Sunday, May 20, 2007

Crusade: 1x09-1x11

Crusade continues in much the manner as it was going, with a mix of strong and okay episodes. However, I’m starting to lose patience with it, a few arcs keep me interested, but the fact that it isn’t going anywhere does affect the viewing experience. I’d imagine it was different for first time viewers, who had gone a year without Babylon 5, an episode like ‘The Rules of the Game’ must have been positively ecstatic, at last returning to the station where it all started. However, now, I was there a couple of months ago, and while it’s nice to be back, the nostalgia factor isn’t quite enough to make all the episodes work.

‘Each Night I Dreamt of Home’ does have an ace up its sleeve in terms of nostalgia factor, the return of Doctor Stephen Franklin, whose dramatic entrance is spoiled a bit by seeing his name in the credits. Still, it’s nice to have him back even if he is stuck behind glass the entire episode. His presence brings to the fore one of the issues with the series, we know that the Drakh plague won’t actually destroy Earth, we’ve already seen Stephen twenty years in the future in ‘Sleeping in Light.’ This doesn’t kill the tension, but it’s an out for the audience, we know the happy ending is coming, it’s just a matter of getting there.

The episode itself is pretty good, particularly the climax which cuts between a space battle and Franklin’s attempt to save the other guy. That said, the Drakh still look goofy here, not matching the darkness of their appearance in the latter days of Babylon 5. That guy who stuck the keeper in Londo was a scary dude, these ones, not so much.

I want to take a second to address the uniform issue. With this viewing order, they switch frequently, and it’s baffling to me that people seem to prefer the grey and red ones to the blank uniforms. The grey and red ones don’t look good, and even if the black ones were TNT imposed, they were a good choice. Maybe I’m confused with the different episode orders and people actually like the black ones, I know I do.

Anyway, ‘Patterns of the Soul’ is up next, an episode that reunites Dureena with some more of her people and gives us a guest appearance from Brian Thompson, a.k.a The X-Files’ Alien Bounty Hunter. This episode doesn’t work so well. They try to do good work with the planets, but ultimately they wind up feeling stagy, Battlestar Galactica’s tact of going out into the woods creates more convincing alien worlds. But, I don’t think there’s one shot in the entire Babylon 5 universe that was actually taken outside the studio.

I don’t really have too much to say about this one, these episodes all sort of blend together, even moreso than early B5 did. That’s largely because the plots are very similar, go to an alien planet that might have a cure for the plague, find out they don’t, move on. That’s the problem with the series, and even if they would cure the plague in season two, we’ve still got a bunch of similar ones here.

The final episode features that aforementioned return to Babylon 5. This was a fun episode, largely because we actually get some strong character moments, for both Lochley and Gideon and for Max. Lochley and Gideon are a lot of fun together, both totally committed to the job, but secretly wanting each other. Their relationship is a lot more believable than much of what we saw on B5, and it helps to humanize both characters. I’m assuming this would have been a major thread in the series, considering Tracy Scoggins place in the opening credits.

It’s good to be back on B5, even if this does end up feeling a lost Babylon 5 episode. That’s not a bad thing though, obviously it wouldn’t work long term, but checking in for an episode is great. I’d have liked to seen Dureena off ship, but the limited cast does allow for a closer focus on the characters who are in each episode.

So, with two episodes to go, I’m not expecting any sort of resolution. The show has a lot of potential, but being cut down so early meant that none of these episodes are leading anywhere. JMS is a writer who’s all about buildup, it’s possible stuff we saw here would pay off in great, unexpected ways. Certainly I wouldn’t have expected all the elements of B5 season to come back like they did, but we’ll never know. It’s not the fault of the people making the show, but it comes off as a kind of pointless viewing experience. But, as a way to ease out of B5, it’s nice. And, perhaps the Lost Tales stuff will bring back some lost Crusade plots. The issue isn’t so much a lack of resolution, it’s that we didn’t even get to the point where there’s plot points to be resolved.