Beyond Babylon     Crusade  
We take a special look at the first steps of the journey…
from TV Zone Special #32

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.

Runaway Success

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.

Plot Twists

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."

Plus Kim Moses talks about the evolution of Profiler, the travels of the Stargate SG-1 team are examined, Poltergeist effects explained, and Grand L Bush speaks about chasing the fugitive MacArthur in The Visitor – All in TV Zone Special #32

Joe Nazzaro
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