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Author Topic: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell  (Read 2998 times)

Grey

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Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« on: 04 September 2015, 06:47:57 »
Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
Who: Elias Crichell
   Aka The Jade Hawk
What: Star Commander, initial rank
   Star Captain
   Star Colonel, Turkina Keshik, Clan Jade Falcon
   SaKhan, Clan Jade Falcon
   Khan, Clan Jade Falcon
   IlKhan of the Clans (shortest tenure on record)
When: 2992 – 2 January 3058
Weapon of Choice: Summoner OmniMech
         Politics
         SaKhans

Factions are characterised by several things, one is of course the actions of the faction as a whole, another, more intimate manner, is by the most prominent character of the faction, frequently a protagonist or antagonist, and also by the character leading the faction.

Contradicting the most prominent characters of the Jade Falcons, and indeed what is their (theoretical) ethos, is Elias Crichell, who’s approach to pretty much everything is so nearly anti-ethical to that of major individuals such as Aiden Pryde, Horse, Marthe Pryde or even the cartoon characters, one must wonder if he was dropped out of a different setting altogether.

A reasonably detailed history was given on Crichell in the MechWarrior 2 computer game and has been followed up in sourcebooks. While no one can become Khan among the Clans without a modicum of martial skill Elias rose from what would be considered humble beginnings for the Clans, though his greatest successes came through rhetoric, oration and politics.

In fact the notion of Terra as the goal of the Crusade and prize needed to become IlClan originated with Crichell, motivated largely by the need to promote the Crusader cause, also coincidentally giving the cause and subsequent invasion focus.

This bit of characterisation, a demonstration of Elias’ oratory skills and power of manipulation, actually provides an essential element to the subsequent invasion. By making Terra the prize for deciding the IlClan it gave the invasion a singular aim. Conquering the Inner Sphere isn’t enough, what does victory look like under those conditions? Is it holding key worlds, capitals, royal families, majority planets, governmental capitulation? It’s a question that could get very messy without it being decided in advance, and having a single prize such as taking Terra simplifies things immensely, both from a setting perspective and from a Clan perspective, who aren’t really interested in intricacies, just quick victory. Quite a clever stroke really.

Nonetheless we see Crichell’s imprint on his Clan through the often florid and creative use of language and spoken imagery on the part of Khans and senior officers.

The thing is that while Elias Crichell is an effective character he is a very ineffective individual for his culture.

His most persistent tactic is to place someone at the front of his schemes and plans so that if they fail then they take the fall while most of the credit from a success defaults to him. He insulates himself at every turn, Von Strang’s World showing what happens on the rare occasions he doesn’t, near failure that he barely escapes from to salvage victory. It may have been inevitable given the relative strength of forces involved, but for Crichell himself it was very nearly a disaster. This sets a precedent, but more on that later.

The problem with this is that within the setting, particularly within the Clans, it’s not the sort of planning that is rewarded. Battletech as a whole favours daring characters willing to put themselves on the line, those who dare to gamble and potentially lose big for the bigger gain, regardless of their being heroes or villains, antagonists or protagonists, small or large scale.

What does this strategy get Elias? For one thing it provides a realistic path of ascension through the ranks, it is base politicking but it’s effective. The other thing is it buys him a reason to be in the same persistent position even as his schemes fail.

Is that right? Is it realistic? Is there any value in that?

Keep in mind that Elias existed when Battletech was still a pulp sci-fi environment rather than the more pulp military setting we know of today.

In a pulp sci-fi setting it is fully appropriate to have a villainous or at least antagonistic character who is a persistent threat but whose schemes are perennially foiled. The rub is finding a reason why he isn’t removed from power in spite of this.

Enter the parade of SaKhans.

Elias relentlessly plots, schemes, is generally out maneuvered, and uses others to take the fall.

This makes him a figurehead of sorts, an individual of focus for the good guys, or whatever you’re comfortable calling the array of protagonists he opposes. The face of the enemy even if he’s not directly involved or some sort of direct threat himself, for what he represents is the looming danger of his cause and its intent.

Given the nature of Battletech this would not be a permanent situation, thus we eventually have Elias dying rather than persisting in frustrating and curious ways like Cobra Commander.

