Carry on my Woodward Son
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Directed by Mike Vejar
A conflict between Earthforce and a small colony gets out of hand once an old friend of Galen’s gets involved.
While an improvement on “War Zone,” this episode is not exactly a televisual delight either, thankfully it doesn’t insult your intelligence quite like the last episode though.
The story revolves around a disagreement between some local yokels on a low-tech world (Regula 4) and some pantomime bully Earthforce officers, who are forcibly mining the planet for a mineral that seems to boost the human body’s ability to fight off viruses. However the locals have help from a Technomage (well, ex-Technomage) who is aiding their cause. You can’t help but think the crew of the Excalibur have more pressing issues than sorting out this kind of diplomatic issue, even if it does involve a dragon.
The episode is a bit slow, far too in love with Technomages and their often whimsical tendencies (but at least it shows some of their negative potential – both their ability for destruction and the potential for their “charges” to begin using the Technomage as a crutch), all wrapped up in a reasonably predictable high-tech vs low-tech issue. That the colonists are yokel stereotypes pulled from Stargate’s Big Book of Bumpkins, means you end up with all the clichéd characters you’d expect – honest simple folk, hot-headed morons, cute sympathetic daughters, and incompetent officers ignoring their concerns.
From the main cast, this is basically a two-hander for Galen and Gideon, and despite being something of an odd couple, they share some fun moments as their personalities clash, but always retain their innate respect and friendship for one another.
The best part of the episode has to be Edward Woodward’s appearance and worth watching for that alone. When it comes down to it, the whole episode is an excuse to get him and his son Peter together on-screen. There’s a lot of nice ruminations about the father and son relationship that are quite touching, even more so now that Edward Woodward passed away a few years ago and is sadly missed. Here his quiet moments are full of pathos, then while he pontificates in his Technomage persona he unleashes his full RADA abilities to command the moment.
The darker the CG effects, the more passable they are – shots of the landscape are fine until lit up. However, once they are clearer, they lose their effect. For example, the mine site looks completely unreal, and poor Alwyn’s Technomage incantations look pretty lame, about as threatening as interpretive dance.
Then there’s that golden dragon. A nice idea for the end of a teaser (as Alwyn asks “who does dragons any more?” Well, Game of Thrones does now, but this was fifteen years ago), but it looks so rubbery and cartoon-like it wouldn’t scare anyone – strange when the holodemons look quite nasty in the flesh.
The holodemons are a very cool design – especially when they solidify to smack the soldiers – but you have to think that all that PPG fire in the inn, with those civilians there was not a good idea, That none of the soldiers would have automatically threatened or attacked the Technomages seems unlikely, seeing as they’d just observed them “summoning” them.
The sets are pretty decent throughout – particularly the exterior of the mine and the inn interior – although the inn does look like it was built yesterday. The wooded outlook above the mine looks reasonably realistic for being shot on the stage, showing up the CG all the more unfortunately.
All in all, nothing too memorable and from a continuity stand point, completely skippable, but you’d miss some nice character moments. So why was this episode called “The Long Road”? A shout back to “A Call to Arms” when Galen used the line? To show the crew have a long road to travel? Is life “The Long Road”? Your guess is as good as mine.
Crusade continuity check and notes:
- Galenwatch – Present
- This seems to be set at least six weeks after the first episode “War Zone” – Have the crew done anything of note in that time?
- Slight continuity issue – As the Earth Alliance is so big on the antiviral mineral (testing had been positive apparently), this begs the question how do they know an antiviral would be any help? I don’t believe we even learn what the Drakh “plague” is until the episode “Each Night I Dream of Home” – For all they know it could be a bacteria, a chemical or something else entirely! I don’t think we see any further references to this antiviral agent later on in the season.
- We get quite a lot of information on the Technomages – we learn they weren’t all one big happy family, and Alwyn believed that they should all have stayed around for the Shadow War to help on the side of light. While Alwyn stayed for the Shadow War, we get no idea of whether he helped at all.
- Elric (the mage Sheridan saw on Babylon 5) became Galen’s mentor after Galen’s father died, then died himself only a year after the mages went into hiding.
- Something you might miss – Alwyn’s dramatic appearance early on blows out all the candles and the poor daughter of the innkeeper has to scurry around re-lighting candles. I bet she hates it every time he shows up…
- There’s a gym and basketball court on the Excalibur, located inside what seems to be a massive, unused hanger. I have to wonder – these ships were originally made for the Interstellar Alliance to use and so the gym was part of it – this conjures up images for me of Drazi pumping iron and Pak’ma’ra on the treadmill…
Chronological Order Analysis:
- Production order = 7
- Broadcast order = 2
- Continuity order = 2
- Is this episode better in this order? – Same as the Broadcast Order
Although it works okay in this location with only a small continuity issue, I’ve always felt it might work better later in the run. There’s not much going on that would clash with the continuity here apart from the mention of six weeks since the attack, so it might be moved further back in the viewing order if need be. I always felt this was a bit of a weak episode to be so early in the show’s run.
(All images are property of Warner Brothers)