Goes to B-5
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Part 2
Take Ten, Everyone!
Aliens, off with Your Heads!

by staR-L Dietz

In Part 1, I described the trek down to Babylon 5 and the morning activities. This episode will take you through the first few scenes (starting about 7:30 AM), ending after and including lunch with the stars. But first a word from our sponsor:

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Where do I really start? Luckily, I made some notes - let's see - oh yes! We were snatched away in groups of 6 or 9 at a time from the long hallway in which we were all sitting; I was beginning to wonder if they were going to get to the last few of us sitting at the far end. Then they came for us.

I walked around the corner of a drab, cold and crowded warehouse hallway, with no ceiling - and stepped "Into the ZOCOLO" zone. A hundred Humans and Aliens and the film crew, all standing around waiting for Steve (a Floor Director) to tell me where to go and what to do. For a moment, I wondered if I could fly. As Sheridan says "...if you're falling off a cliff, you might as well try to fly."

The Zocolo was full of a low rumble and the air of impending action. I was led by the sleeve to "walk this way, over to this table, shake hands with this alien (an obvious old friend), pull out the chair for the lady I was walking with, then sit down" myself. We were to wait before entering the area until the director waved his hand in the air the second time - then start in. After I was seated, the principle actors walked into the scene, right beside me and proceeded over to the table about 10 feet from me, where Lyta Alexander (Pat Tallman - "Night of the Living Dead") was having a conversation with some "lowlife" smuggler.

Did I mention that all the extras are directed to be very animated and have "conversations" but make no sounds, pretend to eat and drink - but don't. Crowd sounds are added later and all the principles have boom mic people following them around. The Principle actors in this scene were: Bruce Boxleitner (President Sheridan), Tracy Scoggins (Captain Lochley), Zack Allen (Bobby from "Taxi" - okay, Jeff Conway), and Dr. Franklin (Richard Biggs). (Did I mention Lyta, the rogue telepath? I did? OK.)

The above scene was repeated about 8 times. It went like this: "OK listen up everybody! Quiet on the set! Aliens - On with your heads. Scene 42-A, Take 1 - Lights, camera, roll film, speed (that means cameras are operating at the correct speed), ACTION EXTRAS Action Actors!! ... And Cut!.. OK, let's do it again, people". Each time the scene was repeated, Steve would go around to various extras and have them do a variation of what they did before. After 7 or 8 'takes' the director says "Take ten - Aliens off with your heads!"

Just a note about the Alien heads. I sure wouldn't want to spend 12 hours in one of them, especially the carrion eating "Pahk Morahn". I was standing near one once when we got a "Take 10" and when he took his head off, his hair was completely wet and sweat was running down his face. The head weighed about 30 pounds. It hung down in front of his face to the middle of his chest and acted as a counter weight to the hump that rested on his shoulders. He had an assistant to help him in and out of his head between scenes - I think all Pahk Morahn have wardrobe assistants; anyway, they earn their pay.

We did three different 'camera angles' of the same scene for 3 different scenes for an average of 6 'takes' each, that's 3X3X6=54 takes before lunch. Then we went out to the back lot for LUNCH!!

Lunch was a glorious banquet-style Klingon feast of every imaginable food (both human and alien); everybody was there. I mean everybody! Hey, Beaver, I saw Wally! (Tony Dow was an older brother figure to me when I was growing up; he is one of the "crew" at B-5 and I recently saw him in an episode of "Outer Limits".) The lady who played "Number One" of the Mars Resistance was there, also as part of the crew (I only noticed her because - well - I'm a man...) G'Kar was there and it is true that he is an ominous presence in close proximity, then again - so is Lyta, but she smiles. The BIG man, J. Michael Straczynski (the JMS) was at the picnic and with that note, I'll give this a rest.

I have been asked if going through this experience has changed how I feel about what I see in the episodes. I have to say that the insights I have gained by being an extra on B-5 have only made the finished shows that much more of a thrill for me and I can point out lots of "extras". Well, I made it through lunch in this installment and, next time, you can look forward to part 3, where the Keystone Astronomer does more of the same and then visits the remains of a recently destroyed White Star Warship.

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