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NEW GENRE DISCUSSION

From: sara adler [mailto:delenn@ync.net]
Sent: Thursday, November 30, 2000 9:59 PM

Want to read a good piece about how Andromeda came together? Frank Garcia has the very thing over at fandom.com. Now that the show has been on for 6 weeks or so, the feeling is that it's getting better and the cast are feeling more natural in their roles. Having started watching the show from the beginning, I must agree.

****I must say that I agree. I have been watching since the beginning and was extremely wary of how the show would progress. I originally felt that it was an attempt at a cross between Star Trek, Star Wars, and B5. It is slowly growing on me. I can't remember this particular character's name, but the purple lady with the tail. It's funny, I like her because she is innocent and naive, but at the same time I find her rather annoying at times for that exact quality. Go figure.

In a number of the reviews I've read, fans have pointed to several critical elements of the series one being Kevin Sorbo's inability to "move" them. If memory serves me, there were intially two series proposed -- one with Sorbo; the other with Bruce Boxleitner. Unfortunately, the second series never made it through the final stage. I can't help but think that perhaps, Bruce might have made a more convincing Dylan Hunt. Time will tell.

***Here again, I agree. I feel that Kevin Sorbo is going at this character as if Hunt is another Hercules, and I'm not sure that is a good thing. It keeps him from coming across as an effective leader. I would have liked to have seen Bruce Boxleitner in this role instead. I too think he would have been more convincing. He would have given the character a slightly rougher edge which would have made the character a little more interesting and believable to watch. Perhaps then the show would flow more slowly.

Oh well, what's done is done and cannot be changed. Looks like we'll just have to live with what we have.


Subj: Discussion Topic: SF TV season so far
Date: 11/19/2000 10:17:13 PM EST
From: falco@eskimo.com (Rick Riebs)

Heya Sandy,

So far, so good. Nothing stunning me senseless, but those things that are good are as good as ever. Buffy and Angel continue to surprise and delight. A little too early to call X-Files, but I tend to be very charitable towards things that I love or have once loved, i.e., it takes me a long time to let go even when things go downhill. Not that X-Files has become all that bad, but the concentration on the mythology brought the last season down a bit, even with experimental delights like "X-COPS." I've been a fan of Robert Patrick since his wiggins-inducing T-1000 portrayal in "Terminator 2," and thus far he's doing a great job as the new non-believer. It'll be interesting to see how the new Scully-Doggett dynamic works out.

As far as the new stuff, I gave Dark Angel a pass after the *desperately* lackluster pilot. Coming from James Cameron and Charles Eglee (who was a major part of the late, lamented "Murder One"), I expected SO much more. I don't get the whole Jessica Alba thing at all. Sure she's cute, but I've seen shots from her prior feature film "Idle Hands," and she didn't look as hot there, so I think it's more Max Factor talking in the series than her actual looks. That and she can't act. I'll admit, I'm making the potentially fatal error of directly comparing her to Sarah Michelle Gellar, an Emmy winning actress, but the similarities between the Max and Buffy characters are too clear to avoid. All said and done, I don't think I'm missing much.

I'm surprised to hear you're warming to Andromeda, 'cause my interest has cooled to nil since the premiere. I was kind of surprised by all the inital negativity I saw in many reviews around the web, but I now pretty much agree with them. There are just a whole bunch of little things wrong with it, and they effectively sabotage a really interesting and potential-filled concept. First off, the role of Dylan Hunt *really* needs a better actor. I wrote off Kevin Sorbo after barely one episode of Hercules, but was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in this new effort. There are some signs of life, but for this role Sorbo's ill-suited. Hunt needs to exude passion and determination to be an effective leader period, let alone to lead the rag-tag crew he's assembled. I can see Sorbo trying hard, but he misses the mark. Ironically, this is a role for which William Shatner would have been perfect had he been born thirty years later. Captain Hunt is very much in the mold of Captain Kirk, so there should be at minimum a Shatner-calibur actor portraying the role. [This isn't the slight that some may see it to be. You have to understand that, contrary to popular opinion even amoung Trekkies, I think Shatner's an *excellent* actor and no one else could have done Kirk as well has he has.]

