Tag Archives: Episode Review

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” >

Crusade – Continuity Order – S01E07 – The Needs of Earth

Crusade’s Finest Hour?

Written by J. Michael Straczynski

Directed by Mike Vejar

Grade: A

Spoilers follow.

Episode Synopsis:

An alien dissident escapes a cruel regime with a database of his race’s most important accomplishments. The Excalibur team try to rescue him in hopes it helps with the cure.

Episode Review:

Probably my favourite episode of Crusade’s short run, and the most incredible part is that this episode, produced first, is probably the best episode of the lot.

Even more, it’s an episode that starts with some light-hearted scenes about cross-species pornos. Really, it does. These early scenes with Gideon poking fun at Eilerson and then taunting him are a lot of fun. Eilerson’s panicked and weaselly pleading to get the data-crystal back are great. Although why Gideon brings the data-crystal with him on the mission is a bit unlikely. Top marks to whoever was responsible for shooting and costuming the alien porno – it has a low quality, grainy feel that fits it perfectly, or at least I think it would, if I’d ever seen any. Chambers and Gideon’s head-tilts to take in various part of the action/anatomy are a nice touch too. Sadly we don’t get to see any of “Snow White and the Seven Narns.” After this, I bet most people watching weren’t expecting an episode that is all about the power and value of art…

crusade 8 - porno

There are obvious parallels to the rise of the National Socialists in Germany, however the destruction of art that doesn’t fit a certain political narrative is a theme that has been repeated throughout history – sadly we now have ISIS doing their share in the Middle East. The Maratans recognise that art can be used to question authority and the status quo, Natchok Var knows this and wants to save it for future generations to know what they lost. That Chambers understands it can be used as a tool for hope and maybe even healing for the soul for those under quarantine on Earth goes to show what power she thinks it holds. Marjean Holden delivers a powerful speech to Gideon about it and while at first he dismisses it, he comes to see the wisdom.

That’s not to say these are the only deep issues explored here. We learn that Dureena was sold into slavery by her family to clear their debts, that the memories remain fresh and are a major sculptor of her character. Matheson gets placed in the difficult position of either betraying a person’s wishes to save their life or allowing their death for what that person considers the greater good.

The planet that Natchok Var is rescued from is a desolate moon of a gas giant and has a thick, toxic atmosphere. The production crew do their best work so far in realizing this world – it’s thick atmosphere, swirling winds and electrical storms make this a claustrophobic, foreboding location.

While you have to think Galen’s help would have been invaluable, Gideon and Dureena work well and have fun together. There’s a mutual respect, with plenty of potential for surprising behaviors and methods between the two. Daniel Dae Kim finally gets a great scene all to himself – and while it verges a bit too much on the soliloquy, it’s powerful to see him reflect on the death that he was a part of.

Tony Amendola is unrecognisable under his make-up, but his voice and acting abilities shine through, making Natchok Var a hugely sympathetic and likable character despite only having a few scenes. Most SF genre fans will know him as Bra’tac from Stargate SG1, where he was always a solid part of the guest cast. The Mozart montage is memorable and interesting to see him touched so deeply by an alien art form.

The meeting with the Ranger at the beginning shows once more the help the Rangers are providing, but that Gideon is willing to break all the rules and gamble his crew on a mission without any chance of rescue, if it may find a cure.

Although threatening in appearance, the Maratan ships do look very basic and texture-less, but not jarring enough to be an episode-ruiner or anything. The base interior on the moon looks like a generic slice of Downbelow. These the worst things I can think of in this episode…

I think the reason I like this episode so much is that it’s not trying so hard as many of the others. It’s not trying to get you up to speed on the plague, or Technomages or telepaths, it’s just trying to tell its story. It’s a story worth telling, which is told well, with good acting and an interesting central idea and message. That’s it’s almost completely self-contained and satisfying is even better.

Crusade continuity check and notes:

  • Galenwatch – Absent
  • Interesting that the alien porno is in an early episode, was this before the note from the suits about more sex in the show? If this was a reply they certainly got more sex, but in the form of mocking it – basically implying it was pornographic and worthy of scorn only.
  • We learn that in addition to being a thief, Dureena was sold as a slave at one point by her family. She tried escaping with a few others at one point, but only she survived. She says she doesn’t hold her slavery against her family, but you’d be hard pressed to truly believe her. So was Dureena trained as a thief by her owner, or afterwards? How did she get her freedom – Did she earn it? Did she escape? Buy her freedom? Kill her owner? I don’t think we ever find out, but I’ll keep an eye out.
  • Watching in this order we’re still not sure of what the new rules for telepaths are, but it seems Matheson crossed the line inadvertently.
  • It’s a little thing, I’m sure it’s just the hat, but I always think the thief Dureena meets looks like an Australian stereotype to me. Insert jokes about Sheilas, barbies, bogans and utes below:

crusade 7 - aussie

Chronological Order Analysis:

  • Production order  = 1
  • Broadcast order  = 11
  • Continuity order  = 7

Is this episode better in this order? – YES

It doesn’t have any obvious problems with continuity.

(All images are property of Warner Brothers, except the image of Bra’tac from Stargate SG:1 – property of MGM Television)

< Previous episode “Racing the Night” | Next episode “The Memory of War” >

Crusade – Continuity Order – S01E08 – The Memory of War

Attack of the Twenty Foot Woman

Written by J. Michael Straczynski

Directed by Tony Dow

Grade: C-

Spoilers follow.

