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  • I don't leave comments very often, but felt compelled to do so to give some counterpoint to very negative comments.

    It seems that you will either love or hate the series, and few people are indifferent in the sense that they rate it average.

    Such is the case with my rating: 9 out of 10, mostly because the "Masters" is different and tries to go deeper. The fact that ABC discontinued the show after 4 episodes is either a good or a bad sign, depending on your viewpoint.

    These are not stories that we have become used to where Science-Fiction is concerned. Obviously, for me, that is a good thing. These stories focus more on characters and character development, in the tradition of the great SF-writers of the sixties, and the casting is excellent - on the whole we have good acting from good actors to support the story, an absolute must in stories which rely on it.

    I fear we will see nothing more than the 6 episodes I know at the moment I write this. It's a shame, but I'll content myself with stories published in the great SF-magazines.

    In summary, probably only for a particular brand of Science-Fiction fans.
  • It's so refreshing to get back to a show with some real, pure science fiction. This isn't your "aliens, robots, and spaceships" sci-fi of Star Wars (more properly called space opera), it's not filled with meaningless techno-babble that grabs randomly at today's scientific buzzwords like Star Trek, or your partly supernatural plots of The Outer Limits, but short stories from proved science fiction writers of the past several decades put to film, and so far it's well done.

    It doesn't concentrate on special effects, but more the human questions, both spiritual and political, that advances in science or future fortunes force us to answer. That is the type of thinking man's (and woman's) science fiction that made the genre a success in America in the 1950's and when most of the greatest writers, and even the movie plots of today, got their start. It says, "What would YOU do in this situation?" "People can create androids that think. Do you treat them like humans?" Or "Aliens demand we decide whether we trust other nations or risk certain nuclear annihilation. What would you do?" So far the acting has been really good, using first rate movie actors, with the first episode starring Judy Davis, the second Terry O'Quinn, and the third Anne Heche and Malcolm MacDowell.

    Unfortunately for the show I've seen a lot of negative comments about it from the self-appointed judges of all that is quality TV since it doesn't fit in the cookie cutter mold made for it by all the previous "science fiction" shows that showcase a lot of large breasted female cyborgs, space dogfights, laser gunfights, and alien forehead prosthetics. Seeking only escapist entertainment, they claim it has politics and real issues, so it must be worthless. I say, if it doesn't have those, what worth is it? But it is the only true science fiction show in recent years, and one that I intend to continue watching closely for as long as it is on.
  • The best short stories in sci fi found a place in this show, though only for a short while, and a remarkable show it is. The stories are generally well picked: fascinating, though with more of an emphasis on the human condition than on a sense of wonder.

    Each episode has it's own tone: dark or bleak, satirical or serious, philosophical or mystical. The acting so far has been outstanding. The show has a lot of similarities with The Outer Limits which I also adore but really that show had strong episodes countered by weak ones. Here, it's six episodes (two never aired) that are all not only very entertaining but also very memorable.

    I must say Stephen Hawking's voice doing the intro's and outro's doesn't add much, because of two reasons: his voice is simply not very personal since it's purely mechanical and really he's just saying what we already get to see in the beginning of episodes or what we got to see at the end, making conclusions and asking questions that are already in our minds by watching the show. Because it's an intelligent show and despite each episode being stand alone, it offers far more depth than most other sci fi shows and that is not an easy feat.

    Two thumbs up and again, what a shame to see a genuinely good show go. Oh, the fate of most great sci fi shows...it would be insufferable if there weren't so many other shows worth watching.
  • Writing a review for movies is challenging work because is hard to find good model to compare with, and writing a review for SF story is more challenging because there is no pattern for fiction itself.

    Comparing Masters of Science Fiction with Twilight Zone or Outer Space is not good because they are mirror for times that are gone. Masters of Science Fiction is kind of mirror of our times and only on that way I can talk about this serial. Is it too political? No. Just turn on your TV and what you will see is politics everywhere. Even in commercials.

