by Rick Norwood
|SF on TV|
On February 19, The Twilight Zone will air "It's Still a Good Life", starring Bill Mumy. This is, of course, a sequel to the original Twilight Zone episode, "It's a Good Life," which aired in 1961, with a script by Rod Serling, from a story by Jerome Bixby.
I watched the original recently. It is only a half hour long, but it seemed to last forever, every line of dialogue leaden with portentousness, every plot point repeated at least three times, to make sure the audience "got it." TV audiences were not what you could call "hip" in those days. Twilight Zone, ponderous as it seems today, was the cutting edge, when it first aired.
The current Twilight Zone is still mired in ideas that are now forty years old, and so while it will be nice to see Bill Mumy acting again, I'm not expecting much. Now, if he were to reprise his role as Lanier, that would be something to get excited about.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer has been canceled as of the end of the current season. It just doesn't bring in the numbers. More people would rather watch fake wrestling and equally fake reality shows. Enterprise may struggle on for one more season -- or not. Its numbers don't look good. And Rick Berman has practically admitted that there won't be any more Star Trek films after Nemesis, to keep the franchise alive.
Enterprise aired its AIDS allegory last week, in an episode entitled "Stigma" by B&B. When I went to work the next day I called to Don, a fellow trekkie, "Vulcans got aids!" "No," he said. "You figured that out, did you?" "Yeah. It was so subtle I almost missed it, but I finally caught on." The best part of that episode was the last few seconds. "Humans!"
Enterprise must be really hard up for ideas. Of the five most recent episodes, two were based on old movies and two were based on current events. "Crash Landing" by Chris Black, like last season's "Desert Crossings", is a pro-Palestinian allegory. I don't mind politics in science fiction. I didn't even mind Gene Roddenberry's pro-Vietnam "A Private Little War" on the original Trek. I suspect Star Trek's pro-Palestinian stance will look just as dated in forty years. Science fiction should have some other-worldly twist. This show could have been set in the Middle East in the present day.
Good stories come from interesting characters placed in interesting situations. The best episodes of Enterprise are the ones featuring Dr. Phlox or Reed, because the writers have developed those characters. The rest of the crew are mostly ciphers, especially Mayweather, whose neglect by the writers is becoming embarrassing. Mayweather has spent more time in space than anyone else in the crew. You would think that experience would be valuable.
And so the world of television drama, which has been there all our lives, winds to a close. Now you know how fans of radio drama feel.
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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