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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, "The Xindi" (***) by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga.

Enterprise Previously on Enterprise, the alien Xindi blew up the World Trade Center, killing Trip's sister. From now on, no more liberal Roddenberry crap -- no more inter-racial kissing and Russians on the bridge. The only good alien is a dead alien.

Of course, it is still OK to use aliens sexually. In the season premiere titled "The Xindi," Trip and T'Pol only give each other backrubs, but we are free to fantasize that as soon as the camera looked the other way, Trip threw T'Pol down on the bed and fucked her brains out. And it is OK to have a cute token alien, in the person of Doctor Phlox. Doctor Phlox has been rewritten. He was a wise and humane character, especially about matters sexual. But in last season's "The Bounty", his character was changed into someone even more sexually inhibited than humans. In that episode, Doctor Phlox is too embarrassed to even take his clothes off in front of T'Pol. And Trip manfully resists T'Pol's lustful Vulcan advances. But in "The Xindi," when she actually exposes her breast (as you expect on network television, tastefully -- no nipple) you know that is too much for any real man to resist.

In the teaser for the next episode, we learn that Captain Archer is prepared to torture alien prisoners.

Today on National Public Radio there was an interview with Mark Bowden in which he comes out in favor of torturing prisoners. He prefers to call it "coercion" -- as when the American military strip the prisoner naked, inject him (or her?) with methamphetamines, starve and freeze him, deprive him of sleep, etc. -- not really torture -- no permanent physical or psychological damage -- says Mr. Bowden. Though, of course real torture is OK, too, under certain circumstances. For example, American soldiers routinely torture prisoners and don't think it is any big deal, says Mr. Bowden. I didn't know any of this. But this guy is, after all, a writer for the Atlantic Monthly, and he says it's OK. So it must be OK.

Actually, neither Enterprise nor the United States of America is as bad as the sound bites would like us to believe. What is clear is that the way to attract viewers and/or listeners is to make people think Enterprise and the USA are all about torturing prisoners and alien sex.

When we compare the reality to the sound bite, it turns out that the aliens killed by Archer and his crew really do deserve everything they get. And the American Patriot Act includes a passage condemning prejudice against Arab-Americans. Did you know that? We really are better people than you would think from watching our television.

Before watching "The Xindi", I rewatched "The Expanse", the previous season finale. Without commercials, it builds up quite a bit of momentum. When the Enterprise blows the Klingon ship to smithereens, I almost cheered.

In "The Xindi", the League of Alien Supervillains is nicely realized. Instead of funny foreheads, we get some aquatic and insectoid aliens that are visually effective. The mystery of just what is going on in the Delphic Expanse looks promising. And I must admit T'Pol has very nice breasts.

Enterprise is still the best SF show on network television.

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.

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