 seasons, the movies dvd, THE LEGEND OF THE RANGERS dvd, and the first round print of CRUSADE... the one with the JMS commentary that has his take on what happened with the series and TNT.  If memory serves me, and it has been years since I watched my set, it is not very flattering of TNT.

I do know that my version of the set is one of the first copies to be produced... later ones had the commentary removed.

I also have THE LOST TALES dvd.

Edited by FarscapeOne, 29 August 2017 - 07:34 AM.


#3 The Tyrant

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 09:02 AM

As far as the series/movies, I have everything (first run release, far as I know). I also had the books and comics, though many of the comics have been lost to time/moving. Always up for talking B5.
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#4 RJDiogenes

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 04:58 PM

I love Babylon 5 and consider it the equal of Star Trek (and I like hokeyness ;cool: ). I have the complete series on DVD, as well as the movies, Crusade, and Lost Tales. I might have Legend of the Rangers, but I'm not sure.

B5 was an amazing cautionary tale and it's almost scary how much of it has come true (and scarier how nobody listens to cautionary tales). It's kind of a shame that JMS has never been able to successfully expand the B5 Universe. There is much there that could be mined.

And while we have B5 to blame for the unfortunate tide of serialized storytelling that has swamped TV, B5 is still the only show that really did it right, because it's the only show that had everything planned out from day one.
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#5 Orpheus

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 01:51 PM

Most of you probably remember what a technical nitpicker I can be. (In my life, people routinely expect me to "just make it work" even if I know nothing about the process/system/tech; it colors my expectations of TV heroes)

But in recent years I have really dialed back, finding it easier to 'go with the (narrative) flow'. I think they call this "senility".

But TV SF doesn't make it easy. Sometimes mere brain damage won't do. It demands complete brain death. Look at the world around you, and you'll see that it has worked. Idiocracy now seems an aspirational film.

For example, answer me this: if there were one place on B5 with structures/procedures for dealing with drugs/weapons/undesirables, where should it be?

a) a unisex Methane-breathers restroom (but face it, when it comes to restrooms, we're ALL methane breathers)
b) Ivanova's undergarments
c) any place in the Zocalo that serves Zima
d) that one room in Hydroponics where EVERYONE grows their contraband coffee plants
e) Customs/Immigrations

All good answers, but shockingly, I'm going with (e). Yet, scant minutes into the premiere, we have a mastermind [who cunningly smuggled narcotics onto the station in a transparent envelope in his breast pocket] take a hostage in Customs with a gun [that the scanners didn't detect] -- and Security can only offer the mindless weapon drawing that I'd expect if lovestruck Centauri teens doused themselves with gasoline in the Zocalo (a common Centauri teen tantrum. Centauri are so accustomed to accidental hairspray fires that it's considered harmless -- hence their adult hairlines)

Fortunately, Cmdr Jeffrey "Mary Sue" Sinclair is there to talk the smuggler down. Then Sinclair closes the scene by insulting our intelligence, saying that there are no drugs/guns on B5. The next scene adds injury to the insult, opening with Takeshima (the premiere's Ivanova) lecturing G'kar on how the scanners (which we just saw utterly fail) assure that no weapons are brought onto B5.

jms was the first showrunner I ever heard harp to the public on "show, don't tell", but sometimes he seems to think that means "show one thing, tell another". It's been over 20 years, but despite all the dialogue, I seem to recall B5 security being as porous as a Narn excuse for invasion. Similarly, just repeatedly saying "Sinclair likes to be hands-on" in no way excuses him running point on half the armed searches Down Below, squadron launches or bomb threats. It's like he rejects his own security/military forces and hierarchy, just because Earth Alliance won't let him dress them in Red Shirts. Well, except when he throws Garabaldi a bone, to justify hiring a guy who couldn't get a job as a Walmart greeter.

Okay, rant over.

As I said before, I rewatched episodes 1-3 before rewatching the premiere (mistakenly believing that "The Gathering" was one of the movies), and I felt the premiere really brought the whole show up a level. (The early episodes are largely meant to develop character and political background, building on the 2hr premiere. Without it, they seen a little insubstantial.) I *liked* the premiere quite a bit -- but the first few minutes were just silly.