Episode Synopsis:

When Gideon ignores Galen’s advice about not exploring a ruined planet, they find a hidden danger lurking.

Episode Review:

I seem to remember thinking this episode was okay in previous viewings, but now I have to say it’s become one of my least favourite and is particularly lacking after the high point of “The Needs of Earth.”

As it’s one of the first episodes produced, it feels (much like “Racing the Night”) that they want this episode to help define the show’s raison d’etre. Try hard they do – throwing everything at it, except the Excalibur’s kitchen sink – we get the team exploring an abandoned world, a spooky threat, Galen arriving with dire warnings, Eilerson being a jerk, Dureena discovering hidden passages (in the sky), Technomage intrigue, characters being taken over by a outside forces. Yet, despite this, it doesn’t even become the sum of it’s parts, never mind being greater than them. I may be in the minority here, but despite all the supposed big events and suspense, it all feels a little boring. In the end it just feels too rough around the edges and unfinished.

The stupidity of some of the situations are infuriating. You have to wonder how the mission briefing went: “There have been reports of an unseen killer on the planet below. Oh and we’re searching to the cure for a plague, does anyone see any similarities? Ring any bells anyone? No? Oh well, maybe we shouldn’t worry about wearing hazmat suits…” The crew of the Prometheus (the Ridley Scott one) took better precautions. Seeing as they’ve been warned of deadly invisible danger by Galen, you might think taking a huge scientific research team down might not be the best idea until they discover if the place is safe? Nope, the team they take is the largest one we ever see on the show.

Max acts as though the situation they’re approaching – dead world, potential technology, etc. is a uniquely amazing new opportunity. Strange, it’s just like the opportunity they just had in the episode “Racing the Night.” He must have memory issues.

Certainly a large part of the episode’s failings have to be the effects, because if you can’t suspend disbelief, then the whole story suffers. I realise it’s a particularly effects heavy episode and this was the show’s early days, but the quality control department must have been snoozing after a heavy lunch. There’s a bunch of poor effects throughout, but there are a few the standouts for me. There’s a shot of the probes launched by the Excalibur, splitting up over the world – the scale, physics and overall quality are just terrible. They had a reasonable shot of the probes being deployed from below the Excalibur, then they cut to the awful one. We’ve just seen the probes launched, ditch the crappy shot.

crusade 8 - probes

Then Dureena finds the secret “light bridge” (forcefield? hard-light hologram?) on the side of a building. Why it’s there, god only knows, it leads from the side of one building simply to the side of another (couldn’t someone have simply accessed the area from the other building instead?), although nonsensical, I can kind of forgive it as it gives us a cool moment of discovery and mystery.

What’s not forgivable is what happens next – the device powering the bridge starts powering down and instead of staying safely where she is (where she could be picked up by a skimmer) she decides to run back along a flickering bridge, made of light, hundreds of feet up in the air. To finally grind a handful of rock salt into the wound, the effects then completely shit a brick – the scale of Dureena to the path and building become so bad you almost have to assume it was left in as a joke – just look at the image.

crusade 8 - giant dureena

A little later Dureena and Max discuss the data crystals, where he berates her for not getting more of them. Well, why doesn’t someone get a bloody skimmer and go get the rest of them?! Why introduce the skimmers and then never use them? Yes, there’s some vague talk of a thin ozone layer allowing solar interference of electronics during the daytime, but it’s never mentioned whether it stops the skimmers, or just wait until night time.

I know I’ve mentioned not wanting to bang on about Chen’s music, but this is one of the worst examples. His atmospheric stuff is often fine, but it’s the character moments that end up so broad and melodramatic. For example: Galen’s entrance on the ship is unintentionally hilarious. He’s just dropped some silly, self-depreciating comments about “coming onboard, so hide the breakables” then he comes striding up the corridor in slow-mo with a highly portentous soundtrack so he can basically give us again the same information. Oh, another thing, there’s so much gratuitous slow-mo in this episode, ease up please Tony.

The biggest shame of the episode is that the smaller, character moments are often quite decent – quiet, thoughtful and interesting, sadly the main story that they’re woven into is so dull, forgettable and clichéd.

Did I just say clichéd? We have an unseen killer on the loose on a deserted planet (see Forbidden Planet, et al), regular characters taken over by an unknown force (every SF show ever – two episodes of Crusade’s thirteen include this trope), obvious IPX “redshirts” discussing expendability, then the pièce de résistance – having the Technomage avatar’s face in the explosion, pushing us beyond cliché to sheer parody.

crusade 8 - face

So what IS good?

As mentioned before, most of the quiet character moments away from the main story are actually pretty good, adding depth and nuance to the characters, it’s just a shame the story didn’t get the same treatment. As an example of these, Dureena’s retrieval of Galen’s staff is a nice moment. It’s done with zero dialogue and it solidifies his bond with Dureena – the hand contact in particular is a great little moment and one that helps toward his trust of her and possible future training. That they completely doused poor Carrie Dobro in mud, then let it dry just for this scene is pretty mean, but it sells the moment.

The reason the virus exists on the planet is vaguely interesting, and Galen’s discussion with the avatar brings up a few interesting questions about what Technomages will do and what Galen’s price might be. I like the idea that the avatar is only aware when activated to kill, so basically if he wants to stay conscious, he has to kill. It’s a good idea, but not well explored and glossed over too quickly.

