We hope, very shortly, to release a mouse in the elephant's cage.
January 19, 2004 11:06 AM   Subscribe

If you're a fan of the works of J. Michael Straczynski (especially Babylon 5, and let me take this moment to give massive props to The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5, the second website I ever visited (after searching Yahoo! for "Babylon 5")), then you probably already know that he has long been an advocate of online communication as a means of both promotion of his work and communication with the fans of said work. JMSnews.com has an archive of all his postings going back eleven and a half years, a neat accomplishment by ephemeral Internet standards, and it's fascinating reading that gives you a nice portrait of a guy with a story to tell, and his journey to get it told. If you're a geek for "the business" that is Hollywood, this is for you.
posted by WolfDaddy (12 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wow. Pretty dern cool. I only got into Babylon 5 just recently but I have enjoyed it immensely. This should kill hours of supposed-to-be-working time.
posted by Cyrano at 12:07 PM on January 19, 2004

Great post, WolfDaddy. Thanks to the DVD box sets, I'm another recent B5 convert. For newbies like me, the Lurker's guide is excellent because the episode guides for a particular season illuminate hidden details and provide JMS's notes for each episode without spoiling any of the plot.
posted by Fourmyle at 12:18 PM on January 19, 2004

SciFi Channel recently ran the entire 5 season span of Babylon 5 in an episode-per-weekday format. The Lurker's Guide was very helpful to me because the entire thing seems to change direction after the first year and what I had heard about the show didn't really mesh with what I was seeing in those first season episodes.

Actually, I am surprised that I didn't like Babylon 5 more, since I'm usually a sucker for these sorts of things. Unlike a lot of people it seems, I couldn't get past the atrociously formulaic dialogue. By the time I'd gotten through to early season 5, I called it quits because the story had actually already ended and the last season was just filler.
posted by JollyWanker at 1:30 PM on January 19, 2004

After The Hidden, where could Claudia Christian's career go but South? Oh. the ignominy!
posted by y2karl at 2:14 PM on January 19, 2004

Oh man, the flashbacks, the flashbacks!

As an old-skool Babylon 5 fan, it's great to see that the Lurker's Guide is still goin' strong. Most of the sites that were big in the day have gone to dust, and it's great that this resource is going to be around for a good while.
posted by Katemonkey at 2:19 PM on January 19, 2004

The first and fifth seasons are a bit problematic, the meat is in the middle three.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:53 PM on January 19, 2004

Another old-line Bab 5 fan here (*waves to Katemonkey*); I was desolated by its premature extinction. Great post.
posted by languagehat at 4:58 PM on January 19, 2004

The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5, the second website I ever visited (after searching Yahoo! for "Babylon 5")
WolfDaddy, you are my long lost twin...
::waves to Katemonkey and languagehat::

premature extinction
Huh? I was all over the JMS message boards when the syndicator cancelled it a year short of its planned five-year arc and TNT cable rescued it. Of course, JMS downplayed how much it affected his story arc at the time, but he later admitted he had planned to end Season 4 with a big cliffhanger (about where the story was at Ep. 4-18) but compressed the plotline to provide an ending if there was no Season 5 (unlike what "Farscape" did recently). That left the final season with somewhat of a shortage of storyline, a precusor to the problems he had with some of the follow-up shows that weren't part of his original idea.

In spite of that, B5 was the best Sci-Fi series ever, IMO, and one of the best "story arc" series ever on TV.
posted by wendell at 5:21 PM on January 19, 2004

*waves to everyone*

one of the best "story arc" series ever on TV.

I'd go so far as to say the best example of saga storytelling on TV. Yes, it's flawed (I cringe at most of the first two-thirds of the fifth season), but the performances of Peter Jurasik and Andreas Katsulas more than redeem those flaws in my eyes. They're not why I started watching the show, but they're the reason I continue to push the show to friends like it's heroin.

I've been hooked on televised sagas since seeing Roots and I, Claudius as a kid, and am always keeping an eye out for other fine examples of the genre. They seem few and far between, which is puzzling to me, as TV is second only to print for this type of storytelling, or seems to me to be.

Currently, Alias has got me hooked, guilty, guilty pleasure that it is, mainly due to the middle-aged members of the cast (Lena Olin, come back!!), but it's definitely more loosely plotted than B5, and it's so breathless that it keeps you from noticing some rather large plot holes. Still, it is a whole lotta fun, and has been for 2 1/2 years.

Anyone have any suggestions for any other televised sagas that are a) good, b) complete (or, at least, not cancelled yet), and c) on DVD or still on the air?
posted by WolfDaddy at 6:23 PM on January 19, 2004

My B5 memory:

After B5 got approved for series, JMS announced on GEnie's Science Fiction RoundTable that Stewart Copeland, who had done the soundtrack for the pilot, didn't want to score the series. (IIRC, he got so burnt out doing "The Equalizer" that he eventually turned it over to his protege.) And JMS wanted to know if we, the SFRT regulars, had any suggestions.

My suggestion was a guy named Christopher Franke, who had been a member of Tangerine Dream (one of my favorite groups of all time) and whose name I had recently seen in the credits for a miniseries of Stephen King's "The Tommyknockers." An epic SF show with a soundtrack by a Tangerine Dream alumnus... what could be cooler?

JMS, of course, checked him out and hired him, and he did some astounding work over the next five years.

Those of us who helped provide JMS with feedback in the early days received a special edition B5 shirt. Still have mine. It was very effective at getting Andy Ihnatko's attention at MacHack a few years ago.
posted by kindall at 8:14 PM on January 19, 2004

GEnie really was the place for fans to get cozy with the objects of their affection, wasn't it?

Times have changed...
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:39 PM on January 19, 2004

GEnie was simply amazing. MetaFilter is one of the few places since its demise (GEnie ended due to a Y2K issue!) that has anything like the feeling of community I used to feel there. What was amazing about GEnie was that it was the home of not just one but several tight-knit communities. The Jerry Pournelle RT and the Apple II RT were two of the other RoundTables I'm aware of that had very tight communities; I'm sure there were plenty of others.

The secret of the SFRT was that they offered a "free flag" (i.e. an account that was free in the SFRT) to any member of SFWA. A lot of authors hung out and chatted in their "author topic." Most used their topics for journal-type stuff. It was a little like blogging is today, and you'd have the authors commenting in each others' topics. Actually, the Nielsen-Haydens' blogs (Electrolite and Making Light) are a lot like the author topics in the SFRT used to be. Imagine about fifty blogs like those all in one place...
posted by kindall at 9:01 PM on January 19, 2004

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