Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 1 “The Forsaken” and “Dramatis Personae”

Well this is weird, all around.

Well this is weird, all around.

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 Forsaken”

Synopsis

A delegation of ambassadors shows up on DS9, one of whom is the great Lwaxana Troi. Bashir is assigned to show the ambassadors around while Chief O’Brien struggles to teach the stations computer how to work. Troi starts to pursue a relationship with Odo. When an alien object shows up, suddenly the computer goes haywire. Troi and Odo are trapped together, and the other ambassadors are trapped due to an explosion with Dr. Bashir. Troi allows Odo to go liquid form in her dress to protect him, and Bashir manages–just–to save the other ambassadors. High fives all around.

Commentary

Lwaxana Troi drives me crazy, but she has become a progressively better character, despite her obnoxious qualities, as Star Trek goes on. Here again we see a new dimension of her character–a touching one–in which she reveals to Odo her own weaknesses regarding her looks to allow Odo to feel more comfortable with his own need to go liquid form (that’s what I’m calling it–deal with it).

Yeah, the side plot with the “puppy dog alien computer virus” was weird, but it served its purpose–to create drama for the other characters. Bashir’s delightful idiocy also got some expansion as he was smart when under pressure–something he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to demonstrate. He got all the perks of showing the ambassadors he could have dreamed of. Go Bashir!

So yeah, there are some big problems in this episode, not least of which is the weird virus that just wants some love, but those can largely be forgiven because Odo/Lwaxana worked so well together. It’s a true character piece that gives a lot more dimension to both of them.

Grade: A- “Like a puppy, it’s got some problems to work out, but it has a lot of heart.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It revealed depths of Lwaxana’s character that were previously hidden.”

“Dramatis Personae”

Synopsis

When an alien object is returned to the station, the crew starts to go crazy. It turns out that the alien object has managed to force most people on the station to start acting out roles in an ancient alien drama, recapitulating its warlike, betrayal-laden plot. Odo and Bashir manage to remove the alien influence from the crew, and everything is saved with only minimal losses.

Commentary

Okay, this is a really strange episode. It’s like some attempt to integrate Shakespeare into DS9 but in a way that isn’t as spectacularly epic (or fail) as many of the episodes with the same idea in TNG. It’s just weird. The impending paranoia that surrounds everyone in the crew made me as a viewer uneasy, but I never felt it was truly a threat to anyone, largely because they didn’t introduce any side character who might actually be in danger (yes, I know, it is hard not to meta-). But, that said, it was fun seeing all the characters being so out-of-character, and Sisko made a really, really cool clock that I would love to have. I don’t have much more to say about this one, to be honest. Strange.

Grade: B- “I want that clock.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “It was a cool story, but didn’t seem to make much sense as a Star Trek episode.”

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 1 “Progress” and “If Wishes Were Horses”

progressI’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:

“Progress”

Synopsis

Jake and Nog hear that Quark has a huge amount of yamok sauce, and Nog decides to get Jake to help him on an enterprising adventure to attempt to trade or sell the sauce for more and more different things in an effort to acquire profit. Meanwhile, Kira is sent off-station to help get a farmer, Mullibok, and his two mute friends off the land that is going to be used for an energy transfer. Nog and Jake manage to acquire land for one of their trades, and learn that the land is desired by the Bajoran government. They deal Quark into the mix, finally turning a profit. Kira finally must choose between her duty to Starfleet and Bajor and her empathy for Mullibok’s experience, ultimately choosing the former and going so far as to force him to leave by burning down his home.

Commentary

Yeah this was a weird episode. Kira deserved about a dozen court martials for her defiance of orders, but then turns around and goes way over the top. I remember commenting to my wife jokingly: “She’s totally gonna burn the place down to make him leave.” Apparently I was unintentionally prophetic there, as that’s exactly what Kira ended up doing. It wasn’t a bad storyline, it was just strange.

