Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 3 “Shakaar” and “Facets”

Didn’t I have enough makeup already?

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:

“Shakaar”

Synopsis

Kai Winn calls on Major Kira to intercede on Bajor in a dispute between a group of farmers and the government. Essentially, the farmers have some equipment the Kai believes would be better put to use elsewhere, but the farmers point to a contract they have allowing them use of the equipment. It turns out some of the farmers are former resistance members who fought alongside Kira. Kira manages to convince Shakaar, the leader of the farmers–and of her former resistance cell–to speak with Winn directly, but instead of trying to speak with him, Winn simply sends soldiers to arrest the farmer. Shakaar and others resist the arrest, and Kira joins in. They flee to the mountains and an escalating conflict develops as Winn devotes more and more soldiers to the pursuit. The conflict ends when the soldiers and resistance fighters refuse to fire upon each other. The leader of the government soldiers takes Shakaar and Kira to Winn, and the two explain to Winn how Shakaar now plans to run for First Minister. Kai Winn, ever the amoral person that she is, steps aside to ensure her crazy actions bringing Bajor to the bring of Civil War are not exposed.

Commentary

Kai Winn… she really has it coming sometime. She’s a slithery snake; an eel! She manages to get out of every situation mostly intact, and often on the better end of things! In this one, it feels like she’s gone too far, but she still seems to get out of the consequences of her rather insane actions. Also, the actor who plays her is fantastic at making a really love-to-hate persona come to life.

Overall, this episode’s main plot is pretty astonishing. I mean, I don’t know what kind of media services Bajor has, but I’d imagine pretty much everyone would be outraged by the Kai sending the military after some group of farmers who were basically just insisting the government follow its own agreement. These are Bajorans, after all! Haven’t they had enough of governments ordering them around and going off the deep end in response to minor slights… like the Cardassians? Also, how believable is it that the thing escalated as quickly as it did? I’m fully willing to believe that Shakaar and his group could elude their pursuers on ground they knew better (though what kind of technology Bajor is using to track them is another question), but to go from “Yeah, we’d like this farm equipment back” to “KILL THEM!” seemed pretty abrupt.

What sets this apart, though, is what I just mentioned with Winn, and it applies to all the characters here. There’s some pretty good acting happening here and it helps sell the crazy plot. Somehow, I want to believe that a culture that just threw off the shackles of oppression would be totally willing to just do the same thing to their own people. Indeed, knowing humanity, it doesn’t seem that surprising that another people would do the same kind of crazy stuff, does it? But still, my suspension of disbelief did struggle here.

Grade: B- “It is pretty unbelievable, but the actors all do a great job pulling it off.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “Kai Winn should not expect any other outcome from sending Kira to put down a people’s rebellion.”

“Facets”

Synopsis

Dax wants people to take on the roles of previous Dax hosts so she can learn from them. Nog fails his exam, but only because Quark rigged it. Rom makes Quark admit to it, Nog retakes the test and passes. High fives.

Commentary

Yeah, that first sentence summarizes the main plot of the episode pretty well. We’re already familiar with many of the Dax hosts, but here we get to see them as various crew members. Somehow, we’re supposed to get past the idea of Odo somehow–without any neural network–getting the memories of a completely different species and changing his appearance perfectly for it. Oh yeah, and a Bajoran, and humans, and a Ferengi all manage to have the same thing happen to them. Sorry, not buying it. It also wasn’t all that interesting, because the transformations really just get used as ploys to make the main characters do weird things. I guess it was kinda cool to find out the reason Curzon Dax was so harsh on Jadzia was because he was in love with her, but that’s also creepy. The Nog side story is really the saving grace here, because it’s cute, simple, and resolved.

Grade: D+ “Weird. Too weird. But the Nog side story was good.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: C “It just felt like they couldn’t think of anything to do with an episode, so they just made all the actors be weird.”

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.

Advertisements

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 3 “Explorers” and “Family Business”

familybusiness

Summary of this episode in a single picture.

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:

 

“Explorers”

Synopsis

Commander Sisko decides to see if the ancient Bajorans really could have traveled the stars with some kind of Solar craft. He grabs his son Jake and goes off into the stars, though with the Cardassians opposing the journey–after all, the silly Bajorans couldn’t have developed space flight before the Cardassians, right? Naturally, something goes wrong, but with a little bit of luck the Siskos manage to finish their journey to Cardassia and are met with space fireworks.

