Tag Archives: Drakh

Crusade – Continuity Order – S01E00 – A Call to Arms

A Prelude to a Crusade

Written by J. Michael Straczynski

Directed by Mike Vejar

Grade: B-

Spoilers follow.

Episode Synopsis:

Sheridan’s dreams lead him to a group of strangers who will help him face a new threat from an old foe.

Episode Review:

Why episode zero, I probably don’t hear you ask? Well, I wasn’t too sure whether or not to include “A Call To Arms” in this Crusade watch-through, seeing as it’s more of a Babylon 5 movie than a Crusade pilot, but I felt I had to for the sake of context and completion.

Sadly, it’s not a triumph, but then neither is it a failure either – it’s a competent enough TV movie that probably would have benefited from sharing the epic feel given to “In The Beginning” – after all, it could be the end of the world as we know it…

That’s not to say it’s no good, it’s actually a lot of fun, with a reasonably fast pace, a few good twists along the way, and some effective injections of light humour. Just don’t expect much depth beyond the race to discover the Drakh threat and the vague problem that Sheridan’s pals might condemn him to a mental institution, all finished up with the obligatory big battle at the end.

At the beginning, Bruce Boxleitner plays Sheridan as if he’s having a whale of a time – he’s getting back out there from behind the ISA Presidential desk, doing something practical and it’s great to see his reaction to that. At one point he’s like a teenager – sneaking out of the house (Babylon 5), pinching the family car (the Excalibur), and leaving a recorded note – it’s almost like an interstellar Ferris Buehler’s Day Off.

Jerry Doyle returns, with Garibaldi much the same, despite the new responsibilities of family life and running Edgar’s Industries – sadly he never returned for Crusade (plans were apparently squashed by TNT).

call - tony todd

The main guest star is Tony Todd and he would have made a bad-ass captain for the Excalibur in Crusade, which I’m pretty sure is why he was cast. I’d imagine many first time viewers who knew of the Crusade spin-off, but not who was cast as the Captain could easily imagine (the awesome) Tony Todd is the guy for the job, thus making his sacrifice more shocking. Although the scene with his daughter makes his death all the more predictable, his line about protecting her from the monsters always gets to me. I know, I’m a big sentimental sap.

The rest of the supporting cast do a good job – Tony Maggio’s Drake seems just to be neurotic comic relief at first before affecting the story later, while the actress playing the pilot of the Excalibur (Marjean Holden) would go on to play Dr. Sarah Chambers in Crusade. Jeff Conaway gets a short, fun appearance which would sadly prove to be the last one he filmed for a Babylon 5 related production.

As with the other TNT movies, it’s in (TV) widescreen and, of course, the show looks so much better for it. I know there’s an issue with the effects to stop the show being remastered and rereleased on Blu-Ray in the widescreen format, but I wish someone would have the foresight to realize that spending that money upfront would result in a huge renaissance in interest, purchases and profit for Warner Bros. I can dream can’t I?

As I mentioned earlier, despite the widescreen, a few things drained the potential for this to be the epic adventure it should be. First of all and probably the biggest issue for me is the music – Evan Chen’s score is a little esoteric – flitting somewhere between orchestral and synth, but doesn’t carry the emotional impact or subtlety of Franke’s grand works (an issue which continues into Crusade as well). The humour, although effective, does serve to decrease the tension. Then we have the Drakh, not the most charismatic or threatening of villains, and their threat is further diminished by being off-screen almost the entire time. The majority of the time the Drakh appear only in the form of their bland spaceships.

Another major factor, in my opinion, is because of the new techniques being tried out here. One of the main goals of “A Call to Arms” production was the implementation of new production techniques, that would then be used on Crusade. As Crusade was to be more of a ‘planet of the week’ show than Babylon 5 ever was, it would require a lot of exterior shoots. However, exterior shooting is very expensive (and sadly, Babylonian Productions always worked with budgets way below shows such as the Star Treks, Stargates, etc.) so it was decided to film exterior locations in the studio. I’m sure the production crew tried very hard to achieve this – they created at least three different worlds in this movie – which is more than most seasons of Babylon 5! However, in my opinion they didn’t fully convince, despite turf being shipped in or giving over whole studio spaces to become rocky plateaus, druidic stone circles, etc. Much like the Star Trek “exterior” sets, something about the exterior work sadly looked ‘stagey’ to me. I’ll stop bitching here for a second though to say the hydraulically controlled shuttle interior is a triumph though.

The final issue for me is that the visual effects simply don’t feel up to par – the quality was always more variable after they ditched Foundation Imaging to bring it in-house and this one is one of the more disappointing occasions. Despite featuring massive fleets and super-sized death machines, all too often the battles feel ‘off’ – more like a video game, with the mass and solidity of the ships not well conveyed. One of the issues is that the scale often feels wrong – the worst example of this is the Shadow Death Cloud / Planet Killer.

call - shadow(I apologize for how grainy the image is)

We’re told this thing is insanely massive – it has to be to engulf the Earth! Then when we finally see inside the cloud (particularly at the end, once it activates prematurely) it looks like it would barely wrap around Belgium. Of course, I know this work is all being done on a TV show budget, and this TV movie includes a HUGE number of effects and composites shots, but when some don’t work, it serves to pull you out of the story.

I don’t mean to be such a downer on “A Call To Arms”, it really is worth your time to watch for many reasons. I think the issue for me was that my expectations were set so high, and when it didn’t quite live up to them, I couldn’t help but start nitpicking.

