Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 4 “The Visitor” and “Hippocratic Oath”

Dad? I mean… son?

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 Visitor”

Synopsis

An older Jake Sisko receives a visit from a fan of his writing in the middle of the night. She’s curious about his writings and why he didn’t write more. Jake agrees to tell his story. It turns out that on DS9, there was an accident that transported Captain Sisko into some kind of time-locked dimension, keeping him connected to Jake but also making it impossible for him to escape. The younger Jake became obsessed with trying to rescue his father, ultimately losing his wife and his writing career in pursuit of finding a way to get his father back. Jake has seemingly figured out what’s happening with his father–he himself is acting as a kind of tether keeping Captain Sisko bouncing around in the time thingy. To fix it, Jake has taken a lethal dose of a drug, freeing his father, but only after informing him that he’s going to be transported back to the moment of the incident and needs to avoid the accident that began the whole thing. Captain Sisko, back to the “present,” rescues himself and his son from the tragic accident, freeing them both to pursue a life that they missed in an alternate realm of possibility.

Commentary

Here we have the kind of emotional storytelling that made TNG so spectacular at its best. There is tragedy here on a grand scale–we feel immense loss throughout the episode, and even at the end, when everything turns out well, we still feel the tragedy of the whole of the “other Jake’s” life. Because really, “other Jake” is truly dead, as Star Trek works its multiverse. It is haunting and beautiful. Yes, you know as the viewer all along there will be resolution, but that doesn’t take the power away from the narrative.

Grade: A “Hauntingly beautiful.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was quite good acting with a compelling story, but the thunderstorm visitor felt a little contrived.”

“Hippocratic Oath”

Synopsis

On DS9, Worf tries to impose his own way of rule of law on Odo, which leads to Odo losing a valuable lead in an investigation. The bulk of the plot, though, is O’Brien and Bashir stranded on a planet with a bunch of Jem’Hadar. One of the Jem’Hadar appears to be immune to the drug the Changelings use to enslave them, and Bashir tries to work on a cure. His efforts ultimately lead him to discovering that the man is immune not due to some built up immunity or anything he can do; rather, it was something genetically unique to him. Bashir can’t save the others, and O’Brien attempts to bust them both out of the planet, much to Bashir’s chagrin as he worked on trying to find a cure. They escape, but Bashir is displeased with O’Brien’s attempts to escape, feeling his own commitment to helping others was more important.

Commentary

Bashir and O’Brien will need some patching up after this one. I thought it was a great character piece for the four primary movers- Bashir, O’Brien, Worf, and Odo. It showed how different Odo and Worf are regarding their mindset when it comes to security. It also helped establish Bashir as more than simple comic relief. The main plot is brutal, too- the whole time I thought there’d be some breakthrough and we’d start seeing Jem’Hadar getting cured, but once again they baffle attempts to change them. It’s a kind of nature vs. nurture playing out all over again, and it is a fascinating way to deal with a whole people group.

This episode is one that is part of what I think may be a larger problem with DS9, though–there are a lot of big idea episodes with far-reaching implications that don’t seem to keep having an impact beyond the episode itself. Time will tell if anything from this episode will reverberate beyond its 45-minute confines.

Grade: A- “A strong central plot coupled with great character development makes for a great episode.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I thought it was really interesting and now I want to know more about how the Jem Hadar are impacted by their mind control drug.”

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.

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Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 4 “Way of the Warrior”

Boom. There goes our budget for this season.

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:

“Way of the Warrior”

Synopsis

On DS9, the crew trains for the possibility of Changelings coming to attack. Meanwhile, a huge Klingon fleet shows up, much to the chagrin of, well, everybody. They begin causing trouble on the station, causing Starfleet to send Worf to try to act as a kind of liaison. Worf discovers the Klingon fleet is planning to launch an attack on the Cardassians, allegedly because they suspect Cardassia has been taken over by Changelings. Worf lets Sisko know, and the latter takes the Defiant into Cardassian space to warn them. They’re too late, but manage to rescue Dukat and the Council. The Klingons have withdrawn from the Alliance with the Federation, thus showing that they have once more embarked on an era of conquest. Sisko et al. return to DS9, and after much combat, they manage to fight of the Klingons, who leave only after many threats.

