A sci-fi fan could get excited about ABC's four-episode anthology series Masters of Science Fiction if the network hadn't given it a vote of no confidence by dumping it on the Saturday night trash heap during the summer and, more importantly, if it were any good. Judging by last night's episode, "The Awakening," it isn't, despite an abundance of solid talent (John Hurt, Anne Heche, Terry O'Quinn, Malcolm McDowell) and drawing from acclaimed source material, such as stories by Harlan Ellison and John Kessel. The second installment, "The Awakening," starred Lost's O'Quinn as a retired military expert on UFOs and aliens who is called back into duty after a mysterious creature is recovered from a crash site in Iraq. Even with Smoking Man William B. Davis as the U.S. president, the episode can't shake its dialog-heavy, coma-inducing pace as it crawls to a disappointing Oprah-moment conclusion.
Here's what's left of the anthology:
"Jerry Was a Man" (Aug. 18, 10/9c): Stars Anne Heche and Malcolm McDowell as a wealthy couple whose lives are changed when they acquire an anthropoid named Jerry. It's directed by Michael Tolkin and based on the Robert Heinlein story.
"The Discarded" (Aug. 25, 10/9c): Scripted by Ellison and Josh Olson (A History of Violence) and directed by Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek), this tale of minorities sentenced to drift in space stars Brian Dennehy, John Hurt and James Denton.
Pictured: Terry O'Quinn in "The Awakening"