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"Crusade" design changes explained !!!

Glen here...

...with answers to some questions many people have been asking me of late.

Before I go any further, I need to address a few vocal critics who are tired of seeing so much Babylon 5 and Crusade news represented here on Coaxial. Well, the only response I can offer is: deal with it. I go out looking for as much information (on as many shows) as I can find. Some shows I get a lot of information about, some shows I do not. I then prepare whatever information I accumulate for presentation on Coaxial. If I get X-Files news, or NYPD Blue news, it gets covered. If I don't, it doesn't. It's really that simple.

I try to be as broad as possible in my coverage. But when all is said and done - I can only report that which comes my way. NO COVERAGE...of *any* show... is being sacrificed because some shows get more attention on Coaxial than others. If someone connected to Star Trek or Buffy wants to send information my way, it'll go up - unless there's a stated request not to run with it. The same goes for shows like 90210 or Mad About You or The Simpsons.. Or any show.

If the info is here (or if I find it), I'll likely use it. If it isn't, I'll use whatever I come across -as long as I think it's interesting, or believe it to be of interest to others. Since B5 and Crusade are of interest to me...and's not going anywhere.

Which brings me full-circle to Crusade. One of the biggest questions surrounding the show seems to be: how will the (TNT mandated) "changes" in the show's set design, costume design, etc. be integrated into the framework of the series' story line?

As many may recall - the show began production with one assortment of costumes and sets, but was subsequently redesigned after five or six episodes were already in the can. In itself, this re-design wasn't too big a deal. But complicating the issue substantially was the fact that TNT (Crusade's network) asked for the series to begin differently, as The Powers That Be felt a need to enhance character and concept set-up in the show's early stages.

This meant: the already filmed opening episodes of Crusade would have to be pushed back to latter in the season, to accommodate the series' new opening episodes. Fortunately, the original opening episodes jumped right into their stories - so it was an over-all structural move them deeper into the season with no harm being done.

But this left for a whopping discontinuity in the design scheme of the show. The new opening episodes (filmed after the original opening episodes were filmed) were to incorporate the more recent design set & costume design schemes. As such, the original opening episodes would appear discontinuitous and awkward when they were finally aired - as viewers would already be used to the show looking one way (since the re-design was incorporated right out of the gates), and would then be barraged with the show's original designs when the original opening episodes (sporting the original series' designs) aired a month or two into the season.

Gotta headache yet?

What to do, what to do?

When news of the redesigns broke, there were all kinds of funky and unpleasant rumors flitting about - including several (ultimately disproven) indications that the original opening episodes were being completely re-shot to accommodate for the newer designs. All kinds of both conjecture (both educated and irresponsible) has been bandied about. But...finally... I have some answers.

Since TNT's "re-design" was now the standard design for the series, JMS decided to make the (now discontinuitious) original designs the oddity when all was said and done. He'd have episodes incorporating the new designs BEFORE the original episodes aired, then an entire series using the newer designs AFTER the original episodes aired. So how does one account for the sudden (and temporary) cosmetic change for only five episodes?

The changes will appear in an episode called "Appearances and Other Deceits". This is one of the newer episodes mentioned above. In this episode, characters named DAVID RICE and KEVIN SPRACH - two propaganda specialists from Earth Gov - will be sent to the Excalibur (the ship in Crusade) in an effort to improve the image of the ship and her crew in the eyes of the people back home on Earth. Seems morale back on Earth is pretty low. After all, everyone on the planet is sitting around, waiting to die - and the government needs the masses to feel that Excalibur and her crew have it going on, and are truly a beacon of hope.

Rice and Sprach come to the conclusion that the uniforms worn by the ship's crew...indeed the inner appearance of the ship not convey the proper sense of "power, dignity, and presence" to the people back home. The two set forth on a public relations campaign to change the look of the ship to a color scheme they think will be more commanding. These changes will result in Excalibur's interiors (and her crew's uniforms) being significantly altered to better convey a sense of "power, dignity, and presence."

