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Series / Crusade

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"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

A 1999 After Show following on the heels of Babylon 5, which concluded in '98. Set on the prototype starship Excalibur, the last of her class following the destruction of the Earth Alliance shipyards, she embarks on the search for a counter-agent to the slow-acting bio-weapon which was deployed against Earth in the B5 telemovie A Call to Arms. Crusade brings back two characters who were introduced in that movie: Galen the Technomage and Dureena the alien thief.

Only 13 episodes were completed out of a planned 22-episode season, and it was canceled before the first episode even aired. Relations between showrunner J. Michael Straczynski and the network broke down in mid-production: it was commissioned by TNT, whose understanding of the series pretty much stopped at We'll be rolling in money if this is as popular as B5 was!—and who then discovered that this wasn't the case. Due to the mid-season retool, which included an attempt to write-in a second pilot with a whole new set of uniforms, there is no canonical order of episodes to watch this show in.

Funnily, the disintegration of the show is referenced in its screenplays: The crew find themselves in situations that resonated with the showrunner's inability to get the show made, and some of the dialog is acidic, to say the least. Then again, if the head writer is faced with cancellation no matter what he does, why not have some fun while at it?

In the decades since its cancellation, more details have come out about where the series was headed. Check out the WCHB page for B5 for more.

This show provides examples of:

