Babylon 5 : Thirdspace

Bruce Boxleitner (Capt. John Sheridan)
Claudia Christian (Cmdr. Susan Ivanova)
Mira Furlan (Delenn)
Richard Biggs (Dr. Stephen Franklin)
Jeff Conaway (Zack Allen)
Stephen Furst (Vir Cotto)
Patricia Tallman (Lyta Alexander)

Shari Belafonte (Dr. Elizabeth Trent)
Clyde Kusatsu (Bill Morishi)
William Sanderson (Deuce)
Kip King (Leo)
Floyd Levine (Alex)
Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter (Kaufmann)
Joshua Cox (David Corwin)
Judson Mills (Delta Sieben)
G. Adam Gifford (Wache)
Jerry Kernion (Bauhandwerker)
Valerie Red-Horse (Technikerin)
Mark Ginther (Security Guard #1)


Gothic alien artefacts in Space ? "It's something like "Babylon 5 meets HP Lovecraft", says producer John Copeland, describing the new B5 television movie, Thirdspace. "It's still Babylon 5 in terms of what people have come to expect from Babylon 5, but its feel and texture are very different from the episodes".

Thirdspace takes place during the fourth season somewhere between the end of the Shadow War and the final conflict with Earth. A squad of Starfuries discovers a massive, million-year old artefact floating in the depths of hyperspace, and brings it back to Babylon 5 for examination. It isn't long before a research team from IPX arrives, led by archaeologist Elizabeth Trent, who discovers the artefact may in fact be one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time. It is in fact, a doorway into a terrifying alien dimension, and it's up to Captain Sheridan to keep its monstrous inhabitants from entering normal Space.

Thirdspace is the second tv movie commissioned by cable giant TNT to be aired during their B5 repeats in the States, "In Thirdspace," explains Copeland, "we wanted to do a Babylon 5 adventure that TNT could drop into their schedule when they wanted to, hopefully at the end of a cycle stripping the old shows, to refresh the franchise before they launched back into it; something to re-focus attention on Babylon 5 on TNT.

New and Improved

"We wanted to do a story that was unlike other stories we had done; we'd just done one [the B5 prequel In The Beginning] that had Space battles up the wazoo with the Earth against the Minbari, and we could have gone back and done a fragment out of the Shadow War or the war against Earth, but Joe [Straczynski] really wanted to do something that was not your typical Babylon 5 story. This one is very creepy - [Renowned Fantasy artist] Wayne Barlowe designed a creature and an alien cityscape for us, and it really does have quite a different feel from the average B5 episode. We also pushed the envelope in creating virtual Space, and played with switching from live-action characters to animated characters, and by and large, we were successful. As a rsult of what we learned, we now have some new tools in our toolbox that will make doing this type of stuff even more seamless in the future".

Filming of Thirdspace commenced in May of `97 under the directorial eye of Jesus Trevino, who's previously helmed a number of B5 episodes, including Divided Loyalties, Sic Transit Vir, Ceremonies of Light and Dark and Racing Mars. "When I read Thirdspace, I was bowled over by it," says Trevino, "because I thought, `oh boy`, I'm really going to do something!` I had read many of Joe's one-hour scripts, but I didn't know how much experience Joe had with a movie of the week, which is seven acts. It's different kind of pacing and my biggest fear was that it would be a movie of the week that was just a long B5 episode that went nowhere,"

"I should have put my fears to rest and trusted in the Great Maker, because there's a reason that's he called that. I think he pulled off a masterful script that obeys the right conventions of story-telling and does it in a wonderfully crafted way that certainly provided me with a real challenge of interpreting the story and making it as exciting on the screen as it is on the page. The CGI and the models we built and the set work all came together very nicely and it's quite exciting."

Ruffling Feathers

Shari Belafonte guest stars as Dr Elizabeth Trent, the IPX archaeologist who arrives on B5 to examine the artefact, ruffling a few Earth Force feathers along the way. "Of course I knew of the show", claims the actress, "You can't live in Hollywood and not know something about everything that's been on the air, especially if it's been on the air for four years, but I hadn't actually seen the show.

"I have to say, and it always sounds so cliched when someone says, "It's one of the best crews I've ever worked with!`, but I've been very lucky in my life, because I have worked with great crews. Ultimately, that's what is going to make or break your day, and this crew was great, the guest stars were great, and Bruce and Claudia were both dreams to work with and funny to talk to. They made me feel very comfortable, so even though there was one day that that looked like a bear, it was a lot easier than it could have been if we were doing something else where everybody is cold and aloof and waiting for you to get your part done so they can go home."

