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Sci-Fi Movies

Interviews: Ask J. Michael Straczynski What You Will 276

Posted by samzenpus
from the ask-me-anything dept.
J. Michael Straczynski has written Thor, World War Z, and Changeling among many other films. He created Babylon 5 and has worked on numerous comic book titles including Superman and The Amazing Spider-Man. Most recently, he has teamed up with the Wachowskis for an original Netflix sci-fi series, Sense8 . He's agreed to take a break from his busy schedule in order to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
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Interviews: Ask J. Michael Straczynski What You Will

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  • Pleeeeeeeease? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by doas777 (1138627) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:05AM (#46535099)
    Can we PLEEEEEASE have HD Bab5? if you crowd-fund it, we will pay.
    • I'd buy the crap out of this, but IIRC the CGI would have to be redone from scratch with little-to-no access to original digital assets.

      • by ackthpt (218170)

        I'd buy the crap out of this, but IIRC the CGI would have to be redone from scratch with little-to-no access to original digital assets.

        And some things do not look better in HD

        • by doas777 (1138627)
          True. I'm more concerned about the content dying forever as the formats change. All the VCRs I had stockpiled are long dead, and even the DVDs are starting to thin out. As far as I'm concerned, its worth preserving.
          • True. I'm more concerned about the content dying forever as the formats change. All the VCRs I had stockpiled are long dead

            You can still buy brand new VCR players. Or get a used one on eBay. I have hundreds of VCR tapes, all recorded over twenty years ago, and not a single one of them has failed to play.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          And some things do not look better in HD

          And yet, people keep talking about 4K porn ... *shudder*

          Some things just can't be unseen.

      • I would totally buy its brains out. I'm warming up my Kickstarter account as we speak.

      • Re:Pleeeeeeeease? (Score:5, Informative)

        by cold fjord (826450) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:17AM (#46535245)

        CGI first introduced to TV in Babylon 5 [geek.com]

        The July 1994 issue of Compute! magazine discusses the graphics used in Babylon 5. By today’s standards, it seems primitive, but it was innovative in its time. Each episode of the series used an average of 6,000 frames of computer graphic animation from Foundation Imaging. They used 24 Amiga 2000s, 16 of which were dedicated rendering engines. They had 32 megabytes of RAM, a Fusion-40 accelerator and the Toaster. The Amigas were connected via a Novell network and sent data to a 12 gigabyte 486 PC file server. They later upgraded to Pentium and Alpha-based systems.

        The making of Babylon 5 [atarimagazines.com]

        Source of Amiga Video Toaster Software Released [slashdot.org]

      • So I don't see what the problem is :)

        An opportunity to re-do all the CGI with the latest and greatest tech? Crowdfunded? Perhaps even "Director's Cut" with additional new filming to restore the creative vision as it would have been unhampered by financial or time pressures?

        I'd get behind that. Look at it this way - even if crowd funded, it may/would create some jobs in the already tight U.S. FX industry.

        • with additional new filming to restore the creative vision as it would have been unhampered by financial or time pressures?

          So like George Lucas did with Star Wars?
        • by JWW (79176)

          Hell yeah. I'd get behind that too.

        • by Sockatume (732728)

          They literally mean "from scratch": none of the original computer models exist in any form, as far as I know.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          I'd get behind that. Look at it this way - even if crowd funded, it may/would create some jobs in the already tight U.S. FX industry.

          Bah, if there's enough interest someone will probably do the entire series as a "Lego B5", they've done it with damned near everything else. :-P

      • I'd rather WB release standard 4:3 versions without cropping and blowing the CGI like they did. The previews on the DVD look better than the episodes.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        They could crowd source that. I'm sure people would be willing to donate time to create models and do some animation to a professional standard.

    • I'd like to add to this question, since I missed my chance last time and I'm a huge B5 fan (it was on PTEN when I was a kid, and we didn't have cable so it was UHF channels for me... and then I missed season 5 entirely which led to rewatching it a couple of years ago... and hooking plenty of other people since then).

      Would it be possible to have the portions that were not composited retransfered in HD, progressive scan video? And maybe the CGI portions upscaled and transferred as full frames at the original [modeemi.fi]

      • Hey Unknown Lamer any word on when we are getting the AMA answers from RMS and Theo Raadt the questions we asked back a month ago and beginning of this month respectively or so ago?

