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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.

Jerome Bixby's Man from Earth (***) by Jerome Bixby
Jerome Bixby's The Man from Earth
Jerome Bixby is forgotten, but three of his creations live on.

The first is the Twilight Zone episode, "It's a Good Life," based on his short story, with a script much inferior to the short story by Rod Serling. Serling offered Bixby the chance to rewrite the script, and I suspect Bixby was dying to do just that, but he was breaking into TV writing after a long career as a pulp editor and writer, and he didn't dare insult Serling, so he told Serling his script was great. The episode, starring Billy Mumy, is still memorable, if not watchable.

Bixby's second claim to fame was an original film treatment called Fantastic Voyage, which he wrote with Otto Klement. David Duncan did the adaptation, Harry Kleiner the final script. The stars of the film are Raquel Welch. The voyage inside the human body was at the time a completely original idea, as far as movies went. Isaac Asimov liked it enough to write the novelization and later a sequel, Fantastic Voyage II. There was also a short-lived TV series.

But Bixby's greatest claim to fame is the creation of the Mirror Universe in the original Star Trek episode "Mirror, Mirror." In all, he wrote four of the best of the original Trek, including "Requiem for Methuselah," which has one of the most memorable last lines of any TV show.

Do you know his name?
So, how is the new movie, the faithful filming of Jerome Bixby's last script?

It's good. I was worried, because I had heard that Jerome Bixby's Man from Earth was a science fiction version of My Dinner With Andre, just people talking. No fist fights. No car chases. I need not have worried, because interesting ideas, a deep knowledge of history and science, and well-developed characters (played by excellent actors, such as John Billingsley, William Katt, and especially Ellen Crawford) are at least as entertaining as a car chase. Movies rarely offer intelligent science fiction. You could watch it on BitTorrent, but you really should buy the DVD.

The extras are also interesting, and brief.

Copyright © 2008 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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