Commentary

“…and are met with space fireworks” pretty much sums up this episode. Is it silly? Yep. Is it lighthearted? Yeah. Is it fun? Absolutely. It’s the kind of silly aside that DS9 hasn’t done much so far, but that TNG (occasionally) excelled at. It also gave us some character development for Jake, which hasn’t happened much. One question I have is how the heck did Sisko manage to build this thing?

The side plot with Bashir agonizing over a class rival was interesting as well, but definitely as much an aside as it seems.

Not much more to say about this. Space sails and fireworks. Watch it.

Grade: A- “Lighthearted and fun, with a perfect ending to its silliness.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: C+ “It was just so impossible to believe.”

“Family Business”

Synopsis

Quark’s mom is under investigation for making money as a woman, a great crime in Ferengi society. Quark and Rom return home to help settle the business. She says she just wanted to make some money on the side. Quark tries to get her to sign a confession and make reparations, but she refuses. Rom manages to lie to both to get them to talk to each other. She finally agrees to pay back the money to please Quark. In reality, she tells Rom, she only gave a third of the money back, thus outsmarting everyone again. Back on DS9, Sisko meets a love interest Jake has been trying to set him up with, a certain Captain Yates.

Commentary

Quark’s mom, Ishka, has committed an ultimate crime–she made profit. What? Ferengi oppose profit? Yes, if it’s a woman making it. This episode makes light of the serious problem that women across many fields are prevented from succeeding by, frankly, patriarchy. But it doesn’t make light in such a way as to dismiss it; instead, it’s a kind of satire that helps show just how ridiculous Ferengi society is for refusing to allow women the chance to succeed. Similarly, it suggests, we ought not limit people by artificial lines of possibility.

Also, this episode was ridiculous and fun. It’s quite a bit like the previous episode in its fun, lightheartedness, but also stands on its own.

Another great aspect is the revealing of more of Ferengi society, showing what it’s like on the inside and back home. Cool architecture and absolutely perfect moments like chairs requiring payment to use make the Ferengi even more believable. DS9 has truly developed this race from being a source of absurdity to something quite interesting.

Grade: A- “A fun episode with a not-so-subtle message. Also, I love Ferengi society–very interesting.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “I just thought it was great. His mom has excellent business skills and he appreciated her for it before it was too late.”

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.

Presidential Biographies: James Monroe #5

My quest to read (at least) one biography per President continues with James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States. The biography I chose with my selection process (reading reviews online and utilizing and  this website- My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies), I picked James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity by Harry Ammon.

Here, I’ll offer my thoughts on that biography, and proceed to the DEFINITIVE RANKING OF PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES!!!!!!

James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity by Harry Ammon

James Monroe – lived 1758-1831 ; President from 1817-1825

The Monroe Doctrine! You’ve heard of it, right? But do you know what it is? I barely did. Reading this biography helped set the Monroe Doctrine in its historical perspective and shed light on the issues that were pressing in Monroe’s day. But before we get to that, a broader survey is worth noting.

Monroe was another story of success in the United States from someone who held a relatively low place in society. There’s no question that Monroe’s family was wealthier than the vast majority of people in the United States at the time, but his family was also not among the absolute elite. They were planters, but wealth didn’t come easy and indeed, throughout Monroe’s life, he was struggling to make ends meet with his financial obligations and investments constantly battling for attention. He fought in the Revolutionary War and was opposed to the Federalist Party, forming part of the opposition to the ratification of the Constitution. His opposition was based on his feeling that it made the central government too powerful. He eventually went on to become a diplomat to France, and thus helped to orchestrate the wildly successful (depending on one’s view of the situation) Louisiana Purchase.

Elected President, he was one of the first powerful political figures who opposed the Federalist Party, which at this point was starting to collapse. His interest in foreign policy–perhaps bolstered by his time overseas in both Britain and France–was cemented into the Monroe Doctrine. Essentially, this Doctrine basically said that any attempt by European powers to interfere in America (North or South) would be treated as acts of agression and demand U.S. intervention. My analysis as follows would probably make a number of experts in the field weep, but this is how I’m going to summarize it. In a vacuum, this seems either remarkably interventionist or a kind of strange isolationism of two continents from another. But contextually, Monroe was dealing with the very real possibility of a number of colonies in South and Central America declaring independence and getting wars started all over. The Monroe Doctrine effectively gave a blanket warning to all the European Powers that the United States was going to do a bit more than sword rattling regarding wars on its borders. There was also the possibility of numerous colonies realigning themselves with European countries and thus creating major powers right next door to the United States–a danger that was all too real given that Washington D.C. had just been put to the torch in the War of 1812. Thus, the Doctrine at the time seemed reasonable and perhaps necessary. It also clearly helped set the U.S. up as a major power in the West and guided future foreign policy decisions, for better or ill.

