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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.

Hugo Award The Hugo nominees have been announced, and in the "dramatic production" category there are no television programs. Evidently the voters, or at least a majority of the 279 voters, prefer minor movies to great television. I really can't blame them -- see my earlier column on how DVD is changing our viewing habits. Why watch The X-Files on TV when you can wait a few years and see the entire season without commercials? Why do you care what 279 people think, you may well ask. There is a reason. The Hugo award has a cachet far beyond the miniscule number of people who vote. That is why it is such a shame that Gene Wolfe remains the only major SF author who has never won a Hugo. In Green's Jungles, the number two choice of SF Site reviewers, didn't even make the final ballot. It only took 28 votes to get on the ballot. Are there not 28 Gene Wolfe fans in the house?

As for the Best Dramatic Production Hugos to be given out at the Worldcon in 2001, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is as close to a sure thing as the winner ever is. So my biggest interest will be in the Retro Hugos for the year 1951 (for SF and fantasy that appeared in 1950). I'm torn, I really am. Two of the nominees are Destination Moon by Robert A. Heinlein (and Rip Von Ronkel and James O'Hanlon), the best SF film prior to 2001 -- A Space Odyssey, and Rabbit of Seville by Chuck Jones, one of the most perfect works of art of all time. Destination Moon gets my vote. It is an SF icon, the first serious science fiction film since 1936's Things to Come by H.G. Wells. Chuck can pick up his Hugo when Fast and Furry-ous, the first Roadrunner cartoon (1949), is eligible.

Buy the Image Entertainment DVDs of both Things to Come and Destination Moon. The cheaper DVDs of Things to Come are made from much inferior prints. Sadly, the 113 minute version is still unavailable on video, though Leonard Maltin says that prints still exist. As far as I can tell, Rabbit of Seville is not yet available on DVD. It is on VHS on the Columbia House Looney Tunes: Musical Masterpieces.

Here are capsule reviews of the best SF and fantasy on TV in the first half of May.

Star Trek: Voyager, "Natural Law" (***) by Kenneth Biller and James Kahn

Star Trek: Voyager Archaeologists vs. aborigines. Just a hair too new age for my hard-science taste, but still well done, as Chakotay and Seven return to nature. And the ending demonstrates that there are times when a few well-placed photon torpedoes can do more to win an argument than all the negotiation in the world.

The X-Files, "Alone" (****) by Frank Spotnitz

X-Files Once again, an ending that breaks all the rules, and yet really works. Doggett get a new partner -- from accounting -- and they go up against a weresnake who traps them underground and then blinds them.

Star Trek: Voyager, "Homestead" (****) by Raf Green. (Earlier, the episode title was "Destiny".)

Star Trek: Voyager Nelix finds Talaxian survivors. One of the pleasures of Voyager's final season, in addition to the excellent scripts and the major changes in the lives of the characters, is the beautiful CGI effects in almost every episode.

The X-Files, "Essence" (***) by Chris Carter

X-Files The first half of the two-part season finale. Doggett and Mulder try to protect Scully's unborn child. Things are a little slow in the beginning, but build to almost Van Vogtian complexity.

Season Finales:
The X-Files on Sunday, May 20, Star Trek: Voyager on Wednesday, May 23.

Next Issue:
episode guides to the current 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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