"The Needs of Earth" Review
First Published: 08/19/99
"The Needs of Earth" is an episode that delivers on Joe Straczynski's assertion that Crusade is a more personal story than Babylon 5. While Gideon tries to secure a storehouse of stolen alien knowledge that he hopes will have clues for the Excalibur's quest, the real story lies in how the characters react to the mission.
Gideon and Dureena share the mission to liberate a convict who holds data brought from his world illegally. After rescuing him, Gideon must face the legal authorities from is homeworld who want the prisoner and the contraband returned. The irony at the end - (spoilers here) - is that the stolen data consists of all the art, music, and writing that have been outlawed on the alien world.
Gideon is all business on this mission and is able to brush off the lack of morality. There are ten billion lives at stake, and he's willing to break a few laws if there is a chance for progress. He is at first insensitive to Dureena's feelings and Dr. Chamber's admiration of the alien works of art.
Dureena, on the other hand, is distracted from the mission by the plight of slaves sharing the prison where their target is housed. It turns out that she was once a slave on this same world. While Gideon's single-mindedness serves the mission well, it includes little room for Dureena's questions about the justice of slavery.
The alien is very protective of the data crystals he has smuggled out. However, he tells Dr. Chambers that when he finds the right recipient, he will turn them over free of charge. After listening to the music of Earth, he is so moved that he decides that the humans will be worthy custodians of his people's art.
Dr. Chambers treats the alien after his rescue and is touched by his dedication to preserving his smuggled data. She examines the crystals and discovers their true content. Gideon is of course unimpressed. Poems and music will not help them cure the plague. Dr. Chambers gives an impassioned speech about hope being just as important as medicine. Gideon is a little more open to Dureena after speaking with Dr. Chambers, so maybe her words have some effect on him.
The final character affected by the story is a surprise: Lt. Matheson. Matheson accidentally detects that the alien authorities intend to kill the fugitive. He also senses that the fugitive knows and willingly accepts his fate. He must deal with his guilt over his inaction, but decides that the death is necessary to preserve the secret that copies of the data crystals are safe on the Excalibur.
On the technical side, "The Needs of Earth" gets a bonus point for showing the alien ships surround the Excalibur in three dimensions, with each ship pointing inward.
While not one of the stronger Crusade stories, "The Needs of Earth" still serves as a vehicle for some strong character development. It is especially appreciated to delve into the previously underdeveloped characters of Matheson and Chambers.