Saga of the Jasonite

The continuing adventures of that eternal man of mystery…


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Star Trek episode reviews: Tapestry and Birthright, Part I

I just can’t seem to stick to reviewing two episodes per month. Luckily I have a good excuse:  we have a new son! Joshua was born August 24th, and now that we’re both getting a bit more sleep and I am more coherent, I’ve got my reviews done. This week it’s Tapestry and the first of a two-parter, Birthright.

Tapestry

Tapestry isn’t just one of the best episodes of season six, it isn’t just one of the best Q episodes, it’s one of the best episodes in the entire series. Upon Picard’s apparent death, Q welcomes him into the afterlife with open arms. In discussing his life, Q discovers one of Picard’s greatest regrets is his rash actions that led to him getting an artificial heart, and offers him a chance: if he can avoid getting stabbed, Q will let him live. Picard gets to live, but in a life he would never want.

Remember in my last post I said if Ron Moore said he would have done anything differently it would have been not writing Aquiel? Well, Ron Moore said of all the episodes he wrote this was his favorite. According to him, “I wanted Picard to look back and realize that things that you thought were like, these traumatic screw-ups in your life actually got you where you are now.” This is also one of only five episodes that does not have a stardate. If you’d like to know more, feel free to check out my full review.

Birthright, Part I

Birthright, Part I is a step down, as most episodes would be. The Enterprise is docked at Deep Space 9 for a made up reason, just to set the episode at Deep Space 9. While there Worf is told by a mysterious alien that his father is still alive, at a Romulan POW camp. Worf doesn’t take kindly to this, but ends up paying an alien to take him there to investigate. Meanwhile, due to a convenient alien device, Data is shocked into having his first dream.

Evidently this was supposed to be a standalone episode about Worf and some Romulans, Bridge on the River Kwai style. The story was expanded to be a two-part episode but due to where they would break it they needed to fill some time in part one. Thus the whole idea of Data progressing as a sentient life form emerged. I’ll bet you didn’t know that it was supposed to be Jadzia Dax on the Enterprise with Data instead of Dr. Bashir! Read about her reaction a lot more in my full review.

I’ll do my best to get the next two episodes, Birthright Part II and Starship Mine, written as soon as possible. I’d love to finish season six by the end of the year–I guess we’ll have to wait and see. Here’s hoping.


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Star Trek episode reviews: Aquiel and Face of the Enemy

Yes, it’s been a little while since I got two new reviews out to y’all.  I’m just glad I can do it now, because in a couple of weeks my third child will be born and that will likely throw a monkey wrench into things again. Still, I will keep on truckin’ until I finish.

Aquiel

Aquiel is one of the weakest episodes of season six, and there’s only one other episode even in the running. Alright, two episodes. In the course of delivering supplies to a relay station, the Enterprise crew stumble upon a murder mystery. One officer is dead, the other (presumably Aquiel) missing. Geordi looks through all of Aquiel’s files and sort of falls for her, then voila, the Klingons produce her, still alive! The only problem is she’s the prime suspect now, and that puts Geordi potentially at odds with her and his crew mates. Also, there’s a dog.

Incredibly weak episode, so forgettable I forgot the Klingons were even in it! Ron Moore, one of the star writers for TNG, DS9, etc, said if there was anything he would have done differently during his time on Star Trek it would have been not writing Aquiel! Would you like to know which classic film American film Aquiel is based on? Want to know why the CGI at the end of the episode turned out so horribly bad? Check out my full review!

Face of the Enemy

Face of the Enemy is as good as Aquiel is bad. It’s the terrifically told story of how the soft, empathetic ship’s counselor gets kidnapped, surgically altered to look like a Romulan and thrown onto a Warbird against her will, only to rise to the occasion and become a complete badass. Turns out she’s part of a plot hatched by Spock to smuggle out a high ranking vice proconsul and his aides so they can defect to the Federation. The plan goes sideways though, and she has to stare down a tough-as-nails Romulan Commander, take command and deliver the Romulan dissidents practically by herself. It’s the best Deanna Troi episode ever. It may be the best Romulan episode ever too.

