Thursday, October 8, 2015

Star Trek TOS (Season 3c)

Season 3b—Top Episodes

Trek winds down without ever reaching the strengths of the second half of season one, but for the most part without being a bad as reputation has it… well almost.

Episode 17: “That Which Survives”

Summary: The ship encounters a planet with a unique and deadly security system. The computer fashions women specifically designed to kill each intruder with a simple touch.

Struggle: The story is a bit silly, but the final line is particularly silly.


The episode is focused on minor aspects of the premise, such as the beauty of the woman and the way the men react to the danger, rather than exploring the xenophobia of the people who created the security system.

Episode 18: “Lights of Zetar”

Summary: Strange lights torment the crew and even kill everyone on the station Memory Alpha. They are intelligences seeking bodies to inhabit, and McCoy’s love interest is compatible.

Struggle: The story is resolved so easily, it almost fails to constitute a plot.


The show seems interested in giving someone other than Kirk a love interest, but McCoy is so taken it is hard to believe that he will have forgotten her by the next episode. Such is the weakness of these episodic shows.

Episode 19: “Requiem for Methuselah”

Summary: Yet another “all powerful” being is encountered. This time it is an immortal human who has lived out several lifetimes as famous people from history. He has created a female cyborg, and hopes to make her human by having her fall in love with Kirk.

Struggle: At this point it strains believability to think of all the godlike people in this secular humanist fantasy world.


It is a curious thought that love could make a robot truly human. However, the show reaches its run-time just as the change is achieved. The crisis that the robot faces—reconciling romantic love with love for a father figure—feels like it is forced. And, indeed it is.

Episode 20: “The Way to Eden”

Summary: A group of hippies tries to take the show hostage into the 1960s.

Struggle: That this show is so of its time.


This episode feels like so many other entries into 1960s television. It could have just as well been “Gilligan’s Island” or “The Beverly Hillbillies.” It touches on imagery of Genesis and paradise, but doesn’t really explore them in any meaningful way.

Episode 21: “The Cloud Minders”

Summary: The ship must repair societal relations on a mining planet in order to get an ore it needs to save another planet.

Struggle: The issues raised in this episode are passed over without much struggle. This show is supposed to comment on societal ills, not gloss over them.


In the neat little world of this story, the societal divides and oppression of the well-off over the impoverished is blamed on a gas. If only our problems were so clear-cut. Then again, as complex as they are, they are similar. If only it were as easy as locking the most powerful world leaders into a situation where they could not get enough clean water, food, and education to rise above the poverty-line.

Episode 22: “The Savage Curtain”

Summary: The latest in a long line of omnipotent beings subjects Kirk and Spock to an ill-advised experiment to test whether good or evil is stronger. The problem is that they force a methodology that benefits the side of evil, and then complain that good and evil are too similar.

Struggle: The rock alien is pretty good for its day, but the selection of “historical figures” feels dated.


Good and evil can hardly be measured when they are forced to engage in a violent contest. Then again, many conflicts in our history are felt to be good forced to meet evil on its own terms.

Episode 23: “All Our Yesterdays”

Summary: Inhabitants of a dying planet have escaped destruction by fleeing into their past. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are accidentally sent there as well.

Struggle: There is no reason to believe that Spock would act so out of character.


Why didn’t anybody use the time-travel option to change/save their current time/situation?

Episode 24: “Turnabout Intruder”

Summary: A woman from Kirk’s past switches bodies with him. The whole of the episode is a suspense to see if Kirk will regain his body.

Struggle: The silliness of the whole situation, and the acting towards the end.


A fairly simplistic take on things, but it is still a fun study on the know-ability of truth.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

"Mr. Mercedes" by Stephen King

When I heard that King had written a detective novel I got excited. I have enjoyed some of his books and I love a good mystery. However, it wasn’t really a mystery. It was more of a race against time. We see the action from two perspectives, the detective and the villain, and we merely experience the suspense wondering who will reach their goal first.

King is still doing horror in “Mr. Mercedes.” In addition to the tension of watching a man trying to kill on a massive scale, we get the typical King discomfort. Looking in on the life of the twisted, psychopathic killer in this book is more disturbing than it needed to be. Especially as King lets us in the mind of this monster. To quote a section at length:

“He’s not worried about God, or about spending eternity being slow-roasted for his crimes. There’s no heaven and no hell. Anyone with half a brain knows those things don’t exist. How cruel would a supreme being have to be to make a world as [f-d up] as this one?
…every religion lies. Every moral perception is a delusion. Even the stars are a mirage. The truth is darkness, and the only thing that matters is making a statement before one enters it. Cutting the skin of the world and leaving a scar. That’s all history is, after all: scar tissue.”

Never mind that these are the ravings of someone who King clearly shows as deranged. Never mind that the story goes on to see moral perception triumph, and that it does so in a way that lends credence to meaning and a “guiding hand” at work. The mind of the evil man is the only one we hear regarding these metaphysical concepts. His is the one that people seem to want to hear these days. People still root for the good guy these days (hopefully) but they are fascinated with the evil.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Doctor Who 9:3 "Under the Lake"

The temptation is to leave any comment about this episode off until next week. That may be the case all season long with these two part stories. There is usually just not enough to go on until the whole story has been told. This week in particular is problematic, as the whole episode is a long set-up for the final shot of the show, the cliff-hanger.

