Saga of the Jasonite

The continuing adventures of that eternal man of mystery…


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Star Trek episode reviews: The Outcast and Cause and Effect

I feel like I’m back on track now. I’m getting more sleep now that our baby sleeps through the night (mostly). I did want to make an apology though. I routinely encourage those who visit my site to leave comments if they like, whether on these overviews or on the full episode review pages. However, starting in the fourth season I have not enabled comments on any of those pages! Rest assured this has been resolved, and every review page now has the ability to leave a comment. Please let me know if I have missed any! Alright, here come reviews for episodes 17 and 18 of season five, The Outcast and Cause and Effect.

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The Outcast

The Outcast isn’t the most exciting, or even the most interesting of episodes. The androgynous J’naii race feature here, as the Enterprise is ostensibly helping them find and rescue a missing shuttlecraft with two crew members inside. Really though, it’s about Riker and a J’naii having a forbidden love *yawn*.

The Outcast, is of course, about homosexuality, or I suppose, any sexuality other than heterosexuality. There isn’t much behind the scenes info here, except for Lavar Burton. He really wanted to grow a beard. The producers said fine, we’ll try it once, and let him have it in this episode. Then they said no, it isn’t working. He does get a little bit of stubble on two subsequent episodes, but he won’t see a full beard again until Insurrection. Click here, or the photo above to access my full review.

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Cause and Effect

Cause and Effect is about seven orders of magnitude more awesome. The teaser is probably the best ever: within a minute the Enterprise blows up and everyone dies! Other than Mass Effect 2 I’ve never seen such a thing, and I love it. The crew are caught in a time loop–okay a “temporal causality loop”–for the entire episode, and each time the ship is destroyed. How do they learn about it? Poker!

Poker features more prominently in this episode than any other, and it’s amazing. It’s also amazing that they are able to keep the audience’s attention in filming essentially the same event over and over again. You may not know that instead of just filming the ship and overlaying it with an explosion, they actually blew up a model of the Enterprise. According to the writer, network affiliates were flooded with calls that something was wrong with the broadcast because they kept getting the same footage over and over again! Check out more trivia and behind the scenes info by reading my full review.

That’s it for this time. Next post will be covering the excellent The First Duty, followed by the questionable Cost of Living.

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Star Trek episode reviews: Power Play and Ethics

Thanks for bearing with me over the delay between my last post and this one. I’ve been distracted a bit by my wife and I having an addition to our family:  a new baby girl! Don’t worry, ultimately this has not stopped me from reviewing episodes 15 and 16 from season five, Power Play and Ethics.

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Power Play

The doldrums of the last three average-ish episodes is delightfully disrupted by a genuinely good episode in Power Play! Responding to a distress call brings the Enterprise to a turbulent moon which Riker, Data, and Deanna shuttle down to, only to barely escape with their lives with help from O’Brien. But they’re not alone! It’s not long before Data, Deanna and O’Brien try to take over the ship! The ghost of Christm–I mean an old shipwrecked vessel inhabit their bodies, and we end up with a hostage situation for most of the episode, and it’s great fun to watch.

Babylon 5 aficionados should recognize the redhead in this episode as Patricia Tallman, who portrayed Lyta Alexander on that show! Marina Sirtis tells a well-known story of performing her own stunt on this episode, and practically breaking her coccyx as a result. It was all for nothing, as the shot of her lying on her back is so distant it could’ve been anybody! Check out this as well as  other cool stuff on my full review.

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Ethics

The next episode, Ethics, is a definite step down. In fact we’re right back to average and below-average episodes again for a bit. The plot of Ethics is pretty straightforward: Worf gets hit hard in the back by a heavy container and is paralyzed from the waist down. To Worf, this means he needs to kill himself, and he asks Riker to help him. A “neurological specialist” beams on board to see if there’s anything that can help Worf, but she’s a bit of a loose cannon ethically.

There’s not a ton of behind-the-scenes tidbits here, which suits this somewhat unenjoyable episode just fine. There are multiple references to other episodes, and even a parallel on a DS9 episode that you can learn more about, as well as what I did enjoy about this episode in my full review.

That’s it for now. I’m not really looking forward to reviewing the next episode, The Outcast, but Cause and Effect is spectacular, so stay tuned!


