Star Wars: Expanded Universe Read-Through “Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil”

dynasty_of_evilI have embarked on a quest to read through the Star Wars Expanded Universe once more. Be sure to check the linked text there to see other posts in this series. Here, we look at Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil, the conclusion of the Darth Bane trilogy, which is set a millennium before the original trilogy. It provides a background for how the Sith came to be as they appear in the films. There will be SPOILERS in what follows. Please do not SPOIL later books in the comments.

Darth Bane: Path of Destruction

Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil starts yet another ten years after the previous entry, Rule of Two (which itself started 10 years after the first, Path of Destruction). Bane is beginning to have concerns about his apprentice, Zannah, who has yet to challenge him to combat despite his own belief that she ought to have done so by now–and his suspicion that she may even be able to best him. He is also pursuing the path to possible immortality from a lost Sith document that will give him time to find a new apprentice and destroy Zannah, if needed. Meanwhile, Zannah is making strides of her own, plotting to take on her own apprentice, a rogue Jedi named Set, while pursuing the mission Bane sent her on offworld. Bane is captured by the vengeful daughter of Caleb, the healer Bane threatened in order to be helped. He escapes with help from a former compatriot in the Sith army, and goes to confront Zannah at last. Set takes some valuable Sith artifacts and escapes, hoping to learn about immortality on his own, while Bane moves to confront Zannah. The Huntress, an assassin has pledged to become Zannah’s new apprentice if she defeats Bane. During the battle, Bane appears to have been defeated, but at the end it seems he has simply taken over Zannah’s body in his pursuit of immortality, and he takes on the Huntress as his (possibly) unwitting apprentice.

I have to say, this is a phenomenal conclusion to an excellent plot arc in the Star Wars expanded universe. Karpyshyn has written a work that can truly stand on its own without the Star Wars license, but as he did in the previous entries, he wisely uses that license to improve the work rather than as a crutch. Dynasty of Evil is fast-paced, intense, and absolutely full of twists and turns that kept me guessing–0r at least anticipating–through the last page. The action scenes remain quite strong, but more importantly, Karpyshyn’s character writing continues to exceed expectations. There is no doubt that Bane and Zannah are evil characters, but the motivations, plotting, and the like that they do is every bit as realistic as more complex “good guys.” They aren’t just evil ogres; they are characters that easily stand on their own.

Tying in the continued pursuit of ancient Sith artifacts to the story is really just icing on the cake. There’s a sense of history and depth in this book and the rest of the series that isn’t always present in the Star Wars universe.

Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil is a fantastic conclusion to a superb trilogy set within the Star Wars universe. It is highly recommended reading, and could easily stand on its own as a great work.

The Good

+Intriguing characters
+Great action scenes
+Excellent pacing
+Open-ended but satisfying conclusion

The Bad

-None

Best Droid Moment

N/A 😦

Grade: A+ “A stirring success as the conclusion to one of the better complete story arcs in the EU.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Reading through Star Wars: Expanded Universe– Here you can read other posts in this series (reviews of other EU books) and make suggestions about what I should include in my reviews.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

There are other posts on science fiction books to be found! Read them here.

SDG.

Star Trek: DS9 Season 2 “Cardassians” and “Melora”

melora

The Klingon Restaurant is Everything that is Awesome

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“Cardassians”

Synopsis

A Cardassian boy, Rugal, shows up on DS9, apparently with Bajoran “parents.” He lashes out at Garak, the Cardassian tailor on board the station, leading to controversy over his situation. Gul Dukat insists on intervening and says he desires to bring all the Cardassian war orphans back home. When Bashir mentions Dukat’s ideas to Garak, he not-so-subtly hints that there is more than meets the eye with Dukat’s concerns because Dukat himself was involved with and opposed to evacuating Bajor. Dukat and Bashir go to Bajor where they find information that ultimately reveals Dukat intentionally left Rugal behind to poison the well of one of his political adversaries. When Dukat arrives on station to help arbitrate the hearing over custody of Rugal, he is confronted with this information. He storms off, his plan in ruins, and Rugal is sent “home” with his Cardassian father.

Commentary

It is difficult for me to figure out how to feel about this one. It’s also impossible to refrain from a comparison of the Cardassian treatment of the Bajorans to various modern day analogues. I did enjoy this episode. It asked many valuable questions, and what I thought for a while was a gaping plot hole (why the heck did the Cardassians leave any of their children behind to begin with) actually became the impetus for a major plot twist. I have to admit that was really well done.

