Time Travel in Science Fiction

Now that I’ve read an enormous amount of sci-fi I think it’s safe to say my least favorite sub-genre is time travel.

There are, of course, great time travel novels (Doomsday Book by Connie Willis, for example), but in general I think the idea is overdone and the novels that use it don’t show a ton of variety in them. In many cases if they go to the future they may as well have just written a sci-fi novel about that future. If they go to the past they may as well have written historical fiction. The problem is in very few of them is there any particular reason for the story to be science fiction.

I think the way to do it is to establish the character(s) who is traveling and give them a reason for being interesting and important in whatever temporal situation they are placed within. That’s what Doomsday Book did right, though even Doomsday Book had the problem of not having the “present” time being very compelling or interesting. It’s not done enough. Too often, time travel books have fairly flat main characters who serve almost entirely as a vehicle to get the reader to whatever time and place the author desires.

Just as important, there must be interesting characters in whatever time the travelers get to. Too often in time travel books, the characters in the future or past are little more than vehicles for showing how strange or different that time period/place is. That’s not enough.

Another difficulty with time travel books is that they often feel more like gimmicks than like serious science fiction. That is okay in some cases–Callahan’s Crosstime Salloon, for example, is a quite fun romp that doesn’t take the time-travel aspect at all seriously–but in others it makes the whole thing seem contrived. On the opposite end of the spectrum from turning the time travel into a gimmick is making the time travel itself, and its mechanics, the center of the work and the primary driving factor. That gets old pretty fast. There are only so many times and ways I can deal with reading about possible paradoxes of time travel and whether they make time travel impossible and for the sake of this novel this is why it really is possible after all… etc. I really don’t like pointing to this one because it was clearly such a labor of love, but Stephen Baxter’s Time Ships gets caught up in this big time. It’s a rather fun tribute to H.G. Wells’ time travel novel contained in a massive tome of scientific and philosophical contemplation on quantum theory and the like.

I end my extended rant by once again affirming that there are time travel novels I enjoy, but overall the sub-genre has too little going on in it to make me enjoy it consistently.

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!

SDG.

Star Trek: DS9 Season 2 “Rivals” and “The Alternate”

rivals

So much more could have been done in this episode!

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:

“Rivals”

Synopsis

Prince Humperdinck… er, Martus Mazor, an apparent con man looking to make a quick buck, gets some kind of gambling device from someone else in the brig. He decides to open up a new casino across the way from Quark’s. Meanwhile, O’Brien and Bashir continue a racquetball rivalry, playing each other multiple times. O’Brien is convinced that if he just had the speed he used to possess, he’d wipe the floor with Bashir. To try to gain some of the business back from Martus, Quark announces a rival racquetball throwdown between Bashir and O’Brien. As all of this has been going on, weird accidents and luck shifting have changed all over the station. The bets keep rolling in as Quark’s business regains prominence. Martus desperately gives his money to an apparently down-on-her-luck Bajoran in a business investment. Dax discovers that the strange luck events trace ti the device Martus acquired.

Commentary

I think I can readily say this is not a very good episode, but I enjoyed it way more than I should have because it had the guy who played Prince Humperdinck in The Princess Bride in it. And he’s hilariously over-the-top in this episode, just as he is in the movie. Yes, nothing makes sense in this episode at all. Some dying alien in the brig has a space magic lottery device that manages to impact luck on an entire space station? Sure, why the heck not? Start a new business based on these random lotto devices in which all they do is light up and make a happy noise if you win or turn the lights off and make a sad noise if you lose? Yeah, obviously everyone would be interested in that! Luck as something that can be impacted by some strange device that can be easily replicated and made bigger? Why not?

The whole episode is nonsensical. But wow the guy who plays Humperdinck is great. Oh and I thought the ‘swindle the swindler’ aspect towards the end was kinda cool.

Grade: C+ “I think that having Prince Humperdinck in this one made me like it more than I should have.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: C “The characters weren’t that great and nothing about the episode made sense.”

“The Alternate”

Synopsis

Dr. Mora Pol, a Bajoran who’d worked with Odo to help him adapt to society, shows up on Deep Space 9 and wants Odo to help him get a runabout to investigate the possibility of some DNA similar to Odo’s being found on a planet in the Gamma Quadrant. They go, and it is clear that Odo’s time with Dr. Pol wasn’t as wonderful for the former as it was for the latter–he was treated largely as an experiment, not a person. They get some goo that seems to be Odo-like from the planet and investigate, but a gas knocks everyone but Odo out. Back on DS9, things start to go radically wrong as the life-form goo goes missing and attacks start to happen on the station. It turns out that Odo was impacted by the gas as well–it turned him into a space monster goo. Bashir and Mora manage to cure Odo by taking the gas out of his cells. High fives all around, and Odo seems to forgive Dr. Pol.

