The geeks are inheriting the earth. Latest evidence: TV is turning into a server for cyberjunkies, UFO freaks and other techno-fetishists. ""Star Trek'' spawns spinoffs (""Voyager'') and knockoffs (""Space Precinct''). The Sci-Fi Channel is beaming into more and more cable systems. And the two newest sci-fi series -- Fox's ""VR.5'' and Showtime's remake of ""The Outer Limits'' -- are going to be on Friday nights. You can imagine the harsh programming logic: all the geeks are home then because they don't have dates. They've gotta watch TV.
Fox wants its rabid ""X-Files''-philes to start their Friday-night ritual an hour early with ""VR.5'' (airing March 10), a moody psychodrama about the high-tech nether world of virtual reality, or ""VR.'' Lori Singer, the shy cellist from ""Fame'' and ""Short Cuts,'' plays shy computer hacker Sydney Bloom. She wears a tool belt for the L.A. phone company until her shift's done,then escapes into her homemade VR rig: goggles, gloves and computer-generated fantasy. By accident, she finds out that callingsomebody on the phone while she's jacked into VR zapsboth parties into a hallucinatory dreamscape where gravity and other real-world inhibitions don't apply. In VR, she can get naked with a guy she has a crush on or talk to her comatose mother (Louise Fletcher) about the death of her father (David McCallum). Her dad, an early VR pioneer, is one of the show's running mysteries. So is The Committee, a quasi-Masonic group that wants tocontrol Sydney's cybertripping. Things can get silly: one episode resorts to a dumb TV-and-movie pastiche, with Sydney and her grunge-boy crush (Michael Easton) pretending they're ""The Avengers.'' But patience pays off with ""VR.5,'' executive-produced by John Sacret Young (who did ""China Beach'') and Thania St. John. Singer's blank android beauty -- think Daryl Hannah in ""Blade Runner'' -- makes her an ideal VR traveler. You can dress her up and take her anywhere.
If ""VR.5'' is involving, Showtime's two-hour ""Outer Limits'' pilot (March 26) is terrifying. Titled ""Sandkings,'' it stars three generations of Bridges (Lloyd, Beau and 10-year-old Dylan) in a nerve-jangling tale of a scientist (Beau) made mad when he breeds a race of carnivorous bugs found in a Martian soil sample. Light-years ahead of the original '60s anthology series -- a second-rate ""Twilight Zone'' -- in writing, acting and cool effects, this new ""Outer Limits'' understands that the best sci-fi doesn't have to get lost in space. And you don't have to be a dateless geek to watch.