<MfE - Agamnennon>

 Posted on 2/25/1996 by J. Michael Straczynski <71016.1644@compuserve.com> to CIS

Joel Hilke <102354.1702@compuserve.com> asks:
> But would he have fired on another earth ship?

If I can, let me address one aspect of this, for your

Back when I was working on MURDER, SHE WROTE, we'd sometimes
get letters saying, "This wasn't a good episode because I figured out
the ending. It wasn't a surprise." (Which is, to some extent, your
point here.)

The problem we had with that particular letter was this: of
COURSE you figured it out. Because you were paying attention to all
the clues we had put out there in the episode.

There seems to be this notion that nobody should be able to
jump ahead, or else something's wrong or bad about the episode.
Absolutely not true. If you're going to play fair with the audience,
whether it's B5 or M,SW, you've got to put enough bits of information
out on the table so that the person who's really following it can
figure it out...so that at the end, those who *didn't* figure it out
can back up the tape, watch for the clues or leads, and see where it
all came from. That's playing fair.

If NObody gets it, you haven't done your job right.

If EVERYbody gets it, you haven't done your job right.

The best case scenario is a bell-shaped curve. Some don't have
a clue what's coming, some manage to figure it out, and the majority
have a kind of vague sense where it's going, but there are still
surprises along the way. If the bell-curve shifts one direction or the
other, then you're in trouble.

So far, B5 seems to be hewing right to the bell-curve. For
every person who says "okay, this was expected," there's been another
saying, "I had no *idea* this was going to happen here, or so fast."
(Many of these have been right on this forum, in fact.)

Finally, do bear in mind that you have an advantage here that
99% of all the viewers don't: the discussion here on CIS, and direct
comments from me. For instance, I just noted elsewhere that we've got
major turns at the end of this season, and one 2/3rds into year 4.
Now, if at those points, somebody says, "Well, I knew this was coming,
that's bad," I intend to whap them, because the reason they likely knew
it was coming was because I *said so* right here.

But that same 99% doesn't have this advantage.

This is the main difference I've noted in the mail that's come
in: the net-folks are constantly trying to figure out what's coming up
next, treating it like a mystery story (which, really, it's not, any
more than ANY novel is a mystery in that you don't necessarily know its
turns and twists as you're reading it), whereas the non-netted folks
tend to just take it as it comes.

See, that's the other part of this. People on the nets tend to
treat it as though it's a mystery novel, and when it doesn't hit that
aspect, say it's flawed as a result...when it was never INTENDED to
function as a mystery novel. It's a novel period. A mystery novel
depends absolutely on the riddle at the center of it. This is a saga,
which uses a different structure. It isn't a mystery any more than
Lord of the Rings is a mystery, even though when I first read it I was
wondering what was going to happen next.

Also, a mystery novel is done when the mystery is finally
unraveled. Not so the B5 story. By the end of this season, most of the
mysteries will be unraveled, and the pieces laid on the table for all
to see. It then becomes a matter of what the characters *do* about it

If I'm doing my job right, and setting up things to come
properly, and giving all the clues to it, then by definition a certain
number of people HAVE to figure out what's coming. As long as it's the
smaller portion, that's as it *should* be. So you'll understand why I
tend to get in here for a moment when that's held up as something bad
or poorly done. (And, again, even you note that the only reason you
knew about the shadows on Mars was via reading it here, or others read
it via the comics. Again, that's a very small portion of the audience;
most I've heard from had NO idea about that aspect of it. If you
hadn't read it here, you likely would have been surprised by it.)

Anyway, just something to consider in all of this....