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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.

The end of Star Trek: Enterprise is bittersweet. I'll miss it, but it is ending on a string of excellent episodes. Sure, I would love to see Shatner and Nimoy -- and Takai, Koenig, and Nichols -- have cameos in the final episode, but the money says it isn't going to happen, unless through the magic of special effects. The only actor from the original Trek we are likely to hear on the finale will be a computer voice -- who has acted in many more Star Trek episodes than anybody else.

TV Reviews
Star Trek Enterprise Star Trek Enterprise, "The Aenar" (***)
by Andre Bormanis from a story by Manny Coto

Part III of "Babel I". Andorians vs. Romulans. Andre Bormanis has been my least favorite Star Trek writer for several years now, but when a writer does a good job, I'm the first to rejoice. "The Aenar" stays true to character, avoiding several pitfalls that I can't discuss without spoilers. Good job, Mr. B.

Smallville Smallville, "The Recruit" (**)
by Todd Slavkin and Darren Swimmer

With its many surprises, this episode had the potential to be a comeback for Smallville, but it was spoiled for me by its association with the hypocrisy of the previous episode, to which it is a sequel. To pretend to encourage virginity while using teen sex to boost ratings is in bad taste. American Pie was at least honest about promoting teen lust, not to mention band camp. Smallville wants to have its cheesecake and eat it, too. (You have a dirty mind.)

Battlestar Galactica Battlestar Galactica, "You Can't Go Home Again" (***)
by Ronald D. Moore

This was the best Battlestar Galactica episode yet, with some genuine emotion and believable characters. Starbuck is lost and the Battlestar is under pressure to leave her. I'm still bothered by the minimal science fiction content. Starbuck is a scout for a wagon train in the old west. She disappears in Indian Territory. The rest of the train wants to leave her and move on, but Ward Bond insists on sending out one more search party. Wagon Train to the stars.

Battlestar Galactica Battlestar Galactica, "Litmus" (**)
by Jeff Vlaming

The McCarthy hearings were a dramatic moment in the long American battle between conservatives and liberals, and they have served as a good source for drama and comedy, from The Crucible to Pogo. But they have been milked to death, and they really don't work, either dramatically or thematically, aboard Battlestar.

DVD Reviews
My Name is Modesty My Name is Modesty (***)
by Lee Batchler and Janet Scott Batchler, based on the comic strip and books by Peter O'Donnell

Amazingly good, considering it was shot in just 18 days so that Miramax could hold on to the franchise. The flashbacks are true to both the comic strip itself and to Peter O'Donnell's experience in World War II that inspired the strip. Though, when you think about it, to shoot 78 minutes in 18 days is less than five minutes of film a day. Ed Wood would have wondered what took them so long.

Robot Stories Robot Stories (**)
by Greg Pak

This DVD consists of four short films, three of which are science fiction. (The other, about robot toys, is the best.) The stories remind me of the short stories in Worlds of If magazine circa 1960. Robots have feelings. Computers have feelings. During the forties and fifties, Walt Disney studios produced a number of cartoons in which inanimate objects acted out the pathetic fallacy. The only one I remember by name was "Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet". They were really bad. Humans have feelings. Animals have feelings. Robots, computers, automobiles, dolls, mannequins, scarecrows, and hats do not. Feelings are chemical. Robots are electronic. Their thoughts are nothing but 0s and 1s. Anything a computer can do can be done by a Turing machine -- a piece of paper and a decision mechanism. The computer is faster. That's all. Someday, computers may reach the point where they can outthink us. They aren't there yet. No computer built to date can solve Calculus I word problems. Of course, neither can a lot of the freshmen. But even if computers someday will outthink us, they won't have feelings unless we build the feelings into them. We have absolutely no idea how to do that. And if we figure out how, we will build feelings into our automobiles, first.

Battlestar Galactica has been renewed for a second season.

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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