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Brian T
Sun, Feb 10, 2019, 9:22am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

I was very entertained by the episode; it is one of my favorites so far.

My biggest complaint is that by trying to do too many stories, the writers don't spend enough time on each idea to really flesh it out.

I enjoyed the chaos of the UT going haywire, but by the next act, it was somewhat dismissed. Absolutely loved Saru's expression of "didn't any of you bother to learn a 2nd language?", haha. I think they could have spent an entire episode on the idea of the crew being too dependent on their technology and maybe even developed some of the background crew members a little by highlighting their different cultures via language.

The dying sphere alien was also cool and very representative of classic Trek, but again, not enough time was spent on it. Seemed to be a combination of TNG's "dyson sphere" and "inner light" but without the payoff. I hope there will be a follow-up on the importance of saving its data in future episodes, especially since Pike essentially called it the equivalent of finding the "dead sea scrolls".

Saru is quickly becoming one of my favorite characters. He is Discovery's answer to Spock, the alien in among the crew, which is strangely enough since Burnham is pseudo-Vulcan.

Saru's ritual suicide at the end had me wondering about Starfleet's attitude toward that behavior. In the DS9 episode "Sons of Mogh", Sisko was adamant about not letting Worf assist in Kurn's suicide, even though it was an established Klingon tradition. Yet in TNG episode "Ethics", Picard seemed to have no issue in letting Riker assist Worf with his suicide when he was medically crippled. I guess it varies from Captain to Captain and also by situation? But then that brings me to Burnham and the question of whether she would actually assist Saru in the ritual. After pondering it for a while, it made sense that she would find it an acceptable practice since she was raised in Vulcan culture. In the Voyager episode "Death Wish", it was established that Vulcans approve of ritual suicide, which is why the Quinn choose Tuvok as his advocate. Tuvok even acknowledges that "Vulcans who reach a certain infirmity with age practice ritual suicide" and this biological madness of Saru's probably qualifies as such a situation. Makes you wonder why Sarek didn't commit suicide back in TNG's "Unification" where he was clearly suffering immensely from his Bendii syndrome...maybe his human wife convinced him to fight it?
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Brian T
Thu, Jan 31, 2019, 9:17am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Visitor

I Loved this episode and definitely would rank it 4 stars. It always makes me think about my relationship with my father and living life to my fullest.

Random Thoughts:
Jake’s Tragedy vs Picard’s Inner Light:
I always saw this story as a tragedy that focused on the familial/loving relationships we all have (i.e. the parental relationships that define us as people) and the sudden loss of it. This is why it always hit me much harder than “The Inner Light”. Picard doesn’t experience loss from the outset of that episode, he gradually experiences gain and then loss. He gets to live a fully realized life with a family and then he loses it slowly over time, in fact he is well aware that his family on Kataan and the planet will come to an end and yet has time to live his life to its fullest, encourage others to do so, find meaning in everything, etc. The only real tragedy of this episode is that it seems to suggest that Picard, in the real world, has specifically chosen not to have this kind of life due to his commitment to his career in Starfleet and that he may never experience the “inner light” that these relationships gave him. But it is actively Picard’s choice to choose career over a family and he has plenty of time to still find one; in fact, if we are to believe the Star Trek novelizations, Picard will one day marry Beverley Crusher and may have this kind of family sometime. So, although it was neat to see Picard with a family, I was never as emotionally invested by the story, especially as someone who has yet to experience a spouse and kids. Perhaps when I am a 100 year old man who has seen friends and spouses die to old age and prepare to face my own death it will resonate with me more.

On the other hand, Jake was still a yet-to-mature boy of 18, and is at that time in his life was most strongly defined by his relationship with Ben. This relationship is ripped away suddenly and he does not have the experience or support structure to adapt. Anyone who has lost a parent can relate to his pain, as opposed to Picard’s drama in TIL (if you haven’t experienced a full life with a spouse, kids, and grand kids), but more importantly, Jake cannot get past Ben (because he keeps visiting), but also discovers that Ben didn’t simply die, he is trapped in limbo and will likely be there for all eternity. Imagine if you find out your parent was being held in a prison beyond your reach and that long after you died they would be still be suffering (of some sorts) for all time. This fuels Jake’s already obsession-prone behavior to sacrifice everything to reset time…in fact, Jake sacrifices the same familial relationship that Picard earned in TIL, in order to save Ben.

