"Just so we're clear: once we go, this is my command. I'll do whatever's necessary. If that means turning the entire galaxy upside down and shaking its pockets to see what falls out, that's what I'll do. I'm not subtle, I'm not pretty, and I'll piss off a helluva lot of people along the way, but I'll get the job done."
—Captain Matthew Gideon
Spin-Off from Babylon 5 telling the story of the spaceship Excalibur and the search for a counteragent to/cure for a slow-acting biological weapon that had been successfully deployed against the Earth in the B5 movie "A Call to Arms". Crusade retained two characters from that movie, Galen the techno-mage and Dureena Nafeel the alien thief. Despite its unfortunate resemblance to Uchuu Senkan Yamato (Star Blazers in North America), Crusade showed promise before its premature death (only 13 episodes were completed out of a planned five seasons).This being said, the series suffered terribly from Executive Meddling - it was commissioned by a network whose understanding of the series pretty much stopped at "We'll be rolling in money if this is as popular as Babylon 5 was," and then later learned that this wasn't the case anyway — and the relationship between creator/producer J. Michael Straczynski and the network broke down completely while the first season was still in production. By the time the series went to air, it had already been cancelled.Amusingly, this level of Executive Meddling made it into the screenplays : In several of the episodes, the situations the characters run through resonate with the situation in which the creator was deadlocked with the network, and some of the corresponding dialogue is acidic, to say the least. Then again, if the author had resigned to the notion that he wasn't going to get the series to fly, why not have some fun while at it?
Alien Non-Interference Clause: "Visitors from Down the Street" explicitly draws attention to the fact that the B5-verse equivalent of Starfleet doesn't have one. And would be rather hypocritical if it did, because Earth was given jumpgate technology by the Centauri in the first place. The aliens had actually assumed they did, even trying to rub in that the crew couldn't interfere. They made sure to include that part of the conversation in the recordings revealing the conspiracy when they distributed them across the planet.
Anachronic Order: To the extent that it is impossible to view the episodes in any order without continuity errors.
Armor-Piercing Question: Galen asks a series of questions over the opening titles, answered by Gideon except the last: "Who do you serve, and who do you trust?"
Which, in light of the fact that the cure for the Drakh plague was due to be found around a year and a half into the five year show with the story of Earth's use of leftover Shadow technology taking centre stage, could be seen as a very subtle bit of foreshadowing.
Bad Bad Acting: Galen, talking through his Homunculus. Presumably because he just didn't carenote To expand this point, Galen is using a projection of himself to scout an apparently deserted planet. Speaking through the projection the character provides a comically flat, deadpan stream of consciousness, right up to the point that his homunculus is destroyed by an automated security system.
Coming In Hot: Inverted! Lochley's disabled Starfury is swallowed by the Excalibur's open hangar bay as the ship swoops past, using forcefield crash barriers to keep her fighter (and her) from being smashed against the rear bulkhead of the bay. Invoked as a result of Exact Words, below.
Another episode shows Earthforce personnel staring at a giant golden dragon. At first it looks like a Special Effects Failure, but since the dragon was actually a hologram, it was probably made to look fake on purpose.
Cure For Cancer / Find the Cure: The series starting premise and the focus of its first story arc. Word of God is that they would have found it part way through the second season, but by then the REAL plot about a conspiracy in Earthforce to reverse-engineer Shadow technology would have kicked in.
Expy: Max Eilerson pretty well is Avon from Blake's 7 with his geek speciality changed from IT to archaeology. Dureena is a hybrid Expy of two characters from Blake's 7: like Cally she's a Broken Bird warrior woman whose people suffered a biological warfare genocide, but she has Vila's outlaw attitude and near-supernatural breaking-and-entering ability.
There are multiple similarities to Blake's 7, which JMS is known to be a fan of: The similar design of Excalibur and Liberator; the manner in which Max is not merely similarly written to Avon, but cast with an actor who looks quite similar to Paul Darrow; Dureena's nature as a hybrid of Cally's personality and backstory with Vila's talents; the Apocalypse Box as a near-Captain Ersatz for Orac. If the series had continued, the main story arc would have been the Excalibur on the run from EarthForce.
"Visitors From Down The Street" is a parody of The X-Files.
Head-Tiltingly Kinky: The Pak'Ma'Ra-Human porn that Captain Gideon stumbles upon. Right after the ship's doctor mentions that those two species are entirely incapable of mating.
"Technology is a wonderful thing."
Imminent Danger Clue: Gideon and Lochley realize at the last second that an alien is about to shoot because the alien weapon produces a smell of ozone when it is being charged.
I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Alwyn, an old friend of Galen and a rival or colleague of his mentor Elric, appears in "The Long Road", and is played by the father of the actor who plays Galen.
Last Of Their Kind: Dureena Nafeel's home planet was destroyed in the Shadow War and she is believed to be the only survivor. More of her species are later discovered living on another planet, but they are infected by the Drakh plague and have even less time to live than the humans on Earth have.
Magic Mirror: Gideon's Apocalypse Box, "It gives you an edge. It knows things no one else knows." "You have to be very careful because... it lies. Not all the time. Just enough.".
Mile-Long Ship: The Excalibur is 3 kilometers long and has its own internal rail system.
Only One Name: Galen, along with many of the aliens they meet. Subverted with Dureena Nafeel.
Galen stands out in particular because other main characters are often addressed by different parts of their full name, sometimes by the same person in the same episode.
Orwellian Editor: A rather bitter real-life example. When it came time for the DVD release, JMS was asked to contribute to the bonus features. He agreed, but only on the condition that he could discuss what he went through in regards to Executive Meddling and being Screwed by the Network. He didn't plan to pull any punches, but the studio agreed and everything he wanted to say was recorded. Later on after getting the finished DVD set, JMS listened to the commentary - only to find some creative editing had been performed. His criticisms were not only gone, but replaced with unrelated audio from the on-camera interview. He wasn't told they were going to do this, either. JMS was naturally pissed and successfully got the studio to remove the entire commentary from later pressings.
