Babylon 5–Crusade (1999)   2 comments


Turner Network Television (TNT) canceled this series before it aired the first episode.  So Crusade never had a chance to develop into what would have been its full glory.  Nevertheless, the thirteen episodes produced and aired (and now available on discs) are worth watching, for they contain excellent writing and character development.

The Excalibur

The year is 2267.  A Drakh plague promises to kill all life on Earth within five years unless someone can find a cure.  So the Interstellar Alliance is on the job, assigning Rangers to look and listen for leads, which they pass along to the crew of Excalibur, the ship from A Call to Arms.  Meanwhile, Earth’s economy, dependent on interstellar commerce, has collapsed, civil unrest is widespread, people have already begun to die, and doomsday cults are sprouting up.

Captain Gideon is an edgy character, the kind of man who likes to gamble, play poker with an apologetic thief, and who never refuses to answer a distress call.  Gideon bears the burden of leading the expedition to find a cure for a plague that can kill 10 billion people, so he is willing to break any law and take any risk necessary to complete his objective.  Under these circumstances, he distinguishes between what is moral and what is right.

Gideon has an unusual possession, an Apocalypse Box.  It speaks to him, providing hints about where to go next in search of a cure for the Drakh plague.  Sometimes the box lies to Gideon, and tells him not to trust it.  The nature and origin of the Apocalypse Box remains mysterious, given the short run of the series.

Captain Lochley is still in command at Babylon 5 in 2267.  Her path crosses that of Captain Gideon in three of the thirteen episodes:  once on Babylon 5, once on Mars, and again in outer space, when he rescues her.  Lochley and Gideon would make a good couple, if the demands of their careers did not keep them apart.

John Matheson, the First Officer, is Gideon’s friend.  Matheson is a telepath, and can belong to Earth Force because Psi-Corps no longer exists.  Yet Matheson is subject to periodic telepathic auditing by the Bureau of Telepath Integration.  The XO grew up Roman Catholic, and might still belong to that denomination.  And he is conscientious and quite protective of the crew and the mission.

Max Eilerson is an archaeologist working for Interplanetary Expeditions (IPX), which seeks old alien technology more advanced than anything known to humans.  (IPX has connections to Earth Force.)  Eilerson is also a language expert, a genius and child prodigy, and an obnoxious person.  He thinks often about his corporate bonuses, although profit alone does not motivate him; he has a conscience, too.  And he is a very good dancer.

Galen, a recently exiled techno-mage, rescued Matthew Gideon in 2258 (during the techno-mage exodus), when a hybrid Earth-Shadow vessel destroyed the E.A.S. Cerberus, of which Gideon was a crew member and the sole survivor.  He protects Captain Gideon, whom he does not always obey.  Galen is a man who keeps secrets, such as the origin of the technology he and his fellow techno-mages use to simulate magic.  It is Shadow technology.  And Galen harbors deep and abiding anger, which he directs at God or the universe.

Dr. Sarah Chambers is the Chief Medical Officer of the Excalibur.  She has the most personal stake in finding a cure for the Drakh plague, for her sister is on Earth.  An expert in viruses, Dr. Chambers is qualified for her post.

Dureena Nafeel is a thief, and, as she puts it, “a damn good one.”  Her skills in breaking and entering prove invaluable many times.  The Shadows destroyed her home planet, Zander Prime, during the last days of the Shadow War, in 2261.  She is not the last member of her species, but she will be soon; the remaining survivors are dying of the Drakh plague.  Dureena is a real spitfire; to call her assertive is to understate reality.  A former slave, she has had a difficult life, and has learned how to survive.

The Excalibur Outside Babylon 5

I do not know how to review the Crusade episodes in the same way as Babylon 5 episodes, for Crusade never had a chance to begin or develop any story arcs.  I can watch an early Season 1 B5 episode and identify what flows from it, but this is not an option with Crusade.

I would write that the series ended because of creative differences between TNT executives and series creator J. Michael Straczynski (JMS), but that explanation would imply that the TNT executives had any creativity within them.  Anyhow, the suits at TNT wanted JMS to make a show that would appeal to wrestling fans, and JMS refused.  Instead, JMS wanted to make a show with action in it yet a great deal of philosophy.  In my favorite episode, The Needs of Earth, an alien is on the run from his government.  He has in his care files going back hundreds of  years, and the government wants all of the back.  These files contain art and music, what the alien consider the most important knowledge in a society that has turned its back on those aspects of culture.  Dr. Chambers recognizes that Earth needs a cure for the Drakh plague, but that not that alone; people need hope, art, and beauty, too.

One obvious curiosity of this series is the uniforms.  The uniforms in the first episodes filmed the the last one aired are gray and red:

Yet the uniforms in the last episodes filmed and first one aired are black:

There is an explanation for this.  TNT instigated a redesign of the uniforms, for the better.  This change caused the need to change the order of episode broadcast.  Racing the Night (with gray uniforms) was supposed to be the first episode aired.  But TNT insisted that JMS write a new first episode, the clunky War Zone (with black uniforms).  The rearrangement of episodes does lead to some interesting experiences, such as Lochley and Gideon meeting for the first time twice, characters in Racing the Night explaining parts of their backgrounds when black uniform episodes have revealed those facts already, et cetera.

If the series had continued, the black uniforms would have returned as the clothing of choice, thanks to Gideon arranging a laundry “accident.”

The crew of the Excalibur would have found a cure for the Drakh plague by the middle of the second season, had there been one.  By this time, Gideon and crew would have discovered Earth Force black ops involving Shadow technology forbidden by the Interstellar Alliance, and the series would have taken on a very different complexion for the remainder of its five-year run.  But, thanks to TNT, nobody will have the pleasure of seeing that play out.    So I savor what little the suits have allowed me.



All images are property of Warner Brothers, and I do not profit from said images.

Posted October 16, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Crusade

2 responses to “Babylon 5–Crusade (1999)

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  1. Pingback: Guide Post: Babylon 5 (2263 and Later) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  2. Pingback: Feast of Blessed Maurice Tornay (August 11) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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