Sci-fi drama is out of this world

Where do you go after the end of the world? That's both the problem and the exciting possibility of the new science-fiction series "Odyssey 5" (9 p.m., Showtime).

The riveting first half-hour of "Odyssey 5" features dazzling photography, a remarkably realistic depiction of space flight and weightlessness. Peter Weller ("RoboCop") stars as space shuttle Cmdr. Chuck Taggart. He's a tad miffed at his space jockey son Neil (Christopher Gorham), who has just defied an order from Houston Mission Control to space-lasso an expensive satellite.

But family squabbles take a back seat to Apocalypse when the shuttle's video screens go dead. While searching for the root of the technical problem, the crew, including the cynical scientist Dr. Kurt Mendel (Sebastian Roche), mission pilot Angela Perry (Tamara Craig Thomas) and visiting journalist Sarah Forbes (Leslie Silva) stare in horror as an ominous dark cloud spreads over the blue planet Earth.

After an explosion and a wild ride through the void, the crew faces the grim prospect that their home planet has been destroyed. And if that earth-shattering notion weren't dreadful enough, they realize that their damaged ship's oxygen supply will run out in a matter of hours.

But fear not, television fans. On the brink of suffocation, the crew find themselves rescued by a mysterious alien called "The Seeker" (Sir John Neville). While on a galaxywide mission to discover the cause of his own home planet's destruction, the Seeker has witnessed the destruction of many planets. He then makes the crew an offer they can't refuse. Using his planet's advanced technology, he will allow them to travel five years into the past, so they can prevent the destruction of the Earth.

So, the crew embarks on a mission that is half space Odyssey, half cosmic joke. The cynical Mendel decides to parley his knowledge of "future" football scores into a gambling fortune. Forbes tries to forestall her son's cancer death. But both discover that even with their knowledge of the past, the events of the next five years are anything but certain.

Combining the best of "The X-Files" and "Terminator," "Odyssey" blends humor and mind-bending situations to become a first-rate sci-fi detective series. "Odyssey 5" will unfold over 18 one-hour episodes airing at 9 p.m. Fridays. Showtime will be offering a free preview of their programming to basic cable subscribers tonight through Sunday night.

Tonight's other highlights

� Scheduled on "48 Hours" (7 p.m., CBS): a small town faces change after 43 residents win the lottery.

� Scheduled on "Dateline" (7 p.m., NBC): A two-hour report on a Spokane, Wash., serial killer.

� Angelina Jolie brings a third dimension to the 2001 video game adventure "Laura Croft: Tomb Raider" (7:20 p.m., Showtime).

� Former PBS perennial Louis Rukeyser is host of a new weekly series, "Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street," (7:30 p.m., CNBC).

� Charlie O'Connell stars in the 2000 adventure "Death By Magic," (7 p.m., UPN).

� Dr. Sloane's daughter disappears mysteriously in the repeat 2002 made-for-TV drama "Diagnosis Murder: Town Without Pity," (8 p.m., CBS).

� Kelly Ripa is host of "Lilo & Stitch: Aloha From Hollywood," (8 p.m., ABC), a promotion for the new animated feature.

� Mos Def ("Monster's Ball") is host of "Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry," (Midnight, HBO) featuring poems and performances.

Series notes

All are repeats ... Max, Logan and Alec unite to save Joshua on "Dark Angel," (7 p.m., Fox) ... Tom Bergeron hosts "America's Funniest Home Videos," (7 p.m., ABC) ... Pop star Vitamin C guest stars on "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," (7 p.m., WB).

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