And in an interview for the DVD set, JMS essentially fronts up and admits that was quite deliberate.
In addition to the Blake's 7 similarities, there's a lot of overlap between Crusade and The Hobbit: A team of dwarves/humans are out to save their home with the help of a hobbit/alien thief, a secretive wizard with an agenda, and a mysterious ring/box that shouldn't be trusted.
Research, Inc.: Interplanetary Expeditions (IPX), though they're more into archeology. Max works for them as a linguist, which is how he meets up with and gets recruited into helping the Excalibur.
Screwed by the Network: The most noticeable artifact is the scrambled episode order, but that's just the beginning of it (see trope page for more).
The entire "Visitors from Down the Street" is an Affectionate Parody of The X-Files, complete with alien counterparts of Mulder, Scully and the Cigarette Smoking Man.
In "Ruling from the Tomb," several characters are hanging out in a bar called "Phobos" on Mars. John Sheridan visited a bar with the same name in the Babylon 5 episode "The Face of the Enemy." The bar doesn't look the same, but considering that Crusade took place five or six years after B5, and the bar got pretty trashed when Sheridan was there, it's entirely possible that it got remodeled. For bonus points, two of the street names mentioned in the episode are named for Ray Bradbury and Edgar Rice Burroughs, both of whom wrote fiction based on Mars.
That Came Out Wrong: Gideon dates Lochley and at one point asks her if she was ever "under" (unbeknownst to him, her ex-husband) Sheridan. She does a Spit Take. Then she kindly waits until he's taken a drink to tell him who her ex is, forcing one on him too.
It's a bit of a Genius Bonus too, especially on the first viewing, as only people who watched the last season of Babylon 5 would know that Sheridan and Lochley had been married prior to her mentioning it in that scene.
Wave Motion Gun: The Excalibur's biggest weapon — an experimental prototype that drains the ship's power for 60 seconds after it's fired.
What Could Have Been: JMS had a five year arc planned out, which he's teased at over the years and will be revealed with the publication of Crusade script books. Additionally, three scripts had been written and prepped for production when the show was cancelled, including the season finale.
"To The Ends Of The Earth", by JMS, would have kicked off the series' real story arc: Gideon gets a lead from the Apocalypse Box on the phantom ship that destroyed the Cerberus and takes the Excalibur AWOL on a Captain Ahab mission to find it. The Excalibur manages to destroy the ship after a prolonged chase and a submarine-esque battle in an asteroid field, but the ship is damaged and Gideon alienates much of the crew. It's revealed that unbeknownst to Gideon, Matheson is aware of the Apocalypse Box. The episode ends with Gideon and Matheson finding evidence that the Excalibur has an "opposite number", and the audience learns the phantom ship had some connection to EarthForce.
"Value Judgements", by Fiona Avery: To open a telepathically-locked alien tomb, the crew seek out a seldom-seen local telepath with powerful abilities, only to discover the telepath is fugitive war criminal Alfred Bester. Walter Koenig had signed on to reprise his role as Bester (a recurring antagonist in Babylon 5), and thought the script was the best he'd read from the franchise yet. The episode would also have explored Matheson's history as a Psi Corp telepath and how normal/telepath relations had changed — or not changed — in recent years.
"Tried and True" was a standalone story, also by Fiona Avery: Dureena's former mentor, Mafeek, imprisons his former pupil and interrogates her to find out why Dureena signed on with the Excalibur crew.
A trio of episodes, loosely called "the Sword trilogy", that would've focused on Matheson and Dureena.
"War Story": Dureena is abducted by an unknown ship and Matheson believes he is responsible.
"The Walls of Hell": Gideon and Matheson seek the help of the Apocalypse Box to find Dureena, but after first declaring that "Dureena is unimportant", the Box manipulates the situation to possess Matheson's body and take over the whole ship.
The untitled third part of the trilogy: Dureena returns to the Excalibur with a magical sword and no memories of what happened to her.
"The End Of The Line", by JMS, would have been the season finale: Gideon traces the origins of the phantom ship to a top-secret EarthForce base. He learns the Earth Alliance has secretly been experimenting with Shadow technology, in direct violation of Interstellar Alliance policy, since before the Shadow War — and now want to eliminate Gideon to keep their secrets. The origin of Technomage powers is revealed to be Shadow technology organically bonded to living beings, the result of a deal between the Shadows and the earliest Technomages. The first season would have ended with Gideon travelling alone to Mars in an attempt to expose the EarthForce conspiracy, only to be shot and seemingly killed by an Earthforce sniper.
The cliffhanger would be resolved in season 2 by transferring Gideon's consciousness into the Apocalypse Box until his body had been healed. As a result of discovering the conspiracy in EarthForce to use Shadow technology, the Excalibur crew would be "black-balled" by the Earth Alliance and become renegades. Ultimately, the cure to the Drakh plague would have been discovered around the middle of the second season, since the Earthforce conspiracy storyline was always meant to be the main arc of the show.
Since the show was cancelled and none of these story arcs were shown, writers attempted to include them in their Expanded Universe novels. The Passing of the Techno-Mages trilogy notably describes the origins of techno-mage "tech" as Shadow technology. Also, the Shadow hybrid ship that destroyed the Cerberus is itself destroyed shortly after by a weapons overload.
In 2010, it came to light that Peter Woodward (Galen) wrote an entire episode that JMS had slated for the second season. It's called "Little Bugs Have Lesser Bugs" and would've been/is (if you read the script) equal parts icky and funny.