[Edited to add:
Before I wrote "Ivanova's undergarments" I had written "Talia Winters' underwear", and apparently I didn't backspace over that phrase when I changed it. As a result. "Talia Winters' underwear" appeared at the end of the post. Naturally, I edited the post, and put as a reason "removed Talia Winters underwear" before I noticed what I had typed. That was too hilarious not to share.

Edited by Orpheus, 02 September 2017 - 01:57 PM.
Removed Talia Winters' underwear


#6 Jorgasnarova

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 01:32 PM

Straczynski did a sneak preview of a rough cut of the pilot at a convention I attended.  Temporary music and sound effects, but the then groundbreaking CGI visuals were finished.  An interesting experience.  A very nice look at a work in progress and the feedback from the audience was very favorable.  Jerry Doyle and Patricia Tallman were there with Straczynski.  Doyle spoke on his character, Garibaldi, and the potential of the show.  At this point I don't recall what Tallman said.  Actually, my greatest impression of her was how vividly red her hair was.

#7 FarscapeOne

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 02:48 PM

She's one of the few cast members I have not met yet.  I always thought her very attractive.

Also loved her in the 80s version of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

#8 RJDiogenes

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 05:07 PM

She was also in a George Romero movie.  Very attractive and a very appealing character actor.

View PostOrpheus, on 02 September 2017 - 01:51 PM, said:

It's been over 20 years, but despite all the dialogue, I seem to recall B5 security being as porous as a Narn excuse for invasion.
If security worked on any of these shows, most of the stories couldn't happen.  :lol:

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Similarly, just repeatedly saying "Sinclair likes to be hands-on" in no way excuses him running point on half the armed searches Down Below, squadron launches or bomb threats. It's like he rejects his own security/military forces and hierarchy, just because Earth Alliance won't let him dress them in Red Shirts.  
This was actually a character point, though. When I started watching B5 (with difficulty, as the local UHF station did not schedule it reliably), there were three things that made me realize that it was honest Science Fiction and that I wanted to watch it:  1) Sinclair's speech about Marilyn Monroe and Buddy Holly, 2) G'Kar's speech about being ants compared to what was out there, and 3) Sinclair and Garibaldi's conversation about Sinclair's futuristic version of Vietnam Syndrome.  The conversation went something like:

Garibaldi: That's the third time this week you've endangered your life to save me.

Sinclair:  Don't mention it.

Garibaldi:  I wasn't thanking you, I was pointing out that you're suicidal.

While I love B5 the way it turned out, I'm very sorry that Sinclair didn't continue as commander, or at least that he wasn't seen more often, because he was a fascinating character (played by a fascinating actor).

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`[Edited to add:
Before I wrote "Ivanova's undergarments" I had written "Talia Winters' underwear", and apparently I didn't backspace over that phrase when I changed it. As a result. "Talia Winters' underwear" appeared at the end of the post. Naturally, I edited the post, and put as a reason "removed Talia Winters underwear" before I noticed what I had typed. That was too hilarious not to share.  
Nice.  :lol:  Although if I could choose anybody on B5's undergarments to remove, it would definitely be Takashima.
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#9 Orpheus

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 09:10 PM

I've now read that the original 16:9 masters had been destroyed in a fire, forcing them to zoom/crop/regenerate from lower-res NTSC/PAL broadcast (not in the best shape)  tapes found in various TV stations. This magnified every defect, especially in scenes with mixed live action/CGI. That makes me feel better about the quality. The fuzziness/pixellation bothered me because I'd watched the original broadcast in poor quality: analog NTSC over-the-air from an iffy UHF station, time-shifted on VHS, on a small screen late at night with the volume down to not wake the kids. I was hoping to finally see it in reasonable quality.

I've also read that the reason Delenn was made up differently in the Premiere is that Mira Furlan was meant to be playing a male Minbari. Can anyone confirm this?

I liked Tallman, too. I seem to recall her being criticized for being (in real life) more of a stunt woman than an actress, but to me that only makes her more impressive.

I suppose I shouldn't complain about porous security when Andromeda pretty much had an open-door policy.

I see your point about Sinclair's personality. It was just hard for me to accept him being Johnny-on-the-spot because B5 was 5 miles (8km) long with ~50-80 concentric decks where it wasn't hollow. Base Commander is a huge responsibility; he shouldn't be "phoning it in by comm" while pinned down under hostile fire (He's a great leader, but maybe Col. Ari Ben Zayn was right about this military leadership experience). Yes, Kirk led too many away teams; Picard and Riker squared off over this early in TNG; and -in general- a leader who leads from HQ risks being marginalized in the audience's eyes.Then again, they didn't give Sinclair or Ivanova so much as a chair in C&C.

