Zocalo: Spoiler-free discussion of “The Gathering”

Have you done your homework? We’ll release our first “full” episode of B5AG next week, but if you’ve already watched “The Gathering” here’s a place to share your thoughts with us and your fellow listeners. No spoilers for future episodes!

7 thoughts on “Zocalo: Spoiler-free discussion of “The Gathering””

  1. I don’t care what anyone says about the CGI, those opening scenes were unlike anything we’d seen on tv up to that point. An actually bustlingly busy station, with grease and welding sparks etc? none of that sterile starfleet stuff. And that first zoom in on the station in the opening credit shot had me hooked. I was a fan from that day forward. 🙂

    1. I agree, this was like nothing else seen on television at the time. Some of the CGI may seem clunky now, but remember this was state of the art when the show was made.

  2. “I was there at the dawn of the 3rd age of mankind…”

    I remember what it was like seeing this for the 1st time… In addition to being a huge science fiction nerd, I was also a huge fan of the Amiga and was fascinated with 3-D animation. Me and my friends used to buy laser disks from a series of specialty releases called ‘Gateway to the Mind’s Eye’ which contained nothing but the latest computer graphics demonstrations of the day set to music.

    So, when we heard that this would be the first Prime Time show to use CG for its special effects, and that someone amazing like Ron Thornton would be doing it in Lightwave on his Amiga, he didn’t have to ask us twice to become instantly fanatical about seeing the thing.

    It only got worse when I started to read the stuff that Joe Straczynski was writing about the way he was going to approach the show…

    I should say in advance that I had been a fan of Joe’s since his work on ‘The Real Ghostbusters’, where he brought some really unexpectedly mature notes to the story along with a pretty good sense of humor and tons and tons of fan service for the sci-fi and horror types. ‘Ragnarok and Roll’ remains one of my favorite Ghostbusters stories, on par with the 1st film in my book.

    He had also worked on a live-action science fiction program for children’s television called ‘Captain Power’ which also used primitive computer graphics. It was essentially a toy commercial, but Joe managed to sneak a real interesting story in there, including a character who happened to be born someplace called ‘Babylon 5’…

    Anyway, Joe was writing about doing a novel for television with a beginning, middle and an end. Characters would live, characters would die and characters would be forever changed on a regular basis and there would be no reset button.

    Now by this time,, I had become incensed at ‘Next Generation’ after they press the reset button in the 2nd half of the amazing ‘Best of Both Worlds’ (proper scary Cybermen!!) cliffhanger.

    Then I read some comments from ousted TNG script editor Melinda Snodgrass where she explained a little about the background power struggle and how the folks who insisted that the characters never really change and evolve where the folks who won and that the ongoing character and story arcs were to be slowly phased out in favor of single episode stories in which the only things that change are the things left behind by the end of the episode.

    This, coupled with the sensors arrogance and indomitable he per trade by the infinitely knowledgeable and infinitely kind folks on the Enterprise who were always right and therefore never really needed to evolve or change anyway had finally gotten to me and I found myself watching the show mostly to complain about how rote and suspense-less it had become.

    So the idea of something like a hard science fiction novel or even a good space opera making its way onto television with anything like real characters and an ongoing over arcing story was a bit like catnip to my mind!

    When the night finally arrived and we finally watched ‘The Gathering’, there was a lot that was cringeworthy. Some of the performances were stilted and the alien makeup left a lot to be desired, especially Londo’s rather sparse hair and ‘Boy Delenn’.

    But there was a proper O’Neill colony using centrifugal force to serve as pseudo-gravity, there were objects obeying the laws of physics, there were not entirely successful but highly aspirational computer graphics and there was a certain spark to many of the characters, not enough to make me love any of them (except maybe Londo and Mr. Garibaldi) but certainly enough to make me want to see where this thing was going.

    Then, just a little bit after that, William Shatner, who had just put out a pilot for his own ‘Tek war’series made fun of the special effects on Babylon 5 by saying that, for him, it was like taking a trip to ‘Toon Town’ from the ‘Roger Rabbit’ film…

    That did a lot to lock me into my support of the series. There’s nothing like a powerful bully to make me identify and side with an underdog!

    Anyway, about the podcast… Good stuff! I like the idea of a ‘bookclub’ format and I’m really looking forward to revisiting this series as it’s been at least a few years since I’ve re-watched it in its entirety. You folks seem to have some good chemistry and your geek credentials are well in order, 😉 so I look forward to some fun and insightful conversations in the months to come!

    And my apologies to all for the novel length post. 😀

  3. The highlight relationship for me in this pilot was between Londo and Garibaldi. Those two actors really pulled it off, and the dialog bing good didn’t hurt either! The easy way they intersected made you believe they had history and genuinely liked each other.

    I also thought the relationship between Takashima and Ben Kyle was interesting. I could see a direction they were going in with them and their scene together in her quarters was good. Maybe not as smooth as Michael/Londo, but pretty good.

    Also, I really liked how they tried to make the station feel both huge and busy.

  4. I felt much as you did about “real sci fi” coming to televsion (even though I love ST and have watched every episode of every season–and enjoyed picking it apart too). I remember a good friend of mine asking me if I had seen B5 yet a few weeks in to the run: “It’s so great! People are actually trying to kill each other!” (i.e., unlike silly Star Trek).

    I always loved the CGI and one reason I decided to go back and watch the series again (before discovering this podcast) was because I wanted to see if the graphics and other production values had held up over time. I may be prejudiced, but I think they do. Or at least, I thought they would look horrible but they don’t. (Which isn’t to say they aren’t dated.)

    As for The Gathering itself, I’m in the camp of those who found some of the acting to be pretty poor. Laurel Takishima particularly annoyed me. Her delivery always seemed off or unnatural, as if she was reading a novel aloud rather than being part of the story herself. Her physical acting, including her facial expressions, were fine, but the words coming out of her mouth never seemed to work. One of her very first scenes, where she’s in C-in-C and Garibaldi calls in looking for Commander Sinclair, she gives her lines such an unnatural delivery it’s cringeworthy. A few of the other actors seem sub-par during the pilot, but she’s the worst offender to my taste.

    Overall though this is a pretty good pilot. The setting and characters are interesting, the costumes both fantastic (for aliens) and realistic (for humans), the plot enough of a mystery to keep things moving through all the necessary exposition, and the graphics not only living up to their billing but wearing well.

  5. I watched this way back when this podcast journey started, and recently watched the intro again. And this music, man. It’s jarring compared to what they are doing now. What’s with the midi guitars and strings?!?!

    It is slow, but I thought a fair first outing over all. Just don’t use Windows Media Player 2 to make the music next time, guys. 😉

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