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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

SF on TV
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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 only new SF on the air worth watching in August is the SciFi Channel's SciFi Friday.

Friday, August 5
Stargate SG-1, "The Ties that Bind" by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie
Stargate: Atlantis, "Duet" by Martin Gero
Battlestar Galactica, "Resistance"

Friday, August 12
Stargate SG-1, "The Powers that Be" by Robert C. Cooper, teleplay by Martin Gero
Stargate: Atlantis, "Condemned" by Carl Bender
Battlestar Galactica, "The Farm"

Friday, August 19
Stargate SG-1, "Beachhead" by Brad Wright
Stargate: Atlantis, "Trinity" by Damien Kindler
Battlestar Galactica, "Home (I)"

Friday, August 26
Stargate SG-1, "Ex Deus Machina" by Joseph Mallozzi and Paul Mullie
Stargate: Atlantis, "Instinct"
Battlestar Galactica, "The Raid (II)"

Battlestar Galactica has my recommendation.

There is a lot of old television science fiction being released on DVD this year. Most of it is very bad, written by writers who know nothing about science or science fiction, and with one episode very much like the next. The very worst of Star Trek, the third season of the original Trek, is equal to the best these shows have to offer. Rather than list all the bad shows you can buy if you have a lot of time and money to waste, I will just list all of the good SF that has ever been on television. It is a shorter list.

Stargate SG-1 All of the Star Treks -- TOS, Next Gen, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise -- and even the animated series had some first rate science fiction. The episodes were intelligent (mostly) and varied. The animated Star Trek will be out on DVD this fall.

The made-for-TV movies by Gene Roddenberry are of some interest. These are The Questor Tapes, Specter, and the almost-a-series Genesis II, Planet Earth, and Strange New World. Actually, Specter and Strange New World are pretty bad, but I'm trying not to leave anything out that is of the slightest interest. Of the two posthumous Roddenberry series, Andromeda and Earth: Final Conflict, only the first few episodes of the latter are worth watching.

Lois & Clark  Season One As good as Star Trek, or better, were Babylon 5 and Firefly. The new Battlestar Galactica is excellent drama, but has very little science fiction in it -- most of it could be set in Iraq with few changes. I don't like Stargate SG-1, but some people do. The people who like SG-1 tend to like its spin-off, Stargate: Atlantis. There were a few good episodes on the 1985 revival of The Twilight Zone, notably Arthur C. Clarke's "The Star" and some of the third season episodes written by J. Michael Straczynski. And there were a very few good episodes of the 1995 revival of The Outer Limits, notably Larry Niven's "Inconstant Moon" (as far as I can tell not on any of the DVDs in current release).

Moving from science fiction to fantasy, The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer both had excellent episodes. Pushing it a bit you might also include Angel. Beauty and the Beast has its fans, especially the episodes written by George R.R. Martin.

In the realm of the superhero, the first season of Lois and Clark and all seasons of Smallville have some very fine episodes. The Greatest American Hero is of minor interest, and I remember a few good e pisodes of The Flash and The Incredible Hulk, but that's really pushing it.

Cowboy Bebop In the realm of anime, on The Cartoon Network, I recommend Cowboy Bebop and Trigun. The made-for-TV animated movie Flash Gordon, The Greatest Hero of Them All, by Samuel Peeples, was not bad.

Dark Shadows DVD Collection 5 There are a number of shows of nostalgic interest. The original Dark Shadows had a good cast and imaginative scripts, involving vampires, werewolves, time travel and alternate reality. The revived series also had a few good episodes. Dr. Who has enjoyable moments, especially when Tom Baker plays The Doctor, and the made-for-TV Dr. Who movie was fun. The two made-for-TV Kolchak: The Night Stalker movies are good, but the series grows repetitious, with its "monster of the week" format.

That's about it, if your time for you is worth saving.

You really need to turn up the nostalgia quotient to enjoy the old Twilight Zone (the Richard Matheson episodes are better than the Rod Serling episodes), The Outer Limits (the best episodes, by Harlan Ellison, are on the Season Two DVD), Lost in Space, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Prisoner, or the original Battlestar Galactica (great music, though), and you have to turn the nostalgia an order of magnitude higher to enjoy The Adventures of Superman, Tom Corbett Space Cadet, Captain Video, and Rocky Jones Space Ranger from the 50s.

Everything else sucks.

If you disagree, please sound off in the SF Site Forum

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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