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VWN Product Reviews: Masters of Science Fiction

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Masters of Science Fiction was a hard-core science fiction show created by ABC in 2007. Each episode utilised high quality acting talent, and attempted to discuss a modern-era technology issue from a storyline setting ? short stories of various authors were used as material. Despite the calibre of the recordings, ABC aged the series after just six episodes, and only four were originally shown.

Now, the six are available in a dual DVD set. At a grand total viewing time of four and a half hours, these six highly crafted episodes, each based on the works of a different author, having a different producer, and a different cast, will really make you sit up and think.

Disc One


A Clean Escape:


Based on a short story by John Kessel,
directed by Mark Rydell.
Echoing films like ?Groundhog Day? and ?12:01?, A clean Escape is set in a post-apocalyptic future where a powerful businessman (played by Sam Waterston) is told by a psychiatrist (played by Judy Davis) that he is living the same day over and over again without recourse to escape.

It is up to him to work out if this is actually true, or if he is the victim of an elaborate deception.

The Awakening:


Based on a short story by Howard Fast
directed by Michael Petroni
Strange alien technology begins arriving on Earth, often hooked into weapons systems. The public begins to react in a strange manner ? some of them appear half-possessed. Contact with the aliens confirms they intend to disarm the Earth and remove all possibility of warfare.

A paranormal expert (played by Terry O'Quinn) is forced to investigate and must determine the true intention of the aliens before it is too late.

Jerry Was a Man:


Based on a short story by Robert Heinlein
directed by Michael Tolkin
A very wealthy socialite in the medium-term future, sees that her neighbour has purchased an exotic pet for herself: a six-legged dachshund. She decides she must go one better so as to retain her social standing, and commissions a ?Joe?. Joe?s are humanoid slaves with no rights, grown and built from cast off strains of human DNA grafted onto mechanical parts.

Unfortunately, she finds herself falling in love with her pet, and launches a legal battle to have Joes seen as full human beings with rights and privileges thereof ? upsetting many powerful people in the process.

Disc Two


The Discarded:


Based on a short story by Harlan Ellison
directed by Jonathan Frakes

A colony ship flies through space, on a never-ending voyage. It is within the solar system, but not permitted to approach any planet; the worlds of men occupy all the planets in the system.

The ship is carrying genetic mutants, sufferers of a terrible affliction who have been cast off from the human race. For 37 years the ship sails the depths of space, looking upon humanity but forbidden to touch.

Finally, they are contacted by an ambassador who claims he can help them. The captain of the ship (played by Brian Dennehy) is sceptical, but his right-hand man (played by John Hurt) is willing to take the risk.

Little Brother:


Based on a short story by Walter Mosley
Directed by Darnell Martin
A man who has been forced to live underground his entire life (played by Clifton Collins Jr) finally makes for the surface with determination: insistent on living the remainder of his life up there. He succeeds, but does not understand society. A brush with the law soon follows, and several people are killed.

He is put on trial with a judge AI, feeding off the memories of dead human judges. . Can he prove his innocence to the ghosts in the machine?

Watchbird:


An AI weapons platform created to save troop lives in the middle east, is so successful that it is recalled to guard the skies over US cities, removing lawbreakers from the gene pool. The creating scientist (played by Sean Astin) is horrified at this, and has to act as government surveillance and action spirals out of control.

 

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