Commentary

DS9 has a lot more episodes that are just plain weird than TNG did. This is another one. Interestingly, like many of the weird episodes so far, this one still somehow works, if only in a broken way. It gives Odo more characterization–and shows that his earliest times learning to take on form must have been super rough. It also gave a nice narrative of forgiveness as Odo and Pol worked together to solve problems, with the latter learning that Odo had achieved so much and coming to realize that he was more than an experiment.

The main problem here is the horror-type story in which Odo magically turns into a towering angry beast. I know we’ve already thrown conservation of matter out the window for Odo, and that’s fine. But some gas manages to turn him into a crazy death-dealing creature? And during the time we’ve already been told he must rest in order to survive? I don’t know, but my plausibility radar was going off big time.

Overall, it’s not a great episode, but it’s not bad either. I enjoyed it, and that’s what is important.

Grade: B- “Weird, but a nice break from the ‘space magic’ explanations we’ve had for many episodes this season.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “The space magic was a little strange but it had some good twists and turns.”

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 “Second Sight” and “Sanctuary”

sanctuary

This was the only picture I could easily find for the episode. Deal with it.

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:

“Second Sight”

Synopsis

Sisko realizes that he almost forgot about the anniversary of his wife’s death and decides to take a walk. While walking around the promenade, he meets an enchanting woman, Fenna, who seems to disappear during their conversation. Later meetings happen in a similar fashion as the woman disappears. Sisko then runs into the woman, who is apparently Nidell, the wife of Gideon Seyetik, a terraformer who is on station working on a project. The woman does not have any memory of running into Sisko before, however. Later, after running into the mysterious Fenna again, Sisko goes to confront Nidell. He finds her ill and it becomes clear that Nidell’s subconscious self is rebelling against a life as the wife of the boastful Seyetik. Due to her own monogamous beliefs, she will not leave him, and it is killing her (literally). Seyetik leaves the station to run himself into the nearby sun he is trying to jump-start, thus freeing Nidell, who has no memory of Fenna’s love for Sisko.

Commentary

I don’t really know what to make of this one. Seyetik’s character is gloriously boastful, but in a way that almost makes him likeable. I’m sure that’s much easier to say as someone watching than a ‘real’ person talking with him, but there was almost something charming about just how full of himself he could be. Could he really turn every conversation into one about his exploits? Yes. He’s the most interesting man in the quadrant.

Aside from Seyetik, the episode is just weird. Some psychological/physical aspect of some alien falls in love with Sisko because she is unhappy in her marriage but somehow she doesn’t remember it herself and she’s dying because reasons? Yeah. I’m not sure what to make of that. But the episode is also fairly predictable: as a viewer I knew that the love wouldn’t last, particularly when it turned out that Nidell looked the same as Fenna. I also predicted Seyetik giving himself up to free his wife–a selfless act, really, for a man who is supposed to be insufferably selfish.

It’s a strange episode, and one that left me feeling a bit like “Huh?”

Grade: C “Weird and predictable.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “I do really like that the answer wasn’t space magic, but it seemed hard to believe that Seyetik couldn’t come up with a solution other than blowing himself up.”

“Sanctuary”

Synopsis

Some refugees show up through the wormhole only to let the station know that an entire people group is fleeing the Gamma Quadrant. Led by Haneek, the Skrreeas (I looked up how to spell it) are different in many ways from the people of Bajor and the Federation, particularly in their distrust of men in leadership positions.The Skrreeas have a prophecy about finding a place that is a planet of sorrow on which they will sow joy themselves. It sounds a lot like Bajor, but when Kira goes to the Bajoran provisional government, they conclude they cannot allow such a large number of refugees to settle on their planet.  Kira sides with the Bajoran leadership, and the Skrreeas leave with mournful words about what could have been on Bajor.