Commentary

Uh… what? I mean this was a cool two-parter in that it had a whole lot happen, but it was incredibly implausible all throughout. You’re telling me the Klingons would suddenly go off the deep end, withdraw from a lengthy and seemingly awesome alliance with the Federation, and start going and killing stuff without any reasonable evidence? I just don’t buy it at all. I mean, even if we buy the idea that the Klingons are almost entirely bloodthirsty crazies, they still have demonstrated that they will listen to reason and do not operate completely without reason. This undercuts the whole premise that we’re supposed to buy into for this episode and makes it difficult to take it seriously overall.

Does the episode have great action? Yes, it certainly does. But too much happens too quickly to be believable.

Grade: C “What the hell just happened?”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: C “Great Klingon action, but totally unbelievable.”

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: John Quincy Adams #6

My quest to read (at least) one biography per President continues with John Quincy Adams, the sixth 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

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

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life by Paul C. Nagel

John Quincy Adams – Lived 1767-1848 ; President from 1825-1829

John Quincy Adams is often seen a bit enigmatically. He doesn’t have the same resume as the other early Presidents, it seems, nor does he have a long list of sterling accomplishments to solidify his legacy. Yet what I discovered when reading this biography by Paul C. Nagel is that appearances, as always, are not as they seem. John Quincy Adams (hereafter JQA) was a phenomenally interesting person, and a truly effective person of state, if not the flashiest President of his time.

Most obviously, JQA was the son of President John Adams. He greatly admired his father, though as I observed in the look at John Adams, his father was something of an absentee father. Some of the personality traits of the father passed to the son, and at times JQA seemed aloof and uncaring of the problems of even those close to him. One example is that when he was engaged to his wife, Louisa, he wrote urging her to break off the engagement if she felt it would be better for her. I suspect that Louisa did not take the letter as kindly as it may have been intended. In any case, even in his early life, he traveled to Europe to study abroad. Later, he became the United States Foreign Minister to Russia. He was supremely successful in this role and Louisa certainly contributed to some of this success. One example of the difficulty facing him in this role would be to look at the budget. The French Minister to Russia had a budget of about 300,000 per annum, while JQA’s own budget was $9,000. Despite this, JQA formed close ties with the Czar and managed to leverage this advantage for the sake of the young United States.

Throughout his period as Foreign Minister and for much of his life, JQA struggled financially, unable to ever seem to stay out of debt. Late in his life, he allowed his surviving son, Charles Francis Adams, to take over his finances. However, JQA never seemed to be comfortable with his financial situation, and this serves as one example of his overarching personality trait of being quite ambitious. He longed to be likened to Cicero or Aristotle and counted among the greatest minds of all time. Yet, he constantly felt frustrated at his own perceived lack of ability and knowledge. Ironically, late in life he complained that his diary would never be seen as a great work of humankind, yet his journals have survived largely intact to become one of the most important early records of the United States. His ambition was perhaps his greatest trait and flaw, as it both encouraged him in endeavors at which he would succeed and led him to be somewhat vindictive and uncooperative in the political sphere.

I already noted his success in Russia, but JQA also negotiated peace with Britain after the War of 1812, settled disputes over borders both north and south, drafted the Monroe Doctrine which would, obviously, get credited to Monroe, and was overall a complete success as Secretary of State and diplomat. His foreign policy was decidedly in line with republican (not to be confused with Republican) ideals of the time, pushing policies that attempted to expand the borders and influence of the United States while also showing a commitment to independence and individualism. It was a tough balance, and speaking of policy in such general terms doesn’t seem wholly accurate or decisive. Moreover, whether one agrees with the Monroe Doctrine and its broader ramifications or not, it is clear that JQA was highly influential on the shaping of US foreign policy.

As President, JQA faced vigorous opposition of his embittered political opponents. He had big ideas, including trying to expand on both the arts and various areas of learning at the Federal level and encouraging spending in various areas. But again and again his opponents in Congress thwarted him. Frankly, the part of the biography covering JQA’s Presidency was perhaps the least interesting, if only because it was filled with the kind of seeming obstructionism that often has played into current politics as well.