        (http://bsd.slashdot.org/story/14/03/05/1525210/interview-ask-theo-de-raadt-what-you-willfrom)
        (http://interviews.slashdot.org/story/14/02/26/1359258/interview-ask-richard-stallman-what-you-will)

    • I'd pay extra if they redo season 1 with talented actors. Animation would be fine.
      It's tough having to tell people that Season 1 is tough to watch, but it gets great by season 2.
    • by Ken_g6 (775014)

      I'd even pay extra for a DRM-free version.

  • Babylon Reboot (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Have you considered rebooting Babylon 5 with a new cast a la JJ Abrams Star Trek? If not yourself at the helm of such a project, would you ever cede control of those characters to another creative team?

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      In the reboot - everybody dies.

      In the sequel, a parallel universe device is invoked.

    • Re:Babylon Reboot (Score:5, Informative)

      by TechnoGrl (322690) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:18AM (#46535255)
      You don't have to be a Michael Straczynski to know that B5 had a "beginning of the story" and an "end of the story". One of the best decisions that Mr. Straczynski ever made was to allow the story to end (and end grandly I also have to say).

      Too many cheap crap-hounds (*cough*couch*abrams*cough*) try to extend a story as long as they are able to squeeze money out of it and are eventually revealed to have no idea what they were doing or where they were going with it. Straczynski told a really great story that ended i a really great way. Live and art have to move on.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Really? All the "made for TV movies" that were released after the end of the final season? The entire Crusade series? The Legend of the Rangers? The Lost Tales?

        It certainly seemed like there was a struggle to actually end the story...

        • I think you're confusing "other stories set in the same universe as the show Babylon 5" with "addendums to the story of the show Babylon 5"

          • And my answer to that is "Crusade", which is a direct carry on to the story of the original show.

            • Crusade : Babylon 5 :: Frasier : Cheers

        • Really? All the "made for TV movies" that were released after the end of the final season? The entire Crusade series? The Legend of the Rangers? The Lost Tales?

          The climax of B5 was at Coriana VI in "Into the Fire". The rest of Season 4 was more of an epilogue. Season 5 was sort of a Similarion. Crusade was basically a new book - the Thrawn story to Return of the Jedi (it's fine, but take it or leave it without consequence).

          The made-for-TV movies were mostly embarassing. In the Beginning stands on its o

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Too many cheap crap-hounds (*cough*couch*abrams*cough*) try to extend a story as long as they are able to squeeze money out of it and are eventually revealed to have no idea what they were doing or where they were going with it.

        LOL ... sounds like Highlander. A script which left no real possibility of a sequel (let alone ones people had to pretend never happened in the first place).

        I never quite understood how they justified the series, but it was entertaining for a while if you pretended you didn't know h

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:06AM (#46535119)

    Why did you make a movie and then name it World War Z when it had nothing in common with the source material except for a title?

  • by madopal (308394) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:07AM (#46535131) Homepage
    What would have been different with the last two seasons of Babylon 5 had you known for sure you had a full 5 seasons?
  • Babylon 5 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Patrick LaFollette (3488015) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:11AM (#46535179)
    Have you ever considered revisiting the Babylon 5 universe? Perhaps in animated form?
    • by JWW (79176)

      I would add:

      Have you ever considered revisiting the Captain Power universe? Perhaps in a full live action form?

  • With all the movies based on old cartoons these days, wouldn't this be a good time for a Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors movie?

  • actors across series (Score:5, Interesting)

    by doas777 (1138627) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:13AM (#46535191)

    I've often noticed that if an actor played a speaking character in one scifi series, while looking mostly humanish, any other series they are in they have a pretty concealing costume. For Instance Mr Katsulas played a rather humanish Tomalok on Startrek, whereas his G'Kar had a pretty intense costume.

    Is this done intentionally, or just coincidence?

    • Except, of course...
      Ben Browder (Farscape / Stargate SG-1)
      Claudia Black (Farscape / Stargate SG-1)
      Jewel Staite (Firefly / Stargate Atlantis )*
      Morena Baccarin (Firefly / Stargate SG-1 )
      Summer Glau (FireFly / Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles)

      * okay, except for that one episode where she played a Wraith.

