Through a Jeanne, D’Arc-kly
Written by Peter David.
Directed by John Copeland.
When the crew stop at Mars to attend a conference on stopping the Drakh plague, it seems not everyone wants to cure it.
After the highs of the last episode, this is a more mundane affair – The Excalibur stops by Mars to take part in a conference on the Drakh plague and share what they’ve found so far (I bet it’s a short conference). Of course nothing is that simple – A group of humans want to stop the conference as they believe the plague is god’s will, a punishment for their sins that should not be cured.
It’s quite the ensemble affair, but the episode focuses mostly on Gideon, Trace, Eilerson and Dureena – with a dash of Chambers and Matheson. Added to that we get a guest star from Babylon 5! Woo!
Sadly, it’s Captain Elizabeth Lochley. I know, it’s kind of a B5 fan cliché to dislike her, and I really tried, but what can I say? Her character is as dull as ditchwater and her constant bossy nature always winds me up.
Probably the most interesting thing about this episode is that unlike the previous three episodes, we actually get an A and B plot that tie together towards the end – something that was always part and parcel of Babylon 5 and always made it feel richer. The main thrust of the episode is the search for who is attacking the conference attendees, while Trace, Dureena and Eilerson’s sojourn on Mars seems unrelated fluff, until it becomes very obviously related.
Sadly, the mystery surrounding the attackers is quickly removed as we see one of them confess to the voice in his head – yes he’s full of regret and sorrow, but is determined to fulfill the word of god. This seems an interesting idea until you realize the word of god is being passed to him through a voice he refers to as Jeanne – That both he and the voice share thick French accents quickly bring you to the conclusion that he’s speaking to Joan of Arc (Jeanne D’arc) – I have to assume this wasn’t supposed to be a surprise for the audience due to its blatant obviousness. His bomb is set with “666” as the number of seconds (Ooo! So evil!) – I can’t see someone who thinks he’s doing god’s will using the number of the beast.
Weaved into these events we get Lochley and Gideon’s first meeting and vague signs of romance, but my word is it awkward. Intentionally so at first as their similar natures grind on one another, but then they share a meal and the dialogue is just painful. I know it’s going against the cliché to have similars attract instead of opposites, but the dialogue has to be believable, here it’s just terrible – had it been a JMS script I don’t think I’d be surprised, but this is Peter David – he usually puts in far better dialogue. At one point Lochley accuses Gideon of having “piss-poor” technique with the ladies while she’s about as charming as herpes. Gideon’s hero-worship of Sheridan seems out of character for someone as cynical as him to gush, but it’s just a ham-fisted set-up for a joke that JMS was responsible for (so Peter David’s off the hook for that one). The gentle mocking from Chambers after their dinner is a nice touch though.
As well as the conference shenanigans, we also see some of the crew take shore leave in Marsdome. This part is played for a little comic relief and is more like business as usual for Peter David – reasonably fun and sometimes amusing. For example, it’s nice to see the brash, know-it-all, Eilerson pickpocketed while trying to show off to Dureena. As both Trace and Max grew up on Mars – each on different sides of the tracks, they end up showing Dureena around, and both vie for Dureena’s attention as they wander around the city, much to her consternation. Trace Miller is there to be attacked by the convention saboteurs, notice the pattern in the attacks then identify the suspect as someone he knows. How convenient.
Gideon’s solution to diffuse the bomb threat is to simply tell all those present that the plague is far worse than planned and to basically kiss their ass goodbye. It’s some quick thinking, but the chance of it truly convincing a bomber not to activate their device would be quite a gamble (although by now, we know that’s pure Gideon).
Throughout the episode we see Marsdome as a city properly. Previously in Babylon 5 and Crusade we’ve just seen the underbelly or corporate life – here we see a little more color and variety and Marsdome seems the more complete for it. Transport hubs, main thoroughfares, market stalls, the conference hall, seedy bars and back alleys – it’s a far more cohesive view. We get a few nice nods to the literary past of Mars in the street names such as Bradbury and Burroughs (also Max orders some “Dandelion Wine”). The effects and sets generally work well, although the dive bar looks like every 1980s movie cliché: smoky, neon-filled dinginess abounds.
All in all, it’s a very average episode, with little of consequence for the future, apart from setting up Gideon and Lochley’s relationship and giving us a little background for some of the other characters. It’s a Peter David script that disappoints and that’s a shame. Onward to better things hopefully, oh and I won’t apologise for the review title.
Crusade continuity check and notes:
- Galenwatch – Absent. This is the first episode without Galen – I don’t blame him for not turning up for this episode.
- Lochley mentions Dr. Franklin was on Earth during the attack and so was infected and heading up the medical research teams.
- While this issue can be leveled both Babylon 5 as well as Crusade (and a million other tv shows and movies), the scenes set on Mars show no evidence of having gravity about a third of that on Earth.
- We have the first meeting of Gideon and Lochley and the beginning of their relationship – something that had to be fixed in continuity in a later episode. The original version of “Each Night…” was the first time they met originally, so new dialogue was dubbed into that episode to try and fix it – Let’s see how it fits when we get there.
- While we know Eilerson is something of a polyglot genius, it seems he had a very sheltered upbringing on Mars, Trace has more of a rough and tumble blue-collar background.
- This is the first time we’ve seen any of the fanatical doomsday cults first mentioned in “War Zone” – the one featured here is “Sacred Omega”. Gideon has a tale of a friend (a captain on the “Furies”) being killed by them when his crew mutinied, suggesting they might be widespread, yet from this they seem like a tiny minority and not all that threatening. I can’t remember if we ever actually see another doomsday group again – I will monitor the situation.
- The Conference banner shows June 15th 2267 – so it’s maybe six months on from the Drakh attack. Does this date clash with other ones? It all depends when A Call to Arms was set, I don’t think it’s ever specified.
- Thankfully this is Trace Miller’s only other appearance in the show, so we get him out of the way even quicker, now that this episode is earlier in the run. Admittedly he’s a little better here as he gets more to do, but he remains bland.
- Trace Miller’s somewhat surprising background of Foundationist priest is because the original plan for Crusade was to include a ship’s Chaplain “Mike”), when TNT foisted Trace onto the production, Trace’s character took on some of the chaplain’s history. Interestingly Alex Mendoza was only contracted for the two episodes he featured in, with the option to be in episodes 14 to 22. JMS planned a Trilogy that would have featured Trace prominently, but Alex Mendoza’s contract wasn’t optioned by TNT after “Ruling…” wrapped, for unstated reasons, causing JMS to have to change direction on the planned trilogy.
Chronological Order Analysis:
- Production order = 11
- Broadcast order = 6
- Continuity order = 4
- Is this episode better in this order? – Maybe
This has to be set before the “First Five” as that block of episodes contains Lochley and Gideon’s second meeting, this being the first. Personally I’d prefer it later in the run as it’s yet another episode set away from the quest, but due to the date and the Lochley issue it’s stuck here. It works okay – but to be honest I don’t think it works any better or worse than where it was in the original broadcast order.
(All images are property of Warner Brothers)