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"Just so we're clear: once we go, this is my command. I'll do whatever's necessary. If that means turning the entire galaxy upside down and shaking its pockets to see what falls out, that's what I'll do. I'm not subtle, I'm not pretty, and I'll piss off a helluva lot of people along the way, but I'll get the job done."
—Captain Matthew Gideon
Spin-Off from Babylon 5 telling the story of the spaceship Excalibur and the search for a counteragent to/cure for a slow-acting biological weapon that had been successfully deployed against the Earth in the B5 movie "A Call to Arms". Crusade retained two characters from that movie, Galen the techno-mage and Dureena Nafeel the alien thief. Despite its unfortunate resemblance to Uchuu Senkan Yamato (Star Blazers in North America), Crusade showed promise before its premature death (only 13 episodes were completed out of a planned five seasons).
This being said, the series suffered terribly from Executive Meddling - it was commissioned by a network whose understanding of the series pretty much stopped at "We'll be rolling in money if this is as popular as Babylon 5 was," and then later learned that this wasn't the case anyway -- and the relationship between creator/producer J. Michael Straczynski and the network broke down completely while the first season was still in production. By the time the series went to air, it had already been cancelled.
Amusingly, this level of Executive Meddling made it into the screenplays : In several of the episodes, the situations the characters run through resonate with the situation in which the creator was deadlocked with the network, and some of the corresponding dialogue is acidic, to say the least. Then again, if the author had resigned to the notion that he wasn't going to get the series to fly, why not have some fun while at it?
- Aliens Steal Cable: In the episode Visitors From Down the Street (an Homage to The X-Files), the crew of the Excalibur picks up two agents from an alien world who are looking for proof of a government cover-up. They show pictures of Mount Rushmore and old Earth blimps. They also dress in Earth fashions from 200 years go (ie: from the time period at the time of the show's shoot.) One of them can speak English because of information stolen from the conspirators. The Reveal: Years before, the government had found itself in a time of social unrest similar to The Sixties. Upon discovering Earth broadcasts, they used them as part of a truly Magnificent conspiracy; manufacture appropriate "evidence", then dispatch The Men in Black to suppress it. The resultant subculture of Conspiracy Theorists absorbed the government's critics and kept them wasting their time chasing "aliens" rather than engaging in civil disobedience. Every crime the government committed afterward was thus blamed on "Outsiders" who secretly manipulated their civilization, permitting them to do as they pleased. The main government agent upholding the conspiracy credits and thanks the Humans for cigarettes as he smoked one in victory. Captain Gideon ordered probes loaded with the Interstellar Encyclopedia and sent to the alien world to crack the cover-up.
- Alien Non-Interference Clause: "Visitors From Down The Street" explicitly draws attention to the fact that the B5-verse equivalent of Starfleet doesn't have one. And would be rather hypocritical if it did, because Earth was given jumpgate technology by the Centauri in the first place.
- The aliens had actually assumed they did, even trying to rub in that the crew couldn't interfere. They made sure to include that part of the conversation in the recordings revealing the conspiracy when they distributed them across the planet.
- Anachronic Order: To the extent that it is impossible to view the episodes in any order without continuity errors.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Galen asks a series of questions over the opening titles, answered by Gideon except the last: "Who do you serve, and who do you trust?"
- Which, in light of the fact that the cure for the Drakh plague was due to be found around a year and a half into the five year show with the story of Earth's use of leftover Shadow technology taking centre stage, could be seen as a very subtle bit of foreshadowing.
- Bad Bad Acting: Galen, talking through his Homunculus. Presumably because he just didn't care.
- Coming in Hot: Inverted! Lochley's disabled Starfury is swallowed by the Excaliber's open hangerbay as the ship swoops past, using forcefield crash barriers to keep her fighter (and her) from being smashed against the rear bulkhead of the bay. Invoked as a result of Exact Words, below.
- Cool Starship: The Excalibur.
- Conspicuous CG: In the episode "Racing the Night", an alien probe tries to vivisect a Hologram of Galen.
- Another episode shows Earthforce personnel staring at a giant golden dragon. At first it looks like a Special Effects Failure, but since the dragon was actually a hologram, it was probably made to look fake on purpose.
