Sunday, July 22, 2018

It Was Wrong of Us to Stop: Dune Club Messiah, Session 2

The original Putnam hardback!  No, I don't have a first edition; it's a book-club version.

We begin again for another time, once more:
The advent of the Field Process shield and the lasgun with their explosive interaction, deadly to attacker and attacked, placed the current determinatives on weapons technology.  We need not go into the special role of atomics.  The fact that any Family in my Empire could so deploy its atomics as to destroy the planetary bases of fifty or more other Families causes some nervousness, true.  But all of us possess precautionary plans for devastating retaliation.  Guild and Landsraad contain the keys which hol this force in check.  No, my concern goes to the development of humans as special weapons.  Here is a virtually unlimited field which a few powers are developing.
--Muad'dib: Lecture to the War College from The Stilgar Chronicles
I don't have a whole lot to say about this epigraph, other than to point out that its focus on human weapons seems appropriate to head a chapter about Scytale.
The chapter involves the Face Dancer meeting Farok, a former confidante of Muad'dib's whose disillusion has caused a willingness to throw his lot in with the conspiracy.  Scytale -- calling himself "Zaal" -- has chosen to go to this meeting in the guise of Duncan Idaho.  He's done this seemingly to amuse himself, but soon begins to worry that he may have made a mistake; after all, some Fremen warriors, including this Farok, may actually remember Idaho.
Scytale feels ill at ease through much of the chapter, and I think most readers will be inclined to feel a bit of nervousness on his behalf; clearly, he has walked into a trap of some sort and is about to be captured or found out.  This turns out not to be the case; he has brought the trap with him, and in the end it is he who betrays and kills Farok.  Not before getting what he was there to get, of course.
In choosing to depict Scytale's mission as tenuous and imperiled, Herbert has also made the choice to continue to place us in a sort of sympathy with the Face Dancer.  By all rights, we should want whatever he is doing here to fail.  And maybe we do, if we stop to think about it.  I'm not sure we do stop in that way, however; I think it is more likely that we feel nervous for the guy, because we identify with him and forget that he's ostensibly the villain.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Dawn of the Third Age of Mankind: Babylon 5, "The Gathering"

Babylon 5 was a Warner Bros.-produced television series that ran in syndication from 1993 to 1999 or so (it kind of depends on what you count as being the series and what you count as a spinoff, but let's just say 1999).  Its origins are mildly controversial in some ways relating to a certain other sci-fi series; we're not going to get TOO deep into that here, though.

The short version of the story is this: sometime around 1989, J. Michael Straczynski (a television writer and producer best known at that time for his journeyman work on shows like The [New] Twilight Zone and Shelley Duvall's Nightmare Classics, as well as longer-running stints on The Real Ghostbusters and Murder, She Wrote) pitched an idea for a science fiction series called Babylon 5 to Paramount.  It was about a space station where interesting things happened.  His pitch included a series "bible" (a lengthy summary-of-concept document) and capsule ideas for a full season's worth of episodes.

Paramount passed.

Fast-forward to the summer of 1991.  Warner Bros. announced that they were launching a venture called the "Prime-Time Entertainment Network."  Not actually a full-scale network, this was instead an alliance of independent television stations that (according to Wikipedia) covered about 93% of the nation at its peak.  It would eventually go under (in 1997), but Warner Bros. made a go at it for a while there.  Anyways, among the series they announced at their launch was Straczynski's Babylon 5.

This made sense.  Original narrative programming in syndication had been made viable almost single-handedly by the astonishing success of Star Trek: The Next Generation, so it's easy to see why Warner Bros. would hope a major new science-fiction series could and would be a valuable asset in launching a new (quasi-)network.  Babylon 5 would indeed be a major new series: one set not on a starship but on an enormous space station, but nevertheless with a sensibility and an aesthetic sense that would be reminiscent of other sci-fi shows yet also possess a tone and focus that was something new.

Fast-forward again, to a couple of months later in 1991: Paramount announced a new sci-fi series of its own, a third entry in the Star Trek franchise.  It would be called Deep Space Nine, and it would be set ... not on a starship, but ... on an ... enormous space station...?  Hey guys, doesn't this sound kind of familiar?  Hello?  Guys?

At the insistence of Warner Bros., Straczynski opted not to go ballistic and sue Paramount, but if you care to read up on the issue, you'll find that JMS remained a little bitter about it for quite some time after.  How long?  Well, it's ... what? ... 2018 now?  How many years is that?

I don't think he's wrong.  There are significant similarities in the concepts, not merely in the core idea (space station instead of starship) but in the then-unusual push toward serialization in the storytelling; the emphasis on mysticism and religion in the alien races populating the series (and in the fact that the human commanders VERY much become embroiled in these religions); and, in some instances, minor specifics in the plotlines.  Heck, there are even at least two instances of characters with nearly-identical names: Leeta/Lyta and Dukat/Dukhat.

So did Paramount kinda/sorta steal the idea for Deep Space Nine from J. Michael Straczynski after opting not to buy Babylon 5 from him?  To some degree, I think that is absolutely a yes.

And beyond that, I'm not sure it matters much.  To Straczynski, it must matter a very great deal; and on his behalf, it bothers me.  But even if 100% of his insinuations and allegations are true, so what?  Pick a couple of random episodes.  Let's say ... season three, episode 14 of both shows.  Was one actively influencing the other at that point, in a theft-of-intellectual-property sense?  No way.  The stories were different, the productions styles (and abilities) were different, the casts were wildly different.  Even if you want to call this theft, the shows began to diverge immediately, even within the respective two-hour pilot episodes.

I think it's important to at least mention this stuff when conversation of either series comes up, if only so you can do what I mostly do: e.g., shrug and move on to a discussion of the merits (or lack thereof) of whichever of the shows you want to discuss.

WE are here to begin a discussion of Babylon 5.

Before we get going, howsabout a brief history of my association with the series?  Good, I knew you'd love that.

Circa 1993, I was about as into Star Trek as I've ever been in my life.  I'd been a rabid Next Generation fan since episode one, and had never looked back.  Deep Space Nine was the first major American sci-fi show (with an outer-space setting, at least) to debut after that.  I was onboard that train from episode one, as well.  It debuted the week of January 3, 1993.

A bit less than three months later, the pilot for Babylon 5 aired on PTEN affiliates.  I can't remember anything about the circumstances of how I knew the show existed; I'm sure that it was either via seeing commercials for it, or seeing an article in the newspaper, or something like that.  Whatever the case, I tuned in.  My memory is that I thought it was okay.  Okay enough to entice me to tune in for the next episode, which did not air until January 1994.  Nearly a year, for God's sake.  A year!

That's how pilots work, of course; most pilots -- certainly in those days -- would be filmed during a completely different season than the rest of the series, and if they turned out well and the network that commissioned it liked what they saw, they'd put it into production to debut during the next season.  Ever wonder why pilot episodes sometimes have different castmembers, or if there's a kid on the show why they suddenly look a year older in the second episode?  Wonder no longer.

Anyways, I tuned in for that first episode of the true first season, and I tuned in for the episode after that, and then ... I did not tune in again.  Frankly, I didn't like it.  The word I'd probably have used was "cheesy."

Fast forward to late 1996.  I am standing in line to for an evening show of Star Trek: First Contact on opening night.  I'm on a work trip in a completely different state (South Carolina) than my own (Alabama), so I'm all by myself, just listening to the people around me.  I eventually get drawn into a conversation about Deep Space Nine with some folks.  Some other guy who was there joined in, and sagely informed us that the best show on television at that moment was Babylon 5.

I told the guy I'd tried to get into that show when it first aired, and couldn't do it.  Yeah, yeah, he said, I know, but trust me, it got WAY better.

At some point during the next year, I made a new friend who was also a fan of the show, and he convinced me to begin watching the show in reruns when TNT began airing them.  No idea exactly when that was, but I was fully caught up by the time new B5 began airing on TNT, which was early 1998.  From that point, I have been with it all the way; not that there's been all that much of it since, but still.

