Babylon 5: Crusade

crusade coverDomestic DVD acquisitions have been limited this year due to the reduced availability of disposable cash. I am a big fan of the original Babylon 5 series and recently rewatched the first four series – I am a bit cool on the final series as it lacks the overarching story arc of the previous series and many of the cooler characters and character interactions are missing. That, aside I did enjoy  the five movies that accompanied the series before it declined into products like The Lost Tales and The Legend of the Rangers that only sought to quite blatantly milk the franchise for more profit.

Crusade has been available here for a number of years but retailing for $99.99 most of the time which is pretty steep for only 13 episodes, more so when the original B5 series usually go for only $29.99. I stopped in Te Kuiti on my way home from my trip to Germany to stretch my legs and grab a bite to eat. To pass the time while I refreshed myself, I went for a wander through the local Warehouse looking for any bargains, and found Crusade in the bargain bin for only $9.99 which was more to my liking and this formed the basis for my next week’s big screen entertainment.

Overall, I found Crusade rather pretentious – every aspect of the series seems to think very much that they it is part of an epic saga – and quite boring. The stories are uninspired and lack anything like the sense of drama or urgency that a. the original series developed so well and b. that you might expect would dominate a series based on the premise that all life on Earth will cease in less than five years. Instead many plot lines are more concerned with petty bureaucratic squabbles and only a few actually contribute to the main theme of the series which is to find a cure for the Drahk plague.

The characters are bland and two-dimensional with none of the interplay between the key characters of B5 e.g. Londo and G’Kar, Sheridan and De’enn, or between Garibaldi, Ivanova and everyone else. The only two characters of note are both guest roles: Edward Woodward as a maverick technomage in The Long Road, and Richard Biggs reprising his role as Dr Stephen Franklin in Each Night I Dream of Home. All the rest struggle to reach an average standard.

Although there are regular reference to ‘First Contact protocols’ what these are is never spelled out and they seem to be the plot device equivalent of the dilithium crystals from Star Trek – no one really knows what they do what they are handy to write stories around. If anything, Crusade takes more joy in breaching these protocols than upholding them – but only because it can, not to support the driving imperative of the central story-line. Episode 12, Visitors from Down the Street, has some potential for an interesting tale reversing the popular ‘they walk amongst us’ and ‘the truth is out there’ devices but is handling rather clumsily with an ininspired conclusion. Also, one has to wonder about a story’s sensitivity when a story in the premiere season already starts to rely on cute role transpositions when such are normally reserved for the ‘shark jumping’ stage of a series life cycle.

My verdict on Crusade is that diehard B5 followers (if which I guess I am one) will get something out of it if they can find it for the right (as low as possible) price but generally most will find it underwhelming. Personally, I got more out of re-watching the original Babylon 5 than I ever did from Crusade and it is probably a small mercy that it was canned when it was.

If there is anything in the future of Babylon 5 that we should be pinning our hopes on, it is that J. Michael Straczynski will release his George Lucas-like strangehold on the franchise and sell it off to Disney or some other group capable of realising its re-imagination potential…OK, just to Disney then…

PS. If you area  B5 diehard, on Facebook and haven’t already, then sign up to follow Claudia Christian’s fan page

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