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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.

Surrogates (***) by Michael Ferris and John Brancato, based on the graphic novel by Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele

Surrogates Surrogates is a routine but entertaining Bruce Willis vehicle, mundane science fiction about a world where 90 percent of humanity lives through surrogates, pretty robots who transmit their senses and sensations to dormant humans.

Several reviewers have found the movie interesting because of its original ideas. Needless to say, readers of print science fiction will not find the ideas in the movie original. Yes, the scriptwriters note that men may choose female surrogates, but that's about the most exciting idea they come up with. Let's see how long it takes me to come up with ten ideas that the screenwriters either did not think of or chose to ignore.

•  1. Cars. If surrogates are cheap enough for 90 percent of the people to afford them, then instead of buying a car people will buy a surrogate for work and a surrogate for the mall, and there will be far fewer cars. Some people will drive for fun, but who drives to work for fun?

•  2. Exercise. People lie around almost all the time. When do they exercise?

•  3. Population. If, to have children, you must have sex with a person much less attractive than a surrogate, the population will decline rapidly.

•  4. Jobs. If robot surrogates are common, most jobs will be done by robots.

•  5. Crime. In the movie, crime is almost non-existent. Why don't surrogate criminals hold real bodies for ransom?

•  6. Crimes of Passion. People will still kill their partners for infidelity, and when their partner's real body lies helpless, it will be very easy.

•  7. Cops. In this world, there are still a lot of cops. Why, if there is almost no crime?

•  8. Tattoos. In real life, people who are young and attractive get tattoos and nose rings and dye their hair purple in order to look different. Why does everybody in the movie choose a blandly handsome or pretty surrogate? How about really weird looking surrogates? Animal surrogates? Alien surrogates?

•  9. Nudity. Is there a law against a surrogate going nude? If not, why are all the surrogates dressed? If so, why?

•  10. Sex. If a surrogate having sex can create a sexual reaction in a human being, why not eliminate the middleman, and go with direct stimulation of the sexual pleasure center in the brain?

•  11. Money. Why would a greedy corporation hire humans in surrogate form, instead of just using robots?

•  12. Poverty. Why can everyone who wants a surrogate afford one? Robots put real humans out of work, leading to large numbers of people who are too poor to afford a surrogate.

OK, I couldn't stop with just ten, it's like eating potato chips. But in ten minutes I was able to come up with 12 ideas that the movie writers either didn't think of or chose to ignore to make the movie more conventional and therefore more commercial. Which is why I prefer written science fiction. Fans are slans.

I am not enjoying the current television season. There is no show I look forward to as much as I looked forward to Star Trek or The X-Files or Buffy or Babylon 5 or Firefly or the first seven seasons of Smallville. Dollhouse is the best of a poor lot, followed by Heroes. All the others I've watched are, in the jargon my kids used in high school, booooooooooooorrrrrrrrrring.

Copyright © 2009 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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