In the eleventh episode of Crusade, the team is given a morally ambiguous mission to obtain possibly life-saving information. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Crusade.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of extrajudicial execution, slavery
I am actually very interested to see if I can pick up on the reasoning for this specific viewing order as I’m watching Crusade. Right now, I’m not really sure I have any clues, but I gotta say that “The Needs of Earth” is a stunning follow-up to “Racing the Night.” The previous episode (in my watch order) asked what Gideon and his crew were unable to do in order to save Earth. We got that answer, and Gideon was very clear that he would not contribute to such a horrific system in order to survive.
But “The Needs of Earth” flips that question: What are these people willing to do? What is acceptable to them? What laws or rules or regulations are they fine with breaking? If the last episode was about the end not justifying the means, then when does it?
So, it’s with that understanding, given to us by the premise in the opening scenes, that this episode unfolds to its surprising, disturbing, and heartfelt conclusion. Which I have to admit is strange, if only because we start this episode with porn. LITERALLY. Look, maybe in a later episode, Gideon will take full advantage of what he discovered on one of Max’s data crystals. MAYBE THAT IS WHY THERE IS A SPECIFIC VIEWING ORDER!!! Anyway, that’s not the point. (Though it does prove an excellent distraction later.) I found it slightly ironic that it was a member of the Anla’shok who brought news of Natchok Var, since they are a highly moral organization. But the information seems too good to be true: someone who possesses all of his race’s vital knowledge is trying to sell it. So, the issue is plain but not clear-cut. Gideon and his crew have to operate outside the jurisdiction of the Alliance, and they have to violate a number of laws in order to break Natchok Var out of prison and then buy this information from him.
And what a perfect crew for that! I was so pleased (well, at least before I knew the truth about Praxis 9) that this story seemed made for Dureena. They needed a thief! Who better to break someone out of custody than someone who is not only a professional thief, but who has been to Praxis 9? However, it’s not long before this premise starts to peel away and reveal itself as a vehicle for discussing concepts like complicity and destiny. There are numerous ways that this script reflects on who the characters truly are, and I’ll start with Dureena. It’s true that both her knowledge of Praxis 9 and her skillset made her perfect for this mission, but Dureena came down to this planet for another reason, one that Gideon later comes to understand. (And probably should have understood much earlier. Doesn’t Gideon hate the idea of being left behind?) Praxis 9 was the site of one her most traumatic experiences: being sold into slavery to pay off her family’s debt. So what does Dureena do while she’s there?
She does something that has nothing to do with the mission and everything to do with what was never done for her. What do you do in the face of undeniable evil? Do you turn away from it—as Gideon does, calling it “legal” in this part of the galaxy—or do you do what you can to alleviate the suffering you witness?
But what if that suffering is intended for good? One of the things that makes this such a compelling episode is the fact that the story progresses in a manner that is so “easy” that Gideon even calls it out within the script. They rescue Natchok Var, and he does confirm that he’s got data crystals with all the important information of his people. But he’s not selling it; he’s giving it away to whomever he deems worthy. And it’s not long after he discovers the music of Mozart that humanity is deemed worthy, Natchok Var gives himself up to those chasing him, and he agrees to leave peacefully. It’s so easy, right? Look, there were still ten minutes left in this episode as things were wrapping up, so I got SO WORRIED.
And this is where this episode got truly interesting, y’all. I loved so much that Dr. Chambers figured this out first, that someone who immersed herself in the complicated beauty of science was the first to appreciate the incredible gift that Natchok had given humanity. And it was a gift! From a logistical standpoint, it made sense that a race that might possibly be doomed be shown how to preserve their cultural output. But this was about hope! These people had a vibrant, gorgeous society, and all of it had been destroyed by those in power. Natchok Var preserved his people’s hope. There would be no art, no music, no creative energy in Praxis 9, but one day, there might be, if his people ever regretted what they had done.
But then there is Lt. Matheson, who has a completely different experience. Matheson was the first one who figured out that Natchok Var was walking to his death, that he was fully aware he would not survive the trip back to his ship. That’s the conundrum, though. Once Matheson knew the truth, should he have stopped him? If he did, what if Natchok’s people had figured out what he had done? Natchok sacrificed himself to execution because he knew it would preserve his people’s culture forever. I loved that this was compared to the sacrifice of Christ. Would you stop the crucifixion because Christ suffered so much? Or would you allow it to happen because of what he intended it to do?
I adore that this episode asks these questions. It’s such a thoughtful, emotional script, and y’all. Y’ALL. These two episodes have totally killed it. THIS IS GREAT.
The video for “The Needs of Earth” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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