Contents: Overview - Backplot - Questions - Analysis - Notes - JMS
This spinoff series deals with the exploits of a Ranger ship, the Excalibur, and its search for the cure to a plague that threatens humanity. David Allen Brooks as Max Eilerson. Gary Cole as (Captain) Matthew Gideon. Jeff Conaway as Zack Allan (rumored). Carrie Dobro as Dureena Nafeel. Marjean Holden as Dr. Susan Chambers. Daniel Dae Kim as Lt. Matheson. Tracy Scoggins as Capt. Elizabeth Lochley. Peter Woodward as Galen.
Start date: June 9, 1999 Written by J. Michael Straczynski Fiona Avery and others Directed by many people
Only 13 episodes (of a planned five years) were produced due to creative differences between TNT and JMS.
Chronological episode order (ignoring the uniform change in favor of maintaining as much storyline continuity as possible):
The fan community's reaction ranged from hostility to skepticism to alarm. Many doubted the story was for real, and TNT would only say that no such memo had been sent to the Crusade producers (but not that it didn't exist). On September 19, however, JMS verified that it had in fact existed, but that it had been withdrawn. He also announced that TNT had decided to spend some extra money on Crusade's sets, and for that reason, filming ceased for a month.
Later, it became clear that the show TNT wanted -- a space shoot-em-up with lots of sex and violence -- wasn't the show JMS was producing, and that he wasn't willing to change the flavor of the series just to satisfy TNT. As the 13th episode was wrapping up filming, TNT informed Warner Bros. and Babylonian Productions that they weren't interested in funding any additional episodes, and production stopped.
The plug has not been pulled by TNT, which cannot pull the plug because we don't work for TNT, we work for WB. TNT is a distributor.
All I can say for now is that, like Oliver Stone's project for TNT, Witchblade, we have found that TNT (known primarily for westerns, historical dramas and wrestling) is not SF-friendly in terms of really getting what SF is about, and it may not entirely reconcile with what their core audience expects from them...and that a new, more SF friendly venue is being explored.
So if folks wanted to drop an encouraging note to, let's say, the Sci-Fi Channel, for instance, that would certainly be okay by me.
But in the interim...no, we're not canceled. We're taking off next week to allow WB to work its magic, but that's about it.
No, you can't do a series to video, it has to be aired. And DTV is considered a poor man's venue, for stuff that couldn't make it elsewhere.
WB Network is out of the question, due to the way WB is structured. It's a very long, corporate story, just take my word for it...SFC is the best option for us.
All that...plus working on the show, doing post production on the episodes already in hand (CGI, music, sound, editing)...I'm actually about as busy as we are during shooting.
All 13 eps produced so far will be shown; we'll be doing post production (CGI, music other stuff) through April 22nd.
One element to the whole discussion is that B5 was already an entity in its own right, and taking on the fifth year entailed basically buying what was already there, as opposed to becoming involved with the creative process of influencing a new series.
Well, we took our best shot. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don't.
The SciFi Channel programming guys wanted the show; they wanted it a lot. They crunched numbers for almost two weeks trying to make it work. But at the end of the day, the problem was that they had already allocated or spent their budget for the year, and couldn't come up with the huge chunk of change necessary to get an entire season. Had this come up prior to January 1st, things would almost certainly have gone differently. But they have their budget, as we have ours, and it was already allocated.
So TNT will now air the full 13 produced, and that's the end of it for now. I say for now because WB has told us to fold and hold all the sets, rather than scrap them, because they believe strongly in the show, and feel that when the ratings come in we may well be able to pick up a second season. We'll see.
Meanwhile, I'm taking the day off, and deciding which of a number of offers from networks and studios, sitting on my desk since B5 finished, to pick up. I had declined to go that route so I could do Crusade and keep playing in this universe, but absent that, there's no reason not to go back to the networks and apply there some of what we've been able to do in B5 and Crusade.
My thanks to all those who wrote, and called, and emailed, and lent their support to the process. And I think that when you see the show, you'll be quite pleased by what we did. We're all very proud of it.
The reason we've been waiting so long for news is that the SciFi Channel has been crunching numbers for weeks, trying to make the deal work with WB, and doing their level best. The programming folks there loved the show (and special thanks has to go to Programming Head Tom Vitale at SFC who worked hardest to make this work).
The problem is simply this: the money to fund a series is a BIG chunk of change. SFC had already allocated its budget for the year as of January 1st, and there simply wasn't enough left in this year's budget to pull it off. Also, the emphasis now is on spending money on shows where one owns a piece of it, and Crusade is owned entirely by WB.
At the end of they day, they just couldn't make the dollars work, though they tried their damndest, and are only to be thanked.
I'm told that if the ratings are good on the 13 which TNT will still air, all the eps made so far will be shown, there may be a second season, but we'll see.
