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Love or loathe it, the Hand a tactical blunder?(spoilers)


A lot of the people who otherwise really liked the movie still winced a litle at the concept of the Hand.

I was one of the who really groaned at it.

Anyway, here's a summary of various positions. [And yes, you can tell which way I lean, but that is not the main point.]

A lot of disappointed viewers see it as just a tired recycling of the Shadows, YAAE (as in Yet Another Ancient Enemy - don't remember the source of *that*).

A lot of positive viewers insist it will be another classic JMS bait-and-switch when all is said and done.
[Some critics would say, if that's what he was up to, why not make the pilot look good, then blow us away later with something truly great? Why make it look *bad* first -- to make the switch seem greater by comparison? And isn't the passionate insistence that JMS is up to something back-handed acknowledgement that the Hand as presented is not very satisfying?]

Still others take it at face value and are happy with it as-is. It's a big universe after all, isn't it?
[Some critics would agree and ask why some other plot driver couldn't have been created instead.]

Many of the give-the-man-a-break camp suggest the motive was a readily understandable hook for B5 virgins who are unaware of the thematic resemblance to the Shadows.

My POINT (finally) is this:

Regardless of your personal views on the suitability of the Hand, given the strongly negative reaction of many long-time B5 fans doesn't it count as a tactical blunder by JMS?

Does aggravating a sizable portion of those who would otherwise be some of LOTR's biggest cheerleaders for landing a series deal seem very wise? Was it an intentional calculation? If so, was the math mistaken?

Once again, regardless of your opinion on the Hand, was it a smart move? Look at the end result and don't just blame the critics (or the product).

from the SciFi Channel Farscape BB
I'm apprehensive with respect to the effect of The Hand on the future of a B5:LotR series. We won't know until we see a series.

Vorlon Empire

I think The Hand represents a misdirection by JMS for a future twist. They sound so much like the Shadows only better than experienced fans should *KNOW* that nothing is ever as it seems and whatever The Hand is, is not quite what we were told in B5: LOTR.

Someone here or at sci-fi suggested the very same thing and I rather like the concept.

Think about Season 1 of Babylon 5. Back then, when I was much younger, I was sure that the Minbari had some evil scheme to take over the Earth Alliance and control the galaxy. They HAD fought a war and then mysteriously surrendered, I figured maybe they figured out some new way that would work better for them. Wasn't much of a theory, but thats what I was lead to believe and I was flat wrong.

I think some of that is true in this case. If it goes to series, we shall see

-- IceFire
If you look at the unique messages pro and con (not the endless repetition of arguments within threads) I don't think the percentage of B5 fans who are concerned about this is terribly high. A little informal count that I did of a couple of sites and the newsgroup suggests that no more than 30% of the folks posting are worried about the Hand thing, and most of those are willing to give the series a shot and see what develops. So I don't see where there is any major risk here. I think the minority for whom this is an issue greatly exaggerate both its importance, and the number of people who share their concern.



Joseph DeMartino
Sigh Corps
Pat Tallman Division

"No one here is exactly what he appears." There is a reason JMS used that line again. You'll notice that at the end of the movie, very little was actually explained.

As a writer and a storyteller, JMS would not re-use the Shadow plot. The Hand is something quite unlike anything we have seen before.

We'll find out what they really are when Rangers goes to series.

If JMS hadn't meant to explain the Hand's position in the B5 universe, in relation to the Shadows, and other First Ones, he would not have had Kafta make direct reference to the Shadows. He knew that The Hand wouldn't seem repetitous to new viewers who had not heard of the Shadows, and he probably expected B5 fans to trust him enough to go out on a limb before he saws The Hand off.

He needed to introduce very powerful villans in the pilot, so that the Rangers could be measured by the strength of their enemies.

You're speaking treason! Olivia De Havilland as Maid Marian
Fluently! Errol Flynn as Robin Hood
You're talking treason! Olivia De Havilland as Arabella Bishop
I trust I'm not obscure. Errol Flynn as Dr. Peter Blood

Pallindromes of the month: Snug was I, ere I saw guns.
Doom an evil deed, liven a mood.
So we're just supposed to "ignore that man behind the curtain!" ?

If it is supposed to be "obvious" to us existing B5ers that the Hand is a throwaway, isn't that
a) Letting us down a bit, Lucas style, as the "faithful" don't get fully rewarded (given that they're the ones willing to carry a torch)? That we don't have a legitimate expectation of being amazed again? That we should just give him a pass because "we should know better"?

which leads to ...

b) where's the "genius" in setting up a patented JMS neck-snapping 180 degree twist that telegraphs itself by sounding so tired & retread that it's "obvious" we're not supposed to take it seriously, knowing that he's better than that?

