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 “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.

Presidential Biographies: James Madison #4

My quest to read (at least) one biography per President continues with James Madison, the fourth 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 Madison by Richard Brookhiser.

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

James Madison by Richard Brookhiser 

All said, I found  James Madison by Richard Brookhiser somewhat disappointing. Perhaps it’s just because I recently finished 3 giant biographies of Presidents that seemed to offer so much more insight into their character, backgrounds, and motivations than this book did, but I felt left wanting. Indeed, I didn’t feel as though I got as strong a grasp on the life and career of Madison as I did of the former 3 Presidents, and that’s a shame because it seems Madison has much to offer.

Madison is often called the Father of the Constitution, and though names like that often seem to lionize their namesakes rather than offer any compelling insight into their character, in this case it seems fairly accurate. Madison’s greatest contribution, it seems, was to effectively set our country’s entire government up by helping to write, amend, and sell the Constitution. I say sell because he did a lot of legwork and writing to help convince others the Constitution was a good idea. He helped strengthen the central government of the United States.

Another pre-Presidency achievement of Madison was to help complete the Louisiana Purchase. He was Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of State at the time and it was in part at his urging that this massive increase of land of the United States was purchased. Though many may see this as purely excellent for the U.S., it is also clear that the Louisiana Purchase led to many later ills, particularly the destruction and genocidal acts perpetuated against First Nations groups on this continent.

As far as his Presidency goes, perhaps the flashiest aspect of it was the War of 1812. Madison clearly gave in to some popular opinion here, following the Hawks in congress and elsewhere and signing the war into law. This war was filled with disasters for the United States–including the burning of Washington, D.C. However, it also led to more leaders understanding the importance of a well-trained military and, particularly, a powerful navy. It set the United States on track for becoming a world power. More interestingly, after the conclusion of the war, relations between the U.S. and Great Britain continued to get better, not worse.

Madison’s legacy is clearly one of compromise. That word is often seen as a negative, but there is no good reason for negative connotations in this or many other cases. Madison knew that it took working together with people with whom he disagreed to get things done, and he frequently did exactly that. His lasting legacy may indelibly be wrapped into that of the Constitution, and for that Americans have much to thank Madison.

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 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: DS9 Season 3 “Through the Looking Glass” and “Improbable Cause”/”The Die is Cast”

Improbable Friendship?

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 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:

“Through the Looking Glass”

Synopsis

O’Brien comes over from the mirror universe first discovered in “Crossover” and kidnaps Sisko, bringing him back to the utterly different universe in which Cardassians, Bajorans, and Klingons work together to conquer the galaxy. He specifically grabbed Sisko because the Sisko in the mirror universe was killed in action rebelling against this coalition. He needs the “real” Sisko to take his counterpart’s place long enough to unite the rebellion and lure his wife (who is alive in this universe) back to the rebels. After some haranguing, Sisko agrees, and he succeeds at getting Jennifer away from the Alliance. His mission complete, he returns to the “real” universe, somewhat saddened by what could have been.

Commentary

When I saw “Crossover,” I assumed it’d be a one-off with no relevance going forward. That’s obviously not the case, though I don’t know if the mirror universe will show up again. This was, I thought, a superb use of the story of the previous episode that managed to avoid some of the flaws of “Crossover” while also strengthening Sisko as a character.

That, perhaps, is the real story of this episode: Sisko’s character development. We all don’t care much about the Mirror Universe–at least I didn’t–because we know it’s not “real” in the sense of the perspective of our characters. Thus, having Sisko go there and really get put through the ringer–his wife showing up alive and on the other side was genius–made me get invested in this episode in a way that “Crossover” couldn’t manage because it was too busy establishing the differences of the Mirror Universe. Here, we get Sisko struggling to deal with his own feelings of guilt, sorrow, and loss while also experiencing some hope. There is an intensely bittersweet taste to the whole thing at the end, with Sisko thinking on what could have been.

The plot of this one is solid too. It’s nothing special, but it is action-packed and exciting enough to get me as a viewer involved in the struggles of parallel characters in that Mirror Universe.

Grade: A-“It was cool to get another look at the alternative universe, and the story was fairly strong.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: 

“Improbable Cause” and “The Die is Cast”

Synopsis

A two-parter episode. Garak’s shop explodes and Odo investigates, leading to both becoming embroiled in a Romulan plot to kill Garak. As they pursue this lead, they are captured by Romulans who happen to have on board Garak’s former intelligence boss, Enebran Tain. It turns out the Cardassians and Romulans have decided to collaborate to try to end the Dominion threat by destroying the Founders. They bring a combined fleet through the Wormhole and Sisko et al. pursue in the Defiant. Drama ensues when a security officer sabotages the Defiant‘s cloak under orders from a Starfleet admiral, who is trying to let events play out. Meanwhile, Garak is forced to interrogate Odo, leading to a kind of torture in which Odo isn’t allowed to turn back into his liquid state. Garak finds out nothing useful, but begs Odo to let him stop the torture. The Cardassian-Romulan fleet attacks the surface of the Founder’s world but discovers it is a trap, and the fleet is annihilated by a huge number of Dominion ships. Garak goes to save Odo and is assisted by another changeling who reveals the whole thing was a plan by the Founders to end the threat of the Romulans and Cardassians. They escape, and back on DS9 Odo and Garak begin to repair their relationship by meeting for lunch.