There are several bits of trivia here. This is the episode where Worf finally debuts his new warrior’s ponytail. He’ll have it for the rest of the series and all through DS9. I’ve captured a picture of it for you. Would you believe the ponytail wigs he wore were made out of Russian children’s hair? This is where the Tal Shiar started, and have appeared as recently as Star Trek: Picard. Want to know how Q almost came into this episode? Check out this and more by reading my full review.

That’s it for now. Next time I’ll be reviewing Tapestry and Birthright, Part I. Hopefully it’ll be sooner rather than later! Ta Ta For Now…


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Black Lives Matter–a White guy’s perspective

 

 

 

I know, I know, I’m a White guy, why am I writing about this? What do I know about it anyway? Judging from what folks on TV and politicians are saying, it seems I know more than some. As a therapist, a social worker, and someone who has heard what matters to his Black friends, I’m going to take a shot at it.

Black Lives Matter as a movement goes back to about 2013, after Trayvon Martin was killed. As you may recall, he was a Black unarmed 17-yr old in Florida who had a hoodie on and was shot and killed by a member of the neighborhood watch. His killer was later found not guilty.

More recently was the death of George Floyd, which is what sparked protests across America. A Black man killed during an arrest in Minneapolis, he was handcuffed face down in the street and the arresting officer kept his knee on George’s neck for eight uninterrupted minutes, despite George initially saying “I can’t breathe, don’t kill me.” Paramedics arrived to treat George, but the officer would not take his knee off George’s neck and he died. Per the report of professionals at the scene George did not have a pulse for the last three of those minutes, and nobody present made any attempt to revive him. The officer involved was clearly responsible for his death.

While not mentioned in the Black Lives Matter movement, a spiritual predecessor event was the videotaped police beating of Rodney King in 1991. King was unarmed and did not resist arrest, nor was he high on PCP. Though the LA police chief admitted the officers used excessive force, of the four officers charged in the beating three were acquitted and the jury couldn’t reach a verdict on the fourth. After the LA riots (which lasted a week) the Federal Government prosecuted the case and two of the officers were found guilty and sentenced to prison.

What is Black Lives Matter? Why do some folks say in response, “All lives matter”? First, notice that only Caucasian people are saying all lives matter, minorities do not say that. Both conservative and liberal political figures say this too, and they don’t get it. Minorities get it. What do they get? That for most of their lives, in the US, they are repeatedly told their lives don’t matter, at least not as much as Caucasians. They are told this in many different ways, and repeatedly.

Do you have a Black or minority friend? If so, ask them about it. I grew up in Eastern Washington, and there just aren’t a lot of Black people there. I used to think racism ended in the 1960s or 70s. In college I saw a documentary called The Color of Fear and it changed my mind. When I went to graduate school 45 minutes away from Detroit I began to have Black friends for the first time. I started hearing stories from them about what happens when they drive down the road and are pulled over for no legitimate reason. During that time I was asked by a very close friend if I would come with him to buy a car, because Black folks get treated differently at a car dealership than White folks. I was having experience after experience, teaching me what life is like in America for those that are not White. Racism is not an easy thing to hear about, it’s not an easy thing to think about. Discrimination is not a recent trend either, it has been around since before the US was formed. To understand the present, we need the context of the past.

Slavery was around in the US before the Constitution was drafted, and finally ended in 1865 at the end of the Civil War. Was that the end of discrimination? No, Jim Crow laws were enacted later that century. The purpose of Jim Crow was to enforce segregation, take away their right to vote (or make it very difficult), and institutionalize disadvantages for African Americans living in the South. These laws continued until 1965! Shall we talk about lynchings? Lynching was a somewhat common practice throughout the 20th century, and as recently as 1981 Black men in this country were still being chased by gangs and hung to death. In 2017 a Missouri state representative suggested lynching all those who supported removing Confederate monuments.

