Tag Archives: Shadows

Crusade – Continuity Order – S01E03 – The Path of Sorrows

A Tale of Telepaths, Loss and Boxes

Written by J. Michael Straczynski

Directed by Mike Vejar

Grade: B+

Spoilers follow.

Episode Synopsis:

The crew find something old and forgotten that brings up past traumas.

Episode Review:

This is more like it – the first decent episode so far. Mysterious buildings on an abandoned world, potential healing technologies, interesting character revelations. Thankfully we also get some decent concepts and dilemmas to get our teeth into – regret, redemption, forgiveness, secrets and sorrow.

This episode explicitly ties the show into the continuity of Babylon 5 and therefore it’s something TNT hated. Although, even with the best will in the world, it still has the feel of fan-service – Shadow ships kicking arse, scenes from the Telepath War, hints at Technomage unrest – but that’s what was needed to bring the Babylon 5 fans in and try to keep them.

The entire plot of the show is pretty much a framework from which to hang flashbacks, character developments and revelations, and so it isn’t always the most subtle, but at least what we see allows us to begin empathizing with and understanding the characters more. This episode takes our heroes and shows them as flawed, damaged, haunted, and all the more human.

This episode is more of an ensemble show than the last episode, although it begins with most of the main cast, but then concentrates on Gideon, Matheson and Galen:

Gideon’s revelations are a mixed bag – we certainly sympathize with him during his encounter with the Shadows where they destroy his ship (the Cerberus) and all his crew-mates. We then see him rescued by Galen when all seems lost – it explains his commendable compulsion to always answer a distress signal and never leave a person behind. We feel his frustration when his story is disbelieved by Earthforce. As a counter point, we then see Gideon “win” the Apocalypse Box (the origins and abilities are still reasonably unknown canonically, I believe) at a later date – that Gideon would keep and use it seems reckless – especially when it appears to have caused a man’s death right in front of him.

We knew Matheson was in the Psi-Corps, and while not in a position of power, he’d gained the trust of those in power (such as Gary Graham from Alien Nation). He appears to be a good little drone, going so far to accept a comment that the real enemy are the “mundanes”. For him to have gained trust, had he performed acts against mundanes? Were they criminal acts? At this point he sees the rebel telepaths as terrorists until he’s shown that the Psi-Corps casually murders all members of the rebel leadership. His realisation and change of heart to betray the Psi-Corps is a little too quick and easy, but he’s put on the spot and maybe he realizes he has a lot to repent for. I believe the female telepath he meets was originally meant to be Lyta Alexander, but according to JMS, Pat Tallman was busy on a movie.
crusade 3 - psi

Galen is a manipulative asshole early on, playing on Dureena’s fears to allow them to open the door (with a solution that seems straight out of Tolkien), but to balance that out we later see him in a more playful, contemplative mood with Matheson in the tube car. His line about this being where he gets off “metaphorically, metaphysically, and literally” is great. We also get the reminder that he, out of all the Technomages, was the one who rescued Gideon. In his vision, we see a more human Galen finally. We witness how hard the loss of his lover Isabelle (played by British actress Sophie Ward) hits him, despite her protestations to accept it as part of the plan of the universe – something he rejects and becomes an integral part of his character.

crusade 3 - galen

I’m not sure if I like that he gets the message at the end of this episode instead of in a later episode, or that it’s so damn vague. However, his look as he contemplates the message from out there and weighs the implications if, by chance it might be from Isabelle is one of his best moments in the show – that he rejects it out of hand is a bold character move, and shows the depths of his damage.

It’s the first time we see the Apocalypse Box and it pretty much steals the show despite doing nothing but sit there enigmatically, glow and emit some kind of voice-chime (this makes it sound like a Vorlon) – the design of the case is suitably antique, then the apocalypse box itself is simple, but looks a bit ethereal as well.

crusade 3 - box

For the most part, the CG effects are pretty good throughout, only the explosion at the Psi-Corps base looks a bit weak. The snow globe alien itself is a great piece of work by Optic Nerve, but the bubble does look very plastic indeed, in fact the seam where the two halves join is particularly visible. Oh well, if you’ve bought into the idea of a telepathically-forgiving snow globe alien, slightly low quality props are unlikely to bother you much. The tower exterior should get special mention, it’s quite impressive in scale and a decent effort is made to convey its age.

