FOR FANS OF GENRE
TELEVISION, one of the most eagerly awaited events of 1999 is the
début of the Babylon 5 spin-off, Crusade.
Scheduled to launch in June on US cable giant TNT, the series is
set five years after the events of B5, and follows the adventures
of the starship Excalibur as it crosses the universe in search of
a cure for an alien plague.
As seen in the recent Babylon
5 tv movie A Call To Arms, President Sheridan is
contacted by the technomage Galen, who informs him about an
impending attack by the Drakh, former allies of the Shadows.
Sheridan commandeers the prototype destroyer-class vessel
Excalibur and with the help of Dureena, an alien thief, they
manage to destroy the Drakh death cloud before it reaches Earth.
Unfortunately, the vengeful aliens still manage to release a
bio-genetic plague, which will destroy all life on Earth within
five years unless a cure can be found. And that sets the stage for
Crusade, in which the crew of the Excalibur, captained by
Matthew Gideon is dispatched in search of the elusive cure.
After the stateside success
of Babylon 5 on TNT, it seemed inevitable that the cable
network would start talking about a spin-off series when J Michael
Straczynski's Space saga reached an end. "I don't think
there's any question that it made it easier," notes executive
producer Douglas Netter. "We had the track record of Babylon
5, and the show was successful, particularly in its
demographics. It was never a runaway success in the ratings, but
it had a very strong, basic following, and we also proved to them
over a period of five years, even six if you include the pilot,
that we could produce SF with unusual quality, on a budget you
could live with in the cable and syndication business."
Unlike Babylon 5,
which was a drama series set on a space station, the producers
wanted Crusade to have more of a fast-paced
action-adventure feel to it. They also enlisted veteran director
Mike Vejar and cinematographer Fred Murphy to give the new series
its own unique visual identity. "We're using techniques that
have been around for a long time," explains Vejar, "and
just fitting them to the tenor of Crusade. It's a
different look from Babylon; it's a more compressed,
long-lensy, moving feel than the traditional television approach
of a master and close-ups.
While long-time Babylon
5 fans will certainly see many of elements of the series
finding their way into Crusade, writer/creator J Michael
Straczynski promises a few twists and turns along the way. "To
a certain extent, I'm conscious of the fact that the really smart
viewers know all my tricks now, so I have to find some new tricks
and some feints, where I make them think I'm going to cut one way
and then do something else. On the other hand, a lot of what
worked on B5 worked because it's a good literary device,
and I don't want to throw that away in the cause of just doing
something for difference's sake. I do want to throw in- I don't
want to say red herrings, but feints, where they won't necessarily
know what I'm going to doing at all times."