Crusade continuity check and notes:

  • Galenwatch (because he’s hard to pin down) – Present, in spirit.
  • While you could just jump straight into “War Zone” – I think you get more out of the series having watched this first. It provides the full background to the Drakh plague, you meet some of the new characters and get to see the Excalibur in action.
  • We meet both Galen and Dureena here for the first time. Dureena comes off better, partly due to more screen time, but she’s also able to help out in surprising ways, with a nicely sarcastic turn of phrase and nicely acted. Galen is only in it for a small time, so it’s hard to get a good idea of his character, apart from his cynical tone, rather convoluted help and cod-Shakespearean dialogue.
  • You get a great introduction to the Excalibur, both internally and externally. Overall, I always liked the interior design and the layout – intentionally submarine-like and more high-tech looking than previous Earthforce designs – although we only get to see the conference room, a few corridors and the bridge. As for the exterior, I’ve always been a little lukewarm to the ship design – I like a lot of the early Mayrand concept sketches which accentuated the Vorlon and Minbari influences more than the human tech, but these were gradually smoothed away until we get the somewhat unwieldy-looking Excalibur – it has some interesting design touches, but as it’s rendered an almost uniform light grey. This means it looks a bit low texture and dull at a distance. Nice to see the adaptive armour plating in action, but the “one minute power-down” following the firing of the main gun is such a plot device, it can’t help but annoy a little.
  • The ISN news report at the beginning mentions “A ground-breaking ceremony to those who died in the recent telepath crisis…” something which is returned to a little later in Crusade.

Chronological Order Analysis:

  • Production order  = 0
  • Broadcast order  = 0
  • Continuity order  = 0
  • Is this episode better in this order? It’s in this location in any order

Naturally, as it’s set before the series, there’s nothing that is out of continuity. Whether or not you watch this before Crusade, it’s always going to be first in the order.

(All images are property of Warner Brothers)

< Introduction to Continuity Order | Next episode “War Zone” >

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Crusade – Continuity Order – S01E01 – War Zone

Poor Zone

Written by J. Michael Straczynski

Directed by Janet Greek

Grade: D+

Spoilers follow.

Episode Synopsis:

The crew of the Excalibur come together to begin their quest for the cure to the Drakh plague.

Episode Review:

My memory was that this episode was weak – no surprise, many first episodes are. Unfortunately it’s worse than that, this episode pretty much stinks. I really want to love and embrace this show, but this is painful to watch. I know, I know, JMS wrote this script under duress and naturally didn’t make much effort, but boy does it show. Sadly I can’t review an episode for what I want it to be, or what it could have been, only by what we, the viewers, see on-screen.

It’s hard to know where to begin. There’s so many issues here, but it boils down to one thing – with this episode, TNT get exactly what they wanted. The first scene of the entire series is one of the most pointless fistfights ever put on film, just like they wanted. The rest of the episode that follows is stuffed with clunky exposition, artificially injected action, broadly written characters, cheesy dialogue and clichés abound. The simplest description I can make is that it’s written more like a children’s show.

You have to assume this is kind of the point JMS is trying to make. It ticks almost all the boxes of what TNT wanted Crusade to become and shows how hackneyed, predictable and clichéd a series it would have been if they’d followed all the notes. It makes that point, but it’s at the expense of the viewer – It’s like cutting off your own nose to spite your face. There’s still some good dialogue peeking through, like a diamond in the muck, as though JMS wanted to let everyone know he’s still in there somewhere.

It seems the rest of the cast and crew got the message that JMS was doing this episode through gritted teeth, and treated it in the same fashion. The acting at best is passable, the effects are lacking, and the direction flaccid despite being an action episode conducted by the usually effective Janet Greek

The story itself is exactly what you’d expect from the first episode of an ensemble cast show – getting the team together, then giving them a problem to overcome to bond them all together. While part of you can’t help but think that it’s interesting to see how everyone came together, in the end it’s just as predictable as you imagine. You end up feeling that if you’d not seen this episode, you wouldn’t have missed much you couldn’t have surmised later. Which is just the idea JMS had tried to implement when the original plan was to premier with “Racing The Night”.

It has to be mentioned that despite everything, the episode is really quite ambitious in scope, so at least there’s that. We start at the Earth orbit battlefield, swing by Marsdome, stop off at the unnamed world near where Gideon was rescued, then proceed to Ceti 4 for another space battle with the Drakh and another battle montage set to music and no other sound – once in a while these are fine, but it was becoming something of a Babylon 5 cliché.

The CG is sometimes pretty bad – whether it’s a case of penny-pinching to not spend money on an episode that they didn’t want to make, or they just didn’t have time for the complexity of this episode, it’s simply not very good. I remembered the CG Drakh looked bad at the time, but now they look shockingly unreal:

I realise they were trying something new for TV here, and they get kudos for trying, but the technology just wasn’t there yet. In fact, doing fully CG figures rarely works now in big budget blockbusters, here we’re in pure uncanny valley territory. The CG landscapes vary in effectiveness, passable at a distance and/or with a little haze, but once they get more close-up they look worse and worse.

For some reason they chose to keep the Drakh masks with glowing eyes for the soldiers. These still look as ridiculous as the did in the Babylon 5 episode “Lines of Communication” – the actual Optic Nerve-designed Drakh prosthetics are awesome, why wouldn’t they stick with those? Plus, the weapon design looks extremely unwieldy. So, in the end the Drakh look a bit cheap, cheesy and not threatening enough. The dialogue their leader spouts is pure cliché and sometimes the Drakh feel like they’d be more at home on the set of a Power Rangers show.

drakh power rangers

Most of the regular cast at least try to put in some kind of a performance. As you’d expect, Gideon takes the lion’s share of the screen time, and while he actually looks a little unsure in his role from time to time (maybe done on purpose as he has a new ship to command), he comes across as a decent, hard-nosed-but-fair kind of captain – yes, he’s very much the “renegade captain” trope, but Cole’s insouciant approach suits the role well.

