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Masters of Science Fiction: The Complete Series

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Product Details

  • Actors: Stephen Hawking, Sam Waterson, Judy Davis, Terry O'Quinn, James Cromwell
  • Format: Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (US and Canada This DVD will probably NOT be viewable in other countries. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • MPAA Rating: UNRATED
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • Release Date: Aug. 5 2008
  • Run Time: 264 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001A7GOCA
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #36,119 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Product Description

This anthology series pairs some of science fiction's greatest authors with the genre's most creative screenwriters and directors. Exploring the possibilities of space, time, and perception, these six hour-long episodes feature big stars--including Malcolm McDowell, Anne Heche, John Hurt, and Brian Dennehy--lending their talents to the work of such classic writers as Robert A. Heinlein, Howard Fast, and Harlan Ellison. Meanwhile, screenwriters Josh Olson (A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE), Walter Mosley (DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS), and Michael Tolkin (THE PLAYER) pair with accomplished directors to shape their work into mind-bending parables that expand our notion of reality. Narrated by physicist Stephen Hawking, this collection from the show's first season includes the episodes "The Discarded," "Jerry Was a Man," "A Clean Escape," "The Awakening," "Little Brother," and "Watchbird" (the last two never broadcast during the show's initial run).

Customer Reviews

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Marcia TOP 500 REVIEWER on May 9 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Masters of Science Fiction: The Complete Series

I spent my youth reading the Golden Ages of Scifi: Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clark, Robert Heinlein, Larry Niven, Frank Herbert etc. I bought this DVD with fear and hestitation. Iwasn't sure the 21st century had any Masters, however I was happily mistaken. I enjoyed each story.

1. A Clean Escape - true scifi -- end of the world scenario. A shrink dying of an unstated illness is obsessed with helping a patiant recover his memory. The conclusion is shattering and has a relevent message to humankind. Judy Davis as the shirnk and Sam Waterston whom you'll recognize if you're a Law and Order fan put in solid performances. Based on short story by John Kessel.

1. The Awakening - real scifi -- an alien lands on earth. A little like War of the Worlds these creatures appear all over the earth. Are they dangerous or friendly? After they communicate, the world is forced to choose between peace and distruction (shades of the original The Day the Earth stood Still), but well worth viewing. Stars Terry O'Quinn (Lost) & Elizabeth Rohn(Angel). Based on a short story by Howard Fast.

3. Jerry was a Man -- Shades of Isamov's "I, Robot" with a twist. Poses the question of what makes a person human with a suprising answer. Stars Anne Heche (John Q) & Malcolm McDowel (A Clockwork Orange). Based on short story by Heinlein, my hero as a teenager.

4.The Disgarded - Just as the lepers were sent to leper colonies so are the diseased sent to planets in outer space. -- Earthers return and invite them back on one condition. Can those who sent them to purgatory be trusted?
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Masters of Science Fiction is okay. Some of the episodes are even good. However, it is no Twilight Zone or even Amazing Stories. At the risk of sounding curmudgeonly in this review: I did not feel ripped off, but I would not recommend this package.
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Arrive as advertised. No Problems at all.
Watched first episode titled "A Clean Escape".
It was an interesting story with great performances by leads. Overall a well crafted piece of television.
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My husband is a science fiction buff.He really enjoyed the episodes.I enjoyed them myself.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 108 reviews
136 of 151 people found the following review helpful
Your basic Sci-Fi anthology series, perhaps a smidge better. Sept. 16 2008
By Monty Moonlight - Published on
Format: DVD Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I personally abandoned the major networks some time ago, I suspect around when just about every show they put on seemed to be sex obsessed. I have since only gone back to catch new episodes of "Heroes". So, it's no surprise that the short-lived "Masters of Science Fiction" series came and went on ABC without my ever even knowing about it. I was aware of the more popular "Masters of Horror" series from Showtime, even though I don't even have Showtime, but then I'm a bit more into the horror genre and love horror anthologies. One thing that puts me off of Sci-Fi anthologies a bit is that they tend to always be about aliens, bleak futures, and robots. Rarely anything else.

"Masters of Science Fiction", in all of its six episodes, doesn't deviate from that, and it also is high on making political and social statements. That's pretty common in sci-fi, but it does get a bit old, especially in a world where the political statements on television are getting as monotonous as the sex. Still, over all, this very "Outer Limits" TV series is about as good as can be expected. Some episodes are better than others. Oddly, the two episodes I found to be the most enjoyable are the two that never aired on American television, "Little Brother" and "Watchbird". Here is a breakdown of the 6, 44-minute episodes you get in this complete series, 2-disc DVD set (with zero extras):

"A Clean Escape" (Story Author: John Kessel, Director: Mark Rydell): A dying doctor's patient cannot remember the past 25 years of his life; 25 years in which the world has been changed greatly as a result of his actions. This one is a little slow and a bit too "in your face" with its political statement.

