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What Could Have Been
In talking about Crusade, one must first recognize the fact that we are talking about a series that was cut short before it even aired. Only 13 episodes were produced of the show and of those 13 a handful do not do the series or its predecessor, Babylon 5 justice.
True to form J. Michael Stracynski (hereby referred to as "JMS") set about to tell us a story, albeit one not as tightly plotted as Babylon 5 or as driven by multiple story arcs, but a story nonetheless. A story meant to further the Babylon 5 universe, but a story that was cut short.
Similar to what JMS did with Babylon 5, the first season episodes of Crusade set up A LOT of what was going to be dealt with later on in the series. The result is that these episodes, on a whole, are mediocre at times, because they lacked the effect of having a later episode revisit some themes set up there and bring them to fruition. Several first (and second) season episodes of Babylon 5 seemed mediocre at the time, but when revisited after watching later seasons, they became gems of foreshadowing, plot development, minor details, etc. all of which added to the show.
But, I'm dwelling on the past and like so many others, disregarding the fact that this show is a good example of quality television in and of itself. With only 13 episodes, JMS did set up a whole sub-section of the Babylon 5 universe, showed us new areas to explore, reunited us with some old friends, sowed the seeds of what was to be a very interesting plot development, and even poked fun at the X-Files (fans of that show take heart, JMS and Chris Carter are good friends and it was done more as a homage than to criticize the show).
One of JMS' strengths is in his characters. These are people who are flawed, who are crude, dishonest, have secrets in their past, but still work together and are the team I'd want looking for a cure were we to be infected with a plague like the Drahk one.
Captain Matthew Gideon is perhaps the most flawed. He's a gambler, he doesn't take anything from anyone, he's angry over the loss of a ship he served on, but most of all he's determined. For all that though, he's not one to jump into things head on, he more prefers to have an ace up his sleeve. That `ace' being, at least some of the time, his mysterious `Apocolypse Box,' which started sowing seeds of doubt.
Lieutenant Matheson is the upstanding officer on the ship, loyal to a fault. He's a telepath left with the burden of proving to the world that telepaths don't need an organization to police them, as the Psi-Corp once did. He's got the sword of Damocles above his head and a past history of violence against the Corp.
Doctor Chambers wasn't given much time to develop, but like Dr. Franklin on B5, she cares about her patients and is willing to do what it takes.
Max Eilerson is the resident archeologist, linguist, and pain in the butt. He seems to annoy just about everyone and yet, he's indispensable. Just because he's searching for a cure to save every man, woman, child, and alien on Earth doesn't mean he can't find a way to get rich out of the deal...
Which brings us to Dureena, the thief with a code of honor. Dureena is trustworthier than Eilerson, despite her background. She does provide the important role of being the one person who can pick locks, sneak in and out of places, and search alien worlds for the cure.
Finally, there's Galen, who is the most interesting. He's a Technomage, which means he uses science and technology to simulate magic. That means he's the one with the ability to save the crew and spy on them when needed. He rescued Gideon 10 years in the past, when his ship was destroyed and now cares for him as if Gideon were a stray cat he took in and yet more times than not, it seems he needs Gideon more than Gideon needs him.
It's a shame all this potential was left in the limbo good shows go when they are taken off the air. Even more so when you learn how the first season was to end. Without spoiling things (in the case of some miracle resurrecting the series), it seems that a lot more people than we thought are using the Shadow tech that the virus is based on. President Clark's Shadow enhanced ships in `Between the Darkness and the Light' was just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, it's a lot more recent use of Shadow technology than another group in the Babylon 5 universe that bases what they do on that same technology. The former group, at the end of the season though, was willing to protect their secret use of the Shadow tech at any cost.
For now though, we are left with 13 episodes, most of which do make for good television as stand-alone episodes. And yet, they could have been so much more...
Lean on Me (1989)
An A+ Movie
The late 80's and early 90's saw a good number of films in this vein come out, namely movies that focused on a teacher/principal who turned kid's lives around and made them enjoy learning. "Dead Poet's Society" and "Stand and Deliver" are just two examples of this type of film, which shares more in common with this movie than just the plot, they are all great movies.
Though different in their execution these movies did strive to show how a good role model is just as important as a good teacher. More than that, there is no reason that a teacher couldn't and shouldn't be that role model.
Not to dwell on those other films, this movie is a nicely crafted adaptation of the events of which Joe Clark turned around East Side High School. Morgan Freeman does an excellent job in playing this difficult character and shows us just how important it was to Joe to do a good job and do something worthwhile with his life. More than that he showed how that desire had ramifications both good and bad.
This is not the type of film you watch to kill time on a rainy afternoon, this is the type of movie you watch to be inspired. You watch it when you need something to show you how determination can turn things around.
It is also the type of movie you watch with your children to show them how important school is and how they need to be a part of the solution, not the problem.
Babylon 5 (1994)
Indicitive of what good TV should be
The first thing that drew me to Babylon 5 was the fact that the first season episode "TKO" featured a main character sitting shiva (the Jewish form of mourning for the dead) for her father. I knew then that this was not your typical science-fiction series. I saw it focused more on a future that is more like our present than the utopian future that Star Trek portrays or the desolate future other shows portray.
