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Babylon 5.1
by Rick Norwood

What to look for in November 1999
Other Babylon 5.1 Columns
For more information, you can try the following sites:
Rick Norwood's Website
Worldwide TV Schedule
The Official Babylon 5 Website
The X-Files
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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 only first rate sf/fantasy tv in November would appear to be The X-Files. Every Sunday, you can look forward to a new show by a first rate writer: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz, or (best of all) Vince Gilligan, author of many great X-Files, such as Unusual Suspects (****). The next best bet -- but not a good one -- is Star Trek: Voyager, which has a new show every Wednesday in November. I plan to watch them all, but only because I've watched every new Star Trek since 1966 (except one or two missed due to circumstances beyond my control and still avidly sought after in reruns). I'll let you know if Voyager takes a turn for the better. If I had to pick one to recommend, sight unseen, I would pick The Voyager Conspiracy, which airs November 24. But I am deeply suspicious that it will turn out to be a holodeck fantasy, an imaginary story, or a dream.

Here is a list of what is on.

The X-Files
November 7
The Sixth Extinction - part one, by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz

November 14
The Sixth Extinction - Amor Fati, by Chris Carter and Frank Spotnitz

November 21
Hungry, by Vince Gilligan

November 28
Millennium, by Vince Gilligan and Frank Spotnitz

Star Trek: Voyager
November 3
Riddles, by Andre Bormanis and Robert J. Doherty

November 10
Dragon's Teeth, by Brannon Braga, Joe Menosky, and Michael Taylor

November 17
One Small Step

November 24
The Voyager Conspiracy

Harsh Realm has already been cancelled. Chris Carter is the highest paid writer on television, but he has not had much luck creating new shows. No new Star Trek series is in the cards until Fall 2000, and no new Star Trek movie until 2001. J. Michael Straczynski has a new tv movie in the works, but it is not SF or fantasy. In the world of film, the next thing I am looking forward to is Bicentennial Man this Christmas, but I am deeply doubtful about Hollywood's ability to stay true to Asimov's Hugo winning story.

On the other hand, there are plenty of media other than film to enjoy. A new Tomb Raider game is due out this month (too soon after the last one, which I haven't finished yet). And J. Michael Straczynski is continuing the Babylon 5 story in the pages of Amazing Stories magazine, as well as creating a new super-hero universe, Rising Stars, for Top Cow comics.

Star Trek, "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (****)
by Samuel A. Peeples

Star Trek on DVD This DVD of the second Star Trek pilot also includes "The Carbomite Maneuver" (***) by Jerry Sohl. The spine has "Volume 1, episodes 2 & 3" on it. "The Cage", the original pilot, will be included, in both its black and white version and in a newly edited color version, on the last volume.

It is so nice to hear the title music without the usually distortion caused by tape. The great planet exterior painted by Robert Jefferies never looked better. You can clearly see the tiny human figures moving in the foreground. The image is so crisp that you can read the middle initial on Kirk's tombstone (it isn't T). Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and Sulu are the only regulars. (Dr. McCoy, Uhura, and Yoeman Rand first appear in "The Carbomite Maneuver".)

The show holds up remarkably well in all departments. There are a few special effects (such as the plants created by Gary Mitchell) that suffer from the pitiless gaze of DVD. But considering that when this program first aired there had not been even one SF movie that can be viewed today without apologies, this is brilliant work: adult, intelligent, character driven, with an excellent script and first rate special effects. Here we see for the first time on film a starship in orbit around a planet, "beaming down", force field prisons, and an alien who is psychologically different from humans yet still a sympathetic character. (At this stage, Spock would only admit "one of my ancestors was human.")

spoiler warning

I have been assuming up to now that everyone knows the story of how the Enterprise encountered the force barrier at the edge of the galaxy. How flying into the barrier enhanced the ESP abilities of two members of the crew. And how Captian Kirk found it necessary to kill his friend Gary Mitchell when those powers grew too great to control.

Star Trek: The Next Generation did a show in which Lt. Barclay gained powers similar to those of Gary Mitchell. In this kinder, gentler, universe, Picard allowed Lt. Barclay to live. I'm not at all sure that the Next Generation answer is right and the old Star Trek answer is wrong. Would you like to live in a universe where Reg Barclay was God?

Copyright © 1999 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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