That said, it is a very entertaining episode. What it lacks in concepts and message, it makes up for in action and suspense. So, let’s just concern ourselves with the questions raised, that may or may not be answered next week:

Ghosts? The problem isn’t so much that this work of fiction introduces the concept, but it handles it strangely. First, the Doctor is adamant that they can’t exist. But last season’s finale showed conclusively that the soul of a person lives on after the body. The Doctor saw what we saw then, so why is he so certain that a ghost can’t be? However, before we even have time to really consider this contradiction, the Doctor does a 180 and trades in his incredulity for excitement. He is chomping at the bit to find out about the after-life. (This after he saw an aspect of it last season, see above.)

The mechanics of this episode are presented so matter-of-factly that it seems reasonable. But if you think about them it is silly and so unlikely to succeed, one wonders why anyone would develop such a communication. Basically, the stranded ship imprints its SOS in the mind of people and then seeks to kill them, using their soul memory to add to the message being sent out. (To where, and how?) The system relies on a large population stumbling upon the ship and dying.

All that said, here’s hoping we get a better story next week leading up to the revelation we saw at the end of this episode.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Gospel and the Incarnation (John 1:12, 14-18)

With verse 14, we arrive at the climax of the prologue, maybe.

It could be verse 12, depending on how you look at things. Both should be considered. In verse 12, we have the central idea of a giant chiastic structure. I love chiasms, even though I think there is a huge danger of seeing them where they don’t exist, or in reading too much into them.

Here, we have a pretty clear case. (A) has verses 1, 2 and 18 talking about the Son’s relationship with the Father. Trinitarian imagery. (B) sees verses 3 and 17 deal with creation and revelation, two of the main works of God. With (C) John talks about the Word bringing light, illumination, and life to men in verse 4, while 16 parallels that discussing how the Word has brought us grace.

In (D) we get the two parenthetical sections (6-8 and 15) about John the Baptist’s witness.

Verses 9, 10, and 14 (E) deal with the Word coming into the world. (F) sees verses 11 and 13 talking about relationships and nations, our fleshly connections.

Then you get the simple Gospel of verse 12. (G) talks about receiving, believing in Christ. The central idea (H) shows what God has given all who trust in Him, the right to be His children. So, verse 12 is a huge verse. It is the central idea, in both structure and meaning, of this Gospel prologue.

However, to me verse 14 still has more weight. It takes this whole prologue from being a theoretical, philosophical, wide open idea, to something concrete and narrow.

What makes the Gospel so specific is the fact of the incarnation. God didn’t just deal in theory. He didn’t symbolically come to us and “show us the way.” He became flesh. He entered into creation, and into this world that is in rebellion against Him. Jesus went from being a person of the Godhead to becoming a person like you and me, a man.

When we embrace the Gospel message, we are placing our trust in the Man who is also God, we follow a real person named Jesus Christ in obedience.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Top Fourth Doctor Stories

This is my Doctor. I like a lot of these stories. If forced to narrow it down to 10, this is the list I would write today:

10. Logopolis

The end of the longest run of any Doctor. It was time for a change, but they still managed a compelling story with a lot of metaphysical silliness. And, the Fourth Doctor goes out saving the entire universe, which is appropriately grand.

9. City of Death 

I like Romana 2 better than most companions. Here, we get Paris, Douglas Adams’ silliness, and an adventure on a grand scale which fits the scale of a hero that plays in all of space and time. The reveal at the end of episode 1 is one of the best in Doctor Who.

8. The Horror of Fang Rock 

A fun adventure with a group of people isolated and threatened. And a truly silly monster that still manages to scare.

7. The Ribos Operation 

The whole “Key to Time” plot of the season holds a dear place in my mind. Douglas Adams’ “The Pirate Planet” is particularly good as well. But I love this first adventure. It is perfectly plotted, fun and silly at times, and the writing and characters are wonderful.

6. Pyramids of Mars 

Mix Egyptian mythology, truly creepy villains, classic monster tropes, and an embodiment of evil as the Big Bad, and you have a great adventure.

5. The Deadly Assassin 

Tom Baker always thought that the Doctor could work without a companion to play off of, but this is the only story where that was attempted. It worked great too, but I’m not sure the show could do this for long. Some of the cliff-hangers in this serial almost caused the show to be shut down as they were seen as too scary for kids.

4. Genesis of the Daleks 

Doctor Who does best when it tackles philosophy, morality and ethics. In this case it deals with genocide in an intelligent and nuanced manner. And there are some great and timeless images and characters as well.

3. The Robots of Death 

This is a straight-up who-done-it in best Agatha Christie style, with some of the best art design the series would ever see.

2. Ark in Space 

The Fourth Doctor’s first real adventure (after a story that fit better with the Third Doctor’s era) is nothing short of a masterpiece. It is Aliens over a decade before that movie was made. And, this was back when bubble-wrap was so knew they thought it could work as alien skin and no one would notice.

1. The Talons of Weng Chiang 

Doctor Who does Victorian Sherlock Holmes with a china-man master villain, a ventriloquist dummy come-to-life, giant rats, and great Robert Holmes writing.
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