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Old April 13th 07, 09:05   #1
Telepath
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How good are the script books?

Done - I finished watching all five seasons again Still, even though I have made peace with the loss of Catherine Sakai after S1, especially in S4 the Sinclair arc seems awfully grafted onto Sheridan, which spoils my enjoyment of that wonderful season.

Well, perhaps I am reading too much into things, and I wanted to know the original arc anyway, so I consider getting the series of script books. For such a copious amount of money (international shipping and customs included, roughly 650 US Dollars, I want to have some real answers.

Here's my question to those of you who own the books: Are they worth it? I'm especially interested in Sinclair/Sheridan changes, the original fates of characters dropped from the show etc. Are these things done away with quickly or does JMS really get into them?
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Old April 13th 07, 12:18   #2
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Re: How good are the script books?

Short answer - yes. In my opinion.

So far JMS has gone into a fair amount of detail (not as much as I'd like, but would anything ever meet that?) about his reasoning, and the circumstances, behind story decisions. Obviously there's stuff that hasn't been covered yet, with hopefully a pretty revealing bit in the bonus Volume 15 for example. A fair amount of stuff can ebe found in his archived newsgroup postings (which I'm currently about 2/3 of the way through mining - a Herculean task!) though some stuff he's only able (emotionally or professionally) to talk about now that it's all long over. Some stuff that has been covered fairly in depth are:

- The reasoning (story wise) behind the insertion of Sheridan and the change of direction for Sinclair, and how this was worked in in S2.

- A full and detailed analysis of Sheridan's prohetic dream, quite interesting.

- Detail on different versions of the Z'ha'dum story, such as with Sinclair there or Kosh still alive.

- The chaos and strife around whether S4 would be the last, and how the story would be condensed while still hoping to finish some of it, either in a 11th hour pick-up of S5, or in one the myriad permutations of sequel series that were being thrown around at the time. These ideas eventually settled into first Crusade, then Legend of the Rangers, though originally JMS was thinking of more direct sequels with continuing characters from B5, like Sheridan (still as a ship Captain instead of President) or a still-alive Marcus.

For 'big revelations' like these you could just cherry pick certain Volumes, but the main reason I would say the investment in the whole series is worth it (besides the highly anticipated Volume 15) is the humourous, illuminating prose by JMS. His behind the scenes anecdotes (whilst sometimes well known from usenet posts or convention appearances) are always entertaining, you come to know the actors and characters behind the show through his writing as well as you did the characters *in* the show from it, his analyses and explanations of the episodes often illuminate things in them you'd never normally see, and the guy's just a damn good writer. I'd happily read any fiction or non-fiction prose he writes after seeing how good he is with these.

Basically, whether you get them or not is probably (as with me) going to be dictated by how voraciously you want to know things about the show and the story. I decided that I was interested enough to go the whole hog (even though I was reluctant at the expense since initially I wanted Volume 15 but would otherwise have happily skipped many other Volumes), but I don't regret the expense at all since being so pleasantly surprised by how entertaining they are even when they're not revealing big mysteries. Those big reveals become almost a bonus.

Sorry for the essay, hope this helps you make your decision.

Actually now that I think about it, I could have saved myself a lot of typing by just suggesting you buy the first one and see if it hooks you as readily as it did me, but there you are.
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Old April 13th 07, 12:42   #3
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Re: How good are the script books?

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Originally Posted by Telepath View Post
Here's my question to those of you who own the books: Are they worth it? I'm especially interested in Sinclair/Sheridan changes, the original fates of characters dropped from the show etc. Are these things done away with quickly or does JMS really get into them?
Are they worth it? To me, absolutely.

Will they give you what you're interested in? I can tell you right off that you won't find anything out about the Sinclair/Sheridan (or more precisely the O'hare/Boxleitner) change but you will learn how JMS 'sold' the new character to viewers and names of other actors considered for the role. Volume 11 covers the period when Claudia left so we'll soon know what, if anything, JMS has to say about that. He does touch on the changes made to the cast between the pilot and the series and other actor departures.

What you'll find is that there were things JMS wanted to do but changed his mind on or never got around to or that Real Life got in the way of. The original 1989 version of 'The Gathering' is a good illustration of that. Some memos that he shares about early proposed episodes are both familiar and startlingly different at the same time. You also get a personal look at some things that informed the stories we got.

The scripts themselves make interesting reads, too. In a number of cases, what JMS has chosen for the volumes are early drafts that may be different from what we saw onscreen. 'Soul Hunter', for instance has a 'B' story about an auditor coming to the Station that was dropped.

