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  • Should there be a Condensed version B5 series?

    Hello all,
    I was wondering if anyone here has brought up this subject beforeà

    While I enjoy watching Babylon 5 Seasons 1 thru 5 plus the movies at my leisure, it occurred to me that the shows are kind of slow when watching them with family member/friends. I am aware that each episode while crafted beautifully to include as much information as possible about how each character interacts and compliment each other and the purpose of the station, as a saga which continues throughout the five seasons is too long for the average viewer. It was pointed out that there was not enough time to watch every season to get to the end of the story within a day unless you fast-forward or skip certain episodes.

    Other shows on television get to experience seasonal and/or weekly marathons on a regular basis example: Law and Order, Star Trek OS, Twilight Zone, Honeymooners, etc. those shows have episode endings that satisfies the current story line and interest the viewer for more showings.

    It occurred to me that Babylon 5 if condensed properly could be in a marathon format.
    Could Babylon 5 be condensed to just a couple of hours for a day marathon (instead of five seasons)? Should JMS tinker with his masterpiece and show all the action while keeping the series strong? I, for one would like to see a condensed version for family/friends, at home and broadcast television. Broadcast marathons would be easier for new viewers and they could get hooked on the series either by buying the 5-season DVD set and/or support broadcast mini series showings if they become available (future)?

    What do you think?

    Thank you

    Reply requested
    "The world is a dangerous place---not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it" --Albert Einstein

  • #2
    Hi, Rallytbk, glad to see you join us!

    Originally posted by rallytbk
    Hello all,
    While I enjoy watching Babylon 5 Seasons 1 thru 5 plus the movies at my leisure, it occurred to me that the shows are kind of slow when watching them with family member/friends. I am aware that each episode while crafted beautifully to include as much information as possible about how each character interacts and compliment each other and the purpose of the station, as a saga which continues throughout the five seasons is too long for the average viewer. It was pointed out that there was not enough time to watch every season to get to the end of the story within a day unless you fast-forward or skip certain episodes.
    Wow, there's a thought...trying to distill B5 into a one-day viewing? I really don't think it would be possible to do it while still maintaining the unique 'flavor' of the show.

    Thing is, there's so *many* stories involved. There's Londo's journey from buffoon to tragic hero. G'Kar's transformation from angry warrior to forgiving priest. Delenn's gradual, almost accidental assumption of power over Minbari society....and so many others. For me, the Shadow and Earth Civil wars are almost incidental to the stories of the characters. One might be able to cut and paste parts of episodes together in order to put mini-marathons on that would feature those individual threads, though. I still think it would lose something, though.

    Could Babylon 5 be condensed to just a couple of hours for a day marathon (instead of five seasons)?
    Woah! Just a couple of hours? Never, ever for the whole series I don't think. I just can't see that it would make any sense. Look at it this way. In my script collection, the average script is 42 pages long. Multiplied by 110 episodes (ignoring the movies for now), you get 4620 pages of story. Can you imagine taking a book that long and condensing it into only 84 pages?

    Should JMS tinker with his masterpiece and show all the action while keeping the series strong? I, for one would like to see a condensed version for family/friends, at home and broadcast television. Broadcast marathons would be easier for new viewers and they could get hooked on the series either by buying the 5-season DVD set and/or support broadcast mini series showings if they become available (future)?
    I've seen quite a number of people put together 'essential B5' episode lists for the purpose of enticing new viewers but when I've gone for a new 'convert' I've always just warned them that the series would take a certain investment of time on their parts but that they'd be well rewarded. Every time, they've seen what I was getting at within the first half of the first season. Of course, I'd always make sure they understood that B5 was for the better class of TV viewer, too.

    I think the ideal viewing of the series is in 'stripped' format where you get one episode per day. Assuming no breaks people can see the entire series in 22 weeks. Viewed that way, I don't think the series is slow at all.

    Jan
    "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

    Comment


    • #3
      Stripped from the back of Joe's Delicate Creatures:

      "Trifle makes perfection, and perfection is no trifle." -Michaelangelo

      Far far too many little moments, little stories, little expressions, little trifles and such to strip it all down just for the sake of getting into a marathon.

      As a parallel example, there's a very specific reason I can never watch the network cut of Shawshank Redemption again. Yeah, there's a little profanity poorly dubbed over (heaven forbid the tykes learn 50's swearing - why are they watching a prison movie again...), but mostly they try and speed up the slow scenes, cut out the pauses and moments that take too much of their precious ad time. They don't get that it's meant to feel slow, that prison time is slow time as it says, that the feel of the movie and the gravity of its plot is bound up in its pacing. That speeded up and condensed, it loses meaning.

