Contents: Overview - Backplot - Questions - Analysis - Notes - JMS
As Earth reacts to the Drakh plague, the Excalibur sets out on its mission to find a cure.
Production number: 108 Original air date: June 9, 1999 Written by J. Michael Straczynski Directed by Janet Greek
Then we go back to the show we wanted to make...Path of Sorrows is terrific, Well of Forever is a solid character story, The Long Road is just pure fun (that's pretty much reverse broadcast order, btw)... there's one or two in the bunch that are a bit slower than I'd like, but those are the exception rather than the rule.
Just to get my own feelings on this out there.
"Will we find out why Gideon wouldn't have his exec scan the Drakh?"
The rules about unauthorized scans still apply. Matheson has to operate even under stricter rules re: privacy now than before. You'll see more on this later.
"The only really weak spots, to me were the " Earth in a panic" scenes, which looked an awful lot like newsreel footage"
TNT note: we need to SEE Earth in turmoil, if we just hear about it nobody's going to get it. They had us insert that.
Yep. That's one of the mandates they put on the first ep...they wanted to start with a fist-fight.
As for the exposition...one reason they asked for so much was because they said it was going to air months after ACTA, and nobody'd remember, and it wouldn't get rerun...then after we shot WZ they decided they *would* rerun ACTA before WZ...then a few weeks ago they decided to run ACTA -- which has all the info needed for WZ -- AFTER WZ.
Now perhaps you get a small sense of what we've been up against.
It didn't. Moreover, the order for that stuff came in about two days before we were supposed to begin shooting, so we had to hurriedly redesign the set to include the wall monitor, and change other aspects of the filming, then hurriedly find some footage that would work (sorta).
"I suppose there were few options."
None. What you have to understand is that we were at this point, in the writing of this episode, on hiatus...awaiting the okay to go back into filming. And though it was never said overtly, there was always the undercurrent of "If TNT doesn't get this one script the way they want it, they may not give the OK. So give them what they want just this one time."
I did what I could with what they demanded, and tried to fight as much as I could. For instance, in one scene, where Gideon tells the others to meet him in the conference room, the TNT note was, "How does Gideon know where the conference room is? We should have a scene where he's shown the conference room."
My reply: "He knows where the conference room is because when he's escorted to the bridge by Matheson, *HE CAN SEE IT FROM HIS CHAIR*."
(It was one of those bang-your-head-against-the-wall moments.)
The overall problem, which many folks don't understand, is that in a script you have a finite number of minutes and pages. Let's say 42 pages. Now, the script is written the way you want, kinda, with some nice character moments and stuff. Then they want more exposition. You can't just append it to the page count, you have to stay at 42 pages. So you have to cut stuff *out* to make room for the stuff they want put *in*. The first thing out the door is character, followed quickly by humor.
There was, for instance, a nice clash with the senator and the intelligence guy over Gideon's background, why he's the wrong person for the job, why Sheridan picked him specifically for the job...which had to go in order to put in more exposition (and lengthen the opening fight scene in the teaser by about a third, another TNT request).
For me, a lot of what makes an episode fun are the character moments, but there was no longer room for them...they had to go out to make room for dry expositional stuff or stuff blowing up.
Which is why I picked "The Long Road" as the one to follow in the broadcast order...it's one big character piece, with a fair amount of humor, and just fun. A little expository in the second act, but nothing unreasonable.
Stil, I'm proud of what we did with "War Zone," because it was a little like someone handing you an inner tube and a tree branch and telling you to make a radio telescope out of it. It ain't pretty, but it does the job we had put in front of us.
(One aside...some folks on the net picked up my comments about War Zone made here earlier and said I was apologizing after the fact for the episode, once the reactions came in...but the date stamp on the message, here and on the nets, clearly indicate that I made those statements BEFORE the episode aired. I know *exactly* where the faults are in the eps, where they work and where they don't work, and have always tried to be the first one on record about them because that seems right to me. This is, after all, about the process of educating people about how TV works, the decisions that get made and how you deal with them.)
Also...they said the senator scene was too long (which it *wasn't* before the big montage/video/the senator explains it all for you sequence was added in), and to cut stuff out of that scene and add it to the fight in the beginning.
And I would as well.
That's the thing about all this...in the negative comments about War Zone -- and actually there have been far fewer than I'd anticipated -- there ain't much that I'd disagree with. If anything, they've tickled me because they reflect EXACTLY what I'd said when these things were asked for. It's been a massive validation.
Not orally, no.
The other 12 fit the bill.
No, but there were occasional little hidden messages in the episode, as when a character says, "We've had to make some compromises to get this show on the road." No one noticed that one, despite being rather literal.
At one point in editing we needed some close-ups, and there weren't any in that part, so we kind of borrowed some from earlier in the sequence. We do this a lot, when there isn't coverage of some parts of scenes, rarely does anyone notice the eyeline difference.