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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.

I spent Friday evening watching television -- four hours of television -- part of Andromeda, part of Stargate SG-1, Enterprise, and two episodes of Battlestar Galactica. During the more than one hour of commercials, I had time to wash the dishes, balance my checkbook, and answer my mail.

Of the four programs, only one, Enterprise, was more fun than washing the dishes.

Unbeknownst to me, the Sci-Fi Channel kicked its schedule up a half hour, to make room for a Battlestar Galactica special, so I missed the first half of Andromeda. I missed the last half of Stargate SG-1 in order to change channels and watch Enterprise. Since I did not see all of either one, I won't officially review them, but I do have a few comments.

Andromeda The people in Andromeda and Stargate SG-1 do not act like people. For one thing, they are eager, they fall over each other, to sacrifice their lives to save others. Human beings really do give their lives for others, but they are not eager to do so. Human beings also have a hefty leaven of pettiness and selfishness, and it is only in contrast with these less admirable traits that our rare willingness to sacrifice ourselves stands out.

The people in Andromeda and Stargate SG-1 do not talk like people. Dialogue in drama need not be realistic, but it must convey some human quality. In particular, "cute" dialogue coming from the lips of people who have no reason to be cute is grating, as are clichés that are meant to be inspiring. "Everything that happens has a purpose."

Of the two, Andromeda has a lot more going for it -- clumsy but sometimes charming. It was with relief that I missed the last half of Stargate SG-1.

Star Trek Enterprise, "Daedalus" (***) by Ken Lazebnik and Michael Bryant
Star Trek Enterprise This episode is a serious drama about the inventor of the transporter. The characters are grounded in their own desires, so any heroism stands out as exceptional rather than the norm. There is considerable resemblance to the original series episode "The Ultimate Computer." If anything, the episode is too character driven, too low key. But it held my interest.

Battlestar Galactica, "33" (***) by Ronald D. Moore
Battlestar Galactica The Cylons jump through hyperspace in pursuit of the Galactica and her "rag tag fleet" every 33 minutes. The characterization is good. Boxey does not make an appearance, thank goodness, (though I was glad to see him in the telemovie). But there are problems with the plot. If you know there is going to be a crisis every 33 minutes over a period of days, you do not keep everybody awake the whole time. You work in shifts. And you do not wait for the Cylons to appear, you jump every 30 minutes. Also, the split story between the resistance on the home world and the flight of the Galactica, which is getting farther and farther from the home world, makes for disjointed narrative. Not bad, but a notch down from Enterprise.

Battlestar Galactica, "Water" (***) by Ronald D. Moore
Battlestar Galactica Again there are major problems with the plot, especially this business of not being able to identify Cylon spies. Since one Cylon spy often has sex in a public place, I'm waiting for someone to catch her with her shirt off. Cylon's spines glow during sex. "This is your captain speaking. You are ordered to pair off and have sex with the nearest available crewman, while someone watches your spine. If you see a glowing spine -- rip it out." Then we have the discussions between Baltar and his computer-chip Cylon girl friend about god. The Cylon believes in god -- Baltar doesn't. The plot twists conveniently support the Cylon's belief. And God is apparently willing to help out a villain in exchange for his belief. What is that all about?

Smallville will return with new episodes beginning January 26th.

Copyright © 2005 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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