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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 first two weeks in May brought us the season finale of Fringe and the series finale of Smallville. The end of Smallville was worth watching. If you have not seen these but plan to, stop reading now. Here there be SPOILERS.

spoiler warning

Fringe Like most TV, Fringe is pretty good some of the time. I enjoyed the penultimate episode of Season Three. The season finale, not so much. The finale has a plot that has become all too common on genre television: events so earth-shattering that it is necessary to turn back time so they never really happen. As examples, I can cite Witchblade, Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles, Lost, Dollhouse, Star Trek, Buffy, Smallville, and Dallas. In Silver Age DC comics, they used to call these "Imaginary Stories." It got to the point where when a major event "really" did occur in the DC universe, they had to blurb it "Not a dream! Not an imaginary story!"

Smallville Smallville has ended after ten years on the air. The first four seasons, which told the story of Clark Kent's high school years, were the best. Many of the later episodes were so bad they were embarrassing -- as bad as most of those Silver Age comic books I mentioned above. You can't go home again. But others were good, or at least had good moments in them, and the final episode brings the series to a satisfying beginning.

The last Smallville is a two-parter, by two different sets of writers. The first part, much the better part, is by Al Septien and Turi Meyer, and is about the on-again, off-again wedding of Lois and Clark. Part two is by Brian Peterson and Kelly Souders, and features the return of Lex Luthor and the final confrontation with Darkseid.

The acting is, as always, excellent. The script, in part two, is a little lumpy. In part one, I found the struggles Lois and Clark were having over the idea of getting married believable. On the other hand, I did not believe for a minute Luthor's speech about how every hero needs a villain. No. Sorry. Villains do not think they are villains. Even Dick Cheney is the hero in his own story.

Music is important. The brief use of the original Star Trek theme in Star Trek Voyager had an impact. The muted use of the original Battlestar Galactica theme in the first episode of the new series was memorable. The lack of any use of the Indiana Jones theme in Young Indiana Jones was a mistake -- it wouldn't have worked to use it often, but they could have given us a few bars when Harrison Ford appeared.

There have been a few Smallville episodes that teased us with just a few notes of John Williams' Superman theme, and the success of the finale depended on giving us the full orchestration at the end. They tease us with a few bars here and there near the end of Part Two, but keep us waiting until the last few minutes before giving us what we want It is an effective ending.

Copyright © 2011 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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