The Many Viewing Orders of Crusade (and a Watch-through)

Introduction

For many reasons, there are multiple episode orders that now exist for watching the short-lived television series Crusade, which was a spin off from the acclaimed SF TV series Babylon 5. I’m going to do my best to cover them all and analyze the pros and cons of each, but first a little…

Background

Back in 1999, ST:DS9 was wrapping up, ST:Voyager and Stargate SG1 were plodding along doing their thing and this funny little show with Muppets called Farscape just started, but for me, Crusade was the next, best hope for space-based TV science fiction after Babylon 5 ended.  I remember waiting with great anticipation for what was to come. Then came the worrying rumours of production hell, until finally we received what was produced. I’ll try to summarize how I felt at the time:

Throughout the first broadcast (for me it was on Sky One), it was hard not to be disappointed by the choppy quality, jarring tonal variation and shifting character personalities. Then there was that soundtrack, the bloody soundtrack – I promise I’ll try not to dwell on the misconceived, distracting, plinkity-plonky-plonk-plonk… sorry, where was I?

“A Call To Arms” laid out the main themes well enough – the Excalibur would be out there searching for a cure to the Drakh plague, an illness that will kill the entire population of Earth in five years or less – so priority number one is and should always be, the cure. The first episode continues this priority (and recaps the situation for those who missed the TV movie) with a large dose of action, exposition and heaps of cheese.

Then how do they follow this up for the next two episodes? The first is all too in love with Technomage whimsy; wizards, holo-dragons, “spells” and demons. Followed by an episode where Galen (a character we barely know at this point) hijacks what appears to be the lone spaceship scouring the known galaxy for a cure, all for his own mysterious agenda. This all serves to deflate the urgency of the show’s “mission” – as well as make Galen look like a dick.

Thankfully the show gets back on the cure trail again for the next episode out, with episodes then generally alternating between looking for the cure and solving problems they come across. There was still some variability in quality and tone, but with good episodes mixed in there.

Finally, we reached the last five episodes. These five episodes were the show before TNT interfered with it, the “pure” show, so to speak and were produced first (I’ll refer back to these as the “First Five” episodes from time to time for ease of reference, sorry if that brings back bad memories of the “Final Five” from the dying days of the BSG reboot). Now we finally saw how the show was meant to be.

It wasn’t perfect, but it did a lot more of what we were lead to expect: The team would scour ominous ruined cities for ancient technology and forbidden knowledge, mull over moral quandaries, get hints at conspiracies and have to make tough decisions along the way. All this with a healthy concentration on the “mission” of the show – the cure. Not all of the five episodes were classics and there was room for improvement of course, but it felt like it could have been a worthy successor to Babylon 5, while different enough to rightfully hold its own. The final episode returned the now, sadly-missed Richard Biggs in what was to be his last Babylon 5 performance, for one of the better episodes of Crusade’s 13 episode run, so at least it went out in style.

After finishing on a high, I felt cheated, as I’m sure many fans did, but we knew this was not the fault of the writers, production crew, actors, etc. They gave it their all in amazingly trying circumstances (really, go look up the story – it’s mind-boggling), but by TNT the heralded “saviors” of Babylon 5. TNT had produced the final season of Babylon 5, the four TV movies and then decided the best thing to do was “fix” their new show until it was completely broken, and left little chance of another channel rescuing it.