      Probably plenty of other examples, those were the ones I knew off my head (I enjoyed all 3 of those franchises very much), and I'm sure plenty of counterexamples. Makes me think it's probably coincidenc

      • by doas777 (1138627)
        The farscape/SG crossovers always had the feel of "throwing a dog a bone" after the dog's show was canceled/completed, and I blame that entirely on SyFy. They were unashamedly trying to use the stars existing clout to gain mind-share.

        One example I can think of in B5 is Bestor (Walter Koenig aka Chekov), but he stands on his own, as did McGuyver in SG1. Chriton and Erin did not hold up nearly so well in alternate roles. I'm primarily thinking of people who played small, one-time parts (so perhaps Katsulas

        • True, though the bone-throwing applies to many actors. Heck, Nathan Fillion still gets to make Firefly jokes on practically any show/in any movie he's in. Of course that's become a bit of a running gag, but I don't think any director so far has said "no." to that.

          Completely off-topic, in my mail client this read as "Reactors across series" and I for the life of me couldn't imagine what that would be a reply to, but was intrigued :)

    • by vux984 (928602)

      For Instance Mr Katsulas played a rather humanish Tomalok on Startrek, whereas his G'Kar had a pretty intense costume.

      I really doubt the 4 episodes he appeared in star trek in a 5 year period would dictate that he be unrecognizable in B5.

      And I guess counter examples could be Bill Mumy, who showed up as a human member of starfleet and Majel Barrett made a pretty recognizable appearance on B5 as well.

    • It's just a coincidence. Consider Walter Koenig. Essentially, the only difference in concealing between Pavel Checkov's Starfleet uniform and Alfred Bester's Psi-corps uniform were the gloves. When Ben Bowder and Claudia Black transitioned from Farscape to Stargate SG-1, their clothing/costume coverage remained unchanged. There are lots of other examples.
  • Will the plot summary for the end of the show be published ever again?

    It was up briefly years ago but seems to have fallen into the memory hole.

  • Numerous posters are decrying the lack of the original book's content in the final screenplay, so I'll ask a slightly different question.

    One of the problems cited with adapting the book was the structure of the narrative, since it was essentially a series of interviews. But movies consisting of interviews and recollections, and their non-linear construction, have been done before. (The most obvious example is "Citizen Kane".) As problems go, this one didn't look insurmountable from here.

    So...what am I mis

    • by westlake (615356)

      movies consisting of interviews and recollections, and their non-linear construction, have been done before.

      But how many have succeeded at the box office?

  • Are you related to the unabomber?

  • Social TV (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hhawk (26580) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:43AM (#46535583) Homepage Journal

    For me, you are the father or grandfather of social TV, meaning the way you promoted Bab 5 (before, during and after) the series is more or less the methodology that many TV shows and movies have adapted. You maybe have been using NNTP (Network News) instead of Facebook or Twitter, but for me you are the first.

    My question: in that context: What are show producers/runners not doing today with Social Media that they could or should be doing to engage and interact with fans?

  • Showing Jason, captain of the Whitestar?

  • Reaching Fans (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hhawk (26580) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:45AM (#46535601) Homepage Journal

    When you look back at how you used tools like NNTP to engage with your audience regarding Bab 5, is there anything you would have done differently today?

  • Fans online (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hhawk (26580) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:48AM (#46535643) Homepage Journal

    I consider your use of online technology for Bab5 to have been both Evolutionary and Revolutionary.

    My question: Which if any other shows, writers, producers and show runners did you emulate or follow or get inspired by when you took to the Internet to promote Bab 5.

  • Lensman movie (Score:4, Interesting)

    by grylnsmn (460178) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:48AM (#46535647)

    Years ago, you mentioned that you signed on with Ron Howard to write a screenplay for a movie based on E. E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series. Is that project still in the works?

  • Once upon a time there was going to be a Rising Stars miniseries/movie. Any word on that? What about more comics in that franchise?

    Also, Midnight Nation...any word on a miniseries or movie of that?

    (Also, for any Slashdotters who haven't read Rising Stars and Midnight Nation, both are very much worth reading.)

  • Here's my question - What's the deal with the Forbidden Planet prequel/sequel/remake/reimagining/whatever your name was linked with some years ago? I've heard all kinds of rumors. One was that you finished a script but it got stolen and posted on the internet and that killed the project, Other rumors have this being a prequel, a sequel, a film set in the same universe and all kinds of things. I love the original film so if there's ever a chance of you being involved in something related, I'd love to know whatever you can tell, even if it's not much.
  • A highlight of my early days online was when I asked (and your replied) to a question I had about how the Narn defeated the Shadows the previous war. I'm sure that many people had a similar reaction when you interacted with them. I was elated for days.

