Babylon 5 Question: Why was the Vorlon Suit so badly done?

Fans used to call it the shower curtain. It’s big and blocky looking. The screen cap shows just how odd the proportions were. It’s almost as bad as Daniel’s shower curtain costume in Karate Kid. That costume was supposed to be something a high school kid would pull together in a few minutes. The helmet on top had this odd movement and tilted forward. I’d swear it wobbled sometime. I know in the pilot they said it was an environmental suit. Kosh’s real appearance was a big secret that got revealed much later.

The other FX makeups were really good. Especially the Narn, G’Kar and the Minbari.

Did J. Michael Straczynski or the Fx guy John Vulich ever comment why the Kosh costume was so primitive? I always thought they just stuck an extra in that tent for filming. The voice was dubbed later in VO.

I know that suit was a big problem for the other actors. They taught us in acting how important it is to make a connection with the other person in the scene. You have to listen and really get into the moment. I only took a few theater classes but even an experienced actor depends on working off the other actor. You got to have that energy for the scene to work.

It’s like doing a scene with a coat rack. There’s this big blob of fabric with a painted bed pan for a helmet. I feel sorry for Bruce Boxleitner and Mira Furlan trying to do scenes with that thing. I recall any scenes with Kosh always fell pretty flat.

The Vorlons became very important in the series. Kosh deserved a better Fx job.

The Vorlon were supposed to be mysterious. They needed something that didn’t give away their morphology. The encounter/battle suit whatever you want to call it did just that. It enhanced the mystery. You were never sure what kind of body they had and what was under that thing. And besides, the FX were great for it, the way he floated around and how his head would move and turn and express itself curiously as it spoke cryptically, as well as having an aperture that opened and close. Kosh was always one of my favorite parts of the show and I felt his suit gave him a great, mysterious personality.

So the OP is complaining that B5 didn’t have enough latex-based aliens?

That’s not a flaw in the costume, that’s most of the point.

Vorlons are wholly non-humanoid - just how removed from humans wasn’t revealed until the later seasons, yeah, but even at the start they weren’t meant to simply be imagined as ‘humans with greebles glued on, wearing funny suits’. They were meant to appear ALIEN. I’m pretty sure Kosh even mentions early on that the ‘helmet’ is not where his head is just to drive the point home.

B5 specifically wanted to avoid aliens that were just greebly dudes, though budgetary realities and the unimpressive puppets used in the pilot meant that for the most part it was greebles everywhere, and the really alien aspects were mostly only spoken about, but the Vorlons remained from the start one of the species that didn’t come from greebletown, because they didn’t need to look convincingly biological.

The Kosh suit was one of the most interesting and alien looking alien in the whole series.

Another pretty good one was the drakh that visited Delenn’s White Star. It had a really interesting shadowing effect going on with its movements.

In-universe, I kind of figured that the way Vorlons perceive reality is so different from our own that it wouldn’t occur to them that their suits don’t quite look right.

They look like people with stuff glued to their heads.

Babylon 5 used the most current Fx molds & appliances available in the mid 90’s. G’Kar and Lennier could have appeared on Deep Space 9. Their Fx makeup was just as good.

Not much has changed in 15 years. The artists on Face Off sculpt their designs in clay, make molds, and cast their appliance pieces. The process hasn’t changed all that much since Michael Westmore did the Fx on Star Trek TNG.

I liked Kosh as a character. The Vorlon/Shadow story arc got very interesting in the later seasons.

I remember discussions on the B5 Usenet group. A lot of people thought that environmental suit looked like a shower curtain. :wink: But Kosh was a very cool character. He became one of the more interesting characters. Especially those scenes with Pat Tallman (Lyta).

Claudia Christian tells the story of the day she got kicked off the set.

