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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.

Doctor Who returns to America on the SciFi channel every Friday starting March 17.

The appeal of Doctor Who is curious -- somehow cheesy special effects are compensated for by the Doctor's cheeky insouciance, and what started out as a low-budget children's programme has become the longest running science fiction television series of all time.

The early shows, in black and white and with -- how shall we put this nicely -- non-existent production values, are the hardest to watch. William Hartnell (1963-1967) played the first Doctor (his name is "The Doctor," not "Doctor Who," thank you very much). These shows introduced the Daleks (Assimilate! Assimilate! Resistance is futile! -- no, sorry, that's the Borg). Then came Patrick Troughton (19661969) who played the part just a tad broader. Jon Pertwee (19701974) never made much of an impression on me, I'm afraid. But the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker (19741981), tongue firmly in cheek and with a toss of his scarf over his shoulder, is everybody's favorite, thanks in part to scripts by Douglas Adams. (The two Dr. Who (note spelling!) movies, starring Peter Cushing are, fans generally agree, non-canonical.)

I gave the fifth Doctor, Peter Davidson (19821984), what I considered a fair try, and decided he was just a bit too chipper for my taste. And, sad to say, I have not watched Doctors six (Colin Baker) or seven (Sylvester McCoy). Doctor number eight, the American Doctor (Paul McGann), only appeared in one American made-for-TV film. I did rather like one moment in that movie -- when The Doctor steals a policeman's pistol, points it at his own head, and says, "Surrender or I'll shoot myself!" But it was not generally well received. So now we have a new eighth Doctor -- or ninth if you count the American Doctor, or tenth if you count Rowan Atkinson, or the eleventh if you count Hugh Grant, or -- well, never mind. Everybody will play the Doctor for fifteen minutes sooner or later.

The episodes coming to the SciFi channel aired in Great Britain and around the world in 2005, after the Doctor had been off the air for eight years. Eight years! Makes you think that even Star Trek may someday make a comeback.

Give it at try, but don't get your hopes too high. Living mannequins are one of the lamest story ideas on television. I am, however, told that the next Doctor is considerably better. Who knows?

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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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