Terry O'Quinn in Masters of Science Fiction television programI’m not a big fan of science fiction, but this sounds interesting (from AP):

[Masters of Science Fiction is] a limited series of adaptations of short stories, offered in August by ABC.

In some ways, this is pretty amazing stuff: material from top-flight authors like Robert Heinlein and Harlan Ellison, directed by well-known directors like Mark Rydell ("On Golden Pond") and Michael Tolkin ("The Player"), with actors like Sam Waterston, Judy Davis, Brian Dennehy, Anne Heche and Malcolm McDowell. . . .

The first episode, "A Clean Escape" (airing 10 p.m. EDT Saturday), features Waterston as a man who has blocked from memory years of his life, and Davis as a psychiatrist who is determined to make him remember.

We know that this is the future, because there are all kinds of panels that Davis presses to open doors and drawers and change the lighting. And we know that this is the past, because the view is claustrophobic — mostly confined to the psychiatrist’s office — like the sets of so many black-and-white teleplays from television’s golden age.

And while there are other characters on the periphery, this is basically a two-character play, and they talk in the way that people don’t on television anymore. Words flow the way they did in the medium’s early days.

"Jerry Was a Man," scheduled for later in the month, is also talky. But based on a Heinlein story from 1947, the show has a kind of jokey playfulness.

. . . [S]cience fiction is really about the present, not the future. "The Twilight Zone," "The Outer Limits" and "Star Trek" used the future as a canvas for morality plays about their times.

And so "A Clean Escape" is about the responsibilities of leadership at a time when technology can cause huge destruction. And "Jerry Was a Man" asks: What makes a human being a human?

There are not a lot of computer-generated effects to get in the way; in these two episodes, there’s really only one, a pet elephant that is a foot tall. Rod Serling didn’t have the option of populating "The Twilight Zone" with tiny elephants, but he almost certainly wouldn’t have relied upon computers all that much, anyway. The morality play was the thing.

Each episode will be introduced by physicist Stephen Hawking. The series will consist of four episodes. In addition to Heinlein and Ellison, other episodes will adapt stories by Howard Fast and John Kessel, neither of whom exactly jumps to the mind when one hears the term "masters of science fiction." But they’re both beloved by pointy-eared fanatics of the genre, I’m sure. Additional information on the series is available here.

I doubt that this show will increase my appreciation of sci-fi, but it sounds like a worthy effort. It will be good to see Robert Heinlein’s work brought to a new audience, and the program seems to emphasize the thoughtful side of the genre.