Alright it's 1 AM and there's no action on Twitter so you're pretty much stuck with this post about the news mechanic that was from Wing Commander III. That's right, I've got... BARBARA MILES TO GO BEFORE I SLEEP!
If you've played Wing Commander III you may remember Barbara Miles from the intro, where Mark Hamill's Colonel Blair watches a news story about doomsday evacuations on an enormous iPad. Now that's what I call a bezel!
The script for this is neat and doesn't mention 2001: BLAIR IS SEATED AND LOOKING AT A SMALL “NEWS-SCREEN” (SIMILAR TO A SUBNOTEBOOK OR PDA) ON HIS LAP OR IMBEDDED IN THE SEAT IN FRONT OF HIM. (THIS IS THE EQUIVALENT OF HAVING BEEN GIVEN A NEWSPAPER BY A FLIGHT ATTENDANT.)
This brief bit is a fun example of how folks writing novelization add themselves to a script. The scene plays the news story straight but Andrew Keith adds an inner monologue where Blair thinks the idea is stupid. There's a rumor Diane Carey was fired from writing Star Trek novels after she was caught doing this in an Enterprise novelization. But I don't think anyone was so self conscious about Wing Commander! The weirdo hologram bit is also a good example of how writers expand scripts.
Anyway, newscaster Barbara Miles is played by actress Barbara Niven, who is best known (by all of our dads) for starring in a television series called Pensacola: Wings of Gold. She would appear as Miles in both Wing Commander III and IV!
Note that her last name is absolutely not the first time Wing Commander quietly painted over a Niven. (I did not start this to make this joke; I lived my entire life to this point to make this joke.)
What folks who played the PC or Macintosh versions of Wing Commander III might not know is that the intro news segment was just one of sixteen that were shot for the game! Here's an example:
These videos were supposed to be accessible by the 'screen' next to the bar in the Victory's rec room (just to the right of the escort ship's drive plume). Like the midgames in the original Wing Commander, the stories would differ depending on your performance.
You can even see Barbara Miles' neck in the background of some of the rec room scenes... the big TV screen is just above the wall of Wing Commander III developers on the virtual set!
Folks who have played the 3DO or Playstation ports are scratching their heads right now because these videos are included! So what happened?!
The short story is that late in development the number crunchers decided that WC3 needed to unofficially support first generation CD-ROM drives. These drives could only read 63-minute CDs instead of the now-standard (and I guess defunct) 74-minute ones. So a fair amount of intended material needed to be cut late in development, which included the infamous Hobbes explanation and these videos... since the entire newsbrief system could be dropped without really touching other parts of the game.
They were added back for the console ports which was great, although they didn't all get quite enough post production. This one, for example, was supposed to have a scroll of names including any of your KIA wingmen... but instead it's just weird!
I also like the mistake in this one, where she reads the 'X' in the planet name as a letter instead of a number. (She reads it correctly in the next clip)
Even here, though, you can see some of that Chris Roberts attention to detail. Barbara Niven gets three different costumes in a game that dresses all the leads up in hot glued garbage man outfits!
Niven reprises the role in Wing Commander IV with a truly wonderful 1996 CG backdrop.
The Lexington crew watches her interview Admiral Tolwyn on... uh, this high tech future... hologram machine.
Hey wait, why did the news channel change? I guess TCN poached her after the war. Actually, she does seem to be at opposition with the government in WC3 and repeating propaganda in WC4... so maybe she switched from FOX to MSNBC or vice versa.
Total aside, the political parties in Wing Commander are Federationist and Populist. Paladin is a Federationist.
What was the point of all this? Oh yeah! I've been working on an absolutely inscrutable Wing Commander III timeline that combines the novel and the game and I had just gotten to placing the newsbriefs. Here's the draft if you love colorful sheets.
Origin's Official Guide to WC3 prints a bunch of the 'cut' scenes between missions and I used that for reference as part of the process (it also has the text of the Hobbes message).
But then I discovered something I had never noticed and which I think is pretty neat: four of them aren't from the script, they're original news stories added for the guide! And one of these (the Belle Dame one) goes on to show up on the Kilrathi Saga calendar!
And the lesson tonight is: absolutely just cram lore everywhere you can. Someone will find it eventually and love it. GOODNIGHT!