Said changes begin taking place at the end of "Appearances and Other Deceits", which will then allow for a conceptual / visual segue immediately into the *original* opening episodes mentioned above. For the duration of said episodes (still sporting the original designs for the series), the Excalibur will be presumed (by the audience) to be the unfortunate victim of a governmental propaganda onslaught. At the end of her PR circuit, the Excalibur and her crew will be allowed to (in fact, really want to) go back to the way things used to be on the ship - which will allow for a between-episode & off screen segue back towards the look the show had established from the outset. So, all of the original episodes are being utilized, pretty much as they were originally shot and assembled (although, I'm told some FX may have been upgraded, but that's a different story - and un-related to the matters at hand).

The irony that Rice and Sprach believe Crusade's *original* designs to be the "look" best conveying authority and presence" is difficult to escape. proof that series overlord J. Michael Straczynski does have eyes and ears everywhere...Excalibur commander Matthew Gideon will characterize himself as looking "like a bellhop" once he is forced to put on the politically correct (series' original) uniforms. Looking "like a bellhop" was a sentiment frequently articulated by Babylon 5 fans after TV Guide unveiled the original uniforms in its Fall Preview issue a few months back.

Throughout "Appearances and Other Deceits", numerous other (begrudging) references will be made to the visual changes looming on the horizon for Excalibur. In one sequence, an alien is brought to MedBay. It appears to be stable, then has a seizure and inexplicably dies. Gideon asks how a stable patient can just up and die like that.

The ship's doctor (Chambers) will respond: "I don't know. Maybe some kind of cultural imperative against being helped by another race, maybe he didn't like the decor."

Gideon thinks on this: "Well, he wouldn't be the first person today to make that observation."

All of this cosmetic upheaval on Excalibur will be a running theme behind the central thrust of the episode (the A-plot), which will revolve around the discovery of a massive derelict alien ship in space, and a subsequent (and not coincident) invasion of Excalibur. Wanna see twelve thruster-suited Excalibur crew members boarding and alien ship? Watch this episode. Also look for some sensitive, touching, and substantive moments from the character named Eilerson - who will have something of an awakening in this episode, which makes us realize he's not entirely the hard-assed jerk he frequently appears to be.

So, I hope this helps clear things up - and helps explain how the much feared aesthetic changes in Crusade will be implemented. Finally, NO - I haven't heard anything definite about when Crusade will air. I honestly don't think they know yet, the previously anticipated target date of June seems probable now that the NBA strike has been resolved.

More Crusade stuff in the coming weeks...

Questions? Comments? Praise? Ridicule?
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Readers Talkback
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  • Jan. 11, 1999, 6:36 p.m. CST

    stupidest thing i ever heard...

    by Condorman111

  • Jan. 11, 1999, 7:56 p.m. CST

    It's the way JMS does things

    by Draco

    There is probably eaiser ways to do this sort of thing. Battle damage could expalin a new interior(fire or explosion could damage the bridge) or some new tech that the retro fit the ship with. New uniforms wouldn't be hard, aperently Earth Force has not updated since before the Earth Mimbari war(In the Beginning). Militaries just change their designs every once in a while(the US Navy changed its look a bit over a decade ago, so why not Earth Force? But JMS wouldn't do it like that. If there was a chance to snub people who try to boss him around, he will. And if it could be used for a good laugh or prank, he would work in some way. An observation on image makeovers that are so important to people today. Note: I am really looking forward to this new series. It could be really fun and original. But, doesn't it remind anyone else of "Our Starblazers"?

  • Jan. 11, 1999, 8:43 p.m. CST


    by Dark Phoenix

    I would like to say that I think this is an excellent idea by JMS, and perhaps a subtle strike at TNT. For some replies.. ASCII Boy: She wasn't really a major player. It wasn't like Ivanova or Franklin suddenly changed. Her appearance really didn't matter so much as who she was. Draco: Easier ways to explain IF the change only took place after the original eps. But the eps airing first will have these changes too. Anyway, I wan't to see this series now! NBA be damned, they don't deserve to play! Snotty bastards. The Dark Phoenix

  • Jan. 11, 1999, 11 p.m. CST

    Clever and Amusing

    by The Outlander

    A clever and amusing solution to what could have been an expensive problem.

