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The Zocalo Newsletter!

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The Gathering Report
"You Seek Meaning" -JMS at SFU 05/27/01
By: Dennis N. Kristos

The 13th nw-b5 Gathering -our tenth held at Simon Fraser University- was for the 218 (give or take) attendees, a memorable, surprise-filled evening.

We kicked it off at approximately 5:30 pm with the introductory episode to "Crusade", 'Racing the Night'. It was nice to appreciate the scope of JMS' series opener on a large screen like the B5 episodes we've shown at past Gatherings.

The Great Maker began his presentation with a dazzling 5 year re-cap music video (created by John Hudgens who, over the years has engineered several B5 music vids). The montage opened to the strains of Christopher Franke's 5th Season title theme, segueing for the remaining footage to Queen's anthemic, "Keep Yourself Alive". Very appropriate, very classy. As the video concluded, JMS entered to a thunderous, standing ovation. JMS then proceeded to relate a series of B5 life-imitates-art anecdotes about how real life events had synchronized with some events he'd written for B5 characters. For instance, Mira Furlan, who had been trying to conceive for the longest time, became pregnant just around the time in season 5 when Delenn was written to be with child. From the sublime to the hilarious, Joe quickly segued to the legendary Blooper reel -another compilation covering B5 in its entirety. (The only problem I had watching it was breathlessly straining to hear the next flubbed line, running gag or ad-lib because the laughter, including my own, was so loud.) A brief Q & A session with the audience about B5, Crusade and his apparent stealth project -That Which Cannot Be Named because still no press releases exist -followed.

JMS having covered previous ground, moved on to his new "B5: Legend of the Rangers" telemovie, 'To Live and Die in Starlight'. He talked briefly about the how the deal with Sci-Fi Channel was done and without missing a beat, transitioned us into footage (unseen by anybody except for the editor, the producers and perhaps the SFC powers in 'dailies'). A 2 1/2 minute unfinished (no graphics or promo voice-over) trailer set to the haunting "Requiem for the Line", led off the proceedings. Next on the agenda, Joe introduced not one, but three individual scenes. First and longest running fo the scenes revolved around an Anla' shok ritual called 'The Naming of Names' aboard David Martell's (Dylan Neal) new command, the 'Liandra'. In context of the scene, we were introduced to the new ensemble of charcters -Dulann (Alex Zahara), Sarah (Myriam Sirois), Malcolm Bridges (Dean Marshall), Kitaro Sasaki (Warren Takeuchi), Firell (Enid-Raye Adams), Nafeel (Jennie-Rebecca Hogan) and Tirk (Gus Lynch)- their rank, function and something extra about each of them. The middle scene, (a two-hander complete with "Insert VFX" caption) centred on Citizen G'Kar and Martell with G'Kar revealing news of a distant archeological dig and speculating upon its implications. The final clip entailed the Liandra's crew realizing they are seriously outclassed when they discover a powerful new enemy is on the prowl.

First impressions? There is much to admire and anticipate here. Joe's delivering on the promises he made before a single frame was shot. Director Mike Vejar's visual mastery of shadow and light is very evident while production designer Steve Geaghan's beautifully detailed sets delight the eye. Credit also goes to DOP Henry Chan for his atmospheric cinematography. The Ranger uniforms have undergone slight cosmetic changes and Optic Nerve's makeup designs appear to have been taken a step further by the present crew. Sitting there, I could only imagine what the Gadjecki Visual Effects people will come up with, but I'm confident it'll be right. As for acting, well, the core twenty-something cast is young by B5 standards, but they're individually and collectively hitting the mark. Also, that elusive quality -chemistry- is quite apparent in this appealing company of heroes. If audience reaction was any indicator, it appears 'Tirk' will be B5LR's breakout character (much like 'Zathras' was in "Babylon 5") should Sci-Fi greenlight a full series. It's hard not to imagine that eventuality since the potential is definitely there.

After the viewings, JMS delivered the finishing touch, introducing the cast (save for Neal), who had secretly joined another special guest, 'Zocalo Today' publisher-editor, Sandy Bruckner and the audience earlier. (Late Friday, the 25th, B5LR production manager Ron Mcleod contacted John Francis about logistics for Joe's arrival as John was making final preparations for the event. During their conversation, Ron incidentally informed John an undisclosed number of cast and crew would be present on the day and so they were.) They entered in that great theatrical tradition, from the rear of the hall down to the 'stage' for the final and longest Q &A round. Their energy, enthusiasm and candid responses were appreciated by us as they revealed seven of eight cast members are local actors, some are science-fiction fans and a couple of them have dreamt about being in a sci-fi series. Travers Naran (nw-b5's JMS liaison, the Gathering's logistics master and talent wrangler) asked JMS if he'd be willing to come speak to us again in the future. Joe responded that he'd ". . . be delighted. . .". Someone else dropped the "big one" asking Joe if B5LR goes beyond this telemovie, would he keep it here. His response -a simple "Yes".

Before concluding the evening's activities and adjourning to the foyer for the autograph/meet'n'greet/photos session, John Francis presented his Makerness with a framed nw-b5 Certificate of Appreciation signed by the members of the Gathering Committee -Travers, Johnny Gee, John Francis, A J and yours truly. In addition, I presented Joe with a bound copy of our 'Support Babylon 5 on KVOS TV-12' petition of 1997/98. Door prizes (10 copies of the 'Babylon 5' double issue) kindly donated by 'Cinefantastique' and Frank Garcia and (5 B5 items, ranging from t-shirts to a 12" G'Kar action figure) from Johnny's Wax Pax Collectibles were given out just in time for autographs.

Faith manages, Art lasts.

---= Dennis =--- <*>

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