It was the scene where she’s waiting at the Vorlon ship (all green screen, obviously) and Lyta arrives on the moving walk way. Of course, they didn’t have an actual moving walk way, so they had an intern (described as eating a bagel the entire time) pulling Patricia Tallman on a wagon. Claudia kept bursting into laughter take after take at the sight of it, so they made her leave the set so that they could finish filming it.

(‘Like’ her on Facebook for those kinds of things. Patricia Tallman too.)

The point of the Vorlon suit was that it needed to look alien but also that it had to be very wide in the shoulders (it was the one thing Straczynski insisted on). There’s an important reason why it looks that way and I’m sure Straczynski was amused at all the criticism.

I’m not even going to write the spoiler. If you’ve seen the show, you’ll understand. If you haven’t, you will eventually.

In any case, I thought the suit was nicely alien from the start.

I thought the costume worked fine.

He’s big, intimidating and completely enigmatic.
Even when he’s there in front of you, you don’t have the slightest idea what he looks like. He could be the size of a mouse or made out of jell-o. Does he have one arm or five? That’s privileged information.
You don’t know and you should be afraid to find out.

Well, actually, it was so BADLY done that JMS hated it. There was no more time to create a new look, so they did the blurring thing to conceal how bad the costume was. You can just barely see it in some pauses - it’s right up there with the Gorn.

IIRC, they brought back a refined version of it as the “warrior” Drakh in later episodes or maybe Crusade. The four-horned Drakh became the ruler or brain Drakh or something.

I think this is the point you’re missing.

The Vorlons were specifically meant NOT to look like a human with FX molds applied. That would defeat the purpose. And indeed, the two reveals (end of Season 2 and early in Season 4) show why.

Kind of a strange complaint really. A common complaint about Star Trek and other sci-fi TV shows is that most of the aliens look like human beings with stuff glued to their heads. So, it’s really strange to see a complaint about a major supporting character on a SF show that isn’t just a guy with stuff glued to his head.

I think the complaint is that they could have done better than a bedpan with a shower curtain glued to it. :slight_smile:

(It never bothered me - I both liked the presentation of Kosh and can be reasonable about budget restrictions when the money goes to supporting a strong storyline - but I can see the point of the “shower curtain” crowd.)

If B5 overreached, it was with the insect creature N’Grath. It never looked like anything but a badly articulated puppet. Fortunately they killed him off by S2.

That’s a feature, not a bug. The other characters have a hard time relating to a Vorlon, too. They’re unsure of what to make of him, and how to react. If the actors can’t relate to the actor in the Vorlon suit, then that makes it easier for them to play characters who can’t relate, either.

Ah. Well, that’s fair.

I just rewatched the series for the first time in 10 years, and it’s remarkable how improved the effects and makeup get over the course of the series.

And they did work on the suit from season to season, but obviously they couldn’t stray too far from the original template.

I actually liked the suit. You have a member of the one of the most advanced civilizations known to existence, one that could wipe out humanity without batting an eyelash, destroy stars, and influence the evolution of sentient species, but they sedately float around in gear that looks like they picked it up from the $2 rack at a Salvation Army store like that weird uncle everybody has.

Goodness, yes. I appreciated the effort in presenting nonhumanoid aliens and pushing their own abilities, but I’m just as happy they knew how silly they looked doing it sometimes.

We rewatch it about every two years or so. Every time I sit down afraid that my memories and appreciation of it are polished through selective memory, and flinch my way through those two or three really terrible early episodes, and then it starts to hit its stride and I remember why we rewatch it. Knowing all the back room and boardroom angst the series suffered under, I can be forgiving of weak sets, actors and costumes.

One “Who am I?” or “He is behind us… you are in front of us” or “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Garibaldi”… hell, one “What camera?” or “You’re not the only one…” makes up for a lot of wooden-Indian bit parts.

I didn’t mind the cheap sets, but it was a bit jarring when they were re-used. Like, there was a piece that was used for the hydroponic garden on the station, that was also in a Mimbari temple. Once you notice that, you can’t un-notice it.