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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

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Other Babylon 5.1 Columns
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The X-Files
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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.

Wednesday, April 3
Enterprise "Oasis" by Stephen Beck

Friday, April 5
Jeremiah "The Bag"

Sunday, April 7
The X-Files "Scary Monsters" by Tom Schnauz

Friday, April 12
Jeremiah "City of Roses"

Sunday, April 14
The X-Files "Improbable" by Chris Carter

Friday, April 19
Jeremiah "Firewall", a mythos episode

Sunday, April 21
The X-Files "Jump the Shark" by Vince Gilligan, John Shiban, and Frank Spotnitz, a Lone Gunman episode.

Sunday, April 28
The X-Files "William" by David Duchovny, Chris Carter, and Frank Spotnitz.
David Duchovny helped write, but will not appear in this episode. He will appear in the series finale on May 19.

The next episode of Enterprise, "Detained" by David Livingston, may air April 24, but no air date has been set at this time. Also, the title of the April 26 episode of Jeremiah has not yet been announced. Showtime does not list writers of individual episodes on its web site, but J. Michael Straczynski has written all of the Jeremiah episodes that have aired so far, and has written ten of the twenty episodes that comprise the first season.

The Mists of Avalon (**) Gavin Scott, based on the novel by Marion Zimmer Bradley

The Mists of Avalon When this tele-movie was aired, I decided to wait for the DVD for two reasons. First, I would save an hour of my time by not watching the commercials. Second, I wanted to read the book before I saw the movie. Both turned out to be wise choices. The book is much better than the film. And the film, while not bad, is not good enough to sustain interest if broken by commercials. The DVD is best watched in three one-hour chapters.

Marion Zimmer Bradley's novel has continued to sell, year in and year out, since it was first published in 1982, because of the honesty with which the characters, especially the women, are drawn. Naturally, television needed a male screenwriter, Gavin Scott (writer of the film version of The Borrowers) to remove this honesty, to make the story suitable for television.

And so the conflict between the Mother Goddess and Christianity is replaced by a conflict between Angles and Saxons. The power of women is replaced by the power of men. The true is replaced by the cliché. Most especially, none of the women age, while Mordred grows from a baby to a man, because television isn't ready for wrinkles and romance.

Important details are changed. Guinevere does not discard the fertility charm. St. Patrick is not a malicious bigot. The fascinating Mordred of the book is turned into someone merely cruel.

But the first "family value" of television is: Always lie about sex. (The second is: Always lie about drugs.) In Marion Zimmer Bradley's book, the sexual yearnings and experiences of the characters ring true. On television, all sex is simple: delightful and wicked, never unsatisfying, never frustrating, never trivial. No wonder kids think something is wrong with them when sex turns out not to be the be-all and end-all that television has told them it is. On television, there is no sex between ugly people, and so the character of Kevin is omitted. There is no frustrating sex, and so sex between Morgaine and Lancelot is omitted. Everyone is either conventionally gay or conventionally straight, and so Lancelot's sexual longings for Arthur are omitted. When the three of them share a bed, Guinevere is always in the middle. (Lucky Guinevere!) And so on. You can't really screw up your children's lives unless you lie to them about everything important.

The acting and the production values are first rate, but the movie is all surface and no depth.

Copyright © 2002 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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