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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

TV Reviews
Other Babylon 5.1 Columns
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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.

Legend of Earthsea (**) by Gavin Scott, desecrating the novels of Ursula K. LeGuin
Legend of Earthsea Legend of Earthsea was hard for me to sit through. No reason you should bother. The special effects are cheesy, but that is not the real problem with this SciFi miniseries. The problem is that Gavin Scott has surgically removed everything that made the novels original and enjoyable, and substituted generic television clichés. Ged is provided with a girl friend as disposable as Kleenex, a villain who establishes his villainhood by killing his henchmen, and a fat comic sidekick.

People tell each other things they already know. "As you know, Ged, your mother took me in." Women with small breasts are good; women with big breasts are evil. In the world of television, appearance, not character, defines morality. Not only does Gavin Scott have no ability at character or incident, he doesn't even have a decent sense of drama. When Ged is raised from the dead, we hardly notice. The moment when Ged receives his staff is just a lead-in to a commercial break. When the monster is apparently defeated, you yawn while waiting for him to pop up again. Someone needs to tell Scott the difference between "successor" and "predecessor", that there is a wrong time to put a cute line in the mouth of a character: "You didn't tell me there was going to be a dragon.", and that "grasp" and "last" don't rhyme.

Why do television people bother to buy the rights to adapt great books if they have no appreciation for the things that make books great? Worst of all, the women exist only as extensions of the men. To show how politically correct he is, the author has a woman outwrestles Ged (a blacksmith!) briefly -- before Ged throws her in the lake. But when Ged throws her over to go adventuring, she smiles bravely and sacrifices her own desires for his. For his part, he never gives her a second thought. All of the female characters are weak, easily fooled by even the most transparent trick, always happy to fetch and carry for a man, praised for performing simple tasks -- even the evil woman is just an extension of the villain, discarded when she has outlived her usefulness. "This is how I punish failure!" Woman have no desires, no personalities. They exist only to serve the needs of men.

My initial assessment actually underestimated how bad this adaptation is. It has not just replaced the individual with the generic. It has replaced truth with lies.

I am going to reread the original trilogy, to wash the bad taste out of my mind.

DVD Reviews

Daredevil The Director's Cut (***) by Mark Steven Johnson, from a story ripped off from Frank Miller
Daredevil  The Director's Cut It was with some trepidation that I watched the new, longer DVD of Daredevil, since I am one of the few reviewers who really liked the film. I am happy to report that it is still very enjoyable -- good script, good action, good acting. Clearly the director put a lot of thought into what it means to be a blind superhero. And there are a number of quotable lines, of which my favorite is, "Seeing-eye dogs are bred for loyalty, Matt. Your seeing-eye dog ran away."

There is nothing wrong with the new material in the Director's Cut DVD. I still prefer the shorter version, but that has more to do with the weight of the story line than with any flaws in the previously unseen scenes. We are, after all, dealing with crime in Hell's Kitchen, not saving the universe. Daredevil is a minor Marvel superhero. His greatest moment was losing a fight with Submariner -- until Frank Miller came along. Given the subject matter, 90 minutes seems a more appropriate length than two hours. Also, some memorable special effects, such as Electra seen in raindrops, are best shown just once.

If you are a big Daredevil fan by all means buy The Director's Cut. But if you plan to watch the movie just once, the shorter version is better.

Carnivàle (**) by Daniel Knauf, Henry Bromwell, William Schmidt, Dawn Prestwich, Nicole Yorkin, Toni Graphia, and Ronald D. Moore
Carnivàle Carnivàle is an upscale entertainment that has a lot in common with plebeian hit series Lost. People wander aimlessly waiting for something weird to happen. Something is happening, but you don't know what it is, do you Mr. Jones? And you aren't going to find out much in any one episode, because the writers have to stretch it out over an entire season. Or several entire seasons. So you get just one tiny drop of flavor in each otherwise bland episode.

In Lost, the down time is spend either on flashbacks or in running from hither to yon and back to hither again. I would have thought people lost in the jungle would spend more time building shelters or digging latrines. In Carnivàle, on the other hand, there is a great deal of time spent hauling water and pitching tents. The few moments of memorable fantasy are not enough to make up for the long dull stretches. The three episodes that Ronald D. Moore wrote or co-wrote have a little more going for them than the other episodes, but not enough.

The box is one of the handsomest DVD boxes I have seen.

And here's a heads up from A.M. Tell Warner Brothers you like the original cast of Babylon 5 just fine. Write to:

Warner Brothers
4000 Warner Boulevard
Burbank, CA 91522
and make sure to put "Attn: Babylon 5: The Memory of Shadows" on the front of the envelope.

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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