"Who Are You? Matthew Gideon, Captain. Attached to the Earth Alliance Starship Excalibur. What do you want? To find a cure to the Drakh plague before it wipes out all life on earth. Where Are You Going? Anywhere I Have To. Who do you serve and who do you trust? Who do you serve and who do you trust?"
– Galen Questioning Captain Gideon
It is standard, each time I watch Babylon 5 from A to Z, I just have to also watch Crusade and I think almost every B5 fan has this strategy. It was TNT who saved Babylon 5 in 1998 for its 5th and final season! TNT even tried to persuade JMS to make a season 6 of Babylon 5 but that wasn’t an option because Babylon 5 is story with a beginning, a middle and an end. So the most logical solution, a new series in the Babylon 5 universe, Crusade. Unfortunately Crusade was cancelled before it began, in 1999, now almost 25 years ago! Behind the scenes there were lots of problems between TNT and JMS and suddenly TNT didn’t want any SCI-FI on its schedule and decided to cancel Crusade before it got a chance to be honest. The Sci-fi channel (now Syfy), tried to relaunch Crusade but was unable because it no longer had any budget to pick up such an expensive show. Even though Crusade was cancelled, it still did more than okay ratings-wise.
Crusade was far from perfect, but you have to remember, Babylon 5 wasn’t perfect from the start either, it also had to find its footing, same you can say for Crusade, and besides that, TNT aired it completely out of order. Still Crusade definitely had potential, it had a good cast, stories were uneven, some good ones and some episodes which weren’t that exciting but as I said, it definitely had potential. Gary Cole was Matthew Gideon, thought he was an especially good choice as the captain, although I had to get used to him a bit. He wasn’t a captain who always did everything by the book which was very interesting about him. Galen (Peter Woodward) was also a very interesting character, who of course reprises his role from A Call To Arms. A Technomage with lots of powers and even more secrets.
Daniel Dae Kim, who became a huge TV star with Lost in 2004, is Lt. John Matheson, a telepath in the military who has to meet with strict rules about his telepathic abilities. Carrie Dobro is Dureena Nafeel, also reprises her role from the Babylon 5 movie: A Call to Arms. Marjean Holden is Dr. Sarah Chambers, she did have one or two episodes focused on her, but she still was a bit bland in my opinion. Tracy Scoggins reprises her role from A Call to Arms and of course the 5th season of Babylon 5. I have to say I really liked the relationship between her and Gideon, the bickering, the banter was lots of fun every time. The last one, David Allen Brooks who is Max Eilerson and I have to say he definitely became one of my favorite Crusade characters. He was very obnoxious, vain, he also was an asshole at times but he was really colorful. I think he would have become a fan favorite had there been more seasons.
As said earlier, TNT did a show an extra disservice by airing the episodes in the wrong order. I don’t know if this was out of spite towards JMS or was it because TNT just didn’t care anymore about the show. Anyways when the Sci-Fi Channel purchased the rights to broadcast the show, they contacted JMS to find out what the correct episode order was. Later on, JMS also announced a different order, the chronological order, this is the way I watched Crusade with this rewatch. There were some inconsistencies in the storyline, a.o with the uniforms but other than that, it was good to watch it like that.
This the chronological viewing order, the way I watched it:
- War Zone
- The Long Road
- Appearances and Other Deceits
- The Memory of War
- The Needs of Earth
- Racing the Night
- Visitors from Down the Street
- Each Night I Dream of Home
- The Path of Sorrows
- Ruling from the Tomb
- Patterns of the Soul
- The Well of Forever
- The Rules of the Game
The Pilot, “War Zone”, is a good introduction into the series, we see how the characters come together on the Excalibur. We learn that Gideon and Galen know each other, although Gideon did not remember him at first. Galen saved him 9 years earlier on the day that the Technomages went into hiding for the upcoming Shadow War. Note: The music, by Evan E. Chen is not in the same league as that of Christopher Franke. I believe that if he also was the composer for Crusade, the show would been much better even without any changes to the show itself. The intro…you get used to, but the overall music really is, for me, below par.
I thought in “The Long Road” it was nice to see Edward Woodward, father of Peter Woodward back again but the episode itself was okay at best. There were some funny moments in it, some nice banter between father and son. These were the highlights of the episode. Appearances and Other Deceits, directed by Stephen Furst (Vir in Babylon 5), is an episode which sees the return of Mr. Welles, who has a nice remark about the fact that he was able to survive political changes. In this episode Mr. Welles and Kevin Sprach, an interior designer, come to the ship to change everything, including the uniforms. Note - I believe this is an inside joke of JMS because of the problems he had with TNT.
For me, the first really good episode is “The Memory of War”, it was better than I remembered, or with multiple viewings I might have changed my viewpoint about the episode. Galen is taught that this particular planet is dangerous, so at first he decides not to go with Gideon to the surface but at one point he realizes that another Technomage is responsible for all that happens, that’s why they’ve been warned, because it would be discovered what a Technomage had done. Note – Nice moment when Dureena comes back to the ship with the staff she found in the rubbles, making Galen extremely grateful.
The best or one of the best episodes is “The Needs of Earth”. A ranger comes with a tip but this tip would mean that Gideon has to break several laws. Because of the stakes he accepts these terms. Besides that, we soon learn that Gideon isn’t so much a “by the book” captain. They need to save a prisoner on a world without being caught. The prisoner (Tony Amendola), carries a set of data crystals with him and wants to give it to someone who he believes will do the right thing. The data crystal could contain info about the virus but ultimately it is a collection of a society before it became totalitarian. Note - It is a very good episode, really makes you think, well played by Tony Amendola. Where is Galen when you need him!?