The other thread here was another Jake and Nog adventure, and I admit I have a decided soft spot for them, having grown up thinking we could be playmates on board DS9 (and reading the series of kids books that basically let you follow all their adventures). So I kind of liked this silliness that helped give more flavor to their relationship. Sure, it’s childish, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

What are we left with, then? A strange mashup of two episodes, neither capable of standing on its own, that becomes, well, basically the sum of its parts. It’s two half-episodes. Not great, but not terrible.

Grade: C+ “It feels incomplete and mashed together, but I’m a sucker for Jake and Nog storylines, so this one isn’t the bottom dweller it otherwise could have been.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B for Kira storyline and A for Jake and Nog play the paperclip challenge storyline. 

“If Wishes Were Horses”

Synopsis

Across DS9 people’s imaginings start to become real. As the station is overrun with strangeness, Sisko and crew must work to try to solve the problem, ultimately revealing some kind of rupture in the plasma field that is threatening the base. As all their efforts fail, Sisko finally decides even the rupture must be imaginary, and he solves the problem by simply disbelieving it. Turns out all the imaginary friends were some kind of observers sent to see how humans (and others) in this part of the galaxy work.

Commentary

[An earlier version of this post mistakenly referred to this episode as “If Wishes were Fishes.” Hey, steal a common phrase and expect people to get it wrong.]

I don’t really know how to feel about this one, which leaves me to decide that I feel largely ambivalent. It’s yet another strange episode in a chain of weirdness that is starting to make me think that DS9’s season 1, while better than TNG’s is quite “colorful,” and not always in a good way.

The reveal at the beginning when Rumpelstiltskin appears basically takes away whatever dramatic buildup was possible–imagine if the first thing that had happened was the Dax/Bashir encounter. We’d be weirded out and surprised, but it wouldn’t be obviously imaginary. Rumpelstiltskin just is not real; so having it be the first thing to show up immediately gave the game away. On the other hand, the playfulness of the episode is kind of its saving grace, such that at the end I don’t mind so much that a long-dead baseball player is telling me about his alien race. Yeah, that’s a sentence I just wrote.

The actors did a pretty decent job selling the whole thing, so I guess bonus points for that. It was weird, it was fun, and it was off-putting all at once. How do you even rate such an episode?

Anyway, can we mention baseball again here? The thought that baseball just dwindles away to nothing is a remarkably sad look at the future, especially for me as a Cubs fan just observing their first World Series win in more than 100 years. Let’s just pretend this pretend future really is pretend and pretend it won’t happen, k? K.

Grade: C “Another weird episode. Maybe DS9 season 1 just is a series of kind of strange, off-beat science fiction stories.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “That was a weird one. It just didn’t make sense.”

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 Wars: Expanded Universe read-through “Darth Bane: Path of Destruction” by Drew Karpyshyn

path-of-destructionI 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: Path of Destruction, the beginning 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

I’m going to throw this one out right at the beginning: this is one of the best Star Wars books I have read, and one of the few that is capable of standing on its own right as a great science fiction novel (it would be good without the Star Wars franchise/branding). That it does have Star Wars branding serves either as icing on the cake or, unfortunately, to ensure that many won’t enjoy this exceptional plot arc (as they won’t read Star Wars books no matter what).

The story is somewhat straightforward: a man who lives in extreme conditions finally snaps, ultimately engaging in a life that combines elements of mercenary work with even more questionably moral acts. A secret power is discovered inside him that brings him to the attention of the powers that be, and he is recruited, ultimately raising through the ranks.

But the story has its share of major twists and turns. The Sith society is an ancient one, but the man, now calling himself Darth Bane, sees it as a departure from what the Sith ought to be. Power has been distilled and distorted, making a group of weaklings the dictators rather than spurring all on to greater feats of maleficent gains. So Bane goes back to the source, exploring the secrets of the long-dead Sith race and ancient masters. In doing so, he discovers the way to fix the Sith: to destroy them.

The war between the Sith and Jedi rages on, but Bane uses it–and the Jedi–as his tool to destroy the Sith. In doing so, he re-forms them from the ashes. He is the only Sith Lord, and his chosen apprentice is the only apprentice. The apprentice must always seek to kill the master, but only once the apprentice is sure that all that the master has taught that is worthwhile has been taken from him or her.