The scene with Galen accessing the probes on the bridge looks a little static, but the crash-zoom into his eyeball and out are very well done. However, the graphics of Galen’s POV/interface when he’s scanning the caves is a bit clunky-looking.

The physical sets on the planet look good for the budget – the forest, the buildings and architecture Dureena clamber over, even the caves look okay, but then the CG caves look terrible and match up poorly with the green screened actors.

The scale of the story and what they’re trying to do is laudable of course. Many will say that it’s better to try something grand and difficult but fail, than succeed at something small and easy. Do you know what’s better? Attempting something large and difficult, knowing your limitations and working around them to succeed – something which Babylon 5 did on numerous occasions.

Crusade continuity check and notes:

  • Galenwatch – Present
  • Minor continuity issue (one that most people wouldn’t care about or notice) – the ISN news anchor describes the Drakh attack as having happened four months ago. Not the fault of the episode as first written and shot, but once it was pushed back, it clashes with other dates – most obviously “Ruling from the Tomb” which is set in June.
  • While it’s not exactly a continuity issue – the news programme feels like pure early-episode info-dump. All it does now is remind the viewer of lots of things we’ve now heard a great deal about, such as the Earth quarantine. The newsreader’s mention of what the Excalibur is doing and how it’s enlisting the help of the Rangers feels like very old news to those watching, yet it’s feels like she’s explaining something to us for the first time. From what we’ve seen in this order, we’ve already been told the Excalibur and the Rangers are being portrayed as heroes for Earth, while here they’re just a footnote in a news summary…
  • From the nanotech-virus in this episode we get the development of the nano-virus shield , which is a pretty cool idea, although only used once in the series.
  • With the medical imaging Chambers has on board, they are able to observe a nano-machine in real time, even enhancing it enough to see the Technomage symbol.
  • I had to laugh when Galen cuts off Dr Chamber’s explanation of what nanotech is. By the 23rd Century it’s ancient technology – it’s like someone today explaining to you what a steam engine is, plus he’s a Technomage

We get quite a lot of Galen backstory throughout:

  • We see some kind of implants (or the remains of) on Galen’s back. From what we’ve seen on Babylon 5 and Crusade, this is a new revelation, but those having read the Technomage trilogy will have a better idea of the significance.
  • Galen gets a bit of a shock about the reasons for his order’s warnings about this world – it seems they’re not above lying to hide their mistakes and embarrassments.
  • Galen’s staff came from the one who taught him – Alric from B5 episode “The Geometry of Shadows”

We also find out that the Apocalypse Box had a hand in finding this planet, and it was truthful in that they did find something of use, it just forgot to mention the danger. The Box also tells Gideon not to trust Galen – there’s many potential reasons, some of which may be true:

  • He may not be trustworthy despite evidence to the contrary
  • The Box knows Galen would oppose its presence and is sowing discontent between them
  • It knows some of the Technomage history the audience is not yet party to
  • Maybe it has limited ability to see the future and is foreshadowing the events of “The Well of Forever’?
  • Something else entirely?

It’s nice to hear a little about Dr Stephen Franklin on the news report, probably just to remind us he exists and there to whet our appetites for “Each Night I Dream of Home”

Chronological Order Analysis:

  • Production order  = 2
  • Broadcast order  = 10
  • Continuity order  = 8
  • Is this episode better in this order? – Yes

This episode works better here because the nanovirus they discover will be used to make the nanovirus shield seen in “Patterns of the Soul” and “Each Night” – “Broadcast Order” had “Patterns of the Soul” air first!

While it doesn’t have any glaring problems with continuity, to me this episode has somewhat of an “early feel” to it, like they were still trying to iron-out certain aspects of the show. This feeling would be the same in almost any possible order, except for one where only the “First Five” are watched. Overall, that’s pretty forgivable.

(All images are property of Warner Brothers)

 < Previous episode “The Needs of Earth” | Next episode “Visitors From Down the Street”>

Crusade – Continuity Order – S01E09 – Visitors From Down the Street

The Y Files, or Visitors From Another Show

Written by J. Michael Stracynski

Directed by Jerry Apoian*

Grade: C

Spoilers follow.

Episode Synopsis:

When Gideon rescues two aliens from their lifepod, the crew gets embroiled in a conspiracy and a quest for the truth

Episode Review:

Lets get to the elephant in the room straight away – this episode is more a parody of the X-Files than an episode of Crusade – so if you don’t know/love/hate that show, your mileage may vary considerably. I must say my timing on viewing this episode while the X Files “revival” mini-series is on, is a bit of a coincidence.

Firstly, I think it will help immensely to get some context if, by chance you weren’t around in the 1990s. This episode aired August 1999. The X-Files had been on TV for about six years by that point and had become an integral cultural artifact of the 1990s. Its popularity rode the wave of interest in the paranormal and alien abductions that had begun early in the decade and then swept over all the 90s. That’s not to say it was a weak cash-in, it remains one of the best, iconic shows of the 1990s and while it’s on-going (arc/mythology) stories were made up as they went (more like BSG than B5), it was one of the other 90s shows that brought more novel-like, serialised structure to the fore on US TV. As it had such a well-defined style it was immensely easy to parody and even the X-Files had shown signs of not taking itself too seriously in episodes like “Post-Modern Prometheus” and others that completely parodied itself (“Hollywood A.D”) were soon to come. I’m sure there was barely a sketch show in the 90s which didn’t include an X-Files parody. If, by some chance you’re reading this and weren’t around in the 90s, you wouldn’t believe how omnipresent it was in pop-culture. If you remember how Lost was treated in the 2000s or Game of Thrones now, it was triple that.

