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  • Television Pilots: LOTR, B5, etc.

    While viewing some of the postings on this site, I was frustrated to see various negative coments about LOTR, which as we know was a pilot movie for a possible series. Let's think about this for a moment. How many pilot movies of various series are actually a home run hit and yet go on to be a great series. The best example I can think of is Star Trek the Next Generation: Encounter at Farpoint.
    Wasn't it rediculous when Captain Picard stood up on the bridge and stated, "Turn off that damn noise" (refering to the red alert sound). That series went on to produce some very good episodes.
    We're very fortunate that JMS and Warner Bros has decided to produce The Lost Tales. I for one will be welcoming this release with open arms in hopes that it will lead to further B5 productions, up to and including my ulimate wish of a B5 motion picture. Give JMS and these pilots a deserving chance.

  • #2
    Although it's a little unfair to judge a series on the strength of its pilot, you can't really get away from the fact that's exactly why pilots are made..

    B5 itself was arguably very, very lucky to be picked up on the strength of the Gathering.

    And it isn't a given that pilots have to be bad - TNG might have had a bad one, but Trek was hugely popular at that point anyway due to the success of the movies. DS9 and Voyager had strong pilots, and arguably struggled to live up to them after that.

    I think the problem with the Rangers pilot is that we didn't really view it as a pilot, even if it did come a couple of years after Crusade's cancellation. We all knew what kind of quality JMS was capable of at that point, and were a little jaded that TLADIS didn't quite live up to it (incidentally I don't think it wasn't down to the cast, who were pretty great, or other aspects of the production). Apparently JMS had to write it very very fast.

    But ideally pilots should arrive with a bang and make a stunning first impression - and although I really enjoy LOTR, it was a bit 'meh' compared to B5. Possibly it wouldn't have made any difference - we don't really know how the Sci-fi Channel felt about it, and whether they would have picked it up if the quality had been better, even if the ratings had been the same. They must have been aware that there was a pretty huge pre-existing fan base, after all.
    Last edited by RMcD; 02-09-2007, 03:38 PM.

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    • #3
      The best Sci-Fi-Show Pilot is imo the miniseries of the new "Battlestar Galactica" followed by "A Call to Arms" (Crusade), "Serenity" (Firefly) and "Emissary" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).

      But I also like "Encounter at Farpoint" (Star Trek: The Next Generation) and the SE of "The Gathering" (Babylon 5).

      But "The Legend of the Rangers" was imo really awful.
      Last edited by Lope de Aguirre; 02-10-2007, 10:08 PM.
      My UHD, Blu-Ray and DVD Collection

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Lope de Aguirre View Post
        The best Sci-Fi-Show Pilot is imo the miniseries of the new "Battlestar Galactica" followed by "A Call to Arms" (Crusade) and "Emissary" (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine).
        I really think BSG broke my personal rule that pilots will always be pretty meh and you should just continue with the series if it seems like there are elements, characters, or something intriguing that just compels you to return to the show even if your first outing wasn't the best. But then again BSG had a frakking 4 hour miniseries to really set itself up, and began with the utter destruction of mankind... which is about as good of a premise for a pilot as you get :P

        I also don't know if you can count A Call to Arms as the pilot to Crusade... even jms said was more a B5 movie then a Crusade pilot. Sadly it was Warzone that was my first real introduction to Crusade, and, uh, after that piece, I was a little worried

        But with all the others... pilots just typically aren't the best, and I think B5 gets included in that, even if nowadays I like it a lot more then when I first saw it (mostly cause I just daydream about what the series would have been like had Takishima stayed while watchhing ). I'm just glad there was enough that was positive about the pilot that it got picked up, because certainly there were plenty of reasons to reject it.

        Oh, and LotR? Worst entity of B5dom ever, but had it gone to series I'd have been there from the get-go. Gotta have faith ;P

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by RMcD View Post
          B5 itself was arguably very, very lucky to be picked up on the strength of the Gathering.
          True.

          Originally posted by RMcD View Post
          And it isn't a given that pilots have to be bad...
          No. Lots of series have had good pilots:

          Boomtown
          Keen Eddie
          Wonderfalls
          Brimstone
          etc.


