Created By Keith Addis, Andrew Deanne
Starring Terry O’Quinn, Sean Astin
The Masters of Horror series was an extremely uneven adventure. Season one featured some fantastic episodes and one episode that was unaired because of its extreme nature. Season two unfortunately was mostly bad; so many people didn’t even want to give Masters of Science Fiction, a new series from the creators of MOH a chance.
Masters of Science Fiction is an anthology series with each episode based on a new story, featuring new actors, and being helmed by a different director, in the vein of The Twilight Zone. Unfortunately NBC decided to air this brief season in the summer and it just didn’t get the attention required to properly cultivate it into a hit. Sadly, unlike season two of Masters of Horror, this series was really good. Of course some episodes were better than others but overall the series was really strong with good directing, good actors, and stories from some of the best writers in the genre.
Some of the stories used for this series came from writers such as Harlan Ellison, Robert Sheckey, and Robert Heinlein. The stories play on traditional complex themes such as racism, the definition of humanity, and the horrors of war. The best science fiction often contains a great deal of social commentary and that commentary is typically kept intact in each of the episodes in this series. The worst crime a few of these episodes commits is that they portray the commentary just a bit to heavy handed. The script adaptations of the original stories are done by top notch writers with some of the authors such as Harlan Ellison, a seasoned TV writer himself, doing their own treatments. As far as actors there are tons of really good people in these episodes with the standouts being Terry O’Quinn (Lost, The Stepfather) James Cromwell (Star Trek First Contact), Brian Dennehy (FX), Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings trilogy), and Malcolm McDowell (Planet of the Apes, Heroes). The icing on the cake was having Steven Hawking play the Rod Serling role for the series by announcing each episode. Hawking has become the voice of science so having him involved with the series ads credibility to it. Some of the notable directors include Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek The Next Generation), Harold Becker (Malice), and Michael Tolkin (Changing Lanes).
Considering that the series didn’t seem to have much support from the network the budgets on the episodes were either bigger than you’d expect or the production team was just really great at utilizing the money they had because the series is produced extremely slick and the special effects were fairly strong throughout. If you’re a fan of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, or Amazing Stories then this series is a must buy. Perhaps the best thing about the series is that since each episode has a beginning, middle, and end, you won’t feel like the story is unfinished with this one season. I’d really like to see a series like this one be produced independently similar to what Sam Raimi did with Xena and Hercules, and is currently doing with the Sword of Truth series. This may be the only way an anthology series can survive in this modern age of serialized TV.
The widescreen presentation here is a solid television show presentation with good color and detail but also with noticeable grain and a bit or murkiness in darker scenes. It’s not a perfect presentation but it’s good enough.
The Dolby Digital Surround presentation here features a solid mix of dialogue, score, and sound effects. The immersive nature of the show is basic here with the bulk of the audio coming from the center channel. There’s also not much use of the sub woofer which is a bit disappointing. Again, like the video, it gets the job done.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The art on the cover of this two disc release is good but not extremely creative. The focus is on floating heads of some of the most well known actors. I’d love to have seen some of Anchor Bay’s magic with packaging come through here. I expect if this release is successful that future releases with feature more creative packaging.
The only bonus feature in the set is the inclusion of two previously unaired episodes. Both episodes are solid installments of the anthology and getting to see them as part of this set is fantastic. What’s disappointing is the lack of any other supplemental materials. This show desperately needs commentary from some of these great writers and some featurettes.
Masters of Science Fiction was a solid series, better than Masters of Horror and the currently airing Fear Itself. It’s really sad that the series didn’t get more attention.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Series 8.5/10
The Video 7.5/10
The Audio 7.5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10