It’s a much darker tale than most of the Star Wars universe. The Jedi seem morally ambiguous rather than as knights with shining lightsabers. Why are they drawing out a war that could (maybe) be halted? The “bad guys” are the only perspectives given in the novel, and Bane becomes a first-rate antihero. The shades of the past that decorate the pages–ancient secrets, lost artifacts, and the like–provide phenomenal flavor to the world. The characters, though few, are deep and complex–moreso than one might expect for “evil” characters. The pacing is well-done as well.

In short, Path of Destruction easily stands out among the best Star Wars novels. If there is a problem in the book, it is one that constantly impacts the Star Wars universe–some resolutions are gained too easily. There is an air of convenience about some of the plot points, but unlike some of the other books in the Star Wars universe, this one doesn’t ever fall into contrivance.

Another great aspect of the novel is that it (and its successors) never falls prey to the pitfall of over-reliance on the franchise. Indeed, a noticeable lack of droids helps set the tone of the series. It is supposed to be 1000 years before the other books and movies, so different technology ought to be expected. The use of the Sith is equally smart, making them as intimidating as one might expect.

Drew Karpyshyn has given a sterling contribution to the Star Wars universe with Path of Destruction. I highly recommend it and its sequels to readers.

The Good

+Fascinating characters
+Darker tone than much licensed content
+Great pacing
+Excellent use of the license

The Bad

-Somewhat simplistic solutions to problems

Best Droid Moment

N/A 😦

Grade: A+ “A phenomenal novel on its own merit, Path of Destruction is an exciting entry in the Star Wars universe that makes it seem broader and perhaps more real than it did before.”

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 : Deep Space 9 Season 1 “Battle Lines” and “The Storyteller”

"This seems bad."

“This seems bad.”

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:

“Battle Lines”

Synopsis

Kai Opaka, the religious leader of Bajor, visits DS9 but promptly departs with Sisko, Kira, and Dr. Bashir to see the wormhole. Something goes wrong and they end up stranded on a planet in which war is constant. Opaka appears to die in the landing, but later shows up, very much alive. Apparently there’s a virus on the planet that invades once someone dies and keeps bringing them back to life. Opaka stays behind on the planet to attempt to usher in an era of peace there, believing she has found her calling.

Commentary

First, the way the planet works reminds me of one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time, Hyperion. I won’t spoil anything beyond that because the book is an absolute must-read.

Anyway, the episode is kind of weird and really shows how willing Starfleet is to bend over backwards for Bajor. I mean seriously, let’s just go on a field trip through the wormhole on a whim? Does anyone ever wonder how they fuel their starships and how wasteful such a trip might be? But oh well, they want to get along with Bajor and I’m willing to buy it. Plus, the episode is weird but deliciously so. It’s a kind of strangeness that made me want to keep watching and learn more. And, realistically, we only learn enough here to want more. Could the thread be picked up in a later episode? I don’t know, but I’m going to go ahead and guess it might be.

We also got to see a little more development for Major Kira, as we discover through her sorrow over Opaka’s death that her faith seems clearly devout. I’m interested to see more development in that direction, too.

Grade: B+ “It’s weird, but in a good way.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “I liked the way it developed the character of Kai Opaka.”

“The Storyteller”

Synopsis

Chief O’Brien and Dr. Bashir go on a field trip to help an endangered village on Bajor while Sisko greets Varis Sul, the leader of a Bajoran faction that is threatening civil war on one part of the planet. As Sisko–along with his son, Jake, and Nog–manage the delegates, O’Brien and Bashir discover the threat facing the village is some kind of entity that feeds on fear. O’Brien is given the mantle of “Storyteller,” but the apprentice storyteller is not pleased. Nog manages to give some decent advice to Varis Sul, leading to her listening to Sisko on how to potentially compromise on the dispute. O’Brien manages to pass the mantle of storyteller onto the apprentice, and they discover the whole thing was probably manipulation by the previous storyteller to push the apprentice to his full potential.

