REVIEW: CRUSADE

Tracy Scoggins, Gary Cole, Daniel Dae Kim, Carrie Dobro, and Peter Woodward in Crusade (1999)

 

Starring

Gary Cole (Tammy)
Tracy Scoggins (Highlander: The Series)
Daniel Dae Kim (Lost)
David Allen Brooks (Castaway)
Peter Woodward (Dystopia)
Marjean Holden (Beastmaster)
Carrie Dobro (A Marine Story)

Peter Woodward in Crusade (1999)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Zeus Mendoza (Passengers)
Tim Thomerson (Trancers)
Alison Lohman (Drag Me To Hell)
Marshall R. Teague (Road House)
Edward Woodward (Hot Fuzz)
Brian Thompson (The Terminator)
John Novak (War)
Tim Choate (Blow Out)
Joel Swetow (The Orville)
James Parks (The HAteful Eight)
Tony Amendola (Stargate SG.1)
Bill Mondy (THe Dead Zone)
Lance LeGault (Stripes)
Richard Biggs (Tremors)

Science fiction on television tends to fall into a few small groupings; the space epic of shows like Star Trek and its spin offs and the smaller, more intimate shows like Firefly, that seem far more realistic (if a bit less fantastical). As a fan of all such shows, I’ve followed the ups and downs, ins and outs, and trials and tribulations of a host characters in various settings that were written with varying amounts of care and creativity. One of my favorites from the 1990’s was the epic series Babylon 5, a show created by genius writer Joseph Michael Straczynski. The series was set in the year 2257 and detailed the events of an intergalactic meeting place, a sort of United Nations in space, initially designed to be a means to prevent misunderstandings and promote peace. As the series progressed, its focus moved about a bit but the largest arc of shows dealt with the Shadow War.crusade_visitorsEssentially, two races of highly advanced sentient species; the Vorlons, a secretive race that believed in order and obedience, and the Shadows, a secretive race that believed in chaos and Darwinism, sought to continue their struggle for dominance as they had done every thousand years. Each employed highly advanced technology to further their goals and made alliances with some of the younger races that were ascending into dominance by virtue of their expansion into the Universe. Through several seasons of manipulation and intrigue, the war continued until ultimately concluding in a somewhat unique manner as all the players came to the table. The Babylon 5 series continued with the aftermath of the war and tied up many of the threads started during the five season run as well as the handful of television movies that furthered Mr. Straczynski’s vision of the future.MV5BMjIwNTU0Mzc0Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzQyMTQ2MjE@._V1_After the fifth and final season wound down, the last TV movie, A Call to Arms, was financed and released by the TNT network. The movie dealt with one of the Shadows’ former allies, The Drakh, trying to enact revenge for what they perceived as the treachery of the humans in ridding the Universe of their former masters. In essence, the Drakh used Shadow technology in the form of a deadly virus to contaminate Earth and doom its population to a slow, lingering death. The new Interstellar Alliance commissioned a unique ship, the Excalibur, to find a cure by searching the Universe for remnants of Shadow technology (or anything else) that might help find a cure. The name of this second five year series (ala Star Trek) was Crusade: The Complete Series.brainonfire-chloegracemoretz-stressed-streetThe main cast of the show included the no-nonsense captain, Matthew Gideon, his telepathic first officer, John Matheson, the gifted doctor, Sarah Chambers, the thief with the past, Dureena Nafeel (brought over from the movie), the gifted archeologist, Max Eilerson, and the mysterious technomage, Galen, with appearances by various others from the original series on an irregular basis. Each seemed patterned after some of the more familiar characters of popular culture and the same holds true for the show itself. Few would argue that the “five year mission” could’ve come from anything other than Star Trek and fans of Japanese anime are quick to point out the similarities between the series and the Americanized version of Space Cruiser Yamato (Star Blazers) with the main cannon of the Excalibur firing a powerful blast that forces a recharge lasting far too long for most military situations and the overall concept of a single ship sent on a mission to save a dying Earth. I’m not going to spoil the show for you by pointing out the rest but fans of Stargate SG-1, King Arthur, and a great many other fantasy shows/books/movies will have a lot to think about as the show borrowed heavily from many sources.

Each episode managed to deal with the usual crisis of the week while developing the characters and big picture at the same time. Fans of the Babylon 5 series will appreciate how some of the events that took place in the series were touched upon as well. From the aftermath of the telepath war in The Well of Forever and The Path of Sorrows, showing how the newly established equivalent of the Psi-Corps could be just as oppressive as anything Bester could come up with; albeit in a more subtle manner; to the routine discussion about the technomages (one of the more interesting groups that were neglected in the original series).

