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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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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.

Farscape is now available on DVD. Readers of this column have been urging me to give this series a second chance (I didn't care for the one episode I watched) and so I sent off for the first DVD. Stay tuned.

An unscheduled rerun has been inserted into The X-Files series on Sunday, April 15, pushing all of the remaining new episodes forward one week.

I think the way people watch the medium known as "TV" is changing. I expect the change will become even more dramatic over the next few years. Most people will continue to watch "free" TV, which will become increasingly commercial. According to a recent issue of TV Guide, we can expect the intrusions of advertisements into the story parts of each hour to increase, with more and more logos and banners with sound effects flashing onto the screen during the program. The illiterate will have no choice but to put up with this kind of mind-numbing "entertainment". (More than one third of all fourth grade students are illiterate, up from one quarter just ten years ago -- for a frightening picture of what this means for the future, read Beggars and Choosers.) But why would anyone who can read endure the ordeal of commercials banners? There are free books in every public library.

So, those of us who want to enjoy the best that television has to offer -- and that best is very high quality entertainment indeed -- will probably buy their "television" commercial free, on DVD. A good example is the two new Horatio Hornblower episodes on A&E. The DVDs of these episodes will not actually be released until after the episodes air, but the DVDs were advertised before the ads for the "on the air" version began to appear. I loved the first four Hornblower TV movies. But this time I did not watch the commercial version, because I know the DVD will follow shortly.

Two four-star TV episodes aired in the past two weeks. Here are capsule reviews of those, plus one other.

The X-Files, "DeadAlive II" (****) by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz

X-Files Full of surprises, even for those who suspected that Mulder wasn't really, most sincerely dead.

Voyager, "Q2" (****) story by Kenneth Biller, teleplay by Robert Doherty

Star Trek: Voyager There is a new Q in the Continuum, played by John de Lancie's son Keegan de Lancie. He does an outstanding job in the role.

The X-Files, "Three Words" (***) by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz

X-Files The hostility between Mulder and Dogget is natural and well played. The guest spot by The Lone Gunmen is predictable. But the escape through the ventilation ducts is unforgivable, and the ending reminded me too much of The Invaders. The X-Files needs a new direction if it wants to survive to a ninth season.

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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