    SF writers for decades try to imagine our future and give us warnings how to deal with future problems and how to live with each other and that are real messages hidden in this serial.

    Masters of Science Fiction present to us 6 excellent stories about us and I only can say-THANKS.
  • sly134 February 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    From the first sight this show is very different from the others sci-fi shows. The difference in a nutshell - no running, no shooting, no fighting. Instead of it - thinking. No wonder many of the US watchers have found this show "boring" and switched to more usual time killers.

    It seems that creators of the show tried to make people think. And subjects happened to be uncomfortable and hard. Why do we fight each other? Why don't we see that all is connected, that all people are the same, that we all are the same humans. And what is the human, anyway? How one human can think that he is better than other, that he knows what others should do?

    Great SF masters brought up these questions.

    In the series American presidents shown as a representatives of the Americans attitude - they are stronger, they are better, so they could dictate other people and tell them what to do. And of course, the consequences of such delusions are also shown - as the results of the nuclear world war (Clean Escape), or the world just on the brink of war (The Awakening).

    Those and other important questions are described in the books these series are based upon. But unfortunately, they are too heavy. And the watchers need something lighter. Don't think, just watch - nowadays motto.

    While it is so, the happy days of humanity are still far away.
  • Masters of Science Fiction, now showing on ABC, takes short stories from award-winning Sci-Fi authors and adapts them into hour-long television episodes. It advertises itself as a successor to The Twilight Zone.

    Twilight Zone and Outer Limits, in their day, had a similar format, but I'm not sure how devoted they were to using pre-existing material. It seems to me that many of the episodes for TZ or OL were written _for_ the show rather than _before_ the show. Herein lies what may be the problem for this series: Adaptation. Think of the problems people have when their favorite novels get turned into horrid screenplays, and make those problems TV-sized.

    I happen to actually know the author of the first episode's short story (John Kessel, one of my professors), and I have not had a chance to hear his take on it. But from someone who is familiar with his writing style (although I had not read this particular story), I can say honestly that I saw traces of Kessel's style here. I imagine that the story he wrote was quite good; after all, the _story_ of the first episode was quite good.

    But the lens of adaptation botched it for me. Acting was heavy-handed. Background music was over-dramatic and annoying. The teleplay made the "BIG SECRET" try and shock the audience, rather than letting the truths of the setting become a course of discovery.

    On a side note, as much as Stephen Hawking is a genius, he would be a much more comprehensible narrator if his narration were subtitled. He is an appropriate choice, but his mechatronic voice is terribly difficult to understand.

    If my fellow commenters happen to view this episode again, I would encourage them to not see it in a political lens. I don't want to give away any spoilers, but what is shown in "A Clean Escape" is not a Liberal/Conservative issue, but a Moral one. Don't assume that this is some ABC Liberal propaganda or nonsense of that kind.

    I reserve some hope for the rest of this series. The first episode disappointed me, but ABC can make excellent shows. They can also make terrible shows.

    6/10
  • 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.
  • There is a reason why 'Masters of Science Fiction' didn't last a full season when first trotted out on ABC.

    There's nothing in the collection of short stories badly translated to television that the original 'Outer Limits' and scant few Sci-Fi oriented episodes of 'Twilight Zone' from the 1960s didn't deliver with infinitely better precision.

    'Masters of Science Fiction' more closely resembled the consistently bleak and down beat, over all inferior episodes of the re-vamped 1995 'Outer Limits'.

    Though 'Masters of Science Fiction' no doubt boasts better talent and larger budgets. The screen writers, directors and cast should remember that when trying to deliver a 'message'. The subtlety of a feather works far more favorably than bludgeoning with a brick!
  • "From the very beginning, we have wondered how life began, what our purpose is and where we are headed. We have struggled to understand time, matter, the infinite universe, who we are and if we are alone. Great minds have come up with the most wonderful and the most terrifying answers. We invite you to join us on this great journey!" This opening narration by Stephen Hawking is not exactly accurate, because all of the six episodes attempt to answer only one question, and that is where we are headed. The answer is usually the same: Society and Technology will cause the downfall of humans, machines will take over the Earth and the people will annihilate themselves with nuclear weapons. Whatever the case, the next 100-200 years won't be pleasant, according to the Masters.