  • Jan. 11, 1999, 11:01 p.m. CST

    June 2nd will not work!

    by b5lurker

    I went the and they have posted the settlement as agreed by both sides and it calls for the playoffs to begin in May and run all the way through June! So, Crusade cannot begin in June since that is now where the playoffs will be! Hopefully they will start it off in March, since the "regular" season of the NBA will still be going on for at least another couple of months. Hopefully Joe and TNT will make an announcement soon!

  • Jan. 12, 1999, 12:14 a.m. CST

    What about ACTA

    by gary2012

    I am assuming that the sets from A Call To Arms were the same as

  • Jan. 12, 1999, 1:46 a.m. CST

    That's JMS

    by AnotherThief

    I think it's a great idea. That's how a ceative man ships his ship around trouble - maikng the people smile. I don't agree with the "ship is damaged"-idea. What kind of damage changes the color of the niform ;)) Or just think of what the coma-writers of Voyger would have done! It would have been a "ship and uniform color changing space anomalie"...

  • Jan. 12, 1999, 2:03 a.m. CST

    Can't be STV

    by beowulf

    If Star Trek Voyeur were doing this, phase-shifting or tachyon particles would be involved somehow... no, wait, it's a time travel episode, or maybe Lt. Paris got demoted (again) for doing fashion designs... aw, never mind, it's just JMS making lemonaide out of TNT-brand lemons. Remember, this _is_ the network that wanted to give us the New Adventures of Jesus!

  • Jan. 12, 1999, 3:17 a.m. CST

    Explaining Crusade's variations

    by The Mighty Tharg

    Seems like a neat conceit to me, making a humorous B-plot virtue out of a externally adjusted necessity. That JMS, what a scamp!

  • Jan. 12, 1999, 8:21 a.m. CST

    RE: June 2nd will not work!

    by Uglymouse

    The latest that TNT can air playoff games is June 3rd. After that NBC has all of the broadcast rights. So June 2nd can work, although I would like to see it air earlier...

  • Jan. 12, 1999, 10:46 a.m. CST

    More B5/JMS stuff!!!

    by Shad

    Please keep the B5/JMS universe stuff coming! B5 was one of the best shows in the history of the television, right up there with ST:OS, The Prisoner, Twin Peaks, MASH, Hill Street Blues, etc. Despite the occasional cheese factor, the consistent arc, the commitment to detail, the high-minded moral vision, all added up to a masterpiece. For those who don't like it and want more Urkel updates and Home Improvement scoops, go find another site.

  • Jan. 12, 1999, 3:03 p.m. CST

    CRUSADE HO!!!!!!!!!

    by kyle81

    CRUSADE is gonna rock! I hope the leaving of Michael Jordon truely screws up the NBA. Bring on the Crusade!

  • Jan. 12, 1999, 3:23 p.m. CST

    Reminds me of another JMS show...

    by Billy Goat

    Brilliant! I love it when writers do this kind of thing. It's the same type of fanboy speculation we geeks do. Interesting trivia: (or not) "The Real Ghostbusters", another JMS show. Secretary Janine's character design changed every season, for no reason. Then, in the premiere episode of the last season (can't remember if JMS himself wrote it, but now I'm sure he did), we find out that Janine, trying to get Egon's attention, has been getting beauty make-overs from a malevolent spirit masquerading as her guardian angel/fairy godmother! But she's losing her humanity in the process, and the team has to convince her to reject this seemingly caring spirit... It made me wonder if the discontinuity was planned all along. -Billy

  • Jan. 12, 1999, 4:19 p.m. CST


    by mckracken

    what the hell does this have to do with the NBA strike being cancelled???????? anyway, didn't you people/guys/fans figure that JMS would write his way out of this inane mess that TNT started? GEESH!! Let the show begin!!!!!