Alas, my feelings about it now are that it hasn't fully withstood the test of time.  The production is really rickety in places; the acting is sometimes wonderful, but (especially toward the beginning) sometimes very much the opposite of wonderful.  The cheese factor remained in place the entire way.  And I'm sorry to say that even the grand ambition of it all has become dulled a bit by time; only a bit, but what seemed downright revolutionary in 1997 seems a bit more standard these days.

In no way is that the show's fault.  Blame it for some of those other things, but for that, not for one second.  I'd compare it to John Carpenter's Halloween, which was so fresh and influential that it practically spawned an entire new subgenre and which influenced filmmakers for literally decades afterward.  The impact of those intervening decades' worth of imitators has arguably dulled the impact of Halloween itself; one now has to force oneself to see it with 1978's eyes.

I'd argue that Babylon 5 is much the same.  See it with 1993's eyes, and you'll be doing yourself a favor.

And then there's the issue of the effects.  You cannot find good-looking versions of Babylon 5 to watch in a high-definition era.  The best you will find are the DVDs, and even they look horrendous when you try to watch them on any kind of a television you couldn't have owned during the late nineties.  (See also Deep Space Nine.)  Me?  I've still got my ancient 1998 Zenith, and so when I watch Babylon 5, I watch it at the resolution I'd have seen it in back in the day (i.e., fuzzy and kind of awful).

And yet...

And yet, I think -- hope -- there is still a lot to enjoy here for sci-fi fans.  It's a given if you're a sci-fi fan who has an appreciation for the history of the genre on television; you'll enjoy it from that perspective if only in an archaeological sense.  Everyone else, it's a maybe.


I'm going to watch it side by side with my current one-episode-per-week Deep Space Nine rewatch and find out whether I can truly recapture my love for it.  I'm slotting it in in the order the episodes aired, so it's going to be a while before we get to the actual first season.  But that's okay; it was a while back in the day, as well, so this seems proper.


Alrighty, with that long preamble out of the way, let's dive into that pilot movie.

"The Gathering"
(pilot movie)
airdate:  February 22, 1993
written by:  J. Michael Straczynski
directed by:  Richard Compton

A word about the format.  I'm not sure if you know this -- you probably don't -- but "The Gathering" exists in two distinct versions.  Straczynski was never happy with the original broadcast version and so when TNT bought the rights to the series, they offered to bankroll a new edit of the pilot.  This special edition had some scenes added back in, some rickety scene removed, a new musical score, some new effects, etc.  That's the version you can find on DVD.  The original is harder to locate; some say that that is what you see when you stream it on Amazon, but I can't actually find a streaming version on Amazon, so ... I can't really say for sure.

I got it via other means (don't ask), and I assume that it is indeed the originally-aired version.  Can I swear that it's 100% it?  I cannot, but it definitely has the original musical score, and it's definitely a different edit than the one on DVD, so it's either legit or it's an incredibly convincing fake.

And it is that version we are going to look at today.  I will not be considering the TNT Special Edition at this time.  Why's that, you might ask?

Simple: I believe it is a mistake for newcomers to the series to watch the special edition.  There is a very specific reason for that: one line of dialogue (added via voiceover) that hints at a plot point which really ought not to have been hinted at thanks to the spoiler potential it carries.  I've never understood why Straczynski thought this was a good idea.

So my official recommendation is that if you can't watch the original edit, you simply skip to the first hourlong episode, "Midnight on the Firing Line."  You'll be alright if you do it that way; you might miss out on a wee bit of exposition and setup, but you'll get all of that via other means in other episodes, so I think it's fine to go straight here.  I mean, don't get me wrong: try to find the original version of "The Gathering," and watch it if you can.  but if you can't, don't feel like you HAVE to watch the special edition; in my opinion, you don't, and shouldn't.

This post, then, will be entirely based on the broadcast edit from 1993, and it is going to be a mixture of plot summary with screencaps and commentary.  What format subsequent posts (when we get to them) will take is unclear to me at this time; in theory, I'd like to make them hybrids of this post and the types of posts I've been doing on the original Star Trek.  But I'm not sure; we'll cross that bridge when we burn it.