Commentary

A problem in our world that is never going to go away: refugee crises. “Sanctuary” deals with this thorny issue in a rather thought-provoking way. It is easy to see many of the problems in this episode in real-life situations. Perhaps the biggest and most damning part of the episode is that the two groups that are most likely to be sympathetic to the plight of a people group–the Bajorans and Starfleet–don’t come up with a solution that is satisfactory to the refugees themselves. Though it is an alarming proposition to think about the sheer volume of people the Bajorans would be taken in had they said yes, the episode made it seem clear they weren’t going to be losing out on much in terms of arable land and the like. It’s a telling conclusion that shows lip service towards the plights of others often is not met with action. Yes, Starfleet did find a planet for the people to settle upon (speaking of which–do they just have a bunch of life-suitable planets lying around for just such a situation? Maybe that’s why they’re so big on terraforming), but the Skrreeas themselves felt their prophetic home should be amongst the Bajorans. What’s the episode’s answer to such a tough question? Life isn’t so simple. Ouch.

My synopsis did not even mention the Jake/Nog side plot where they keep getting themselves in trouble with the Skrreeas kids, but I enjoyed that well enough. It showed some of the tension between people groups that would exist with so many refugees.

I enjoyed this episode quite a bit, but not because it is happy. It’s really quite sad–achingly so. It asks us to examine our own willingness to help others in need.

Grade: A- “Predictable, but well paced and with an intriguing message.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “I really enjoyed the challenges the station staff faced communicating with the new people group and thought it was well-done overall.”

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 “Armageddon Game” and “Whispers”

Well.. this is awkward.

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:

“Armageddon Game”

Synopsis

O’Brien and Bashir are sent to aid T’Lani III in the destruction of a dangerous bioweapon that has helped to spur on endless warfare between two factions. After they manage to destroy the last of it, an attack apparently makes them disappear. To the crew of DS9, it looks as though they’ve died. However, Keiko O’Brien suggests that because Chief Miles O’Brien was drinking coffee later than he ever would, the recording has been doctored. Sisko and Dax go to T’Lani III to investigate. Meanwhile, O’Brien has been getting sick, apparently from a bioweapon, and Bashir continues to try to treat him as O’Brien helps Bashir repair a communicator. As Sisko and Dax investigate, they discover that the runabout O’Brien and Bashir used has been tampered with, opening the possibility that they are alive. The T’Lani find O’Brien and Bashir, and it turns out they’ve decided to kill them to erase any possibility of the bioweapon ever being constructed again. Sisko and Dax manage to grab the imperiled crew members and distract the T’Lani, escaping back to DS9 with their lives.

Commentary

I thought this was a great character-building episode. One thing this episode highlights about DS9 as over and against TNG is that it is clear the relationships between characters are more complex. Yes, TNG is my favorite and probably always will be, but here in DS9 we have a relationship between two major characters that is not 100% amiable at all times. The relationship between O’Brien and Bashir is not caustic and awful, but it has tensions and is more depth to it than a lot of relationships on Star Trek in general have. It feels more real because of it.

The plot is pretty intriguing too, though a bit of suspension of disbelief is required for thinking the T’Lani would basically just start a war with Starfleet to preserve their peace after they’d just been assisted by Starfleet to get that peace achieved in the first place.

Overall, this was a great episode, and it built the heck outta O’Brien and Bashir as characters.

Grade: A- “O’Brien and Bashir are the best combination.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “Anytime Bashir and O’Brien face up, it’s gonna be great.”

“Whispers”

Synopsis

Something’s not right. O’Brien is in a runabout fleeing from Deep Space Nine, narrating the strange things that have happened. Basically everyone aboard DS9, including his wife, has become very strange, acting as though something is wrong with him when in reality all of them are going nuts. He narrates the lengthy series of events that leads to his escape from DS9. Ultimately, he ends up walking in on a meeting between Sisko and some others, only to see another one of himself across the way. He tries to fire on the imposters, but is instead killed by a bodyguard. As he lays dying, he tells the now-revealed-as-real O’Brien to tell Keiko he loves her.

Commentary

I kept getting shades of the classic “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (an excellent film, btw) throughout this episode, only to have the whole thing overthrown at the end. It was an unexpected twist that, while a bit tough to swallow, made sense as an ending and was satisfying. I enjoyed this one a great deal, especially because I enjoy a good mystery combined with my science fiction.

The abruptness of the ending is quite jarring, however. It’s clear from the beginning something isn’t right. And of course you simply go along with the expectation that O’Brien is the reliable narrator when in fact it is he who is compromised. But it felt like there weren’t really enough hints throughout to fully sell the ending, that the narrator was the imposter. That’s maybe the only real problem with this episode. I still enjoyed it a great deal.

