Friday, July 12, 2013

Babylon S5: The Claudia Christian Story

Long time no see! I haven't posted in a while but today I felt like writing a blog post. This time I'll write about the series I have recently watched: Babylon 5.

In fact, I am going to give my view on the departure of Claudia Christian from the series. It's an interesting story because JMS (the show's creator) has always been active on the internet, even though the internet was in its infancy when he was making this series.

Because of this, different parties gave their side of the story, which has conveniently been archived here: It clearly wasn't an amicable break, but the question just what happened still remains. Today, I'm going to tell what I think happened. It's been quite some time, but I've just watched the series and just want to write down my thoughts about this all.

Before I begin, though, I want to say that if anyone involved ends up reading this (and I'd be honored) I don't want them to feel offended, I'm just doing my personal speculation here and I don't by any means think I'm right. With that out of the way, let's just get started.

In the end, what I think happened was a case of miscommunication. JMS believed it wasn't, but I think he was looking in the wrong place. He was looking at the communication between Claudia and himself (and the other cast members). I think the main miscommunication was in a different place, and because people weren't aware of that, things that seemed like they had to be very clear involved some miscommunication.

One of the things that caught my eye on that page is how JMS's first post doesn't mention the fewer episodes debacle, as it was not an issue to him. Then, Christian tells about wanting to do fewer episodes and only after that Straczynski talks about the whole issue. It is later yet that he digs up another piece of information: her wanting to get paid for the episodes she didn't do.

The first thing to note here is that JMS was offended by Christian not finding his promise enough to go on; I don't believe JMS is a kind person when he's offended. The second part is that Christian's agent got a negative on doing less episodes (she was very adamant about not doing such calls herself). I am assuming that both are telling the truth, and under that assumption, it seems it wasn't Christian but her agent who made the demand for her to be paid for episodes she wasn't in. It's sour to single someone out like that, but it seems the logical thing if the people posting in the newsgroups were telling the truth.

Of course, long before that there was already was the fact they were going to cable (TNT) and the actors were on the short end of the smaller budget that entailed. I think this was what caused Christian not to extend the contract option earlier on. It also seeded the first of the ill will on her part. Clearly, Straczynski wasn't aware of just how much the actors were giving up until halfway through the specific thread.

Then there's another point that jumps out: JMS says the deadline was very clear, whereas Christian claimed not to be aware of it at all. One of the reasons JMS believed it was completely clear was because he told her so himself at a convention. I'd speculate, though, that she didn't make much of this because she felt that a deadline is something her agent should be contacted about, so she didn't think of it as an official deadline, but as just a line drawn by JMS. She stepped on his toes yet again, and the goodwill was being sucked out of the situation very fast. Straczynski counters by saying that her agent was contacted well in time. Again, if I assume both are speaking the truth, I can only assume that her agent didn't do his job and didn't let her know about this.

Then, Jeff Conaway visited Claudia the Monday after the deadline. Because the deadline had now passed, he was probably very clear about the fact that this was a deadline set by the studio. However, since Christian hadn't heard of it from her agent and hadn't understood that from Straczynski, this was the first time she was really aware of this deadline. That's why she mentioned this as the only time she had been told about the deadline.

There was one more important thing that I can't skip over: Christian doing other work. I don't this is a direct cause for all the trouble that led to her not being in the last season of Babylon 5, but I think it has several tangents with it all the same. From what she wrote, I think Christian was approached for other roles, she hadn't been actively looking for them. It may have been a part of the reason why she didn't give the earlier contract extension. It probably was also the reason why she was looking for a way not to do all episodes. Finally, this was probably also what the rumor mill turned into "her looking around for other work", which was an important thing in the relationships between the different people involved getting strained.

In the end, I think the situation was just not a simple one and there were some problems cropping up, but the one who really dropped the ball was Christian's agent, though. However, I'm just an uninformed kid doing guesswork and making assumptions.

The note I want to end on, is a more positive one. It's the character that filled the void left behind by the lack of Ivanova: Captain Lochley. While one may say this was a Suspiciously Similar Substitute, I personally agree with JMS, she was a different character, had her own story rather than taking over Ivanova's and fit the role to fill quite well. The hard thing here is that in both one-on-one replacements he did, the position in the military structure was a very large of what defined the character, meaning that they would automatically become quite similar.
Anyway, as I was going to say, in a way it is ironic that Christian's replacement only did a few episodes after her departure had at least something to do with her wanting to do less episodes. However, I actually think it was a really good move to have Lochley in so few episodes. Because of this, it didn't feel like she was shoehorned in or that we were being told to care about her, but instead as a natural progression of the situation. As a hole left in the military structure being filled by the folks back home, which wasn't a main cast member, so didn't get the center stage.

3/1/2016: I cleaned up some spelling mistakes and improved some sentences to be clearer, as this was rather poorly written.

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