From: STRACZYNSKI [Joe]
Subject: Whew, that's a lot of comments....
Date: 2/2/1992 9:37:00 AM
: List :
Whew, that's a lot of comments. Let me try and deal with the major
issues rather than point-by-point.
Re: sound in space...there's more than one way of doing that, and I think
I have an idea that will let me satisfy BOTH camps. I won't know if it
actually *works* until we get into a sound room with footage on screen, but
there may be a third alternative.
Re: the TNG "forehead" problem...here's what I think is a major point of
distinction between the two shows. TNG often becomes the Alien Of The Week
show. If you're going to have a guy come through the show just once, you tend
not to spend an awful lot of time on the prosthetics/appliances. On a TV
production schedule, there simply isn't that kind of time. So you compromise,
and come up with something that'll suffice...and the easiest thing to do is to
effect the area you will see most on the screen, the face or forehead. (You
could, I suppose, provide flippers instead of feet, but how often would you
see them in a shot?)
One of the interesting things about B5 is that, with some exceptions from
time to time, we'll be drawing most of our players from one or more of the
five different groups (four alien, one human). So we know, in advance, that
we're going to be using the same "look" many times during a given season.
Which means that we can spend a lot of time up front in designing more
elaborate appliances or prostheses since we'll be using them more often, thus
amortizing the cost and time and effort.
Londo is the most human of the bunch. They get progressively more
unusual as we go along. When we do feature someone not from one of the major
groups, we want to know about it well enough in advance that we can do it up
right. John Iacovelli, our production designer (from HONEY, I SHRUNK THE
KIDS) would love to experiment with some insectoid designs, with limbs that
move in the opposite way they're supposed to...to play with size in other
aliens, having some *substantially* taller or smaller than Earth-norm. And
from time to time, there will be some life-forms that you'll just see out of
the corner of your eye that'll be quite different.
You see, in TNG, if you have something REALLY bizarre on screen, you more
or less have to justify why it's there, and what it's doing there, and thus it
becomes a major plot point, and thus it has to be played by a human actor,
which brings you right back to the forehead problem. But on B5, *anything*
can pass through. Which gives us latitude to do things with mechanicals and
high-tech puppeteering. (Some of our guys have come over from the Henson
Creature Shop, with some *amazing* ideas.)
Once again, it all comes down to *advance planning*. Which has always in
my view been the one aspect lacking in 99% of all TV SF series. This show, as
reported, has taken us 4 years to get going, and believe me when I say that
that time has NOT been spent just sitting around.
Re: what I learned on my trips to conventions and appearing on WHY CAN'T
THEY GET IT RIGHT? panels...what I came away with was a general sense of
frustration from people who felt that in most cases, a show ends up being
either good SF and bad television, or good TV but bad SF, and why can't you
mix the two? They pointed to the lack of character conflict in TNG, noting
(correctly) that conflict is the core of ANY drama. They wondered --
repeatedly -- why it is that every time a decent concept comes along, someone
has to hobble it with kids or cute robots.
It was just a general sense of frustration that while SF in print (and to
SOME extent films) has grown up into adulthood, TV SF was still perceived AND
EXECUTED as though for kids, or without the grittiness or maturity of the work
you'd associate with Gibson or Sterling or Clarke. ST was, by and large, an
anomaly in that it treated SF with a modicum of respect. There's not been
much of that, the audience tended to feel.
Which made me all the more determined to try and bring SF into the
mainstream not by compromising the SF, but by -- as it were -- bringing the
mountain to Mohammed by incorporating elements that mainstream vieewers have
come to expect from non-SF series: adult characters with adult relationships,
sexual and otherwise; interpersonal conflict; marriages and divorces and
pregnancies and all the other elements that are the common coin of our shared
humanity. People who live in a world that, unlike the antiseptic Enterprise,
requires courage and struggle and hope and joy and effort, exactly as those
elements are required in our own lives.
As I think I stated once before LONG uptopic...my model on this is, in a
way, DRAGNET and HILL STREET BLUES. There was a time in the TV industry when
cop shows were viewed the same way SF shows are viewed now: of interest only
to people into police procedurals and mysteries, which was considered a very
small proportion of the audience. The along came DRAGNET, which for the first
time showed cops going on dates, having divorces, barbeques, fights...and that
show went through the roof because it fleshed out the characters (for that
time...yes, they're stiff and cardboard now, but at that time they were
revolutionary, and if you check your TV history, you will find that DRAGNET is
still considered the most successful cop show ever produced for TV). HILL
STREET BLUES was the final culmination of that process, a model from which
came shows like LA LAW and ST. ELSEWHERE and others.
There is absolutely NO reason on earth why that same process cannot apply
to SF. And that is what we are pledged to do on this show. I expect either
to succeed -- astonishingly -- or fail, just as astonishingly.
But there won't be a middle ground.