And you get footnotes (or parentheticals). Sometimes pictures. Sometimes memos. Each volume is competely individual. I'd suggest picking up Volume 1 and seeing if it's to your taste.

Jan
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Old April 13th 07, 16:25   #4
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Re: How good are the script books?

Jan, it sounded to me like Telepath was more interested in Sinclair -> Sheridan story changes than O'Hare -> Boxleitner behind the scenes stuff. In which case the books do get into the reasoning (from a story perspective) when discussing things like the more personal connection to the Shadows needed (ie, Anna Sheridan) that would have necessitated adding a character like Sheridan in in some capacity even if Sinclair stayed, as it was too late to 'coincidentally' ret-con a connection to the Shadows into Sinclair's backstory, or introduce one while he was still obsessing over the Earth-Minbari war and the Battle of the Line.

But anyway, we came to the same conclusion: 'try one and see what you think' .

EDIT: Telepath, in terms of 'original fates of characters dropped from the show' you do get some. The Lyta -> Talia -> Lyta situation, for example.

Last edited by raw_bean; April 13th 07 at 16:28.
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Old April 13th 07, 16:39   #5
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Re: How good are the script books?

You're right, Raw Bean. I plead lack of sleep for my lack of reading comprehension.

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Old April 13th 07, 17:47   #6
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Re: How good are the script books?

First, thanks for your help guys I really appreciate it. I cannot help thinking about B5 possibilities / original inception etc., though. Perhaps you want to share your thoughts with me on some of the arguments below?

Quote:
necessitated adding a character like Sheridan in in some capacity even if Sinclair stayed, as it was too late to 'coincidentally' ret-con a connection to the Shadows into Sinclair's backstory, or introduce one while he was still obsessing over the Earth-Minbari war and the Battle of the Line.
Actually, I would really like to see the original outline right now *sigh*. I know that JMS did not want to involve Sinclair with the shadows on a personal level because he began to think that everything revolved around one single character, to the point of stretching credibility to a breaking point.

The problem seemed to be that it was an awful lot to do for a single man - train the rangers, fight the shadows, break away from earth, fight earth, perhaps resolve the minbari civil war etc. But I think that if you take away "train the rangers" (a thread which could also have been attached to Delenn, imho), we almost have what is done by Sheridan in the end (except the Minbari civil war), and I think it would not have been too much of a stretch to have Catherine Sakai become a Ranger, then go missing at the end of S2 (at the time Sheridan learns of the Icarus' fate).

Indeed, it would have been much more dramatic to hit Sinclair in the face with Sakai's fate at the end of S3 and the betrayal of Garibaldi at the end of S4. Especially when you consider that Lise Hampton was introduced at the end of S1 as a means to get Garibaldi involved with the shadows in case Sinclair had stayed (perhaps he would have been blackmailed?).

See, my problems with S4 are that so many things point to Sinclair instead of Sheridan. Garibaldi's view that the crusade against earth is not about principles, it's about the man, "his transcendence" who came back from death. Sinclair as Entil'Zha would have fit that transcendent and "cult of personality" role better. Earth psychologists explain that war sickness can make people want to look like those who defeated them (the Minbari) - again, that would fit Sinclair, who suffered a traumatic defeat at the Battle of the Line and dresses like a Minbari.

Sinclair's close ties to the Minbari that rose suspicions on Earth even in S1 and were laid out so carefully would have paid off in S4. The crews of ships loyal to earth are told by EarthGov they would be killed and replaced by Minbari if they surrendered. I think with Sinclair dressed as the Entil'Zha, xenophobia would have set in much more easily. The hole in his mind, his alien garments, his traumatic defeat at the Battle of the Line - all could have been used against him effectively in a propaganda war that simply does not fit Sheridan as well.

Well, that's my point. Comments are most welcome
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Old April 14th 07, 16:45   #7
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Re: How good are the script books?

You know, that's all very interesting stuff that hadn't occurred to me before, Telepath. However, one thing about the way it turned out that I really love, is that we kind of get two incredible "Hero's Journey" myth-arcs instead of just one: The Sinclair\Valen\B4 story that culminates in War Without End, and the Sheridan-Kosh-Lorien\Z'ha'adum\3rd-age-of-man story that culminates in Sleeping In Light.

How many other shows give you TWO Messiahs for the price of ONE?