For now?  "The Gathering" ho!

We begin with a black screen and a voiceover by a vaguely European-sounding person (we will eventually find out this is Londo Mollari, the Centauri ambassador assigned to Babylon 5).  What's he say?  Glad you asked.  He says this:

I was there at the dawn of the Third Age of mankind.  It began in the Earth year 2257 with the founding of the last of the Babylon stations, located deep in neutral space.

It was a port of call for refugees, smugglers, businessmen, diplomats, and travelers from a hundred worlds.  It could be a dangerous place, but we accepted the risk because Babylon 5 was our last, best hope for peace.  Under the leadership of its final commander, Babylon 5 was a dream given form: a dream of a galaxy without war, when species from different worlds could live side by side in mutual respect . . . a dream that was in danger as never before by the arrival of one man on a mission of destruction.

Babylon 5 was the last of the Babylon stations.  This is its story.

Friday, July 20, 2018

A Look at "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," Season 1

Ever heard of a podcast called Mission Log?  [Sidebar: should the title of a podcast be italicized, the way the title of a movie or novel or television series is?  Probably so.  I didn't format it that way initially, but have gone back and changed it and for some reason felt the need to mention it.  Carry on!]
If not, the short summary goes like this: it's produced by Roddenberry Productions, hosted by John Champion and Ken Ray (or by Ken Ray and John Champion, if you prefer it that way instead), and is nearing its three-hundredth episode.  It's been around since 2012, and its mission is simple: watch every episode of every Star Trek, one episode per week, and discuss it with an eye toward the messages/morals/meanings that make it uniquely Trekian in nature.
I've been with them since the beginning, and have enjoyed it.  I didn't rewatch all of the original series with them; I knew/know those episodes well enough that I didn't feel it was necessary.  I did, however, rewatch the entirety of The Next Generation along with them.  I had a lot of fun doing it that way.  I didn't agree with their every conclusion, but I never failed to be engaged by what they were doing.
They recently (as of the time I am writing this, if not the time it ends up getting posted) concluded their TNG episodes and have since moved on to Deep Space Nine.  So, of course, armed with a freshly-obtained set of DS9 DVDs, I'm taking that journey with them.  And I thought hey, why not blog about it a little?  I can't devote the time to a full episode-by-episode exploration of the type I'd love to do, but a more stripped-down version (akin to what I recently did at The Truth Inside The Lie for the first season of The Twilight Zone)?  Within my reach for sure.
Before we launch into that, a few words about my personal history with this series.:
As a huge contemporary Next Gen fan, I was obviously stoked for the prospect of a new series, and so when DS9 aired its first episode, I was right there, watching it avidly.  I liked it well enough, but it didn't grab me the way TNG had, and that remained true for as long as I watched the series ... which, I am ashamed to say, was only through the first handful of episodes in season six.  I stopped watching not so much because I'd lost interest in the series (although I kind of had), but because I'd lost interest in Star Trek altogether.  I was rapidly pro-Babylon 5 (not a bad thing to be), and I was also in a weird place personally where I just sort of made some weird, non-Bryanty choices.
You don't care about that; shit, I barely care about that.
You MIGHT care about one of the biggest reasons I stopped watching: I wasn't able to see Voyager.  See, the NEW new Trek series (which debuted during the third season of Deep Space Nine) was not available in my viewing area on account of the fact that we had no UPN affiliate.  This made me a little crazy.  I was so aghast at the idea that new Star Trek was airing but was not available to me -- to ME, of all people! -- that it caused me to lose interest in being a Trekkie at all. 
I suppose the "logic" was this: if I can't have this cake, then not only do I not want cake anymore, I don't want this steak and potatoes either, and fuck you very much, I'll go over here and just have water.  But then I kept watching Deep Space Nine for a few more season anyways, until various other factors tipped me over during the beginning of the sixth season.
So that was, what, 1997...?  [consults Wikipedia]  Yep, 1997.  With the exception of watching the TNG movies that came out after that, my Trek fandom was more or less dead.
A decade later, circa 2007, I began to feel a real itch for Trek again, however, and decided that I would rewatch the original series.  So I did, and got sufficiently jazzed about it that I decided to follow that by watching EVERY other Trek series, in chronological order.  Started with the animated series, which I'd never seen; progressed into The Next Generation, etc.  So during that process -- which took a few years -- I finally got to see Voyager AND finally finished Deep Space Nine.
I enjoyed DS9, but whereas a great many Trekkies hold it up as the pinnacle of Trek, I personally think it would have to be ranked at the bottom for me.  (Until Discovery came around, at least; that's comfortably in the bottom spot for me, and is so far beneath the rest that Discovery needs a telescope to see them.)  But make no mistake; I do like it.
And who knows?  Maybe a fresh watchthrough -- conducted alongside Mission Log -- might change my mind about some of the aspects of it that keep me from fully embracing it.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Shallowness of the Common View: Dune Club Messiah, Session 1

