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Entry updated 22 December 2020. Tagged: TV.

US tv series (1999). Babylonian Productions for TNT. Created by J Michael Straczynski. Producers include Straczynski and Douglas Netter. Written by Straczynski and Fiona Avery. Directed by Michael Vejar, Tony Dow, Stephen Furst, and Janet Greek. Cast includes Gary Cole as Matthew Gideon, Tracy Scoggins as Elizabeth Lochley, Daniel Dae Kim as John Matheson, David Allen Brooks as Max Eilerson, Peter Woodward as Galen, Marjean Holden as Sarah Chambers, and Carrie Dorbo as Dureena Nafeel. Two hour pilot titled A Call to Arms followed by 13 one-hour episodes.

This sequel to Babylon 5 (1993-1998) picks up five years after that series' end. In the pilot movie, the Drakh, a servant race of the Shadows, who were defeated by a multi-species coalition that became the Interstellar Alliance, exact their revenge by seeding Earth with a virus, creating a Pandemic which will kill the entire population in five years. The Starship Excalibur, a new model designed for deep space exploration, is sent out to explore uncharted space in the hopes of finding a cure. As vague and unconvincing as this premise is, it does nothing to prepare one for the series' 13 episodes, which put even Babylon 5's first season – acknowledged even by fans as its worst – to shame with their pointless, uninvolving plots, hammy acting, and most of all the literalization of what in Babylon 5 was only an undercurrent, the fact that the show's story has a greater affinity with epic fantasy than with science fiction. If in Babylon 5 the overarching plot's shape seemed to borrow liberally from J R R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955 3vols) while still maintaining the appearance of an sf story, Crusade features one character, Galen, who is a wizard (actually a "technomage", who uses Technology to create the appearance of Magic) and another, Dureena, who is a member of the Thieves' Guild. The result is, naturally, absurd. Some fans will argue that just as Babylon 5 came into its own in its second season, when its five-year arc truly kicked into gear, so Crusade's plot should not be judged solely on a preliminary half-season (Straczynski has said that the virus story would not have occupied the series' entire five-year run, but would have acted as a preamble to another plot entirely), and that much of the show's flaws are attributable to interference from network executives, who reordered episodes and demanded more standalone stories. Nevertheless, there is little in what actually made it to the screen to make one regret Crusade's cancellation.

Several tie-in novels have been produced, and the character of Galen appears in the direct-to-DVD anthology volume Babylon 5: The Lost Tales. [AN]


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