I kinda like Rev Bem as well, but he seems like the G'Kar at the end of B5, depriving us of the wondrous transformation that G'Kar underwent throughout the run of that series. And the girls are very cute, especially the lady playing Trance Gemini, despite the odd purple makeup and tail. This Tyr guy has exactly one-note. He's not nearly as interesting as Hunt's former XO was and that character had a hell of a lot less screen time. The makeup is sub-par and oddly grubby-looking. Maybe that's what they were going for with the alien races, but it doesn't come close to the B5 or Farscape stuff. The special effects as well are adequate, but below the state of the art. The ships have a very plastic feel to them, looking as computer generated as they are instead of more closely mimicing reality (or at least as they MIGHT really look!).

But above and beyond all this, the writing is where it all falls down. It's most glaring in the dialogue, but the plots are awfully thin. The "Miri" knock-off. The "Space Seed" knock-off. I'm sure there've been a few other Original Star Trek episode re-treads since I stopped watching. But the true flaw isn't in doing stories that are similar to other shows, it's not doing them *well*. Farscape is a great example, where they've started episodes with hoary sci-fi plots and concepts, but then spin it around well enough that you don't know how the show's gonna end. Now THERE'S some writing, in some cases by former Next Gen/DS9 writers (Naren Shankar wrote the gripping ep shown last Thursday, detailing how the current Pilot arrived on Moya), which just shows to go ya how well shackled the modern Trek writers are.

A big "for instance" against Andromeda's writing is the sudden incarnation of the ship's AI. Okay, Lexa Doig is MIGHTY hot (she'd have to be, since I remembered her name!) and I'm sure she's glad to not be relegated to performing her part by herself on a green soundstage. But where's the in-show rationale for it? Just because the crazy, kookie techno-genius guy could do it? And how the hell DID he do it? Is Andromeda an android? Is she an engineered human? And where are the facilities on either Andromeda Ascendant (wow, what a ship name!) or the Whatsitsname Maru to knock out a replicant? Even then, how is the incarnate Andromeda controlling the ship? A mental implant? Does the AI still exist in the ship and just controls the body as yet another ship system? A most frustrating enigma. And just as a basic plot point, wouldn't it be *entirely* more interesting for Andromeda and Hunt to become romantically linked if she DIDN'T have a humaniform body? Talk about the apotheosis of the Kirk-Enterprise obsession!

Less vexing and almost as glaring is the miraculous revivification of Trance in the pilot. Have they yet explained how she came back from apparent death? And for all the tea in China, will they PLEASE write these characters as if they really exist in the *future*, not as if they were suddenly and violently extracted from late 20th century America? Basketball? And the worst of it is, this is an EXCELLENT concept for a science fiction show!!! THIS is what the next Trek show should be! *Properly executed*, this show has the potential to be the next B5, but they're (excuse my French) pissing it away with sloppy storylines, poor characterization, dubious acting and absolutely APPALING dialogue! Hmm, passionate much? >B-) Anyhow, that's why I no longer bother with Andromeda. I've been down this road before, after seven frightfully long years with Next Gen. Like the man said, fool me twice, shame on me.

Actually, the two brightest points in the SF TV firmament so far are re-runs. Without the delays inherent in the regular production cycle of a first-run program, B5 is truly displaying its richness. When I was watching the shows the first time through, I saw characters and wondered, "Who is that?" only to later find out that they were already either mentioned or showed up briefly the season before. Now I see them (like the guy Ironheart escaped with, who we saw briefly talking to Garibaldi in "Chrysalis") or hear references to past events (Londo mentioning a situation involving Minbari honor obliquely to Sheridan in "Where All The Honor Lies"), and I instantly pick up on it. It's the difference between reading a serialized novel week to week or month to month, and then finally sitting down to read it straight through after its completion, and it's *wonderful*!