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Star Trek episode reviews: The Masterpiece Society and Conundrum

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The Masterpiece Society

I’ve completed my reviews from episodes 13 and 14 from season five. I continue at the rate of two episodes a month, and unfortunately it will probably get slower in September. My wife is due with our second child in the first week of September, so I’m pretty sure my ability to get reviews done will decrease. Both of these episodes are rather lackluster, and they make up the middle of season five. It’s a shame.

The Masterpiece Society is an average to below average episode to watch. In TMS the Enterprise is trailing a stellar core fragment (a totally made up phenomenon) and discover the planet populated by a colony of genetically engineered humans made to form a collective utopia. The problem occurs when the xenophobic society finally accepts help to save their planet, when many of them catch a glimpse how far advanced the Federation has come and they want to leave. It’s an okay philosophical episode, but it comes across as a light-weight do over of the First Contact from last season, which is far better.

There aren’t a lot of behind-the-scenes bits here, but you can catch some of my thoughts on being either for or against a society and how it might play itself out in my full review. Also, several of the actors in this episode would show up later on DS9 and Enterprise episodes. Want to know which ones?

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Conundrum

I wish I could say that Conundrum is better, but it’s really not. Within the first five minutes the Enterprise crew meet a strange new ship, gets their memories wiped and the computer crashes. The ensuing 20 minutes as they try to figure out who they are and what’s going on are pretty interesting, as well as getting used to this MacDuff guy who’s now the first officer? After learning the Federation is at war with a race called the Lysians and they’ve been given a top-secret mission to destroy their command center, the crew go ahead even though they still don’t know much about who they are. Doubts about the mission grow over the following 24 minutes, and it plays out in a somewhat less-interesting second half. The premise is pretty provocative, but ultimately I just don’t buy how things could have happened, the ending itself doesn’t seem interesting after the first viewing.

One thing that does give me a chuckle is Geordi saying the ship they see in the teaser is completely new, totally unknown. Except the model they used we’ve seen in almost half a dozen previous episodes! I talk more about this, and share some of the improvements and mistakes CBS-all access made in remastering episode in my full review. Take a look and feel free to share your thoughts.

The next two episodes up for my review are Power Play and Ethics, one of which is awesome, the other OK. I can’t make guarantees as to when given my expected lack of sleep, a baby girl, job and a wife to take care of! Not necessarily in that order.


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And now, this!

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This won’t be a long post. Following President Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin, and some lines of his that will live in infamy, I saw this meme that James Gunn–the dude who directed Guardians of the Galaxy, among others–put out and thought it was great. Trump has said the following things after his meeting/summit in Helsinki, after he had called the entire EU a “foe” of the US:

When asked, “Do you hold Russia at all accountable for anything in particular,” responded: “I hold both countries responsible. I think that the United States has been foolish. I think we’ve all been foolish. … And I think we’re all to blame.” Instead of saying something straightforward like yes, I believe our intelligence community that Russia did meddle in the election to help my chances and hurt Hilary Clinton’s. By the way, he did say words to that effect not long after he was elected and got to meet with his intelligence officers for the first time. Not with Putin though! Then he contradicts himself completely a minute later in the next quote.

After rambling for really no reason about beating Hilary Clinton in his race (while still losing the popular vote) and reiterating that there was “no collusion” he then said, “So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.” This is an equally ridiculous statement. Not only because his believing Putin over his own ‘intelligence people’ means that he does not, in fact, have much confidence in them, but because this is Vladimir Putin! An evil dictator who is going to deny it, because then he can continue to manipulate Trump. In effect Trump is saying, “I asked him about it, he said he didn’t do it, that’s good enough for me.” It’s also this quote that is the source of the meme above, which I think is great.

That’s all I wanted to say, just had to get that out. I could say a lot more about this meeting, the backlash from it, the Trump administration in general, but I don’t feel the need to. I think the meme sums up the ridiculousness in the long stream of ridiculousness the past couple of years.

Picard out.


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Star Trek episode reviews: Hero Worship and Violations

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Hero Worship

I’ve finished my reviews for episodes 11 and 12 of season five: Hero Worship and Violations. Despite my best efforts, I can’t seem to do more than two episodes a month these days.

Hero Worship is a good episode to watch. The Enterprise encounters a mostly-destroyed ship in the middle of a black cluster and Data saves a 12-yr old boy. Like any 12-yr old boy who’s survived the deaths of everyone on a ship, not to mention his parents, he emulates Data. A being with no emotions at all. Meanwhile the Enterprise unsurprisingly finds itself in trouble yet again! It’s a layered telling of a sensitive subject, and is one of those Star Trek episodes that ages exceptionally well.