Monroe was also of the opinion that Native Americans ought to be allowed to stay put, and he favored a policy in which the government dealt with Native Americans as a whole through a system of federal laws rather than along tribal lines. This was, at the time, seen as a more moderate position. It did, after all, guarantee a stronger Federal system to honor treaties with First Nations groups. However, as Ammon pointed out, the motivation was a bit more insidious, for Monroe and those like him favored this policy as a way to assimilate Native Americans into what they saw as the true “American” society–namely, white society. The thought was that by encouraging a “sedentary” lifestyle among Native groups, they would assimilate and basically just become more white people. This motivation is inexcusable, though the policy itself certainly seems preferable to that of many others’–including several Presidents–which was forced relocation and slaughter.

Regarding slaves, Monroe favored resettlement back in Africa. Ammon did not go much into Monroe’s thoughts on why this would be preferable to freed slaves living in the U.S. but based on what I’ve read from others at the time, it was likely because he and others felt that the freed slaves would be inherently stupid or incapable of living in society alongside whites. Again, I’m not positive this was Monroe’s motivation, but that was what many at the time used as their reasoning for sending slaves “back to Africa.” On the other hand, the freed slaves who did go on to make a colony in Africa–Liberia, specifically–named it Monrovia after the President, so they may have seen it as a pretty good thing. Moreover, it was helped along by the American Colonization Society, whose many members included evangelical Christians and Quakers who favored abolition but felt that freed slaves had a better chance of society in Africa. Nevertheless, it’s important not to lionize people like abolitionists purely for their views on slavery; many still felt that blacks were inferior on any number of levels due to mistaken beliefs about ancestry, among other things. I digress. Monroe did own slaves on his plantation, including while he was in office. So here we have yet another stain on the history of the Presidency.

The complexity of Madison’s treatment of slavery goes even farther, as he had to deal with issues that would lay the seeds for the Civil War. Debates over the legality and slavery in Missouri boiled over, but Monroe helped settle down the issue by offering a Second Missouri Compromise that at least ended the debate for the moment, though it did little to deal with lasting bitterness over the issues.

I thought the biography itself was quite fascinating, if a bit dry at times. Ammon has a very straightforward method of reporting the facts. Unlike some other biographies I’ve read so far, there appears to be very little by way of Ammon’s own view seeping in. Of course, any biographer is going to be biased, but I was hard-pressed to find any clear instances in this biography.

THE DEFINITIVE RANKING OF PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES*

My criteria for ranking the Presidents will be somewhat arbitrary. Random things I’ve thought of so far is whether they improved our infrastructure, how Presidential they acted/looked, whether they got us into any silly wars, and the like. As you can see, these criteria are somewhat… subjective. So you’ll probably end up disagreeing with me. I look forward to your comments!

1. George Washington (1st President- original ranking- #1): Washington basically defined the office of the President for all who followed him. It was left intentionally vague by the framers, so he had to work within those strictures while trying to expand on them. Not easy, but he seems to have done it rather ably, refusing to become a major partisan while still demanding certain powers of the Executive Branch. During his Presidency the national bank was created, the country’s credit recovered, massive trade booms occurred, the Mississippi was opened for exploration, and beneficial partnerships with other countries were being formed. On the other hand, during his Presidency and life generally, slavery was tolerated and even expanded, Native Americans were brutalized, and throughout it all Washington either participated directly or turned his face the other way. It is difficult to underestimate the impact of Washington on the office of the President. On the other hand, we ought not to lionize him or see him as perfection itself.

2. Thomas Jefferson (3rd President- original ranking- #2): Jefferson’s accomplishments as President, Secretary of State, and Revolutionary cannot be understated. He deftly handled relationships with such countries as France and Spain, while also helping to secure borders of the United States for decades to come. One of the biggest splashes of his Presidency was the Louisiana Purchase, which vastly increased the size of the country. However, Jefferson was also a blatant womanizer, a slave owner who pandered to abolitionist leanings while owning slaves, was clearly racist, and encouraged the destruction of Native groups living on the land that was “purchased” from Napoleon. Back on the positive side, he advocated for religious tolerance–even of other faiths–despite his Deistic leanings. His diplomatic skill is beyond dispute. He actively sought compromise and valued even minority opinions–lessons we need to re-learn now. The legacy he left would impact almost every aspect of the country going forward, for good or ill. It is difficult to fully analyze such a complex, contradictory man.