Takeshima, eh? I did not know that about you. I'd have figured you for a Lyta guy.

#10 FarscapeOne

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 06:36 AM

Delenn, if memory serves me, was supposed to originally be androgynous.

#11 Christopher

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 07:21 AM

I've heard that Delenn was meant to be male; the transformation Delenn underwent later on would've been transgender as well as trans-species. But I can't cite a source.


And Kirk never led an away team. He led landing parties.
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#12 RJDiogenes

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 03:55 PM

View PostOrpheus, on 03 September 2017 - 09:10 PM, said:

I've now read that the original 16:9 masters had been destroyed in a fire  
Damn. :(  Does that still happen?  Don't people know enough to make backups by now?

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The fuzziness/pixellation bothered me because I'd watched the original broadcast in poor quality: analog NTSC over-the-air from an iffy UHF station,
Channel 38?

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I liked Tallman, too. I seem to recall her being criticized for being (in real life) more of a stunt woman than an actress, but to me that only makes her more impressive.  
I recall hearing that she was a stuntwoman on Trek, but I don't recall any particular criticism.

Quote

I see your point about Sinclair's personality. It was just hard for me to accept him being Johnny-on-the-spot because B5 was 5 miles (8km) long with ~50-80 concentric decks where it wasn't hollow. Base Commander is a huge responsibility; he shouldn't be "phoning it in by comm" while pinned down under hostile fire (He's a great leader, but maybe Col. Ari Ben Zayn was right about this military leadership experience).  
True, he was a military commander who was appointed administrator at the request of the Minbari (because they knew).

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Then again, they didn't give Sinclair or Ivanova so much as a chair in C&C.  
When did they have time to sit?  :lol:

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Takeshima, eh? I did not know that about you. I'd have figured you for a Lyta guy.  
Oh, I liked Lyta, too, but Takashima was adorable. I was very disappointed when she was dropped and never even got to come back as a guest at some point (although if she had stayed, I would have been disappointed when she turned traitor). My favorites (in terms of attractiveness) in the B5 universe were Takashima, Lyta, and Chambers.
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#13 Christopher

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 05:11 PM

View PostRJDiogenes, on 04 September 2017 - 03:55 PM, said:

View PostOrpheus, on 03 September 2017 - 09:10 PM, said:

I've now read that the original 16:9 masters had been destroyed in a fire  
Damn. :(  Does that still happen?  Don't people know enough to make backups by now?

A master is the original print or recording from which all other copies are made. A backup copy of a master is, by definition, not a master.
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#14 Cybersnark

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Posted 05 September 2017 - 11:42 AM

Digitally, it is possible to create redundant masters (or at least to preserve the original recorded data so the masters can be reconstructed if needed), but Bab5 was recorded on either film or video tape, so making backup copies would've meant literally doubling the amount (and the cost) of physical media.
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#15 Orpheus

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Posted 10 September 2017 - 10:59 PM

Maybe it's just age (an hour, week or yearwas an eternity back then, now it's an eyeblink), stage in life (back then, it wasn't unheard of for me to work a 40-hr shift on my on-call nights; I can't recall when I last put in a 40-hr week at similar intensity), or just that I have some vaguely-remembered sense of where it's all going, but the show sure seems to be developing/moving faster than it did when it originally aired. More on this later, when I do the episode by episode rundown but I was pretty stunned to see Bester/Koenig in S1E05 (already? I was sure he didn't show up until a later season) or even Lennier/Mumy.

As far as backups go: in 1992, when B5 was about to shoot, a "huge" commercial hard drive would've been a 2.1GB Seagate Barracuda or HP Kitty Hawk, MSRP near $1000. Each DVD in a season set contains 4.3GB compressed, which means about 20GB (10 drives) before mixing and compression. More realistically, it would have needed about 20GB of raw footage/sound PER EPISODE before editing (220 drives, or at least $150K in drives per season, buying in bulk). Worse, the series was almost certainly shot on film,  so scanning to digital would itself have run millions per season -- and where would you store these expansive copies that would seem more secure than a studio vault? Yes, even fans knew studio vaults had a history of losing film for all eternity, especially to fire -- but to a producer, what could be more secure than a film vault, especially when digitizing and hard drives would have cost a good chunk of his season budget in the early seasons. If they'd decided to digitize the film as they went, and store multiple copies in off-site locations, B5 likely wouldn't have finished S1, much less enough for a commercially viable DVD set.