On a more serious note, while you may be right that the Zen-like, introspective and philosophical, tortured and brooding Sinclair might have slotted better into the whole Messiah-role, cult-of-personality, mythical story, that could be seen as a reason NOT to go that way. I think I remember reading JMS talk about how interesting he thought it was to instead present us with a new character, a cheerful, charismatic and pragmatic man initially, who becomes a more Sinclair-type character over time. To have us along for the ride, living through with him all the things that lead him from a humble, naive beginning to a spiritual destiny, as with any typical "Hero's Journey" - like Luke Skywalker's for example. While Michael O'Hare brilliantly pulled off such a character from the get-go, I thought it was even better to see Bruce Boxleitner take us there over a period of time, and I have nothing but praise for him as Sheridan.

In the end I think they both became quite seperate as characters. I can't picture in my mind Boxleitner as the fatalistic Entil'zha taking his journey with B4 to the past to live as Valen among the Minbari, but neither can I picture O'Hare delivering the forceful and stirring bombastic speeches after the return from Z'ha'adum or after hearing about the civilian bombing of seceding EA colonies that Sheridan did. Not in the same way, anyway.

EDIT: PS. No worries, Jan, we've all been there.

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Old April 14th 07, 17:14   #8
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Re: How good are the script books?

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In which case the books do get into the reasoning (from a story perspective) when discussing things like the more personal connection to the Shadows needed (ie, Anna Sheridan) that would have necessitated adding a character like Sheridan in in some capacity even if Sinclair stayed, as it was too late to 'coincidentally' ret-con a connection to the Shadows into Sinclair's backstory, or introduce one while he was still obsessing over the Earth-Minbari war and the Battle of the Line.
I don't think this is true. It was pretty clear to me that Sinclair's girlfriend-turned-fiancee Cathrine Sakai would have been that personal connection. She worked deep space exploration, taking her to planets like Sigma 957 where she already got in trouble with one of the First Ones. I think it is rather obvious that somewhere after Sinclair and her were married in Season 2, she would have "disappeared" out near the rim doing more exploring for IPX, when she would have stumbled across Z'Ha'Dum. She would have been the one returning at the end of Season 3 in Anna Sheridan's place.

I think the framework and idea was already there, its just when O'Hare left the show and BB came in, they took Sakai's arc and gave it to Anna Sheridan. It can't be a coincidence that BOTH of them ended up working with IPX and exploring things out on the rim...right?
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Old April 15th 07, 10:18   #9
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Re: How good are the script books?

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I think it is rather obvious that somewhere after Sinclair and her were married in Season 2, she would have "disappeared" out near the rim doing more exploring for IPX, when she would have stumbled across Z'Ha'Dum.
I have been thinking just that for a very long time, but JMS has explicitly stated that Sinclair was never meant to go to Z'ha'dum, and Catherine Sakai has one of the longest characterizations in the B5 series bible. I think she would have been a regular for at least one more season (S2) before running into trouble with IPX or the shadows.

raw_bean: I think the problem is that the story of messiah 1 still features prominently in the arc of messiah 2. What gives me a headache every time when going through B5 is that I liked the character of Sheridan. I always try to convince myself that the change is for the better. The events around Sheridan produce strong emotional responses which transfer directly to the audience. In Sinclair's case, his detached demeanor prohibits such identification. Often, I would think "stop looking like a beaten dog, do something". On the other hand, Sinclair's character as the brooding, fatalistic and spiritual man would have given the shadow threat and the darkness around B5 much greater weight - and would have allowed the original arc to step forward.

B5 is great as a series, no doubt about it - and perhaps it would not have been as enjoyable with Sinclair as the central character. But we will never know.

[EDIT] I think you got a very good point there:

Quote:
However, one thing about the way it turned out that I really love, is that we kind of get two incredible "Hero's Journey" myth-arcs instead of just one: The Sinclair\Valen\B4 story that culminates in War Without End, and the Sheridan-Kosh-Lorien\Z'ha'adum\3rd-age-of-man story that culminates in Sleeping In Light.
Now that is definitely true. And, as I hinted at before, perhaps we could not have indulged with a suffering man for five full seasons who gets beaten again at every turn (Battle of the Line, Sakai, Garibaldi, etc.). Sinclair never develops energy, never creates an electrifying aura as powerful as that of Sheridan (though perhaps he may have done so in later seasons). As a story, the suffering man who still has the strength within him to fight for a cause is great, but perhaps it wouldn't have worked on TV over the course of 110 episodes.

Last edited by Telepath; April 15th 07 at 10:50. Reason: expand post
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Old April 15th 07, 22:38   #10
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Re: How good are the script books?

Given what we see of Sinclair in S1 I also don't think he had the presence, charisma or sheer force of personality to pull together the other races the way that Sheridan did in Seasons 2-4.
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