"Racing the Night" Review
First Published: 08/05/99
Watching "Racing the Night" is an unusual experience. Originally intended as the first episode to be shown, it has now been preceded by eight episodes written and filmed after it. This provides an interesting different perspective on the characters we've already come to know.
The story centers on the exploration of a deserted but well-maintained world. As the crew searches for medical technology that could help cure the Drakh plague, they discover that the world is not as empty as it seems. This episode uses the cast as an ensemble, with each of the characters contributing to the story.
The opening includes a brief exposition about the setup for Crusade. It is shorter and far more interesting than the drawn out exposition in "War Zone". We learn that Gideon may not have five years to find a cure after all.
New twists to some of the characters are revealed in this episode. Dureena has apparently been petitioning Galen to teach her his technomage secrets. We also see that the Apocalypse Box glimpsed briefly in "The Path of Sorrows" has an ominous influence over Captain Gideon. Max Eilerson is far more conceited than in the episodes already shown. The series would have been better if he had begun like this and then softened over time as originally planned.
The special effects are excellent. Gideon's chase through the city - while not up to the expectations of jaded Phantom Menace viewers - is extraordinary for a television budget. The CGI artists also provide Galen's homunculus, which allows the character to show off his eccentric sense of humor.
Overall, "Racing the Night" is a strong episode, and TNT should have left the series as Joe Straczynski intended it. This is a much better introductory episode than "War Zone".