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A series adapting science-fiction stories by well-known authors into 60 minute episodes, introduced by renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. Stories filmed included those of science fiction authors Robert Heinlein & Robert Sheckley, historical novelist Howard Fast and mystery novelist Walter Mosley. Written by
How is this different from the recent Outer Limits? (episodes 1, 2, 3 & 4)
It's not different by much, except it's not nearly as good. The pre-show hype from ABC was that it was the best series since the TWILIGHT ZONE. They must have been writing that hyperbole with their heads in the Twilight Zone.
The narrator is Stephen Hawking, using his quasi-mechanical voice, but otherwise just like an Outer Limits episode. That isn't terrible in itself, but certainly not original.
The opening and titles sequences are modernized with fancy graphics, etc, otherwise they are similar. Narration ends with a warning or social observation, similar to Outer Limits, yet more heavy-handed.
The first episode shown was obviously the program's producers and writers attempt at topical political statement, and as such it was ham-fisted and preachy, and ludicrous as well, and about as topical as the Berlin wall. The recent Outer Limits series also had a political bent, yet was often more subtle and earnest in presentation.
This initial episode quickly became predictable, and ultimately boring, and showed a surprisingly limited range for actor Sam Waterston, who easily can be much better. Judy Davis was good here yet not nearly as good as she can be.
Don't believe the ABC promo baloney, and remind yourself that this is the same network that trashed Kolchak:The Night Stalker with that loser remake of a fine series.
Episode 2: Viewing of the second episode ultimately left the same impression as the first. While initially promising, and a much better use of actors and a wider, a more involved setting, this episode succumbed to the same preachy, heavy-handed political dogma that marred the first one. In fact, this episode was less subtle, more absurd and more strident in it's denouncement of US policy, as well as naive and unrealistic about other nations' motives. (My more detailed commentary is available under the specific episode title, and those who wish to vote negatively for political reasons should do so there)
Episode 3: A social statement of intrinsic value, yet not truly interesting nor captivating. Did not dislike it, but did not find that it really captured effectively the modern pop-culture mentality it mocked. The same material has been handled better in other series, but of episodes 1, 2 and 3, this one had more worthiness. Unfortunately, a great Twilight Zone was being shown on another channel about a man who is becoming "nobody" to all around him, and that amplified the weaknesses of this series.
Episode 4: The best of the four episodes takes the series to 'where it has not been before', meaning a decent and above average effort. Maintains the emphasis on commentary, this time it is more social than political, and is much less strident and dogmatic, and hence plays well. This rather thoughtful and well-acted episode causes me to raise my overall vote by two points. The only problem is that the ending is rather vague, and could have been more distinct, but it's a satisfactory episode regardless. The best was saved for last.
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