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Happy Birthday Star Trek

50 years ago today yesterday, the first episode of Star Trek (now known as ‘The Original Series’) aired.  Sci-fi fandom hasn’t been the same since.  Hundreds of episodes of TV across five decades, scores of books and comics, big budget movies, video games, copycats and parodies, Trek holds a special place in our pop culture.  Star Wars may have the cool laser swords and planet-exploding superweapons, Star Trek – for all the added fistfights – made you a better person.

The Original Series was the first show I ever watched that dealt with real social issues which despite the show’s 1960’s roots, were still relevant.  Star Trek made you think about the consequences of the action, even as they had to shoehorn in a ridiculous fight with papier-mâché rocks to try and stay on the air.  Sure, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” may have been heavy handed, but for ten year old me this was the first show that dealt with racism in a way I understood.  I came for the Frank Gorshin, but left asking my parents why those two men thought they were so different.

But the best part of Star Trek was how it brought my family together.  My dad, I think, was the driving force, he loved TOS due to the “Wagon Train to the stars” aspect.  I can still remember us gathering to watch Encounter at Farpoint together.  Looking back, it wasn’t the greatest premiere episode, but it still had a sense of wonder about it that captured my attention.  It didn’t hurt that it had John de Lancie mugging for the camera as Q.  Most likely I hit The Next Generation at exactly the right time – young enough to forgive the inconsistency of the first few seasons, but then maturing with the show as it truly hit its stride a few years in.  That led into Deep Space Nine, which remains one of my all-time favorite shows, and the one that best continued the Trek legacy of examining real-world issues through a sci-fi lens.

I am looking forward to the new Star Trek: Discovery show, as it looks like it may be a return to form for Star Trek after the uneven, action-oriented ‘Kelvin-verse’ movies.  And if it doesn’t, there’s always “The Squire of Gothos”, “The Trouble with Tribbles”, “Inner Light”, “The Visitor”, “In The Pale Moonlight”…

Review TV

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch – In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light

Shifting gears for a bit (mostly because while I was able to watch Season 4 and part of Season 5, I haven’t been able to do my normal rewatch blog posts), I wanted to talk specifically about these two episdoes, In Purgatory’s Shadow and By Inferno’s Light.  Despite sharing a plot with Garak, I think these episodes might just be the best representation of Worf in the entirety of the Next Gen era Trek.

There’s a trope named after Worf – when you want to show some new alien race is tough, have them beat up the Klingon guy.  It got to be a little embarrassing for the poor guy, to be honest.  Part of it was, once you establish him as being that tough, well, the next guy has to be able to beat him to be seen as a threat.  Anyway, Worf improved quite a bit as a character once on Deep Space 9, and this two-parter really shows that.  He’s captured with Garak while investigating a signal from Enabran Tain in Dominion space, and taken to a prison asteroid.  There, the Jem’Hadar test themselves by fighting the prisoners.  We meet the real General Martok, who has been the Jem’Hadar’s punching bag, until Worf arrives.  You get it all.  Klingon honor, ass-kicking by Worf, stoic toughness in the face of broken wounds, a promise of an epic poem extolling his deeds, the works.  He even brings the Jem’Hadar commander around, earning enough respect that he refuses to kill a defeated Worf.

It’s what we were always TOLD about Klingons, but not often shown.  Here’s an entire race designed for war, even moreso than the Klingons, and Worf beat the tar out of all of them, save one.  Even when Martok advises him to stay down, that ‘honor has been satisfied’, he gets up.  That’s what we always wanted from Worf.  Not him getting knocked flat every other episode so the alien of the week can be shown as tough.

Review TV

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch – Season Three

DS9 Rewatch:  Season One, Season Two

Note:  To save my sanity, from here on I’m only going to cover the episodes that stand out to me, or ones I have a really funny comment on.

Season three again starts with a multi-part episode, and it’s important.  Founders!  The Dominion!  THE DEFIANT.  I fucking love that ship.