  • Aliens Steal Cable: In the episode Visitors From Down the Street (an Homage to The X-Files), the crew of the Excalibur picks up two agents from an alien world who are looking for proof of a government cover-up. They show pictures of Mount Rushmore and old Earth blimps. They also dress in Earth fashions from 200 years go (ie: from the time period at the time of the show's shoot.) One of them can speak English because of information stolen from the conspirators. The Reveal: Years before, the government had found itself in a time of social unrest similar to The '60s. Upon discovering Earth broadcasts, they used them as part of a truly magnificent conspiracy; manufacture appropriate "evidence", then dispatch The Men in Black to suppress it. The resultant subculture of Conspiracy Theorists absorbed the government's critics and kept them wasting their time chasing "aliens" rather than engaging in civil disobedience. Every crime the government committed afterward was thus blamed on "Outsiders" who secretly manipulated their civilization, permitting them to do as they pleased. The main government agent upholding the conspiracy credits and thanks the humans for cigarettes as he smoked one in victory (don't ask where he gets the tobacco from). Captain Gideon ordered probes loaded with the Interstellar Encyclopedia and sent to the alien world to crack the cover-up.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: "Visitors from Down the Street" explicitly draws attention to the fact that Earthforce (which is to the B5-verse what Starfleet is to the Trek-verse) 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 (and in a failed attempt to turn humanity into a vassal, at that). The aliens had actually assumed they did, even trying to rub in that the crew couldn't interfere (presumably they've been watching too much Star Trek). They made sure to include that part of the conversation in the recordings revealing the conspiracy when they distributed them across the planet.
  • All Myths Are True: Back on 6th Century Earth, Owain Ddantgwyn adopted the battle name of Arthur and united the Kingdoms of Gwynedd and Powys. He was ultimately slain at the Battle of Camlann. Very few records of these events survive yet Franklin says there's enough evidence to believe there's a real person behind these "Arthurian Legends". One such legend states that Arthur and his sword Excalibur would one day return to Earth in its greatest hour of need. The script seems to be hinting that Gideon is a reincarnation of Arthur, with Galen as his Merlin, and one (unfilmed) episode refers to a mystical sword being found, most likely the one seen in the intro sequence.
  • 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 care.note 
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: According to JMS, one episode having two EarthGov PR guys requesting changes such as new uniforms was a jab at TNT changing the costumes in real life.
  • 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.
  • Cool Starship: The Excalibur.
  • Crossover: Several episodes had guest appearances by Babylon 5 characters, with more planned, and "The Rules of the Game" has the Excalibur make a pit stop at the station (resulting in Gideon becoming romantically involved with Elizabeth Lochley).
  • Culture Police: The villains from the episode "The Needs of Earth".
  • Cunning Linguist: The reason Eilerson was hired/kept around.
  • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Galen in particular.
  • Everyone Meets Everyone: The plot of the series premiere - the series would have started with One We Prepared Earlier but the network demanded an "introductory" episode to start the series.
  • Exact Words: On a particular mission, Gideon is under orders not to stop for anything, even to rescue a pilot in distress. His playing with these orders leads to Coming in Hot, above. Technically, he never stopped...
  • 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.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: While the series looks like it's set up like this, the plans were to subvert the trope. The Drakh plague would have been cured around halfway into the second season. See below in What Could Have Been.
    • However, when comparing with the main Babylon 5 series, in particular its season 4 finale, it is clear that saving Earth was a Foregone Conclusion after all.
  • Forgot About His Powers: in The Memory of War. A literal case of Forgot I Could Fly, except they never remember. The landing party are infected with a nanovirus which will activate when the sun goes down (reducing electrical interference). It never occurs to them to use the shuttles they landed with to move to the daylight side of the planet, or indeed to just leave the planet (since virus samples brought aboard Excalibur are apparently not a threat).
  • From the Ashes: It follows the finale of Babylon 5. According to J. Michael Straczynski both shows eventually would have more obviously blended into one extended story if Crusade hadn't been canceled after 13 episodes.
  • Great Offscreen War: The Telepath War took place during the years between this series and Babylon 5. Practically nothing is revealed about what actually happened during the war. What we do know is that the end result of the war included the Psi Corps being disbanded and telepaths are now allowed to serve in the military just the same as everyone else.
  • Homage:
    • 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. Turns out to be a Chekhov's Gag: later in the same episode, Gideon plays it over some televisions to distract the guards.
    "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.
  • Insufferable Genius: Max Eilerson.
  • 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 Her 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.
  • Lost Technology
  • Magic from Technology: The techno-mages, by definition.
  • 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.
  • Nice Day, Deadly Night: In "The Memory of War", the ship visits a planet that seems pleasant by day, but terrifying things begin happening when night falls. In keeping with the series' use of Magic from Technology, it turns out to be due to a swarm of nanobots that shut down during the day because sunlight interferes with their control signals.
  • 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.
  • Percussive Pickpocket: A thief does this to Max.
  • Pilot Movie: Kinda - Babylon 5: A Call to Arms only included two characters who would go on into this series and was more of a Poorly Disguised Pilot in the form of a Babylon 5 TV movie.
  • Pineapple Surprise: Dureena pulls this on a Drakh soldier in the pilot after the away team investigating a crashed ship gets pinned down. She sneaks around back and triggers a grenade hooked to a soldier's belt, then runs away very quickly.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: Subversion, they just switch to a bigger scale.
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: A Running Gag amongst the fandom was to refer to the show as "Dungeons & Dragons In Space!" There was a wizard (Galen), a thief (Dureena), a healer (Doctor Chambers), a warrior (Matheson), a paladin (Gideon), and Max.
    • 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.
    • There are also plentiful (and deliberate) Shout Outs to Arthurian myth. Aside from the ship being Excalibur, Gideon and Galen are very much Arthur and Merlin. Also, one unproduced episode involved finding a mystical sword, presumably the one seen in the intro.
  • Recycled Premise: It's basically Space Battleship Excalibur. The planned five-year arc was going to be more like Blake's 7.
  • 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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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.
    • In "The Needs of Earth", during a conversation about Mozart, Gideon repeats Tom Lehrer's joke about Mozart's achievements from That Was the Year That Was.
  • Something Else Also Rises: In one episode, as Gideon and Lochley are about to have sex, the camera cuts to a shot of a ship entering Babylon 5. JMS has confirmed that the visual was intentional.
  • Take That!: The following exchange at the end of "Visitors From Down the Street", after Gideon has sent out messages to a planet's population informing them about the malevolent Government Conspiracy that has been ruling them and framing Earth for it:
    Matheson: There are probably some who'll say that by doing this, we are interfering with their culture.
    Gideon: Probably. Screw 'em. We let the truth back into the room, and the truth can take care of itself.
  • 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.
  • 30-Second Blackout: Firing the ship's superweapon causes a loss of power for 60 seconds.
  • Trapped in the Host: Episode Appearances and Other Deceits has an alien entity possessing various crew members. The entity was isolated to a deck, but was using the possessed crew members as hostages in order to control the ship. When the oxygen to the deck was cut, the entity escaped from all but one host, who then searched around for a new body, finding one in a space suit - said new body was paralyzed from a shot hitting the spine earlier in the episode. The paralyzed body was then ejected into space and fired upon.
  • Travelling at the Speed of Plot: Trope Namer, via J. Michael Straczynski's comments on the show.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Gideon has a small Romance Arc with Babylon 5's CO, Captain Elizabeth Lochley, which is cut off by the cancellation. In the chronologically latest episode of the arc, they get together, but then decide to not pursue an exclusive relationship because of the demands of their positions.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The Excalibur's biggest weapon — an experimental prototype that drains the ship's power for 60 seconds after it's fired.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The alien Man In Black in "Visitors From Down the Street" has watched a lot of 20th Century Earth television, and from it assumes that Earth Force has a Prime Directive. To his misfortune, they do not.