In 1954 desegregation of schools was declared unconstitutional but Black Americans still had to live with separate drinking fountains, restaurants, even bathrooms from Whites. It was because of this segregation in 1955 that Rosa Parks was asked to sit in the back of the bus. Her refusal to leave the ‘colored section’ for a white passenger because the ‘whites only’ was full is what invigorated the Civil Rights Movement, which went from approximately 1955-1968 and included such luminaries as Martin Luther King and Malcolm X (both of whom were assassinated). The Voting Rights Act of 1965 finally protected a Black person’s right to vote, coming 45 years after women gained the right to vote in the US.

This was a great victory, but did not end racism in America. The Tuskegee Experiment went from 1932 to 1972, and involved hundreds of Black people, all poor sharecroppers who were promised free healthcare. When it began there was no treatment for syphilis, but when penicillin was discovered as a treatment in 1947 (the same year a Black man was first allowed to play professional baseball), the researchers intentionally only gave placebos to the participants for 25 more years, to see how bad syphilis could get. Men died, went blind or insane, and passed it on to their kids. This is a major reason why African Americans developed a mistrust of the medical system in America. More recently, from 1981 to 1997 the US Dept of Agriculture discriminated against tens of thousands of Black Americans by denying loans that were then given to White farmers in similar circumstances, which finally resulted in $2 billion worth of settlements after the fact.

This stuff is not ancient history, it is still happening. Are Africans Americans and other minorities targeted unfairly? Are they killed by police at a rate higher than Caucasians? There are two pieces of evidence I can cite. First, a 2018 report by the independent, bipartisan U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found “consistent patterns of racial disparities in police use of force.” The study also found Black Americans are more likely to be unarmed than White Americans when killed. Second, a prominent national newspaper logged 2499 Whites killed by police for a rate of 13 per million, and 1301 Blacks for a rate of 31 deaths per million, or almost triple, since it began tracking such data in 2015.

I have never entered a store and been followed around by employees because I was White. I have never been pulled over while driving my car because I was White, or followed by the neighborhood watch because I was White. I’ve never been told to “go back to Africa” or had a boss say to the one Black employee, “Hey I got some lunch for us, and I know who wants the fried chicken!” (I witnessed this at my place of work in 2006) If I was a minority in this country, however, by the age of 30 the odds are all of these things would have happened to me.

Black Lives Matter is stating simply that: their lives matter as much as White lives do! It ought to be obvious, of course their lives matter, just like Asian lives, Latino lives, Native American lives, etc. All lives matter equally in theory, but not in practice. History has shown this is not the case, and it is clear some officers are harassing and killing Black citizens today. Does the movement take things too far sometimes? In my view they do. While they’re not perfect I will never support defunding the police. The police force does far more good than harm, we need them and I support them, it is outright idiocy to defund law enforcement. They are the thin blue line between order and chaos. I disagree with BLM members who engage in destruction of property, or violent protesting. Are riots OK? No they’re not. Two wrongs do not make a right, anyone should be arrested for illegal behavior. Try to see things from their perspective, though. Many Black youth grow up in neighborhoods where multiple family and community members have been victimized by some members of law enforcement, as well as the courts.  Would you feel like they were there to protect and serve?

To my mind there are significant similarities between Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movement, both of which have been maligned by various groups. Women’s lives matter and they are entitled to live without being victimized, harassed or abused. I think Black people want the same.


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Star Trek episode reviews: Chain of Command, Part II, and Ship in a Bottle

Chain of Command, Part II

I reviewed Chain of Command, Part II some time ago, but it’s taken until my next vacation this week to have time to get around to Ship in a Bottle. I’m glad I did, I had been feeling overdue for some time. I also can’t stand this new block editor WordPress is using, so I’m still learning it. Please remember you need not wait until I post another announcement like this before checking, I will often review one episode and wait weeks before another one is written. Simply go to the most recently reviewed episode that you’ve read and see if the link is live for the next episode. Going to the season six page is also a good way to get an overview of where I am in the episode review process.