    Has there or will there be an effort to edit/catalog and compile all of the fan interaction as part of the history of Bab 5? [This seems like a great task to hand over the your fans].

    • by powerlord (28156)

      Okay ... I'll bite. How DID the Narn (an agrarian society at that time) manage to drive the Shadows from their home world?

  • by jasper160 (2642717) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:56AM (#46535743)
    Would you ever take on running Doctor Who if it were offered to you?
  • by PortHaven (242123) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:56AM (#46535745) Homepage

    Michael O'Hare
    Jeff Conaway
    Andreas Katsulas
    Tim Choate
    Richard Biggs
    Paul Winfield
    a number of secondary actors as well.

    Putting questions of whether there is an actual curse aside. As the Creator of Babylon 5, how do such lossess influence your present creative works?

  • I'm surprised no one here has yet mentioned Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future -- a spectacular kids show that had a surprisingly complex plotline considering the goal of the show was mostly to sell toys.

    We had only one season, which essentially ended with a cliffhanger (although it was pretty obvious "Pilot" died), but, if there had been the funds to do a second season, any thoughts about where you would have gone with the show?

  • Did you create the B5 universe to be a space for new stories in the future, or was it all built around the specific tale you wanted to tell? The spinoffs seemed to go off on tangents away from that show's characters, organisations, and setting.

  • by PortHaven (242123) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:58AM (#46535769) Homepage

    Sense 8 brings together one of my favorite creators of worlds, with one of my favorite authors, and one of my favorite companies....

    What has it been like to work with the Wachowski siblings and Netflix? Has working with Netflix provided a freer avenue for creativity than a traditional television network experience offers?

  • by x0 (32926) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @11:58AM (#46535773) Homepage
    Many on here are no doubt wanting a sequel of some sort. Honestly, I'd like to know where Lennier ended up, and did he ever redeem himself?

    m
  • by hawkinspeter (831501) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @12:02PM (#46535805)
    How about doing a spin-off from Babylon 5 involving a Vorlon game-show? I'm thinking of something like Takeshi's Castle.
  • What would the dialog be in a confrontation between Zathrus, Thor, and Loki? If you cannot tell us for legal reasons, what would it be in a meeting between not-Zathrus, not-Thor, and not-Loki, who happen to resemble the characters they are not?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What would the dialog be in a confrontation between Zathrus, Thor, and Loki? If you cannot tell us for legal reasons, what would it be in a meeting between not-Zathrus, not-Thor, and not-Loki, who happen to resemble the characters they are not?

      Are you referring to Zathras, Zathras, Zathras, or Zathras? (Not even Zathras listens to Zathras.)

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Cannot say. Saying, would know. Do not know. Cannot say. ;-)

  • Do you make an active effort to craft something that will inspire future science and exploration with your storytelling? Or do you approach it as just something implicit in having spaceships and aliens and futurey type things?
  • by PortHaven (242123) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @12:11PM (#46535919) Homepage

    At the moment there is not a single TV show in space? Since the ending of the BSG reboot and Stargate: Universe cancellation, TV has been essentially "spaceless".

    Why do you feel that is?

    And what do you feel it would take to bring "space" back to television?

  • by PortHaven (242123) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @12:12PM (#46535929) Homepage

    "Is there a way fans can submit ideas, in this intellectual property right sue happy system we have?"

    Even when a fan is willing to give up all rights to the idea, just for the chance of seeing it maybe happen. It seems that such is prevented by all the legal suits.

    How can one go about submitting an idea? When one does quite have the developed skills to write out a script and pitch it to studios.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 20, 2014 @12:13PM (#46535947)

    & kick JJ Abrams in the balls next time you see him?

    See how many lens flares you get.

  • I first remember hearing you as a recurring guest during the Mike Hodel era of Hour 25 on KPFK in LA.

    Any great memories of those days that you'd care to share?

    G.

  • Do you ever feel that you'd like people to remember you for something else besides just Babylon 5 and if so, what do you yourself feel you'd wish people to remember you for?