The sleeper has awakened!
Last summer, prompted by Comic Book Girl 19's online Dune Club, I blogged my way through Frank Herbert's towering sci-fi classic.  It was a lot of fun; my posts ended up being almost entirely devoid of any content specifically responding to CBG19's Club, because it quickly became evident that reviewing a series of reviews was an inane idea.  So instead, it was just a sort of silent companion to that experience, undertaken primarily for an audience of one (myself).
Well, she's decided to take on the sequel, Dune Messiah, for the summer of 2018.  We here at Where No Blog Has Gone Before (i.e., me) believe it is both imperative and desirable to continue to follow in her footsteps, and as we believe so shall we do, so shall we do.

I'll begin by giving you a bit of my personal history with Dune Messiah.  I read the novel at some point during (I think) either my fifth-grade year or during the summer between fifth and sixth grades; so when I was 10 or 11 years old.  I read the third book, Children of Dune, around the same time.  I have a vague memory of peppering one of my neighborhood friends with occasional quotations from it, and I also have a memory of toting my paperback copy of God Emperor of Dune to school with me during my sixth-grade year; for weeks on end I carried that sucker with me, and never actually read it until years and years later.
And that is more or less where my memory of my initial contact with Dune Messiah begins and ends!  I remember very much enjoying it, but also being deeply unsettled by certain aspects of it.
With that said, let me also now say this: there will be spoilers for Dune Messiah throughout the course of these posts.  Haven't read it?  Might want not to read these posts, either.
For leadoff artwork, I'm going to showcase a different edition of the novel each week, beginning this time with the one that CBG19 sent us all as part of our Dune Club boxes:

Now, before we get going good, let me make one thing crystal fucking clear: I know the title for these posts probably ought to read Dune Messiah Club.  Don't care; "Dune Club Messiah" gets the nod.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Worst To Best: Star Trek Movies

Trekkies are a contentious lot.  I should know; I am one of them, and I'm so contentious on the subject at times that I disagree with myself.  I've been saying things about the franchise online for nearly a decade; not as frequently as I'd like, but more frequently than it might seem (if you take into account comments I've made at places like Dog Star Omnibus [which is going to get mentioned frequently in this post]).  And every so often I see something I've said, either here or elsewhere, and I just stop and think, did you really mean that?!?
For example, I recently found evidence that at one point in time I said Chris Pine was a better James T. Kirk than William Shatner ever thought about being.
Pine is fine, but ... no.  Opinions like that, Bryant, are what we refer to as "disqualifying hogwash."  I can only assume that when I wrote that, I must have been bashed in the head (Batman-style), knocked unconscious, and somehow failed to notice it happen.  So I came to, groggily typed a few sentences, and then fucked off for a while.
No other explanation is acceptable.
The bottom line is that it's an incredibly inconsistent franchise, in terms of its philosophies and its ethical beliefs and practices (which are not necessarily one and the same).  It's a HUGE topic, and a blogger is a fool if he believes that he can encompass such topics as a tourist; nope, in order to do that properly, one must be a resident.
Does that make me sound like a would-be gatekeeper?  If so, and that offends you, here's your trigger warning: there's going to be a LOT of gatekeeping in this post.  Or maybe it's not actually gatekeeping; I like to think that behind every opinion piece I write is the implication that I understand that you understand that what I'm writing is just an opinion, and not one designed to strip you of your own.