I would think the real art would lie in giving us something that we could totally buy into and *then* throw us for a loop -- good gets replaced by great. Mastery lies in taking us by surprise.

How many vet B5ers got the old chills & dread from the whole Hand & servants thing versus explaining away their yawns with a smug "it's not all there is, don't get your panties in a wad"?

I stand by my remarks.

And Joe DeM. ... is 30% of the potentially most ardent supporters insignificant?

I'd venture that 75% of the B5 vets were NOT beside themselves, NOT on the edge of their seats, at the prospect of the Hand. Maybe they didn't bitch, but they weren't thrilled either (maybe about a series, but *not* about the Hand)

from the SciFi Channel Farscape BB

"It only *looks* lame. There's more to it. You should know better."

To which I reply...

Why should it look lame in the first place?

from the SciFi Channel Farscape BB
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR>Regardless of your personal views on the suitability of the Hand, given the strongly negative reaction of many long-time B5 fans doesn't it count as a tactical blunder by JMS?

You're basically answering your own question here. I'm one of those guys who thinks that the hand is nothing but a rip-off of the shadows and those things that came through the gate in Thirdspace.

Did JMS have a classic bait and switch in mind? Who knows. Even if he did, the pilot didn't interest me enough to really care one way or the other. To answer the last question, I do think it was a tactical blunder. For one thing, I think it lessens the B5 franchise as a whole. The fact that we can't even get the seasons on DVD should tell you something about the state of B5 right now. That's why I think LOTR needed to be something pretty special. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

"Dawn's in trouble? Must be Tuesday." -- Buffy Summers, "Once More With Feeling."
In my opinion there's no way how the Hand could be a long-term and serious factor.

This possibility is contradicted by too much well-known information from Babylon 5. Given how much contradicts it, would you really suspect that the Hand is what it looks like?

Lorien does not know them, Delenn does not mention them in "Deconstruction", nobody in Crusade mentions them, nothing at all hints about them... hence they are not what they seem.

Some details suggest that the Hand storyline might foreshadow a battle within the first season, but no more. There will be no war. There may be an unexpected and large battle (as in Thirdspace) but a war with the Hand does not fit in. Hence the series itself must focus on other issues, exactly as stated by JMS in the very beginning: rebuilding after the Shadow War.

The Hand serves as an excellent way to introduce a new viewer. It also provides much guessing and speculation for the old viewer. Those who want to know everything at once... may hate it.

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR>The fact that we can't even get the seasons on DVD should tell you something about the state of B5 right now.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

As for this, allow me to say: companies do not throw themselves into an unknown market. This is self-destructive behaviour. Why would you expect a company like Warner to do so, especially after their video release of "Babylon 5" failed (at least in the US).

There is no reason to expect anything else. They have tested the market, found it sufficient and will "slowly go where everyone has gone before". They will release it, and eventually get it right.

[This message has been edited by Lennier (edited January 29, 2002).]
I have to agree JMS wouldn't reuse a plot idea THAT readily. A previous post said that JMS explained very little in the pilot, the effect being the relative strength of the Rangers..this being the case and the third or fourth rate ships the flunkies get..the hand has to be some pretty mean group of dudes.

After reading a number of these types of posts the only alternate possiblity I have (talk about a long shot) is that there's some other kind of alliance (no one race is big and bad like is implied) who have uber-technology. Okay pretty lame.. However this race might also be one of the races we know from the B5 universe who stumbled into the wrong place and didn't get help, they want revenge, 7 season plot follows.

I'm with the crowd who says the "Hand" wouldn't be the main arc of a Rangers series. We found out about them too soon. Besides, the assembled fleet of the League of Nonaligned Worlds and company couldn't hope to defeat the Shadows or Vorlons in a battle, how could they hope to defeat this "Hand" if it were more powerful than the Vorlons or Shadows?

No, there's something else JMS has in mind... and I can't wait to find out what it is...

-Londo's Hair
"Vir, intelligence has nothing to do with politics!"
Missing the point...

Were any of you vets on the edge of your seat about the Hand? Excited about them AS PRESENTED?

It sounds like the answer is No.

Sure, we assume (hope) that a series would unfold into something new, different, more complex.