The Time-Reset:
While many people scoff at Jake resetting the timeline immorally to serve his own ends, I say that the risks and rewards are too undefined to claim that it was wrong. Some say that his future was rosy since the Dominion war never occurred in a timeline where Sisko died in season 4 (which also suggests that Sisko really wasn’t all that pivotal to history), but one only has bits-and-pieces of information. True, the worst-case-scenario where the Dominion invade and take over is not realized, but that only means this future is better than that one, it does not suggest that this future is ideal. Think about what is known about this future and see how it compares to the one we know happens at the end of DS9. For this comparison, one has to have watched the series to conclusion:
1. Without Sisko, the Klingons remain an aggressive force in the AQ with their military might to the point that they even assume control over the station and the wormhole. Why doesn’t the Dominion invade in this future? Because maybe they already got what they wanted. Changeling Martok is in a position of power in the Klingon Empire when Sisko dies and probably at some point takes over the Klingon Empire because Sisko/Odo never expose him in Season 5. So, the Dominion never invades because they have already taken over the AQ at this point and nobody even knows it. The Klingon Empire (ruled secretly by the Founders) has essential dominance over the wormhole sector of the AQ (maybe more, perhaps even Cardassia and Bajor at this point) and therefore controls any access to/from the Gamma Quadrant. The Founders never invade because they are never at risk of being conquered so long as they control the wormhole and can slowly continue to destabilize the AQ with their Klingon puppets over the course of the next few decades. Doesn’t sound like great future to me.
2. With the death of the Emissary, the Bajorans lose hope and retreat from the joining the Federation. So we have a future where they are ruled by the Shakaar government and Kai Winn. Compare that to the true future in season 7 where Winn is removed from power and Bajor is on the cusp of joining (which they do eventually do in the Star trek novels). Just look at how much damage Winn causes in Season 4 Accession when Akorem comes out of the wormhole and brings the Bajoran state back to its religiously-conservative caste system that would have ousted Shakaar at the next election and probably put Kai Winn (or her religiously-conservative equivalent) at the head of the State. This future for Bajor with no Emissary to oppose it also sounds not too great.

Also, I agree that one cannot call this a “reset button” episode since the audience knew all along that it was going to be “undone” in some fashion, that the character arc development for Old Jake reached its concussion (and in doing so conveyed the tragedy to the audience), and that Ben retained knowledge of it all (therefore impacting his future father-son relationship which was the whole point of the episode).

Jake-Ben Relationship Progression to End-of-Series:
As pointed out above, the father/son Ben/Jake relationship is one of the best and most endearing in the series and as the show progresses, we see that relationship strained more and more. Mentioned above, the major character conflicts that drive Jake and Ben apart are the Sisko-Prophet episodes where Ben has to choose between his son and his destiny as Emissary/Prophet. As the series progresses, Sisko moves toward accepting his role/destiny as Emissary and Prophet knowing all along that it distances himself from Jake…and the tragedy of it all being that The Visitor showed him how much their relationship meant to them both. But one cannot fight destiny and Ben joins the Prophets in the end, mirroring this scenario in The Visitor. Is the ending of the series tragic since Ben abandons Jake to be with the Prophets just like how he "left" him in The Visitor? Let’s thing about that.

I would argue that Jake matures a great deal since the start of Season 4 and is much better prepared to handle losing Ben by the end of Season 7:

-Season 4 “Paradise Lost/Crossfire”: Jake spends time with his Grandfather as blooming adult and can even stand up to him to the point where he insists that Grandpa take a blood sampling test. Compare this to his prior relationship of always acquiescing and being forced to peel potatoes in the restaurant all day; we see that he has grown-up a little relative to his Grandpa.

-Season 4 “The Muse”: Jake continues to distance himself from his father in pursuit of his own goals. He refuses a father-son trip with Ben in order to focus on a story he is writing and even keeps secret from him the fact that he is meeting with a strange women in an intimate setting (she is massaging his head in her quarters…while eating his creativity?).