That precedent I mentioned? Near disaster when he personally involves himself? It more or less required his death. The thing about scheming to gain greater power, the best way this fits into the setting, means that he either has to satisfy himself with being the power behind the throne (but if he was going to do that he’d still be a Star Colonel and his SaKhans would have been a succession of Khans meeting much the same sort of ends they did anyway), or he’s eventually going to have to stump up and face up to someone in his way personally in order to grab the golden ring.

The latter is very much in keeping with the setting, and Clan Culture in particular, and when it finally happens, in the form of Elias Crichell achieving the highest office among the Clans as must have been a goal all along, it comes with his chickens coming home to roost in the form of Vlad.

Hilarity ensues. In the form of a seven minute IlKhanship. Ha ha.

No one feels particularly sorry for him in this, in or out of the setting, we’re not supposed to, he’s a classic behind the scenes villain.

The SaKhans would have been his dragons, to use TVtropes terminology, and Crichell very much makes himself as a man behind the curtain sort of villain, his talents are not directly confronting, he knows it, and plays to his strengths.

And since these strengths are largely political he fits easily into the antagonist mould of Battletech.

This is what makes him a good villain for the setting, his methods match his nature and provide credible threat to any protagonist, even those sharing his Crusader philosophy.

Simultaneously this dooms him as every strength he has means he cannot fully succeed in the setting.

Even his BattleMech, mentioned only once to my knowledge, in effect showing him as piloting it only once for characterisation purposes, is a Summoner, not as an extension of him but to stamp “Falconness” on him. The Summoner is, and at that point in the game history, the most Jade Falcon design there is. Put Elias in anything else and he seems less of a Falcon, it does nothing to further his Warrior cred, just establishes that it exists while doing far more to metaphorically paint him emerald green.

Does this make him a poorly written or conceived character? In this case it’s hard to say. As tempting as it is to say yes given the borderline cartoon villain role he plays Elias Crichell exists to serve a purpose, that his inherent nature leads to his downfall does not make for a poor character, in many cases this would have made for an excellent character, look to Walter White for an excellent example of death by inherent character flaws.

And Crichell does serve that purpose, so if nothing else he is a well-executed character. Pun sort of intended.

Wrangler

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #1 on: 04 September 2015, 07:30:18 »
I liked  pulp sci-fi aspect of Battletech, i wish it would continue.  Not many people agree, but it makes stories interesting to read in the novel form.   Elias Crichell was creature of his time, when Battletech was being written that way.  Clans were whole new element, frankly the sheer invincible factor could have spelled doom for the franchise.  It didn't, i suspect the game planners and writers made sure the new change up in the game, the Clans, had their weaknesses.  Including including a political hawk like Elias Crichell.   Frankly he was and way behave gave me impression he was outsider in the Clans.  How could someone end up being a political operator in environment which literately breed warriors and to think only of battle and strategy until they were old enough to deal with politics between clans and lead.

He made good political bad guy within the Clans for the "good guy" Clanners to have someone focus on aside from dealing with Inner Sphere people.
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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #2 on: 04 September 2015, 09:31:39 »
I like the Cobra Commander imagery.
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Terrace

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #3 on: 04 September 2015, 09:35:54 »
Wasn't this guy pretty much cheating in his annual re-qualification Trial, or am I thinking of someone else?

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #4 on: 04 September 2015, 14:15:26 »
It is the claim Vlad made- I think he said he had the repair records and they were only needing the ejection seats replaced.  He said Elias opposition all ejected so he would get the 'kills' during the Trials.
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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #5 on: 04 September 2015, 19:55:52 »
I always wondered just how he managed to pull that off: was he having techs sabotage his opponents' mechs?  Or was he somehow bribing or blackmailing them?
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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #6 on: 04 September 2015, 21:17:36 »
It was a quid pro quo . . .
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Intermittent_Coherence

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #7 on: 05 September 2015, 09:12:53 »
I always wondered just how he managed to pull that off: was he having techs sabotage his opponents' mechs?  Or was he somehow bribing or blackmailing them?

