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Traces of other series found in 'Triangle'

It doesn't take long for the phrase ''without a trace" to pop up in ''The Triangle," Sci Fi's new miniseries. And that's exactly as you'd expect in a story about the Bermuda Triangle, that missing patch in our scientific knowledge, that icon of the inexplicable. Indeed, almost everything in ''The Triangle" is exactly as you'd expect, once a whole bunch of cargo ships go missing ''without a trace" and a group of experts tries to figure it out.

But predictability doesn't manage to completely ruin ''The Triangle," which airs over the next three nights at 9. The miniseries is an ordinary but not awful piece of science fiction, one you won't hate watching and yet one you shouldn't hate missing. I admit to hoping it would be so bad I could write about wanting it to disappear into the Bermuda Triangle of my memory. But, alas, especially compared with the likes of last month's insulting ''The Poseidon Adventure," it deserves some props.

''The Triangle" has been put together like a confident weave of TV's supernatural drama series. It contains strands of ''Surface," the late ''Threshold," and, of course, ''Lost," especially ''Lost." Like ABC's hit show, it revolves around a time-space mystery, where planes disappear but are not gone. At one point tonight, ragged fellows from another era appear, and they look strangely like the Others who have been plaguing the ''Lost" castaways. And, like ''Lost," with its hatches and its Dharma Initiative, ''The Triangle" slowly delivers clues about its core puzzle that tease us with their possibilities.

The action-adventure plot is tied to a quirky team of four who are investigating the Triangle. There's a cynical tabloid reporter (Eric Stoltz), a sincere psychic (Bruce Davison), a cocky scientist (Michael E. Rodgers), and a proud ocean resource engineer (Catherine Bell). They've been assembled by a billionaire (Sam Neill) obsessed with the Triangle, and they bicker and flirt their way into the heart of the big secret. Each takes the job for the money, but their personal investment grows quickly as they have visions they don't understand.

The characters are pretty shallow. Basically, they're defined by one or two characteristics -- as if their names in the miniseries' original blueprint were Mr. Arrogance, Professor Cynicism, Ms. Banter, and Dr. Emotional. But the actors make them colorful enough, but not so colorful they obscure the thrills. Lou Diamond Phillips is also in the cast, as a Greenpeace captain whose brush with the Triangle has left him a changed man who suddenly doesn't recognize one of his sons. He's Mr. My Dog Is Named Nader, doing business as Mr. Memory Lapse.

With Dean Devlin of ''Independence Day" as one of its executive producers, the miniseries is filled with disaster-movie-size effects (many of which were not complete in the copy sent to reviewers). But ''The Triangle" is not as fast-paced as most big-screen action movies, and it could easily have lost two hours. They would have gone missing without a trace.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at

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