Heavy Dialogue

The day Belafonte is alluding to involved a complicated, dialogue-heavy scene in which Trent explains the theory of  Thirdspace to her assistant, Bill Morishi. "I felt that I managed to get through every part of the scene somewhat reasonably, that everybody would be able to get what was going on. I trusted Jesus as a director; if he didn't see it, I'm sure we'd still be there shooting. Also, as long as it seemed to be, it really wasn't long for what we had to do, Whenever I show anybody those five pages, they'd say, `Oh god, how long did that take to shoot, two to three days?`, and I'd say "No, we actually did it in one."

Stunt Doubling

The actress is also pleased with the fight sequence in which Ivanova goes toe to toe with a possessed Trent. "For the first 15 years of my career, I was, ČLet me do it, let me do it!` Now, as I'm approaching 43, I'm `I don't need to do this, I have nothing to prove`. There are certain things like close-ups that work better if you jump in the there and do it. What happens is you watch the scene on the monitor and think, `I can do all this, this would be fun!`, but I'm always willing to let the stunt person do it first so I can actually visualize what it's supposed to be, and I do kick box, so it's not unnatural to do a  little it of it, but if you're not used to working with the people; Anita, who's doubling Claudia was very nice, but I had to see her work before I let her too close to my mouth!"

While Belafonte may have been a newcomer to Babylon 5, she's certainly no stranger to the genre, having played the lead in the short-lived Beyond Reality, "We were doing The X-Files before The X-Files!" she laughs, It was a fun show to do, but very tough because it was a half hour, and it needed to be an hour. We shot it in Toronto, and it was really cold up there; it was brutal. We'd all be outside wearing these big heavy down coats, which we'd have to peel off and run across the snow and they'd have another coat waiting on the other side."

Sci-Fi Veteran

Another veteran on the genre is Clyde Kusatsu, who plays Trent`s assistant, Morishi, "I did about three episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation as Admiral Nakamura, and I did a pilot in the `80s called Dr Strange with Phil DuGuerre for CBS. Sir John Mills played the wizard and I was his assistant who would up taking care of Dr Strange, It was a fun thing to do,"

Kusatsu says his work on The Next Generation served him in good stead when it came to the archaeological techno-speak of Thirdspace, "If you can handle `Stay away from the Romulan Zone, and the Cardassian`" he jokes, "If fact, I almost said `Cardassian instead of `Centauri`, It's so fascinating with all these Star Trek books that have come out, and I'm in the glossary under `K`. They even list the historical minutiae of the character. I've gotten letters from all sorts of people, and I had the same thing happen when I was on M*A*S*H, but it's interesting that people keep track of it all. It's actually kind of flattering."

Daydream Believer

For Trevino, who had a relatively modest 18-day shoot to finish Thirdspace, there's still some pretty ambitious material in the finished piece. "Because I've worked with these actors for so long, I had a fairly good idea of what was going to happen. Visually, I was intrigued by Ivanova's dream sequence, which I story-boarded and was now going to come alive. I was kind of excited about doing that, because the set called for it to be really bizarre and different and I think we got a great set, and I'll be really interested when they lay in the CGI.

 

 

"When you do these kind of shots, you're always a little surprised at the end yourself, because I'll shoot the human parts and it won't be until weeks later that they do the CGI, and on some of these episodes, I haven't seen the CGI until the show is completely mastered which can sometimes be months later, and it's always a surprise to look at something and see how well it turned out or didn't turn out."

The movie is also important for Trevino in another way, in that it helps further the cause of Latino directors, or for that matter, Latinos working in the genre. "I remember a time a number of years ago before Voyager came on, writing a letter to The LA Times stating that I wanted to see the episode Star Trek: The Next Generation where all the Latinos in the future had been wiped out by an intergalactic plague. I said that I knew something like that must have happened because in The Next Generation, there was virtually no Latinos in Space in the future. I was so happy when Robert Beltran came on because I thought finally they've gotten it."

Thirdspace debuted on US television July 19th, with a UK video release tentatively, scheduled for September and promises a Babylon 5 story unlike anything ever seen before in the previous five seasons.