But why not have a short term problem that didn't make us all think "been there, done that"? One that was very exciting and intriguing in its own right -- even if it was discarded soon on a series as the REAL threat/theme came in to view?

THAT is my quibble.

from the SciFi Channel Farscape BB
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR>Were any of you vets on the edge of your seat about the Hand? Excited about them AS PRESENTED?


I most certainly was. As someone who knows all about the Shadow stuff, I was intrigued as to how the Hand fits in the B5 universe.

The "Hand of God, Hand of Death" thing totally sparked my interest. Why aren't we talking about that? It seems rather significant to me. There's some sort of weird hierarchy going on here: the enemy the Rangers faced were only servants of the Hand, but if the Hand is the "Hand of God," are they also "servants" of some sort? To whom, or what, and why?

The fact is, we learned nothing about them or their intentions.

And let's be practical- this movie needed an enemy to battle. Oh sure, some of us might like to see Dulann and G'Kar spit out witticisms all day, but I doubt that would fly well for 2 hours.

So how would you have done it? If they weren't so powerful and scary, as Minister Kafta desribed them, it wouldn't be much of a conflict, now, would it? If they would be a new race, people would say, "Oh look, JMS ran out of ideas, so he has to dream up some new baddies that came from nowhere."

Ya know, just for the hell of it, I tried making up my own ideas for Ranger pilots (my mind wanders when I drive), and for every scenario, I thought of a million criticisms that people here would come up with. I think the only think that would make some of you happy would be if Sarah Cantrell popped out of the screen and gave you a lap dance.

"You do not make history. You can only hope to survive it."
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR>Were any of you vets on the edge of your seat about the Hand? Excited about them AS PRESENTED?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I am ashamed to admit this... but my *associates* still haven't managed to provide me a copy. I am however working on this issue... and meanwhile reading every spoiler and review I get my hands on. Considering that I have continued doing my research even after learning of the plot, I would assume that the movie would interest me.

"We are the universe, trying to figure itself out.
Unfortunately we as software lack any coherent documentation."
-- Delenn
Hello all,

I usually hate to get sucked into these types of discussions, for a hundred different reasons, but mainly because there in no right answer, but people tend to forget that the longer the discussion wears on. I'm catching this one relatively early so I figured I'd throw in my two cents. (I expect my change back, too)

Ahh, the Hand. There seem to be two arguments happening here. The immersive and the objective.

The Objective camp looks outside the story and examines the plot, writing, and "franchise" implications of the element in question. Is The Hand a rip off of the Shadows, or something else? Why would JMS handle TLADIS like this, upping the scales to re-create the tension of some episodes in the 3rd and 4th seasons?

The Immersive camp looks at the story itself, examining the material from within, looking for timeline discontinuities, and mentioned and quotable events that will either disprove or solidify their case.

In my opinion, these two camps should step back and consider some things.

If we are looking at the Objective, then consider this: The Legend of the Rangers is a new animal. It's a new story with new characters and some minor familiar things. As such, it is fitting that there be a new enemy, but I seriously doubt that the Hand will be that enemy. Mr. Lennier's explination earlier in the thread seems most likly to be the case as far as I'm concerned. Yes the Hand are powerful, but just because they are dark and spooky and just because they are powerful and just because they have spines on their ships, do we declare them rip offs? We spend I don't know how many hours praising JMS about his wonderful skill at creating stories, and characters and never coming at us straight. We admire how he has fooled us, and how he has shown us the truth, but kept us entertained by the how and why behind the truth. But the moment something new comes down the pike, we throw away our suspension of disbelief, we look away from what we percieve as familiar, and shoot the messenger before JMS has a chance to wow us. How many people thought that the Narns were just like the Klingons in the 1st season of B-5? Aren't you glad you were wrong? And what is different now with the Hand?

If (God willing) the series goes ahead, I will open my eyes to what I see, and leave the speculation and the imagined disappointment behind. It's a story, let the man tell it if he's given the chance.

The Immersive camp looks at the Hand, but seems to take them at face value. They have to base their opinions of Kafka's descriptions of the hand. To them I say, consider the source for cryin' out loud!

Delenn was always worried about the Shadows, always afraid, but from the beginning we knew that they could be beaten, even if the good guys didn't have the resources they once did. She told us, point blank that they had lost the last war. When the time came for the Shadows to move, they were terrible and mighty and cut through the good guys like butter. But the good guys won. With the help of a pivitol weakness, the good guys started beating the shadows, even though in the long run they still would have lost.