-Season 4 “Shattered Mirror”: Jake meets his mirror mother in mirror Jenifer Sisko and then has to watch her die right in front of him. Even though this brings Jake and Ben closer to each other as they both grieve over the re-death of a Jennifer Sisko, he now (sort of) has experience watching a loved parent-like figure die and apparently gets over it emotionally.

-Season 5 “Nor the Battle to the Strong”: Jake experiences the real world, war, and life & death away from his father and takes a hard look inside himself to determine if he is courageous or a coward. Then he exposes that in his writing and shares it with the world. He has become more self-aware, courageous, and takes steps toward his future career in writing.

-Season 5 “The Ascent”: Jake moves out of his father’s quarters and begins to have a fully realized life on his own where he doesn’t even see Ben every day…perhaps only once or twice a week to score a free dinner meal.

-Season 6 “Rapture”: Sisko chooses to have life-threatening visions that may kill him in order to embrace his destiny as Emissary. Although Jake overrides comatose Ben’s wishes in the end, he learns that the Emissary/Prophet destiny means enough to Ben to risk a life with Cassidy and him. This also brings Cassidy back into the picture and strengthens the bond between her and Jake. As both stand by while Sisko faces death, you get the sense that they are already a family unit.

-Season 5 “In The Cards”: Jake realizes his father is depressed due to larger-than-life circumstances beyond his control (i.e. looming threat of Dominion war) and embarks on a quest to correct the situation not by ending the threat of the Dominion way, but rather by focusing on the little things. A token gift of a baseball card changes nothing about the Dominion war scenario but can be seen as a healthy form of dealing with negative feelings by focusing on what makes one happy instead of what makes one sad.

Season 5/6 “Call to Arms” to “Sacrifice of Angels”: Jake risks life-and-limb and goes against Ben’s known orders to abandon the station in order to be an investigate journalist under Dominion rule thereby furthering his future writing career and removing his dependence on his father (although he is dependent on his father’s reputation as Emissary).

Season 6 “The Reckoning”: Sisko sides with the Prophets when both Kira and Jake are possessed by a Prophet and a Paighwraith, respectively. Jake learns and accepts that Ben’s destiny as Emissary and faith in the Prophets means he is willing to sacrifice is own son for a greater good. Jake has therefore accepted a reality where he and Ben are separated for a noble cause.

Season 6 “Valiant”: While along-for-the ride with Nog and a bunch of overzealous Red Squad Cadets, Jake has the courage to go against the grain, stand up to “Captain" Waters and tell everybody that they are foolish for embarking on a suicide mission. A weaker personality would have been swayed by Waters bull crap and even Nog was swayed into obedience (and Nog typically has a stronger personality than Jake).

Season 7/8 “Tears of the Prophets” – “Shadows and Symbols”: Ben Sisko becomes a broken man after failing in his duty as Emissary and allowing Jadzia to die. Jake acts as the support structure this time and holds Ben up: despite already living on his own, he moves back to Earth with Ben to help him recover emotionally or spiritually or whatever. Then he goes as far as to save Ben from the cult-of-the-paighwraith assassin and then accompany him to Tyree. Instead of Jake being dependent on Ben and seeing him as larger-than-life, Jake experiences his father as a “human being”. Jake no longer puts Ben up on a pedestal the way most children see their parents and is now adult enough to be the one who Ben needs to depend on. This can be seen as a reversal of roles rather than the crippling dependence Jake had on Ben at the end of Season 4.

Season 7 “What You Leave Behind” - In the end, Sisko goes off to join the Prophets in the wormhole. While this seems to mirror what happened in The Visitor, there are major differences that completely change the scenario. This time, he is not a prisoner in limbo, alone and with no purpose, but rather accompanied by his own people (his own prophet mother in fact), to serve a higher mission, and with the possibility of return. He also communicates to Cassidy that he is at peace with this fate. Jake, instead of being alone (save for his Grandfather whom he was a child to in Season 4), Jake is now left with new familial bonds. He is become a man is his Grandfather’s eyes and stands on higher footing with him, he has a new mother in the form of Cassidy and she is pregnant, making Jake a future brother to watch over. Lastly, Jake has matured professionally and emotionally to be independent and have a more defined purpose in life with his writing career.

Overall, Jake is in much better circumstance to move on with his life despite Ben being in the Wormhole.