  • Episodes 1 and 2 – The Search:  Sisko gets a new ship, The Defiant.  Designed to kick the shit out of the Borg, he figures it’ll do well against the Dominion.  Also comes with a Romulan woman running a cloaking device.  Odo’s nose gets out of joint when a ‘Starfleet Security’ guy, Commander Eddington, gets assigned to the station.  It’s kind of sad that they get their ass kicked on the Defiant’s first mission, but hey.  I like that the Founders tried to determine just how far the Federation would go in a war via the simulation.
  • Episode 6 – The Abandoned:  Look, an adorable baby!  Hey, it’s a Jem’Hadar.  Solid work establishing that much of the Dominion is brutally controlled by the Founders, through genetic engineering, and the threat of the Jem’Hadar which are bred to be loyal.  Sets up some later episodes.
  • Episode 9 – Defiant:  I love this, as it rewards us for TNG not taking the easy way out by killing off the duplicate Riker.  Tom Riker steals the Defiant and tries to blow up some Cardassians.  He’s not very good at it.  Sisko is a lot smarter than Dukat.
  • Episode 13 – Life Support:  Vedek Bereil has been helping Kai Winn negotiate peace with Cardassia, but their transport is damaged and Bereil severely hurt.  An interesting counterpoint to TNG’s The Measure of a Man, as they replace part of the Vedek’s brain with a positronic one so he can continue his work.  He is not the same, however, and Bashir refuses to replace the rest of his brain, that Bereil’s “Spark of Life” would be gone despite the fact that we know of positronic lifeforms.
  • Episodes 20 and 21 – Improbable Cause, The Die is Cast:  Garak explodes his own shop to get Odo to investigate an assassin sent to kill him.  It leads Garak back to Enabran Tain his mentor, who has been working with the Romulan Tal Shiar to build ships to attack the Founders.  Garak joins Tain on his mission.  They try and bomb the heck out of the Founders but…they aren’t there.  The Romulan equal to Tain is a Founder, and it was a plot to lure the Obsidian Order and Tal Shiar to one place, where they can be destroyed.  Odo and Garak are rescued by Sisko and the Defiant.
  • Episode 25 – Facets:  Dax’s previous hosts are telepathically bonded to willing subjects, so she can talk to them directly.  Nice in that if gives you a sense of some of them, especially Curzon, who freaking loves being in Odo’s body and doesn’t want to give it up.  It’s odd how many episodes this show has that allows the principal actors to act differently (Mirror Universe episodes, holodeck accidents, Lwaxana Troi making everyone horny, this).
  • Episode 26 – The Adversary:  Sisko is promoted to Captain, and at the ceremony, an Admiral asks Sisko and the Defiant to go with him to negotiate with a race that is threatening war with the Federation.  Turns out the Admiral is a Founder, and he’s TRYING to start that war with the Defiant.  Odo kills the changeling, but not before we find out that they are ‘everywhere’.  Foreshadowing ahoy!

Season three was a strong one, with some great guest stars and interesting plots.  Still too many one-off episodes but they hadn’t really committed to the story arcs yet.  BUT DEFIANT!

Review TV

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Rewatch – Season Two

DS9 Rewatch:  Season One

The series really starts to round into form with it’s second season, with the actors seeming to be much more comfortable in their roles.  More Dominion stuff, more Bajoran stuff, more Garak.  Here are my episode thoughts:

