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Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2011 5:01:29 -0400
By Patrick Munn
When Crusade started airing on TNT in the summer of 1999, the network
had already cancelled the series. What was the series about and why was
In June 1999, TNT launched the first Babylon 5 spin-off series, Crusade.
But even before the first episode had aired, the fate of the series had
already been sealed. Half way through production of what was intended to
be a 22 episode first season, TNT cancelled the series. But what was the
show about and why was it cancelled by TNT?
The series was created by J Michael Straczynski and starred Gary Cole,
Tracy Scoggins, Daniel Dae Kim, David Allen Brooks, Peter Woodward,
Marjean Holden and Carrie Dobro. Crusade tells the story of the
Excalibur, an experimental destroyer class vessel, and her crew as they
set off across the galaxy looking for a cure to a plague which has been
released into the Earth’s atmosphere by the Drakh. The plague is a
technologically advanced nano-virus which takes some time to adapt to
the host’s biology, which in the case of humans is five years; at which
time the plague will become active and destroy all life on Earth.
TNT had initially ordered a 22 episode first season of Crusade but a
number of behind the scenes machinations led to the cable network
cancelling the series before a single episode had even aired.
What Went Wrong?
The question of what exactly happened to the series has been asked by
every single Babylon 5 fan since 1999. The answer is complicated and,
well, long. To give an accurate picture you have to look at the events
TNT officially ordered the series with a 22 episode order on April 3rd,
1998 and production began only a few months later on August 8th, 1998. A
memo from TNT executives was leaked online on September 8, 1998, which
indicated that the network wanted more sex and violence on the series.
Then two weeks later, TNT revoked the memo and allocated more money to
fund additional sets and better costumes for the cast. The series went
on a brief hiatus on September 22nd, 1998 after filming only five
episodes, to facilitate the building of the new sets.
Production resumed in mid October, but by this time TNT had decided they
wanted the series to begin with an episode in which the crew of the
Excalibur is assembled, rather than launching straight into searching
for a cure with an already establish crew as Joe Straczynski had
intended. A further eight episodes were produced, with some heavy
interference in the creative process by executives at TNT. Shortly after
the filming of the thirteenth episode had been completed, the show was
put on what was ostensibly a second hiatus.
Shortly after that, TNT announced that they would not be funding the
production of any further episodes, essentially cancelling the series.
This was due to a recent report from their marketing division indicating
that their core viewers did not watch Babylon 5, and that the viewers
that watched Babylon 5 did not watch any other TNT programming.
There was a last ditch attempt to move the series to the Sci Fi Channel
in 1999, but all such attempts failed as Sci Fi had already spent its
budget for the year and TNT were unwilling to sell the rights to the
series for a reasonable price; effectively ending any chance of
continuing the series. The final episode of Crusade aired on TNT on
September 1st, 1999.
Crusade was a series with a lot of potential, which was cut down in its
prime because the network decided that science fiction did not fit their
brand. But some 12 years on, the network appears to have changed its
tune, as they are now supporting Steven Spielberg’s science fiction
series Falling Skies. I was recently able to ask series creator Joe
Straczynski about his feelings on TNT’s U-turn regarding supporting
science fiction. His response: “The ways of executives are like unto
god, they transcend all understanding.”
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