TV Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

SF on TV
Other Babylon 5.1 Columns
For more information, you can try the following sites:
Rick Norwood's Website
Worldwide TV Schedule
The Official Babylon 5 Website
The X-Files
Pocket Books: Star Trek
Paramount Star Trek

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.

Children of Dune (***) by John Harrison, based on novels by Frank Herbert

Children of Dune The Children of Dune mini-series is a seamless, high quality continuation of the Dune mini-series, which only begins to stumble near the end. It is well worth buying when it comes out on DVD next month.

In Dune, Paul Atreides survives the betrayal and assassination of his royal father Duke Leto and triumphs over the many factions competing for galactic power, the most important of which are House Corrino, House Harkonnen, and the Bene Gesserit Order. As many politicians have done before him, he rules by establishing himself as a religious figure, a messiah. Of course, he is not a messiah. He only pretends to be a messiah to consolidate political power. He has superb discipline, due to his early training. He has the power to foresee many alternate futures, due to use of the drug called spice. But he cannot work miracles. One of Frank Herbert's main objections to David Lynch's Dune was that at the end, Paul does work a miracle. But then, David Lynch has always been interested in producing striking and disturbing visual effects, not in making sense. The Lynch version of Dune has many memorable moments. The Harrison version is has less brilliant visual imagery, but is truer to the book.

In the second book in the series, Dune Messiah, Paul is an unsatisfactory hero, because his ability to see the future paralyzes him. The realization that anything he does will lead to suffering and death makes him incapable of doing anything at all. This is psychologically astute. We mortals are only able to carry on from day to day by not thinking about our own death, the deaths of everyone we love, the death of all our dreams, and the eventual heat death of the universe. Surely, the ability to foresee the future is the worst curse imaginable. However, what is an astute insight makes for a dull novel, because we know from the beginning that the hero is never going to actually do anything. Dune Messiah concentrates on a coven of villains, and is the least interesting of the Dune books.

The first third of the TV series Children of Dune is an adaptation of Dune Messiah. John Harrison was wise not to attempt a full mini-series based on this weak novel. His short version is much more satisfying than the original. There is a certain pleasure in watching House Corrino's Wicked Queen thwarted in her efforts to feed a poison apple to Paul's infant children, and in watching the Bene Gesserit Wicked Witch snuffed out before she can ruin their upbringing. As for Paul, the focus is not on his inability to act, but on his suffering, which slowly drives him mad. This part of the story ends with a very effective visual quote from the ending of the film The Godfather, as the birth of Paul's children is intercut with the murder of his enemies.

The third book in the series, Children of Dune, is a much better book than the second, but the second and longer part of the mini-series is less satisfying than the first.

Paul, unable to act, turns the empire over to his ruthless younger sister, Alia of the Knife. Just as history is full of politicians who have set themselves up as gods, history is full of ruthless leaders who have brought peace and prosperity to their realms. In the beginning, Alia uses cruelty as a tool to establish a stable empire, the ends justifying the means. But gradually she is corrupted, and Paul's children, Leto II and Ghamina, must fight to survive her regency and eventually to overthrow her.

In the book, Leto II and Ghamina are young children. Television's obsession with teens has made them slightly older. But the actors who play them are charming -- the scene where they play a board game is particularly well done. Leto II accepts the power that his father Paul could not accept, and begins to change himself into a sandworm. I know this because I read the book. I am not at all sure that a viewer who has not read the book would know what Leto was changing into. The television version only hints that at what is really happening to Leto, and instead endows him with super speed, like The Flash. The Sci-fi Channel's rule about nudity -- nudity is only acceptable when it is titillating -- requires that Leto keep his pants on while burrowing through the sand, which looks silly. Also, the marriage of brother and sister, while common in history, is a TV taboo, and so does not occur. Finally, the special effect of having Leto actually transform into a giant sandworm is simply beyond the ability of the special effects technicians available to television, and so we get a relatively weak ending, with Leto running off across the desert at super speed.

The DVD version of Dune was about a half hour longer than the televised version. It may be that the DVD version of Children of Dune will be an improvement over the version I saw. Even if it is not, there is some powerful storytelling here.

The next book, God Emperor of Dune, picks up the story of Leto II after 3500 years have passed.

There were no new episodes of Enterprise in March. The two scheduled shows were bumped to April. Rick Berman has promised to make Enterprise better, but that, of course, is not true. If he were able to make Enterprise better he would already have done so. Give the man credit for doing his best. Ever since the Great Bird of the Galaxy died, Berman has kept Star Trek at a much higher level of originality, characterization, ideas, moral seriousness, and special effects than most television SF -- the only SF TV to outshine Star Trek is Babylon 5 and Firefly. The problem today is the writers. Enterprise has no really first rate writers. If Rick Berman really wants to make Enterprise better, he needs to hire J. Michael Straczynski, Joss Whedon, Chris Carter, Ronald D. Moore, and Aaron Sorkin.

What to watch in April:
Wednesday, April 2
Enterprise, "The Crossing"
Wednesday, April 9
Enterprise, "Judgment"
Tuesday, April 15
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Dirty Gods" by Drew Goddard. Series conclusion, part 1 of 5.
Wednesday, April 16
Enterprise, "Horizon".
Tuesday, April 22
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Empty Places". Part 2 of 5.
Wednesday, April 23
Enterprise, "The Breach"
Tuesday, April 29
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, "Unlock the Power". Part 3 of 5.
Wednesday, April 30
Enterprise, "Cogenitor".

Copyright © 2003 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.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide