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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 It's been a quiet week in Lake Woebegone. No, make that a quiet month in Mountain Home, Tennessee, my home town. I've been enjoying the new Doctor on Doctor Who, very smart, very fast, sometimes too fast for me to understand what he's saying, but let that go. Even better than Doctor Who is the old 1950s tv series I'm watching on DVD, Have Gun Will Travel, with scripts by Gene Roddenberry and Harry Julian Fink.

I decided to find out for myself if The Last Airbender really is as bad as everyone says, and review it for SF Site if they were wrong. They weren't wrong. M. Night Shyamalan is a fine director, but he insists on writing his own scripts. I hope the next time he makes a movie he hires a writer. If there is a next time. The production values and some of the acting, notably by Daily Show regular Aasif Mandvi, are excellent. The script the kind of thing you see on Saturday morning television.

Between the time the original Star Trek went off the air and the time Star Trek: The Next Generation began, Gene Roddenberry pitched three other television series that were made into tv movies: The Questor Tapes, Genesis II, and Spectre. Genesis II is finally out on DVD, along with two sequels, Planet Earth and Strange New World, the first produced by Roddenberry, the second not. Genesis II is excellent and Planet Earth is worth watching.

From time to time I wonder what people born after Star Wars think of old science fiction movies. A case can be made for consigning to the dustheap every sf film made before Stanley Kubrick's three blockbusters, Dr. Strangelove in 1964, 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968, and A Clockwork Orange in 1971. After these, in 1977, came Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and George Lucas's Star Wars, ushering in the era of the modern sf blockbuster.
2001: A Space Odyssey Dr. Strangelove A Clockwork Orange

Before Kubrick, sf films had simple plots and even simpler science. Star Trek, on television in the mid-60s, was much more like written science fiction than anything on the big screen. A case could be made that all sf films before Dr. Strangelove were boring. Stanley Kubrick certainly thought so. And yet, I love them, or at least some of them. Can modern viewers feel the same way?

And so I have a mission (should you care to accept it) for readers of this column who have not watched a lot of old movies. Below is a list of my picks of the ten best sf films before 1976 (and I've seen more than once every film that has even a chance of being on that list). Watch a couple, send an e-mail to and let me know what you think. I'll report back in the mid-August column.

Top Ten Pre-1976 SF Films:
1936: Things to Come
1950: Destination Moon
1951: The Day the Earth Stood Still
1951: The Thing
1953: It Came From Outer Space
1953: War of the Worlds
1955: This Island Earth
1956: Forbidden Planet
1956: Invasion of the Body Snatchers
1959: Journey to the Center of the Earth
1963: Lord of the Flies

Copyright © 2010 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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