In one of the best scenes, Gideon reassures Matheson he’s the right man for the job, despite some people’s concerns over him being a telepath. The acting that goes into that scene alone is what pushes this episode up a grade to a “D+”… just.

Despite only appearing a few times and not having made much impact (for me anyway) in “A Call To Arms”, Galen actually comes across better here. He brings some of the cooler Technomage aspects into play – casually kicking Drakh ass, vanishing a lot, dropping smoke-bombs, quizzing Gideon on his quest, hacking the Excalibur with ease, rescuing Gideon in flashback and generally sneaking around under their noses like a wizardy know-it-all.

The rest of the crew doesn’t get much time to shine, but acquit themselves well enough and show off their main character traits – David Allen Brooks demonstrates Max Eilerson’s smarts, greed and tendency to get good lines, Daniel Dae Kim as John Matheson is stoic and dependable, Marjean Holden as Chambers is strong, decisive and sympathetic -probably the most rounded character. Only Carrie Dobro gets little to do as Dureena. The weakest link has to be the shoehorned in, bad-boy pilot Trace Miller, he’s like a bland James Dean cut-out rebelling against nothing. I know he was forcibly introduced to pacify the TNT executives, but he served almost no purpose for the entire thirteen episode run. Maybe he would have gone the way of that other memorable pilot, Warren Keffer. I can dream…

It’s hard to imagine a first time viewer watching this and wanting to see more, especially if they’ve never seen Babylon 5. I have a hard time recommending anyone watch this – even though I know there’s better stuff down the road. Looking back, the Babylon 5 pilot “The Gathering” and first episode “Midnight on the Firing Line” may be a bit rough around the edges, but they’re sheer poetry in comparison to this train wreck.

Crusade continuity check and notes:

  • Galenwatch – Present
  • We get our first look at the title sequence, which works quite well, I always liked the swishy-sword/Excalibur gimmick. They’re definitely trying to impart a mythic feel to the crew’s quest, with some interesting darker undercurrents. The theme tune itself is one of the few times I don’t mind Evan Chen’s music, I just never felt his scores fit well.
  • On board the ship, we see the Excalibur flight deck, and see its assignment of human fighter-craft on board (both Thunderbolts and Starfurys), something we never saw in “A Call to Arms”. We get a mention that the Excalibur is a mile and a half long, then get to see the cool tube cars that run the length of the ship.
  • The ship is now fully crewed and it seems the main ‘team’ roles are filled:
  1. Matthew Gideon – Captain
  2. John Matheson – First Officer
  3. Dureena Nafeel – Resident thief
  4. Galen – Wizard
  5. Dr. Sarah Chambers – Chief Medical Officer
  6. Max Eilerson – Archaeologist, linguist, weekly pain in the ass
  7. Trace Miller – Ostensibly a pilot, but no real idea what he’s supposed to do.
  • While we heard Gideon had the opportunity to pick his crew, we don’t find out if anyone, bar Matheson came with him from his old command. From the way the crew seem at home with most of the systems, we might assume most of the crew were already assigned prior to his arrival – particularly with how accomplished their performance is against three Drakh cruisers.
  • This episode features the newer, black explorer uniforms – which was about the only suggestion TNT made that I actually agree with. Although why were the Explorer crew supposed to have different uniforms? They’re Earthforce, and we saw another Explorer Class ship (from the B5 episode “A Distant Star”) had standard uniforms – I know, probably brand recognition and all that.
  • This Drakh commander seems quite weaselly, very happy to hide while others protect him, not the calm puppet-masters we’ve seen in the past on Babylon 5.
  • We flash back back to the time when the Technomages migrated away from known space – just before the Shadow War (set just after the events of the Babylon 5 episode “The Geometry of Shadows”). At that time Gideon was stranded in just a space suit and apparently Galen rescued him – something we’ll return to in more detail in a later episode.
  • The Captain has an unusual, powerful alien object hidden in his room, which seems intelligent, knows many secrets, speaks to him and seems inherently untrustworthy. This is the same situation as the protagonist in Philip Jose Farmer’s novel “The Unreasoning Mask”.

Chronological Order Analysis:

  • Production order  = 8
  • Broadcast order  = 1
  • Continuity order  = 1
  • Is this episode better in this order? – Same as the Broadcast Order

Definitely supposed to be the first episode in order, despite being shot later. No obvious potential continuity issues. Although “Racing the Night” has Gideon dream/remember being tasked with the mission on Babylon 5 – but I’ll bring that up in that episode though.

(All images are property of Warner Brothers)

TV Movie / Pilot “A Call to Arms” | Next episode “The Long Road” >

Crusade – Continuity Order – S01E06 – Racing the Night

The Series Premiere we Deserved

Written by J Michael Straczynski

Directed by Mike Vejar

Grade: B+

Spoilers follow.

Episode Synopsis:

Intriguing clues on a ruined planet might help with finding the cure, but the price paid may be too high.

Episode Review:

We finally get to see the show as originally envisioned. It’s fast-paced, dark and exciting, with moral quandaries, but also a little humour. That said, it’s not perfect, the main reason being its original purpose of being the series premiere.