And as I realized this last week, I've REALLY missed Farscape! An episode a day for five days was just fantastic. Not that I took it for granted before, but after being deprived for about a month and a half, I found it an enourmous relief to see the familar title sequence rolling before my eyes once more. This is just the best that's out there now in first-run and I'm pretty hacked that SCI FI still runs that lame-o Invisible Man show and even gives Lexx fans a weekly fix, but this is the first Farscape since September!!! [I think. It's been so long, I've lost track!] C'mon folks! Stuff this good only gets BETTER with repeat viewings, especially the socko three-parter with Crichton's forced marriage and the Naren Shankar episode I mentioned before. And now another frelling month and a half till we get new eps?! Them drenn-heads down there at SCI FI need to get with the program (Farscape, natch)!

Okay, bored yet? Oh well, doesn't matter if you never got through the above or didn't bother to read it at all. Sometimes you write just to get stuff off your chest, regardless of who sees it. But hey, if you did get all the way down here, first off, congrats! Second, thanks for all you do with the Zocalo Today and the weekly newsletter. The "Where To See B5/Crusade Cast Members" section gets a little long and repetitive (and some of those stations just don't exist in my neck o' the woods), but now that the Official B5 Fan Club lays in the ruins of Netter Digital's bankruptcy, what y'all are doing is even more vital than before. Thanks EVER so much and keep up the high quality work! Take care!


Andromeda

Date: Fri, 17 Nov 2000 2:07:01 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: CCB5Flamekeeper

Sandy,
Just want to add these comments to the genre discussion page:
I had been looking forward to Andromeda and although I had a few problems with the 2 part pilot, I like Kevin Sorbo's character Dylan Hunt, and most of the rest of them. I liked Lisa Ryder from her time on "Forever Knight", and her character is a good strong woman character. Rev Bems looks take a bit of adjusting to ( he is no G'Kar, and even a Pak Ma Ra is good looking next to him) but, in the last episode even he proved to be thoughtful, bringing some interesting thoughts into the show. I'd rather watch this than TNG or DS9 or Voyager. Tyr is a treat for the eyes, as well. But strong. It is no B5, but then what will ever be. But it is a servicable Sci-fi show, and has some possibilities.

That is just a few comments I wanted to add.
Thank you,
In Valen's name,
Connie


The New TV Season

Date: 10/26/2000 7:36:29 PM EDT
From: tuckbros@crunet.com (Gary L. Tuck and Mike Tuck)

I hate to say it, but most of the new shows are disappointing to me. Andromeda is okay, but it is annoyingly preachy. Every week, Sorbo's character is preaching against the action/violence on the show that is what makes it fun in the first place. The Immortal is a bad rip-off of Highlander. Queen of Swords (while not sci-fi, I'll mention it anyway) is a rip-off of Zorro. Dark Angel is okay, but at times boring and brooding in it's atmosphere. Cute girl, though! I'm not sure if I like the changes in Roswell. On one hand, I like the more upfront sci fi storyline, but on the other hand, they are breaking up the couples on the show, which is NOT appreciated! It seemed to have more "magic" last season. We'll see how it goes. The changes in "The Lost World" (not really sci fi, but it is fantasy) are not appreciated by me either. The relationships/couples on the show are non-existent so far this season and they keep trying to put the characters together sexually/romantically with each week's guest stars. Much of last season's character development has been ignored, too. Buffy seems about the same to me. I really think it's best seasons were the first two. Freakylinks is the only one so far that I can say I like. Sometimes the shaky camera can get irritating, but, so far, it has some of the best spooky stories since The X-Files heyday. I don't watch Voyager or any of the Star Trek shows, so I can't comment on that. All I can say is: "I miss Babylon 5!!"

-Mike Tuck


Date: 10/25/2000 9:55:12 PM EDT
From: blgorsic@yahoo.com (Bonnie Gorsic)

I think Voyager has gotten better as it heads into the last season. THe same thing happened to The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. It seems they want to make the exit memorable!


Date: 10/23/2000 4:05:27 PM EDT
From: LTutihasi

I like "Roswell" better this season than last. However, I've heard it is not doing well in the ratings.


Date: Sat, 21 Oct 2000 5:44:28 PM EDT
From: "Captain Average"

This season's new genre series are wildly divergent in quality.