I re-watched the show a second time a few years later, again in the broadcast order and it cemented the views I discussed above, but I always felt the order of episodes could be improved to give a better experience of the show – especially for first-time viewers coming in fresh from Babylon 5. This post is my attempt to analyse if there is a better order for viewing the show than in “Broadcast” order.

cover.jpg.asset_rgb2

I knew a few orders existed online, so I looked them up and checked for any others. So here are the ones I found, plus a couple I actually made up after a bit of thought – currently I’m up to 7 and there’s an argument to be made for all of them (almost):


Option 1 – The “Original Broadcast” or “DVD” Order

00. A Call to Arms
01. War Zone
02. The Long Road
03. The Well of Forever
04. The Path of Sorrows
05. Patterns of the Soul
06. Ruling from the Tomb
07. The Rules of the Game
08. Appearances and Other Deceits
09. Racing the Night
10. The Memory of War
11. The Needs of Earth
12. Visitors from Down the Street
13. Each Night I Dream of Home

As well as the original broadcast order, it’s also the order the DVDs are in and the order it’s listed when downloaded (I believe). I’m sure it’s the order almost everyone watches it first time around. However, due to the weaknesses of watching in this order, which I addressed above, I believe you shouldn’t watch it in this order.


Option 2 – The “JMS Sci-Fi Channel” Order

00. A Call to Arms
01. Racing the Night
02. The Needs of Earth
03. The Memory of War
04. The Long Road
05. Visitors from Down the Street
06. The Well of Forever
07. Each Night I Dream of Home
08. Patterns of the Soul
09. The Path of Sorrows
10. Ruling from the Tomb
11. The Rules of the Game
12. War Zone
13. Appearances and Other Deceits

Back in 2001, when Babylon 5, Crusade and the TNT movies were playing on the Sci-Fi Channel, JMS apparently came up with an order that according to JMS was “best from a story point of view, even though it means some visual inconsistencies in terms of unexplained costume changes.”

Yes, it’s a great idea to start with “Racing the Night” and a couple of the “First Five” episodes, but then it just goes kind of batshit crazy. Personally I’d feel immense pity for any first-timers watching the show in this order. The uniforms chop and change, the chronology is all over the place, and as the continuity is so screwed up. It ends with “War Zone” and “Appearances” just jammed on like an after thought or a parallel universe story. It would be better to just dump them completely if watching in this order.

Personally, I think this order is the route to madness, but some people online swear by it. That said, people online swear by a lot of crazy stuff. The nice folks over at Babylon Podcast (link to the first episode in this order) watched through the show in this order, so please feel free watch and follow along with them, because I sure as hell won’t watch it in this order.


Option 3 – The “JMS Chronological” or “True JMS” Order

00. A Call to Arms
01. War Zone
02. The Long Road
03. Appearances and Other Deceits
04. The Memory of War
05. The Needs of Earth
06. Racing the Night
07. Visitors from Down the Street
08. Each Night I Dream of Home
09. The Path of Sorrows
10. Ruling from the Tomb
11. Patterns of the Soul
12. The Well of Forever
13. The Rules of the Game

This is taken from Wikipedia and is considered the “true” order by JMS. While an improvement over the Sci-Fi Channel and Broadcast orders, I still feel this version is too flawed.

JMS endorsed this version and it appeared in the Official Babylon 5 Chronology (published in The Official Babylon 5 Magazine in 1999-2000). Author Terry Jones explains the running order was changed to fill JMS’s desire to have the grey “bellhop” uniform stories incorporated within the black “explorer” uniform ones, dates included in the show and the dialogue changes in “Each Night I Dream Of Home”. It also fixes the “nanovirus shield” issue. It is also supposed to work with the unproduced scripts which were published in various places online and in the Crusade script books.

Initially this appears to be a great improvement over the previous two orders. It brings the original five episodes earlier in the run which helps the pace of the show, as well as moving the Well of Forever much further back. Despite them stating it fixes continuity errors, it still leaves some:

  • Gideon and Lochely meet in Each Night I Dream Of Home (ep 8)- and appear to know each other, but then meet for the first time in Ruling From the Tomb (ep 10).
  • “Racing the Night” still starts with a dream/memory that contradicts War Zone.
  • The grey jumpsuits magically disappear without comment in the Path of Sorrows (now ep 9) – although this isn’t the worst crime ever.