      That said, I'm pretty sure at some point B5 was marathon'd on SciFi. There are big arc tales that don't help such a plan, but there are plenty of smaller ones to make up for it.
      Radhil Trebors
      Persona Under Construction

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by rallytbk
        Could Babylon 5 be condensed to just a couple of hours for a day marathon (instead of five seasons)?

        Wow, that would be difficult. The college kids I'm taking through the series insisted on seeing every ep. And as I watch those eps, even the first year ones, I can't help but feel they are all necessary to get the full effect of the show. Even the non-ark stories have merit.

        But that is just my $0.02

        FP

        Comment


        • #5
          I think several 1st season episodes could be skipped. Two that come to mind quickly are "Believers" and the one with guest star David McCallum which made the "monster" come alive with ancient "art-i-facts."

          I think most of the first half of season five could have been avoided. The cult of personality thing with Byron felt like filler to me. On the other hand, it gave Pat Tallman an opportunity to shine!

          Having pointed out my personal "less than favorite" portions, I would say why cut any of it? If you are too impatient to watch the whole story you are missing the point. It's a five year long story. Before tapes and DVD's it was watched once a week, with repeats and several months off inbetween seasons, and the loyal fans were eager for more.

          B5, and the related movies...and the murdered Crusade are collectively like a fine wine. You can't rush such experiences. Don't we have enough fast-food mentality in the world already?
          Michael Malloy

          Never forget:

          Moscow; Beslan 2004
          Kosovo: 1999, 2004
          New York City: September 11, 2001
          Smyrna: September 9, 1922

          http://www.hri.org/docs/Horton/hb-title.html
          Armenian Genocide in Turkey: 1915-1917
          http://www.armenian-genocide.org/

          Comment


          • #6
            My wife and I have been watching the series again. This is the 3rd time we've done it completely through, not skipping any ep, even Grail and TKO...

            This time I'm struck by how much "filler" stuff seems to be in the 2nd season. A lot of conspiracies and personality traits were set up and then evaporated. I never believed that Sheridan "collected secrets." That trait never manifested itself again. And the "Minbari not lying" thing never took, either. After re-watching the bulk of the 5th season, the Minbari lie a lot! Sometimes you can fall back on the nebulous "saving honor" stuff, but there are times that the excuse is thin at best.

            Could the first two seasons be thinned out? Maybe in a scene-by-scene way, but not in a whole episode way. In every episode there is some important character trait that is elucidated. Think about the conversation between Garibaldi and Sinclair at the end of Infection. Sinclair was looking for purpose after the Minbari war. I'd say that is an important detail! When Sinclair comes back in War Without End and talks about being the arrow flying from the bow it resonates more.

            Maybe Grail could be dropped. I don't recall anything in it that ties into an arc or major character development. It does talk about the past history of other Babylon stations, but this is info we've already gotten.

            I hate to say this out loud, but you could - potentially - skip the 5th season. Replace Deconstruction with Sleeping in Light, as it was really intended, and save yourself 22 mediocre eps. Yes, the 5th season has some interesting stuff. There are good things in it. But, in terms of the big-time story arcs of B5, those were all wrapped up in seaon 4. Season 5 takes subplots that should have been in season 4 and expands them.

            B5 is not like Star Wars. In Star Wars you can skip Episodes 1-3 and the Real Trilogy still makes sense. I'll now duck and cover for my 5th season comments...

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by jcbatz
              I hate to say this out loud, but you could - potentially - skip the 5th season. Replace Deconstruction with Sleeping in Light, as it was really intended, and save yourself 22 mediocre eps. Yes, the 5th season has some interesting stuff. There are good things in it. But, in terms of the big-time story arcs of B5, those were all wrapped up in seaon 4. Season 5 takes subplots that should have been in season 4 and expands them.

              B5 is not like Star Wars. In Star Wars you can skip Episodes 1-3 and the Real Trilogy still makes sense. I'll now duck and cover for my 5th season comments...
              No flame here but a quibble. Sleeping in Light was never *intended* to end the fourth season, it was just filmed that way as a hedge. For it to have been intended that way as you say, would have assumed that the show would have ended after the climax with no denoument. That's not how novels are constructed, generally.

              Yes, there are a lot of things in season 5 that should have, would have, been in season 4 if a 5th season had been assured. We probably would have been introduced to Byron earlier and the entire telepath arc wouldn't have been so front-and-center. Even if I agreed that the 5th season was partly 'disposable' (I don't), the thought of never having had the Centauri Prime/Londo arc would be inconceivable.

              I just recently finished watching the 5th season again and was struck by how many of the episodes are favorites. Those tend to be the off-format episodes like 'Deconstruction', 'Day of the Dead' and 'A View from the Gallery'. I don't think any of them are just mediocre, though.

              If JMS had been able to weave the events and arcs of the 5th season episodes as he'd intended I think that the series as a whole would have been even more incredible because if I've ever had an issue with the way things worked out it was that the fourth season was too rushed for my tastes.

