Crusade: The Rules of the Game

crusadeOur search for a cure continues with The Rules of the Game, this time with a visit to Babylon 5.  I guess after the visit to Mars, Lochley must have invited Gideon back to her place, so to speak!  Is it any wonder this one is written by JMS himself?  Like any B5 episode, we get an A/B plot.  I guess the A plot should be what the series is founded on: the search for a cure to the Drakh plague.  Gideon is trying to gain access to Lorka 7 but bureaucracy is standing in his way.  Even with Lockey’s help, the Lorkan’s are a tough bunch.  B plot gives us more backstory for Max, whose ex-wife has fallen in with loan shark Rolf Mueller, and needs help getting out of debt.  Max has a plan!

The Lorkans are a creepy looking bunch of snotty jerks.  They are convinced of their superiority and their worship of the “most holy” comes off as almost comical especially with their hand gestures every time they say the words “most holy”.  Once again, we’re given one of those silly-but-enjoyable stories.  Ultimately, we know Gideon is going to find a way and they don’t find the cure because the series still carries on!  But there’s a bigger question that popped into my head about this.  Who was the “most holy”?  We’re so trained to see the comedy that we lose sight that maybe there was something else going on here.  I had to wonder if it was a Vorlon, but if not, could it be one of the other big players in the galactic playground?  Could there, in fact, be something that would help towards the cure? Also, when Lochley asks Gideon for more information about why he wants to look on Lorka 7, he offers an elusive answer about a long story.  This could be shorthand for “I’ll explain later” but I got the impression he’s getting information from another source and that makes me wonder: where is his information coming from?   Maybe I’m reading more into it or maybe the show ended before we found out, but I am still curious about that box he won…   Regardless, the relationship between Lochley and Gideon is getting stronger and their banter is fantastic.  One wonders how Lochley can be in the opening credits because there’s no logical way that they could keep the relationship going with her captaining B5 while Gideon is out seeking a cure for a plague, but for one more episode, it works well enough.   The “co-conspirators”, as they refer to themselves, start with dinner, later go for a shower (“waste not, want not”) and then who knows what else as the scene changes but it’s not a huge leap to figure out what came next.  Still, Straczynski decides to paint the picture for us with a ship entering the B5 docking bay before cutting to an unrelated scene.  (I could not help but think of The Naked Gun at that moment!)

Meanwhile, Max the Mighty tries to help out his ex-wife.  He must be paid pretty well by IPX if he has 50K lying around to give to his ex.  Still, I like the way JMS takes this opportunity to humanize Max a bit more.  Max only ever loved three things: his job, his cat and his ex-wife.  He was a child prodigy who even in adulthood comes across as a jerk more often than not, but in this episode, we begin to understand him.  He’s not a timid man nor is he a heartless one.  We had hints of that before when he deleted a file for his superiors to keep someone else’s secret.  Now he’s willing to risk a lot for a woman he is no longer even married to.  I stand behind what I said last week about the slow start – the crew has not made it very far out of their own proverbial backyards – but I am definitely loving the characters more and more.

If I had one real gripe with this episode, it’s a fairly small one.  When Bully McToughguy starts pushing Cynthia around, he knows Chambers is in the room but does nothing about it.  In fact, barring pointing a gun at her for a second, he turns his back on her.  That on its own is silly, but the fact that Chambers then comes over, taps him on the shoulder, and then hits him is idiotic.  Still what befalls him is priceless and it does make me happy when the bully gets taken down a notch.  But that’s still not the worst of it.  I’m no child prodigy (I bet you’re all stunned, right?), but I saw the flaw with Max’s plan.  Rolf Mueller can’t do anything to hurt Max or Cynthia himself without risking his own death, but he can easily pay someone to take them out, and I do not mean on a date!  There’s even a moment when Max stops in the hallway after leaving Cynthia’s quarters that I felt like it was about to happen.  The question is, how big a threat is Rolf, really?  Is there a chance Max now has a bounty on his head?  With only a few episodes to go before the ignominious end, we may never know.  And maybe for Max, Cynthia and Mr. Kitty, that’s a good thing.   ML

The view from across the pond:

