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Pilot Episode: "The Gathering"

Title: The Gathering
Production Number: Pilot
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski    Director: Richard Compton
Contents: [Plot] - [Overview] - [Guest Stars] - [Other Info]
Plot:

Sinclair is framed for the poisoning of Ambassador Kosh.

Overview:

Opening Narration:

"I was there at the dawn of the third age of mankind. It began in the Earth year 2257 with the founding of the last of the Babylon stations, located deep in neutral space. It was a port of call for refugees, smugglers, businessmen, diplomats and travellers from a hundred worlds. It could be a dangerous place, but we accepted the risks because Babylon 5 was our last, best hope for peace. Under the leadership of its final commander, Babylon 5 was a dream given form. A dream of a galaxy without war, and species of different worlds could live, side by side in mutual respect. A dream that was in danger as never before, by the arrival of one man on a mission of destruction. Babylon 5 was the last of the Babylon stations, this is its story." - Ambassador Londo Mollari

Overview:

Babylon 5 awaits its last alien ambassador, Kosh, of the mysterious Vorlon Empire. Unfortunately, upon his arrival, he is poisoned by an unknown assassin and is taken to Medlab for emergency treatment, but as they don’t know where the poison was put in (as Kosh wears an encounter suit) and what the poison is, the Ambassador will die unless something is done. Dr. Kyle wants to open up the encounter suit to examine him, but the Vorlon Empire forbid this, but Commander Sinclair order’s it done anyway to save Kosh’s life.

Dr. Kyle and Commander Takashima arrange (without Sinclair’s knowledge) for the telepath Lyta Alexander to scan the unconscious Vorlon to try and find out about the poison. When she does, it seems that Commander Sinclair is responsible for the poisoning. She manages also though to find out where the poison was put into Kosh and by the description Dr. Kyle also manages to find out what sort of poison it is. By using this information Dr. Kyle sets off to create an antidote.

Ambassador G’Kar heads a prosecution team to extradite Sinclair for murder to the Vorlon homeworld for trial. The Vote is passed.

The Assassin goes to Medlab to finish the job but fails in the attempt and runs off. Sinclair then finds out that he is using a changeling net to impersonate various station personal so that he could move around easily. As the changeling net uses a large power source, Sinclair and Gariabldi track him down. Whilst a Vorlon fleet arrives to pick up Sinclair and are prepared to destroy the station if they do not let them have him. Sinclair manages to catch the assassin and by using a floating camera (which was sent to follow him to record what happened) every sees (including the Vorlon fleet) that the Assassin was a Minbari using the changeling net. As the wounded Minbari is about to die, he activates a bomb, but Sinclair manages to escape the explosion.

Kosh survives the assassination attempt and takes up his post as the Vorlon Ambassador.

Sinclair finds out that G’Kar was involved with the conspiracy to frame the Earth Alliance and the Centuari. He was trying and get the Vorlons or Minbari to ally themselves with the Narn. Sinclair warns G’Kar never to endanger the station again and he finds suitable punishment for him...

Other Points:

Why don’t they want people to see them inside there encounter suit? what are they hiding? Before the Minbari assassin dies, he tells Sinclair that he has ‘hole’ in his mind, referring to the mission 24 hours during "The Battle of the Line". So what did happen to him during that time? And why did the Minbari surrender during the Earth-Minbari War when they were on the verge of victory?

Original Pilot Rating: 6.5
Re-Edited Pilot Rating: 7.5

Guest Stars :
Tamlyn Baron * ... Lt. Commander Laurel Takashima
Blaire Baron * ... Carolyn Sykes
Johnny Sekka * ... Dr. Benjamin Kyle
Patricia Tallman * ... Lyta Alexander
John Fleck ... Del Varner
Paul Hampton ... Senator
(With other cast who were going to be recurring characters throughout the series but left. These are marked with a *)
Other Info :

The Re-Edit:

The Pilot Movie has now been edited for the run on TNT. This edited version was first shown on January 4th 1998. There has been many changes to the original version to make it what jms wanted it to be in the first place.

Below shows a message from jms explaining most of the changes which have been made:

23-Dec-97
Subject: Gathering Additions
From: J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI

"Can you spare a few words on how you went about the re-edit? Did you start with what you wanted to get back in, or trying to find out how much time you could recapture?"