"The Awakening" (Story Author: Howard Fast, Director: Michael Petroni): A strange visitor to Earth brings forth an ultimatum that could cause the leaders of the world to reach an understanding with or completely destroy each other. This second episode is probably even more in your face with the political statement, but it's more exciting than Clean Escape (which probably could have worked better as a 22 minute program). Starting the series with its two most blatantly political episodes was probably not the best idea.

"Jerry Was a Man" (Story Author: Robert A. Heinlein, Director: Michael Tolkin): A more lighthearted episode, this futuristic story presents a bored rich couple who take in some unusual "pets". One of them is a man-made humanoid that was marked for destruction. The rich woman who now controls his fate soon becomes determined to defend his rights as a "human being". This episode was pretty fun, but could have been better if "Jerry" had been more likable. He was rather annoying with his constant requests for candy and cigarettes.

"The Discarded" (Story Author: Harlan Ellison, Director: Jonathan Frakes): An odd collection of diseased freaks exiled from Earth travels through space in search of a new home and is suddenly presented with an offer to return. Yet another I would rather have seen in 22 minutes than 44. This one really drags and I didn't find it that entertaining. Perhaps it's just too much of a downer throughout. Boasts a fine cast though. John Hurt and Brian Dennehy are in this one.

"Little Brother" (Story Author: Walter Mosley, Director: Darnell Martin): A man trying to escape the confines of the lower levels of urban development finds himself on trial for a murder that was clearly not his fault. However, the judge, jury, and executioner of this future world are not human and lack the willingness to weigh the facts fairly. One of the better episodes, in my opinion.

"Watchbird" (Story Author: Robert Sheckley, Director: Harold Becker): A young inventor creates the weapons system of tomorrow in a fleet of mechanical birds designed to take out a killer before he strikes. Things get out of hand though, when the government wants to put the birds, designed for war combat, over the streets of the U.S. to protect the citizens. I found this to be, hands down, the best episode of the series. It's the only one that didn't feel it was dragging at any point. A genuinely good episode.

When all is said and done, "Masters of Science Fiction" really is about the same as any other sci-fi anthology show. Perhaps a smidge better, because there were more episodes about the future of mankind than about aliens. If you like that sort of thing, you'll like this. Of course, it's an anthology, so even at just six episodes it is hit and miss. Still, it's probably better than anything else that's been on ABC for a long time.
31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Not masterful, but will have appeal for some Sept. 5 2008
By Sanpete - Published on
Format: DVD Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Masters of Science Fiction was a series produced for ABC that sought to capture some of the magic of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. Of the six one-hour episodes made (under 45 minutes without the ads), all included here, only four were shown. The series was arguably not given a chance, as it was aired on Saturday nights in August, not a great time slot.

Some of the concepts are interesting and promising, and there are some top-notch actors, but I still didn't enjoy these much. On the whole the writing is superficial, the logic weak, and the atmospherics that might make up for that are only so-so. I only enjoyed one of the six episodes enough to say I liked it.

The first episode has a nice basic idea to work with, revealed bit by bit in a way that makes much description of the plot too much of a spoiler. Judy Davis plays a psychotherapist who has a patient (Sam Waterston) with a condition she is very anxious to cure, for reasons that are only made clear later. Sadly, some of it doesn't quite add up or is only tenuously credible, and the exposition is clumsy. I thought Waterston seemed oddly hammy and fake, though maybe he thought that suited the character. Davis has a compelling screen presence.

The second episode takes place in the very near future. Alien creatures appear on earth and (without giving too much away) do stuff that it seems they should have done long before. The way this happens is fairly arbitrary. I liked Terry O'Quinn in this episode, in a measured performance that brought some subtlety of character at least.

Both the first two episodes, and most of the others too, fail to be very subtle about the rather simplistic principles we're supposed to draw from them.

The episode I enjoyed is the third one, "Jerry Was a Man," based on a short story by Robert Heinlein. Part of the enjoyment was sheer comic relief from the first two episodes, both rather Serious and a bit preachy. This is the only one of the six that's primarily comedic, though serious ideas are dealt with. Jerry is a genetically engineered android who was originally designed to sweep minefields (in about the least efficient way possible), but who has been working as a janitor lately and is about to be turned into puppy chow. A very wealthy woman (Anne Heche) takes a fancy to him and undertakes to save him, eventually by trying to prove he's a human. The intriguing tag line that is spoken by Stephen Hawking at the end is, "What makes us human may one day be defined not by the gifts we possess but by the virtues we lack." Malcolm McDowell is particularly good as the genetic engineer.