Commentary

As I write the synopsis, I again realize how convoluted the plot is. This is an example of a problem that not-infrequently plagues Star Trek in every form: it’s one episode that is made up of more than one episode’s worth of plot ideas. Either of the main threads could have been stretched into an episode, but instead we get two rushed episodes in one.

The main problem with the Varis Sul storyline is that they treat her so much like a child while still trying to say that she’s so much more than a child. There are a few too many moments where people explain things in a rather condescending way to her, along with too many moments where she acts in ways that I realistically think someone in her position could not possibly not know to not do. Oh well.

The O’Brien/Bashir dynamic made this episode click for me. Snarky O’Brien was epic, and shows once again the greatness of the actor who plays him. Love that character. Seriously. It was so fun to see him get thrown into a situation that made him so uncomfortable, and it was played up well. O’Brien is turning out to be this series’ Worf. Good stuff.

I do like the Jake/Nog dynamic, but that is at least partially because as a kid I totally loved them. But hey, nostalgia’s not necessarily a bad thing, right?

Grade: B+ “It’s a stretch, but I loved snarky O’Brien so much.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was an interesting story, but the resolution felt a little contrived.”

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.

One Sentence Book Review: “Hunting Eichmann” by Neal Bascomb

Hunting Eichmann by Neal Bascomb

Review

A chilling message and warning is contained in the pages of this fascinating story of capturing one of the worst mass murderers of all time.

Links

One Sentence Book Reviews– Read more one sentence book reviews here. I’ve decided to do one for every book I read, which is a lot. I got started on 5/14/16 so this list will grow from there.

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.

One Sentence Book Review: “An Inquiry Into the Secondary Causes Which Mr. Gibbon Has Assigned for the Rapid Growth of Christianity” by Sir David Dalrymple

An Inquiry Into the Secondary Causes Which Mr. Gibbon Has Assigned for the Rapid Growth of Christianity by Sir David Dalrymple (1786).

Review

Dalrymple shows, exhaustively, that Edward Gibbon is deeply mistaken in his theses about the rise of Christianity in his famous historical work, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Links

One Sentence Book Reviews– Read more one sentence book reviews here. I’ve decided to do one for every book I read, which is a lot. I got started on 5/14/16 so this list will grow from there.

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- #11-15 scores and comments

hyperion-simmonsI’m a huge science fiction fan, but realize 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.

11. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov Grade: B+
“Asimov can write characters, though he still refused to give them much fleshing out or description. There is much to contemplate in this inter-related collection of stories. Is it a dystopia? A utopia? Yes and no to both questions. It’s a tale of hope as well as a story of warning. I enjoyed this one.”

12. Starship Troopers by Robert A Heinlein Grade: B+
“Heinlein created a somewhat surreal story with a surprising lack of actual trooper-ing happening. I mean, there’s a lot of lead-up to fighting scenes, but very little of the action is portrayed. It’s good, but not quite as good as I was expecting. Hey, it’s better than the movie!” 

13. Ringworld by Larry Niven Grade: B-
“I enjoyed this one, but it felt strangely verbose without going too far. Lengthy portions went by in which it felt like little-to-nothing happened. There is clearly more going on than meets the eye, but readers never get to access it fully. It also felt a little difficult to follow at points. Not a bad book, but I had really high hopes and didn’t feel like they were fulfilled with this one.”

14. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke Grade: B+
“It’s a fascinating premise that kept me enmeshed in the story throughout. The middle drags a little bit, because there is so little action, despite it clearly being more of an action-oriented novel. It is overall a great novel with an ambiguous ending.”

15. Hyperion by Dan Simmons Grade: A+
“I’m embarrassed that I hadn’t read this one before. The stories contained within this novel are immersive and beautiful. It made me laugh, it made me cry. Each tale contained herein is magnificent and worthy of standing on its own, but the fact that they are interwoven into one overarching plot is astonishing. The depth of this book is limitless. One of the best books ever, it is a thing of beauty.”

What do you think? Which are your favorites? Are you surprised at any of the scores or what is on the list? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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.