Something like that. He'd been doing it since his first Trial of Position. IIRC, his blood house' gene pool had been described as "particularly muddy" and had been reaved for underperformance several times.

Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #8 on: 06 September 2015, 02:52:37 »
Yeah, that's just another facet of the corrupt individual that is Elias Crichell, and another reason he makes for an easy villain.

It makes a certain amount of sense, as I said he's not particularly effective as a member of his own culture because he lacks those strengths, so it makes sense that he will cheat and bribe his way through even the most basic things, both out of necessity and as a character trait.

Throwing in the dubious status of his bloodline, a very significant thing among the Clans, and he is effectively built from the ground up to be an amoral character.

Not the deepest of writing but simple works well sometimes, especially in busy, complicated settings.

Flieger

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #9 on: 06 September 2015, 10:25:53 »
It makes a certain amount of sense, as I said he's not particularly effective as a member of his own culture because he lacks those strengths, so it makes sense that he will cheat and bribe his way through even the most basic things, both out of necessity and as a character trait.

I'd say it is an out-of-universe necessity they made a character trait to rationalize his existence in-universe.

In the IS, you can be an incompetent soldier and still get a lot of power, even rise to military honours. Sharon Bryan was an idiot, yet she commanded elite forces due to her political stance. No problem in the IS. Katherine Steiner-Davion could take two realms without any (noteworthy) military qualification.
But a clan warrior has to be a good warrior. To have a 'political-only' villain, you need to explain just how someone like that could succeed in a warrior culture.

Btw., I tend to agree with you: the whole concept of the poltical villain who cannot fight straight is very simplistic, but it works. And Elias Crichell, if nothing else, helps to advance the story in a meaningful way. He is not a deep character, but a helpful one - if that makes some sense.

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #10 on: 06 September 2015, 21:28:12 »
The picture I'm getting of Elias Crichell is that he is literally StarScream.  Complete with being leader of the Deceptions Clans for a reign measured in barely triple digit seconds.
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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #11 on: 06 September 2015, 22:02:59 »
Well, I'm pretty sure that Vlad considered his coronation to be bad comedy.
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Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #12 on: 07 September 2015, 02:29:14 »
For the Clans, sure, that's a very good summation considering events. Or maybe that's just me. ;D

But while writing I got a feeling of Elias = Megatron, but then Cobra Commander seemed more appropriate considering Elias tends to slip away rather than fight his way through. Say what you will about Megatron, he wasn't afraid of just plain shooting someone in his way, enemy or ally.

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #13 on: 07 September 2015, 19:31:25 »
Thanks Grey!

Crichell always struck me as an interesting character, a Machiavellian behind-the-scenes type who was far too dangerous to last long. Instead, he managed to survive over a decade after our first sight of him in 3050, despite the debacle against the Wolf Clan. It's easy in fact to look at the Clan invasion, if not Clan society in the mid-century in general, and see Crichell as the driving force behind it all.

And yet, when the man behind the scenes becomes the man in charge of it all, his demise was all but assured. That it lasted seven minutes is a bit over-dramatic, but there was no way that he could become the master of everything for long- it just wasn't his nature. There's no one to manipulate and cast blame on from the top- Crichell was doomed by his ambition- he reached the apex, his ultimate goal, and it destroyed him. There's a lesson to be found in that.

Fascinating character.
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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #14 on: 09 September 2015, 11:38:22 »
How involved was Crichell with the Society?  I'm a bit confused about things now, but didn't the games with Aidan Pryde's genetic legacy, Wolf/Falcon hybrids, and breeding warriors for intel skills (like with Arimas Malthus) happen under his watch?  Was he simply not aware of these things, knew but turned a blind eye, or did he actively encourage them?  If memory serves, Etienne Balzac, the de facto leader of the Society in the Inner Sphere, was a holdover from Crichell's days...

