There's actually a lot of great science fiction TV coming up — unfortunately, it's almost all at the end of the week. Doctor Who returns to the Sci Fi Channel, Ben 10 starts a new series with a more grown-up hero, and Smallville comes back from hiatus with an episode that will change everything. (Or at least some things.) There are also new Battlestar, Sarah Jane and Torchwood episodes for American viewers. But what can you do to pass the time until Thursday comes around? We've got you covered, with possibly the most ridiculous time-travel show of all time, plus UFO dogfights. Minor spoilers ahead.
Probably the most exciting thing on TV tonight is Minutemen, the Disney Channel's original TV movie that premiered back in January. Somehow, this completely slipped under our radar despite having all the hallmarks of an instant classic. A high-school kid invents a working time machine, so he goes back in time to right wrongs. No, not the Rwandan genocide, silly — the cheerleader falling off a pyramid, and other petty high-school embarrassments. And then it turns out his meddling has created a black hole in the football field. Are you setting your DVR for 8 PM yet? Here's the trailer:
Another exciting movie: AMC is showing The Reluctant Astronaut starring Don Knotts at 10 PM. He has a fear of heights, and somehow gets roped into joining the space program. Dude, it's Don Knotts. It'll rule!
Tonight is also the start of "Ben 10 week" on the Cartoon Network, as commenter Dustin L. points out. (Thanks!) It's all designed to help you get up to speed with the story of Ben, a kid who can transform into 10 superpowered aliens, before his new show Ben 10: Alien Force starts Friday. Tonight is Ben 10: Interactive at 8 PM.
Also, the Sci Fi Channel is showing its alien abduction miniseries, Taken, every day at noon and 1 PM this week. And tonight is the season (and probably series) finale of New Amsterdam, the show about the guy who lives forever thanks to a magic spell. In this episode, he investigates the death of a drowned woman, which may be tied in with a string of robberies of wealthy men, connected to a dating service. This causes John to have a flash back to the time he stole a diamond from his lover in the 1920s.
There's another new episode of The Universe featuring the "Biggest Things In Space," on the History Channel at 9 PM. I was sold as soon as I found out about the Lymann-Alpha Blob. Here's the official description:
We can't compare anything on earth to the biggest things known in space. The Lymann Alpha blob is a bubble like structure containing countless galaxies—perhaps the biggest object in the entire universe. Regions of radio-emitting gas called "radio lobes" could be even bigger. Then there are super galaxy clusters which are hundreds of galaxies merged together due to cosmic collisions. Discover which is the largest planet, star, star cluster, constellation, black hole, volcano, galaxy, explosions, moon, storm, impact crater and "void" in space.
And Ben 10 week continues on Cartoon Network, with a never-before-seen episode at 8 PM.
The Cartoon Network is re-running Ben 10: The Secret of the Omnitrix, a 90-minute movie, starting at 8 PM, as part of Ben 10 week.
Every week I question whether I should keep mentioning UFO Hunters as a must-see bit of sci-fi-ish TV. And every week, the show sucks me in with another insane episode title. This time, it's "UFO Dogfights." Yes, that's what you think it is. U.S. military jets had engagements in the 1970s and 1980s with objects that were moving too fast to be anything terrestrial. Did our jets shoot it out with an alien spaceship? It's a fair question. That's Wednesday at 10 on the History Channel.
IFC is showing two great movies in the afternoon. At 2:35, they're showing Primer, one of the weirdest and most cerebral time-travel movies of all time. And then at 4, they're showing C.S.A.: Confederate States of America, a bizarre and provocative alternate present, where the South won the Civil War and modern inventions like antidepressants are used to keep slaves in line.
Smallville is back after a break, and this is supposedly the episode where everything changes. Without getting too spoilery, we're being told over and over that this is a major turning point in the series, especially for Lex. And the show is finally going to be making some huge steps forward towards the Superman status quo we all know and love. Of course, we also know that Lex won't be in most of the episodes next season, and neither will Lana. Also gone will be the show's co-founders Al Gough and Miles Millar. So this could actually be the show's last hurrah. Here's a preview clip. Is this Lex killing his inner child? Or what?
Meanwhile, the Cartoon Network is showing the live-action Ben 10 movie, Race Against Time, at 8 PM, continuing Ben 10 week. Apparently it's directed by Alex Winter, star of Bill and Ted, so you know it'll be awesome.
The Sci Fi Channel's Friday night lineup starts to take shape, and it's looking pretty unbeatable. At 8 PM, you have a new half-hour episode of the Sarah Jane Adventures, "Revenge Of The Slitheen Pt. 1." Despite featuring one of the less thrilling monsters from the new Doctor Who series, this episode is actually quite good — much better than the iffy pilot which aired last week. The cast starts to click a lot more with the substitution of Clyde for Kelsey. And the whole subversive teachers-are-evil subplot reminded me of Buffy, in a good way.
And then at 8:30, Sci Fi starts showing the fourth season of Doctor Who, starting with last year's Christmas special, "Voyage Of The Damned." A giant replica of the Titanic is orbiting Earth with a bunch of alien tourists on board. But the ship quickly starts to resemble its namesake, and only pop star Kylie Minogue — "I Should Be So Lucky" — can save the day. Here's our recap of the episode from last year, and here's the original British trailer:
And then at 10 PM, Sci Fi has another new Battlestar Galactica episode, "The Ties That Bind." Without giving too much away, it looks as though the Cylon civil war continues apace, Starbuck is still having some freaky mind-splosions and someone's wife may find out that he's really a Cylon. Here's the promo video:
Friday is also the debut of Ben 10: Alien Force, the Cartoon Network's new sequel to its classic Ben 10 cartoon. It's five years later, and Ben has become slightly more mature. He also hasn't used the Omnitrix in all that time. But when his Grandpa Max goes missing and leaves a cryptic message, Ben has to swing back into action again. Here's a preview clip:
Also on Friday, at 12:45 in the afternoon, TMC is showing Brother From Another Planet, the classic John Sayles film about an alien stranded in New York.
Torchwood ends its second season on BBC America at 9 PM. The longer I think about the season finale, the less happy I am about it. If you think about the show as constantly being in flux between serious, grown-up drama and silly, scifi soap opera, the needle tilts just a bit too much in the latter direction for this final episode, partly thanks to the return of James Marsters as Captain John, Captain Jack's jilted lover. You can read our soft-hearted recap here. And here's a preview clip:
There are two reruns of the Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon on the CW, starting at 9:30. But no new Transformers: Animated on Cartoon Network — it'll be back next week.
I'm drawing a blank, sorry. There just doesn't seem to be anything on Sunday. Oh, Spike is rerunning Star Wars Episode 1 a couple of times. That's about it.