- Crossover: Several episodes had guest appearances by Babylon 5 characters, with more planned.
- Culture Police: The villains from the episode "The Needs of Earth".
- Cunning Linguist: The reason Eilerson was hired/kept around.
- Cure for Cancer / Find the Cure: The series starting premise and the focus of its first story arc. Word of God is that they would have found it part way through the second season, but by then the REAL plot about a conspiracy in Earthforce to reverse-engineer Shadow technology would have kicked in.
- Deadpan Snarker: Galen in particular.
- Everyone Meets Everyone: The plot of the series premiere - the series would have started with One We Prepared Earlier but the network demanded an "introductory" episode to start the series.
- Exact Words: On a particular mission, Gideon is under orders not to stop for anything, even to rescue a pilot in distress. His playing with these orders leads to Coming in Hot, above.
- Executive Meddling: The aforementioned demands for a new premiere, plus the reordering of episodes to place the Mid-Season Upgrade before the first episodes to be shot, plus the constant demands for more sex and violence...
- Failure Is the Only Option: While the series looks like it's set up like this, the plans were to subvert the trope. The Drakh plague would have been cured around halfway into the second season. See below in What Could Have Been.
- There are multiple similarities to Blakes Seven, which JMS is known to be a fan of: The similar design of Excalibur and Liberator; the manner in which Max is not merely similarly written to Avon, but cast with an actor who looks quite similar to Paul Darrow; Dureena's nature as a hybrid of Cally's personality and backstory with Vila's talents; the Apocalypse Box as a near-Captain Ersatz for Orac. If the series had continued, the main story arc would have been the Excalibur on the run from Earth Force.
- "Visitors From Down The Street" is a parody of The X-Files.
- Head-Tiltingly Kinky: The Pak'Ma'Ra-Human porn that Captain Gideon stumbles upon. Right after the ship's doctor mentions that those two species are entirely incapable of mating.
"Technology is a wonderful thing."
- Imminent Danger Clue: Gideon and Lochley realize at the last second that an alien is about to shoot because the alien weapon produces a smell of ozone when it is being charged.
- Insufferable Genius: Max Eilerson.
- I Want You to Meet An Old Friend of Mine: Alwyn, an old friend of Galen and a rival or colleague of his mentor Elric, appears in "The Long Road", and is played by the father of the actor who plays Galen.
- Last of Their Kind: Dureena Nafeel's home planet was destroyed in the Shadow War and she is believed to be the only survivor. More of her species are later discovered living on another planet, but they are infected by the Drakh plague and have even less time to live than the humans on Earth have.
- Lost Technology
- Magic From Technology: The techno-mages, by definition.
- Magic Mirror: Gideon's Apocalypse Box, "It gives you an edge. It knows things no one else knows." "You have to be very careful because... it lies. Not all the time. Just enough.".
- Orwellian Editor: A rather bitter real-life example. When it came time for the DVD release, JMS was asked to contribute to the bonus features. He agreed, but only on the condition that he could discuss what he went through in regards to Executive Meddling and being Screwed by the Network. He didn't plan to pull any punches, but the studio agreed and everything he wanted to say was recorded. Later on after getting the finished DVD set, JMS listened to the commentary - only to find some creative editing had been performed. His criticisms were not only gone, but replaced with unrelated audio from the on-camera interview. He wasn't told they were going to do this, either. JMS was naturally pissed and successfully got the studio to remove the entire commentary from later pressings.
- Percussive Pickpocket: A thief does this to Max.
- Pilot Movie: Kinda - it only included two characters from the series and was more of a Poorly-Disguised Pilot in the form of a Babylon 5 TV movie.
- Readings Are Off the Scale: Subversion, they just switch to a bigger scale.
- Recycled in Space: A Running Gag amongst the fandom was to refer to the show as "Dungeons and Dragons In Space!" There was a wizard (Galen), a thief (Dureena), a healer (Doctor Chambers), a warrior (Matheson), a paladin (Gideon), and Max.
- And in an interview for the DVD set, JMS essentially fronts up and admits that was quite deliberate.
- In addition to the Blake's 7 similarities, there's a lot of overlap between Crusade and The Hobbit: A team of dwarves/humans are out to save their home with the help of a hobbit/alien thief, a secretive wizard with an agenda, and a mysterious ring/box that shouldn't be trusted.