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #15 on: 09 September 2015, 11:51:30 »
I doubt he actually knew about the Society.  He did order a few programs from the scientists (like the hidden sibkos), and the Society probably used those to further their own agenda.
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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #16 on: 09 September 2015, 12:28:43 »
just as a point of record, wasn't Garrett Sainze shorter then Elias Crichell?
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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #17 on: 09 September 2015, 16:19:15 »
The Jade Falcon and Clan Wolf source books listed a few political animal within both clans so Elias Crichell was only strange in the aspect that he got so far before becoming a target and that's mostly thanks to Elias working hard to become the spokesman of the Crusader cause and thus, having a good number of crusader warriors from his clan (and later, other clans) supporting him. But all of that only gets you so far when you piss off someone like Vlad, someone who truly believe in the Clan way of killing his way to the top.
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Grey

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #18 on: 10 September 2015, 00:29:39 »
Garret Sainze managed to last a few hours, but that's only because the Trial of Refusal he fought was augmented rather than unaugmented and held right there in the chamber.

There's nothing linking Crichell to the Society, quite aside from it being a Scientist Caste conspiracy there's no evidence that Crichell was involved with any schemes that weren't of his own making. In fact it would be something of a retcon to have him directly involved in any Society happenings. They might have used what he did, but even that's a bit oblique.

In this respect he's no different than any other Khan, all were too warrior focused to see or even suspect the Scientists were up to something.

And there will be political animals in any faction, even Warrior focused ones. Elias was just more successful than most, and that speaks of a great deal of intelligence, but as I said in the article it's mostly used to create no lose situations that means he never really wins big until it all goes against him. As SteelRaven points out, it works until he runs into someone who uses the kill your way to the top method really, really well.

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #19 on: 10 September 2015, 09:47:09 »
Couple points to add.  Elias Crichell was written at a time where the Jade Falcons were just foils for the Wolves.  In this role he was the perfect faction leader.  While Ulric was brilliant, capable of playing the long and short game, and the “perfect” warrior – Elias was a perfect foil.  A warrior whose skills don’t live up to his position, and who’s schemes to depose Ulric always just fell a little short. 

Within universe though, I’d like to point out that Elias was a genuine ristar.  He just doesn’t make an appearance in the story until he’s past his prime.  Rather than fade away and make room for the next generation, his ambition drove him to use his political skills as a replacement for his fading warrior skills. 

His strong points were that he was intelligent and capable of original thinking.  The whole concept of ilclan was his invention, and suited his ambition nicely.  He was capable of playing the long-game to a degree, as demonstrated with the accelerated breeding program – the one time he actually was able to thwart Ulric.  In fact that could be a whole discussion of its own.

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #20 on: 10 September 2015, 12:14:44 »
I tend to think Elias did know something about the Society. With the secret sibkos and pretty much blatant theft thereof after the Refusal War by Marthe, there had to be records of it somewhere in his office when she took over. He might not have known the full extent, or even any more than just the Falcon-Wolf pairings, but I doubt it was total blackout.

As an aside, I was rather disappointed with Bred for Wars depiction of Crichell. Nothing up to that point indicated any type of cowardice. And yeah, you could say my bias says I don't want my faction run by a coward, but I really don't see Clan warriors as the cowardly type. Bad guys are always better when they aren't sniveling fools, and being a Falcon, being a bad guy is just part of the faction.
It is rumored Khan Pryde shot the first scientist she saw after laughing nonstop for ten minutes.

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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #21 on: 10 September 2015, 15:22:57 »
If Robert Thurston could write every book ;)
Really, I think part of how Elias was portrayed was to make sure everyone would be rooting for Vlad, even the Jade Falcon fans. Vlad was by no means a likable character so they needed to make Elias worst in some aspect. Can't say Marthe Pryde or any other Falcons was sorry to see Vlad git ride of those two when their tainted victory came to light, maybe part of the reason why the Falcon/Wolf conflict simmered back down to a rivalry.
« Last Edit: 13 September 2015, 21:37:19 by SteelRaven »
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Re: Character Study of the Week: Elias Crichell
« Reply #22 on: 31 March 2016, 00:08:12 »
Well, I'm pretty sure that Vlad considered his coronation to be bad comedy.

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Also I never read any of the Refusal War books, but Crichell seemed like he would have fit in better with one of the other clans rather than Falcons. My viewpoint is obviously skewed, but I feel like he would have made a great like Ice Hellion or Steel Viper (pre-WoR at least.) Although the clans before the Invasion and after 3060 do feel pretty different.
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