Heck, Joan d'Arc went up in flames (and she was, by all accounts a keeper for the ages) because we couldn't digitize/store her. We still can't.

#16 Christopher

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 07:04 AM

View PostOrpheus, on 10 September 2017 - 10:59 PM, said:

Heck, Joan d'Arc went up in flames (and she was, by all accounts a keeper for the ages) because we couldn't digitize/store her. We still can't.

She was never d'Archived?
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#17 RJDiogenes

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 06:30 PM

View PostOrpheus, on 10 September 2017 - 10:59 PM, said:

Maybe it's just age (an hour, week or yearwas an eternity back then, now it's an eyeblink), stage in life (back then, it wasn't unheard of for me to work a 40-hr shift on my on-call nights; I can't recall when I last put in a 40-hr week at similar intensity), or just that I have some vaguely-remembered sense of where it's all going, but the show sure seems to be developing/moving faster than it did when it originally aired. More on this later, when I do the episode by episode rundown but I was pretty stunned to see Bester/Koenig in S1E05 (already? I was sure he didn't show up until a later season) or even Lennier/Mumy.  
As a matter of fact, I remember noticing that when I rewatched it.  It's a lot tighter than you're aware the first time through, because you don't know all that stuff means something.  Even Julia Nickson's encounter with First Ones just seemed a random event.

Quote

As far as backups go: in 1992, when B5 was about to shoot, a "huge" commercial hard drive would've been a 2.1GB Seagate Barracuda or HP Kitty Hawk, MSRP near $1000. Each DVD in a season set contains 4.3GB compressed, which means about 20GB (10 drives) before mixing and compression. More realistically, it would have needed about 20GB of raw footage/sound PER EPISODE before editing (220 drives, or at least $150K in drives per season, buying in bulk). Worse, the series was almost certainly shot on film,  so scanning to digital would itself have run millions per season -- and where would you store these expansive copies that would seem more secure than a studio vault? Yes, even fans knew studio vaults had a history of losing film for all eternity, especially to fire -- but to a producer, what could be more secure than a film vault, especially when digitizing and hard drives would have cost a good chunk of his season budget in the early seasons. If they'd decided to digitize the film as they went, and store multiple copies in off-site locations, B5 likely wouldn't have finished S1, much less enough for a commercially viable DVD set.  
So how did all those TV stations broadcast it?  There must have been multiple copies.

Quote

Heck, Joan d'Arc went up in flames (and she was, by all accounts a keeper for the ages) because we couldn't digitize/store her. We still can't.  
Have you ever read the so-called Second Foundation Series by the Killer Bs?  It may be the only place to read a story involving a digitized Joan of Arc.  If you have any respect for Asimov or the original Foundation, though, it may not be worth it.
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#18 Orpheus

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Posted 11 September 2017 - 09:09 PM

View PostChristopher, on 11 September 2017 - 07:04 AM, said:

View PostOrpheus, on 10 September 2017 - 10:59 PM, said:

Heck, Joan d'Arc went up in flames (and she was, by all accounts a keeper for the ages) because we couldn't digitize/store her. We still can't.

She was never d'Archived?

LOL! Now that's a quote for Memorable Moments. Why did people quit submitting those?

#19 Orpheus

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Posted 28 September 2017 - 05:53 PM

I just got freaked out.

I got home after an all-nighter, had a modest adult beverage and started the B5 movie "River of Souls" to wind down for an early night (I have to get up at 3am)

Now I want you to imagine what I'm going to say next -- really imagine it.

President Josiah Bartlet as a Soul Hunter

Yup, the actor Martin Sheen played a Soul Hunter in the years between his roles in The American President and The West Wing. But that's not what I see. I see the leader of the free world.

As a Soul Hunter

I may never sleep again.

#20 RJDiogenes

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Posted 28 September 2017 - 06:05 PM

:lol:

I forgot about that. I've only seen the movie once, but I do have the DVD set.  Maybe I'll pull it out and watch it again.  FOR HALLOWEEN. :D
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