I also like the character of Garak and his interplay with Bashir, which largely seems to be: Bashir looks kind of like an idiot. There’s a lot going on in this episode, and much of it involves Bashir annoying Sisko with little reason to back up his claims other than that some tailor told him to investigate further. No matter, he does so, and his curious nature is ultimately rewarded in the showdown with Gul Dukat, another great Cardassian character. Basically, the writers of both TNG and DS9 have done a phenomenal job writing the Cardassians so far. They’re much more threatening-feeling than most other enemies. There’s a sense not just of intrigue but also foreboding that accompanies them. I don’t know how to describe it, but they’re good.

I didn’t even get to mention the O’Briens impact on the situation, and O’Brien dealing with his own dislike of the Cardassians to try to convince Rugal that they aren’t all bad after all.

Anyway, the ending of this was tough, too. How will Rugal adapt to Cardassia, among those he has effectively been raised to hate? Will his own perspective help bring change, or will they simply beat into him the evils of Bajor? I doubt we’ll ever know, and the ambivalence of it is tough to swallow.

Grade: B+ “A rather ambivalent look at a number of tough questions that, ultimately, leaves them unanswered.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was a pretty good mix of the race relations between Cardassia and Bajor with some good mystery thrown in.”

“Melora”

Synopsis

Ensign Melora Pazlar is coming to DS9 and because she is Elaysian, she is used to lower gravity than DS9 has. Bashir has been getting everything prepared, and is surprised by her abrasive attitude when they first meet. She insists upon doing everything herself, but slowly begins to trust Bashir. After an accident that Bashir helps her to recover from, she gives him the experience of “flying” around her low-gravity quarters. They exchange a kiss. Bashir comes up with an idea to help her muscles adapt to the gravity of the station, but to complete the treatment, Melora will have to give up her low-gravity fields so her motor cortex doesn’t get messed up. Meanwhile, an old accomplice of Quark’s, Kot, has shown up on station, threatening to kill Quark. He is persuaded away from this course of action by a bribe, but as Quark acquires the money, Kot intervenes, insisting on even more. He takes Melora, Dax, and Quark hostage and steals a runabout. On the runabout, after being shot, Melora manages to turn off the gravity in the ship and disable Kot. She decides to discontinue the treatment because she feels it would change who she really is.

Commentary

The biggest problem in this episode is when Dax is talking to Melora and brings up the story of the Little Mermaid as a kind of analogy for Melora’s own situation. It’s like the thrust of the whole episode up to this point has been “Let’s fix the angry disabled person” (itself a major problem) and then it turns into “but wait, disabled people might be better off how they are!” Now, apart from the many complexities in such questions which are largely ignored by the episode, I found this a stunningly inept way of looking at the question of disabilities in the future. Melora is portrayed as rather savagely defensive instead of as a person who is adapting to difficult circumstances, the people around her basically all seem to be trying to “fix” her, and the one person who doesn’t favor that basically tells a horror story about how everything could go wrong with the choice she made.

All of that said, it is clear the intent of the episode was to try to deal with some of these very difficult questions. It just was inept in its execution. What makes this more surprising is that one of the writers, Evan Carlos Somers, apparently is a paraplegic himself who uses a wheelchair. According to the Deep Space Nine Companion, he had to deal with many of the problems shown on screen-elevators not designed to be accessible, etc. I just wish that the episode had highlighted more of the difficulties without making Melora seem so embittered by them. Yes, she does come out of her shell some, but there is little explanation for why she is so upset to begin with.

Also, can we ask how realistic the whole scenario is anyway? Basically any hard sci-fi I’ve read deals with the question of differing gravities, and I think that Melora would have to be better adapted to higher gravities than she is. Simply based on muscle mass and the fact she is able to fling herself about in low or no gravity suggests some better muscles and use thereof than this episode actually discusses. Oh well.

The sub-plot of the blast from Quark’s past was pretty interesting, and I think it could have carried an episode on its own, but maybe that’s because I’m coming to enjoy Quark more and more.

Finally, I give this episode mad props for the excellence that was the Klingon restaurant. That was basically the best non-story moment of any episode so far. Both scenes in the restaurant were pure gold, especially when the owner came around singing and playing his dainty Klingon incident. Superb.