Melanie and Erasing the current Timeline:
I dismiss the idea that Melanie should have acted more aggressively to either stop old Jake from altering the timeline or said something to try to convince him not to. Most likely she comprehended everything he was saying (including the concept that he was going to erase her existence) but simply did not believe it enough to act. If someone, even someone you respected and admired, told you such a fantastic story, would you really act to stop it or would you dismiss it as the rambling dementia of an old man with little probability of being real? Melanie did what most of us would do in that situation, nod her head respectfully, get what she wanted out of the encounter (i.e. writing advice and a copy of his book), and excuse herself from the room.

Finally, when Old Jake tells the story to Melanie in the first place and even gives her the copy of his book, one asks why if he was just going to erase the timeline? Perhaps Old Jake believed there was 0.0001% probability that he was wrong and about to commit suicide for no reason. In that case, he at least wanted someone to know why he was about to die and even benefit from his story. Even if he believed there was a 100% chance of success, I would suggest existence in the moment is meaningful in itself. By telling Melanie his story, even if the timeline gets erased later, at that moment in time and reality, his encounter had meaning to both himself and Melanie. Similarly with the gifting of the book.

That's my long drawn-out random take!
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Brian T
Wed, Jan 2, 2019, 7:14am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: The Changing Face of Evil

I had no issues with the “magic book with invisible ink from blood”, I thought it was completely consistent with the worm hole aliens and the precedents set forth by DS9 in universe all the way back to the start of the series.

To me, the worm hole aliens are very powerful beings that live within the confines of the worm hole. They have, at least, the ability to grant visions, move objects in the wormhole through time (as in “Accession”), and to alter a person’s mind (as they did with the Nagus Zek in “Prophet Motive”). They are worshipped as Prophets by the Bajorans and sometimes they can even leave the wormhole to possess either a person or be trapped in an object (such as in “Reckoning” when Sisko smashes the tablet that contained a battling Prophet and Paigh’wraith that then possessed Kira and Jake, respectively).

Then you have the Orbs of the Prophets, which are objects that exist outside the wormhole but somehow are a direct link to the Prophets and their abilities. Through the orbs, you can speak to the prophets and if they find you worthy, they can speak back to you or give you access to their abilities (i.e. visions and time travel). To people who are not worthy and that the Prophets choose not to speak to, the Orbs resemble mysterious inanimate objects (i.e. like when the Cardassians stole them and held on to them as treasures or when Kai Winn begs the prophets to speak to her and the Orb just sits there doing nothing). But the point is, the Orbs are a direct link to the prophets and all their abilities from outside the worm hole (i.e. the Orb of Time took the Defiant back in time in “Trials and Tribble-ations” despite being nowhere near the wormhole). Also, apparently, the Orbs can contain a worm hole alien, such as when the Orb of the Emissary contained the Sara-prophet on Tyree.

So basically, this “magic book” called the Kosst Amojan is an Orb of the Paigh’wraiths. It is a direct link to the Paigh’wraiths that are trapped in the Fire Caves, and probably even contains a trapped Paigh’wraith inside it (just like that wooden statue thing that Dukat broke in “Tears of the Prophets”). To the Bajarorans and everybody else that worshipped the Prophets, the Paigh’wraiths did not find them worthy and choose not to speak to them, so the book appears to be an inanimate old book with blank pages. But when Kai Winn murders her loyal servant, she proves herself worthy and the Paigh’wraiths speak to her by making the text visible (similar to giving someone a vision). In fact, Kai Winn may even be more worthy to receive their blessing than Dukat since she actually made a personal sacrifice (by murdering a faithful servant whom she may have cared for as a friend) as opposed to Dukat who sacrificed nothing personally and only turns to the Paigh’wraiths for power to get revenge. Lastly, the blood dripping onto the pages of the book is simply the physical activation of their blessing (similar to how Dukat had to break the doll in-half to release the wraith or Sisko had to physically smash the tablet to free the aliens inside).

So I never really saw the Kosst Amojan as a “fantasy-crap magic book”. To me, it was always the next logical step in advancing the Paigh’wraiths arc. In fact, Winn’s acquisition and access of the Kosst Amojan, aka the Orb of the Paigh’wraiths, at the end of the season in many ways mirrors how Sisko went on a quest to find and access the Orb of the Emissary at the start of the season.
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