Mark Watches ‘Crusade’: S01E01 – War Zone

In the first episode of Crusade, I AM SO UTTERLY THRILLED. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Crusade. 

Trigger Warning: For discussion of genocide.

Hello, friends! As a reminder, please make sure to check out the Master Schedule or the Mark Watches Babylon 5 viewing order. We will NOT be watching Crusade in the airing or DVD order. That being said: I will be labeling all episodes on this site and in the store with those original numbers. This will be why, later this week, you’ll see me watching episode 4 after episode 2. You are not imagining that, but I just want to explain why that is the case!

And with that said: It’s time for me to watch Crusade!


I’m looking back over my reviews for “The Legend of the Rangers” and “A Call To Arms,” and y’all had to have been tickled at me trying to figure out which of those two films was the set-up for this series. Look, I even had to entertain the chance that neither were. Of the two, I think it’s obvious that I wanted “A Call to Arms” to be the “pilot,” so to speak. And even that terminology is interesting in this case because I’m not sure if it is accurate to call the film that. As I was watching “War Zone,” I realize you could actually just start that episode and get enough information to understand what the show was about. Obviously, it helps to have seen the film, and I absolutely adore that it picks up just hours after the attack on Earth. That first scene is SO GREAT! Which makes me wonder: Was anyone’s entry into the Babylon 5 universe this show??? Could it make sense on its own? 

I think so, but I also recognize how deeply this is tied to another story. It’s more like another chapter in a living universe than something new and separate. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though, because this first episode is already demonstrating how Crusade will explore things Babylon 5 did not get to. The Telepath War is over, and while we don’t know the details of that, we know that telepaths are now allowed back into general society, though there are guidelines??? What are they??? Crusade also has a distinctly different purpose, one that’s made clear by the end of “War Zone.” It’s not about a station or a peace mission; this is a race against time. It sucks that this is only a single season of thirteen episodes, as I could easily see how this framework could last years! It’s sort of like that minute recharge on the Excalibur. It’s a built-in means of maintaining suspense! 

But y’all, I think I’m most thrilled by the fact that both Galen and Dureena, characters I found interesting in “A Call To Arms,” were brought over to the show! (Actually, I think the actress who plays Dr. Chambers was, too, but playing a different character? If I recall, she was on the bridge as… a navigator? Or something?) Oh, there’s so much I want to know about both of them! How will Dureena work to avenge her people’s genocide? Galen has been virtually cast out by the other Technomages for getting involved in the lives of others. He has shown no signs of stopping that; instead, he seeks out someone he once saved (Gideon, which I’ll talk about in a bit) and basically gets himself enlisted in the Excalibur’s mission. YES. I want to know so much more about the Technomages!!! PLEASE. And finally: more Lochley!!! THIS IS ALL GREAT

The New Characters

I admit I’ve got some fatigue for white men leading anything in the speculative fiction realm because it’s just… everywhere? All the time? But I like Gary Cole as an actor, and Matthew Gideon is so damn thorny. There’s something that’s fun about the fact that he seems to piss off all these important members of the Earth forces. Why is that? How exactly is he risky? We get a glimpse of that in the cold open and while the ship is dealing with the events on Ceti. But is that behavior what got him nearly killed nine years prior??? WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED. Who else will he piss off? I say that because I do hope for some grittiness here. Not the cynical kind, but because this situation has such a desperate edge to it. The promise that seems to be given to us in “War Zone” is that Gideon (and his crew) will go to whatever lengths they can to find this cure. It’s why Gideon is so attracted to the idea of bringing Dureena with him! 

But that’s also why Max Eilerson is such a good fit, too. Oh, he’s presumptuous and arrogant, and I am absolutely sure he’ll be the grump of the bunch. (BOY DO I LOVE THE GRUMPY ONE IN A RAGTAG BAND OF WEIRDOS.) Look what the man did on Ceti! (I feel like that had a number after it and I don’t recall what it was LMAO.) He figured out how to turn on the lights in that underground city and set up a defense mechanism; he’s a brilliant linguist who is able to decipher languages quicker than anyone else we’ve seen in the Babylon 5 universe. Why wouldn’t he be brought along?

Both Dr. Chambers and Lt. Matheson are a little more of a mystery. At least Lt. Matheson has the very interesting position of being a high-ranking telepath, something we’ve not seen before. I know from his conversation with Gideon about his appointment that there’s still friction between telepaths and the rest of the population. Possibly some bitter feelings? Some lingering paranoia? So I’m interested to see Crusade deal with that. Dr. Chambers has only one scene in this episode that isn’t plot-focused, and it shows us that she’s got family back on Earth, which at least gives her some additional emotional motivation. But what’s her thing? Is there something beyond this? Or is that relationship—between her and her sister—more important than I know? 

The Journey

If this episode is any indication of what might come from future stories, COUNT ME THE FUCK IN. I love how chaotic this feels. Part of that is because the show exists in the aftermath of one of the biggest plot twists in the Babylon 5 universe. That sense of panic and terror is so palpable in the first half of the episode. However, that drives these characters with a sense of urgency for the remainder of the script. They are drawn to new paths because any of those paths might lead to a solution. Here, that possible bit of hope comes from a crashed Drakh ship, and aside from a few scenes towards the end of season 5 of Babylon 5, this is the most time we’ve spent focusing on them. Now, it’s not like I went into this expecting them to find a cure or much of anything. I feel like this wasn’t supposed to be a single season, either. There’s already so much potential! But there was still tension in chasing down that downed Drakh ship. What would they find? Why were the Drakh so intent on protecting it?

I honestly did not expect the secret to be a Drakh captain. I feel like this is all the confirmation I need that different hierarchies of Drakh have different physiologies. (Or maybe I’m just really bad at figuring out who the Drakh are all the time, WE HAVE SEEN THIS DEMONSTRATED LIKE TEN TIMES.) So: Will we learn more about the Drakh? I am deeply intrigued by what the captain says to Gideon. Look, they’re a race who has historically served the Shadows. Who are they when they have no one to serve? Well, we’ve seen them become a culture of deception and subjugation and horror. So who will the humans become if the Drakh succeed in keeping them away from a cure? I don’t know if we’ll see anything about that, given how short Crusade is, but this pilot episode is promising. Y’all know I love weird crews full of people who would otherwise never spend time together. That’s basically what this! Only with the threat of imminent genocide hanging over them all.

I’m ready for this journey, y’all. Okay, maybe not, but I’m at least ready to go on it.

The video for “War Zone” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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