              Jan
              "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

              Comment


              • #8
                Jan-
                You are absolutely right. Season 5 has some moments that should, absolutely, not be missed. Just last night we watched AAMDTA and to see Sheridan, FINALLY, lose his diplomacy and yell at the council is one of the highlights of the whole series. Delenn shouting "Bastards" in the later ep is a personal favorite of mine.
                The only reason I brought up the possibility of dropping season 5 was as a way of condensing the series. Season 5 sets up a lot of things but few of those things are then carried through. I love what happens to Lyta's character, but we never get a chance to see the fruition of the transformation. Events are hinted in the Psi Corp trilogy, but otherwise the thread is left hanging.
                The Centauri Prime arc is great, not only the events themselves but also the relationship between Londo and G'Kar. Again, the thread is set up and then taken to conclusion in Peter David's books.
                I like Lochley, but I think her character is more effective in River of Souls and Crusade. Would I feel that way if I didn't see her in season 5? I don't know. Most likely not.
                And hey, who is going to watch 4 complete seasons of a show and not watch the one remaining? It is sort of like season 5 of Buffy. You could just stop watching and have a completed storyline. My favorite season, though, is the 6th. It didn't need to happen, but I sure am glad it did!

                Basically, I feel a similarity between season 5 and Crusade. They set up some interesting potential situations. But only 1 gets satisfactorially concluded (Centauri).

                Comment


                • #9
                  Babylon 5: The CliffsNotes edition?

                  Originally posted by rallytbk
                  Hello all,
                  I was wondering if anyone here has brought up this subject beforeà

                  [ .... ]

                  Other shows on television get to experience seasonal and/or weekly marathons on a regular basis example: Law and Order, Star Trek OS, Twilight Zone, Honeymooners, etc. those shows have episode endings that satisfies the current story line and interest the viewer for more showings.

                  It occurred to me that Babylon 5 if condensed properly could be in a marathon format.
                  Could Babylon 5 be condensed to just a couple of hours for a day marathon (instead of five seasons)? Should JMS tinker with his masterpiece and show all the action while keeping the series strong? I, for one would like to see a condensed version for family/friends, at home and broadcast television. Broadcast marathons would be easier for new viewers and they could get hooked on the series either by buying the 5-season DVD set and/or support broadcast mini series showings if they become available (future)?

                  What do you think?

                  Thank you

                  Reply requested
                  As Jan said, a 2 hour version of B5 is impossible, but I think that the suggestion was a series of 2 hour "mega-episodes."
                  But how many... you can't condense an entire season in two hours... maybe 10 hours... even then it would be too rushed. And it would still be too long for a weekend marathon.

                  See, the examples presented are not arc-shows, they are episodic. A closer comparison to a "regular TV" series might be 24 (I'm guessing, since I haven't seen it)... could you, would you, try to condense a season of 24 into a 10 hour marathon?

                  I do think that maybe B5 could be re-edited as a cohesive story, even more like the novel it represents, with several chapters of varying length instead of having a bit of "non-arc filler" sometimes fleshing out an episode.
                  But I don't see a need for it.

                  It's like thinking that if you read the "Cliffs Notes" of every important novel you can say that you have read and enjoyed them in fullness.

                  But as with any condensed version: you get the gist, you get the plot, but you miss out on the character development and the subtleties.

                  And the subtleties and slow and twisting character development was to me an integral part of the Babylon 5 experience.
                  Anyone that can't appreciate that might not be ready to appreciate B5... and that's their loss.

                  Babylon 5 didn't cater to the lowest common denominator, that's why it endures. Those that would watch the CliffsNotes edition wouldn't go on to enjoy the original long version, what for, they would think they know the story already. Maybe a few exceptions would go buy the DVDs, but if they didn't have the patience to watch it complete the first time would they have it to watch it later?
                  I think not, thus I see no net gain and much loss in condensing B5.

                  (The CliffsNotes reference may not be transparent to those that aren't from or haven't been in the USA or elsewhere under its sphere of cultural hegemony: it's a series of condensed versions of works of literature or a study guide by subject, which students might read instead of reading the original work or textbook.)
                  Such... is the respect paid to science that the most absurd opinions may become current, provided they are expressed in language, the sound of which recalls some well-known scientific phrase
                  James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thank you for your responses.

                    Thank you for your responsesà

                    What I am proposing is a scene-by-scene edit to cut out filler stuff just like user jcbatz stated to pick up the pace. While I know the majority of you want an unedited version for daily viewing (we already got those with the DVDÆs and if another channel picks it up in syndication). Would it be so bad to have a Cliff Notes version? What I am asking for is something to show to family and friends Babylon 5 at a quicker pace. Something in the 8-10 hours rangeà and hopefully blessed by JMS.

