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CRUSADE IS A GO!: The B5 spin-off prepares to launch by David Bassom
(Starburst; issue 238; June 1998)

    It's official. Just weeks after the completion of Babylon 5's fifth and final season, Babylonian Productions has finalised a deal with Warner Brothers and the TNT cable channel to produced the oft-mentioned spin-off series, The Babylon Project: Crusade. The brainchild of B5 supremo, J. Michael Straczynski, Crusade will begin shooting on July 27th, and will premiere in the US on January 6th, 1999, courtesy of TNT. A British transmission-- and indeed video release-- is likely to follow later that year.

    Starting in 2267(five years after B5's fifth season), Crusade opens with the Shadows former allies, the Drakh, mounting an attack against Earth. Although the assault proved unsuccessful, it culminates with the Drakh  releasing a biogenetic plague in the Earth's atmosphere that will wipe out all life on the planet once its five-year incubation period has passed. The series will then follow the Rangers' quest to find a cure through the eyes of the crew of the Excalibur, a Deep Space exploration vessel assigned to search the remains of ancient worlds once occupied by the First Ones, in the hope of finding an antidote.

The Arc

    Like its ground-breaking predecessor, Crusade will have a five-year story arc, although it will not be as intense as that of B5. Straczynski also promises that the series will have more of a sense of exploration and wonder than its forebearer. As on B5, he will once again serve as executive producer and chief writer on Crusade, but currently has no intention of scripting more than half of the show's episodes. Most of B5's leading crewmembers, including executive producer Douglas Netter, producer John Copeland and the special effects artists at Netter Digital, are expected to reprise their roles on the new series.

    Speaking to Starburts shortly after the spin-offs official launch, John Copeland is clearly confident that Crusade will take the B5 franchise into a new direction. "Crusade will differ from B5 in that B5 was a dramatic show with an action component," he explains. "While Crusade will be an action/adveture show with a dramatic component. The new series will be livelier and will be visiting more new places than we ever did in B5."

    Although casting on Crusade is not expected to be finished until late May/early June, speculation is rife that at least one B5 actor will feature in the spin-off-- and the current favourite rumoured among fans is Tracy Scoggins to reprise her role as Captain Elizabeth Lochley. Straczynski has also hinted in the that Tim Choate-- who made such an impression as Zathras in the B5 episodes 'Babylon Squared' and 'War Without End'-- could star in the new show as one of the nine surviving Zathras brothers. Other regular characters are believed to include a warrior caste Minbari, surviving members of a race wiped out by the Shadows, and a technomage (as seen in B5's 'Geometry of Shadows')

    As Crusade enters pre-production, John Copeland feels that there is much to be excited about. "First of all," he points out, "we will have a launch pad here in the US that we never had when B5 premiered. TNT will give us publicity support that just isn't possible in syndication.

Challenges

    "I'm also looking forward to trying new production and visual effects techniques. We are going to really push the envelope in ways we've never attempted before. I also look forward to the excitement of problem-solving associated with the start of any new production. Crusade is full of challenges and opportunites-- and loaded with potential."

    Besides Crusade and the closing episodes of Babylon 5's fifth season, regular viewers also have two
further B5 telemovies to look forward to. 'River of Souls' is set a year after B5's fifth season, in 2263, and pits Captain Lochley, Garibaldi and Zack against a group of Soul Hunters, and involves an ancient vault filled with relics believed to hold the secret to eternal life. Movie star Martin Sheen and British actor Ian McShane have been confirmed as guest stars. 'A Call to Arms' is a prelude-- but not the pilot-- to Crusade, in which the Rangers are believed to engage in a massive armed conflict with the Drakh. The telemovies will premiere on November 23rd and January 3rd 1999, courtesy of TNT, while the long-delayed second telemovie,
'Thirdspace' premieres on July 19th.

    Beyond that, Copeland revealed that TNT has expressed an interest in making Babylon 5 telemovies on an annual basis, and that Babylonian Productions recently re-entered talks with Warners about the possibility of a B5 feature film (which would depict the oft-mentioned Telepath War). The battle for peace has just begun.

END

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