Friday, 19 November 2010

Crusade: Revisiting the Excalibur

For some unknown reason I've had the urge to watch a bunch of Babylon 5 and related stuff lately. This has included the short-lived sequel series Crusade (aka Babylon 5: Crusade), which I've been watching an episode here and there for the past week, and am most of the way through the 13 episode run now.

I watched it the first time round, and remember being extremely stoked for it after watching the frankly brilliant Babylon 5 movie 'A Call To Arms'. Crusade was set up by the end of that movie, where an alien plague is spread on Earth which will kill humanity within five years. Crusade follows the mission to find a cure.

It's a curious series, which feels like a completely different universe much of the time, while still carrying over a large number of B5 staples (including visits to Babylon 5 itself and cameos from B5 regulars). Watching it again now, Gary Coleman's character of Matthew Gideon is a bit of a cookie-cutter starship captain character, equal parts Captain Kirk and Buck Rogers, but there are some characters that really stick in the mind, such as the Techno Mage character Galen (Peter Woordward) and the thief/badass Dureena Nafeel (Carrie Dobro).

The series looks a little cheap and dated now, but that doesn't stop you enjoying some very fine science fiction. It's a little hokey sometimes, and J. Michael Straczynski's scripts sometimes contain dialogue that comes across a little too theatrical for the onscreen action, but Crusade is well worth a repeat viewing. The effects may have dated, but they still look cool and give the series a unified aesthetic, which is very sleek and clean. It's brighter in tone than Babylon 5 and less complicated by a long way, but it's also more than just a curio.

I would have liked to have seen much more than one series produced, but as it is, those 13 episodes are a fine legacy. And yeah, when you watch the final episode, 'Each Night I Dream of Home', I defy any long-term B5 fan not to be moved by the performance from the late Richard Biggs as Dr. Franklin. Great stuff. Now, if only the music for the series had been created by B5 legend Christopher Franke rather than whoever came up with the (frankly infuriating) beeps, clicks and whirrs that pass for a soundtrack, then it would have been even better.

The original Crusade opening (check out the awful theme tune!)

...and a version with a Christopher Franke theme which works so much better...

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