    Masters of Science Fiction gets its title from the authors of the Stories, the episodes are based on. Robert Heinlein, author of the great Sci Fi novel "Stranger in a Strange Land" is represented, as well as John Kessel, Howard Fast, Walter Mosley, Harlan Ellison and Robert Sheckley. The truth is, the ideas of the episodes are always extremely good. Creativity and Originality can be found in all of the six episodes, but while some have very interesting plots, others are quite dull, and lack exciting scenes and dialog.

    Even though, the series features some great actors, most of them are terribly underused. Sam Waterston, Terry O'Quinn and John Hurt are the only ones, who get to use their talent in a large number of scenes, while Judy Davis, James Cromwell, Brian Dennehey, Sean Astin and especially Malcolm McDowell shine in the scenes they have, but often make very short or badly written appearances.

    Now as far as the individual episodes are concerned, I will go from the worst to best. By far the biggest disappointment was "Watchbird", especially because it had great potential due to the actors (Sean Astin and James Cromwell) and some good ideas (computer birds, who are programmed to attack anyone with the intentions to kill someone). But the whole plot just drags along and the end does not satisfy the viewer.

    "Little Brother" is not exactly bad, but in my opinion horribly written. To have computers as the judges in the future índeed was a great idea, but like Watchbird, a lot of potential was wasted, due to overlong scenes. Clifton Collins, Jr. acts quite well given the terrible script.

    "The Awakening" now can actually be called good. The writing was all right and Terry O'Quinn once again proves what a wonderful actor he is. But the political message was just a little too extreme, that all countries are willing to lay down their arms, except the United States. That might actually reflect reality to a certain extent, but this was definitely exaggerated.

    Now, as for "The Discarded", that episode was quite a treat. John Hurt is perfectly cast in his role, on a ship full of disfigured people, who are suffering from RIGGUM. The message might seems a little extreme, but we do live in a society, where people do everything to be perfect and I don't think this future is too far fetched. The only flaw of the episodes is once again, that some scenes are a little dull.

    Heinlein's "Jerry was a Man" starrs a great Malcolm McDowell and Anne Heche, who plays the seventh richest woman in the world. When she finds out that Tibur Cargrew and his company create humanoids, with a limited brain capacity, to do dangerous or unpleasant jobs, she feels sorry for them and even adopts one of them. A fierce legal battle erupts, as to whether Jerry, a humanoid, has feelings and should be considered a man.

    Last, but certainly not least "A Clean Escape" is in my opinion the highlight of the series. A woman, interrogating a man in a room might not sound too interesting at first but the shocking ending and the great acting by Judy Davis and especially Sam Waterston make this episode entertaining, gripping and does not leave us cold after the ending.

    In conclusion, I do recommend the series to people who like Science Fiction, but I would rent the DVD. True, the episodes are not everyone's taste and some of them are quite mediocre.
  • The first episode was OK for awhile but it dragged on and on and on. The point, once made, was weak and completely unoriginal. About the only really creative part of the first episode was the way in which they tried to hide the point (and the plot) until near the end. By that time I had stopped caring.

    The second episode was nothing short of a cheap politically motivated lopsided propagandistic take-off of the 1960's short story (The General Zapped an......) which was set in the Vietnam war. OK, so I left the rest of the title of the short story out (it would spoil what there is of the plot - I present it here exactly as it was presented in the opening credits. The special effects were uninspired. The short story was better.

    This series, so far has been a huge disappointment. Beginning with the too too short "Intro" by the much celebrated Stephen Hawking and ending with the plots and stories that are more likely to put a person to sleep than they are to provoke any thought.