That’s why this episode felt like an old joke by 1999, because it really was. However, JMS was obviously a fan and at least that shines through in the depth and number of references littered throughout. I figured I’d try and list all the references, but I doubt I found them all.

X-Files References:

1) Mulder and Scully = Durkani and Ullysa. They share heights, body build, clothing and even their Predator-style dreadlock “hair” (Pred dreads?) are similar colours. He’s the true believer, she’s the skeptic – although why he has a British accent I’m not sure…
2) Mottos – Durkani mentions they have to look for the truth “out there” – Mulder’s iconic poster stated “The Truth is “Out There”, the phrase “Trust no-one” is also used.
3) Motifs – The start of the episode opens with the characteristic X-Files location and date. There’s much use of flashlights, clunky cell phones, dark settings. There’s lots of talk of government cover-ups and the proof always being erased. The lifepod is the clichéd “Flying Saucer” design, and Evan Chen’s music even has a few notes with some kind of whistle to emulate Mark Snow’s score.
4) Ullysa refers to how they burnt “the files”
5) The bad guy is a slimy older chap with a liking of cigarettes – an obvious nod to the Cigarette Smoking Man, but he mentions they used to work for him, which is also similar to the X-Files, where he appears to work partly with the FBI as well as the “Syndicate” in early seasons
6) A more subtle nod is the taped ‘Y’ shape left on the window – a parallel to the ‘X’ that Mulder would use to signify wanting to meet with “Deep Throat”. You have to assume this mean Durkani and Ullysa work on The Y Files.
7) The alien/outsider cover up. The alien’s cover-up takes the most clichéd of the usual UFO conspiracy lore and puts a new spin on it:
a) Their “cigar shaped objects” are simply our airships
b) Their “Martian Face” is Mt. Rushmore. This raises an issue – their race has no hyperspace capability. Why would the population think they could send probes that would get to another star system within their life time?
c) Marsh gas is also used as an explanation for UFOs
d) The sketch Durkani’s obtained about their “Roswell” includes people with “strange round eyes” and they find mysterious artifacts, like golf clubs

crusade 9 - ros

The alien’s actual motivation for the conspiracy is interesting and often missed when people discuss this episode – that’s not to say it’s very logical, but there’s more to it than some seem to notice. They’re not simply using the threat of outsiders and the conspiracy to manipulate their population and simply make them easy to control. Yes, it helps their goal, but they’re doing this to try not to attract undue attention to their race – The government knows about other space-faring races and hyperspace, but they lack the technology or a jumpgate to travel that way, so they understand they are at a huge technological disadvantage with nearly all other races in the galaxy. Until they are advanced enough to protect themselves, they’re trying to scare their population away from space exploration as a whole. The idea of avoiding contact with other races until they could defend themselves is a great idea and one that could have been examined in an interesting way in a serious episode, but here’s it’s just tossed in the pot here and lost in the mix of overall silliness.

crusade 9 - nasa

That the alien’s tech has developed to look human makes some sense, with their space launches looking very NASA-like. Although why would they have their spaceships look quite human and modular, and then have their lifeboats look like a saucer makes little sense – it’s not like they were using the saucer as an “image” for the conspiracy – they were bigger on cigar-shapes, however it’s all there just for that visual joke I guess.

The X-Files itself is never actually mentioned so it’s not clear whether the aliens got their idea wholesale from the TV show or just got the idea from transmissions from that era regarding conspiracy theories and US government activities. I’m guessing that completely ripping off the TV show itself would have been too meta.

The upshot of all this is that while we’re on the main storyline everything is so targeted at poking fun at the X-Files that the story and writing are mediocre and disposable. Maybe you can just dismiss this episode as a fun romp, but the X-Files parts really aren’t that funny. It’s another bottle show, the only scenes on another world a very Earth-like office and some muddy views of space shuttle analogues launching.

Easily the best parts are those away from the main story, the tiny subplots of the odour and Gideon’s search for a breeze. Gideon and Matheson’s relationship throughout is playful and funny part of the episode, but no-one else from the main cast gets any screen time. That the on-going smell joke actually goes somewhere amusing is the biggest surprise of the episode to me.

Crusade continuity check and notes:

  • Galenwatch – Absent
  • The date (May 13, 2267) clashes a little with Ruling From the Tomb – but these two episodes were not close to each other in the Broadcast Order either. The dates are something very few people would be likely to notice, unless you were some kind of internet nitpicking arsehole…
  • They are in the Eridani sector – B5 is located in the Epsilon Eridani system – maybe this isn’t too far away, but what constitutes a “system” in Babylon 5 lore isn’t well defined from what I remember.
  • The Excalibur has weapon scanners that identify all known technology. Apparently.
  • The Excalibur has the same yellow cargo lifters on-board as Babylon 5.
  • We get a quick discussion on the new telepath controls – Matheson can’t scan or use his abilities unless he’s in a position where it may save life.
  • The probes Gideon drops at the end are completely different to the small ones used in “The Memory of War” and the balloons are very similar to those used by NASA for dropping rovers/equipment. Although those deploy their balloons after entering the atmosphere by parachute!

