Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Star Trek Deep Space Nine (Season 3b)

Season 3a - Season 4a

The second half of season 3 gets considerably better—more Trek, more philosophical—and yet it taps into the accumulating plotlines possible due to its static setting. The explorations of the politics and religious power-plays become more and more the theme. So now we have Trek exploring interesting concepts, as usual, but in areas that are not usual for Trek. The religious themes are especially fun. The show remains largely Secular Human, but it is not afraid of belief the way it was when Roddenberry was around.

Episode 13: “Life Support” 

Medical ethics are not new to Trek. This is one area where the show has always been willing to explore both sides of an issue. Here, we ask the question: what are the limits of healing? When does extending life cease to extend what is human about us? A side issue in this story is the question of who gets to decide the risks we will take. It is close to a euthanasia debate, but the life-mission adds a dimension that makes this more than simply a suicide story. A man is choosing to kill himself in order to accomplish something, not just end a life he is not interested in living. It makes the issue a lot less black and white and therefore more troubling with which to wrestle.

Episode 14: “Heart of Stone” 

This mostly light storyline takes the “Dominion” plot further, but mostly just helps us remember they are around. Bigger things await us in the struggle with the Gamma Quadrant…

Episode 15: “Destiny” 

This is the first of two Philosophy of Religion tales in a row. Here, it relates to prophetic messages. How do prophecies affect our actions? How should they? In this case, the story argues (I think rightly) that they should not affect our behavior at all. They are not given to change events, but to predict them. It is usually only in retrospect that they can be understood rightly anyway. Here, we also get a religious leader with an agenda, trying to use a prophecy to control people and events as he wishes. That is usually the first thing you should look for whenever anyone tries to say a prophecy is being fulfilled.

Episode 16: “Prophet Motive” 

The second Philosophy of religion story reveals a lot about the religion in Deep Space Nine. Ultimately, this is an old, pagan mythology sort of belief. Not really gods in a Judeo-Christian way of thinking, the prophets here are limited beings who, outside of linear time, simply appear godlike. Another huge deference between these gods and that of the God of the Bible is that these beings are just as limited in their understanding of us as we are of them. Their attempts to influence our universe are flawed by their lack of understanding.

Episode 17: “Visionary” 

At first glance this is an interesting analysis of the question, what would you do if you knew your immediate future. In the end, however, it doesn’t take that question to very interesting places, and our brains begin to hurt with the paradoxes being ignored all over the place.

Episode 18: “Distant Voices” 

This same sort of story was done much better later on in the movie “Identity.” I apologize for perhaps ruining that story now.

Episode 19: “Through the Looking Glass” 

The obligatory return to the parallel universe was probably a fan demanded adventure, but we don’t really do much with it.

Episode 20 & 21: “Improbable Cause” & “The Die is Cast” 

The overarching plot regarding the Founders is pushed along in this action two-parter that is full of intrigue and hard ethical questions. Mostly it is just an adventure, and a good one at that, but the exploration of torture in this episode is ahead of its time.

Episode 22: “Explorers” 

A light look at a father-son adventure with obvious real world parallels. The politics could have been compelling but don’t really end up being so.

Episode 23: “Family Business” 

Cultural examinations thinly veiled in weird Sci-fi are an age-old practice, but a bit clunky in this episode. As with all Ferengi stories though, it is humorously entertaining.

Episode 24: “Shakaar” 

Religious power-play and politics are done well in this story. This is where Deep Space Nine is at its best, when religious power and political power are blurred. In fiction such as this it is plain to see how evil or at least misguided this can be. Why is it so hard for people to realize this truth in real life?

Episode 25: “Facets” 

One begins to think that there will never be a Dax-centered episode that is compelling or approximates anything resembling sense.

Episode 26: “The Adversary” 

This is one of the more suspenseful action stories in Trek, and the revelation at the end sets DS9 up for greatness in the way that “Best of Both Worlds” did for STNG. Hopefully it will keep it up.

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