Some of this is quite jarring if you want to enjoy a smooth, consistent storyline. It should be stated that the original broadcast order also had an issue with the “nanovirus shield” being used before being discovered, as well as dubbed dialogue being added to “Each Night” to keep the continuity on track, so it’s not like the original broadcast order was perfect even with fixes.


Option 4 – The “All-inclusive” Chronological Order

Very much related to Option 3, this order can be found in the Babylon 5/Crusade script books. It incorporates all of the produced episodes and the unproduced scripts into an order that attempts to give the clearest picture of how the show would have developed if they had gone to a full season, instead of the half we got.

It does include all of Option 3 – The Chronological Order, and so includes the continuity errors, however, as most viewers (first time or otherwise) won’t have access the scripts to be able to pursue this option, Ill not be doing this order in this piece.


Option 5 – The “Continuity” Order

00. A Call to Arms
01. War Zone
02. The Long Road
03. The Path of Sorrows
04. Ruling from the Tomb
05. Appearances and Other Deceits
06. Racing the Night
07. The Needs of Earth
08. The Memory of War
09. Visitors from Down the Street
10. Each Night I Dream of Home
11. Patterns of the Soul
12. The Well of Forever
13. The Rules of the Game

While looking on Wikipedia at the various series orders, I noticed another option! The so-called “Continuity Order.” This takes the JMS Chronological Order – with all the benefits to pacing and characterization, but re-adjusts it to allow for the Gideon/Lochley meeting to occur in order, as well as a couple of other tweaks.

I’ve tried looking up online to find who actually worked this order out, so I can give credit where it’s due, but to no avail sadly. It’s not featured in the Crusade book either – so thanks to you, whoever worked it out! Feel free to drop me a comment if you know who came up with it.


Option 6 – The “Pure” or “First Five” Order

00. A Call to Arms
01. Racing the Night
02. The Memory of War
03. The Needs of Earth
04. Visitors from Down the Street
05. Each Night I Dream of Home

There is an option I’ve not seen mentioned online, and one that seems like an obvious option. That’s the one I’ve called the “Pure” or “First Five” order. This simply takes “A Call to Arms” and adds the first five episodes produced before TNT really screwed around with the show and that’s it. You get the show in it’s purest form, un-muddied by interference. So you get to see two excellent episodes, one good and two more mediocre ones.

This removes ALL continuity issues, but it leaves you with the frustration of knowing there’s eight more episodes that now don’t fit with the rest.


Option 7 – The “Expanded Pure” or “Screw TNT” Order

00. A Call to Arms
01. Racing the Night
02. The Needs of Earth
03. The Memory of War
04. Visitors from Down the Street
05. Each Night I Dream of Home
06. The Long Road
07. The Path of Sorrows
08. Patterns of the Soul
09. The Rules of the Game
10. The Well of Forever

The “purest” view of how Crusade should have turned out is just the first five episodes produced and was discussed in Option 6.

This order I’ve developed starts with the “First Five” order and then continues on as far as possible without causing continuity issues. This does mean the uniforms change for no reason after episode 5, but that’s not a major issue really. We now have to lose the episodes “Ruling From the Tomb” the first meeting of Lochley and Gideon – no great loss,  “Appearances..” as the suit change would be the wrong way around and as “Warzone” completely clashes with “Racing the Night” we have to ditch “Warzone”, really no great loss.


Going Forward – A Watch through of the Continuity Order

I have to admit I prefer the idea of watching all the episodes in the best possible order, so I’m going to try Option 5 – The “Continuity” Order. I believe the only serious remaining issues are the “Racing the Night” introduction clash and the jumpsuit change, but I’ll just imagine a scene where Gideon goes to the Excalibur laundry room to fix the sonic-washing machines on uniform laundry day (I believe JMS said that had the show continued, there would likely have been a comment to this effect).

So I’ll stick to the Continuity Order in my watch-through – reviewing the episodes as I go, as well as commenting on the continuity and whether this new order is actually beneficial.

(All images are property of Warner Brothers)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s