JMS on Usenet
Subject: Re: ATTN JMS: Crusade - how do you think you did?
Date: 18 Apr 2001 23:18:06 -0700
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Jms at B5)
>Now that you've had some time to put the battles you fought during the
>production behind you, how do you feel what was produced of Crusade
>What was your strongest episode?
>What was your weakest (ignoring War Zone)?
I still think the first five produced were our best of the ones we shot, in
terms of the ones I wrote. The best scripts of mine per se would probably be
the two that didn't get produced but which were made available via
bookface.com, To the Ends of the Earth and End of the Line. I think they
would've kicked over the table and shown where the production, and the story,
was going. They're also the ones I wrote after "Apperances," which is where I
decided, "Fuck it, fuck TNT, fuck the notes, I'm just gonna go back to what I
was doing for the first 5 and write what I want." I got pissed, and sometimes
I write best when I'm angry about something.
Weakest of my scripts...probably The Long Road, which started out as a good
idea, and is still about 70% a good idea, but it's over-written and it
feels...I dunno... stagey, somehow.
You actually happened to hit me with this question on a reflective night, so
I'm taking a bit more time than I normally would with this.
I was talking to a friend recently, and I mentioned that in looking at the
Crusade episodes on SFC, something about them bothers me...not the performers,
who are all great, or the direction, which was generally quite good (with some
lapses), but the writing. They didn't seem to me to have the same level of
energy as B5.
To which I was told, "You want to know the truth of it? I was glad when they
shut down Crusade." Now, as you might expect, I was kind of taken aback by
this, and asked for clarification and what this had to do with my original
The reply: "You were *exhausted*. You did five years of backbreaking work, you
were averaging 3-4 hours sleep a night if you were lucky, you lost your hair,
your health, and a good-sized chunk of your sanity...you were *tired*. The
best thing would've been if there had been a year break between B5 and Crusade,
to give you a chance to catch your breath. Would it have made a difference to
TNT's decision? No. They changed their mind about the show based on their new
ratings surveys before you ever shot a frame of film. But you wouldn't be
sensing that lack of energy in the episodes now.
"Look at the stuff now: the Rising Stars screenplay is getting fast-tracked,
the studio and the network love (title deleted until press release is issued),
it's some of your best work ever, and Rangers has the energy that B5 always
had, that Crusade didn't. It's still better than 95% of what's out there, but
it's not you writing at the top of your top form."
"So how come you didn't say this at the time?" I asked.
"Because then you couldn't have heard it, wouldn't have listened. Now you
Hearing something like that is very difficult, because we all like to think
we're invulnerable. In retrospect, I think there's a measure of truth to it.
Maybe more than a measure.
Crusade is a good show. It got beaten down after the first five, stayed kind
of beaten down through network notes and my own fatigue fighting fights that I
shouldn't have had to fight, then picked up with the two post-fuck'em scripts
because my energy was gearing up again at that decision. But overall it was a
Not that it made any difference to Crusade's eventual fate; that had zero to do
with the writing, acting, or directing, and everything to do with an internal
corporate TNT decision about SF in general. Even written at 100% of my energy
level, even if it had been a GREAT show instead of a very good show, it STILL
would've met the fate it met. Of that there is no question.
It was starting to pick up speed again with those last two scripts. I think we
would've eventually progressed in quality to where it needed to be.
But I had just enough energy to get it started, to write and produce it, but
not enough to go through all that AND the day-to-day battles with the network.
Having gone through five years of hell on B5, I could handle any two of those
three, not all three.
And I'm wondering now if, in the long run, maybe it was the best thing that
could have happened. If it had not gone the way it did, I almost certainly
would never have been in a position to do the things I'm doing now...a (still
classified) high-profile and high-budget TV series for one network, a B5 TV
movie that will almost certainly go to a series on SFC, and the Rising Stars
feature film in addition to a bunch of other stuff. And it's all fresh, with
energy, there's fun there, and I think Rangers will have the fun and energy and
cool stuff that is emblematic of B5.
I've always tried to be very forthright in my appraisal of my own work...I know
where my strengths are, but I also know where my failings are, and I think one
needs to be blunt about both. So I tend to be pretty merciless when looking
back at this kind of thing, but I think it's necessary.
It's weird to think that I'm actually in a *better* position now, in terms of
my career and the quality of my work, with Crusade having gone the way it did,
than I would be if it had continued...but there it is.
It's a funny old world, you know...?
(all message content (c) 2001 by synthetic worlds, ltd.,
permission to reprint specifically denied to SFX Magazine
and don't send me story ideas)