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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.

What is it with these actors that makes them think they can write?

I love acting. I've even done a bit myself, in local theater. For example, I played Jaques in As You Like It (****). Not only did I get to deliver the famous speech, "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players..." but I also got to shout, at a character I hate, "You talk in blank verse!" Now that's writing.

Acting is much easier than writing. As evidence, witness the number of sons and daughters of movie stars who go on to become stars. That foot in the door is all they need. This almost never happens with writers. Sometimes a writer will have enough clout to get a first novel by an offspring published, but rarely a second.

So what makes actors think they can write? It seems to me that it is because everyone kowtows to actors, and many people attribute to actors the virtues of the characters they play, so some actors come to think that they are omni-talented, that they can do anything. Also, it seems to me that sometimes actors come to believe that they are the actual source of the words they speak. In any case, it is considered a Good Thing when an actor writes a script for the series in which he or she stars. It is not a Good Thing.

Case in point: The X-Files.

The X-Files, "all things" (**) written by Gillian Anderson and Vince Gilligan

X-Files Not as bad a writer as David Duchovny, not as good (even with the help of top scripter Vince Gilligan) as William B. Davis, the biggest problem with Gillian Anderson's script is that it is not a story.

You are familiar with the commercial where a couple are driving through the French Quarter in New Orleans, and everything outside the car starts to happen to the same rhythm as the music on their car radio? The idea here is to expand that to forty five minutes. What is wonderful at 45 seconds does not expand well, though it is at least an interesting idea. The plot on which this device is hung, however, is that one of Scully's old lovers (and the operative word here is "old") has a heart attack. Then he gets better, because his time has not yet come. That's it. That's the whole story.

Sorry, but that is not a story. That isn't even the outline of a story. Really, that is all that happens in this X-File. There is a lot of portentous blather about "Everything in life has a reason." and "Sometimes dying people recover because they have unfinished business." Time for Gillian Anderson to go back to her day job, which is acting.

Here is a riddle for you.
"How dumb was the Hollywood blonde?"
"I give up, how dumb was she?"
"She slept with the writer."

The X-Files, "Chimera" (**) written by David Amann

X-Files David Amann is a good writer, and he makes as much as he can out of an old idea. But the idea is stale, and this suggests that seven seasons of X-Files are enough. How stale is the idea? Well, I remember watching this episode and mildly enjoying it, but I can't remember a thing about it. You wait here while I go pop the tape in and refresh my memory.

Ok. I'm back. It only took two seconds to remind me what this episode is about. It's the suburban werewolf story. It's a very well written suburban werewolf story. But there are only so many ways you can go with that plot. By tomorrow, I'll have forgotten it again.

Copyright © 2000 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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