1] - [Review
1: Crusade Episode 1 - "War Zone"
first days on the job go, this one wasn't too bad" -
so it begins... Finally, after months of delays and
despair, the Crusade has begun, and "War Zone" marks
the start of Crusades run as a "limited series" on TNT.
While this pilot episode is nowhere near as good as
the better Babylon 5 episodes, it presents us with an
interesting premise, fascinating characters, and very
This episode takes place hours after the Babylon 5 TV-movie
"A Call to Arms". The Drakh have launched a massive
attack on Earth, and all ships are called in to help
in the defense. Captain Matthew Gideon rushes home on
his Explorer-class starship, but he arrives too late,
the battle is already over. The Drakh were barely defeated,
but before retreat they managed to spread a deadly bio-genetic
plague in Earth's atmosphere. Within five years this
advanced plague will adapt itself to Earth life, and
kill everything. The scientists see no hope in finding
a cure in only five years, so several ships are sent
out on a desperate mission - to find a cure to this
alien plague somewhere before it is too late. One of
these ships is the Excalibur, an advanced prototype
starship, the only one of its kind. With a lot of alien
encounter experience, Captain Matthew Gideon is given
command of the Excalibur. Meanwhile, above a remote
planet, an Earth Alliance destroyer battles one of the
escaping Drakh ships. Critically injured, the destroyer
manages to force the Drakh ship down to crash on the
planet. The Excalibur is dispatched to investigate the
Drakh ship, but will she get there before Drakh reinforcements
certainly feels like a different show, that much is
made clear during the opening credits, which are very
different from the typical Babylon 5 style. There are
no narrator(s), instead it starts out with a conversation
between Galen and Gideon, posing the following questions:
"Who are you?", "What do you want", "Where are you going?",
and "Who do you serve - who do you trust?". Presumably
the answers to these questions will be very important
for each of the Excalibur crew. After the dialogue,
the music kicks in slowly, while we see the main characters
in action. The theme is not one you easily remember
and can hum along with, like Christopher Franke's original
Babylon 5 theme, but I like it. Make no mistake - this
is certainly not intended to be the sixth season of
Babylon 5, Crusade is something... new.
Cole plays captain Matthew Gideon, a commanding officer
who has total dedication to his crew, but will stop
at nothing to complete a mission. I found him to be
very interesting, calm on the surface, but someone you
definitely would not want to be on the wrong side of.
Gideon could be described as a mix of Sinclair's sensibility
and Sheridan's aggressiveness, but with a definite no-nonsense
Dae Kim plays Lt. John Matheson, the first officer onboard
the Excalibur, the only one in the crew to have served
with Gideon in the past. He is a telepath, but after
the end of the telepath war, telepaths can again serve
in the military under new rules. Always in control,
he continually monitors the Excalibur through his headset.
It's hard to put my finger on specifics, but something
about Matheson makes him seem very competent. He is
a very cool character.
Woodward plays Galen, a technomage, exiled from the
technomages due to too much contact with others. He
is a lot like Babylon 5's Kosh, speaking in riddles,
and generally being cryptic. He is a very interesting
character, but I didn't really care for how he was used
in this episode, I thought he was much better in "A
Call to Arms". I just hope he won't become Crusade's
universal plot device, with his technomage abilities.
Holden plays Dr. Susan Chambers, chief medical officer.
She is hard to comment on, since we don't see much of
her at all in this episode. Hopefully we'll see more
of her soon.
Dobro plays Dureena Nafeel, member of the thieves' guild,
and lone survivor of her species from a Drakh attack.
She isn't given much to do in this episode, but she
plays an aggressive female well without overplaying
it. (By the way, is it just me or does she look a lot
like Delenn in her last shot of the opening credits?)
Allan Brooks plays Max Eilerson, an IPX archeologist
and linguist that joins the crew. He is a very different
character than the others, a civilian with very different
motivations than the rest. He is very good at what he
does, and he makes sure others know it too. He is given
a lot of the unnecessary exposition (dialogue that explains
things just for the audience) in this episode, but I
thought he came across very well. He is my favorite
character so far.
Scoggins plays Captain Elizabeth Lochley, who runs Babylon
5. She is in the opening credits, but does not appear
in this episode. Nonetheless, I thought that her portrayal
of Lochley improved throughout all of Babylon 5's season
5, so she should be good.
main actors all did a good job, with the standout characters
being Eilerson, Gideon, and Matheson. The guest stars
did not do so great, however, but they were adequate
main problem with this episode is that is an introductory
episode. Half the episode is taken up by awkward plot
elements that bring the characters together, not very
interesting. But this is not specific to "War Zone",
most pilot episodes have this problem. A two hour pilot
movie would have fit this kind of an introduction episode
better. Some character introductions weren't very good,
however, but Dureena's seemed most forced. Shouldn't
she have come very highly recommended from ISA president
Sheridan? A Sheridan cameo/guest starring would have
been nice too, as a symbolic passing of the torch. But
after they finally got on the Excalibur, then the plot
became more interesting, when they go to investigate
the Drakh ship and rescue the archeologists. The end
battle with the Drakh ships was nice, but it could have
been choreographed much better. I don't know if the
silence during the battle was due to being accurate
(no sound in space), or artistic, but the silent battle
style did work better here than in "A Call to Arms".
effects good overall, but I was disappointed to see
that the cool new jump-point effect introduced in "A
Call to Arms" was gone. The current effect seems to
be a mix between the old Babylon 5 style and the "A
Call to Arms" style. The Excalibur does look wonderful,
in all its 2-kilometer glory, the ship just looked big!
The ground scenes were not as well done, but still decent.
The PPG and Drakh weapon effects were pretty poor, though,
they looked like real rush-jobs. Hopefully those effects
will improve. The Drakh makeup was pretty good, with
the return of the warrior-Drakhs from season 4 of Babylon
5. Their face-masks/helmets looked a little bit cheesy
perhaps, but at least it is continuity.
sets look A LOT better than in Babylon 5, pretty spiffy.
Nice touch with the submarine-like "scope"/view-screen
too. I like the black uniforms, very nice and militaristic.
The internal security forces look quite a bit tougher
and cooler too, with uniforms and armor very similar
to the movie "Starship Troopers". Crusade definitely
looks better and more expensive than Babylon 5 did.
music has certainly improved quote a bit from "A Call
to Arms", it actually worked quite well in some scenes.
But Evan Chen still has quote a bit to learn, for example
- the music during the final battle was very jarring.
I do like the opening credit theme a lot, though, it
grows on me every time I hear it. There is even a hint
of the Babylon 5 theme in there, I think. (listen carefully
during the scene with the doctor in the contamination
suit) Or maybe I'm just hearing things. :-) Anyway,
I feel a lot better about the music now than after "A
Call to Arms". It really gives Crusade a unique sound,
but there is also room for major improvement.
conclusion, "War Zone" has a few problems, but there
are many likable characters, the show certainly has
a lot of promise. Crusade deserves to be renewed. Bring
on more episodes!
Lars Joreteg (firstname.lastname@example.org)