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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

The X-Files: Fight the Future (***)
by Chris Carter
Other Babylon 5.1 Columns
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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.

X-Files Now I know why so many reviewers find the ** 1/2 rating irresistible. I, you will note, did resist. The X-Files movie is worth seeing. But disappointing. Like most mega-budget movies, it played it safe. Playing it safe is not the way to satisfy a fan of The X-Files.

Movies are usually better than television. Television has yet to produce anything as good as Gone With the Wind or Lawrence of Arabia. But that may be changing, because television is becoming more daring, even as movies become more conservative. One thing is certain. Movies made from television shows are almost never as good as the show on which they are based. No Star Trek movie has been as thought provoking as "Amok Time" (****), "Measure of a Man" (****), or "Far Beyond the Stars" (****). There were dozens of Twilight Zone episodes better than Twilight Zone -- the Movie (**). The one movie I can think of that was better than the series is The Fugitive (****).

Why is this? Well, if you are producing 20 or more episodes a year, you can afford to make a few shows that are totally over the top. "War of the Coprophages" (****), "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" (****), and "The Unusual Suspects" (****), for example. If they flop, a more conventional episode will come along next week. But if a movie flops, heads will roll, and one of them may be your own. So you rely on the tried and true. Explosions. Nobody ever lost money by putting too many explosions into a summer movie.

But The X-Files isn't about explosions, it's about paranoia. And it's about Mulder and Scully. The scenes in the movie that satisfied me the most were small moments: the eerie playground in the desert, the corn field, the railroad crossing. And, most of all, the personal interaction between the lead characters. The picture is worth seeing, yes. But with more strangeness it might have been as good as the series.

spoiler warning

Some of the problems that kept me from enjoying the film as much as I had hoped.
The early dialogue between Scully and Mulder was too cute. It wasn't in character. It sounded as if it had been borrowed from a Mel Gibson film.
The conspiracy is stealthy. They don't blow up federal office buildings just to get rid of a few bodies. The bodies simply disappear when no one is looking.
The panel investigating the explosion never had sufficient motivation for attacking Mulder, and they never had sufficient motivation for changing their minds at the end.
Mulder is not an action hero. He can barely hold his own in a fight -- it's Scully who's a scrapper. So, the idea of him picking up a suddenly and inexplicably clothed Scully in a fireman's carry, climbing three stories while fending off aliens, and then escaping through a hole in the ice that he couldn't get out of right after he fell in -- no, sorry, too much.
And, while the concluding scenes on the ice were spectacular, please explain to me again how Mulder and Scully, whose vehicle was out of gas, got back to Washington in time for that meeting.

end spoiler warning

If you are already a fan of the series, you have seen the movie. It's ok to have enjoyed it. And it's natural to have reservations. I wish the plot had ended just a little further away from where it began.

If you are not already a fan of the series, watch a few of the best episodes. Then see the movie.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Tears of the Prophets (****)
by Ira Steven Beher and Hans Beimler

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine This is the season finale and includes one of the best Star Trek space battles of all time, as the Federation and their allies finally launch their invasion into Cardassian space. There is also a major event in the life of one of the characters which has almost certainly been spoiled for you by someone else, but which will not be mentioned here, just in case you have considerate friends (and don't read TV Guide). Given that said "major event" was forced by factors external to the story, it is handled with great aplomb, far better than other such "events" in Star Trek history. The episode brings in many of the supporting characters, combines personal moments with large scale action, and does not end the way you expect.

Some people whom I've chatted with about this episode were confused about just what an invasion of Cardassian space meant. The Cardassian Empire includes many star systems. The difference between invading Cardassian space and reaching Cardassia Prime is as large as the difference between the landing at Normandy on D-Day and reaching Berlin. Another question I've heard raised is how Gul Dukat gets aboard Deep Space Nine. By that point, he has attained powers that are undefined, but certainly immense.

This episode is not quite one of the all time greats, but, even in a season with many great episodes, it stands out as much better than we had any reason to expect.

Copyright © 1998 by 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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