                    If Lord of the Ring (extended versions) brings it to 9 hours at one sitting, why canÆt Babylon 5 be condensed to that length?

                    Note: Do not misunderstand me, I have been a fan of Babylon 5 since it was broadcasted in 1994 and followed it to TNT and Sci Fi channels syndication I just want to introduce B5 to the general public.

                    Reply requested
                    Last edited by rallytbk; 07-11-2005, 09:27 AM.
                    "The world is a dangerous place---not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it" --Albert Einstein

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      If Lord of the Ring (extended versions) brings it to 9 hours at one sitting, why canÆt Babylon 5 be condensed to that length?
                      Allright, I get your idea better, but I still don't think it can be done. Quite bluntly, Lord of the Rings was aiming for that target time. When you make something, you have an idea of what you need to squeeze it into. B5 was squeezed into TV format, and ain't no how you're gonna squeeze it into summer blockbuster trilogy format from where it is. Parallel - there are things you can get away with in a book and printed pages that you can't get away with in video. Ditto small screen to large screen.

                      Now, turning that on it's head, it might be possible to remake B5 into a condensed 9 hour form. Not an edit, total recast and reshoot. That I could see shrinking down to 9.

                      I put the odds of that happening - with the Great Maker's blessing - as slightly less than Hades hitting absolute zero, Lucas putting out a great Star Wars trilogy again, and the public finding out what the whole Kennedy deal was, all in roughly the same day.

                      EDIT - And I'd probably have to hate it just on sheer principle.
                      Radhil Trebors
                      Persona Under Construction

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I've enjoyed watching some mini-marathons of my own concoction, but again I know the whole series and I'm not trying to covey the whole arc to someone. Things like:

                        First Episode/Episode with the name of the season/Last Episode of all 5 seasons

                        The Bester Eps

                        Minbari Civil War arc

                        Morden-fest

                        Those kinds of things. Sometimes I dip into the show at one point and follow it until something is concluded. I do the same with books I love. Read a scene or a few chapters that I dig.

                        As for tweaking the whole series into a marathon format, it could be done. It would have to be an underground affair, JMS will not do it (nor should he). Some enterprising video editor person could make a "Phantom Edit" of the series. It would be an interesting project.

                        The comparison to Lord of the Rings is appropriate. The books had to be hacked-and-slashed into a more consumable portion for the DVDs, which were hacked further down for the movie theaters. Lots of people have seen the movies and have not read the books. How much of the actual story do those people know?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Not to inhibit conversation or anything, I just thought I'd share what I just found in the archives:

                          From: J. Michael Straczynski <[email protected]>
                          Subject: Thank you from the uk
                          To: CIS
                          Date: 9/17/1996 10:39:00 AM
                          Tony Cherrington <[email protected]> asks:
                          > I have just watched Shadow Dancing, and I felt I had to finaly
                          > take the plunge and say publicly *thanks*, Have you any idea of
                          > what the next seven days are going to be like ?

                          Thanks. If we come even close to someday being classified as
                          literature, that would be a good thing; a chance to show you can tell
                          a quality SF story for television. But the day they put out a Cliff's
                          Notes version of the series, I'm leaving for the Arctic Circle.

                          jms


                          Jan
                          "As empathy spreads, civilization spreads. As empathy contracts, civilization contracts...as we're seeing now.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Like Jan says, the only way to accomplish anything like this would be to remake B5 from scratch.

                            A lot of this things that would be cut out to improve the pace would be exactly the things that make B5 what it is - the character moments ... G'Kar and Delenn's tearful heart to heart is Ship of Tears (I think), Most of the conversations between Sinclair and Garibaldi in S1. Without those essential character elements, the fast paced action becomes so much less meaningful, because we don't care so much.

                            I have always considered B5 to be a story about the characters first and foremost. Characters who just just happen to be caught up in epic, galaxy changing events that change them beyond all recognition in the course of the story.

                            Severed Dreams contains probably my fave moment of the entire run. In the midst of all that action, space battles and whatever, that moment is where the command staff are sitting around the table, knowing what is at stake, and having to decide whether to fight or surrender. In pacing terms, slow as hell, but sheer class ... because we (the audience) know these characters and we know it means them turning away from everything they previously believed in.

                            Cut out all the "slow", character stuff leading up to it, and it's nothing.

                            Just my $0.02.
                            The Optimist: The glass is half full
                            The Pessimist: The glass is half empty
                            The Engineer: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I agree. A condensed B5 would end up like the Peacekeeper Wars. All of the good Farscape stuff was repressed so there could be a coherent and conclusive plot in 4 hours. PW was okay, but certainly not a satisfactory replacement for a 5th season!

                              Comment

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