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Learning Curve, Part One
Review By Arsenal, Media by Stu

Episode #5 - Learning Curve, Part One
Original Airdate February 14th 1998

The Surfer's quest for knowledge of Zenn-La takes him to the Universal Library, the repository of all the knowledge of the Watchers. But there's a lot more trouble here than just a few overdue books.

Written By: Larry Brody, Andrea Lawrence
Directed By: Norm Spencer
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi

Review: “Silver Surfer” is heavily influenced by Kirby imagery—the costumes, the gadgets, the portrayal of space. All of it is indebted to Kirby. That is an asset and a detriment. Kirby homage crackles with energy but does not necessarily move well. Often his character designs and backgrounds are too complex to allow the eye to focus comfortably. It becomes overwhelming and requires simplification.

Also, Surfer used some of the first computer animation on television. At the time, it was revolutionary; but it meshes with the traditionally animated elements poorly. In general, spaceships and Galactus jar when juxtaposed with the hand-drawn characters.

Consequently the animation, much like the scripts, tends to aim high but fall short of the goal. It is rough and lacks timing. Pacing rushes or drags at inopportune times. For example, Surfer tells Kip he can be calm too soon after attacking him. Surfer has no moment of epiphany where he realizes he’s watching the wrong person.

Storywise, this script sets up a storyline that is almost as audacious as the Surfer’s origin. Surfer, Kip (the unfunny comic relief), Drax the Destroyer (the obligatory android) and Mentor (who is as geeky as his name implies) set out to find the home world of the Watchers, the Universal Library.

Meanwhile, more cameos are shoved in. In addition to the aforementioned Drax and Mentor, Nebula makes her debut. (We also get a cameo as the Richard Ryder Nova is a nonspeaking member of her crew.) Oatu, Eternity and Infinity also vie for screen time.

Characters and plot lines fight for attention but nothing fascinates. The story idea is a good one, but the characters are not interesting enough to care about. Surfer’s self-involved monologues are much less interesting than Spidey’s quips. The stilted dialogue doesn’t help anyone either.

Half of the characters speak in Shakespearean dialect (Mentor, Surfer, Thanos). The other half talk like groundlings (Nova, Kip). Neither connects with the audience. Some happy medium needs to be struck.

Maybe that’s why Nebula is easily the most interesting thing on the screen this episode. She menaces, she swaggers, and she doesn’t speak like Victorian nobility.

Rough animation and a stilted script hamper an interesting story. This holds true not just for this episode but most of the series.