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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

SF on TV
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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.

Journeyman I'm a fan of science fiction. I read lots of other books -- War and Peace, Pride and Prejudice, Master and Commander -- but about half of what I read is either fantasy or SF, because I like new ideas. I just finished The Golden Compass and I loved the way the idea that every person has a daemon is worked out in a way that makes not only logical but also emotional sense.

Turning to television, most of what passes for SF on TV I don't consider science fiction at all. There are at least half a dozen new shows on television that are marginally SF or fantasy, but they are set in the present day or recent past, the stories are simplistic morality tales where a good guy helps someone or a bad guy hurts someone and the good guy stops him. They have essentially no new ideas. So, I'm going to review just one of them, and let that stand for the lot.

Journeyman is technically proficient. The acting is good. The camera work is good. There is nothing actually wrong with it, if you want to waste an hour of your time. But it has no new ideas. It recycles Quantum Leap, and has the same problem that Quantum Leap had -- trivial use of great power.

Dan Vasser has come unstuck in time, and he travels back into the recent past to save strangers and generally make the world a better place. We don't know yet if his time traveling is caused by angels or space aliens or by a mysterious bartender.

Given that the powers behind the scene have the ability to jerk people around through time, why don't they prevent 9/11? Why don't they kill Hitler or save Martin Luther King? Instead, they use their power to save people one at a time. And why, except to build suspense, don't they tell Dan Vasser what is going on?

The Bionic Woman is less of the same.

These series may technically fall into the category of science fiction, but they don't give me what I am looking for in SF, and I won't be listing them here. I note with sadness that no current US television program is set in the future. Maybe it is part of the aging of America that causes old people to be more interested in the past than in the future, and to curse their many blessings. Young people in America have had their history stolen by their schooling and are more detached in time than Dan Vassar, floating in an endless present.

Every episode of Smallville or Heroes has about seven times as many ideas as the premiere of Journeyman.

Real SF on TV in October

Heroes Monday, October 1
Heroes episode two, "Lizards", by Michael Green

Tuesday, October 2
Eureka "A Night at Global Dynamics", by Jaime Paglia, season two finale.

Thursday, October 4
Smallville "Kara", by Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer

Friday, October 5
Doctor Who "The Last of the Time Lords III", by Russell T. Davies, season three finale.

Friday, October 5
Stargate Atlantis "Lifeline III", by Carl Binder.

Monday, October 8
Heroes episode three, "Kindred", by J. J. Philbin

Smallville Thursday, October 11
Smallville "Fierce", by Holly Harold

Friday, October 12
Stargate Atlantis "Reunion", by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie

Monday, October 15
Heroes episode four, "The Kindness of Strangers".

Thursday, October 18
Smallville "Cure", by Turi Meyer and Al Septien

Friday, October 19
Stargate Atlantis "Doppleganger", by Robert C. Cooper

Monday, October 22
Heroes episode five, "Fight or Flight"

Thursday, October 25
Smallville "Action", by Caroline Dries

Eureka Friday, October 26
Stargate Atlantis "Travelers", by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie

Monday, October 29
Heroes episode six, "Crash In"

Eureka will return in 2008 and the Doctor will be back for Christmas.

Copyright © 2007 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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