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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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Ratings
Ratings are based on a four star system.
One star means that the commercials are more entertaining than the program.
Two stars watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars is good solid entertainment.
Four stars means you never dreamed television could be this good.

I've lost all interest in watching the second season of Witchblade after watching the season finale "Transcendence" (**).

Not that the season finale was bad in and of itself. If it were the ending of Witchblade, it would be an acceptable ending. But Witchblade has been renewed for a second season, which the ending of the first season renders uninteresting.

spoiler warning

In the 1930's, Chester Gould, the writer/artist of the Dick Tracy comic strip, got Dick into a predicament and could not figure out how to get him out of it: trapped in a dead end tunnel whose entrance was blocked by a boulder. And so Gould submitted to his editor a sequence in which we see Dick trapped under the boulder, we see a giant pencil eraser come out of the side of the panel and erase the boulder, and thus Dick is freed.

The syndicate editor sent this sequence back to Gould with instructions to come up with something else. Gould did and the Dick Tracy comic strip continued to be popular for another thirty years. This is one of many examples where an artist needs an editor.

Witchblade

At the end of the first season of Witchblade, the writers have a pencil come out of the side of the panel and erase the boulder under which Witchblade is trapped. They make a note that "this can only happen once" and protest "it can never happen again", even so, they have violated our trust in their craftsmanship, and since the whole first season of Witchblade "never happened", I'll be damned if I'll watch the second season. Trick me once, shame on you; trick me twice, shame on me.

The pact between writer and reader (or viewer) is based on trust. I will agree to care about these people, who I know on some level are only your fictional creations. You, in your turn, agree to treat these characters with respect. If I worry about the death of a character, or grieve over the death of a character, you will not mock me for my worry or for my grief.

If you then say, "Ha! Gotcha! This never happened. Nobody is dead. Nothing has been accomplished. It was all a trick," then I will go away. And I won't come back.

I've been reading Walden, by Henry David Thoreau. Some of you will wonder that it took me so long to get around to this American classic. Others will wonder why I bother. The one percent of us who read for pleasure will fall into one or the other of those camps -- the rest aren't reading this column, so they don't count. Thoreau is something of a prig, sometimes obvious and boring, sometimes insightful and thought-provoking. Here is a quote from one of his journals, to give you a taste of what he is like, in case you haven't gotten around to reading him.

"There have been three ultra reformers, lecturers on slavery, temperance, the church, etc., in and about our house. ... I was awfully pestered by the benignity of one of them, feared I should get greased all over with it past restoration, tried to keep some starch in my clothes. He wrote a book called "A Kiss for a Blow," and he behaved as if I had given him a blow, was bent on giving me the kiss when there was neither quarrel nor agreement between us."
I mention Thoreau only to suggest one alternative with which Witchblade must compete for our time, one of many.

I had started to enjoy Witchblade, to care about the characters. One character, in particular, I worried about, and hated to see killed. But if you make me worry about a character, kill that character, and then unkill that character, you are never going to be able to make me worry about that character again.

Copyright © 2001 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.


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