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Masters of Science Fiction #2: The Awakening
directed by Michael Petroni
written by Michael Petroni from a story by Howard Fast
principal cast: Terry O'Quinn, Elisabeth Röhm, Stephen Hawking

Masters of Science Fiction #2: The Awakening
A review by Steven H Silver

The second episode of the anthology series Masters of Science Fiction, is an adaptation of Howard Fast's "The General Zapped an Angel," retitled as "The Awakening." Set in a near future, the story opens with a strange encounter between an American soldier and an Iraq insurgent outside of Baghdad.

The science fictional aspect comes into play quickly as the two men discover that they can understand each other, despite not speaking each other's language. This is portrayed in a marvelous manner, with the characters speaking their native tongues while the subtitles reveal that they are actually responding to each other.

The action quickly moves to a military lab, where a humanoid body has been recovered, and where the two men from the opening sequence are being treated. The central question to the story is not what the humanoid is, or how it has affected the men in the manner it has, but rather what the humanoid wants and how the governments of the world should respond.

The two primary characters are a young Lieutenant (Elisabeth Röhm) and a Skynner, who retired from the military two years earlier (Terry O'Quinn). Their role in the film is to examine the humanoid and question humanity's place in the cosmos. While they are on screen, the film moves along well and presents a balance. However, there is a lengthy period when their characters are absent, during which time the show is carried by the President of the United States and the leaders of various other countries.

When the film does focus on the politicians, the story devolves into more of a political thriller with the President of the United States on one side and the rest of the heads of state, including the leaders of China, Korea, and Germany, on the other. In what may be a political statement, the US is ready to take an unpopular course of action without support from the rest of the world, but the manner in which this decision is made does not come across as particularly plausible.

"The Awakening" isn't as strong an episode as the debut episode, but it will appeal more to those who think science fiction needs special effects. As with "A Clean Escape," "The Awakening" addresses ethical questions, however "The Awakening" resolves those dilemmas in a much less ambiguous manner than the first show.

Copyright © 2007 Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is a five-time Hugo Nominee for Best Fan Writer and the editor of the anthologies Wondrous Beginnings, Magical Beginnings, and Horrible Beginnings. He is the publisher of ISFiC Press. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is heavily involved in convention running and publishes the fanzine Argentus.

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