The second thing that drew me to the series is that I could see the groundwork being laid for future stories. Each episode built off the previous one and added to the series as a whole. Characters actions in one episode affected how they reacted in later episodes.
The thing that kept me glued to the television was the fact that Babylon 5 used all the elements of storytelling they teach you about in school, such as flash-backs, forshadowing, character development, etc. Even small, insiginfigant things in one episode could turn into something much bigger down the line. This was a series that's purpose was not just to entertain, it's main purpose was to tell a story.
Looking back on the series I can think of no better praise than the reasons friends of mine did not watch the show. Unlike other shows where their answers would have been "it's stupid," "it's boring," etc. their reason was that it was "too complicated to get into." This is not a series that is easy to pick up later on. To get the full effect you must watch the series from the beginning. If only there were more television shows that were "too complicated"...
Show Me That Smile Again
I admit I'm a bit biased in two ways, first I love TV reunion movies and second I loved Growing Pains. This was a pretty good TV movie and gave us a chance to see how our favorite characters have grown and in some cases stayed the same. While there aren't any really memorable moments, there were some great scenes and just seeing the whole gang together again was worth it.
The movie begins with a summary of where everyone is given humorously by Jason Seaver (Alan Thicke). Events quickly happen to gather the family together when Maggie Malone Seaver (Joanna Kearns) gets fired and when the family unites for the elder Seaver's anniversary, announces she's going to run against her former boss in the upcoming primary. Carol Seaver (Tracey Gold) falls in love with Maggie's former boss' campaign manager and everyone ends up fighting and eventually coming together.
All in all it was a good reunion movie with a few great moments. A must for fans of the original series. Oh and for those "fans" who only watched the show when Leonoardo DiCaprio was on, no he does not make an appearance. But Alan Thicke does have a line where he references the real life Leo, though not by name.
Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
Suceeds on many levels
With every rule there is an exception and Insurrection prove to be the exception to the rule that odd numbered Star Trek films are inferior to the even numbered ones. This movie is a lot deeper than one would think and does a good job foreshadowing the events.
First of all is the small scene near the beginning where Picard notices the slight difference in the ship's vibration. While many may see this scene as filler, it ties very nicely into Picard's character as well as the Baku's abilities. Picard is able to have total control of his environment and therefore has attained the peace of mind the Baku talk about.
There are several moments in this film that are small like the aforementioned scene, but that tie very nicely into the overall storyline. Things like Worf having a nightmare, which many attribute to the recent loss of his wife on DS9 and Geordi experiencing a headache, which is a prelude to his regaining his sight. Perhaps the best of these small moments is when Worf arrives. The producers did a nice job of avoiding the cliché of getting Worf back on the Enterprise with a reasonable explanation by drowning out his answer. A lot of scenes in this movie neglect trivial details to focus on the larger picture.
The film is also full of great dialogue that ties the crew of the Enterprise to the events in DS9, but still keeping them separate. If you do not watch DS9, you will not miss anything here, but if you do, you'll be able to pick up on these small things. Perhaps the best of these lines is Picard's lament, `do you remember when we used to be explorers?'
The action in this film is well paced and the humor is right on key. The pace moves quickly and never gets bogged down. Best of all, the characters, while still staying true to what came before are given more humanized dialogue. Troi and Crusher discuss what the environmental conditions are doing to their bodies and Worf tries to live down Klingon pimples.
Picard shines through in this movie as does Patrick Stewart's acting abilities. Taking a cue from `First Contact's' dialogue about `the line must be drawn here,' Stewart is given a lot of speeches that he delivers masterfully. If I were being exploited, I'd want Captain Picard on my side.
I recommend this movie wholeheartedly. Do not see it with preconceived notions, but do see it if you want action, humor, humanized characters, and a little romance.
All New 3's a Crowd (1999)
One part Newlywed Game, one part Jerry Springer
Alan Thicke hosts this Game Show Network game based on a classic game show of the same name. Three people are picked to appear and bring along with them "the two people who know them best." This involves, but is not limited to boyfriend/ex-boyfriend, girlfriend/ex-girlfriend, significant other/mother, significant other/best friend, etc. The two people compete agains the each other and the other groups to find one winner.
The game resembles the Newlywed Game as at first the main contestant leaves and their two friends/sig-others/whatever have to answer what they think the main contestant will answer. Its reveresed for the second round. The final round is where the show differs from Newlywed as they are given three responses and must instantly match the main contestant. Usually this round involves things they either have or will do (done it, doing it tomorrow, no way).
The show's strong point is Thicke who makes hilarious quips and puts down the contestants every chance he gets. When asking a reluctant guest their age, Thick remarks "it's funny, ask someone on this show their age and they'll be shy, but then they'll turn around and tell you about the time they took off their underwear on a bus."
All in all its a great way to pass a half-hour, especially in the midst of network re-runs. If you get gameshow network, check it out at 9:30 (east coast) p.m. and prepare to laugh!