Not only did ABC have so little faith in “Masters of Science Fiction” that the network aired it in the ratings-starved summer, but also pulled it before two of its six episodes ever aired. It did us all a favor.
A quasi-companion series to producer Mick Garris’ “Masters of Horror,” this show adapted sci-fi stories by well-known writers of the genre, like Robert Heinlein and Walter Mosley. But the stories themselves aren’t exactly iconic, and more about ideas and philosophies than storytelling “ not the best approach when trying to capture a prime-time TV audience. In the words of Adam Sandler in “Billy Madison,” talky, talky, talky “¦ no more talky.
That’s a nice way of saying they’re dreadfully boring. “A Clean Escape” proceeds like a two-man stage play, while “Jerry Was a Man,” with its plastic-looking people, is plain creepy, but not in the manner intended.
Things look up with Harlan Ellison’s “The Discarded,” about a spaceship full of mutants (you know, an extra head on the shoulder, cow teat on the neck), but even that slides into preachiness. There’s one decent episode: Robert Sheckley’s “Watchbird,” in which Sean Astin invents robotic birds that prevent murder by zapping criminals before they can pull the trigger. Too bad the chintzy effects spoil its power.
Narrated by Professor Stephen Hawking (!), the show has imagination, but lacks the know-how to see it through, drowning images in drab sepia tones. These tales were best left to the printed page.