For the first time an episode of Crusade takes place on Babylon 5, but it wasn’t quite the triumphant return I had hoped for. There were no familiar faces apart from Lochley, and I still don’t quite understand where she fits into the Crusade puzzle. She’s not a member of Gideon’s team, so is she just going to make occasional appearances when an episode is set on B5? Her inclusion in the opening credits is starting to look like a cynical ploy to draw in the B5 fans, but with the series cut short we just can’t know for sure where JMS was going with this. I can’t see how Lochley as a regular cast member was a sustainable feature of the show. She drags Crusade back to its parent series roots and prevents it from really taking flight as its own series. The B5 setting also does that here. The episode could have been set just about anywhere, and the only point to it was to consummate Lochley and Gideon’s relationship, if you can call it that. I can’t say I enjoyed the way that played out.

“How are you handling it?”
“Better, thanks to seeing you.”

So it was looking like being a nice soppy romance, until they jumped in the shower together to the accompaniment of what sounded like some 1970s porn video music, and a ship penetrated into the docking bay, serving as the old train/tunnel metaphor. Yuck. To cap it all off they decide that they are nothing more than **** buddies. Maybe in time they would have realised there are always strings attached, and something more would have come of this. Maybe that will happen some time in the next six episodes.

The return to B5 brought a return to JMS’s old A/B plot structure, both of which had something to do with criminal activity. I’m not sure that the Lorkans’ change of heart to allow Gideon onto their planet made a huge amount of sense, even in light of the revelation that Polix and Ris were crooks all along, but one thing’s for sure: I loved those two characters. Tim Chaote has a way of bringing an alien to life with altered speech patterns. This definitely crossed the line into the realms of comedy alien, but his plummy voice and odd word emphasis made me laugh a lot.

Max’s battle with a loan shark was much more of a compelling storyline, and you’ve got to have respect for an actor who can say the words “Mr Kitty” and still look tough. The character dynamics were interesting, and you can see why his marriage broke down despite the love and attraction still being there. You get what you see with Max: he’s married to his work and that’s always going to come first, but that doesn’t mean he’s not capable of loving and protecting Cynthia. Rolf never came across as much of a dangerous threat though. For a start, what’s he doing following Cynthia around? His travel expenses are going to eat up most of the profit he’s likely to make, and doesn’t he have other debts to collect, or some hired thugs to do his dirty work for him? Menacing people in person seems like an odd plan, as he’s hardly the kind of guy to present much of a physical threat. Dr Chambers deals with him quite easily, and then his kidnapping of a cat is a pretty pathetic tactic. But despite Rolf never inspiring much fear, the way Max got the better of him in the end was still satisfying to watch.

I think the best way I can describe this series so far is “solid”. It’s certainly better than the first run of Babylon 5 episodes, but with a parent series to lean on maybe that’s not quite enough. I just want one episode to really wow me before we get to the end, to make me care about its cancellation and show what might have been. At the moment, the axe falling on Crusade is looking like the right decision.   RP

About Roger Pocock

Author of windowsintohistory.wordpress.com Co-writer on junkyard.blog Editor of frontiersmenhistorian.info
This entry was posted in Babylon 5, Reviews, Science Fiction, Television and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Crusade: The Rules of the Game

  1. BFrazer says:

    There are two tiers of Crusade episodes. These black uniform ones produced later but aired first, with network interference at full blast (such as featuring more Lochley because a TNT exec liked her). And the gray uniform episodes made first but aired last. They generally fared better, but there isn’t really any “wow” one, imo. The show was cut short just before what I think would have been the first great episode, known since most of the remaining scripts for the season have now been published.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. scifimike70 says:

    A former B5 star appearing in a B5 spinoff simply just because an exec liked her is one thing. But having it happen for whatever reason so early on in the spinoff is another. In the pilot episode, to have its premised launched as with Peter Capaldi appearing in Class’ pilot, or Picard appearing in DS9’s Emissary, it’s okay enough. But mainly for parent series characters, it can be better to wait until at least the spinoff’s second or third season. A spinoff should be trusted with its own regular characters for long enough and for a sense of security which, perceptively enough, the network in all its interfering arrogance didn’t have.

    Liked by 1 person

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