Meanwhile, I'm taking the day off. There have been seven offers for overall deals and multiple network pilot deals with both networks per se and studios on my desk for about a year now, ever since B5 ended, which I've been putting off to do Crusade. Now I'll pick one of those deals and make it. So the next thing from me you see will almost certainly be on one of the major networks. I'm going back into the deep water again....
Meanwhile, my thanks to all those who emailed and wrote and called and supported. It's a good show, as will be seen when the shows are aired, and I'd rather lose a show I believed in than keep one I didn't believe in.
Definitely. It showed that I could run a series and keep it on budget and make it an international success. Right now those elements are in heavy demand at the networks. Even though the pay is half in cable what you get at the network level, I was content to stay with Crusade if it meant keeping our team together, and playing in the B5 universe a bit longer. Absent that, then there's every reason to take up one or two of those offers.
What you have to understand at this point is that there's really no time left. It takes a large amount of money to hold a cast and crew together while other options are being sought, and even then options on varoius cast members and others begin to expire fast.
WB can't keep spending holding money while they're seeking another prospect. It's a business decision, but a sensible one, given the large amounts of money involved. Their approach now is to believe in the show enough to get it on the air, let the ratings speak for themselves, and see what happens.
My only regret is for the cast, who are all uniformly terrific, and who are caught out in all this.
Yes, both those would be good choices.
And the best time for this would be after the episodes start airing in June. I think we have about 5 weeks before the actors' contracts expire in July. (They will be running all 13 straight through, or so they tell me.)
And it's not Crusaders (which always makes me think of Crusader Rabbit); it's The Babylon Project: Crusade. (That's the working title, anyway.)
You must understand how hideously difficult and exhausting telling a 5 year tightly constructed story like this is...basically, over the course of 4 years, I'll have written 3,000 pages all in one universe, primarily telling one story. That's the equivilent of 6 or 7 full-size novels in 4 years, telling one story. After something like that, you want to do something a little different for a bit.
Four years ago, when I started carrying this elephant, I barely had a grey hair on my head...now it's gone almost entirely grey, I look as if I've aged 10 years, and people who see me after a gap of a few years all say the same thing: "What the hell HAPPENED to you?" I tell them: Babylon 5.
As with everything else I do, I try to find what I'd enjoy as a viewer, and take it from there. That was how B5 came about, and that's how the new show would come about, should it happen.
There's a definite ending in mind, yes, but there's some room to play within that framework. Again, there's an arc, but not quite as rigorous as with B5.
Also, the arc was, for me, a relatively new tool which took me about a year or so to really figure out how to use...then I used it relentlessly for a very long time. Now it's just one more tool on my belt, and I can use it with a bit more precision. It's the difference between using a rapier and a broadsword.
It'll probably start out looking fairly conventional, as did B5 our first year, just until the suits get comfortable and start ignoring us (they're all OVER you in your first year), and then, again as with B5, we'll start getting really subversive...ah loves being subversive....
And there'll be the folks who'll say, "Oh, it's just X," just like they did with B5 in the beginning, saying "Oh, it's just like DS9," which is *perfect* because it lets me sneak up behind them and just WHACK 'em upside the head when they're not looking, as with B5.
Basically, without saying too much, it'll be a MUCH larger canvas, and the kinds of stories I can tell will be CONSIDERABLY more varied and have more opportunities to explore all kinds of interesting stuff, so I can go a bit more nuts on production values, alien stuff, and other areas.
In Crusade, we're really dealing with one force encountering others on a per-episode basis (mostly), so we've got 6 regulars/recurs, with a subset of reappearing characters (a la Morden, Bester or Corwin in B5). That feels about right to me.
Other times it's an individual choice. Anne Bruice-Aling recently had a baby, and she wants to dedicate the next year or so toward raising her kid, so while she'll remain available for occasional stuff or consulting, we'll have someone else heading up the wardrobe department.
Mainly, you want to hold onto as many of your original people as you can, because we've trained our folks to work in a certain, particular way. Nobody else really does things the way we do them on B5, and it's wiser to hold onto your crew, and give incentives, to keep them around. (We tend to promote from within the ranks and reward loyalty rather than bring in new folks, that sort of thing.)
What's in the series "bible?"
I put in it basically whatever I think will be useful to anyone, as much as I can think up. Characters' names, backgrounds, descriptions, the kinds of stories we are looking for, the kinds of stories we *don't* want to see, what is good SF and what ain't, sample storylines we plan to develop, that sort of thing.
I'm now in the process of converting over the "sell treatment," done for the network, to a working series bible, which will go out to those writers with whom I've either worked before, or whose work I know and have wanted to work with for a while (as was the case with Neil Gaiman).
And the costume/makeup design?
Same process. I discuss with Optic Nerve and the costume folks what I have in mind. They go away and come up with drawings. They submit those drawings; John and I go over them, pick the ones we like, suggest modifications, toss out what we don't like, and the process of refinement continues.