“Racing the Night” is also an entertaining episode, to find a cure, the population of this planet does it the other way. Instead of going into space to find a cure, they lure ships to their world to try and find a solution to the plague also. Shadow vessels came to their world, wanted to use their world, when they declined, the shadows left the virus behind and left. The people tried to find a cure for 3 years before they all went into chronic sleep with one keeper which had to be awakened every 2 years. For the first time we see Gideon’s Apocalypse Box, which gives him foreknowledge about certain things. Note – Some nice Galen moments, have to say he is definitely the most interesting character on that show. Not mean to say others aren’t. Fun quote: Galen: I was just thinking on whether or not a comment would be 'most wanted or least needed'. Gideon: I thought you said you don't hold a grudge? Galen: I don't. I have no surviving enemies. At all.
“Visitors from down the street” is kind of an X-Files episode. Two aliens from the same race, a man and a woman. The woman has red hair, they are convinced humans have been coming to their planet for decades. Gideon, who saves them, doesn’t have a clue. A man from the government, aka the Cigarette Smoking Man, comes to discredit them. Note – Is it an ode to The X-Files or perhaps the opposite? I am not sure of that, I do think the first. Anyway some nice moments like the X on the window of their office.
In “Each Night I Dream of Home”, we see not one but two Babylon 5 characters reprising their roles. One is Captain Lochley. In this episode there is someone who wants to go home, who purposely wants to get infected so he can go home to get married, gives the doctors the chance to track the virus from the beginning. Note - Here there is some inconsistency in the episode regarding one of the B5 characters because the chronological viewing order. Some good scenes between Gideon and Lt. Matheson, also some fun quotes, example: [Lochley has invited Gideon to stop by at B5.] Lt. John Matheson: You're smiling. Capt. Matthew Gideon: No, I'm not. Lt. John Matheson: With respect, sir- Capt. Matthew Gideon: It's gas. Look, who are you going to believe, me or my face?
“The Path of Sorrow” where the crew finds an Alien in a bowl without food and water. The Alien seems to live on sorrow and regret. Most of the crew members have a “session” with this alien. Galen’s is most interesting when he receives a message from a woman he loved from behind her grave! It says: Galen; Love – He chooses not to believe it.
“Ruling from the Tomb” where Gideon is on Mars, about a conference about the Drakh plague where the ships doctor gives a speech. Captain Lochley is chosen by Dr. Steven Franklin to lead this conference. Note – Episode with lots of humor, Eilerson dancing with Dureena, constant bickering between Gideon and Lochley – for that reason alone, one of the better episodes for me.
Again some fun quotes from this episode: (1) Dureena Nafeel: Gods, I am drowning in testosterone. Max Eilerson: Well, luckily for you, you're equipped with floatation devices. (2) Gideon (to Lochley): You are the most double-talking, suspicious, second-guessing individual I have ever seen... since the last time I looked into a mirror. (3) Elizabeth Lochley: You know what you are? Gideon: Ruggedly handsome? Elizabeth Lochley: A control freak. Gideon: Can't I be both? (4) Elizabeth Lochley: Who was your old hero? Gideon: Truthfully? John Sheridan. Elizabeth Lochley: John Sheridan? No kidding. Gideon: Were you ever under him? [Lochley chokes on her drink.] (5) Gideon: *Married*? You're telling me some guy actually managed to land you. Got you to lower your defenses enough to commit, and then let you get away? God, he must be the biggest loser in the galaxy. Elizabeth Lochley: Oh, major loser. They don't come any bigger. Gideon: Loser have a name? Elizabeth Lochley: John Sheridan. [Gideon spits out his drink.]
In “Patterns of the Soul” Gideon is ordered to pick up a group of humans who supposedly left earth around the time the Drakh released the plague. They are infected but the strange thing is, they left before the Drakh came! Dureena finds out she is not the sole survivor of her race but she also finds out that they are also infected by the plague and that they have only about one year left! Gideon would not be Gideon, if he hadn’t another solution for this problem. Max is almost an asshole when he almost informs IPX but leaves it.
In “The Well of Forever” we see a Galen we haven’t seen before, he uses a mission he has proposed himself, for his own gain. Matheson gets a visit from an high placed Psi-corps man, who judges Matheson on his morals but he himself is way worse. – Note – connected to episode “The Path of Sorrow”.
In “The Rules of the Game” the Excalibur crew is visiting Babylon 5. Gideon needs to negotiate but he isn’t getting anywhere. Gideon needs permission to land but the inhabitants are suborn and the ambassadors for this planet are making money of weapons they found on that planet where they didn’t originate from, that’s what they want to keep under wraps. Gideon and Lochley are being chased by these two all over the station. Eilerson ex-wife comes to Max when they are on Babylon 5 and she needs help from him. He has a creative solution. Note – Gideon and Lochley really work well together, the banter, it is fun – Max is probably one of my favorite characters, shame this character, and others, weren’t allowed to evolve beyond 13 episodes.
As I said, Crusade was not perfect, but it had some good episodes, interesting characters. Remember Galactica 1980? It could not exist without Battlestar Galactica. Same for Crusade, if Babylon 5 never was made. Although this is an accurate comparison on a higher level, you have to be honest that Crusade is way better than Galactica 1980. But I do also believe, that without Babylon 5, Crusade would be a forgotten show, same for Galactica 1980. I believe however that Matthew Gideon is one of the most interesting captains we’ve ever seen, really deserved to be more fleshed out, this could have been so much fun, sadly we will never know but we can rewatch Crusade every few years and wonder what could have been. I really do believe I appreciate it more than with earlier viewings, as you get older, your viewpoint changes too.