In the twelfth episode of Crusade, the truth is out of fashion. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Crusade.
Well, this was a lot of fun. To say that this was unexpected is an understatement; The X-Files was still airing when this episode was on, and I had no idea it would have this sort of impact. I have been aware of just how much that show changed the landscape of modern television, but “Visitors From Down The Street” literally would not exist without The X-Files. My sense watching this was that it was a loving satire that flipped the premise on its head: What if it was humanity who was invading an alien world? And what if we had conspired with those in power on that world to keep the people in line, unquestioning, distracted?
It’s a fascinating premise. I don’t know that the end result lives up to that; Special Agent Kendarr’s expository dialogue in the final act completes the story, but this is a conflict that we experience almost entirely through the words of other people. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I don’t want to ignore that as a huge fan of The X-Files, I was delighted by the constant references to the show! Lyssa was Scully; Durkani was Mulder. Lyssa had red protrusions from her head, mimicking Scully’s red hair. Kendarr was the Cigarette Smoking Man. There was political intrigue and a secret buried within the local government. There were references to Roswell; to hidden identities; to evidence for extraterrestrial life that kept conveniently disappearing; I feel like the face mask scene is a reference to at least a couple episodes/things, like the Alien Bounty Hunter or maybe to the episode “Grotesque.” I CAUGHT THE X IN THE WINDOW, TOO. I bet I could find at least ten more references in a second viewing because… well, that’s just the kind of person I am.
It took me a few scenes to figure out that this was what the show was doing, but even then, there was still a huge mystery at the heart of this. At no point did I ever question Durkani; I believed everything he was saying. There seemed no logical reason for him to lie about any of this! So, if the evidence he was providing was real (or at least convincing enough to seem real), then what the hell was actually happening here? It appeared that somehow, Earth agents had made it to this planet, and they had partnered with an oppression government to do… what? What could Earth be possibly getting out of this?
So the twist that the local government was fabricating an invasion to keep a rebellious population under control was clever. It mostly answered my questions, and it makes the Excalibur crew a coincidence. They never were supposed to actually appear because these aliens figured humans wouldn’t ever truly show up in their part of the universe. It’s both a funny idea, but it leads to an epiphany of how truly fucked up this situation is. Which is also right around where this story falls apart. Gideon lets Kendarr go, and I got that. He couldn’t stop him from going home, and how could he intervene in what this world had chosen to do? But then Gideon decides to send “the truth” down to the planet in probes, and perhaps I’m a cynical asshole living in the world of fake news, but surely this government would stoke the flames of paranoia even more with this? It’s such a thoughtless thing to do, but Gideon thinks he is being smart about this. What if he just made it worse?
The problem is that this story ends right as it gets most interesting, and it feels half-formed. In essence, that’s the problem I’ve had with some of these episodes. When it’s good, Crusade hits the mark. When it’s not, it surprises me that this is supposed to all have been crafted by the same person who wrote Babylon 5. Things feel rushed and messy, and while I have no idea what went on behind the scenes, I do wonder if that affects the end result. This could have been so much better, and it had a TON of promise, y’all!
Anyway, onwards I go!
The video for “Visitors from Down the Street” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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