*Who was Jerry Apoian?

Apart from playing hunt the X-Files references, the most interesting thing about the episode is that it’s directed by someone named “Jerry Apoian.” I’ve not heard of him before – Babylon Productions tended to keep to a small roster of directors they used most often and also allowed cast and crew to sometimes direct, so I was intrigued to see who he was. I googled him and his lone IMDB reference is for this episode, I wonder what the story here is.

Chronological Order Analysis:

  • Production order  = 4
  • Broadcast order  = 12
  • Continuity order  = 9
  • Is this episode better in this order? – YES

It has little to no effect on the on-going story, so it fits fine here – especially as it’s one of the “First Five” episodes. The only real problem is the date at the start and the lingering “early” feeling to the production. This was worse when it was 12th episode, as it used to feel more like a squandered opportunity to advance the story coming right at the end of the Broadcast Order. Here’s it’s just a silly, forgettable episode.

(All images are property of Warner Brothers)

 < Previous episode “The Memory Of War” | Next episode “Each Night I Dream of Home” >

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 – Continuity Order – S01E11 – Patterns of the Soul

A Conspiracy to Stop a Conspiracy

Written by Fiona Avery
Directed by Tony Dow

Grade: B-

Spoilers follow.

Episode Synopsis:

The Excalibur is ordered to assess a small human colony for signs of the plague, Dureena discovers something surprising and Gideon’s distrustful nature pays off.

Episode Review:

This is an episode I thought was very forgettable when watched the first time, and while it has quite a few things that are not in it’s favour, it actually ends up reasonably compelling. This reassessment comes because we’ve since learnt that the Excalibur crew were going to be betrayed by parts of Earthforce and become fugitives as the series progressed. In the light of this information, this episode looks more and more like foreshadowing, rather than going over themes seen often in Babylon 5 (shades of grey in the military, government and corporations conspiring together, black projects, etc). The effect this produces reminds me of moments when you’d go back and watch season 1 episodes of B5 after watching the later seasons.

The overall conspiracy is interesting, but there’s quite a few things that work against this episode in general.

The first being the General (Thompson) – he’s so shifty and evasive that the audience and Gideon are immediately suspicious – he’s utterly transparent. The next problem is the counterpoint antagonist amongst the colonists (Tim) played by Eric Ware, to say his weird, hysterical delivery is immediately grating doesn’t go far enough, but as he also gets some dreadful dialogue it at least gives some unintentional laughs – especially as he threatens he might crush Dr. Chambers with his “Cy-Ber-Net-Ic Arms!” Ooo! Beware the arms!

The last point is the one that almost kills the episode for me. Dureena’s race (which is never named to my knowledge – they come from Zander Prime, so – Zanderians?) are a barely-veiled Native American stereotype.

crusade 11 - native

It’s disappointing from a show associated with Babylon 5 – yes, you could draw parallels between the Centauri and European “Imperial” traditions, or the Minbari having some Japanese undertones, but here they just seemed to need a quick solution and picked the Native American template. The intro scene with the tribal elder talking to Robert Black is horribly clichéd melodrama. Additionally, I have to say when the old guy’s face is revealed to Dureena it’s not immediately apparent they are the same race, the make-up isn’t as distinctive on screen as they might think. That they were marooned in the previous Shadow War (so, over 1000 years ago) is a bit interesting, but they seem to have done nothing in the intervening years it seems.

The whole problem looks to be a completely Earthforce-related matter, so why is Dureena along for the ride anyway?! I know – because the plot dictates it. Then she just happens to stumble over the same old, dying guy as Robert Black. Is this a very small planet? Also, wouldn’t the crew scan the planet for lifeforms as a matter of standard procedure when approaching a new planet?

These negatives aside, there’s quite a lot of good too. Earthforce has always been portrayed in quite a realistic manner, with suitable shades of grey throughout. Here we see far more Machiavellian forces at work within it, infecting the colonists because they perceive them to be a threat. That Max’s opinion of Pro-Zeta Corporation is that they are above the law and certainly not above murder to keep secrets is a nice turn. This ambiguity and threat from within are what lift this episode above the more negative aspects and this is probably one of our first real views into the long term future of Crusade, had it had continued.

Maybe the fact Gideon completely disobeyed a direct order and falsified information in front of his entire crew is to demonstrate he’s an insane gambler, trusts his crew implicitly, or that someone would betray that trust in the future. Or maybe it was just lazy writing.

While it appears to be night all the time, this is probably one of the better uses of the “indoors for outdoors” method used for Crusade – where they actually shipped flora on stage to portray new planets, although they seemed to have maxed out the budget on grass. Maybe they should have called this place Planet Turf (sorry).

Brian Thompson, playing Robert Black, turns in a surprisingly quiet and understated effort. He ends up surprisingly sympathetic, despite the fact he tends to get far more “bad guy” roles. That he’s not the stubborn knuckle head he could have been, is a nice surprise. Instead Tim gets that role.

The scene with Gideon using someone else’s codes to get “ultraviolet” clearance is fun. The way it plays out it’s clearly implied that he won the access while gambling – not a huge surprise knowing Gideon is an inveterate gambler. Sadly, they have to go and explain it at the end, in case you’re a bit slow.