It’s pretty difficult to introduce the entire cast of an ensemble show in 43 minutes without the word “exposition” cropping up in the review and it’s strongly in force here – plus the episode also has to reintroduce Galen and Dureena, on the off-chance we didn’t see “A Call to Arms”. The best premiere episodes are subtly done, and you become acquainted with the characters through their actions – “show, don’t tell”. Sadly here we get “tell” then follow it up with the “show” to hammer the “tell” part home, this tends to make things seem a bit repetitive. For example, Gideon asks: “Where’s Dureena, our resident thief and tunnel rat?” Next, we see Dureena, in a pipe, breaking into a building…

Thankfully the pace isn’t slowed too much by these moments, and there’s a pretty intriguing story going on here. The story revolves around a mysteriously abandoned city, and trying to determine if there is anything left that will help cure the plague. Watching the show in the Continuity Order it’s nice to see the crew pro-actively searching for a cure again, instead of always reacting to situations put in their way.

The story develops nicely and becomes a lot more related to the quest for the cure and asks a few speculative questions about how humans would act if they had tried for three years to cure the plague and met with no success. I’m not sure the alien’s approach makes much sense, but it’s an interesting idea.

It’s interesting to compare Gideon’s reaction to the alien’s method of solving their plague, following the statement he makes at the beginning of the episode. He makes a deal with the Drazi to hunt for four years, then return home for the last year to police the Solar system and stop those infected from fleeing. He states “he’d make a deal with the devil to get a cure for the plague.” The episode shows maybe he won’t make some deals with the devil after all.

The alien city sets looks pretty good in some of the CG, but  begins to fall down the more it’s used and this episode has a huge amount of effects shots, especially for a lower-budget TV show. Babylon 5 had a knack of working out what they could and couldn’t portray with their CG budget and still have it appear realistic (most of the time) – but one of my on-going gripes with Crusade is that it feels like they never stuck with this approach, despite having some of the same effects crew – maybe they had an even smaller budget? The skimmer chase is quite exciting, but looks sadly pretty unreal in places. The starship battles are better, but still seem a little weaker in quality than Babylon 5.

Probably the biggest “uncanny valley” situation is Galen’s homunculus, it’s bloody awful. The sad part is I really think they wanted it to look realistic, but this was the best they could do on the budget/time. It’s a rubbery monstrosity and really takes you out of the moment, thankfully we get Peter Woodward’s mugging and melodramatic performance that’s just silly enough to distract from the effects “Oh, my liver. I wondered where that’d gone.”

On another random note of complaint, the use of the stock footage from Babylon 5 (Severed Dreams) is a bit jarring as it makes the Thunderbolt pilots look faceless and menacing.

crusade 6 - thunder

While most of the cast gets at least a scene or two, Gideon, Galen and Eilerson tend to get the most screen time. Galen gets the best of the lines and isn’t as insufferably cryptic as usual, but when he is, he’s nicely shot down by Dureena – this episode has some of their best scenes together.

We know the TNT executives wanted as few references to Babylon 5 in Crusade, so I can really see the TNT executives not being crazy about many aspects of this episode – We visit Babylon 5, get flashbacks to the Shadows…

Had this been the first episode I really think it would have had a greater impact – yes, it’s a bit rough around the edges, but it throws you into the action without completely spelling everything out, has some decent action, and include a little humour, a decent mystery and ideas to mull over.

Crusade continuity check and notes:

  • Galenwatch – Present. In this order it seems Galen has been missing for a few episodes – what’s he been up to? Unsurprisingly there’s no answer, he just shows up.
  • First major continuity issue! The start of the episode shows Gideon relive in a dream, the events of how he came to command the Excalibur. The dream shows him (in standard Earthforce uniform rather than the explorer ship blacks) on board Babylon 5 in discussions with the major races about access to their territories to hunt for a cure, then being shuttled across (from Babylon 5) to the Excalibur. This is in marked contrast to everything we see in “War Zone,” which showed him receiving his mission and assignment on Mars.

crusade 6 - uni

  • As a segue between the newer episodes to the “First Five”, it works quite well with no other obvious inconsistencies. Although it’s kind of strange to see the crew now decked out in the grey ‘bellhop’ uniforms – I have to say I didn’t see any signs of changes to the set lighting after Kevin’s suggestions in “Appearances…”
  • These aliens worked for three years on a cure then froze themselves with two left. Therefore they had a five year limit, just like the human race. Humans were not the original targets of the plague though (the Minbari were) and that’s why it will take five years. Is this version from 1000 years ago the same plague? A more basic version? Or was this plague also meant for another race?
  • I think Sheridan mentions in “A Call To Arms” that the Drakh never took the time to engineer the plague well enough before launching it and that was why the Earth had five years. Would the Shadows have done the same a thousand years ago when it seems these aliens were barely space-faring and of no threat?
  • Sadly, and probably due to the order the episodes are in now, we get a return to the broader, “default” Eilerson – full of bluster and greed, not caring a damn about a dead crewman, when in just the last episode he was doing some soul-searching over the same topic.
  • We get a first experience of the human skimmer technology (it’s possible the previous Apocalypse Box owner was hit by one, but we never conclusively see what vehicle it is). The human skimmer technology was never seen on Babylon 5 and we have to assume it’s new tech either from closer Interstellar Alliance ties with the Minbari or maybe IPX discovered technology (from the Vorlons?) following the Great War. I don’t think the skimmers have even been mentioned before on Crusade (in this order), so we didn’t know they had them until now. The technology almost seems a bit anachronistic (and a little Star Wars-y, it even reminded me of Galactica 80).
  • Dureena mentions wanting to learn Technomage techniques (Galen makes it clear this isn’t the first time), but won’t train her yet as she’s only out for revenge.
  • From the ships in the alien chop-shop it appears that the Brakiri, Narn, Centauri and Vree (I probably missed some others) have all visited this planet at some point – how come no-one else has ever discovered the secret or noticed their ships have gone missing?
  • We also get to see the fancy Thunderbolt launchers for the first time! Not sure they make much sense, but very cool none the less.
  • Having already had an introduction to the Apocalypse Box, it removes the mystery originally intended when this episode was first produced, as now we know a little about it. However, it’s now more scary to know Gideon is using it for information as we know it lies. Their reception at this planet seems to suggest the Box might have tried to lead Gideon into a trap – but who knows? Maybe its information was completely out of date – where it gets it’s information is never explained during the thirteen episodes.