          Originally posted by RMcD View Post
          I think the problem with the Rangers pilot is that we didn't really view it as a pilot, even if it did come a couple of years after Crusade's cancellation. We all knew what kind of quality JMS was capable of at that point, and were a little jaded that TLADIS didn't quite live up to it
          Didn't quite live up to the kind of quality JMS was capable of ? TLaDiS didn't live up to the level of quality of Crusade's worst episodes.



          Originally posted by RMcD View Post
          ...(incidentally I don't think it wasn't down to the cast, who were pretty great,
          Some were. Some were pretty bad, but their lines and scenes, what they had to work with, were often bad as well. "Bad" was coming from all directions.


          Originally posted by RMcD View Post
          ...or other aspects of the production).
          True. First, this was a second string idea, a fallback idea when The Sci-Fi Channel didn't/couldn't got for a re-start of Crusade. Second, they had to overcome a complete loss of the CGI they would have used, the complete library of Babylon 5/Crusade CGI that Warner Brothers lost.


          Originally posted by RMcD View Post
          Apparently JMS had to write it very very fast.
          No, no. I thought that. Hell, I still think it's so. I asked that question, and JMS denied it. However, I think he's blowing smoke, trying to put a good face on it.
          http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-16521




          Originally posted by RMcD View Post
          But ideally pilots should arrive with a bang and make a stunning first impression - and although I really enjoy LOTR, it was a bit 'meh' compared to B5.
          A bit?! Gah! <shudder>




          Originally posted by RMcD View Post
          Possibly it wouldn't have made any difference - we don't really know how the Sci-fi Channel felt about it, and whether they would have picked it up if the quality had been better, even if the ratings had been the same. They must have been aware that there was a pretty huge pre-existing fan base, after all.
          I seem to remember JMS saying that The Sci-Fi Channel and Warner Brothers were happy with the (TLaDiS) pilot. Not having any luck finding that quote currently on jmsnews. No hits on any of the key words that are likely in that post, leading to the correct post. Hmmmm.

          Here's what JMS said about the producer's cut, himself:
          http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-16292
          "The producer's cut of Babylon 5: The Legend of the Rangers is now in hand,
          and goes to the network and studio today. I think it's a really kickass movie,
          and in terms of general production, performances, and stuff like that, it's
          probably right there with In the Beginning (not in scale, of course, since ItB
          is just *huge* and sews up the B5 storyline in this big tapestry, they're two
          vastly different kinds of stories, but in terms of overall quality of
          production and how well it works)."

          IMHO, it's at the opposite end of the spectrum from "In the Beginning." It shouldn't be mentioned in the same breath as "In the Beginning."
          Mac Breck (KoshN)
          ------------------
          Warner Brothers is Lucy.
          JMS and we fans are collectively Charlie Brown.
          Babylon 5 is the football.

          Comment


          • #6
            I couldn't believe that JMS wrote TLOTR, it was just so awful. The only good part was seeing G'Kar again.
            http://card.mygamercard.net/Wicked%20Vorlon.jpg

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            • #7
              Originally posted by KoshN View Post
              No. Lots of series have had good pilots:

              Boomtown
              Dead.
              Keen Eddie
              Dead, damnit.
              Wonderfalls
              Goramsonofabitch, dead.
              Brimstone
              Dead as a doornail.

              I'm going to go cry in the corner now.

              EDIT - Lemme add - the ORIGINAL pilot shot, at least - Firefly - AND IT'S STILL DAMN DEAD. *sob*
              Last edited by Radhil; 02-09-2007, 10:50 PM.
              Radhil Trebors
              Persona Under Construction

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Radhil View Post
                Boomtown Dead.

                Keen Eddie Dead, damnit.

                Wonderfalls Goramsonofabitch, dead.

                Brimstone Dead as a doornail.

                I'm going to go cry in the corner now.

                EDIT - Lemme add - the ORIGINAL pilot shot, at least - Firefly - AND IT'S STILL DAMN DEAD. *sob*
                Regarding those dead series, right there with ya, pal. Thanks for adding Firefly's pilot (2 part "Serenity" ....not to be confused with the feature film). I was about to add it myself when I saw you already did.

