"This is my command. I'll do whatever's necessary. If that means turning the entire galaxy upside down and shaking its pockets to see what falls out, then that's what I'll do. I'm not subtle. I'm not pretty, and I'll piss off a lot of people along the way. But I'll get the job done."
REVIEW: Same universe, new show, how's it rate? Well, the pilot is all about putting the pieces together, though some of that (recapped) was done in A Call to Arms. We already know the Excalibur, not that we see much more of it, a few of the characters - Dureena has had a slight make-up and attitude adjustment, the latter making her impish more than angry, I don't think it's an improvement; Lochley, though she has yet to be made a member of the team; Galen the techno-mage, acting as a kind of guardian angel figure; and, in a way, Dr. Sarah Chambers, familiar only because the same actress played a different officer in the TV movie - and the Drakh (to save on make-up, they gave the troops the bone mask from their original appearance, but without the weird effect, they look pretty terrible). As far as the premise goes, the episode starts minutes after the battle to save Earth ends, and we're soon pursuing and fighting a stray Drakh ship, fresh from the seeding of Earth with a time-delayed plague. That problem - and Earth isn't really taking it with any kind of grace - could become a story-telling one if the production isn't careful. It's a lot like Voyager's, in that the crew is after something specific, but can't ever get it. So each episode gets mired in Gilligan's Island syndrome, where each inroad becomes a cul-de-sac. This was reportedly imposed by TNT and imposed on JMS who hoped to end that particular arc and move on to other things halfway through the second season, but as we now know, that was never meant to be. At least he narrowly misses that Gilligan feeling by having the crew find something that will HELP Earth researchers without being some kind of magical cure. Another carry-over from A Call to Arms is, sadly, the discordant music and sound design, pulling another blazing battle (and no ugly zoom-ins in Crusade, thank you) with only music and no voice or effects tracks. It's an experiment that just doesn't work, turning the action into a montage that takes all the energy and urgency out of it (cool though they might LOOK). Throw in a similarly atonal opening sequence and you start to see why it didn't pick up a host of new fans.
Gideon is our hero, and I have a lot of good will for Gary Cole generally. His no-nonsense attitude isn't unlike Sheridan's, though he's a lot less personable. I like that he was chosen because he was "dangerous", essentially a maverick, and that LIKE Sheridan and Sinclair (and indeed, a lot of B5 characters), he's an outsider. Suddenly, those qualities that probably kept him marginalized in Earthforce, are just what's required. He knows what he wants and won't let anything or anyone stand in his way, including his image-conscious superiors who soon prove THEY couldn't possibly carry out the mission. Other new characters include brilliant archaeologist and linguist Max Eilerson, another contrarian cut from the same cloth, and Lt. John Matheson, Gideon's first officer, a sensitive telepath following some "new rules" post-whatever it is Lyta did to the Corps. Obviously, things are all very new so these characters are just sketched in. Gideon gets most of the attention, including a flashback sequence that's taken right out of the Sinclair story - the captain floating in space and getting his life saved by Galen for unknown purposes only now coming to the fore, a special destiny.
As he confronts Galen, he is asked First One-type questions spoiled in the opening sequence, this time devoid of a sort of knowing wink I raised an eyebrow at: There are answers to "Who are you?", "What do you want?", and "Where are you going?", but at "Who do you serve and who do you trust?", the closing credit for creator J. Michael Straczynski seems a worse ego trip than his name on the back side of Babylon 5. In the actual scene, Gideon admits to not knowing, and that proves to be the correct answer. Galen will help because Gideon has no master but the quest itself. Not the chain of command, which he has already brazenly gone against, and not any vice the Drakh can exploit. As the plot progresses beyond the initial set-up, we'll see whether others in the cast are as steady, or if Gideon himself will doubt and falter. If the show lasts long enough for us to find out.
ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORMHOLE: In Star Trek too, the station-driven show was followed by a ship-driven show, but the idea of a specific long-term mission to save Earth would actually be used in Trek's future (or past, depending on how you look at it), in Enterprise's third season.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Recaps a lot of points from A Call to Arms, and reuses its austere soundtrack, two reasons why it falls flatter than a series opener otherwise might. At this point, I'm interested in Gideon if no one and nothing else.