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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.

Enterprise Enterprise keeps getting worse and worse, while Firefly keeps getting better and better.

I think it is time to give up on Enterprise, trekker though you are. Rick Berman, keeper of the flame for so long, is doing too much writing and not enough editing. When Berman donned the wings of the Great Bird of the Galaxy he gave us the best of Trek: Next Gen and DS9. But the more he becomes personally involved in the writing, the worse Trek gets. He needs to hire and fire writers, not become one.

But the real problem is that Berman has chosen Brannon Braga to be the main Trek writer. Braga is a good writer, but he is not a great writer, and apparently he will now allow any writer better than he is to work on the show. As long as B&B rule Trek, the cause is hopeless. Time for Trek to die -- to be reborn a generation from now with new life and new ideas or not. Maybe time for Trek to recognize that the big death is, after all, only the big death. Time for us to be glad of what we once had.

Case in point: the Enterprise second season. Only one really good show, "A Night in Sickbay." And I've heard fans complain about that show -- not enough sex and violence. Listen, attend, and hear, oh best beloved. If you are looking for sex and violence, you have no business watching television. Doom and Quake will give you more violence than a year of television. And the porn sites have more sex than a century of television. Or, if you want a cocktail instead of bathtub gin, movies will give you sex and violence that won't burn your throat and make your eyes water.

What television is good at is creating characters we enjoy spending time with on a weekly basis. It is also, occasionally, good at tackling ideas -- ideas that the people who invest millions in movies shy away from. Seek your sex 'n' violence elsewhere.

But, of the last four episodes of Enterprise, one recycles the American and the Princess plot from 30s movies, one has the crew acting like idiots in a First Contact situation, one is a dream, and one I can't remember at all.

It is time, Scotty, for us all to beam back down.

FIREFLY Firefly Firefly! Not one bad episode yet. Not one! Clearly Joss Whedon is not threatened by working with writers better than he is. Every character -- even Jayne -- especially Jayne -- is a pleasure to spend some time with every week. And the writers are not afraid to take a cliché and stand it on its head. "Don't shoot. The captain needs to fight this battle by himself." "No I don't! Shoot! Shoot!"

Every episode so far has put me in a happy place where even the commercials can't annoy me. Assume the worst. Assume the show is cancelled. We still have these great episodes to look back on. (You have been taping them, I hope. The DVD may be a long time coming. I'm still waiting for Babylon 5, Season Two.)

The network, in its wisdom, did not begin Firefly with the two hour pilot, opting instead to start with "The Train Job", a good episode with a great ending, but the most conventional episode so far -- which is no doubt why the network liked it. On December 20, the two hour plot will air for the first time. Watch, and judge for yourself the wisdom of networks.

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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