- Refuge in Vulgarity: The Fen. One of them really likes their ship. Complete with the cast doing a head-rocking variation on the Star Trek Shake just in case you can't figure out what the Fen is doing to their ship.
- Screwed by the Network: And how.
- The entire "Visitors from Down the Street" is an Affectionate Parody of The X-Files, complete with alien counterparts of Mulder, Scully and the Cigarette Smoking Man.
- In "Ruling from the Tomb," several characters are hanging out in a bar called "Phobos" on Mars. John Sheridan visited a bar with the same name in the Babylon 5 episode "The Face of the Enemy." The bar doesn't look the same, but considering that Crusade took place five or six years after B5, and the bar got pretty trashed when Sheridan was there, it's entirely possible that it got remodeled.
- That Came Out Wrong: Gideon dates Lochley and at one point asks her if she was ever "under" (unbeknownst to him, her ex-husband) Sheridan. She does a Spit Take. Then she kindly waits until he's taken a drink to tell him who her ex is, forcing one on him too.
- It's a bit of a Genius Bonus too, especially on the first viewing, as only people who watched the last season of Babylon 5 would know that Sheridan and Lochley had been married prior to her mentioning it in that scene.
- Thirty Second Blackout
- Travelling At the Speed of Plot: Trope Namer, via J. Michael Straczynski's comments on the show.
- Wave Motion Gun: The Excalibur's biggest weapon -- an experimental prototype that drains the ship's power for 60 seconds after it's fired.
- What Could Have Been: JMS had a five year arc planned out, which he's teased at over the years and will be revealed with the publication of Crusade scriptbooks. Additionally, three scripts had been written and prepped for production when the show was cancelled, including the season finale:
- "To The Ends Of The Earth", by JMS, would have kicked off the series' real story arc by having Captain Gideon getting a lead from the Apocalypse Box on the mysterious vessel that destroyed his former ship, the Cerberus. After taking the Excalibur on a Captain Ahab mission and alienating the rest of the crew, he destroys it, and the audience learns the ship had some connection to Earthforce.
- "Value Judgements", by Fiona Avery, would have seen the crew encountering Alfred Bester, the antagonist telepath from Babylon 5 who's been a fugitive since the Telepath War. Walter Koenig had been signed on to reprise his role as Bester, and thought the script was the best he'd read from the franchise yet.
- A story arc for Dureena in the latter half of the first season would have seen her banished from the Excalibur for a few episodes. When she returns, it's with no memories and a mysterious glowing sword.
- "The End Of The Line", by JMS, would have been the season finale and seen Gideon trace the origins of the mysterious ship he destroyed (in "To The Ends Of The Earth") to a top-secret Earthforce base that had been experimenting with Shadow technology since before the Shadow War and now wants to eliminate Gideon to keep their secrets. Technomancy such as Galen's would be revealed as Shadow technology, the result of a deal between the Shadows and the earliest Technomages. The cliffhanger end of season one would see Gideon would travel alone to Mars and attempt to expose the Earthforce experiments, only to be shot and seemingly killed by an Earthforce sniper.
- The cliffhanger would be resolved in season 2 by transferring Gideon's consciousness into the Apocalypse Box until his body had been healed. As a result of discovering the conspiracy in Earthforce to use Shadow technology, the Excalibur crew would be "black-balled" by the Earth Alliance and become renegades. Ultimately, the cure to the Drakh plague would have been discovered around the middle of the second season, since the Earthforce conspiracy storyline was always meant to be the main arc of the show.
- Since the show was cancelled and none of these story arcs were shown, writers attempted to include them in their Expanded Universe novels. The Passing of the Techno-Mages trilogy notably describes the origins of techno-mage "tech" as Shadow technology. Also, the Shadow hybrid ship that destroyed the Cerberus is itself destroyed shortly after by a weapons overload.
- In 2010, it came to light that Peter Woodward (Galen) wrote an entire episode that JMS had slated for the second season. It's called "Little Bugs Have Lesser Bugs" and would've been/is (if you read the script) equal parts icky and funny.
- X Meets Y: Blakes Seven meets The Hobbit, set in the Babylon 5 universe (with some Uchuu Senkan Yamato added for seasoning).