    The remaining two episodes includes one by the well known Sci-Fi writer Harlan Ellison - who is equally celebrated for his rather vocal negative opinion of the TV medium. So what happened Mr. Ellison? I still have not forgotten the short TV series (1970's) called "The Legend of the Starlost". Or has Cordwainer Bird decided to give it a go one more time. In any case, for those of you who have never read Mr. Ellison's works you definitely need to - preferably before watching his Masters of Science Fiction episode. Just don't read Ellison too close to bedtime, you'll never get to sleep. He's that good.

    The Masters of Science Fiction is a poor effort and a financial boondoggle. The producers should be ashamed of themselves for putting it on.
  • Having missed all the other UK showings of MOSF I was happy to sit down and watch episode 2 - what a mistake! Although the budget and acting were above average the story made absolutely no sense and as for the final scenes with the President making a decision no one would ever make that fast under so much ridiculous pressure. It was poorly written and obviously aimed at a certain religion and political bias. Does anyone actually know why it was set in Iraq or did the writers think that would allow them to make a contemporary political commentary.

    I would advise against bothering with this episode - see the other reviews for the rest.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Mixing political agendas and science fiction is risky. Especially when you underestimate the intelligence of your target audience. The first two episodes (both anti-war...both indicating Americas guilt in both) of this series are not good indications that we can expect things to improve very much if at all. The shows attempt at blurring the lines of current events, political agendas (reguardless of political affiliations),fictional plausibility, and product potential advertising is disappointing. Has it been done before? Sure. Has it ever worked? Yes and no. When it works it can be both funny and creepy at the same time. When it fails, it goes down in flames. The sequence of the episodes may be at fault (there are others to be sure, but lets be fair) back to back episodes dealing with war is a just a little bit obvious. The episodes are longer than they need to be, considering the material given, a bit more character depth would be nice, and less dependence on the special effects when the story slows down. Not everyone has the attention span of a gnat guys, tell a good story and we'll watch, otherwise we'll look elsewhere.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Greetings,

    The show should have been titled "Masters of Doom and Gloom," or better yet "Master of Liberal Fiction!" It was slow, boring and your typical end of the world at the hands of mankind crap.

    I can't understand why they insist on making political statements rather than good science fiction. There are thousands of plots out there that they could use, why use a tired worn out one.

    Bringing in big named talent and using Stephen Hawking does not give credibility to poor writing and tired plots. Please don't waste your time with this one.

    How about we all grow-up. Or, maybe just the Hollywood liberals!

    Mike
  • The episodes in this series "tackle" serious problems by simplifying them all to the point of absurdity. No attempt is made to understand or even really perceive the world as it exists today, why the problems "addressed" exist, or what the different opinions and worldviews that created them are. Whoever made this series believes they have all the answers to all the big questions, and their way of teaching these answers shows that they presume that anyone who doesn't agree with them is obviously stupid, and so the proper approach is to whack them with a heavier hammer.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    probably contains spoilers

    I just don't understand why the smartest man in the world since Einstein needs to give his name to a lame series of depictions of the kind of adventurous thinking that we would all be busy with, anyway, in the pub, on a Saturday afternoon.

    Maybe I'm dumber than I think I am and have missed a Hawkins bulletin that described a necessary sequential issue of themes that are first dealt with in this series. If that is the case, then I am in error, and I apologize for thinking that this series is a farcical exploitation of the popular interest in Hawkin's ideas.

    I wonder if he is even aware of what is, here, being propagated in his name.

    While I find it great and wonderful that Prof. Hawkins can continue to make a whole lot of noise, it is his words on paper that matter to me. He is a scientist, not a Saturday night television caricature of himself.

