"Appearances and Other Deceits" Review
First Published: 08/02/99
"Appearances and Other Deceits" has a classic tried-and-true science fiction television plot: non-corporeal aliens take over a portion of the ship's crew. While this may sound like the recipe for a cliched rehash, Crusade shows its promise by carrying off the story flawlessly. J. Michael Straczynski's script is exciting, funny, and intelligent.
This episode welcomes the return of one of Babylon 5's most admired guest actors, John Vickery. John Vickery is well-known for playing Neroon, but for this episode he resurrects Mr. Welles, his character from the second season Babylon 5 episode "The Fall of Night". In that episode he was the director of the Nightwatch. He has obviously survived the fall of President Clark with his career intact.
The possessed Mr. Welles becomes the spokesman for the aliens, providing a necessary face to the enemy as well as an adept sparring partner for Captain Gideon. Gary Cole gets to play Gideon with a great deal of heroism in confronting the invasion.
Gideon receives the most help from an unexpected quarter: Max Eilerson. Max comes up with most of the helpful insights in this episode, but his assistance is overshadowed by his personal story which deals with Max's feelings about a security guard who sacrifices his life to save him. Max's complex character hosts a great deal of insecurity underneath his arrogant exterior. In the scenes between Max and Dr. Chambers, the doctor seems to have a surprisingly elitist view toward the "grunt" jobs. However, Eilerson feels that the soldiers are more noble than the command staff.
This episode also boasts stunning imagery of Lt. Matheson searching the alien ship. The scenes of the dead alien crew are both realistic and chilling.
The title "Appearances and Other Deceits" also refers to the episode's B-plot in which Mr. Welles and a fashion consultant plan to give the Excalibur and its crew a makeover. For those who don't know the behind-the-scenes explanation for this story, here it is: Five episodes of Crusade were filmed with the gray and red uniforms and original sets. These are the last five episodes to be shown. Then the eight episodes already shown were filmed with black uniforms and new sets. If production had continued, an episode would have been made to air after the fifth "old uniform" episode in which the black uniforms are restored. These complex changes were required by TNT's meddling.
Joe Straczynski has said that he quit doing what TNT wanted when he wrote this episode, so it is more true to what he intended Crusade to be. He also promises that the first five episodes made before TNT's interference - the last five shown - are also true to his vision. If they are as good as "Appearances and Other Deceits", they are worth looking forward to.