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Week of January 1, 2001

Billy Barty, 1924-2000. Famous little actor Billy Barty, famous for his roles in such films as Willow, UHF, Under The Rainbow, Legend, Masters Of The Universe and many others, has died. Barty got his start as a child actor, and went on to a wildly diverse career, ranging from roles in classic Sid & Marty Krofft fare as H.R. Pufnstuf to being a staple of Spike Jones' troupe (this being irreplaceable musical parodist Spike Jones, not the modern-day film director Spike Jones). Barty's considerable comic gifts, in addition to his diminutive stature, earned him a rare career as one of Hollywood's hardest-working little people. He also founded at least one organization devoted to educating the public about the challenges and needs of midgets and dwarves. Source: Daily Variety and Satellite News

Jason Robards, 1922-2000. One might not think of great American actor Jason Robards as someone with a lot of genre ties, but he had them in spades: from the seminal 1983 Cold War scare movie The Day After, to Disney's surprisingly dark horror film Something Wicked This Way Comes (based on Ray Bradbury's story of the same name), to more recent fare as Crimson Tide and Enemy Of The State. Robards' credits were enormous and varied, ranging from such golden-age TV productions as Playhouse 90 to historical roles such as Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain and Andrei Sakharov. (He also starred in a 1988 TV remake of Inherit The Wind, one of the webmaster's favorite plays.) His mastery of his craft and his ability to make any role his own - while also appearing to be chameleonic himself - will be sorely missed. Source: Daily Variety and Internet Movie Database

Frank Herbert's Dune fast-tracked to home video. Having only premiered early last month, Frank Herbert's Dune - the Sci-Fi Channel miniseries, that is, not the 1984 film - is already due out on video later this month. A DVD release is being prepped for March. Also, the Sci-Fi Channel has already begun preproduction work on a second miniseries which will cover the events of the second and third Dune novels, Dune Messiah and Children Of Dune, to air late this year. Thus far, we only have video release information for Frank Herbert's Dune for the U.S., but we will let you know if and when it becomes available overseas.

Who's that in your ear? Precisely! The BBC Radio Collection is issuing two classic Doctor Who adventures in a week. The Myth Makers double CD is the complete audio soundtrack to a 1965 four-part TV adventure starring William Hartnell as the Doctor, Peter Purves as Steven, and introducing Adrienne Hill as short-lived companion Katarina (who only survived into the next adventure, the legendary Daleks' Masterplan). Purves provides narration for this set, which has been lost on video or film since its first broadcast. Colin Baker stars in the single-CD reissue of the 1985 BBC Radio adventure Slipback, also starring Nicola Bryant as Peri and the late, great, thunder-voiced Valentine Dyall (also known to Who fans as the Black Guardian). Both are only available from, but these titles can be shipped to the States.

Doctor Who: The Myth Makers

Doctor Who: Slipback

Star Trek high school girls in trouble. Was someone reading the minds of Star Trek fanboys here or what? This month, Pocket Books is unleashing the two-part novel Star Trek: Dark Passions by Susan Wright. The books take place in the spinoff-era Mirror Universe - y'know, the one inhabited by Intendant Kira in her skin-tight leather bodysuit? - and focuses on the devious exploits of the femme fatale alter egos of such characters as Troi, Beverly Crusher, Seven of Nine, Janeway, B'Elanna Torres, and many others. Jeri Ryan fans will no doubt want to collect these two books for the cover artwork alone, where torn and/or skin-tight costumes abound. Y'know, once upon a time, there were seedy newsgroups for this kind of stuff...

Star Trek: Dark Passions - Book One

Star Trek: Dark Passions - Book Two

A vicious Mauling. Remember how omnipresent Darth Maul was in the marketing blitz for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace? He was the badass villain to beat in 1999. Kids cried for Darth Maul makeup kits. Darth Maul action figures flew off the shelves, leaving entire herds of Jar Jar behind in the stores. And then...he was in the movie for maybe a grand total of fifteen minutes, said about as many words, and got sliced neatly in two. Well, for those who want a story that's all about the Mauler, Michael Reaves' new Star Wars novel delivers, with a plotline set immediately prior to The Phantom Menace.

Star Wars: Darth Maul, Shadow Hunter hardcover

Star Wars: Darth Maul, Shadow Hunter audiobook

Easily my favorite Disney movie from my own childhood, this week's Killer DVD is the new restored edition of Pete's Dragon, starring Helen Reddy, Sean Marshall and Mickey Rooney (among others). Along with the newly restored movie itself, the DVD has such extras as a short (The Reluctant Dragon), art and storyboard archives, and more. Why this movie, when there are probably dozens of more eligible titles out there that would appeal to this site's audience? Perhaps the reason I recall Pete's Dragon so fondly is that it really summed up my childhood - a bit isolated, made fun of, and just all-around different. (The only difference is that I never had a dragon - which suits me fine, actually, since he probably would've stepped on my cat.) If these aren't things that the average science fiction fan can't relate to, I don't know what is. Plus you get to hear Helen Reddy singing Candle On The Water - what more could you ask for?

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