Chronological Order Analysis:

  • Production order  = 3
  • Broadcast order  = 9
  • Continuity order  = 6
  • Is this episode better in this order? – Yes

While it would have worked well as a series premiere had the show not been messed with, it actually works well here and a lot better than as the ninth episode. It gets the series back on track with proactive searching for a plague solution.

If you think about, had this been the first episode, the very first thing we ever see them discover is a planet infected by the Shadows with exactly the same plague – too similar, too soon maybe… In this order at least, it feels like their quest is finally getting somewhere, even if it’s a dead end this time.

There are a couple of negative aspects being in this order – The “introductions” to each character get a little wearing, seeing as we’ve spent the last five episodes with the crew in this order, but it’s not a deal breaker. The continuity error of Gideon on Babylon 5 remains a bit jarring, but no Crusade order is perfect.

(All images are property of Warner Brothers)

<Previous episode “Appearances and Other Deceits” | Next episode “The Needs of Earth”>

Crusade – Continuity Order – S01E10 – Each Night I Dream of Home

Hello, Old Friends

Written by J. Michael Straczynki
Directed by Stephen Furst

Grade: B+

Spoilers follow.

Episode Synopsis:

The Excalibur returns to Earth to run a few medical trials in secret, picks up a VIP, then gets ambushed by the Drakh.

Episode Review:

While not exactly ground-breaking or the most innovative of stories, it does its job well, rattles along at great speed, with plenty of action along the way, and just enough time to fit in a few tough questions and character moments. Another great directing job by Stephen Furst, another of the “old friends” involved in this episode.

The surprise package is a bit of an odd idea. If you noticed the credits, then you know he’s the guest star. If somehow you didn’t, it must be a nice surprise if you’re a Babylon 5 fan. However, if, by chance you didn’t watch Babylon 5, all the build up might seem pretty anticlimactic! I do like his somewhat mini Tardis-like box though.

Richard Biggs settles back into the character of Dr. Franklin like an old shoe, and gets some nice moments to shine, his angst over infecting a man simply to act as a baseline is very refreshing, despite the big picture. His presence makes the whole venture feel like it has more to do with the Babylon 5 universe than almost anything else to date in Crusade. The moment where Lochley arrives in the medbay, just after Franklin enters the pod, and so doesn’t know he’s in there, is a little melancholy, but seeing as they only worked together for a year isn’t as sad as say, Ivanova or Garibaldi missing him.

We see Gideon’s cynicism come to the fore – he dislikes the senator’s politics and busts Masterson’s balls for expecting their own ships not to fire on them. Their banter, as usual, is one of the better aspects of the episode. We get to hear yet again about Gideon being rescued and never ignoring a distress call. Had this been the fifth episode it might have worked fine, but as tenth, this is seriously old news and getting repeated way too often.

Probably the best action scene in the episode is the drive-by pickup of Lochley. I love the image of the tracking circle (or whatever it is) focusing on Matheson’s eye, not very sure what it was supposed to do apart from look kind of cool – it would be a pretty distracting the way it shines in his face!

crusade 10 - eye

I do have a couple of other observations on this scene though:
1. It might have been a good idea if someone were to warn Lochley that they were going to do this high speed, high risk rendezvous – What if she saw them coming and decided to get the hell out of the way?
2. Matheson mentions picking “her” up – is this a slip? How would they know who’s on board? Can their scanners detect a person’s sex? Or does Matheson refers to all ships as her?

Dr. Chambers gets a rare chance to take center stage and all her scenes with Franklin are excellent, throughout which the mutual respect is evident. The little ‘malfunction’ she orchestrates to take the load off Franklin is quite a nice element. I did like the manual hydraulic pumps for opening the doors after the lock down.

This is a very heavy effects episode, but they vary greatly. The Starfury capture is pretty good, but the battle looks muddy, the scale always feels off and there’s little flair to it all. The scale of Earth to the Moon is also way off when the Excalibur arrives at Earth. I think part of the problem is the textures of Drakh ships and the Excalibur – both have very smooth surfaces with little texture (or greebles), so at a distance they often end up getting the “rubbery” effect.

We get an added voiceover just as Gideon enters the Medbay to see Lochley. This was originally written as the first time they meet, and instead they had already met in “Ruling From the Tomb”. Their interactions here are so much more entertaining and realistic, that it really makes you wish they’d never met at all in “Ruling.” There’s a spark here that was utterly missing without a trace in “Ruling”. The “first date” line also makes no sense having seen them share dinner!

Despite being a pretty good episode, “Each Night” really feels like it should be nearer the start of the run. Are were supposed  to believe after the amount of time that’s passed that they’ve only just decided to run these reasonably basic tests? That they haven’t even discovered it’s a nano-virus yet?