Grade: C- “A questionably-executed attempt to deal with disabilities in the future.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “The ‘Little Mermaid in Space’ didn’t do a very good job addressing disability. Melora was interesting character, though.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: DS9- For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

Star Trek: DS9 Season 2 “The Siege” and “Invasive Procedures”

A perfect role for Quark to play.

A perfect role for Quark to play.

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“The Siege”

Synopsis

Sisko refuses to evacuate all people from DS9 and instead only evacuates civilians and non-essentials even as the Bajorans say they’re coming to take over the station. Kira and Dax depart to try to find a way to communicate with the Chamber of Ministers regarding the Cardassians’ collusion with The Circle. Back on the station, Colonel Day and Over-General Krim arrive to take over, finding a series of traps and decoys set up by Sisko and the gang. On Bajor, Dax and Kira are recovered after bing shot down and they are helped by Bareil to get them to the Chamber of Ministers. She presents evidence of the Cardassian involvement with Jaro and The Circle. Vedek Winn, ever-shifting to whatever side is winning, joins with Kira to have Jaro arested. Krim decides to honor the Ministers’ wishes and return DS9 to the Federation, but Day fires at Sisko, who is only saved by Li’s intervention. The latter is killed, dying, at last, as a hero.

Commentary

Again, there is so much going on in this third (!) part of the “Circle” plot thread that it is hard to type it all up. There’s just a lot going on in this one. Unfortunately, most of it is fairly predictable, and the twists and turns that had happened in parts 1 and 2 are largely absent here. Part of the problem with a thread like this is that viewers already know that DS9 is going to return to Federation control–or at the very least that Sisko et al. will be on board it in some capacity. The tension just isn’t there. I think it would have been better to have The Circle taking over the Chamber of Ministers and having Sisko deal with whether or not he ought to intervene. That would have made it believable drama, because we don’t really know or fully understand Bajoran law and custom. The threat would have felt much more real, and characters like Winn and Jaro could have fully realized their potential.

Oh well. No need to debate could-have-beens. This is still a satisfying conclusion in many ways, and it leaves Winn free hand to show up and cause all kinds of problems at a later point. Moreover, killing off Li means we won’t have to deal with yet another off-station recurring character. The episode is good, but not quite as good as I think it could have been.

Grade: B+ “Somewhat predictable, but a satisfying conclusion to a three-part (and then some) plot line.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “They seemed to have too many plot strings to tie them all together neatly.”

“Invasive Procedures”

Synopsis

DS9 is temporarily evacuated apart fro ma skeleton crew due to some dangerous thing happening nearby (doesn’t matter what, to be honest). Quark helps a gang enter the station and they quickly take over. Turns out their motivation is that Verad, the apparent leader of the group wants to take the Dax symbiont out of Jadzia, which will kill her. Verad also applied for the symbiont program, but was turned down. He manages to coerce Dr. Bashir into helping him remove the Dax symbiont and putting it in Verad. Sisko makes Verad Dax feel quite guilty about the whole endeavor, and also drives a wedge between Verad and his apparent lover/cohort, Mareel. She lets Sisko go and he intercepts Verad, striking him down with the phaser despite the danger to Dax. They save Jadzia, barely, and Verad is left behind, lonely and confused.

Commentary

Look, another Star Trek trope pops up! Never leave your space station/starship with a skeleton crew. Something will always go wrong, and it will usually be someone trying to take over the station. Alas.

Anyway, this one had some interesting points in it, and Verad is a rather sympathetic antihero, though he’s a little too whiny throughout to fully pull the role off. A glaring hole here is that Quark doesn’t seem to receive any punishment for his helping the gang, other than having everyone mad at him for a little bit. It’s surprising, but I guess it’s what they had to do to ensure Quark would continue to be a real character and not just languishing in a prison cell for several seasons (though, let’s be honest, an episode in which he manages to get himself out on some loophole in Federation law would have been epic). On the other hand, Quark’s role in this episode was spot-on, from his double-timing DS9 without really knowing what was going on to his faking being in much more pain than he was in sickbay. His character continues to entertain, even when you’re rooting against him.

I enjoyed this episode, but it was a bit of a stretch to think how it all came off so nicely, with a bow on top. It’s just a little too simple. Good, not great.

Grade: B- “It’s not great, but it is exciting enough throughout to capture my interest.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “A cool bit of backstory into the symbiot, but it sort of seemed like yet another ‘how does Starfleet have such bad security?’ moment.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: DS9- For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.