  • Episodes 1, 2, 3 – The Homecoming, The Circle, The Siege:  A rare three part episode to kick off the show’s second season sees Kira rescuing a hero of the Bajoran resistance from a Cardassian prison that isn’t supposed to exist anymore.  At the same time, hardline elements on Bajor want ALL alien influence gone from their system, Federation included.  There are some great guest stars here (Frank Langella, Steven Weber, Stephen Macht, Richard Beymer) and a solid story.
  • Episode 4 – Invasive Procedures:  While the station is operating with a skeleton crew, a somewhat unstable Trill steals the Dax symbiont.  More background on the Trill and the joining procedure.
  • Episode 5 – Cardassians:  The appearance of a Cardassian war orphan raised by Bajorans has political implications on Cardassia.  A Garak/Bashir episode which I’m a sucker for.  Hints, lies, obfuscations.  Fun.
  • Episode 6 – Melora:  Dr. Bashir tries to woo a woman from a low-gravity planet, while trying to develop a technique to strengthen her to live in normal gravity.  She decides she likes being different.  Klingon restaurant.
  • Episode 7 – Rules of Acquisition:  Grand Nagus Zek tasks Quark with making a Gamma Quadrant business deal, but does so with the help of a Ferengi female, who aren’t allowed to leave the home planet.  Or wear clothes.  She leaves, possibly taking a piece of Quark’s heart with her.
  • Episode 8 – Necessary Evil:  A flashback episode, showing how Odo became Constable on Terok Nor, and his first meeting with Kira.  An interesting plot, and it gives a bit of background on what the occupation was like on the station.
  • Episode 9 – Second Sight:  A kind of strange episode where an obnoxious scientist comes to the station to try and re-ignite a nearby star.  Sisko meets a woman who seems to appear just long enough to allure him, then vanish.  Man can’t catch a break with women, at least for another year or two.
  • Episode 10 – Sanctuary:  For once, the ‘universal translator’ doesn’t work right away.  Something about refugees wanting to settle on Bajor.  A matriarchy, even.  Meh.
  • Episode 11 – Rivals:  An El-Aurian (like Guinan) comes on station with a probability-altering device.  He makes big ones, which end up affecting the entire station.  B plot involves a racquetball match between Bashir and O’Brien which helps them figure out what’s happening.  Worth seeing just as a foundation for the future bromance.
  • Episode 12 – The Alternate:  Dr. Mora, the man who studied Odo in the lab on Bajor, finds a possibly related creature.  I really like the relationship between Odo and Mora, and how it becomes more important later in the series too.  Funny to hear Sisko talk about his dad as if he were dead, when we see him a few years later.  Oops!
  • Episode 13 – Armageddon Game:  Two warring races come together to destoy a bio-weapon used by both sides.  End up working together to kill everyone which knowledge of how to make it…which includes Bashir, since he helped them destroy it.  O’Brien gets infected, OF COURSE.
  • Episode 14 – Whispers:  O’Brien is replaced by a clone sleeper agent.  The twist is, we see the episode from the clone’s point of view, with the command crew and even the Chief’s family acting strange enough that he escapes the station – perhaps thinking the odd pod people episode of TNG was recurring.
  • Episode 15 – Paradise:  Crazy woman tries to create a utopian society without tech.  Sisko and O’Brien get stranded there.  Could take or leave this one.
  • Episode 16 – Shadowplay:  Old guy re-creates his village with a holographic projector.  This idea is played out several times on Trek (TNG and Enterprise both have versions of this).  Another mention of the Dominion.
  • Episode 17 – Playing God:   The Dax symbiont is known for washing Trill joining candidates out – think Gordon Ramsay reducing someone to tears.  Jadzia doesn’t want to be that way, but is it maybe what the candidate in this episode needs?  The Trill stuff is always interesting, though the “protouniverse” framing story is meh.
  • Episode 18 – Profit and Loss:  As a younger person watching this, I wasn’t familiar enough with Casablanca to catch all the references.  The episode seemed odd on the first run-through.  It makes more sense now.  Fun Quark/Garak/Odo interplay.
  • Episode 19 – Blood Oath:  Klingons!  Not just any Klingons, but the three Captains that Kirk faced in the original series.  It seems that a common enemy of theirs, who killed their children has been found, and the three Klingons who swore a blood oath to kill him want to take him out.  Curzon Dax swore the oath as well, being Godfather to one of the children, and Jadzia wants to accompany them.  Worth it if only for Michael Ansara’s voice.
  • Episodes 20, 21 – The Maquis:  One of the things I like about the later seasons of TNG, on into DS9 is how there were more callbacks to previous events in the series.  I’m sure it was a respons to Babylon 5 but it was still a positive influence.  Here, we learn more about the fate of the Federation colonists that ended up living on Cardassian-owned worlds (see TNG’s Journey’s End) and how they turn to terrorist tactics to try and defend themselves.  Some good Gul Dukat stuff, and good ol’ John Schuck has a role too.
  • Episode 22 – The Wire:  One of my favorite episodes of the early years, it gives some insight into Garak’s plight.  Or does it?  Some of it is true, as far as we can tell, but even under the stress of the breakdown of the ‘Wire’, Garak still manages to spin some plausible lies for Bashir.  I really enjoyed Enabran Tain, Paul Dooley was having some fun here.  This is really the transition of Garak as a bit player to an important part of the station and the future seasons.
  • Episode 23 – Crossover:  A return to the “Mirror Universe” as seen in the Original Series episode Mirror, Mirror.  Now, though, the humans are oppressed, thanks in part to the influence of Kirk’s crossover.  These episodes must be fun for the actors, as they get to be VERY out of character.  Especially mirror Kira, the lustful Intendent of Terok Nor.
  • Episode 24 – The Collaborator:  Bajoran politics.  After the…loss of Kai Opaka, Winn and Bereil are competing for the vacant role of Bajoran spiritual leader.  Evidence comes to light (thanks to Winn’s maneuvering) that implicates Bereil in a massacre – 43 Bajorans killed after a collaborator gave information about them to the Cardassian occupiers.  Yet more of the nastiness of Winn, setting her up for true villainy later.
  • Episode 25 – Tribunal:  You’ve been hearing from Garak how all Cardassian criminals are guilty, and trials are just to show the people the error of their ways, well here you go.  Of course, O’Brien is saved but it’s still fun to think about how ‘law and order’ works in other cultures.
  • Episode 26 – Jem’Hadar:  Now it begins.  We meet the Jem’Hadar, the enhanced soldiers of the Dominion, as well as the Vorta.  A must-watch if anything from the next few years is to make sense, and there is some great action after a bit of a slow start.  So much promise for what is to come.  Love it.