Crusade continuity check and notes:

  • Galenwatch: Absent
  • Refers to the Drakh attack being a few months ago (so 2-4 months?)
  • Very minor continuity error – Gideon describes this as their first “major battle” with the Drakh. Maybe he forgot “War Zone” – I wish I could.
  • Not exactly a continuity error, but one that shows just how none of the orders can ever work perfectly – we’ve seen “Racing The Night”, it shows Gideon on board Babylon 5 – He didn’t meet Lochley? The CO of the station? Pretty bloody unlikely.

We learn more here about the Drakh plague than the rest of the season combined. How much of it actually makes any sense biologically / technologically, I’m not so sure, but we learn the following:

  1. It’s targeted and concentrates on the vital organs – brain, heart, lungs, etc.
  2. It’s a nano-machine, not biological at all
  3. It’s able to mutate and ‘disappear’ into the host very shortly after infection.
  4. Its mutations appear to be able to mimic existing diseases and it appears to be trying different ones until the most lethal one is found and will then be activated in all the machines. Does that mean it would be trying out new mutations all the time? So that in the end it might kill everyone just by trying all the existing viruses?
  5. It’s very similar to the nano-machines used in the nano-shield developed from Technomage tech (funny that).
  6. It’s only infecting mammals
  7. Franklin and Chambers discuss the possibility that all the machines can communicate with one another, suggesting a ‘hive mind’ and that the possibility the machines can actually ‘think’.
  8. Franklin describes a ‘screen’ to detect anything down to 50 microns. I’m pretty sure bacteria are smaller than that and virus a lot tinier.
  9. It starts very small and is able to decompress once in a host. Like a Zip File. Really, that’s how Dr Franklin puts it. How 1999. This is answered in a previously unreleased still from a deleted scene where Franklin is able to isolate the Drakh Plague under an electron microscope and finally see it:

crusade 10 - bug

  • The medical imaging that was so helpful in allowing them to actually see the nanotech machines in “The Memory of War” doesn’t seem to be available (remember kids “nano” doesn’t just mean small, nanotech is technology on the scale of about 1 to 100 nanometers). The technology they seem to have onboard the ship just doesn’t feel consistent. Seeing as both the Technomages and the Drakh seem to like messing with nanotech viruses, does no-one think there might not be a connection? Or think that if they could reprogram the Technomage tech as a shield, it couldn’t be reprogramed to target the Drakh nanotech in the body?
  • We’ve seen tablets used on Crusade before and have been used as far back as the original Star Trek and probably beyond in SF, but I think this is the first time I’ve seen them used as tool during combat – Matheson is using his for reports and to convey orders I think.
  • We get one of our few glimpses of a Warlock class destroyer – The EAS Foxfire.
  • Interesting to see that the space plumber (David Williams) comes from Paterson, NJ, USA – I’m sure there’s no coincidence that JMS was born there, as he wrote the script.
  • I think this is the first time we see that they have the same type of MaintBots on board as Babylon 5.

Chronological Order Analysis:

  • Production order = 5
  • Broadcast order = 13
  • Continuity order = 10
  • Is this episode better in this order? – Yes

Again, as this is part of the “First Five”, it’s in a better location than the Broadcast Order, but like the others it feels “early” from a production point of view. Right now, a part of me wishes that this could be earlier in the run.

(All images are property of Warner Brothers)

< Previous episode “Visitors From Down the Street”| Next episode “Patterns of the Soul” >

Crusade: The Continuity Order Conclusion

Well that’s that. While I started this exercise to watch in the Continuity Order and analyze that, I also looked at the episodes and reviewed them also, so this conclusion will be in two parts – the first being an analysis of the Continuity Order and the second, more of my conclusions about the show in general.

Continuity Order Analysis

Overall, I felt that the Continuity Order is a decent improvement in the order of the episodes over the “Broadcast Order”. Especially for those first time viewers of Crusade coming from viewing Babylon 5,  I would heartily recommend the Continuity Order over any other. It fixes the most continuity errors of the “Broadcast” and “Chronological” orders, gives better pacing overall and the rearrangement of certain episodes affords them greater impact.

While the fixing of continuity errors is important, I felt that the movement of certain episodes for pacing and impact have a greater effect on the viewers enjoyment.

While it might be obvious if you’ve read the reviews, you’ll probably know that in my opinion, the biggest problem this order fixes is the early placement of “The Well Of Forever.” When viewed in this order it actually resonates with the audience. When it was third in order, it simply felt like an unwarranted diversion from the Drakh plague and served to make Galen appear to be a huge asshole.

Moving the “First Five” episodes earlier also does a few good things. First of all it brings the series back on track sooner, with more urgency to their quest. This is a show about a pro-active quest for a cure (at least for the first season as planned) , not simply reacting to events put in their way – a problem the “Broadcast Order” suffers from in far too many of the early episodes. Secondly, as the “First Five” episodes were produced first, most had an understandably “early” feel to them, such as too much expositional, and characters being portrayed more broadly. These aspects are still noticeable in this order, but are less obtrusive. I wish these episodes could be even earlier, but certain ones have to be before them.

The movement of “Patterns of the Soul” means that like “Well…” it’s another episode that resonates more with the audience due to its placement later in the run. Dureena’s discovery of a lost tribe of her race is a stepping stone in Dureena’s character, she finally loses the responsibility she’s carried of being the last of her race and having to preserve their memory. That is now replaced by her motivation to focus on others and find a cure for them.

