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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.

The Prisoner There was a time when science fiction meant something new, different, original. Now, too often, science fiction means something old, familiar, predictable. Now, too often, science fiction means a remake of an old tv series.

The remake of V seems to be very popular. I watched the first hour. It is ninety percent soap opera and ten percent science fiction. I gave up on it when they introduced two black characters, brothers -- no, really -- and the older brother scolds the younger brother for talking slang, whereupon the younger brother calls the older brother an Uncle Tom. Sigh.

I remember a story from many years ago when a casting director at Paramount caught hell from the studio for casting a black actor in a role -- I think on Star Trek TNG. The studio boss waved the script in the casting director's face and said, "Where does this script say this character is black?"

Black people have race, white people have no race. If the script doesn't mention the character's race, obviously the character is white. If the character is not white, then he's defined by his race.

The Prisoner Wilson Tucker wrote an entire novel in which the only mention that the lead character is black occurs when the character happens to see his reflection in a mirror. Neal Gaiman's latest novel, Anansi Boys, has many black characters, none of whom are ever identified by race. To define black characters by their race is the mark of a weak writer.

Another revival of an old tv series airs November 15 and 16. Most of the reviews say that this new version of The Prisoner is not nearly as good as the old version. I watched the entire run of the old version not long ago, and discovered that it only seemed great at the time because almost everything else on television was so lame. Patrick McGoohan was a charismatic actor, but had no discernable writing skills, and evidently thought that the idea that totalitarian government was a bad thing was a deep and novel philosophical idea, which needed to be hammered home week after week. McGoohan is only credited with scripting the last two episodes, in which everybody runs around aimlessly, but the entire series bears his imprint. There are a few clever ideas, but scene by scene most of the stories are pointless and boring. In the end, we discover the profound truth that "We have met the enemy, and he is us." Pogo said it first.

The new The Prisoner has the same pointless chases as the original, chases that you know will go nowhere. It lacks the charm of the old The Prisoner. Ian McKellan does do a fine Alex Guinness impersonation.

Other reviewers say that the old show was great, but the new one is really bad. I say the new one is really bad, and the old show was better. But not much better.

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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