Series host Stephen Hawking, by the way, has very little to do in this series. He says a line at the beginning and end of each piece. The lines generally don't quite work like Rod Serling's comments for The Twilight Zone. I doubt very much that Hawking wrote them.

Episode 4 concerns a group of people rejected from Earth because of various unpleasant mutations and sent to wander the solar system in search of a home. They're approached by a representative from Earth with a deal to take them back. The drama is fairly thin and the results are highly predictable. John Hurt and Brian Dennehy are fine, and the make-up artists had a great time with the mutations, including a fairly well done second, smaller head on John Hurt. There are a couple surprisingly if still only mildly brutal touches in that episode.

The fifth episode is similar in several ways to Robocop, but with small eagle-like flying "Watchbirds" as the peacekeeping machines, and a kind of wireless human-machine interface instead of flesh and machine joined directly. The machines start off well and then problems come up as they're tied up in politics. It lacks Robcop's high-powered action and is only briefly and mildly violent. It also lacks the clever, polished script. The acting is fairly good. This one is the second best of the group for me.

The final episode has elements of 1984, done in a pale Terry Gilliam (Brazil) style. An underground worker escapes, is accused of murder, and fights with his mind against a partly human machine that constitutes his judge, defense counsel, and jury. The things that cause trouble for the machine are so elementary as to lack much credibility or interest, and the ending is sheer Hollywood.

The production values for the series are on the high side of what would be expected for a TV series. With all of the episodes, there are some interesting or enjoyable points. I can see why some people enjoyed them. But viewers inclined to be picky or critical about their science fiction should probably look elsewhere.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Pleasantly surprised at the quality... Jan. 7 2009
By Daniel A. Hart - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Masters of Science Fiction: The Complete Series

This was surprisingly a pretty good short-lived series that came out last summer (summer of '2007) on ABC...and amazingly good talent such as Sam Waterson, Brian Dennehy, John Hurt, Terry O'Quinn, Anne Heche, Malcolm McDowell and Sean Astin. Just a bit frustrating that ABC like many networks just don't give science fiction much of a chance to really succeed and build an audience, of course it's not going to do well during summer evenings, because that when most of your potential audience is out of the house and not watching TV. Anyway, to science-fiction fans, this is a must-see. But I also encourage casual fans who love good acting and writing to check this out.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Mostly a pretentious, preachy disappointment June 5 2013
By Screamin' Steve - Published on
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
The producers of this series had a knack for taking science fiction stories and turning them into morality plays. Slow, heavy-handed social propaganda dominate the series. The irony is that the last two episodes, which were unaired, are actually pretty good. Considering the strong cast of actors, I expected much more. One of my favorite authors is Robert Sheckley. His story Watchbird was the sixth and last and is the best of the series. It compares favorably to an episode of the original Outer Limits, which added a subtle moral message to the science fiction. And who can object to the message of The Day the Earth Stood Still (origianl film)? The Masters of Science Fiction series mostly forgot the science fiction. It was a good idea gone terribly wrong. Recommended only for the curious among you or for the last two stories.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Quality SciFi Series That Was Never Given a Chance July 26 2009
By Derek - Published on
Format: DVD
This was best scfi anthology series to come along since the original Twilight Zone. Created by the same people responsible for Masters of Horror it featured top notch stories by some of scifi's most distinguished authors including Robert Heinlein, Harlan Ellison, Walter Mosley and Robert Sheckley, top quality production standards and some great actors including Sam Waterson, Judy Davis, Malcolm McDowell, Brian Dennehy, Anne Heche, and Sean Astin to name just a few. Oh and it was also hosted by Stephen Hawking. So why was it unceremoniously cancelled after only 4 episodes? Because network execs are stupid! That's why. Much like another
great anthology series of recent years- Fear Itself, it should have been given more of a chance. Perhaps if like Masters of Horror it had appeared on Showtime or another cable channel instead of network television it could have stood a chance. The Outer Limits revival lasted six seasons I think on Showtime.
But about the dvd, the 6 episodes on 2 discs are great and well worth the price, being something like 45 minute mini-movies. Two of the episodes never aired on network television and are seen for the first time on this dvd. So, do yourself a favor, if you're a fan of scifi purchase this collection.