Remember how a Shadow Vessel could slice apart a capital ship from any other race? How many hits did the Valen take before she went. . . and how exactly did she go? She rammed the other ship.

We aren't looking at the Hand yet. We're looking at the technology that they have given to whatever race is serving them, and I'm not impressed. The Hand's toy vs. the 20year old Liandra is different than the Hand vs. a Victory class destroyer.

I don't see the battle being the between the technologies. That just doesn't make sense, like the Immersives have said, there was no mention of it in later (although technically earlier) pieces (Deconstruction of Falling Stars, War Without End, etc.).

So what happend? Maybe the Rangers handled it, like they handle almost everything else, quietly and in the dark places where no one else will walk (sorry couldn't resist).

We know that they will handle it, whatever it is. The fun part is finding out how. We knew in Season 3 that the Shadows would lose. We never would have guessed how, or that the Vorlons would be gone as well.

Lighten up, fight for the series, and when it happens, watch the story, and watch it with your eyes and your heart open. I feel very strongly that you will be rewared if you do.

Just my thoughts on the matter. I'll be lurking to see what happens.


"The avalanche has already begun. It is too late for the pebbles to vote."
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by newscaper:
Were any of you vets on the edge of your seat about the Hand? Excited about them AS PRESENTED?

Sure I was ! I find this new element a very exciting and mysterious addition. Since I watched the movie, there's so many questions that constantly pop: is the Hand the race from Thirdspace ? Is the cloaked guy a kind of "Dark Vorlon" as mentionned in Thirdspace ? Because it's not referred in the futur (wierd sentence), how the Rangers will resolve the Hand problem in total discretion ? Is the Hand simply an other First Ones that was bannished by others First Ones ? Are they related at all with our universe or they just came from beyond the Rim ? etc etc etc

IMHO, one thing someone need to really appreciate a Babylon 5 story is having a minimum of "imagination". If someone don't have any, that's too bad for him/her.

- Garibaldi's Hairs

"You are all in violation of security ordinance 22V3A. That means get the hell out of here!
- Zack
yeah, the whole "ancient enemy" thing seemed kinda played out. maybe an enemy from another galaxy or something like that might have been more fresh, you could still use that new race entering the alliance but is really spying angle. maybe JMS has something tricky up his sleeve?

<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by PsionTen:
To answer the last question, I do think it was a tactical blunder. For one thing, I think it lessens the B5 franchise as a whole. The fact that we can't even get the seasons on DVD should tell you something about the state of B5 right now. That's why I think LOTR needed to be something pretty special. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

I agree with PsionTen. This pilot needed to WOW people, hardcore B5 fans and newbies alike. While newbies may be impressed with Raider Delta-wing ships, hardcore B5 fans aren't. Hardcore fans saw inconsistancies.

If the raiders are strong enough to go up against Ranger ships, we should have been given more context about the battle and raider advances since 2262. The ooh-aah speech of Kafta about The Hand being such a big bad doesn't cut it. To get a feel for the the threat, we need to have a feel for the speaker. We don't know Kafta's race from Adam.

Maybe JMS could have introduced another Shadow ally race, above the Drakh, but obviously below the Shadows, with access to other kinds of really nasty Shadowtech. That would have been plenty villian enough for darn near anybody, hardcore fan and newbie alike.

The Shadows were a great "villian" race. I hate to see them reduced in stature.

That said, I still am writing to Sci-Fi to express support for Rangers. If it dies here folks, I think it's over as far as new B5 universe stories are concerned. We can't let that happen.

I'm going out to mail another letter to Sci-Fi right now.

Vorlon Empire

[This message has been edited by KoshN (edited January 29, 2002).]
<BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, arial">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by KoshN:
[BThe Shadows were a great "villian" race. I hate to see them reduced in stature.[/B]<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

How do you know the Hand is stronger than the Shadows ? How do you know they are older and badder ? How do you know there will be a "Hand War" bigger than the "Shadow War" ?

I've seen the pilot, and I can't answer any of those questions. And the movie finish on this quote: "No one is exactly what it seems" (or something), in fact the most important rule in the B5 universe.

If I tell everybody that the frenchs are the meanest people on earth. Will you blindly forgot the nazi history, only based on my saying ?

I don't get that some people react badly on the Hand. We know NOTHING (as in NOTHING) about them.

I can judge the new weapon device, the actors performance, the FXs, the soundtrack, the over-all script & story ... But The Hand ? WTF is this ???

"You are all in violation of security ordinance 22V3A. That means get the hell out of here!
- Zack

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