This is the second episode that Patrick Stewart directed, and is another hit. You may not know that it was during the shooting of this episode that the cast were informed of Gene Roddenberry’s death. Check out this and lots of other stuff in my full review.

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Violations

In contrast to the above episode, Violations sucks to watch. This episode goes from moderately uninteresting to downright uncomfortable with rapidity! The Enterprise is doing a bunch of napping–I mean mapping–and they are transporting some Ullians, which refer to themselves as ‘telepathic historians.’ While they say they want to build a library of memories for every civilization in the galaxy, what we actually end up seeing is the psychic rape of several crew members: Deanna Troi (literally), as well as Will Riker and Beverly Crusher. It’s one of those episodes you wish you could forget, but I have to review it.

For those remotely interested in behind-the-scenes tidbits of this episode, we get to see Gates McFadden’s real hair in this episode during her flashback scene. Recall that for most of the series she had to wear a wig that was pretty much the same color. Evidently the writers wrote a flashback scenario for every cast member, and I wish they’d used the one they wrote for Ensign Ro! Find out more details about this and some others things in my full review, if you’d like.

Next up to review are The Masterpiece Society and Conundrum. Hopefully they’ll be sooner rather than later!


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Why you’re safer driving with your doors unlocked

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Wouldn’t want to be inside this car, would you?

This particular issue has been on my mind for years. Given my overall irritation, I’m categorizing this as a rant.

It’s bugged me for years that cars in recent years have doors that automatically lock when you put the car in drive. I have a vehicle that was made in 2012, and it does this, though once I unlock the doors they stay that way. What’s more irritating is a 2015 vehicle that I have (a Honda) that will automatically lock the doors every time you start moving from a stop. No matter how many times I unlock it it locks them all back up, and there is no way to disable this feature, I’ve looked. This actually makes the people in the car less safe, and I’m going to explain why.

If you are involved in a car accident and for any reason are unable to open your door, you will have to rely on emergency personnel or a good samaritan passerby to extricate you. Having your door locked is one more barrier that they will have to overcome in order to do this, and it may end up costing you or your family their lives. This is an especially important issue if your car is burning, you are bleeding excessively, the car is in water, etc. If you are unconscious you won’t be able to help. If you have a broken arm, you won’t be able to help. If you are upside down in addition to any of these, you are very unlikely to be able to help. If the automatic door locks are broken as part of the accident, they won’t unlock. EMT’s are going to have a tough time pulling you out of the window if the roof of the car has been crushed, especially if you have a potential spinal injury. As someone put it, “As an ex-ambulance driver, it felt terrible to watch a patient dying inside a locked car where CPR could not be administered.” EMT’s and other safety personnel won’t have a problem getting you out through your seat belt; that’s one reason they have knives and shears, to cut through them. In the unlikely event you are in a serious car accident, the difference between getting out of the car when you need to, and not being able to can make all the difference. Please unlock your doors.

Do yourself a favor and unlock your doors whenever you get in your vehicle. The main reason people lock their car doors? It’s because it makes them feel safer. Please note the wording of that last sentence. It does not make you any safer, but people feel safer. It’s an illusion, and in fact will usually make you less safe in your vehicle. Don’t be at the mercy of your emotions, use your brain! The purpose of door locks is to protect your vehicle when you are away from it, not when you are in it. For those reading this that can’t help but think of scenarios whereby locking the doors could be a good idea, let me see if I can address them.

“But what if I’m driving in an unsafe neighborhood?” I will limit my response to scenarios in the US, which is where I live. I don’t know what it’s like driving down the road in Pakistan, and I don’t know how driving works in Mongolia (do they even have cars? Anyone living in Ulaanbaatar feel free to get back to me). Having your doors unlocked is not really a liability. People walking up to cars and yanking them out doesn’t happen that often, largely because of the invention of seat belts. If someone is going to carjack you, they will use a gun. Having your doors locked does you no good when a pistol is aimed at your head at a stop light or in a parking lot–you unlock the door yourself and give them what they want. Here’s a link to a good story on how to avoid carjacking, and having your doors locked has nothing to do with it. I’m not going to quibble about people who doggedly decide to lock their doors in rough neighborhoods or a major metropolis, this is the situation that I can most understand–but it’s still not protecting you as much as you think. Please unlock your doors.

