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The Zocalo Newsletter!

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May 3, 2001




Crusade Warner Bros Home Video has announced that the Babylon 5 spinoff, Crusade will hit DVD on December 7. The series stars Peter Woodward, Gary Cole, Marjean Holden, Tracy Scoggins, Daniel Dae Kim, David Allen Brooks and Carrie Dobro. This 13 episode series (576 mins) will be released in a 4 disc set, and carries a suggested price of $59.98 US. It'll contain an English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track, along with English, French and Spanish subtitles. The video will be presented in the original aspect ratio: 1.33:1. We have little information on the special features, just that there will be audio commentaries and a documentary.

For those of you not familiar with CRUSADE, here is a synopsis of the plot:
In 2267 the Earth is quarantined, having been infected with a deadly plague by an attacking alien force. Scientists estimate that it will kill every inhabitant within 5 years, not nearly enough time for a cure to be developed. So the planet's only hope lies with the Excalibur, an advanced prototype starship sent out to search ancient alien ruins for their former inhabitant's secrets, hoping that somewhere out there a cure can be found.


Subject: Re: Crusade - Racing the Night
Date: 5/2/2001 3:49 PM Eastern Daylight Time

Hi. I actually agree with most of what's been said on both sides of this debate (at the risk of offending everyone, I actually wish the first episode of Crusade wasn't either Joe's pick or TNT's pick, but something in between). I think that comparing the first episode of Crusade to the first episode of some non-SF shows, though, overlooks an important point, which is that SF is set in a different universe, and the nature of that universe needs to be established, either through the characters' actions or their words, or the set. In the West Wing, we know who the president is, what the United States is, how the government works (in theory anyway), and so on. In SF, all these things need to be established somehow. (Obviously those who have seen B5 know something about this universe already, but Crusade was designed to appeal to both B5 fans and non-B5 fans, so that knowledge can't be assumed.) Good SF will establish information about the universe subtly, as the story is moving ahead, allowing the reader or viewer to discover things about the world as he goes--much good SF is a lot like a mystery; SF critic Darko Suvin calls this "cognitive estrangement." You're put in a strange place and try to figure out what's going on. Thus a good SF book won't stop to give you a 20-page history lesson on the universe, and a good SF TV show won't have characters spouting explanatory exposition that they'd never really say (e.g., "As we both know, Mr. Spock, we can't beam down to the planet because the Federation's prime directive forbids interfering in the healthy culture of another planet"). Introducing information subtly and gradually is clearly what Joe was going for in Crusade. This is very difficult to pull off, and much more difficult in TV/movie SF than in written SF. It's also much more common in written SF than in media SF--most TV viewers are used to things being laid out very clearly and simply for them (I can't tell you how many people have said to me, "Well, I tried an episode of Farscape, but I couldn't figure out what was going on, so I quit"). TNT apparently wasn't comfortable with this technique, and so demanded an opening episode that was at the other end of the spectrum, and more expository dialogue in many of the episodes, which was sometimes painful to listen to.

I guess my overall point is that more background information is required in SF, and working that information in is harder in media SF than written SF, so writing the first episode of an SF TV show is one of the hardest things one can attempt.


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