[Episode Written By: JMS] (8/05/99)
The crew visits a perfectly preserved world whose
population seems to have disappeared overnight. They are attacked
by an inhabitant who wishes to dissect other races in order to find a cure
for the plague. Gideon makes a moral choice, and may fail to make
another one by listening to a hidden voice..
If you are a steady viewer of Crusade you will see a few inconsistencies
pop up starting with this episode. This and the next four episodes
were the first five filmed by JMS and represent his true vision for the
series. Had TNT not interfered and whined like dogs, all the episodes
thus far would have carried the tone seen here. Racing the Night
was meant to be the series pilot, so you'll notice all the cast members
are reintroduced, which seems odd to steady viewers but happens quite quickly
so it isn't annoying at all. This may help to introduce new viewers
to the series very quickly so it is actually a plus.
The feel of the series is much darker, much more desperate. Stress levels are high which is exactly how things should be when you are trying to save your world. There is a feeling of death, worry and mystery in the air, like something major is about to happen. This episode feels right. This is how it should be. And seeing and feeling this episode makes me mad as hell when you take into context that the lighter, slower tone of the last 8 episodes was due to TNT's interference.
Two things that are worth mentioning. First, TNT was rumored to want almost all references to Babylon-5 removed. The original trailer for Crusade, only shown on the TNT website, featured a B5 logo embedded into the Crusade sword. That logo was removed, and might have appeared in the opening sequence of the series. Up until this point in the series we have seen few ships or races from B5. But you'll notice here we see them in force, right off the bat. Also, we see a Ranger and a White Star (both elements were to play major roles in the series before TNT's interference). Perhaps this is why TNT made JMS create another pilot, free from these references. Secondly, TNT wanted a lighter feel to the show and it is now apparent that they got it. This is totally idiotic and suggests quite clearly that TNT did not know what in hell this series was about. It is quite insulting.
So, in short, sit back and watch this and the next four episodes and learn what the true vision of JMS was, because THIS is my friends is the real Crusade.
Notice the Excalibur in its full glory. We now know that the ship has a large compliment of both kinds of Starfuries, and the captain has access to a special sky-car type vehicle. The landing bay is in the odd flap at the mid-section and this would seem to be an excellent spot for an enemy to attack (ala Battlestar Galactica).
MUSIC: (3.5 STARS)
I think Chen would get less stars if this was indeed the pilot. But his sounds are beginning to blend into the background and mistakes aren't as apparent now. Overall a good dark tone to a deeply dark episode. Hurried tones during the sky-car race helped dramatically.
ACTING / CHARACTERS: (4 STARS)
Keep in mind that this is the FIRST episode that was filmed, not the
ninth. I am amazed how well the cast worked together. They
seem to be comfortable and bounce off each other exceptionally well.
Even Dr. Chambers, who previously was out of place in almost all of her
episodes, seems perfectly integrated. This truly amazes me.
Galen acts as a caretaker for Gideon in this episode, much more than was indicated in the previous episodes.
Notice a huge amount of tension between Max and Gideon (see continuity errors in the boo-boo section).
Notice the difference in Dureena's hair and makeup. They were obviously experimenting with her look. Her brow is the most different with red lines twisted throughout. Look carefully through her hair, which is longer than normal.
PLOT: (4 STARS)
An episode that does as well as a pilot as is does as a normal episode
has to get my applause. This shows versatility. The writing
was dark and that is how I like my science fiction. If things are
bad people should act desperate. Characters need to be thrown into situations
where they need to make decisions that haunt them, decisions that effect
everyone around them. The use of all of the characters and all of
the Excalibur's features was a plus.
And finally, we get an old fashion Starfury shoot-em-up. Tell me anyone wasn't looking forward to that.
You'll notice that a lot of the inconsistencies of who is in charge of the Excalibur and how the Earth Alliance and Interstellar Alliance relate to each other are resolved in this episode. It all makes proper sense now. The first scene set the tone for the series.
CGI: (5 STARS)
Intense and wide in scope, the CGI team did one hell of a job here.
Battles, large cities, fake people...what didn't they do? Everything
was smooth, the battles were large but well organized. Of note were
the Starfury missiles which were realistic when you compare them to those
use in B5's first season in the episode Voices in the Wilderness.
Seamless integration of the Excalibur's launch and landing systems which
have been used oddly and sporadically in the past.
Gideon's speeder chase was TV's version of the a pod race. Nicely done when you consider the time restraints and budget. They did a lot they didn't have to do and that deserves applause.
Galen's CGI figure needed work, but I think that was the point, so I'll let it slide. The guts made the scene.