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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.

Farscape I find myself actually looking forward to the new Farscape miniseries (October 17-18). There was a time when I would have watched every episode of Farscape and Stargate religiously, in the same way that I watched every episode of Lost in Space and the original Battlestar Galactica. I still have some fond memories of those lame series. Remember the episode of Lost in Space where Dr. Smith accidentally drank a high explosive, and had to stay very, very quiet? Dr. Smith lies down to rest, and the robot comes out of the Jupiter V carrying a plunger and two enormous alligator clips, which he attaches to Dr. Smith's feet. Will Robinson saves the day.

Smallville I've gotten less tolerant. In what I watched of Farscape, the amusing bits were too few and far between. I watched the first half-dozen episodes, and then only watched when the mood took me. I did make a point of watching the last episode. I was not amused. They followed Michael O'Donoghue's advice from "How to Write Good" and had the hero and heroine run over by a truck. But now, apparently, I'm ready to give Farscape one more chance.

The new season of Smallville is hewing to the conventional wisdom that American television viewers want teen sex all the time -- just so long as nobody gets a glimpse of Janet Jackson's breast. I still think that Smallville is amazingly good, though because of the barrage of commercials and incredibly annoying snipes popping up from the bottom of the screen during the story I advise you to wait for the DVD. I think the only intelligent people who actually watch TV any more are those of us who review it.

Star Trek Enterprise, "Storm Front" (***) by Manny Coto

Star Trek Enterprise In science fiction fandom, a round robin is a story in which each writer ends with a cliffhanger, which the next writer must resolve. One of the early round robins featured such authors as H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. Brannon Braga and Rick Berman left Star Trek with a Nazis in Space cliffhanger, and Manny Coto has done an acceptable job of resolving it.

There is a fundamental dramatic flaw in all time travel stories, illustrated in Larry Niven's "All the Myriad Ways." Archer goes back in time and prevents the Nazis from conquering America, but what's to prevent the enemy from going back and sinking Columbus. Then Archer goes back and kills the grandfather of the guy who sank Columbus. So that guy goes back and has the Black Plague wipe out all of humanity. So Archer -- ad infinitum. Still, the story, with its multi-sided conflicts, was enjoyable.

I wish that someone had the guts to portray relationships between Black and White (and between men and women) as they actually were. The last time I saw a realistic portrayal of race in a science fiction setting was the superb Deep Space Nine episode "Far Beyond the Stars." On the other hand, the pastiche of MovieTone News that begins part II is spot on. "New York City turns out to give a warm welcome to Germany's chancellor, Adolph Hitler, who joins America in the fight for freedom and democracy."

UPN has mercifully few snipes. I was actually having fun. There was a terrific dogfight between German Stukas and the Enterprise over New York. Then my local UPN affiliate pops a full screen snipe over the climax. Stop watching television. DVDs are better. Oh, wait... if everybody stops watching television, Star Trek Enterprise will be cancelled, and the DVD will never exist. I better travel back in time and change this column to encourage more people to watch television. Then I can sit back and wait for the DVD.

Copyright © 2004 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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