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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

What to watch in September. Or not:
Other Babylon 5.1 Columns
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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.

Sunday, Sept. 8, A&E
The Lathe of Heaven by Alan Sharp, based on a novel by Ursula K. Le Guin. I haven't seen it, but the buzz suggests that it is not as good as the PBS version. The fact that the writer did the dreadful feature adaptation of Roger Zelazny's Damnation Alley suggests that this might be a good one to miss. Read the book.

Wednesday, Sept. 11
Enterprise (rerun) "Shockwave I" (***), by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. One of the best of the new Star Trek series.

Wednesday, Sept. 18
Enterprise "Shockwave II", second season premiere.

Wednesday, Sept. 18
Twilight Zone series premiere. The third version of the Rod Serling nostalgia classic. Follows Enterprise.

Friday, Sep. 20
Firefly "The Train Job" by Joss Whedon and Tim Minear. The amazingly talented creator of Buffy tries his hand at a space western. Despite the fact that his talent has been spread awfully thin on Buffy the past few years, this is the September premiere I'm most excited about.

Tuesday, Sept. 24
Buffy the Vampire Slayer "Lessons" (seventh season premiere).

Tuesday, Sept. 24
Smallville (second season premiere). Follows Buffy.

Wednesday, Sept. 25
Enterprise "Carbon Creek". Vulcans on earth -- 1957! I wonder if they run into Kevin McCarthy.

Friday, Sept. 27
Firefly "Bushwacked", by Tim Minear.

Dark Shadows on DVD

Dark Shadows Let's say you have never watched Dark Shadows, but like vampire stories. What should you do? That's not an easy question to answer.

I started watching Dark Shadows about midway through its original run. Not only did I come in at the best part, I also had the pleasure of learning the backstory talking to David McDaniel at LASFS meetings. It is one of those series where missing big chunks of the story actually helps.

Dark Shadows was cheesy but imaginative. It introduced vampires, time travel, and parallel worlds to daytime television. It had two really good writers: Art Wallace and Sam Hall. But Art Wallace left after the first few months (he went on to write a couple of Star Trek episodes). Also his Dark Shadows stories only hint at fantasy. The first DVD volume starts with the introduction of Barnabus Collins, after Art Wallace left the show. And Sam Hall didn't join the show until after the first DVD volume ends.

So, you have several options, none of them really satisfactory. You can begin with the VHS tapes, which introduce the characters and contain a couple of good fantasy stories after the well written but mundane beginning. But then you have to put up with an awful lot of really bad episodes. You can begin with the first DVD, but you're going to sit through many boring moments at the Blue Whale in between the good parts. You can begin with the third DVD set, jump right into the good stuff, and then decide if you want to pick up the backstory. This is what I recommend. Or you can skip Dark Shadows entirely, and miss one of the most amazing fantasy series of all time.

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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