Andromeda is everything Annoyager *should* have been: an unashamed space opera with fresh characters, knowing writing, excellent performances, interesting direction and spectacular F/X. The show's characters intrigue me - especially Trance, for whom resurrection is a new thing, but is entirely "in character for her". I also like the smart-ass engineer, Harper, and the redemption-seeking, venom-spitting and philosophy-spouting Rev Bem. Not that I don't like Beka, Tyr or Andromeda herself (both the vessel and it's hologrammatic representation) - Beka seems a very competent captain in her own right, Tyr strikes me as a more sensible take on Trek's Khan and his ilk, and Andromeda is a terrific personality for a starship. As for Dylan Hunt, he seems like the kind of captain that would be at the pinnacle of Starfleet success, but without the pretension. If succeeding eps are even 75% as effective as the two-part pilot, Andromeda will be the best new genre shop this season.

FreakyLinks - still cliched as all heck. The second ep (the Exorcist riff) was mildly amusing but not very scary. Last night's subterranean race was hardly better. Still, it manages one or two genuine goosebump moments each week, so it might have potential - I just won't be there to see it realized.

Dark Angel is slowly improving, but also remains something of a cliche-fest. The difference her, is that the characters are actually showing signs of growth. A plus is that Max is still working from a base of enlightened self-interest - she's still fairly mercenary without becoming either a bitch or a "thief with a heart of gold". When something has touched her, it has been because of events in her life that she can relate to. As a result, even when she's emotional involved, there is an undercurrent of vengeance to give her an extra edge. Still, I can't see the show making it to a second season without much better writing.

I enjoying The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne as much as Andromeda. It works from the premise that Verne's writing came from his being able to see the future and his books and drawings simply translate what he saw into a Victorian sensibility. The show doesn't just stay with SF, though, it also plays with (like a cat plays with) horror and fantasy. And Michel courtemanche, a noted Quebecois silent comic (NOT a mime - trust me), is a revelation as Passpartoute.

Queen of Swords - after two eps, this Lady Zorro riff is likable but not terribly original. Outside of Andromeda and Jack of All Trades, though, it's the only real swashbuckling on the tube today.

As for the returning shows:

Buffy/Angel: Whedon weirdness continues apace. Still among the smartest and most entertaining shows on TV. The Dawn (Buffy) and Darla (Angel) arcs are very interesting.

Voyager - haven't watched it since the middle of last season. It just isn't very good on a consistent basis.

Jack of All Trades - it's a shame that this Zorro/Wild, Wild West hybrid got cancelled eight eps into its second season - it's a lovely home for Bruce Campbell's warped style.

Cleopatra 2525 - still a guilty pleasure that I watch solely for Gina Torres and Victoria Pratt (who was wonderful in John Woo's It Takes A Thief). At least Jennifer Sky hasn't been screaming as much this season. On the whole, though, C2525 seems like an attempt at a live-action Tex Avery cartoon by someone who's never seen one but rather, only had them described to him.

Roswell - the second-season focus on the show's SF aspects have been undermined by poor research (carbon-dating being accurate under 300 years? Just not so...) and less human-alien interaction. Though the show is still plot-smart, it is in danger of losing most of its first season fans because of the lack of screentime for the favoured relationships. It's not better than its critically-acclaimed first season, it's just different.

I Was A 6th Grade Alien - One of the rare kids' shows that combines slapstick with sophistication. The balance is leaning more to slapstick this season, but there is still a *very* smart undercurrent that keeps it worth viewing by adults.

So Weird - This "X-Files for kids" outspooked Chris Carter's show several times last season (on probably a tenth of the budget), but has replaced the main character, Fiona, for someone named Annie. The show is till weird, but the actor who plays Annie isn't nearly as charismatic as the lass who portrayed Fi. Still, it continues to be smart and strange.

I should include the return of the genre's most exasperating show, Earth Final Conflict - which runs two or three great eps and follows them with two or three awful ones. The first couple, this season, have been very good - even if they've taken Augur out of the mix (I expect that this will hurt in the long run because his replacement, although a lovely and capable lass, just doesn't have Augur's charisma and attitude). Plus, they now have *THREE* script editors, which suggests a case of "two many chefs soiling the broth". We can but wait and see.

Captain Average
The Superhero Who Gets Carried Away (So He'll Stop Now...)