The series didn’t just stick to a set script from the original series either, looking at a variety of themes that have all been done to death but showed some interesting insights into the mind of Mr. Straczynski. From the usual “ends justifies the means” to the “common good versus individual freedoms” to the relativistic morals many of the cast displayed in the weekly dilemmas they faced, the show managed to provide a means for viewers to explore their own ideas in relation to the show rather than spoon feed. Mr. Straczynski did use his sly sense of humor (look for some of his recent work on Marvel’s Spiderman comic book for even more of his anti-corporate, anti-war outlook) in each of the ten episodes he wrote (out of the thirteen), like in Patterns of the Soul or Racing the Night, but also added his usual touches in other episodes.MV5BMTcwODM2NjQxM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTE3ODE3NzE@._V1_What made the vast majority of Babylon 5, Crusade, and the books so interesting was the writing (not the special effects) of both the characters and the situations they found themselves in. Unlike far too many shows of the past, the characters in Mr. Straczynski’s universe are virtually all flawed in some significant manner. This allows the viewer to more fully identify with the characters, much like Joss Whedon’s Firefly; another show that lasted 13 episodes and was cut down by corporate decision making at its worst. TNT cancelled the show before it even aired; doing everything it could to cut short their contract with Straczynski (trying to make creative changes that hogtied him into a corner by making the show use more sex to boost ratings, more space battles to intrigue the non-fans, and a host of conceptual alterations that reportedly drove him half crazy).crusadeIn the end, Babylon 5 fans will have to simply accept that things didn’t work out and for all the promise Crusade had that went unfilled, a movie is currently in the works, The Memory of Shadows which will hopefully tie up the majority of loose ends. Straczynski has indicated that the actual theme of Crusade was not going to be five years of searching for the cure (it was planned to be found in the middle of the second season) so much as dealing with the aftermath in general of the Shadow technology let loose upon the Universe and humankind’s attempts to harness it for their own purpose. Humanity was the race viewed as having the most potential of the major Babylon 5 races to further the positive aspects of life but also considered the most likely to cause harm due to our various character flaws (this being a thinly veiled reference to the USA for the most part) and how various factions tried to capitalize on the advanced technology, regardless of the dangers involved or the cost of using them, would’ve been fleshed out in the fullness of time. The show had plenty of flaws (many relating to those of the first season of Babylon 5) but it managed to provide a different taste of Straczynski” Universe before it slipped into the night.

REVIEW: HOT FUZZ

CAST
Simon Pegg (Star Trek)
Nick Frost (Paul)
Matin Freeman (The Hobbit)
Stuart Wilson (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3)
Paul Freeman (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie)
Timothy Dalton (Flash Gordon)
Jim Broadbent (Gangs of New York)
Paddy Considine (The Bourne Ultimatum)
Rafe Spall (Prometheus)
Stephen Merchant (The Big Bang Theory)
Rory McCann (Game of Thrones)
Lucy Punch (Into The Woods)
Cate Blanchett (Hanna)
Olivia Coleman (The Favourite)
Bill Bailey (Chalet Girl)
Edward Woodward (The Wicker Man)
Alice Lowe (Prevenge)
David Bradley (The World’s End)
Steve Coogan (Philomena)
Peter Jackson (King Kong)
Police Constable Nicholas Angel, a high-achieving member of the Metropolitan Police Service, is promoted to Sergeant but it comes with being transferred to the village of Sandford, Gloucestershire, for being too good at his job while making his colleagues look bad by comparison due to his skills. Angel finds the town is generally devoid of any crime, with its local Neighbourhood Watch Alliance (NWA) helping to keep the peace as everyone prepares for the “Village of the Year” award contest. Angel finds minor instances of disorderly conduct, during which he confiscates a shed full of unlicensed fire arms including a naval mine, pursues an escaped swan, and arrests a drunk driver who turns out to be his new partner PC Danny Butterman, the son of town chief Inspector, Frank Butterman.
Just as Sgt. Angel begins to despair at Sandford’s apparent tranquility, the town is struck by a series of deaths. Angel begins to suspect a serial killer is afoot and that the murders are linked, although Danny seems more concerned with discussing his love of action and buddy cop films. Furthermore, the rest of the police force refuse to believe the deaths were deliberate and pass them off as mere accidents. Eventually, Angel’s investigations lead him to accuse the local supermarket manager, NWA member Simon Skinner, of the murders, but is rebuffed when Skinner’s alibi is backed up by video footage. Dejected, Angel considers the possibility of more than one killer being involved, but after this idea is shot down by Inspector Butterman, he returns home. As he opens his door, though, Angel is attacked by a cloaked figure, who turns out to be an employee at Skinner’s supermarket. Angel subdues the man, then impersonates him over a walkie-talkie to discover Skinner’s whereabouts.
Arriving at a meeting of the Sandford NWA, Angel confronts the group and tries to arrest them. They confess they are collectively carrying out the murders of any residents who could cause Sandford not to be crowned Village of the Year. Inspector Butterman then reveals himself to be the leader of the group, explaining that he is motivated by the memory of his late wife Irene, who committed suicide after her efforts to win that title were foiled by a group of “gypsies”. Upon hearing this, the Sergeant is forced to flee, but he becomes trapped in a crypt where he discovers the bodies of the NWA’s ill-fated victims. It seems that Angel is about to be caught, when Danny suddenly appears and stabs him, causing the Sergeant to lose consciousness. He awakens in Danny’s car, where the younger Butterman reveals he only faked Angel’s murder to cover his escape. Danny begs his partner to leave Sandford for his own safety.
Initially Angel plans to follow Danny’s wishes, but has a change of heart en route to London when he notices some of Danny’s favourite films for sale at a service station. He proceeds to return to Sandford, arms himself with the previously confiscated guns, and reunites with Danny. After a firefight with NWA townsfolk, the two policemen rally their fellow officers and besiege Skinner’s supermarket, eventually forcing Skinner to flee. Angel and Danny give chase, catching up to Skinner in the village’s miniature scale-model town and confronting both him and the elder Butterman, in turn. Sgt. Angel and Danny finally succeed in arresting them, after a fist fight and a swan-induced car crash.
Some time later, Angel declines a request to return to his job on the London force to remain in Sandford. As he and the other police officers process paperwork related to their recent activities, the last NWA member at liberty, Prof. Weaver, bursts into the station and attempts to kill Sgt. Angel. As the officers attempt to disarm him, he stumbles into the confiscated sea mine and triggers it. Angel and the others manage to survive the ensuing explosion which destroys the station. One year later, Angel and Danny are in charge of the Sandford Police as Inspector and Sergeant, respectively.
The film certainly keeps you entertained and interested. Its a sort of who-dunnit with a funny twist. If you love British humour, you will probably like this movie.