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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.

Dinotopia I sometimes imagine myself talking with Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney. We're at one of those fancy restaurants where the menus don't have prices, because if you have to ask, you can't afford it. We've been drinking bottles of wine that cost as much as stealth bombers. The vino has produced its proverbial veritas.

"Mike," I ask (in my fantasies, I always call him Mike) "Why did you use such a totally inept script for a multi-million dollar project like Dinotopia?"

Here, my fantasy branches, because I really have no idea what his honest answer would be. I can imagine two possibilities.

"Rick," he says, "I don't know what you're talking about. I thought Simon Moore's script was delightful. I really enjoyed reading it, and I think it made a great maxi-series."

If he gives that answer, then he is guilty of nothing worse than bad taste, and I forgive him.

But, in my worst moments, I imagine him saying, "The viewers are idiots. They can't tell good writing from bad. Simon Moore's script would have been way over their heads, so I fixed it to where the average viewer would enjoy it.

If that's what happened, it's unforgivable.

The Dinotopia books are beautiful to look at, but I couldn't watch more than a half hour of the so-called maxi-series, despite excellent special effects, because the script was pathetic.

And yet, Simon Moore is a good writer. His script for Gulliver's Travels was exceptional and his Merlin was quite good. What went wrong?

If you ever have lunch with Michael Eisner, please ask him for me? If Dinotopia got better after the dumb first half hour, let me know, and I'll watch it all the way through when it comes out on DVD.

Enterprise Similar script problems are hurting Enterprise. Andre Bormanis is the "science advisor" for Star Trek, has been for some time, despite the fact that he knows no science to speak of. As you can tell from his web site, he has a Master's degree in Science, Technology, and Public Policy. Clearly, he has made friends with Rick Berman and/or Brannon Braga and so they let him write episodes, despite the fact that he has no discernable writing talent. His most recent script, "Desert Crossing", based on a story idea by B&B, is a case in point.

Enterprise answers a distress call from an alien ship. The captain is charming, so Archer repairs his ship and then follows him home, wagging his tail. He does not a) contact his home planet to find out what their laws are about interstellar visitors or b) ask the Vulcan science officer what she knows about his planet and its customs. It turns out that the charming alien is a lovable terrorist. Now, I find the idea of a lovable terrorist repugnant. Not because terrorists aren't lovable, but because no matter how lovable they are, that doesn't excuse what they do. But in liberal Hollywood circles, it is a commonplace that the only difference between a terrorist and a patriot is which side wins. Weren't Tom Payne and George Washington terrorists? No, they were not. Read the Declaration of Independence. "...a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes that impel them to the separation..." A freedom fighter fights for an attainable goal. A terrorist inflicts suffering on innocent people because he can't attain his goal. As a recent episode of The West Wing pointed out, terrorism has never been effective in attaining any goal. Other methods, such as non-violent protest, are well known to be more effective.

The terrorist camp is bombarded. John Archer and Trip Tucker run away into the desert, trying to reach an abandoned house twenty kilometers away. Why they would want to do such a thing goes unexplained, except that it is presumably exciting to watch people staggering across sand dunes. They actually reach this abandoned house in the middle of the desert, despite the fact that Archer has only seen it once when flying over it. Archer finds a shallow bowl of stale water. Here's where the science comes in. Water evaporates. That bowl has been sitting there how long?

Enough. I'd rather tell you about good things than bad.

Roswell, "Graduation" (***) by Jason Katims and Ronald D. Moore

Roswell The end of the three season series about teen-aliens was fairly good, and I would probably have enjoyed it even more if I had watched the earlier episodes. My hunch is the episodes written by Moore are good, and the others not -- I've tried to watch a few non-Moore episodes but they haven't held my interest. (Moore joined the show in the second season.) For example, it seems to be a rule that every episode must have several minutes of teens making out. The other writers just stick this in whether it fits or not. Moore follows the rule, but is better at integrating the make-out scenes into the plot.

In this final episode, he touches on the main icons of high school graduation: the college acceptance letter (though he gets the fat letter/thin letter distinction wrong), the job offer, the commencement speech -- all with a nicely paranoid twist. (Don't all high school grads feel like a sniper has them in his sights?)

Next issue, an episode guide to the first season of Enterprise and the last season of The X-Files, with my pick of the best episodes.

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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