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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.

Lois & Clark Season One (**)
by Deborah Joy LeVine, based on characters created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Lois & Clark  Season One There have been three live action television programs about the man from Krypton, all available on DVD. In the 50s, The Adventures of Superman borrowed from the radio and gave us the words that have become part of our heritage, "Look, up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's Superman! Strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth where, disguised as mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, he fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way." Fun in the 50s -- almost unwatchable today. Then came Lois and Clark, which focused more on relationships than on heroics -- Clark only dons the red and blue for a few minutes in each episode. And now, Smallville, with no super suit in sight. Smallville is by far the best of the three.

Some entertainment is consistently delightful, other entertainment has some delightful moments. Lois and Clark is of the latter variety. It is enjoyable. The acting is good. The music is good. Lex Luthor is excellent.

But the writing tends toward stereotypes: the seductive woman, the mad scientist, flamboyant agent. The best scripts are written by series creator Deborah Joy LeVine, but even she did not always take the show seriously. People are bound to a chair by a few loops of rope thrown around them in a way that anyone could escape in seconds. People always fall unconscious when hit over the head. Silly things happen. Because, after all, it's only a comic book character.

After this one season, Deborah Joy LeVine was replaced by writers who turned the series more in the direction of the comic book -- and it got substantially worse.

Whether you want to watch it depends in part on how much time you have on your hands.

Battlestar Galactica, Season 2.0 (***)
created by Ronald D. Moore, based on characters created by Glen A. Larson

Battlestar Galactica, Season 2.0 Battlestar Galactica is one of the best dramas on television. But is it science fiction?

I grew up reading Astounding (now Analog) when John W. Campbell, Jr. was editor, and authors such as Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, and Poul Anderson were defining what science fiction was. The quintessential science fiction story was "The Cold Equations" by Tom Godwin. You could not break the laws of physics. That was an axiom, once you got beyond the pulp adventures of Thrilling Wonder Stories. And every science fiction fan knew that the future was not like the present and that alien worlds were not like earth.

Most people looked down on science fiction in those days, and there were several things you would commonly hear. One was about how the brave-hearted bumble bee could fly in defiance of the laws of physics. Another was about the mother who picked up a Greyhound bus to save her child. And, of course, cocktail party conversation was full of stories about a dream that had saved someone's aunt from boarding a doomed airplane or a miracle that saved the life of a little girl when a tornado killed everyone in her family.

I always wondered why, if it really was a miracle, the miracle didn't save the family, too. And why airliners that were going to crash didn't take off empty, because everybody had a dream.

As for aliens, well, there were only two possibilities (said my non-SF-reading friends). Either they were exactly like us, only wiser, and would bring us ancient wisdom that modern science had forgotten. Or they were NOT exactly like us, in which case we should kill them.

When I was growing up, everybody was a Republican.

Battlestar Galactica is science fiction for people who don't read science fiction. The laws of physics are negotiable. Superstitions always come true. And life on other planets is exactly like life in Kansas, only with spaceships.

On the other hand, it really is excellent human drama. The characters are compelling, the story lines keep you on the edge of your seat. Certainly, it is the best science fiction on the air today. Provided, that is, it is science fiction at all.

Copyright © 2006 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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