The first thing I did was to sit down with the editor assigned to the re-edit, Suzie, and go through the original script for the pilot. My first words to her were, "Put everyhing in that ain't there." To that end, she redigitized all of the footage from missing scenes, and had available all of the available footage of the other scenes for digitizing as we went.

Note that I said all the *available* footage. The folks at WB who held custody of the film (we don't keep that stuff, we're not allowed to by contract, they store film, negative, prints, all that stuff) put the negative canisters into storage...and at one point in the intervening 4 years, there had been water damage, and on another occasion, apparently rats had gotten in there and chewed some of the original negatives (and in most cases there weren't positive struck of those takes).

Take your reaction to the foregoing, put it in front of the Hubble telescope, and you will have mine.

However, we lucked out...where there were some takes that are gone, we were able to find enough others (masters instead of a two-shot, or a close-up instead of an over-shoulder) and B-camera footage that we were able to build solid versions of those scenes. We didn't always have as many choices as we're used to but there was more than enough for our needs.

Suzi then dumped all of the newly edited additional scenes into the existing pilot, and that gave us the new running time (we added about 14 minutes). So at that point, John and I went in and worked to slice down the previously existing scenes, doing what we do with B5: tightening every loose screw and nut as much as we could. One or two incidental, unimportant scenes in the original pilot went out, because they added nothing and shouldn't have been there in the first place (a total of about 3 minutes). The remaining 11 minutes we made up in just tightening scenes, which were *so* lax and slow that it's amazing at times.

In some cases, we substituted one take for another in the pre-existing pilot when we had a better reaction, or played scenes closer for more intimacy. (One of the problems with the pilot is that it kept the audience far from the action, and the actors far from each other, something we changed in our shooting style for the series...here we tried to change it when we could and when we had the coverage.)

Tiny example: when Kosh falls down upon arriving at B5, that sequence ends with a big honking wide downshot of a nearly empty docking bay, with Kosh far from us, and Sinclair looking down (away from us) when he says "Damn." Then we go from that to a wide shot of the medlab. Same framing. So I had Suzie look for a take where we panned up from a close on Kosh, to a close on Sinclair for that line, so it's more immediate, more personal, and the jump to the next scene doesn't feel like the one before.

See, directors like to stay wide in their cuts, so you can see their nifty camera angles, see the set, the lighting...but after you've established where we are, most people want to see the *characters*, not the walls or how the camera moves. That was what we tried to fix where we could.

We couldn't totally re-edit the pilot, because we hadn't been given the money for something that intensive (the main expense is in opening up all the audio stems in the sound mix). But all the stuff I wanted back in, is now in, and the scenes I wanted to fix, I fixed.

I also got the thing back to its original format. All TV movies are 6 acts. Because PTEN wanted more commercial breaks, I had to re-jig the structure of the thing into 9 acts, which meant moving some scenes into places where they weren't as effective, and frankly after 9 acts you just get tired of watching. Here I was able to move scenes around and get back to the original 6 act structure that was intended for the thing, and that alone makes a huge difference in how the film feels.

One of the biggest changes is the one least immediately apparent. After we finished the original pilot, some folks at WB felt that Laurel was too...strong. They will rarely put it in terms quite as blatant as that, but that was the message...she was "unlikeable, unsympathetic, harsh." Meaning some of the guys felt she was too strong, let's cut to the chase, okay?

They wanted her to loop her lines, soften their (her) delivery. I fought this tooth and nail. I fought this until finally I was pulled aside and it was communicated to me that B5 was, after all, still an unknown property, could be a big failure, and if we ever wanted to see this thing on the air, we'd accommodate this note (which was, I have to admit on balance, one of the few they had). The advice was, in essence, "Pick your battles."

So, reluctantly, I let it get looped by Tamlyn.

But now, when the re-edit was commissioned, and with the person at the studio who insisted on this now no longer AT the studio, I told Suzie, "Screw it, put back her original production track and trash the loops." Instantly, Laurel's energy level comes up, the performance is better...it just *feels* more natural now.

So basically, we did a lot...some of it may not be immediately apparent (improving a sound here, altering coverage, adding additional sound layers, redoing a composite shot of the garden), but over the duration of watching it, it's just *better*. It's still a *tad* slower around the middle than I would've liked, but that's a WP (writer problem), nothing that can be fixed in an edit. It's just exposition-dense there, and nothing of a sort that can be cut.

jms

The Pilot was first shown in 1993
The Re-edited Pilot was first shown on January 4th, 1998.

 
 
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