While this order fixes continuity errors such as the Nano-Virus Shield being used before it’s discovery, and keeps the order in which Gideon and Lochley meet, there are still a few continuity errors that remain and are unfixable without editing or adding new dialogue:

  1. Largest of all – in “Racing the Night” we see Gideon’s first meeting about taking on the job – all of which takes place on Babylon 5, not Mars. Also, somehow Gideon manages not to meet Captain Lochley while he’s there.
  2. The “disappearance” of the grey (bellhop) uniforms in between “Each Night I Dream of Home” and “Patterns of the Soul” – This is so minor that it’s quite forgivable.
  3. The dates of the Drakh Plague Conference on Mars and the events in “Visitors From Down The Street” appear to occur out of order. There’s a couple of these kinds of errors, but they would only be noticeable to the most eagle-eyed and so pretty forgivable.

For me, the only slight disappointment that comes from the Continuity Order, is that it finishes with “The Rules of the Game.” If you were so inclined you could say that this displays something about the circularity of life, and that this show finishes where it began… The problem for me is that this order finishes on an utterly mediocre episode that leaves the viewer with no sense of closure. “Each Night I Dream of Home” might have been poorly situated from a consistency point of view (in the Broadcast Order) but its central message about striving for a solution when all seems against you, was a nice note to end on.

So all in all, the Continuity Order for me, is the best of the possible orders. That’s not to say it magically makes Crusade amazing. Despite the reasons that caused it, Crusade is not a great show – it has some great moments, but also its fair share of bad along the way. Overall you’re left with a feeling of missed opportunity, which is the saddest of all conclusions for a spin-off from the mighty “Babylon 5”.

If you want my more detailed thoughts on Crusade, please feel free to keep reading, otherwise thanks for your time.

The Continuity Order is your Friend. Watch the Continuity Order.

Crusade Series Analysis

crusade start

Crusade has become something of a “Curate’s Egg” for me, but I’m sure for many other Babylon 5 fans. I’m sure a part of that was my initial high expectations, which then became tempered by the tales of development hell and actual cancellation by TNT prior to the first episode even being released, yet despite all that, how bad could the final show be, with those involved? After all, the creator and most of the crew of the show I’ve probably (actually) gotten the most obsessive about in my life were making a spin-off…

The following is my own personal feelings on the various aspects of the show we got, I’m not trying to say my opinions or outlook are any more valid than anyone else’s, but here we go…

Storylines

Arc plots

“War Zone” re-sets the stage after “A Call to Arms”, but only “The Path of Sorrows” or “Each Night I Dream of Home” are probably 100% arc vital after that. Yes, a few other arc instances occur, but with those three episodes we learn about the most about: the Drakh plague, the Cerberus incident, Technomage schisms, the Apocalypse Box and the Telepath War fall-out – all the most interesting directions the series would have explored. “Patterns of the Soul” re-introduces conspiracies within Earthforce, but the episode’s events looked unlikely to effect the show much – just hint at further development.

Compare this to the first half season of Babylon 5. As well as a huge amount of universe building from scratch, we also get introductions to important storylines and foreshadowing: The mystery of the Minbari surrender, the Narn-Centauri conflict escalation, the Vorlons being mysterious, Telepaths as a blessing and a curse, then Mr Morden shows up with his “associates”…

Had this been all we got in Babylon 5, it would have been very similar to Crusade – in such that it’s “setting out its stall” so to speak. However, what it did that Crusade didn’t get a chance to do is progress the arc plots. Babylon 5 had introduced a major on-going plot regarding the “hole” in Sinclair’s memories – by the eigth episode we actually get it explored in a big way and are left with a pile of implications and questions. In comparison, in Crusade we’ve had interesting, shiny baubles dangled in front of us, but no real progression. Of course, we now know we were only an episode away from some major revelations before it was cancelled…

Standalones

Crusade as developed, had plenty of room for standalone episodes, but like Babylon 5, standalone episodes were not Crusade’s strong point – For every “The Needs of Earth” or “The Well of Forever” we get a “Ruling From the Tomb” or “Rules of the Game”. While I’d say none of the episodes are quite as weak as “Infection” or “Survivors” – it’s still disappointing from a team on a roll after Babylon 5.

Something that bugged me a little, is that after “A Call to Arms”, the so-called antagonists – the Drakh – barely feature, we only see them in two episodes. Really, just two: “War Zone” and “Each Night I Dream of Home”. I know the plague was going to be wrapped up in a season or two, to be replaced by an Earthforce threat, but it’s a little strange.

Cast

The cast, much like Babylon 5, was fit for the task. Maybe not packed with big names (bar Gary Cole) or even names I’d even heard of at the time, but they fit their roles nicely.

Gary Cole’s laconic Captain could say just as much with a glance as a sentence, was sardonic, yet happy to drop the silly stuff in once in a while.

Daniel Dae Kim was excellent as Matheson, despite not always getting the most to work with, his relationship with Gideon was warm and amusing, and the chances he got to stretch his acting muscles (“The Needs of Earth” and “The Well of Forever” jump to mind) showed a quiet depth and sensitivity. I was happy to see his career took off afterwards (and just noticed him in an episode of Seinfeld)

Peter Woodward plays Galen as the usual Tolkein-like wizard mix, he’s playful, intelligent, self righteous, evasive and has a dark streak of steel beneath it all – I’m not sure if the intent was to never know which version of him you’d get every time, but he could seem a little inconsistent.


Marjean Holden didn’t often get to do much beyond just “being the doctor,” but she always seemed kind and caring, with a nice line in dry humour from time to time.