After he was President, JQA continued to make huge impacts on public policy. He argued in favor of the Africans in the Amistad case and powerfully condemned his contemporaries on the issue of slavery. Interestingly, Nagel argues that JQA’s initial movements towards abolitionism may have been, in part, influenced by the fact that so many of his opponents while he was in the White House were in favor of slavery. However, it would be tough to fully buy into that argument as his family didn’t own slaves and had other abolitionists therein. It seems more likely to me that JQA simply bought more into abolitionism as he grew older. Regardless of his motivations, he became a powerful spokesperson for abolitionism as a Representative from the state of Massachusetts. His most cogent arguments included a frank mockery of the notion that the U.S. could affirm that all people are created equal while also holding slaves. He continued his push to attack slavery in sidelong fashion throughout the rest of his life.

The sidelong approach to slavery was seen, in part, by his constant arguments for the right to petition. He continued to defend the right of people to petition the government, which had been scaled back at least in part alongside a gag order on discussing slavery. That is, the U.S. Congress had effectively issued a blanket gag order on slavery such that it could not be directly disputed or debated. Abolitionists constantly wished to petition the government, but they were not allowed to do so. JQA took up the mantel of arguing in favor of the right to petition, despite its notorious unpopularity at the time. Eventually, he managed to help get the gag order removed, setting the stage for broader debate and eventual emancipation (not without the Civil War, of course).

I’ve not had a President as difficult to rank as John Quincy Adams yet. That’s not saying much because I’m only at #6, but I always assumed John Quincy Adams was kind of a footnote to history. Moreover, after reading the biography it seems his Presidency may not have been very effective, but that was hardly his own fault. He was a phenomenally important foreign minister and congressman before and after his Presidency, respectively. It’s very tough to judge him so far as the definitive list goes, but I’ll have to try. Whatever one’s view of his Presidency, he was a fascinating, amazing public figure who is well worth studying.

John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life  is a fantastic biography of a fascinating person. I truly had no idea John Quincy Adams was interesting at all and frankly figured he’d be nowhere near as interesting as his father or any of the other early Presidents. However, reading this biography completely changed my view of this complex person.

 

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. John Quincy Adams (6th President – original ranking #4): It would be easy to argue that John Quincy Adams was a more successful member of Congress and Foreign Minister than he was a President, and I would concede that argument. So yes, I absolutely tilted his score based on his achievements outside of the Presidency, but that’s because they were such monumental and important achievements it is tough to mark him down due to the opposition his Presidency received. What were those achievements? He negotiated the end of the War of 1812, drafted the Monroe Doctrine, helped shape our country through treaties regarding borders along Canada, Florida, Texas, and California, successfully regained the right of petition for the American people, and stood up against slavery in the courts–specifically with the Amistad case. Yeah, I think that’s worth a significant bump on this list.

5. 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.

6. 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.

 

 

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 3 “The Adversary”

That’s not creepy at all.

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 Adversary”

Synopsis

Commander Sisko is promoted to Captain Sisko (finally). A Starfleet ambassador tells him some uprising might cause a war and asks him to intervene. On the way, it becomes clear, however, that the Defiant has been tampered with and indeed may itself be the cause of rising tension. The ambassador was actually a Changeling trying to help destabilize the Alpha Quadrant, and Odo defeats him, but not before the Changeling tells him that it’s too late because the shapeshifting aliens “are everywhere.”

Commentary

Here’s a good way to end a season: with a warning that I as a viewer can’t tell is accurate or not. Are the Changelings everywhere, or did the foe simply want to take Odo’s hope away? Who knows? I guess we’ll find out over the course of the next few seasons! I thought it was a pretty awesome way to end Season 3, though.

The episode itself feels pretty straightforward, as the ambassador is quickly revealed to be an enemy. The tension comes from seeing whether the crew can halt the possible coming war in time or not. Also, Sisko is finally promoted to Captain, something that probably should have happened at the discovery of the wormhole (or at least have a captain on station). I mean, he’s only in charge of a station guarding one of the most important finds in history.

There are some plot holes here, though it’s hard to tell if they’re intentional or not. Are the writers trying to make us wonder about missing plot elements, or could they just not fill in all the gaps in the allotted time? I don’t know.

“The Adversary” was a good ending to another solid season of DS9. I look forward to seeing what drama happens next.

Grade: B “Foreboding ending with an action-packed episode. Despite some holes, it felt like a great way to end the season.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “I thought it was a really compelling storyline, and now I’m just wondering who else is a changeling.”

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.