For a show as different as this, I wanted a completely different, totally unique sound, something I've never heard before, and Evan Chen has it.
Yep, in fact, I have it right here, having gotten the first pressing of the thing for approval. Chris's company will be putting it out.
So what we did here was to add on three weeks to the hiatus, starting Tuesday. Well, three paid weeks off for most of the crew directly involved with the actual filming, anyway. Construction, art department, props, wardrobe and other departments will still be working away to build and dress the sets and stuff so we can get right back into shooting on with the new stuff in place.
We're talking here improvements to the corridors, to the quarters to enlarge them, adding a wardroom/mess hall, an exercise area...other stuff. We generally add sets each season, and wanted to do these down the road, but now we have the chance to do them now.
TNT has allocated additional money to build some major (large) new sets that we had thought we'd have to wait until season 2 to implement, and to improve some of the sets. (We were always fighting to spiff up sets throughout B5, and we always had to bring in our new sets gradually, like Earharts and the War Room and others.)
Since they're going to give us the money for that now, we figued we'd extend the hiatus by a few weeks (a paid break for most of the actual shooting crew), though we still have the art department, costume, construction, props and several other departments still working away to build the sets and stuff.
We start shooting again October 19th.
One of the issues brought up by TNT had to do with a decision we all made early on that the first episode up, Racing the Night, would just jump right into the story, without doing the usual pilot-episode thing of showing the team coming together, which was our other option.
On reflection, TNT figured that the best thing might be to do that "coming together" episode after all, to set the stage for all that follows. It's a lateral change, really, you could have it or not, either way, it's dealer's choice. But if we're going to do that, we may as well get the sets and other stuff ready to go for that first episode and the ones that will immediately follow. We're also making some adjustments to the wardrobe (and I've come up with a pretty funny way to make the transition in the story). All of the prior produced episodes are still in, and still going to be broadcast, nothing's changed that as far as I know.
Anyway, things continue to progress, the script for the alternate first ep is in, and all should be cool from this point on. Which is not to say there haven't been some knife-fights...but we seem to have reached some understandings....
Since we're doing a first introductory episode, TNT kinda wanted to have the new sets in place for the first few eps (though they can't appear in the first one for story reasons), and since we're making some wardrobe adjustments, they figured they may as well have those in place as well.
Nothing in the story has been changed. The five episodes already made will be aired, and you will see that the characters, the story, the feel of the show is *exactly* the same between those first 5 filmed, and those that follow. What it comes down to are some cosmetic changes, some new sets, and an episode that sets things in place.
As we come back, the first two episodes up to be shot will be scripts we already had in hand, then the new introductory episode, "War Zone," another one we already have, one new one, then another one from on-hand, which will take us through into the Christmas break.
No scripts are being thrown out, no episodes are being scrapped...none of that has taken place, or is taking place. The show is the show is the show.
(And on the costumes themselves...no, they're not going to be "skin tight" things; we're actually kinda going in the opposite direction. They're more typically military jumpsuits, black, neatly tailored, similar to some Air Force or Marine uniforms. And the only people who will be wearing these are the basic technical crew, Captain Gideon (Gary Cole) and Lieutenant John Matheson (Daniel Dae Kim); the others are civilians, and thus are not affected.
Regarding air dates...we have thus far not been told if they want to push for a January airdate or not. Part of the complication to all this is that if we make #8 in shooting order the first aired, we have to do a hideous amount of post-production on CGI to get it ready in time. Rather than make us rush it, they have said they might consider waiting until the February sweeps. Another option is to go in March, if they don't want to go up against the Network sweeps period (which is traditionally death for basic cable)...but the problem *there* is that you can only air 4 episodes and then TNT would go into the NBA playoffs, which means it would be another 6 weeks or so until any new eps could be shown.
So on that score, nobody's decided anything yet, we don't know and haven't been told because they haven't decided where will best serve us, so we hit the ground with the least network opposition.
Anyway, that's where things are. Hope this puts to rest some of the rumors out there.
Pretty much all of the above, depending on the complexity of the sequence.
What I have said about this from the beginning, and the ONLY thing I have ever said about this, was that there was a side-story in the B5 universe that could go off from the main story. That has been quoted in many different places, and on line, and definitely includes any plans for "Crusade."
BTW, that new characters were mentioned does not exclude any current cast members...doesn't include them, either, but bottom line, that ain't a complete list of characters. There's room and flexibility in there, depending on what happens.
So they figured going June 2nd would avoid all of the problems, and put the show out when the network shows were in reruns...meaning it has a better chance of scoring large numbers, a strategy that worked well with other shows like 90210.
Crusade will almost certainly to back to the 40-50% freelance mode, which is frankly my preference, and it's been that way on all the previous shows I've done.
They're somewhat stand alone that was introducing characters and setting up the details that would kick the arc into gear with #14.