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September 3, 2015

Masters of Science Fiction: A Clean Escape (series premiere)

by Keith McDuffee, posted Aug 4th 2007 11:01PM
a clean escape
(S01E01) I thought I had a good idea of what to expect going into this short series. I caught all of Showtime's Masters of Horror series, though its first season was terribly disappointing when you think of what you'd expect from the directors chosen. Masters of Science Fiction doesn't necessarily focus on the directors, basing the "master" part of the title on, well, anything that makes it a science fiction story. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

For example, this first story has a great director (Mark Rydell), but he is not a science fiction director. Instead, the "mastery" part of the episode comes from the author of the short story it was based on (Nebula Award-winner John Kessel). Some later episodes aren't as obvious as this one, making me think they were a bit too liberal with how they named this series.

Something I found odd was the choice of using Stephen Hawking as he narrator of this series. First of all, it's an artificial voice and one that, quite frankly, anyone could have simply controlled. Secondly, Hawking is known for his advances with real science, not fiction. So why Hawking? Because we nerds watching this series can relate?

Despite my issues with the series title, I really enjoyed this story. I'm a huge sucker for Twilight Zone and Outer Limits, so this series is going to be right up my alley. The episode flowed quite nicely in that the commercial breaks left us with some good "oooo!" moments. The performances by the lead actors were superb, especially Sam Waterston.

There wasn't a whole lot of wow-that's-cool-and-science-fictiony moments, which really didn't matter to me. Like I said, it played out very much like a Twilight Zone episode and it did a nice job of not feeling too drawn out. That's quite a feat when you think of it, since really all we were seeing was the President repeating the same story over and over again.

The the choice of cast and how well these stories (so far) seem to fit well into a full hour, this is a show I'm definitely sticking with.

Is Stephen Hawking really the best choice to narrate this show?
Yes57 (33.1%)
No70 (40.7%)
Who cares, a voice box sounds cool no matter who's controlling it!45 (26.2%)

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Eh, their =/= they're. Too much medication, not enough food.

August 05 2007 at 10:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

>Some later episodes aren't as obvious as this one, making me think they were a bit too liberal with how they named this series.

Heinlein, Fast, Mosley, Sheckley, Ellison.

Just because their names aren't Roddenberry, Moore, and Lucas doesn't mean their not Masters.

August 05 2007 at 10:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


This New York Times review of the show has a picture of Hawking recording something which is probably the voice overs of the show. I always wondered whether it was really Stephen Hawking in the guest starring role on The Simpsons. I guess this might imply that it was.

August 05 2007 at 1:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BC McKinney

Your issue with the title is inexplicable. "Masters" refers to the original story writers. Period.

And while I have no idea why we should believe that it's actually Stephen Hawking operating the artificial voice, or why it's necessary, he is known to be a fan of SF.

August 05 2007 at 12:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I remember this show when it was called The Outer Limits. That's all this miniseries is, a new version of The Outer Limits.

August 05 2007 at 12:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kol. Panic

On the whole, I enjoyed this episode and look forward the rest of the series, abortive though it is. The major quibble I had was the score, both in terms of quantity and quality. They couldn't let a moment go by without some crappy background music.

Hawking's "voice" could've easily been faked as you suggest. Indeed, it probably was, as I doubt they went to all the trouble of having him click out the narration himself, but they obviously couldn't say it's him without his permission. Besides, that mechanical-sounding, 80's vintage voice synth is all but a registered trademark.

August 04 2007 at 11:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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