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Week of January 15, 2001

Voyager to bow out in style. UPN is gearing up for the May 23rd series finale of Star Trek: Voyager. UPN has confirmed that the series closer will be a two hour movie, similar to the Deep Space Nine finale, and there have been some rumblings from within the writing staff of a smaller version of DS9's multi-episode arc leading up to that finale in an effort to tie up all the loose ends. On May 22nd, UPN will air an hour-long special looking back on the show's origins, featuring interviews, clips and behind-the-scenes video, followed by the episode which viewers select as their favorite (details of how this will be determined are not yet known, but it's a surefire bet that the official Star Trek web site will be involved). Voyager is the only series to have survived UPN's lineup from the network's first year on the air in 1995; by comparison, WWF Smackdown was only introduced in 1998, and Moesha in late 1996. There's still no word on whether the next Trek spinoff - still in the planning stages - will air on UPN, though network executives have expressed a keen interest. (An editorial observation - with an hour opening up in the fall 2001 schedule which is likely to be filled with more of the testosterone driven programming that fills the rest of UPN's schedule, it remains to be seen whether or not UPN execs will remain interested when there's actually a show waiting to be scheduled.) Source: Sci-Fi Wire

High definition, low weight, stratospheric price tag. RCA surprised the TV industry - and officially jumped into the boxing ring with Phillips, which also manufactures small-profile LCD widescreen TVs - by introducing a new display system called "Liquid Crystal on Silicon." The LCD-based display is capable of anything up to a 50-inch diagonal display (in true HDTV aspect ratio), only 18 inches deep, which doesn't even weigh 100 pounds. The only problem with the RCA L50000? The price tag takes after the model number with all those zeroes: expect to shell out anywhere from $6,000 to $8,000 when the latest HDTV model is introduced late this year. Source: Electronic Media

Aside from sporting some of the most jammin' theme music of the 1970s, I'm not sure if this week's pair of Killer DVD recommendations have much going for them - but I'm sure the fans will disagree, and this one's for the fans. A&E Home Video, the fine folks who brought us The Prisoner on DVD, are now issuing - of all things - Space: 1999 on DVD! Starring then-married couple Martin Landau and Barbara Bain - late of Mission: Impossible - and produced by Supermarionation string-puller Gerry Anderson, Space: 1999's first season was actually good SF in places, while its second was very silly in places (almost Buck Rogers silly). Two volumes are opening the series, and each two-disc volume contains three 48-or-so-minute episodes per disc. Volume one launches the series with Breakaway, Matter of Life and Death, Black Sun, Ring Around The Moon, Earthbound and Another Time, Another Place, while volume two continues with the episodes Missing Link, Guardian of Piri, Force of Life, Alpha Child, The Last Sunset and Voyager's Return. Unfortunately - and somewhat surprisingly since Space: 1999 was a U.S./British co-production - there isn't any information on a U.K. DVD release at the moment, and all VHS versions of the series are presently out of print on that side of the Atlantic.

Space: 1999 - Volume One

Space: 1999 - Volume Two

Games In Print! Click here to visit the web site of Classic Gamer Magazine, whose fifth issue is now available to subscribers (and available soon at a Tower Records near you). Yours truly once again has several articles in this issue, including part one of an extensive interview with former Odyssey 2 game designer Bob Harris, creator of Killer Bees!.

Is the real SF in the comics? Tonight I watched about five minutes of Roger Corman's latest atrocity, Black Scorpion. The initials of this show are no coincidence, let me tell you. Bad acting, bad lighting, bad costuming, bad action name it, it was bad. Once, it might have bothered me a great deal that sci fi was giving its 8 PM slot to such a piece of garbage, but then I realized that the state of speculative fiction on television doesn't really concern me that much anymore. Lately, I've been getting my serial storytelling fix from the comics market, and I couldn't be happier. 2000 was a great year for comics, and 2001 looks like it should be equally strong.

Do you miss Babylon 5's epic storytelling and nifty three-dimensional graphics? Take a look at Image Comics' The Red Star, an SF/sorcery epic that's also a historical allegory to the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. It blends computer coloring, CG models, and conventional pencil art damn near seamlessly into a breathtaking visual package. There are action sequences in this book that are simply stunning - it's like reading a movie. Red Star creator Christian Gossett spend six years researching Soviet history to be prepared to tell this story, yet this isn't a history lesson. The characterization and storytelling are very powerful here, with subtle touches mixing with the cataclysmic battles.

Heck, if you just miss J. Michael Straczynski's writing, there's Image/Top Cow's Midnight Nation, a 12 issue miniseries about a police officer literally trying to save his soul. There are plenty of supernatural forces and larger conspiracies at work here, with a touch of mystery thrown in. Four issues are out so far, and this comic is sure to be collected down the road.

Disappointed in Phantom Menace but craving SF action? The recently completed Shockrockets miniseries by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen tells the story of a young man who finds himself forced into duty as one of Earth's elite fighter pilots, defending a fragile society from treason within. I know I made the Star Wars reference, but this is an original look at the hero's journey, with great pacing, dialogue and characterization by Busiek, and terrific design and action sequences by Immonen. Check it out from Image Comics' Gorilla imprint.

Also from Gorilla: Mark Waid and Barry Kitson's Empire. Imagine a world where the bad guy does take over the world. What happens next? That's the focus of this book, which is having its problems meeting its production schedule but is well worth the wait. There is superb suspense and intrigue here, and a compelling look into the dark side of humanity along with beautiful art by Kitson.

If you're mad as hell and don't want to take it anymore, there's Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson's Transmetropolitan, from DC Comics/Vertigo. Imagine a ticked-off gonzo journalist in a City that makes Blade Runner's megalopolis look like a hick town - that's Transmet. Ellis has a brilliantly inventive mind, and he goes all out with this book. The creatures and situations explored in this book will have you thinking for days afterward, at the very least, and you may find Ellis' venom towards the world cathartic.

There's plenty more out there; like I said, there's an embarrassment of riches at this point. If you can't find a comics store, go to your local bookstore - many, but not all, of these titles get collected into trade paperbacks you can get from Barnes and Noble, Borders or Amazon. I'll keep trying to call attention to the good ones, here and at This Is Not News, because this is an art form that has so much to offer, and you owe it to yourself to check it out. Happy reading.

Dave Thomer correspondent

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