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Masters Of Science Fiction

01/02/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Masters Of Science Fiction in the USA - or Buy Masters Of Science Fiction in the UK

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region 2 DVD. pub: Anchor Bay Entertainment ABD4651. 2DVDs 255 minutes 6 * 43 minute stories. Price: these days I pulled it for about £ 3.00 (UK)) cast across the six stories: Judy Davis, John Hurt, Terry O'Quinn, Sam Waterston, Elisabeth Röhm, James Denton, Brian Dennehy, Ann Heche, James Cronwell, Malcolm McDowell, Clifton Collins Jr and Sean Aston.

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I knew of the 'Masters Of Science Fiction' TV series a couple years ago although it never got an airing on British terrestrial TV at the time. Spotting it on the Net at a really low price was too much of a temptation to see what they did in its six stories.

'A Clean Escape', from a story by John Kessel, is basically discussions between a psychiatrist (actress Judy Davis) and her patient (actor Sam Waterston). His memory is in a time warp for what appears to be about a decade as the story unfolds and we learn about the armageddon and the nuclear devastation that has his the world. Through flashbacks, we learn how it has affected them, although he doesn't remember anything other than he has to visit the school to pick his kids up. Anything beyond this point would be a spoiler and I don't want to do that to you on this intense drama. If you have any friends who are not SF fans, get them to watch and see what they make of it. Probably will still say it's not SF but remind them drama comes in many forms. It should certainly be required viewing for any state leader.

'Jerry Was A Man' is actually a humorous variant of the old 'Outer Limits' story, 'I, Robot', story. The world's richest woman wanting something special from the bio-synthetic factory takes an interest in a Joe - commonname for all such male species - called Jerry who used to be part of a team who walked mine-fields. Retired, he and others are going to become dogfood. Although she isn't allowed to buy him outright, she negotiates a year's rental and has to go to court to prove that Jerry is human, despite his limitations. I should point out that this is a happier tale compared to the 'Outer Limits' story and should give you something to think about as to what makes humans human.

'The Awakening' is what could be called real Science Fiction. UFO sightings, bodies dropped around the world and messages to disarm nuclear weapons or they'll do it for you. God meets current reality and America is caught gloriously wrong-footed for going against the rest of the world. If you remember the film 'Fail Safe' then you have a similar intensity here and it even comes out with a nifty ending. Amen.

'Little Brother' is set in a future where most inhabitants are kept underground and allowed to the surface for a quarter of an hour every six months providing they've been behaving themselves. One of the number, helped because he is thought to be smart, escapes into the outer derelict city where he meets his contact. Immediately, they are in middle of a chase by two police officers after a girl, whom they kill. In the conflict, his contact is killed and he's captured. In a trail with an artificial intelligence, he sets up conflicts to prove the evidence against him isn't entirely true. If anything, this story is about the conflict than what the reality is about. Although the ending wasn't entirely unsuspected it is solid drama.

'Watchbird' is based on a story by Robert Sheckley. An armed flying war surveillance device that takes out the opposition, friendly forces recognised by them carrying a recognition chip proves effective in stopping two wars. The deputy chief on American Homeland Security wants the watchbirds used to stop crime in the homeland in a pilot scheme over twelve cities. The reluctant inventor who primed the watchbirds artificial intelligence with his own mind eprom adjusts the perimeters but doesn't go as far as the deputy chief would like. Learning from the inventor's boss that he was traumatised by his mother's murder, the deputy chief has the inventor's fiancé killed in front of him and who adjusts the perimeter to attack anyone likely to kill, which includes police snipers. Like Pandora's box, the door can't be shut. Although an old plot idea, it's a sharp reminder not to leave such power in the hands of too few a number of people, including said deputy chief.

'The Discarded' is based on and co-script-written of a story by Harlen Ellison. Physical mutates from Earth are left in space is scows to travel the solar system finding nowhere to land at the various colonies. As they get back to Earth, a spaceship arrives offering them a deal to allow them to land providing they share some of their blood. It seems that in the nearly forty years since they've been away, the entire population has been infected with the infection. They had a solution but it made it worse. The mutates in space have the right enzymes for a cure. Of course, there is a twist ending but if I say anything else here, it'll reek of spoiler. You can see the budget that is spent with this episode with excellent performances from all the cast.

'Masters Of Science Fiction' came out in 2006 and now at such a cheap price you can't afford to miss this DVD. Each story as you can spot from the précises is different. I should point out that it being 'Series 1' and 'The Complete Series' is the same thing. They'll make you think and at the same time not forgotten they are drama as opposed to adventure. These are worth a look.

GF Willmetts

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