In the ninth episode of Crusade, the team searches through the remains of a civilization that may have been attacked by the Drakh plague. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Crusade.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of consent and nonconsensual medical procedures.
Wow, y’all, this was simply stunning. It’s a solid story, it’s got some killer suspense, but this worked for me because it’s a chilling glimpse at a possible future, one that I imagine we won’t get to because of how short Crusade is.
Exactly what will humanity look like when their time starts to run out?
As we’ve seen thus far, there are doomsday cults sprouting up everywhere; there was mass panic after the Drakh plague was dropped in the atmosphere; and the Excalibur mission was approved rapidly afterwards. Gideon’s been given pretty much free range to do as he see fits. (Well, except in the design of the interiors of the ship and in the uniforms. Nice to see that continuity stick around in this episode!) For the most part, the response to this disaster has been reasonable. And I use that word deliberately, since that’s what Max uses multiple times over What is a reasonable response to a situation as messed up and as dire as this? What is moral? What is fair? Gideon is risky, and he loves to gamble, but has he been reckless? Does he make decisions that hurt others to get him closer to his need? I’d argue that thus far, he’s tried to keep this in mind, and I think that’s directly because of his experience of being left in space. He knows what the end result is of being left behind, of being collateral damage, of being the ramifications of someone else’s decision.
In contrast to this is Max, and his parts of this story are expertly seeded early in the script. There’s a reason Max argues so fiercely to study the many equations and theories left behind in the buildings. Max is the kind of person for whom the ends always justifies the means. And in this case, the irony is that he doesn’t even realize how deeply he’s fallen into the trap that these aliens have left behind FOR EXACTLY THIS SORT OF PERSON. That city was designed to trick people, to intrigue them, to get them trapped inside of it long enough that they’d be too entrenched to ever leave. But Max doesn’t think of this possibility until it’s almost too late for him. Instead, it is perfectly “reasonable” that they mine the abandoned city for anything that will give them a profit. And that’s fascinating because most far future science fiction doesn’t necessarily address profit-driven capitalism like this. Max is absolutely a fan of it, and why wouldn’t he be? It has benefited him up until this point, but that arrogance was nearly his downfall.
So, rather early on, these two viewpoints are put on display, and then JMS’s script challenges both of them. Which one withstands this experience? Initially, Gideon can’t convince Max at all, and he is stuck steadfast in his opinions. (I loved Dr. Chambers’s response to it once Gideon came over to her. BLESS.) The mystery of the city that VIVISECTED someone and stole most of their organs didn’t change his opinions, but that’s only because no one can figure out what the HELL is going on. (I AM VERY PROUD OF THE FACT THAT I PIECED THIS TOGETHER BEFORE IT WAS REVEALED.) This was a damn good mystery, and the resolution to that, after a whole lot of STRESS and CONFUSION, was so ridiculously disturbing. Even though I figured it out! Because once it all starts to be spelled out, it’s easy to see how messed up this has been.
Which brings me back to the opening. This unnamed species was unfairly and violently targeted by the Shadows a thousand years ago. They refused to work with them, and the Shadows poisoned the well, too, just like the Drakh did on Earth. But the solution they came up with, only a few years later, seemed necessary to them. This was about survival, right? This entire race would die out if they hadn’t done something. So they set up a system that would bring in the curious and the greedy; this system kept people intrigued; and then the system took bodies and ships and used them to find a cure while the people of this world slept in cryogenic chambers.
In short: they murdered to survive. In the end, it was a numbers game. What were a few hundred or a few thousand or a few million murders when billions of lives were at stake? What happened to this race was an unfair tragedy; the fact that they must individually awaken, only to give up their life two years later to the plague if they hadn’t cured it, was tragic, too. But Gideon draws a line in the sand, and it is the exact opposite of Max’s opinion. WHO STILL RATIONALIZES THIS SYSTEM AS REASONABLE!!! Even after all of this, he still thinks they did something worthy! What I respected about this is that Gideon refused to be complicit in this. Yes, maybe he wouldn’t have been directly contributing to this terrible machine if he worked with them, but he would have been directly benefiting from it. (It makes me think about what Gideon would have done if he’d known that the creature in the previous episode had the cure. Would he have consented to working with them?) It is unacceptable to him. It is not worth the cost paid, especially since humanity would not be paying the cost! It would be other unsuspecting people and races.
But I’m brought back to that same question: what if Gideon gets to the end of those four years? What if he’s forced to monitor Earth for those trying to escape? What desperate measures will humans go to as their biological clocks tick down to their imminent apocalypse? It’s a chilling thought, and it was hard not to consider it while watching this.
WHEW, THIS WAS FUCKED UP.
The video for “Racing the Night” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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