Chain of Command II is one of my favorite TNG episodes, pure and simple. Picard has been captured by the Cardassians, and he spends most of the episode getting tortured, in what is a candidate for his best performance on the show. Meanwhile back on the Enterprise things heat up between the Federation and the Cardassians, and between Jellico and Riker. There are three showdowns in this episode, and each of them is great!

This was the final episode aired before DS9 began, the last week TNG would have all the airwaves to itself. You may not know that David Warner, who played Gul Madred, took the role with only three days’ notice! Because he didn’t have time to learn all of his lines, including technobabble, he says “they wrote everything up for me. I don’t mind people knowing this. Every line I said, I actually was reading it over Patrick’s shoulder or they put it down there for me to do it.” Check out a lot more behind the scenes info in my full episode review.

Ship in a Bottle

Ship in a Bottle is a step down, as almost any episode would be, but it still an excellent episode in its own right. Professor Moriarty, last seen in Elementary, Dear Data, returns, and this time he’s out of the holodeck! Or is he? Following a couple of minor technical glitches Data and Geordi (who were having fun as Holmes and Watson) ask Barclay to fix the Holodeck and he inadvertently releases Moriarty. He’s somehow able to leave the holodeck, and takes over the ship, makes a demand of the crew, and all the while the Enterprise is close to the imminent collision of two planets!

You may not know the reason TNG didn’t use Sherlock Holmes during the intervening four years. TNG couldn’t use Holmes for years as Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate were irritated with Paramount because of the film Young Sherlock Holmes, and there had been a long legal battle. By this time however, everything has been resolved and they didn’t make Paramount pay too much to use Doyle’s characters. Check out more details in my full episode review if you like.

Thanks for waiting, and I’ll try to keep on schedule better in reviewing the next two episodes, the awful Aquiel and the excellent Face of the Enemy. However, my wife is 7 1/2 months pregnant, so all I can promise is my best!


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Star Trek episode reviews: The Quality of Life and Chain of Command, Part I

I took a week of vacation and was able to write two more episode reviews! It was nice to play a bit of catch up in these uncertain times. I hope everyone is doing well, and staying healthy. This time it’s The Quality of Life and Chain of Command, Part I.

The Quality of Life

The Quality of Life is a forgettable episode about Data investigating a group of robots, the exocomps, that he believes may be a new life form. This is in the context of independent researchers developing a new form of mining technology they want Picard to recommend to Starfleet. That’s really all I have to say about it, it’s not that remarkable an episode IMO. My favorite part of the episode is the poker game at the beginning.

This episode features the return of Beardy, AKA Geordi sporting a beard, for the third and last time of the TV series. First seen in The Outcast, and continuing in the previous episode, it’s on display most prominently this episode, even though the producers were totally against it. How did he get away with it? LeVar gave them terms they couldn’t refuse: he needed it for his upcoming wedding! Check out this and other cool stuff by reading my full review.

Chain of Command, Part I

The next episode, Chain of Command, Part I, is the last great two-parter on TNG. Things get going right in the teaser when Picard is relieved of command of the Enterprise and we get a new captain, Jellico, that nobody can stand. Meanwhile Picard, Beverly and Worf start training for a black ops mission like they are commandos. What’s up with these Cardassians that we saw in a couple of episodes last season? It’s a wonderful part one, and sets up the even-better part two!

Remember the Cardassians first appeared back in The Wounded, and we saw them again in Ensign Ro before appearing here. Brent Spiner has said this is his favorite two-parter of the series! You may not know Chain of Command was originally meant to be just one episode. Why did they change it? Check out my full review to read about it! There are also two funny stories the cast tells about this episode, read about them both in my review if you like.

That’s it for now. With luck I’ll get two more reviews out this next month. I hope everyone out there is staying healthy and taking good care of themselves!