Grade: B+ “The ending is a bit of a stretch, but this is a pretty mystifying–in a good way–episode.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “I like the premise, but I have a hard time believing they wouldn’t be better at keeping him locked up if they really thought they’d been infiltrated by a murderous spy group.”

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 “Rules of Acquisition” and “Necessary Evil”

necessary-evilI’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:

“Rules of Acquisition”

Synopsis

The Grand Nagus, Zek, shows up on DS9 and enlists Quark to be a kind of ambassador for the Ferengi to the Gamma Quadrant. Quark’s new waiter, Pel, shows himself (but wait, there’s more!) to be an excellent advisor, and Quark brings Pel along to help with negotiations. The Grand Nagus keeps changing exactly what he wants Quark to acquire, while Quark continues to struggle with the people from the Gamma Quadrant he’s trying to buy from. Pel, a female Ferengi who has, in fact, covered up her sex in order to participate in wider Ferengi affairs, falls for Quark and after she reveals herself to him, the Nagus and Quark both must keep her identity secret while also giving her some of the prophets of their Gamma Quadrant findings. Pel leaves Quark with both wondering if they could have been more.

 Commentary

It’s pretty amazing to me how well the DS9 writers have acclimated themselves to writing the Ferengi as a genuine, interesting people group. On TNG they were never more than a kind of annoying mosquito to be swatted–along with some really silly episodes–but on DS9 they’ve been developed into fully realized aliens with a complex system of beliefs and culture. It’s great. This episode contributes well to that growing body of intrigue.

Pel’s character is particularly fascinating, because it shows the low status of women among the Ferengi, as well as how some Ferengi females would try to break out from the strictures of their society. I’m hoping we see more of this going forward–I honestly don’t remember much of DS9 at all, apparently.

The episode also does a great job highlighting the strangeness and excitement of the Gamma Quadrant, with aliens that are aggressive, interesting, and full of opportunity (yes, that’s a nod to the Ferengi). I quite enjoyed the ending, with Quark realizing (?) his own thirst for profit and his adherence to strict codes of behavior among the Ferengi could have just cost him big time on the personal relationships front.

Grade: A “An intriguing look into the politics of the Ferengi is accompanied by an exciting look into the Gamma Quadrant.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I thought it was quite enjoyable with the return of the Grand Nagus and the unexpected lady Ferengi.”

“Necessary Evil”

Synopsis

The episode jumps back and forth between what happened on DS9 as Odo first is convinced by Gul Dukat of the Cardassians to take on a job investigating crimes and the present as someone attempted to kill Quark in a kind of burglary/heist gone wrong. In the past, we see Odo investigating a murder in which the (then) newly-arrived Kira was a prime suspect, finding him to be constantly thwarted in his investigation. In the present, the item that was stolen in the violent encounter with Quark was a list of names, apparently of people that Pallra, the woman who initiated the sequence of events and the wife of the murdered man in the past, has recently blackmailed. Odo manages to capture the Bajoran who has come back to try to kill Quark (again), but then realizes that Kira had lied to him in the past and had, in fact, committed the murder he investigated so many years ago. The episode ends with Kira and Odo contemplating their relationship.

Commentary

Wow, this was awesome. We get a huge amount of insight into the past of not just Kira and Odo, but also of Deep Space 9 and the Bajoran-Cardassian conflict. There’s so much to it that I am not going to just type it all up. Watch the episode for all of it! The highlights, though, are seeing how much more militaristic the station was, what kind of conditions the Cardassians kept on the station, and more.

The particular excitement of this episode, though, is found in the skipping back-and-forth between the past and present trying to solve two mysteries at once. It’s a great way to hold tension through the episode, and was handled with such deftness that it came off wonderfully. I can’t imagine trying to write two mysteries across two time periods, connecting them, and pulling it all off, but it was done incredibly well here.

The ending is, like the previous episode, rather bleak. We are left wondering whether Kira/Odo can ever have true trust between them again. It’s the kind of outro that I love in Star Trek episodes. Well done.

Grade: A “A bleak look back at the origins of Odo/Kira’s relationship that basically just makes them both even more awesome.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “I enjoyed getting the backstory for Odo and Kira and the Cardassian occupation, but it didn’t quite grasp my attention the way I hoped it would.”

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.