Star Trek: DS9 Season 2 “The Homecoming” and “The Circle”

I really just want to be left alone. *EVERYONE COMES IN*

I really just want to be left alone. *EVERYONE COMES IN*

I’ve completed my re-watch of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Now it’s time to start Deep Space Nine! I am much less familiar with this show, though I’m pretty sure I’ve seen about 80-90% of the episodes. It’s been so long that I’m sure it will all feel brand new. My wife has never seen the show. She and I will go through, review every episode, and give commentary and a grade from A-F. There are SPOILERS for each episode below. Without further adieu, here’s:

“The Homecoming”

Synopsis

Quark gives Major Kira an earring from a freighter captain, and Kira immediately recognizes it as belonging to Lia Nalas, a major player in the Bajoran resistance. She begs Sisko for the use of a runabout to seek him out, and ultimately is granted it. Chief O’Brien goes with and they manage to free Li and a few others from the illegal prison camp. Gul Dukat calls to apologize to the Bajorans, claiming they had no knowledge of the illegal camp. Meanwhile, Sisko converses with Li and discovers that the man has been harboring a secret: he isn’t the hero he is portrayed as. A simple incident caused him to be venerated, and he is uncomfortable in the spotlight that is placed upon him. Sisko responds by telling him that although he may not in actuality be the leader the Bajorans believe him to be, he can become that leader for them. Minister Jaro on Bajor, however, pulls a political maneuver that seems to leave Li exiled on DS9 rather than having him on the surface, recalling Major Kira and putting Li as the Bajoran liaison officer.

Commentary

Okay, I think it is fair to say that Kira should be in some major trouble here. But I guess Sisko caved into her request for no apparent reason, so it was fine. Speaking of which, how does Sisko constantly allow himself to get talked into other people’s harebrained schemes? One of the themes of DS9 so far seems to be that Sisko will basically allow or endorse anything, so long as someone feels passionate enough about it. I vaguely recall him being a bit of a hardliner from watching the series before, so maybe that changes at some point.

Anyway, the core of the plot here was decent. It had a good setup for more development, and I like seeing more political intrigue on Bajor. It’s always interesting to see how the areas around DS9 are developing and interacting, and this makes it fairly clear that Starfleet and Bajor aren’t always going to see eye-to-eye (as if that was a question before). The action in the episode was pretty solid too. I was enjoyable, but a bit unbelievable.

A fun tidbit from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion- apparently they filmed parts of the episode at a working rock quarry in Soledad Canyon, north of LA. This meant it was super hot and really not fun to work in with temperature shifts that were dramatic and dangerous. Apparently the actors hated it because it was truly hellacious, but they used the location more than once.

Grade: B+ “Kira should be all the court martialed.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It created a good set up for what was yet to come.”

“The Circle”

Synopsis

Sisko protests Kira’s replacement, but Minister Jaro points out it is a promotion for Kira. Meanwhile, a Bajor-first/Bajorans-only group called The Circle has taken to scrawling their graffiti over the station and Starfleet fears violence may spread to the station as well. Odo discovers that The Circle is getting weapons from the Kressari, and goes to investigate further. He discovers that the weapons ultimately come from the Cardassians, thus undercutting the whole purpose and core values of The Circle to begin with. It appears as though the Cardassians are trying to get rid of the Federation in order to come back to take over DS9. The Circle kidnaps Kira. Quark says he discovers The Circle’s headquarters, and Sisko and a team rescue Kira. Sisko asks Admiral Chekote from Starfleet what to do about the impending crisis and is ordered to evacuate.

Commentary

I left out a ton of plot here, to be honest, just to make the synopsis work. This is an episode that does not let up whatsoever. Boom. Boom. Boom. Major plot point after major plot point is thrown at the viewer, non-stop. It’s exciting, and it is mostly done well. The only real complaint here is that there is so much going on and it moves so quickly. But they put some of the rumblings of Bajoran politics into the end of Season One, so it doesn’t feel quite as rushed as it may have otherwise. Another big surprise is the order from Admiral Chekote to abandon DS9. You’d think that Stafleet, with its “Explore everything” mandate, would be loathe to lose the base, especially with evidence of the Cardassian involvement. On the other hand, the Prime Directive may have been part of the reason to evacuate. Whatever the case, a few hiccups don’t take much away from this otherwise great episode.

Grade: A- “Good development of many plot threads.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was my favorite part of the three-parter.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: DS9- For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

SDG.