This is my summery of Crusade, my opinion about the aborted series and a general roundup of the adventure.
It was always going to be a tough job doing a follow-up to Babylon 5. Even the less popular fifth season was a very good show on a par with the best of other programs at the time. Trying to strike gold for a second time was never going to be easy. Crusade gives it a good go. There are some hits and some misses, as you’d expect from a new series, and in general it doesn’t do too badly.
Crusade was a good series with strong one-shots, developing characters interesting stories and a catching arc. It was hampered by hyper-intelligent characters randomly being mind-blowingly stupid to just to create conflict, creator/studio disputes and not being Babylon5
Some of my posts might give the impression that I hated Crusade. They seem to read bad thing, silly thing, stupid thing, good episode. There are a lot of similarities to B5 and the result is that each Crusade being dished up like a slightly inferior copy. The two shows are different, even though the two series have a lot in common and I fear that my reviews were hypercritical just for that reason.
A better comparison is to treat it against season one B5 and all first season shows, looking at how characters interact and the universe works. In this aspect I think Crusade starts strongly. Babylon5 wasn’t really special until And The Sky Full of Stars. B5 started slowly introducing two characters per week before going into the arc story. Crusade is more ambitious and goes straight into the story introducing the characters in situ. In some episodes works and other episodes it stumbles. Sometimes it seems as though they have a story idea but the characters have not yet been nailed into place so their behavior is slightly inconsistent.
My biggest complaint is that half the episodes only work because someone is a moron. I can understand how Crusade is supposed to show a misfit group of experts who do not yet trust each other, but it feels clumsily done. There are too many situations where an episode could have been resolved if someone took a sensible option or talked to their colleagues.
The character motivation can be hard to see at time. Only Eilerson is immediately apparent (although he has some good hidden depths), but that is because he is a template straw capitalist, on the show to say something offensive or be coldly clinical. The other characters are harder to interpret. I’ll put that down to keeping things simple at the start of the show and more depth would be developed in later episodes. We do get to see some growth. Durenna, Eilerson and Mattheson get a good portion of development. Apparently the big drama point for the season ending was supposed to be about the Technomages and impact on the Gideon/Galen relationship. It is a shame we didn’t get to see that. Some of it is because of the story in the Technomage books. I guess I will add them to me list of things to read.
I felt that the plot arc was coming along nicely. There was just the right pace of development. Questions asked then answered and lots of subtle items introduced foreshadowing a pay-off in later episodes. It is a shame that we weren’t able to see the final resolution of the plague arc and the development of the background story.
I cannot complete a commentry without making reference to the studio/JMS dispute. There does seem to be a lot of items clearly demanded by the studio which stand out from the remainder of the episode. I think might be at least in part to JMS’s dislike for being told what to do resulting in him making little effort to integrate the demands to the story more subtly. It is as if occasional scenes have a different writer to the rest of the episode and neither of them spoke to each other. JMS also seems to be more than happy to take a shot at critics and the studio every chance he gets when he would be better served just getting on with the narrative.
Crusade was a fun way to spend 9 hours. Not the greatest television series ever produced, but it showed the potential to be a solid extension to the Babylon5 universe.