Wednesday, February 13, 2013

TV Show Review: Crusade - The Complete Series

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great story telling
Cons: Only 13 episodes so we'll never know what happened.
The Bottom Line:
Just getting going
But the Babylon 5 fans
Will enjoy this set

Promising Beginning Never Given the Chance to Grow

When TNT saved the day and gave Babylon 5 its fifth year, they also asked series creator J. Michael Straczynski (JMS) about movies and spin offs. The result of these talks was Crusade, designed to take place after the movie A Call to Arms.

Set five years after season 5 ended, Earth has been hit by a plague. While the planet is quarantined, the government sends a crew out on Excalibur, the newly complete ship build with Minbari help. Their mission is to explore other worlds and hopefully find a cure before the virus destroys all of life on Earth. The crew is made up of Earth Force personnel and civilians, including an archeologist working for IPX and an alien thief who is the last of her kind.

Unfortunately, we only ever got thirteen episodes of the show due to creative difference between TNT and JMS. As such, it's really hard to judge. Compared to Babylon 5, it seems weak. But then again, the first thirteen episodes of Babylon 5 are the weakest of that series. Comparing the two sets of thirteen, these come across as stronger. I have faith in JMS to say that what we have here is the foundation episodes. Once we got to know the characters, things would have taken off. Sets and special effects have gotten an improvement as well, even if many of the larger effects come across as cheap by today's standards. The tone is slightly different, with more of a horror feel to many of the stories and a darker feeling overall. The music is a bit odd and doesn't seem to fit, often jarring me out of the episode instead of pulling me in like it did on Babylon 5.

This set gives us the thirteen episodes on four DVD's in their original broadcast order. This isn't the order JMS prefers, and it does cause some continuity issues. Frankly, I'll take them in any order since the beauty of DVD is I can watch them in the correct order easily. I was surprised to find the picture full frame. I don't know if that's all that was available or not, but the picture does seem sharper then the Babylon 5 picture ever was. Sound is a full surround mix. Extras on the set are in line with other Babylon 5 releases. There is a commentary on one episode by members of the cast and crew. JMS also recorded a commentary on what he wanted the pilot episode to be that gives hints about what would have come had the series continued. Because Warner Brothers edited it, it won't be on subsequent pressings, so if you want to hear it, get it today. The final disc has a documentary on the creation of the show (think the intros to seasons on the other sets) and another one on creating the ship itself.

Crusade is a hard show for me to watch. It begins to get traction just as its ending. And I really want to know how the show would have continued beyond these episodes. Still, I'm thrilled to have it to complete my collection.

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