3. James Madison (4th President- original ranking- #3): Called the “Father of the Constitution,” Madison’s impact is perhaps most important for what he did prior to becoming President. The sheer amount of work he did to get the Constitution written, improve upon it, amend it, and put it to vote is astonishing. As President, perhaps the most important event in his career was the War of 1812, itself a possible foreshadowing of the many and sundry conflicts the United States has entered with tenuous justification since. Though often disastrous, the War did lead to, somewhat paradoxically, better relations between the United States and Britain going forward. Perhaps it is best said that Madison was the consummate compromiser, for good or ill. As with many others, his owning of slaves directly conflicted with his affirmation of the idea that all people are created equal.

4. James Monroe (5th President – original ranking- #4): Monroe was a master of foreign policy, and his Presidency and political career reflected that. Certainly left his mark on U.S. policy in ways that we still feel regarding Europe and South America in particular. Probably to be considered a “moderate” regarding relations with Native Americans and for his stance on slavery, though his positions were still bigoted and rather arrogant regarding both groups of people. Little by way of scandal (see Jefferson for an early example of some rather scandalous things going on with Presidents), so that makes him more Presidential than some. Also, he appeared to be a loving husband and father, overall.

5. John Adams (2nd President- original ranking- #2): There’s something to be said for the fact that Adams basically held the line against all the forces threatening to either break the United States back apart or subsume it under an “alliance” that would turn it into a kind of vassal state. Adams did that, and he managed to keep the US out of another war in its infancy. The political treatises Adams wrote went on to define the constitutions of many states and help clarify the relationship between the state and federal government. Adams did, however, fail to hold his own political party together, whether through inaction or simply not being charismatic enough or willing enough to step into the leadership role he needed to take. Moreover, Adams was an absentee (at best) father and husband.

*Rankings not definitive

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.

 

 

Reading Through the [Alleged] Best 100 Science Fiction Books- #41-45

cflI’m a huge science fiction fan, but realized I haven’t read a lot of those works considered classics or greats. I decided to remedy that, and found a list online of the Top 100 Science Fiction Books. The list is determined by vote from sci-fi fans online, so it may change over time. I am going off the order of the list as it was when I first saw it. Each book will receive a grade between F and A+ as well as very brief comments. I’m interested to read what you think about these books as well. There will be very minor spoilers in some of these.

41. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle Grade: A
“Theology, technology, and imagination are intertwined in surprising ways in L’Engle’s classic. It’s scary and delightful all at once. So many elements are here that it becomes increasingly surprising that they manage to stay together without bursting apart at the seams. It’s a remarkable book on many levels.”

42. The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov Grade: B
“Another proof that Asimov is capable of at least somewhat interesting characters. The first part of the story is the most compelling, as an apparently free source of energy is revealed to have dire consequences and pretty much nobody cares. Free energy is free, right? So who cares if everyone will die billions of years in the future? It’s the exact kind of reasoning that would probably be used, to the end of us all. But that dire feeling is mostly lost at the end of the book as Asimov changes its tone into a kind of future look at human colonization of the moon and the problems that might face. Yes, there are still references to the earlier portions of the book, and the solutions offered are interesting, but it lost something of the truly bleak and all-too-reasonable feel of the beginning chapters.”

43. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham Grade: B
“There is a lot going on in this book, and some of it stretches credulity a bit, but it is the kind of campy science fiction that makes you not mind so much. I mean really, plants that can’t see but sense people’s eyes as the weakest points on humans? Sure, yeah, why not? But the campiness also hides layers of complexity that aren’t immediately apparent. This is a pretty thoughtful book, though it is never quite clear what it is thinking about. I still haven’t figured out exactly what the message is that Wyndham is trying to get across here. It is also plagued a bit by outdated views of women. A good book with a few problems.”

44. A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge Grade: A
“It’s as majestic as it is personal, alternating between intimate portrayals of human-alien relations and massive, sweeping conflict. It’s exciting and breathtaking. The only strikes against it are that in a few places it does drag and that it is occasionally so big that I as a reader lost track of all the events happening at once. A phenomenal read overall that will leave you thinking long after completing it.”

45. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Grade: A
“It’s basically a thoroughly Roman Catholic ‘Mad Max.’ Is it even possible to not like that as a concept for a novel? Effectively three short-stories tied together, this novel tells of a dystopian future at three stages. A Roman Catholic order of monks, those who follow Leibowitz, have preserved human knowledge after major nuclear war and pushback against learning and science have set humanity back centuries. It’s a haunting, beautiful novel with character and delight to spare. Fantastic.”

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!

Reading through the [Alleged] Best 100 Science Fiction Books– Check out more posts in this series as I continue.

SDG.