Carrie Dobro was excellent as Dureena, her character always seemed fresh and immediately improved any episode she appeared in. Her playfulness, her ability to convey hot-headed rashness at one moment and serenity the next was great.

David Allen Brooks as Eilerson was also great, a character who at first seems the epitome of the slimy 80s company man (think “Burke” in Aliens maybe), got the best lines and the funniest put downs. He’s knows he’s always the smartest guy in the room, if someone else is correct, they just got lucky. That he was slowly growing into an actual human being in front of our eyes was interesting. As he sees his skills being used to do more then just make a big paycheck, and instead be appreciated, was great to watch.

Tracy Scoggins to a greater or less extent continued her character as portrayed in Babylon 5, while she was solid enough, she didn’t get much to do with progressing the plot and her character grated on me endlessly.

Most of these actors aside, from Gary Cole, Tracy Scoggins and Daniel Dae Kim, haven’t had much screen time since, and that’s quite a shame.

Score

Hating on Evan Chen’s score has gone beyond beating a dead horse by now. My opinion is that I understand why they tried it, but it wasn’t great. That said, I feel it was getting better as the episodes progressed. Overall, I think we’d all have preferred Christopher Franke to continue and I’ll leave it at that.

Sets

First of all, it must be said the Excalibur is a fabulous piece of work. The sets, the design, everything looks great and easily the equal of other, higher-budget SF shows of the time. Although for some reason the cavernous gym and recreation center still seem ridiculous to me. The other stand-out has to be the shuttle interior, being built on hydraulics really sells the idea of atmospheric flight, completely unlike the usual placid scenes you get in every other TV show.

The temporary “interior” sets were usually pretty decent, especially the multiple ruins sets. Sadly they would fall back on the “dark, industrial corridor” sets that looked lifted straight from “Down Below”, because they were.

Crusade attempted to shoot everything on stage, with the intent to save a huge amount over location shoots. The problem with that is making them look real – this also involves time and money. While they would use the trusty, old “dusty tunnels and polystyrene rocks” method of every SF show, ever, they also tried to show alien worlds with different ecosystems. While a great goal, the problem was that they worked to varying degrees, especially once composited with CG backgrounds. Even with the best will in the world, only about half of these “indoor for outdoor” shoots actually produced something that looked natural, and not an obvious set. Nature is random and messy – trying to portay this artificially is very difficult.

Yes, they were trying to do a story on a bigger scale, with new worlds most weeks, but they’d already had some practice with the concept ahead of time. Babylon 5’s “The Ragged Edge”, “The River of Souls” and “A Call to Arms” – all were all developed and written so that they could incorporate and test some of the techniques they wanted to use in Crusade – In my opinion they often looked as good or better than they looked on Crusade.

CG Effects

Crusade was trying to show a wider view of the universe than Babylon 5, with its aim to include more planets and city-scapes than Babylon 5 ever did. I’m pretty sure one of the reasons (beyond the expense) that Babylon 5 concentrated on space effects is that the technology available for the budget allowed it to look good enough, the technology required for realistic cities, forest etc. just wasn’t there. Sadly, it’s very apparent in Crusade that it still wasn’t. Almost all the worlds have a “rubbery” appearance that’s the downfall of low texture and “muddy” CG.

You can use the episode “War Zone” as a microcosm for the failings of the CG.

Desolate landscapes, which should be easiest, look like texture-less renderings. Composite shots, such as the ones with Max on the planet near the start are either composited with the angles wrong or people fading in and out through the CG.

This lack of texture / quality control causes a lot of the space effects to look lacking as well. It doesn’t help that the Excalibur and Drakh vessels when shot at medium and long distances look slick and texture-less – close up there is some textures, but it’s lost at distance.

The CG figures, which thankfully they only repeated once, were frankly bad at a distance and then very poor close up. I’m sure someone had to spend a bunch of time on it, but someone on quality control should have looked at it, said it doesn’t work, and shot it live, because it really could have been.

To repeat a point made in one of the episode reviews – I understand they were trying to do something not attempted on TV before and it’s very laudable they tried. Some might say it’s better to try and fail than play it safe. I’d say it’s better to push what you can do on a budget, but realize what works and doesn’t – something Babylon 5 tended to do.

Conclusion

So that’s the Crusade we got and it’s not great. It is great occaisionly, but also it’s terrible occaisionly. For the most part it’s reasonably fun, interesting and adequate – how’s that for completely damning with faint praise?

I’m sure my continued interest in it is due to it being the spin-off of a show I loved and is set in the same universe. The actual tales of what happened behind the scenes at TNT that have trickled out are just amazingly ridiculous and demonstrate why we got such compromises throughout. In the end it leaves you frustrated as it’s just another of those “might have beens” of the continuing Babylon 5 universe.

As stated above, the “Continuity Order” is very much an improvement over the original “Broadcast Order”. That said the “Continuity Order” doesn’t magically make bad episodes good, or fix the major gripes I have with the series. While the vast majority of these gripes were caused by the interference of TNT, I can only review the show we got and not the one I wished for back in 1998.

Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings about a fifteen year old tv show, even more so one that only lasted thirteen episodes….

If you’d like to continue on this journey, I’m going to follow up with an article on the unproduced episodes of Crusade. These have either been made available online or as part of the Babylon 5 / Crusade script books.

I’ll be starting with “The Ends of the Earth” and when I’ve completed the pieces I’ll post the link to continue here.

(All images are property of Warner Brothers)

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.

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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)