In the eighth episode of Crusade, NO THANK YOU FOR ALL TIME. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Crusade.
Trigger Warning: For extensive discussion of colonialism and consent
WHEW, THIS WAS A WHOLE LOT. So very much! This is a killer story (sorry not sorry) that takes a number of tropes—the abandoned spaceship, the parasitic alien race, possession, invasion—and then pushes them a step or two further than I’m used to. Indeed, there’s much here that we’ve seen on Babylon 5 before this, and they’re not unique ideas separately when compared to the canon of science fiction television.
But the unnamed species at the heart of “Appearances and Other Deceits” is fucked up in a way that captures one of the essences of colonization. I remarked on video that this metaphorical representation of it is so on-the-nose that I’m now realizing it’s barely a metaphor. These creatures don’t just invade; they force assimilation by making other living beings just like them. That’s terrifying, y’all, and it moves this episode a step closer to representing the true evil of colonization. As Gideon put it, the aliens don’t terraform worlds; they terraform people, which is much more ruthlessly efficient. AND WAY CREEPIER.
See, as I watched this episode, I was definitely spooked by many of the images. Seriously, that shot of all the floating aliens who died due to their ship being depressurized? No, thanks. That chain of beings stretching out for the lone survivor? Could go without seeing that again for the rest of my life! But even then, I thought I had this figured out. I thought I knew what this was! It was a creature that survived from passing from one being to another. So when that first twist came and it divided itself, I had a sense that I was in for a wild ride. But lord, it was so much worse than that. Casing John Vickery as Mr. Welles (a possible reference to War of the Worlds?), first of all, was perfect, and using him as a vehicle for exploring this demanding and unapologetic species was BRILLIANCE. We get to see what Mr. Welles is like—only briefly!—before he’s possessed, and once that happens, the transformation is stunning. What makes the character so chilling is the being’s certainty. Until the very end of the episode, this being never falters. They never are anything but absolutely sure that in the end, they will survive, they will conquer this ship and its crew, and then they will move on to a new world. And why would they think otherwise? Has anyone ever stopped them before?
Which makes this so insidious and, again, such a biting representation of how colonialism is both destructive and immoral. These beings posit that their existence, which relies on the bodies of others, is more important than anything else. They take bodies and minds and cultures and lands and ships and use them all for their own end. Often, those things are destroyed in the process: either by those trying to defend themselves or out of spite by the colonizers when they can’t have what they want. And in the end, as long as one of the colonizers survives, as long as they can all return to one host, they can regroup and then go back out into the universe and do it all over again.
Which brings me to Max and Greenberg. I guess I was asking the right questions in the last review! “Appearances and Other Deceits” delves a bit more into Max’s character, and here, we learn that he feels a bit inadequate around a lot of the military men who have trained their whole lives for missions like these. But he doesn’t even consider this out loud until Greenberg gets shot protecting Max. I found the conversations around this to be very interesting, and it was nice to get more time with Dr. Chambers, too. But I feel like I missed a crucial conversation about consent when it came to using Greenberg’s body to trick the alien that had been in Mr. Welles. Because Greenberg was still alive, no one had contact with his next of kin, and they still decided to just… use his body and then kill him to save everyone? I get the desperation they were under, and I get that Dr. Chambers was certain that with Greenberg’s spinal injury, he wouldn’t survive off a machine. But still. Shouldn’t they have at least talked about it? It seemed weird that they skipped over this.
Anyway: this was a properly creepy story, and it surprised me. It seems that when Crusade goes for the bizarre and commits to it, the episodes tend to be better. Also, where’s Galen been? I feel like we haven’t seen him in a while. Is he still riding the train around the ship???
The video for “Appearances and Other Deceits” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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