  • The Questions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RDW (41497) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @12:24PM (#46536077)

    Who are you?
    What do you want?

  • After I was turned onto Babylon 5, I looked you up and found out you were involved in TV shows I enjoyed as a kid. For example, "The Real Ghostbusters" often had compelling plots and dialogue that were noticeably different from your average cartoon. But my curiosity was really piqued when I read you played a large part in creating the short-lived live-action "Captain Powers" series. Assuming the rights could be secured, is there any interest on your part in either continuing/rebooting the story in some f

  • Jeremiah (Score:3, Interesting)

    by beukerc (551572) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @12:35PM (#46536215)

    So, what is the story with Jeremiah? I only saw the first season and haven't been able to track down the 2nd, but I rather enjoyed what I saw of the show.

    I read an interview you did http://www.republibot.com/cont... [republibot.com] where you mention that you finished the 2nd season and wrapped up what you could as best as you could and then ran like hell. What happened?

  • Philosophy in B5 (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    First I wanted to thank you for B5, It's views in offering a society and philosophy that was NOT Star Trek but more real, which really spoke to me and influenced me in several ways through my life (I think for the better).

    My question is about the philosophy from B5, the underlying belief that "We are all 'star stuff''" became more of a guiding virtue. I found this most appealing, can you share what your source was for this universal belief system and if it is one that you subscribe to?

  • hate our chilrdren so much and wont give them good sci fi? Why did the studios hate us so much when they started to kill all the sci-fi shows in the late 90's. Wont someone think about the children?

    As much as people would love the see updated or redone Babylon 5 for nostalgia reasons, please don't, that's a show that needs to be matched like it was created.

  • In every show there are cases where something external to the show necessarily ends up forcing changes to the plot of the show (an actor leave unexpectedly, network demands some change, etc.). We know there's a number of cases where something like that ended up impacting Babylon 5. In your opinion, what forced change had the biggest impact on how the show came out, and what would have happened differently if things had worked out the way you had intended them to?

  • JMS:

    I'm going out on a limb here. :) I hope only for the comments and particular view you hold in relation or thereabouts.

    So if accept that the soul is a measurable discrete entity, and we accept that in lower energy forms it is to be placed in a vessel or body that then becomes it's "home" for the duration of time the vessel can contain it, until death, then clearly the soul is somewhat a localized entity. As a body dies and decomposes, returning its material to the land from which it came, we can easily a

  • I remember hearing your name being attached to a Forbidden Planet remake.

    If this is true, can you talk about the project at all?

    Forbidden Planet is my all-time favorite movie, and I would love to see someone (more specifically you) make a modern version that's true to the original. It was cerebral Sci-Fi at a time when Sci-Fi was mostly for kids. Given how Sci-Fi is enjoying a resurgence in the main-stream, now seems like the perfect time to bring this classic about the dangers of the human subconscio
  • by PortHaven (242123) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @01:29PM (#46536775) Homepage

    In Babylon 5 you took on the concept of the Nightwatch. What are your thoughts regarding the current global monitoring by the NSA? What actions do you feel Americans could be taking to voice their opposition and stand against our present "Nightwatch"?

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @01:41PM (#46536909)

    I know that there are a few things in B5 that were mentioned, maybe touched briefly, that were hinted at and that did eventually not get the attention that I felt they were supposed to get, either because of time constraints, because actors decided to jump ship or because of reasons that I (or even we, as a whole) don't know about.

    Are there any plot ideas that you were quite fond of that you could not flesh out the way you wanted them to? Any "loose ends" that you really wanted to tie up and give closure but couldn't during the series run? And, of course, why couldn't you?

  • by mrxak (727974) on Thursday March 20, 2014 @02:13PM (#46537223)

    When I look back at the 90s, there was so much good science fiction on TV, Babylon 5 included. The writing was good, the stories were human and often inspirational, and above all they required a thinking audience. Nowadays, science fiction on television has become mainly action fantasy more than anything. Most of it takes place in the present day rather than the future. The shows that do start get quickly canceled off, and it seems like they're mostly pessimistic and dumbed-down. I seriously doubt a show like Babylon 5 could ever get made today, much less last more than a single season.

    How do you view the current state of science fiction on television, and why has it become this way?

If it happens once, it's a bug. If it happens twice, it's a feature. If it happens more than twice, it's a design philosophy.

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