Saturday, November 21, 2015

Crusade: “Ruling from the Tomb” (Babylonian Productions, Turner Network Television, Warner Bros., 1999)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2015 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

The other Crusade episode shown last night, “Ruling from the Tomb,” delivered on the promise of “War Zone” and proved unexpectedly intense as drama — though its strong resemblance to the recent ISIS attacks on Paris (both led by nihilistic religious groups with a bizarre, twisted faith in their idea of God and a willingness to kill indiscriminately to fulfill their “spiritual” beliefs) probably made it more moving than it would have been if I’d seen it another time and seemed to carry parallels the writers (J. Michael Straczynski and Peter David) didn’t imagine when they were creating it. The setting is Mars, in and around a huge conference center in which a group of scientists and other experts are going to convene for a big meeting on how to deal with the Drakh plague. Just why they have to do a face-to-face meeting, with all the intendant security risks, when one would presume the technology of 2267 (when this show takes place) would enable them to do the meeting electronically with the participants appearing to each other as holograms (c’mon, guys, Skype exists already!), is a mystery, but much of the episode is a battle of wills between Matthew Gideon (Gary Cole), the series’ star and captain of the Excalibur, and Captain Elizabeth Lockley (Tracy Scoggins), who’s in charge of security for the conference. The plot kicks into high gear when one of the conference attendees is stabbed to death, and the killer turns out to be Dr. Alain Lebecque (John Novak), one of the classmates of Trace Miller (Alex Mendoza) when he was in seminary studying for the priesthood before Trace bailed out and went into archaeology instead. Lebecque has bought into the deep-ecological beliefs of the nastiest of the doomsday cults that have sprung up in the wake of the Drakh plague, the quarantine of Earth and the whole sense of impending doom that has gripped the human race — even those members who are safe, at least for the time being, on other planets or in space. The whole episode is chilling as a parable of the degree to which religious fanaticism can lead people to great actions for good or ill; it turns out Lebecque has become obsessed with the idea that he’s being addressed from the great beyond by no less than Joan of Arc, and when they find his journal in which he’s recorded everything she’s supposedly told him, all the entries are direct quotes from the real Joan of Arc as they’ve survived in historical records from her era. I don’t know what the entire Crusade series was like, but if it’s anything like these two shows the whole run would be very much worth watching!