Despite some clunky dialogue and a few moments lacking in subtlety, the episode is really quite good and finally makes you think spending some time on this show might be worthwhile. It would have been nice to see the skeletons in everyone’s closets before Galen forced the issue, but the episode is only 43 minutes long after all.

Crusade continuity check and notes:

  • Galenwatch – Present
  • According to JMS, this was written during the time of the “First Five” episodes, prior to TNT’s pronouncement about changes required, and TNT hated this episode.
  • The Earthforce interviewer back in 2259 drops President Clarke’s name – Babylon 5 viewers will know he was in league with the Shadows and their allies – from the interviewer’s manner it seems like he was trying to help cover up the Cerberus incident.
  • We see that Matheson was fundamental in allowing the rebel telepaths strike a major blow in the telepath war/crisis – for me this raises the question of when it happened. We heard that the telepath crisis was described as ‘recent’ back in A Call To Arms. So since that happened Matheson joined Earthforce, rose to the rank of Lt. Commander and was posted on an Explorer class ship – it seems like a lot has happened in a short time – maybe Matheson was something of a trial case for allowing teeps into Earthforce, so he was given a higher rank from the get go? Would some of the crew have resented that?
  • That Matheson appeared be be a good little drone makes you wonder what he might have done, both against “mundanes” and rebel telepaths, before his change of heart. This might have come back to haunt him later in the show.
  • The Galen and Isabella scene ties in exactly with the “Technomage Trilogy” of Babylon 5 novels.

The Apocalypse Box comes with a number of interesting issues:

  • When exactly did Gideon get the Box? It seems he was a Lieutenant by this point. There was a skimmer in the flashback, I’m not sure if that technology was available for humans until around 2262.
  • Has he used it at all since commanding the Excalibur? Early on in the episode, Eilerson is dubious of the information provided by Gideon’s source – the Box may have been the source.
  • Another thought – Gideon was only an Ensign in 2259 (a Lieutenant by 2262 maybe) – he became a captain pretty quickly afterwards it seems. According to Sheridan in the Babylon 5 episode “A Distant Star,” there weren’t many Explorer class ships, so that implies it was a prestigious position to captain one – Did Gideon use help from the box to earn his position?
  • The previous owner and/or prisoner of the box informs Gideon it knows things no-one else knows, but sometimes it lies. The way he wagers it and laughs maniacally upon losing it implies the box would not just allow itself to be given away or discarded. The previous owner’s death then occurs seconds after he leaves – he explains that there was no other way out – this could imply many things:
    1. You own it, then you die – maybe it’s a “curse” or the box actually causes it telepathically, telekinetically, etc.
    2. If you want to get rid of it you have to find a way to pass the box on to a new owner who wants it willingly. As the guy basically allowed himself to be outplayed, maybe the box considered this “cheating” – so the box killed him somehow.
    3. He gave away too much information on the Box’s secrets – the box killed him somehow.
    4. He killed himself by jumping in front of the car/skimmer – maybe he couldn’t live with what the Box tricked him into doing?
    5. Maybe its a combination of the above – naturally he dies just as he has something important to say to Gideon…

Chronological Order Analysis:

  • Production order  = 9
  • Broadcast order  = 4
  • Continuity order  = 3
  • Is this episode better in this order? – Yes

It’s only a small change in the order, but in my opinion this episode works well here and better than where it was in the broadcast order. It allows us to get a handle on the characters earlier, as we get background and motivations for some of their actions later in the series.

That we learn of Isabelle now and see Galen’s reaction to the message, it makes the relocation of “The Well of Forever” all the better in a narrative sense – to save any spoilers of future episodes we’ll discuss this issue when we get to that episode.

The episode is not dated very explicitly. Part of me wonders if this would work better switched around with the Long Road to get a better episode earlier in the run – but maybe the huge dump of character background might be too much, too soon.

(All images are property of Warner Brothers)

< Previous episode “The Long Road” | Next episode “Ruling From the Tomb” >

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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: 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)