  • Jan. 12, 1999, 10:09 p.m. CST

    Sounds like Vintage B5...

    by Ilvenshang

    Ingenious...but somehow rather boring and not worth the effort. Mr. Straczynski (PS - I'm sorry I misspelled his name in my SW post) continues to ignore the old saw that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. Actually, make that the hobgoblin of microscopic minds, if the Fivers I encounter on the web are any indication. Every fanbase has some bad apples - usually a pack of f-word-fixated louts who regard SW, Trek, Buffy etc. as a religion to be analyzed in deadly seriousness, every glitch in continuity or logic a threat to their faith. Once you've met one, you've met them all, for they all spout the same party line. The Fivers are stuck with their share of these bad apples, that goes without saying. What's more disturbing to me is that there is a definite "mainstream" within the B5 community. "OF COURSE Boxleitner's a wonderful actor - and don't you dare think otherwise!" Contrast with DS9 fandom, where there are at least 3 widely held opinions about Avery Brooks: that he is the show best actor, or its worst actor, or possibly both. Fivers have this in common with Enterprise or Voyager school Trekkers: at the end of the episode, they get on the Internet in order to AGREE with other fans. At the end of the episode, DSNineys log on and argue. And argue. And argue. Why? Because DS9 hasn't a fraction of B5's storytelling cohesion or its strength of fanbase. Because it's like those notorious shapeshifters it uses as enemies: it's amorphous and elusive, whenever you think you've caught it, it slips straight through your fingers. It morphs up raspy and velvet surfaces, cutting edges and blunt objects as it sees fit. Because it's not an elegant Rubik's Cube designed by a brilliant engineer like JMS (which B5 is, IMHO), but a living Frankenstein-monster patched together by a dozen (at least) mad scientists. Not the wimpy saccharine Boris Karloff monster either - more like Chris Lee's psychotic interpretation. I'm rambling, sorry, let me conclude. The Fivers are certainly welcome to Straczynski's Cube and its successors. It's no doubt very intelligent of them to understand and appreciate it. I think, though, that I'll throw in my lot with those bellicose Nineys, pursuing a doomed morphing monster that none can understand and all have disowned. It seems like more fun. RIP, DS9 (and if you believe those rumors about the station's crew being in Trek10, I have a bridge in Frisco to sell you...)

  • Jan. 13, 1999, 12:41 a.m. CST


    by spawn

    Was it just me or did the music for A Call to Arms totally suck. It sounded like an 8 year old pounding on a synthesizer during much of the movie. It really distracted from what I think is the best B5 movie, next to ITB, by really not supporting the action. The space battle at the end was incredible as long as the sound was off and I could imagine a REAL B5 score playing...... Call me insane if you like, but I am worried that Crusade will suffer. As did Deep Space Nine with it's wimpy as all hell theme song. That one sucked too compared to the power of TNG's borrowed theme.......

  • Jan. 14, 1999, 1:38 a.m. CST


    by Sweeney Todd

    Ilvenshang, this is all *very* old hat. Point one: it's ridiculously inappropriate to come to a board about B5 and Crusade and start mouthing off about how DS9 is better. That ship has sailed. Point two: you do B5 fandom a serious disservice in your description, since your contact with it is obviously limited to trolls like these. If there's a B5 "mainstream", I'd sure love to see it -- there are serious differences in opinion over every aspect of the show. Point three: I don't think anyone with more than half a brain can argue that consistency is not a virtue. Your implicit conclusion that DS9 is better for not paying attention to such details is, frankly, stupid.

  • Jan. 14, 1999, 12:28 p.m. CST

    NBA may not be a problem

    by Dr Polaris

    If the NBA Playoffs stretch into the first week of June, that may not mess with the start of Crusade. TNT's coverage usually ends with the semifinals, so the last week or two of basketball will probably be only on NBC.

  • Jan. 14, 1999, 12:41 p.m. CST

    Crusade changes

    by Halfran

    Thanks for the ongoing news on B5 and Crusade...the more the merrier, I say. You do a good service to those interested in the program. I found the idea of integrating the costume and set changes a clever TV solution. Being involved in video production myself, my crew and I are always challenged to come up with a "TV solution" to meet story, budget, and artistic problems. I enjoy learning from experts like JMS and his team on how it's done.