Max continues to talk the talk about being a hard-nosed corporate money-maker, but his chat with his bosses show his reports are long overdue and his change of heart over selling-out Dureena’s people seems to mark a gradual change of heart and growth for the future, or maybe to make a future betrayal more shocking…

The ending is bittersweet as Dureena finds out her people are infected also and likely to die in less than a year, not the five the humans have.

Crusade continuity check and notes:

  • Galenwatch – Absent – That’s three in a row, the longest stretch so far.
  • Tim mentions it took them six months of searching to find Theta 49, this might mean they have been looking for six months since the plague hit (making the attack six months ago), or that they had to research for six months to find Theta 49 (or a combination of both), in which case we have no idea how long the attack was from the point of view of this episode.
  • While General Thompson was able to get President Sheridan’s express permission for the mission, I doubt he knew about about the hidden agendas.
  • This is the first (and only) time we see the nanovirus shield used. We learn the nanovirus shield should last 48 hours after application – with no option to consume anything in the infected zones. If the nanovirus shield is in the lungs and mouth, wouldn’t it also end up in the digestive tract? After 48 hours does it turn to dust like the probes we saw in “A Memory of War?” – that wouldn’t be good in for your health…
  • Earlier versions of the script emphasized the low-tech “back to basics” approach Robert Black’s group wished to follow, this gets a bit lost in the produced episode.
  • I’m trying to remember if it’s the first time we see the full-size skimmer model, sadly it’s only for a second or two in the dark, but it’s a sexy bit of hardware.

crusade 11 - skimmer

  • Hey it’s the Shadows again! This is the third time they show up in flashback – I know they have a long history of being spooky assholes throughout the galaxy, but sometimes it does feel like B5 fan-service having them pop up so often.
  • For your information and mine, I googled “Sharks” as a card or dice game and couldn’t find any obvious matches, maybe it was made up for Crusade.
  • It’s a nice nod back to B5 universe history that Robert Black (part of a black project no less) was a GROPO during the Minbari War and took part in the Battle of the Line. In what capacity though, wasn’t it all in Earth orbit? Also, didn’t only 200 of 20000 people involved survive?
  • As only the Excalibur crew know the colonists are there, what would happen if they were all to die? The tiny colony (30 people) would be marooned there with a very small gene pool to continue from. Thinking about it, that’s also very true for Dureena’s race’s colony that apparently started with a hundred people, but has been there for about a thousand years –  are they horribly inbred?
  • Last thought – what is up with the “recycling system” on the colonists ship – do they just have a room with a hatch in the top that they simply throw their trash in to “recycle”. Is it like the trash compactor in Star Wars?  Why would there be a screen in there?

Chronological Order Analysis:

  • Production order  = 10
  • Broadcast order  = 5
  • Continuity order  = 11
  • Is this episode better in this order? – Yes

This episode is better here for many reasons, but the biggest being the fact that we now see the “nanovirus shield” being discovered in “A Memory of War” prior to this episode.

This is the first episode after the uniforms magically change back to “black” and to be honest it wasn’t jarring, I barely noticed it.

(All images are property of Warner Brothers)

< Previous episode “Each Night I Dream of Home” | Next episode “The Well of Forever” >

Crusade – Continuity Order – S01E12 – The Well of Forever

Who Should You Trust?

Written by Fiona Avery
Directed by Janet Greek

Grade: B

Spoilers follow.

Episode Synopsis:

Galen brings the crew information on an ancient structure hidden in hyperspace, with the promise of it containing knowledge that may help with finding a cure. Matheson is interrogated to ensure he’s complying with the new rules for telepaths.

Episode Review:

I disliked this episode during the first broadcast. It was the third episode and you could tell what the writer was trying to achieve, but it fell flat as you had no investment in the characters. It didn’t work because of what the audience brought with them, or rather what we didn’t. We barely knew the characters or their friendships and relationships with one another, so issues involving trust, hidden agendas and betrayals didn’t carry much weight.

The story idea seemed interesting, but the story rises and falls on Galen and how much we may like him or think him trustworthy. At this point we barely knew Galen – then we’re forced to accept that Gideon barely protests his hijacking of the ship? A ship that is searching for a cure for over 6 billion people? For me at least, the episode didn’t work in the original order and it was one of the reasons I was interested in a new episode order, so it actually made me look forward to seeing this episode this time.

I’m glad to report it really works so much better in this order. That’s not to say it’s perfect and it’s still pretty much a ‘bottle’ episode, but it feels right in this location. We, the viewers now have the background in the relationships and more importantly, their motivations, to give the events their correct weight. While not vital, I’ll admit reading the Technomage Trilogy definitely helps with the Galen/Isabelle moments as well, but even without reading them, viewing in this order has allowed us to see Isabelle’s death in “The Path of Sorrows,” which definitely helps excuse Galen’s betrayals and allows us to sympathize with him.

The beginning of the episode is great fun, as Galen arrives acting like a kid in a candy store. That he retains his enthusiasm in the face of Dureena’s superstitions, Max’s cynicism and Gideon’s guarded interest keeps it a lot of fun. Max is on top form trying to puncture Galen’s enthusiasm with some wonderfully acerbic lines.

While the A-plot of the episode is about the Well of Forever, it also weaves in a B-plot and while reasonably separate (aside from both being on the Excalibur), they both explore the theme of trust in different ways.