    All of those involved may have had the best of intentions, but those of us who would here seek to know even more of Stephen Hawkins will remain disappointed. I'm sure that he must have had serious consideration if not regret about this series.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    OK then... it says "hosted by professor stephen hawking" and then hawking says the following thing i'd like to quote; "From the very beginning, we have wondered how life began, what our purpose is and where we are headed.We have struggled to understand time, matter, the infinite universe, who we are and if we are alone. Great minds have imagined the most wonderful and the most terrifying answers to these questions.We invite you to join us on this great expedition" sounds promising, no? when it comes from hawking? well, not. first episode is a memento rip off, you know the movie right? second episode is about some alien cocoon which at the end of the thing grows wings and flies away? yeah, that's what i call science fiction. then third episode is about this bio-robot of sorts designed to walk on landmines miraculously begin to like Christmas songs for no reason or whatsoever. your usual robots are people too thing if you ask me...

    hawking calling these stuff "wonderful and the most terrifying" ? boy, maybe i was thinking a bit too highly about him.
  • MrTAToad29 August 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    One thing that should be noted about this series is that all the episodes have a moral in them, which means you have to think (and watch) them to at least understand them - as there is very little action in any of the episodes (just usually dialogue between 3 or 4 people), no doubt the XBox generation will fail to understand (or follow) most of it.

    Each episode takes a story from a science fiction writer and usually modernises it - its probably not always a good idea as the original story usually conveys it message better.

    Special effects are adequate - probably more was spent on the well known actors the CGI and prosthetics, and it does show sometimes, but it doesn't really hinder the series.

    It is amazing there was nothing chosen from Asimov or quite a few other writers.

    Overall, its a lot like The Twilight Zone, though without the twist ending.
  • they did obviously not choose the stories for their content, but for their ability to be filmed in not much more than one room and without any special effects.

    virtually every outer limits episode is more interesting than any of these.

    also every science fiction short story i ever read (and they are not a few) was better than these episodes.

    grabbing any random science fiction anthology and converting it into to a mini series of this kind would have given a much much better result.

    what was stephen hawking thinking? i consider him intelligent. probably mo-ney mo-ney mo-ney.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Every episode I watched was depressing, somber and/or sad. The future can be bright. It could be hopeful. There could be fun. But in this series. Yes SF can be used to point out ethical problems, social short comings and failings of mankind in general, however this is supposed to be entertainment. I think entertainment should be fun. There is no fun here. That is why I think it failed as a show. If you do decide to watch it make sure you have some Valium. My advice is don't watch it. The acting is fine. The production pieces (SFX, sets, costumes, etc..) are fine to get the story across. It's just that they are all depressing stories.
  • If you love the typical Hollywood liberal agenda then this is a sci-fi series for you. Includes all the typical non-sense. America is bad, the president are corrupt despots who want to destroy the world.

    If you would like something new and refreshing and thinking outside the box, then pass on it.

    Stephen Hawking may be a brilliant scientist and that may be because he doesn't watch any TV. If he did he would know that this type of material has done before a thousand times and there is nothing about it that is masterful. This serious could of had great potential if the America bashing was left out of it. Shame on you Dr.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Except maybe The Discarded, this show has little imagination. It's always difficult to imagine the world of human mind or how we are going to evolve. Simply put, they tried to hard to be in the other corner, away from the space opera like Star Wars or Star Trek. In the end they show almost no sensibility to real demographic problems, over population and human instincts. The conflict of cultures and prejudice is an old and overused theme. We see now that big powers play the same game they played 300 or 1000 years ago. Maybe this lines were good enough in the '60s, but now education brought people not close to peace, but close to understand what is going one. The only good thing is the cast, trying to do wonder with a thin script. Science Fiction in TV needs new blood, somewhere in the middle of the road between Star Wars and Stargate. Without the S in the beginning.
  • Decent show, seems to be adapted from good stories not that well, and mostly doesn't use the talent as much as they could. TV levels of photography, editing, and really pretty mediocre effects.

    IMPORTANT: Note that almost all the negative reviews are weirdly politically motivated. Somehow they say that any morality is anti-american, anti-religion, etc. I don't get how after watching all the episodes, but if you are a type who has ever typed "hollyweird" un-ironically, don't watch this as you'll apparently be offended.