                A good pilot is no guarantee of a series taking off, but a bad pilot can certainly kill a series' chances. Being on FOX can also kill a series' chances.
                Mac Breck (KoshN)
                ------------------
                Warner Brothers is Lucy.
                JMS and we fans are collectively Charlie Brown.
                Babylon 5 is the football.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Vyse View Post
                  I couldn't believe that JMS wrote TLOTR, it was just so awful. The only good part was seeing G'Kar again.
                  That was the only reason I bought the DVD, because it was Andreas' last performance as G'Kar. Still, TLaDiS is the least watched B5 universe DVD that I have, and I have 'em all.
                  Mac Breck (KoshN)
                  ------------------
                  Warner Brothers is Lucy.
                  JMS and we fans are collectively Charlie Brown.
                  Babylon 5 is the football.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by KoshN View Post

                    I seem to remember JMS saying that The Sci-Fi Channel and Warner Brothers were happy with the (TLaDiS) pilot. Not having any luck finding that quote currently on jmsnews. No hits on any of the key words that are likely in that post, leading to the correct post. Hmmmm.
                    Could it be this one, from the production period? (In any case it's a fun read)


                    Well, all of last week I was in Vancouver for the first week of shooting on the
                    two-hour TV movie BABYLON 5: LEGEND OF THE RANGERS. (I'm back now for a
                    while.) It's been a terrific experience to date. The dailies look great.
                    Mike Vejar is on board to direct, and is keeping the look and feel consistent
                    with what we've done before, but at the same time (in collaboration with our
                    new Director of Photography Henry Chan) is taking the look even a step further.
                    The sets (courtesy of production designer Steve Gaeghan and his band of
                    artistic types) look more detailed, more textured, more realistic than much of
                    what we've done before on B5. (This is in no way to diminish what we did in B5
                    on sets, it's just a different approach.)

                    Andreas Katsulas showed up mid-week as G'Kar, and despite having been away from
                    that makeup for three years, was instantly back in character starting with the
                    first shot and straight on through.

                    The cast have proven themselves excellent. It's natural to take some time to
                    find your character, and find the lines...but from the moment they landed on
                    set, they had their lines letter perfect, and the chemistry is there between
                    them. SFC has seen the dailies and they're absolutely enchanted with what's on
                    film.

                    I wish I had colorful stories to tell, but we're talking here about a bunch of
                    dedicated professionals who appreciate the legacy of B5 and are doing
                    everything they can to make this next installment the best possible. (About
                    the only negative thing to happen all week was my losing my California state ID
                    midweek, which I'll have to go in to replace this week at my local DMV.) It's
                    a very elaborate production, with everything from pyros to wire works and other
                    stuff, in addition to the usual glut of CGI we tend to do, but so far it's all
                    going quite well.

                    I've been taking digital pictures of the production which will soon be
                    available on the SFC website...and there are some beauts there. I'll let you
                    know when they're up.

                    In the interim...know that the show is going extremely well, and I think that
                    people are going to like the cast a lot. They're good, well-trained, dedicated
                    people.

                    I think it's going to go over very well indeed.

                    jms
                    Maybe that last line should go on jms' tombstone..
                    Last edited by RMcD; 02-10-2007, 08:20 AM.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by RMcD View Post
                      Could it be this one, from the production period? (In any case it's a fun read)
                      Close enough.
                      Mac Breck (KoshN)
                      ------------------
                      Warner Brothers is Lucy.
                      JMS and we fans are collectively Charlie Brown.
                      Babylon 5 is the football.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I also think we need to distinguish pilots from "first episodes." "... Far Point" was just a first episode; the series had been bought. It could afford to have some silliness in it, because the network was committed to a number of episodes already.

                        Firefly's pilot was a bit unusual in that it never aired until after the cancellation decision had been made - though 9 episodes were aired (out of order) before the cancellation. I never ever understood why Fox so obviously screwed over that show (what they did was in many ways worse than what TNT did to B5, because they were claiming to be strongly behind the show even with poor ratings, and yet they were airing the show in a way that minimized the chances of good ratings).
                        I believe that when we leave a place, part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go anywhere in the station, when it is quiet, and just listen. After a while, you will hear the echoes of all our conversations, every thought and word we've exchanged. Long after we are gone .. our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit .. that the part of me that is going .. will very much miss the part of you that is staying.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by grumbler View Post
                          Firefly's pilot was a bit unusual in that it never aired until after the cancellation decision had been made - though 9 episodes were aired (out of order) before the cancellation. I never ever understood why Fox so obviously screwed over that show (what they did was in many ways worse than what TNT did to B5, because they were claiming to be strongly behind the show even with poor ratings, and yet they were airing the show in a way that minimized the chances of good ratings).
                          I'm reminded of the B5 quotes:

