Hello, Old Friends
Written by J. Michael Straczynki
Directed by Stephen Furst
The Excalibur returns to Earth to run a few medical trials in secret, picks up a VIP, then gets ambushed by the Drakh.
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!
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:
- It’s targeted and concentrates on the vital organs – brain, heart, lungs, etc.
- It’s a nano-machine, not biological at all
- It’s able to mutate and ‘disappear’ into the host very shortly after infection.
- 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?
- It’s very similar to the nano-machines used in the nano-shield developed from Technomage tech (funny that).
- It’s only infecting mammals
- 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’.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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)