The Dominion threat is only just beginning, but there’s still plenty of character building here.  I’m already most of the way through season 3 so expect more from me soon.

PC Games Sci/Tech

Friday Finds – Solar Sails and LEGO

Happy Friday all!  It’s a busy day today, so I’ll get right down to it:

And a couple of quick links:

Using a solar sail to clean up space junk – or LASERS.  I’m not the only one thinking DS9, right?

A LEGO augmented-reality game that makes me envy the iPhone???

Featured Media Movies Sci/Tech

Friday Finds – Psychic Benefits and the Silmarillion

Hey all, hope you had a good week.  I’ll be out of the loop a bit this weekend, though I might actually be able to do my fantasy football draft (wooo!).  Here are last week’s posts:

And now for the links:

A third TRON movie is in the works.  It’s unclear how sure this is at this point, but I very much enjoyed Legacy, so another movie would be welcome.

A great breakdown of the problems of scale for the Defiant in Star Trek: Deep Space 9 and other properties.  Also a good illustration of why JMS never wanted to quote sizes and speeds for the ships in B5.

Nerdier shirts may not exist.  Not that you’d wear, anyway.

There’s a fascinating article at Grantland by author Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers, The Tipping Point) about the ‘psychic benefits’ of owning a sports team.  Touches on the Red Sox, Snyder’s Redskins, and the NBA lockout.  For Buffalonians, it can provide a bit of insight into the mind of Terry Pegula.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, in Lego form.  Wow.

Getting closer to blasting pirates with lasers.

Dork Tower on George Lucas.  I’m a bit ashamed I didn’t think of this.

Via Geeks of Doom, check out this hand-illuminated version of Tolkien’s Silmarillion.  There is a picture below, but click through to the second link to see more.  It’s stunning.