“But what if I have young kids in the car?” If you have toddlers, they should be in the infant car seat where they can’t get out anyway. If you have older kids that’s what child safety locks for, they’ve been around since the early 80’s. Use them! If you don’t, depending on the model of your car someone in the back seat can open their door from the inside even if the car doors are locked anyway, so there really is no excuse. Please unlock your doors.

“Doesn’t having your car doors locked prevent you being thrown clear in an accident?” No. That’s what seat belts prevent. Wear your seat belt! It’s difficult to think of a scenario where a person is thrown sideways into their car door and having it locked magically saves their life. Locked or unlocked, that car door is staying shut; anything with enough force to crack open the door will either kill you anyway, or be unaffected by whether it’s locked or not. The federal government has set safety standards for door latches that are very strict; doors almost never open anymore due to the force of the crash itself. Even if they did, your seat belt will keep you in the car. People being ‘thrown clear’ in the event of an accident has nothing to do with car doors, it’s to do with whether or not they were wearing their seat belt. Please unlock your doors.

“There must be a reason it’s standard to automatically lock the car doors on almost all modern cars!” There is, but not a good one. Remember that “almost never” part? As I researched I found what the deal was on the cartalk website: “The one weak link is the door handle and the rods that it connects to. If your car is moving very fast at the time of a crash, the inertia can [potentially] move that handle or the rods it attaches to in the door, and that can unlatch the door — as if you’d pulled the handle. If a door is locked, the handle becomes inoperative. You can pull on it or push on it, but it’s detached from the rods that activate the latch, and the door won’t open.” For those of you waiting and hoping to see if there’s a reason not to change your minds or your behavior, this is all there is. There is a tiny possibility that this can happen. I looked and could not find a single example where this has occurred. Even in that scenario however, you will be kept in the car by your seat belt. Please unlock your doors.

*Takes a big exhale* Okay, got that out of my system. Thanks for reading my extended rant. As with all of my blog posts, keep in mind what Dennis Miller says: this is just my opinion, and I could be wrong.


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Star Trek episode reviews: A Matter of Time and New Ground

A Matter of Time

My reviews are complete for episodes nine and ten of season five: A Matter of Time and New Ground. Life has gotten in the way a bit, but I’ve managed to barely keep things from going longer than a month between posts.

A Matter of Time is an episode I usually look forward to seeing when it’s on the air, or if I get a hankering to watch the whole series again. It’s a rare bright spot of levity and light in a very serious fifth season. A professor from nearly 300 years in the future appears and tells them he’s there to document them and ask some questions, while denying answering any questions of his own. His visit happens to coincide with a rescue mission to help colonists on a planet that have just had an asteroid crash onto it. Professor Rasmussen has a lot of fun teasing the crew with various comments peppered throughout the show, while things get more and more dire on the planet. Something seems off with the ‘professor’ and learning more about him and his true aims are enjoyable and the twist is one I didn’t see coming.

What you may not know is that Matt Frewer was a backup choice to play Rasmussen. Originally Robin Williams was set to play him! Unfortunately his commitment to play in the great masterpiece of a film Hook *rolls eyes* prevented him due to scheduling conflicts. Oh what might have been! Meanwhile Marina Sirtis used the bridge set to film a little promo of her own for a university. Learn more and watch a video of the promo on my full review.

While the previous TNG entry is a delight, New Ground is an episode I have to suffer through. The Enterprise is participating in the testing of a new kind of propulsion system, the soliton wave. While orbiting the planet starting the experiment, Worf’s mom pays a brief visit and drops off his son, Alexander, permanently! The focus of this episode is not on the ridiculous soliton wave–which promptly goes awry like just about every bit of new tech on TNG–but rather on a father and son learning how to relate to one another. This forgettable and uninteresting episode comes up short of its goal of entertainment, though it’s not outright terrible.

It’s hard not to notice that they’ve cast a new actor to play Alexander, Brian Bonsall. Anyone who watched Family Ties would recognize him as a Keaton kid. He does do a good job, even if we have to deal with the albatross that is Alexander taking up space on the show for six more episodes after this appearance. For those paying attention to continuity, however, Alexander should only be about three years old here, as he was born at approximately the time the Booby Trap episode takes place. For a full explanation of this mutant fast-growth strain of Klingon, as well as why he’d have been better utilized on DS9, click here to check out my full review.

Next time I’ll be summarizing my reviews of Hero Worship, a pretty good episode, and Violations, a virtual gang rape of an episode.