The Watcher - Watch sci-fi you will

Embrace the inner dork you must

My father's most prized shirt was a long-sleeved tee that looked like the captain's uniform in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." There was even a little silver decal that resembled a communicator. He happily went into public places looking like Capt. Picard's torso spliced together with a Boy Scout leader's khaki shorts and knee socks. He often completed his stylin' look with his impersonation of Monty Python's Minister of Silly Walks, which embarrassed me throughout middle school. But by high school, I suspected my dad was so incurably dorky that he might actually be cool.

Recently, dork sympathizers like myself have noticed a new wave of sci-fi/fantasy acceptance by mainstream America. Don't fool yourself, folks, The Matrix and Lord of the Rings trilogies are the sort of things the Comic Book Guy in "The Simpsons" lives for — and you saw them, too. But your cool cred isn't tarnished until you start a website devoted to the detailed analysis of Elfin jewelry. That said, you can now indulge in the new chapters of the cartoon mini-series "Star Wars: Clone Wars" (Cartoon Network, Mon.-Fri., 8 p.m. March 26-April 8).

The mini-series picks up where the live-action Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones left off. Chapters 1-10 aired last November, but you can catch them again March 26 at 8 p.m., preceding the debut of the new chapters at 9:30 p.m. Each chapter runs only three or so minutes long, so don't be late, don't get up to get a drink from the kitchen, and you should set your TiVo just in case the phone rings.

Even though the chapters are short, they're great eye candy developed by a creative team led by "Samurai Jack" creator Genndy Tartakovsky. They capture the best parts of any Star Wars flick — the battle scenes. The cartoon format aids the epic proportions of interplanetary battle more effectively than the films' special effects team. Jedis seem more powerful as they easily jump over mountain-sized tanks, and more stoic as they effortlessly deflect lasers with fast-moving light sabers. After all, cartoons don't sweat until an animator draws it.

Although there is little dialogue, watch with your surround sound on to enjoy the detailed, movie-caliber sound effects. In one of the upcoming chapters, Anakin Skywalker (still pre-Darth) pauses during a fight with wannabe assassin Asajj Ventress and it begins to rain. A few drops hit the light sabers and sizzle. But as the rain gets heavier, the sizzling picks up and so does the tension. While most scenes progress nicely without dialogue, sometimes viewers get lost. Characters fight and die and you have no idea who they were. Here's a helpful hint: If you don't know who a character is and there's no introduction, treat them like the extras on a Star Trek away mission — they exist only to get captured, vanish or die. Concern yourself with the main characters, in this case, Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, Anakin Skywalker and Count Dooku.

Chapters 11-20 show the developing powers of Anakin Skywalker and introduce General Grievous, evil badass, but watching the mini-series isn't pre-requisite for the next movie. They're more like a delicious appetizer to quench your appetite until the still far-away release of Star Wars: Episode III.