Topic:
So what do you think of the new shows so far? Did Andromeda do anything for you? Did you enjoy the pilot movie for Dark Angel? What about Freaky Links or any of the other new series on TV?

Date: 10/11/2000 1:45:39 AM EDT
From: RobWired@aol.com

Watched ''Gene Rodenberry's Adromeda.'' First, the name tells me that someone dug up an idea Rodenberry had and made a TV show out of it. Like what has been done with Jack Kirby ideas. This doesn't always bode well for series development.

The beginning of ''Andromeda'' was dramatic enough, although the time-dilation scenes could be mistaken for slo-mo effects done for dramatic flair, not just black-hole phenomenon.

The in-joke of a salvager running into the Kevin Sorbo's character brought a grin: ''He's like a Greek god or something!''

Otherwise, the thought crossed my mind that it must be hard to come up with new and original costumes and looks for aliens. There's a dog-man on the show, complete with wet nose. And another alien on the salvage ship, too. These two aliens could be Zathras from ''B5'' and D'Argo from ''Farscape,'' shows that do better what ''Andromeda'' comes in third place for trying. And just how many shows can be done like ''Voyager''? How come everybody always has to get lost with no hope of coming home? At least ''Farscape'' pulls that off with a crew resigned to where they are and good character and story development.

I didn't really expect a lot from ''Andromeda'' to begin with. It's entertaining, but the producers have got to see that the aliens get better makeup jobs.

Ranger Robert


Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2000 12:50:49 PM EDT
From: "Captain Average"

Captain Average dutifully responds:
I'm reacting ambiguously to Dark Angel and FreakyLinks, but am enthused by Andromeda:

Dark Angel: The gengineered human is rapidly becoming a cliche. In the case of Dark Angel, much of Max's character is lifted from the Kurt Russell movie, Soldier (right down to the barcode!). The pirate cyber-caster is also becoming overused, although more in novels and short stories than on TV.

OTOH, the Dark Angel pilot was slickly done, with terrific production values. Plus, at the end, Max hasn't miraculously turned into the standard, ho-hum thief with a heart of gold. She has done Good Things because Bad Things have happened to someone she considered a friend. Revenge, not good-heartedness, has been her primary motivation (although the plight of the would-be witness and her daughter may have added to Max's motivation, it was *not* her primary focus).

If the show's creative team can refrain from the temptation to turn Max into the thief-with-a-heart-of-gold, this show might work. If not, it will simply becoming too boring to live.

FreakyLinks: The pilot had lots of cliches (or at least stuff I've seen elsewhere):

an occult/supernatural website (So Weird); a weird little girl (Don't Look Now); a shapeshifter (most recently, Roswell - also DS9); the entire Roanoke sequence (very Blair Witch retread); the strange writing on the walls, floors and ceilings (most recently, last season on Earth Final Conflict); the twin connection, and the dead twin (The Pretender); he search for truth about a lost loved one (So Weird); the spooky Rescue Guy (1st season Buffy) - and so forth...

Again, the pilot was slickly done and did generate a couple of goosebumps moments - but with the show's creators gone (axed or left because FOX got the show they asked for, but now want to make it lighter, fluffier, funnier) I can't see any potential it might have had being fulfilled any time soon.

Andromeda: a pure space opera with no delusions. Gene Roddenberry's beliefs (as expounded in the original Trek) may be the underlying heart of the show, but this is *not* Star Trek. It *is* a well-paced, fun ride. There is a noble, yet very human hero; treachery & sabotage; a galaxy completely undone & waiting to be re-built; and the ever-popular much, much more.

The writing in Under The Night is knowing and sly, as well as melodramatic (in the best space operatic sense). The wink at Kevin Sorbo's previous series is a moment of pure joy, and the rest of the ep maintains the same level of wit and intelligence. And the F/X? Beautiful and creative- the ship looks great, and the combination laser/staff/lightsaber thingy looks like fun. If the creative team can maintain (or improve upon) this high level of excellence, Andromeda should be one of the two best new genre shows of the season.

I might also (highly) recommend a darkly whimsical little series called The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne. It's the other new genre show I like the best.

Captain Average
The Critical Superhero



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