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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

The X-Files, "The Sixth Extinction" (***)
written by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz
Other Babylon 5.1 Columns
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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.

X-Files There is no god. Humanity was created by aliens, and all of our religions, including Judaism and Islam, are lies told us by our alien creators. This is the new direction of The X-Files, and if you check your brain at the door, things are getting very exciting on a visceral level. Scully discovers a flying saucer in Africa which has Genesis written in Navajo on the outside. Mulder becomes simultaneously telepathic and near-catatonic.

The problem is that some of this is really dumb. I have observed that creators, once they commit themselves to something dumb, tend to buy into that dumbness, and stubbornly persists in defending that dumbness. They insult their audience. "This is just television. Viewers can't chew gum and change channels at the same time. Nobody is going to notice."

People do notice. To mention just one major dumbness, this flying saucer supposedly has the entire human genetic code written on it in Navajo. Watching Scully translate, we see that she is doing a phonetic transliteration. She sees the Navajo character pronounced "G" and transliterates it as an English G, and so on, until she spells out "guanine", one of the bases of the DNA molecule. This is silly on several levels. I'll mention just two. First, "guanine" is an arbitrary name that didn't exist until some human being invented it. Second, when writing out the genetic code, everybody uses abbreviations: G, A, T, C. It would be ridiculous to write out the name of every base in full.

It would be so easy to avoid stupidity like this. I can only assume that Chris Carter does not consider that worth doing. This attitude, as much as anything, diminishes my enjoyment of The X-Files. Star Trek, from the very beginning, always took pains not to insult its audience needlessly.

Star Trek Voyager, "Dragon's Teeth" (***)
written by Michael Taylor, Brannon Braga, Joe Menosky

Star Trek: Voyager This is Star Trek action, with spectacular special effects. Now that Voyager is the flagship of the Star Trek franchise, some major work is clearly going on behind the scenes to increase the excitement and the number of CGI effects. The look of Voyager, while still not at the level of Babylon 5, is a lot more high-tech than last season.

The Vodwar are a new alien race, who know the secret of subspace corridors. This allows them to travel much faster than Voyager. And the Voyagers could get closer to home if they could learn to navigate subspace corridors safely. One of the ongoing problems with Voyager has been that we leave behind all of the interesting civilizations we encounter along the way. The subspace corridors are an interesting new development.

Star Trek Voyager, "Riddles" (***)
story by Andre Bormanis, teleplay by Robert J. Doherty

Star Trek: Voyager This episode is worth watching entirely because of the superb acting of Tim Russ, playing the Vulcan Tuvok suffering from brain damage. There is some forgettable hugger-mugger about paranoid aliens that doesn't make a lot of sense, but what is memorable is Tim Russ's performance, and the relationship between Tuvok and Neelix.

Copyright © 1999 by 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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