The B plot, has Matheson being subjected to telepathic interrogation by telepathic deep scan, to ensure he’s adhering to the new rules for telepaths. This is the first major exploration of this issue since the disbanding of the Psi Corps after the Telepath War. While it seems some of the rules are relaxed (no gloves, telepaths can work more freely in all walks of human life), compliance is now ensured by submitting to a six monthly deep scan to make sure they aren’t breaking the rules. Sadly, the new “watchmen” (as Gideon calls Mr. Jones, though his actual position is never stated) seem very similar to the old Psi Cops – shady, in love with their own power, utterly self righteous, and probably with their own agenda.

Mr Jones’s approach to how he deals with Matheson is somewhere between condescension and bullying. The process as this “Mr. Jones” conducts it looks highly invasive – the word “abuse” seems right when you see Matheson’s reactions during and after the scan. Throughout this, Dureena’s concern for Matheson and her help against Mr. Jones help highlight that this is a crew that really has bonded and look out for one another. It makes you wonder whether anything has improved at all for human telepaths. The only negative part of this story is that Gideon’s solution to Mr. Jones’s report is a bit “pat” and goes a little too smoothly.

Although it’s never stated, most of the interactions between Galen and Dureena hint at him probing her opinions, thoughts and motivations before deciding whether to go ahead with training her in the Technomage ways. These are yet more moments that pay off better having seen episodes such as “A Memory of War” first. Additionally, that moment when Galen tries to sit down in her quarters is hilarious.

The part with the Fen (the horny, hyperspace alien jellyfish in case you forgot) is still silly, but a nice, light interlude in a fairly serious episode. It’s an obvious poke in the eye towards TNT (their notes included injecting more alien sex into the show) but at least we get the “thrusters” line out of it. Whether the Fen are also poking fun at the fans (“Fen” is sometimes joking used as a plural for fans of SF/Fantasy), but the line “They’re barely sentient. They’re attracted to bright, shiny objects, but they lose interest quickly” answers that question I feel.

crusade 12 - space jellyfish humping

The scene where Galen tells Gideon that he’s taking control is good, and far better in this order. When this was the third episode in order you expect Gideon to retaliate more – whereas now you understand that while Gideon is furious with Galen, he really does trust Galen despite his actions, but understands there’s nothing he can do to stop him, and settles in for a longer game to see where it takes them.

When we finally arrive, the Well of Forever is a suitably mysterious and interesting object, although to me it looks like a cross between a ribcage and a space pretzel. Closer up, each “limb” resembles intestines, not the effect I think they were going for.

The Well is hidden behind what’s referred to as a hyperspace veil, in fact very similar to the one the Drakh had used in “A Call to Arms” – wouldn’t the crew be concerned by this? If this is the same technology it seems Galen’s sensors had no problem with it. We learn from the scans that the Well contains a huge quantity of Quantium 40 – the substance required for the construction of jump gates, understandably this gets Max’s attention more than anything else.

Galen then departs to visit the Well alone, and is followed by Galen, also alone. When we finally find out his motivation, it shows he’s not a bad guy, but isn’t above using others for his own needs. From “The Path of Sorrows” we know Galen is carrying a lot of anger directed towards a cold, uncaring universe, one that would take his true love away after such a short time together. Maybe this might help him develop personally. If you’ve read the Technomage novels, we saw that Isabelle was a good person and deserving of a resting place such as this this.

Okay, you knew it was coming, because despite all of these nice things I’ve been saying, I’m still only giving it a “B” grade. It suffers from a couple of the usual gripes:

  1. The score again. While mostly okay, the moments with Galen laying Isabelle’s remains to rest in the Well need to be sad and solemn. Here it’s at Lifetime-movie levels of saccharine clunkiness.
  2. Talking of clunky, here come the effects again… While most of them are acceptable, if nothing stellar, just look at this composite shot as it pulls back from Galen on the Well. The scale of everything is completely off. The “limb” is far too narrow, Galen is sitting at a peculiar angle, we’ve just seen how wide the area Galen’s on is and most of it’s missing behind him.

crusade 12 - zoom out

Effects and music complaints aside, the major part that doesn’t work for me and sadly brings the episode down a few notches, is Galen and Dureena’s discussion just after they leave the Well. I find it a frustratingly forced attempt to tie everything together into some kind of tidy conclusion – when one simply isn’t needed. This results in Galen having to construct some kind of mystical “moral of the story.”

Apparently, everyone had an answer they could have received at the Well. He makes it sound like this was a known feature of the Well (like a genie granting wishes or something). It might have been nice of him to have informed the crew or even the audience of this! This seems arbitrarily tacked-on and makes Galen sound like a prick, as apparently there were all these issues the crew could have used his help with, but he never let them know! In the end he sounds like a completely selfish know-it-all, who doesn’t even get the answer he wanted! I really don’t think this was the effect the writer wanted to give, but that’s the conclusion it gave me. The earlier drafts of the script don’t flesh this out any further, so it’s not as though it was cut for time.

Despite my reservations, this episode probes some deeper subjects such as loss, trust and the betrayals that can come from single-mindedness and should be applauded for that. Added to that the main characters are written very well and it excels in most of the quieter, head to head moments.

