Season One (Vol. 1 & 2)
Story: Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski republishes the scripts from the episodes he wrote; in addition to the shooting scripts, Straczynski provides a brand new introduction discussing each episode and the series in general. Photos and memos are also included to provide a look at the show’s development.
Review: These two books are part of a planned 14-book series of script collections that Straczynski and his partners are publishing through CafePress. They include only the scripts that Straczynski himself wrote, which he has the rights to republish due to Writers Guild rules. It’s a pretty simple presentation, right down to the bare-bones cover, but the books hold together well, the typesetting’s legible, and the copy-editing is better than on some of the academic books I’ve read recently, so I have nothing against the do-it-yourself approach. The scripts themselves are the heart of the books, and if you don’t already know if you like the episodes in question, this book is not for you. (I did, so I guess it is.)
One bonus in the first volume is the original spec script version of the series pilot, The Gathering. I have to say I don’t think the script is particularly good – Straczynski’s habit of delivering mouthfuls of exposition is on full display here. While many of the plot points are here, they’re handled much more roughly. Sinclair’s career is stalled not because he’s suspected of treason, but because he punched an Earth official; Kosh’s memory of being poisoned isn’t found through Lyta’s telepathic scan, but through the intervention of Kosh’s wife. It’s worth reading to see where Straczynski was able to make improvements over the years of pitching the show.
The introductions are written in a casual tone, with a use of footnotes that almost reminded me of Dave Barry. If you’ve seen Straczynki speak at conventions or followed his postings on the Internet over the years, there won’t be much that’s new to you, but it’s still reasonably entertaining especially if you can get past the occasional joke at the expense of Star Trek. I will admit that there are two significant reasons beyond the content of each book that have me buying this series. 1) I do have a certain desire to put some money directly into Straczynski’s pocket as a thank-you for his work on the show itself. 2) Folks who buy all 14 volumes within a certain time frame will receive a fifteenth book free with alternate versions of certain episodes (including the produced version of The Gsthering and detail about the original five year plan).