The Complete Series
(Region 1 Edition)

Starring: Gary Cole, Tracey Scoggins and Daniel Dae Kim
Warner Bros
RRP: $59.98
Certificate: Not Rated
Available 07 December 2004

The year is 2267 A.D. The Shadow War is long over and the Psicorps has been officially disbanded. However, a new threat comes in the form of the Drakh Plague. After fending off a Drakh offensive of Earth, the human homeworld is obliged to quarantine itself. The Drakh have left behind a microbial, biogenetic plague which, after the estimated five years it will take to adjust to our biology, will kill everyone on the planet. Captain Matthew Gideon (Gary Cole) is given command of the Excalibur, the latest and fastest exploration ship Earth has, and a mission to do whatever is necessary to find a cure or combatant to the plague...

Other assembled key crew members include Lieutenant John Matheson (Daniel Dae Kim), Gideon's First Officer and the first telepath to be admitted in to Earthforce; Max Ellerson (Daniel Allen Brooks), a sometimes hot-headed and selfish but expert archaeologist and linguist; Dureena Nafeel (Carrie Dobro), an accomplished thief and locksmith; Dr. Sarah Chambers (Marjean Holden), the ship's medical doctor; and Galen (Peter Woodward), a powerful Technomage who uses science to simulate magic. Also credited among the regular cast is Captain Elizabeth Lochley (Tracy Scoggins), the character from the latter part of Babylon 5, but with the series having it's plug pulled after only thirteen episodes it's a case of spot the Lochley. Answers on a postcard please. I suppose I should also mention that Dr. Stephen Franklin (Richard Biggs), the Babylon 5 medical officer, guest stars in episode thirteen. Unlucky for some; we'll blame him then, shall we?

Crusade is a spin-off series from the situations created in Babylon. In fact the Babylon 5 TV movie A Call to Arms sets the scene with the Drakh battle and the first action of the Excalibur.

The good thing is it's not necessary to have any knowledge of that TV movie, as this pretty much starts afresh. In theory this show would have run a similar five-year arc as the Babylon 5 series, and it's sad that we never got to appreciate its full potential.

I know that J. Michael Straczynski is working on an original feature film set in the Babylon 5 universe, but perhaps he might take the Joss Whedon path on Firefly and attempt to rekindle the series with a movie. Let's hope so.

Crusade starts slow but soon gets moving. One of the most difficult arrangements to pull off convincingly is tackled in practically the first scene. The multiple fist-fight comes across as being more than a little contrived, and also in the first episode John Matheson does little more than release a half-smile every now and then. He's a character that will gradually grow on you, although at times you'll want to shake him in to some sort of activity.

By the second episode the show is already well into its stride, supported by two main strengths. The first is the writing of J. Michael Straczynski, which is as tight and plot-driven as ever. As with Jeremiah, Straczynski's most recent TV serial, you can instantly tell which episodes he has written himself because the quality of output is so much better. Thankfully, of the thirteen parts collected together in this attractive package, all but three are written by the man himself.

The second strength is the character of Galen, brilliantly portrayed by Peter Woodward (son of Edward). Galen has some of the qualities of the first Kosh in Babylon 5, but is significantly more multifaceted. He makes infuriatingly vague comments, he comes and goes like the wind, gives the impression of being all-powerful and all-knowing when he's clearly not and, best of all, his quirky enthusiasm from the smallest events hook you and reel you in. Galen turns a good show into a great show.

One of the best episodes, in my humble opinion, is The Long Road, in which Edward Woodward plays a Technomage trying to scare away strip minors from his adopted planet. There's plenty of twists and turns, and the victims are not beyond using ruthless means to get their way. It must have been quite strange for Peter Woodward to play against his father.

Extras include commentaries for two episodes, The Making of Crusade documentary, and Forging Excalibur: describing the layout and capabilities of the starship.

This set is well worth a look, as long as you don't expect a conclusion to the Plague story; the nearest you'll get is a hint at a new experiment in the episode Each Night I Dream of Home. It didn't bother me. I just wished for more.

All hail Straczynski.

Ty Power

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Region 1 Edition

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