Crusade continuity check and notes:

  • Galenwatch – Present, but says he’s off for a while at the end. This is the last time we see our bald wizard in a Crusade episode.
  • With the episodes in this order we get two Fiona Avery scripts in a row. In my opinion, “Patterns” has interesting mythology, while the story and characterizations aren’t that great, whereas “Well” has great characterizations, little mythology and the story is okay.
  • So what were those questions and answers?
  1. Galen – Q: “Why?” (although not stated, most likely “Why did Isabelle have to die?” Or “Why her and not me?”) / A: Might take longer
  2. Gideon – Q: Never stated / A: According to Galen he got it, but wasn’t listening. Hard to know what he’s referring to.
  3. Matheson – Q: Never stated / A: Galen says as he didn’t go to the Well he never heard it.  Makes you wonder if his answer would have come from the supposed telepathic boost he would get in hyperspace. The most likely candidates to hear something from would have been Galen, Gideon or Mr. Jones.
  4. Max – Q: Is there anything in the universe he can’t have? / A: The Well. Although that’s because Galen takes it from him.
  5. Dureena – Q: “Is there anyone who isn’t motivated by money or power?” (a bit rich coming from a thief) / A: Galen implies it’s him. We’ll see, or rather we never will.
  6. Chambers – Q: Could they afford to pay for more cast this week? / A: No.
  7. Trace – Q: Can I be in another episode? / A: No.
  • How did Galen finally find the Well?
  • While it’s not a continuity issue per se, Dureena clearly states her people have been taught to avoid certain places – one of those being cliffs. In just the previous episode “Patterns of the Soul,” (also written by Fiona Avery it should be stated) – Dureena’s people are seen praying right by a cliff. It’s even referred to by Dureena’s people as The Sacred Cliff!
  • The Well has an atmosphere surrounding it – is there any reason why it’s compatible with humans? Although, to be fair, about 75% of the alien species seen on Babylon 5 were O2 breathers, so maybe this isn’t that far-fetched.
  • One of the earlier draft scripts mentions that the appearance of the Well is because the original structure accumulated deposits of “hyperspace coral.” This explains its somewhat organic appearance.
  • Regarding the Fen, Max mentions that IPX have long heard about things living in hyperspace. I’m sure this subject is mentioned in late season 2 on Babylon 5 (on a news report / possibly a newspaper), and was obviously referring to the Shadows, who could move easily throughout Hyperspace. IPX would know all about the Shadows by now, so his reference seems odd.
  • Galen’s interface with his ship and the Excalibur continues the ‘crystal ball’ motif he’s seen using many times, although this time it takes the design of the Excalibur’s system interfaces and the effects look excellent. Probably my favourite instance of Technomage tech.

crusade 12 - crystal

  • Gideon mentions that Galen once referred to the crew of the Excalibur as his family now – I think that would be in “The Memory of War”.
  • We find out a lot about how telepaths are organized and treated following the fall of Psi Corps at the end of the Telepath War:
  1. While the Psi Corps is gone, it’s replacement is still full of shady individuals dressed in dark clothes. The disreputable elements are now hiding behind bureaucracy instead of secrecy it seems. Their organization is the Senate Committee on Metasensory Abilities (SCMA? SCOMA? Skooma? not very catchy I must say). They’ve kept the Greek letter “Psi” as their logo, but dropped the shield surrounding it.
  2. All the investigators (watchmen?) are called Mr. Jones (Have you been to Wales? We are all Jones) as a form of anonymity, it seems they come to check on telepaths every six months. Naming a mysterious character called “Mr Jones” is something JMS has hinted at online many times.
  3. Mr. Jones’s interactions with Matheson are very interesting. He seems able to deep scan Matheson without a struggle, suggesting he’s likely a P12 rated telepath (much like the old Psi-Cops) and that Matheson is lower. He is confirmed as P6 in the unproduced script “Value Judgements”.
  4. Mr. Jones states that Matheson is not just one of the first telepaths allowed in Earthforce, he’s the first and so is being held to a higher standard. How did he become the first?
  5. Mr. Jones accuses him of multiple minor infringements. The main one I can think of is his scanning of Natchok Var in “The Needs of Earth”. His mental contact with the snow globe alien in “The Path of Sorrows” may be another.
  6. We know Matheson was deeply involved in the conclusion of the Telepath War and despite being in the Psi Corps, he finally learnt how corrupt they were and assisted in their defeat (see “The Path of Sorrows”). It’s unlikely all the Mr. Joneses were only from the rogue telepath side, this one might be out to get him because of that.
  7. We hear Matheson refer a number of times to non-telepathic humans as “normal” and not “mundanes” in this episode – I didn’t catch whether Mr. Jones refers to them as this at any point.
  8. From the actions of this representative, you have to think the SCMA may outstep their authority in the near future, one way or another.
  • Sheer speculation, but when Galen talks with Gideon about trust, then promises never to betray his trust and help him to fulfill his promise to the memory of the 300 (the crew of the Cerberus, not the Spartans) it feels like it’s mirroring Sheridan and Kosh’s pact about going to Z’Ha’Dum in Babylon 5.
  • Hey it’s the Excalibur’s gym again!
  • You may or may not find this as funny as me, but I’ll leave you with this… The scene where Gideon is removing the amulet to leave it at the Well, leads to a moment where Galen’s hand moves down and out of shot. The motion honestly looks like he’s going to stuff the amulet in his tight, shiny leather pants. It’s really disconcerting.

crusade 12 - pants

Chronological Order Analysis:

  • Production order  = 6
    Broadcast order  = 3
    Continuity order  = 12
  • Is this episode better in this order? – Yes

If you’ve just read the review I’m pretty sure you get the impression this episode is far better in this location! Only one more episode to go sadly.

(All images are property of Warner Brothers)

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