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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.


Babylon 5 J. Michael Straczinski has written a major new movie. It is not science fiction.

After getting his start writing such shows as He Man and the Masters of the Universe, Straczinski made a big splash in 1998 with Babylon 5, based on a 1993 made-for-television movie he had written. Babylon 5 is one of the greatest science fiction TV shows of all time. A spin-off series, Crusade, was less successful, and the same must be said of five Babylon 5 telemovies. A new series, Jeremiah, reportedly made producers so angry at this uppity writer, who thought a writer was actually an important person, that the Crusade second season of Jeremiah has never been released on DVD. Except for one more Babylon 5 movie, which had a very low budget, that was the end of Straczinski's career as a television writer.

But it was not the end of J. Michael Straczinski. He moved to writing comic books, where he has written Spider-man, The Fantastic Four, and Thor, as well as a number of very interesting limited series, such as the currently appearing The Twelve.

Buffy  the Vampire Slayer Now, Straczinski has a new career, as a writer of major motion pictures. His first is Changeling, directed by Clint Eastwood, opening at the end of this month. Other films in the works include Silver Surfer and Lensman.

Joss Whedon created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and also Firefly. Firefly may be the best sf television series ever. Whedon was also one of many writers who worked on the Pixar hit Toy Story. His new TV series, Dollhouse, will be out in 2009. Meanwhile, he too is moonlighting in comic books, having written The X-Men, and currently writing Buffy Season Eight.

Star Trek: Voyager Ronald D. Moore got his start as one of the top writers for Star Trek: The Next Generation, often collaborating with Brannon Braga. After Next Gen, Moore went to Deep Space Nine, Braga to Voyager. A comparison of the two series suggests that Moore is the better writer. Moore and Braga also wrote movies: Star Trek: Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, and Mission: Star Trek: DS9 Impossible II. Moore then created two less successful TV shows, Roswell and Carnivàle, before turning to Battlestar Galactica, which has been widely hailed as the best show on television. We're still waiting for the final ten... episodes, that is. In 2009, a new Ron Moore series, Virtuality, is set to air. He's also working on a couple of film projects, a remake of The Thing and I, Robot 2.

Tim Kring is the newest addition to my list of top media writers of science fiction and fantasy. He created Heroes, probably the best show currently on the air.

More on why writers make a difference in the mid-November column.

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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