                          "Always bet on stupidity."
                          -- Sniper in Babylon 5:"Ceremonies of Light and Dark"

                          "My people can handle themselves. We took care of the Dilgar. We can take care of the Minbari."
                          "Ahh, arrogance and stupidity all in the same package. How efficient of you."
                          -- General Lefcourt and Londo in Babylon 5:"In the Beginning"
                          Mac Breck (KoshN)
                          ------------------
                          Warner Brothers is Lucy.
                          JMS and we fans are collectively Charlie Brown.
                          Babylon 5 is the football.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Happened to watch it again a couple of days ago, and I did have a few of thoughts. One is that I actually find it quite hard to put my finger on what it is that's wrong with it - yes there are a few obvious moments of hard cheese, and things like the weapon system that didn't come off right (although I think even that's rescued to an extent by some good effects), and cartoon characters like Kafta and Tirk, but I like the overall idea of it and a lot of the execution.

                            I think the cast is pretty good (all the B5 shows did pretty well here), and that it was smart to have a younger crew. There was plenty of good, naturalistic banter and some nice one-liners to match against the cheese. I think JMS was right about the texturing of the sets (although I would maintain the Excalibur set was better). Watching it immediately after Crusade, I really appreciated Christopher Franke's music (although I don't want to belittle Chen, who was definitely improving). I really like the concept, which is basically submarine warfare against a superior enemy, and I think that was generally well handled.

                            Perhaps the problem was the over-familiarity. When Tannier rams the enemy ship, it's not a big dramatic moment, it's 'hey, didn't JMS use this exact same device already in Severed Dreams, Endgame, In the Beginning and A Call to Arms?') When G'Kar tells us about a city not millions but billions of years old, it just sounds overly melodramatic, especially after Crusade. When we hear that the Hand make the Shadows look like insects, it's Thirdspace all over again, and another yawn. When we see B5 yet again we sigh and start wondering whether there are any other interesting places out there, or if every ship in the universe is attached to that place by a strip of elastic..

                            I think it's growing on me slowly, but like Crusade, it never got far enough into the arc plot to show off what JMS really does well.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by RMcD View Post
                              Happened to watch it again a couple of days ago, and I did have a few of thoughts. One is that I actually find it quite hard to put my finger on what it is that's wrong with it -
                              I have no such trouble. I could write, and have written, reams about what's wrong with TLaDiS. It's my fervent hope that JMS puts this in the same class as he does the Zarg of Grey 17 is Missing:

                              http://www.jmsnews.com/msg.aspx?id=1-6303
                              "I just have this constant desire to go to everyone's house and personally apologize...."

                              ...and drops all but Dulann, Na'Feel and Firell down a black hole, as in "TLaDiS....never....happened." (G'Kar is obviously exempt.)


                              Originally posted by RMcD View Post
                              I think it's growing on me slowly,
                              Better make sure that's not a flesh eating disease.


                              Originally posted by RMcD View Post
                              ...but like Crusade, it never got far enough into the arc plot to show off what JMS really does well.
                              IMHO, Crusade had a better cast, got a lot further and showed more of what JMS and Co. were really capable of doing. For example:

                              The Path of Sorrows
                              The Well of Forever
                              The Needs of Earth
                              The Rules of the Game (Eilerson's scenes)
                              Visitors from Down the Street (the dialogue)
                              Racing the Night
                              The Memory of War (CGI alien cityscapes)
                              War Zone (Ceti 4 and Eilerson's scenes)
                              Ruling from the Tomb (Eilerson's scenes)
                              Appearances and Other Deceits (Eilerson's scenes and the transference effects)
                              Mac Breck (KoshN)
                              ------------------
                              Warner Brothers is Lucy.
                              JMS and we fans are collectively Charlie Brown.
                              Babylon 5 is the football.

                              Comment

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