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.