Commentary

There is a ton here. First, I want to address the scenes with Garak and Odo. My goodness. It was brutal. To me, it seemed a bit implausible that Odo would turn around and immediately extend the olive branch to Garak after these scenes, but they sold it as a kind of thing with Odo knowing Garak did not wish to harm him. Though that feels a bit tenuous, it also speaks to how brutal reality can sometimes be.

Many other issues regarding the suspension of disbelief could be brought up from these episodes. I mean, seriously, how did the Cardassians and Romulans decided to work together and do so–taking entire fleets–with their overarching bodies allegedly not knowing about it at all? I am quite skeptical. Moreover, if the Dominion is really so powerful that they can just decimate a joint fleet like this, why not just swarm through the Wormhole and take everything over? I’m sure some of this is a setup for later intrigue, but it seems like the Dominion is pretty overpowered at this stage.

Garak’s character continues to have depth, though it’s always frustrating to lose out on how much of the background we get may or may not be true. I do think he got some strong development here, however.

Overall this is a strong two-part episode with some jarring and emotionally disturbing scenes.

Grade: A- “Deeply emotional and exciting, but the episode suffers from some serious implausibility issues.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment:

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 “Destiny” and “Prophet Motive”

I have a particle accelerator shooting out of my brain. Your argument is invalid.

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:

“Destiny”

Synopsis

A pair (later a triad) of Cardassian scientists arrive on board DS9 to try to set up a way to communicate through the Wormhole. Meanwhile, Vedek Yarka, a somewhat controversial religious leader on Bajor, argues that the Bajoran scriptures prophesy this very event as a calamity that will deeply impact Bajor. Starfleet and the Cardassians press on, however, despite some superficial similarities between this prophecy and current events. When things start to go wrong and it appears the Wormhole is in danger, support for Yarka’s interpretation surges. However, one of the Cardassian scientists finally outs the third, who is revealed to be a member of the Obsidian Order, the Cardassian intelligence group. She was trying to sabotage their efforts. With that out of the way, the plan proceeds and, unexpectedly, some filament science magic happens and the communications are able to be established. Sisko, Kira, Yarka, and others see this as the prophecy being fulfilled in an unexpected way they could not have predicted.

Commentary

I thought this episode was a breath of fresh air. We’ve had Star Trek deal with religion plenty of times before. It hasn’t always done so well. In this one, genuinely interesting questions of interpretation of prophecy are brought forward. Who gets to arbitrate such interpretation? How much should we look at current events to try to figure out what prophecies mean? Can a prophecy really be true? These are just some of the questions briefly touched on in this episode.

What made it so refreshing is that the writers didn’t force answers for these questions. The episode dynamically changed the answers and perspectives for these questions. Most interestingly, at the end, many of the characters take what happened as meaning the prophecy came to its fulfillment.

Okay, a bit more on this one. The plot is fairly bare-bones overall–the meat is spent on the analogues to the prophecy–but it does the job of carrying the episode when it needs to. There is just enough question of whether the prophecy might come true or not that as a viewer you keep wondering which direction it will go. The ending is perfect, showing that we very often read our own perspective onto those things which we read.

Grade: A “I found this a surprisingly good look at how religious groups may interpret their scriptures differently, and how events that are happening here-and-now can change that. It was remarkably balanced in its look at this question, while still delivering a great plot.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It was a good combination of new characters and development of a long-standing story thread, plus it was fun to get to know some more Cardassians.”

“Prophet Motive”

Synopsis

The Grand Nagus of the Ferengi shows up once again on DS9, but he’s spreading a message that is utterly baffling to Quark and the other Ferengi. He seems to have re-written the Rules of Acquisition into some kind of rules for being kind to others! What gives? As Quark struggles with the reality that the Nagus might really be losing it, they discover that the Nagus tried to meet up with the mysterious aliens in the Wormhole to exploit them for knowledge of the future–and more monetary gain. The aliens, however, sent him back with a message of compassion. Quark must rush with the help of others to save the Ferengi and the Nagus from certain financial destruction. They do so! Monetary gains all around!

Commentary

Okay, this one was a bit silly, but so fun. I particularly loved the scene in which Quark has convinced himself the Nagus is making these changes as some kind of grand scheme that he can’t possibly comprehend, only to give in to the realization that the Nagus has truly gone off his rocker. It’s funny and delightful.

This kind of lighthearted, silly episode is something that I think DS9 pulls off much better than TNG. TNG takes itself very seriously throughout–often too seriously–so the silly episodes have to be quite excellent to succeed. DS9 just is quite serious–wars and rumors of wars abound, serious topics are constantly explored, etc. Because of this, the silly episodes like this one feel like a kind of breather to give some recovery after serious episodes. I enjoyed this one quite a bit, and love every time the Grand Nagus shows up.

Grade: B “Radically implausible and silly, but insanely fun to watch nonetheless.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B “It was fun. It was also very silly.”

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.