One way or the other, gatekeeping (alleged or otherwise) is difficult for Trekkies sometimes, because of the aforementioned inconsistencies.  It's likely that if you get two Trekkies in a room together, they will disagree on what the definition of "Star Trek" is.

Mine goes something like this:

Star Trek is a storytelling vehicle set in the future, primarily away from Earth, involving the systematic exploration of the galaxy by Starfleet, a quasi-military service of the United Federation of Planets.  Starfleet carries out numerous functions of the Federation, ranging from scientific research to law enforcement to cargo transportation to diplomatic negotiation.  The underlying philosophy of Star Trek in its many forms is that humanity has united as one people and, in so doing, has begun to realize its considerable potential.  This philosophy is often -- though not exclusively -- expressed via morality plays designed to present moral and ethical dilemmas which are resolved (or sometimes not resolved) through the lens of the characters with whom the audience is familiar.  These characters are largely sketched in one of two different ways: (1) as aspirational humans to whom the audience can look up to; or (2) as aliens or humanoids whose differences -- and sometimes their surprising similarities -- to humanity are designed to spark reflection as to the nature of what "humanity" means.

I'm sure that's a faulty definition in any number of ways, but it's what I came up with on the spur of the moment.  Against that definition, I feel like I could make a yes/no judgment of whether a specific episode or movie or novel or plot point achieved what I personally think of as "Star Trek."  It might work less well for you.

I mention all that so as to be better able to mention this: the very list that you have come here to read is my attempt at sorting the Trek movies by the degree to which they work for me AS Star Trek films.  You may be horrified by some of the results; two of them in particular may well cause you to rescind my invitation to speak to you on the subject of Star Trek.

But maybe not!  Let's be optimistic.

After all, this is a Star Trek post...

#13 -- Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

One thing I may as well mention now: I'm going to be linking to Dog Star Omnibus for every single one of these movies (minus one).  McMolo never disappoints on the subject of Trek, and I consider his posts about the movies to be essential.  He's also been king enough to allow me to leave copious comments on many of them, and to be frank, I think I probably did a better job in those comments than I am apt to do here.
Dog Star Omnibus on Star Trek: Nemesis

I'll be completely honest with you: I really wanted to put a different movie in the bottom spot.  And if I'm being honest, I don't have the distaste for Nemesis that I have for that film.  But we'll get to that one; for now, let's stick with this one, and THIS one is a pile of hemorrhoids.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

It Would Be Different If You Cared For Me: Star Trek, Episode 10: "Dagger of the Mind"


It's always a good idea to consider what an episode's title means.  In the case of "dagger of the mind," I don't know that I'd ever given the matter much thought until 2013, when Dog Star Omnibus explained its derivation.  It's from Macbeth, as it turns out; Act II Scene 1, to be specific.  Macbeth sees before him the vision of a dagger:

Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle before my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? Or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.

It's been a long while since I read Macbeth (or, indeed, any Shakespeare; I'm grossly overdue for a reread -- hooray, a new idea for a blog I'll probably never live to write!; but one which would be well worth the doing), so I won't hazard much in the way of interpretation.  I'm content with McMolo's interpretation: that this phrase makes for a great title but is perhaps not really all that useful for the episode to which it has been appended.  He feels that it's Helen Noel who is intended to be the metaphorical dagger of the title; the false love for her engendered in Kirk by the Tantalus device (i.e., the neural neutralizer).

I would add that it could just as easily refer to Helen's misguided feeling that she has a shot with Kirk, or that it also perhaps refers to the general idea that the contents of the mind are a negotiable -- and malleable -- quantity.  (I can't help but think of Poe's exhortation that "All that we see or seem / Is but a dream within a dream.  I'd mistakenly remembered this as also being Shakespeare!)

But what of it?  In the end, I agree with McMolo's stance, which is that the episode is too slight for such a weighty title.  And as such, I don't have a whole heck of a lot to say about it.  I find myself not particularly engaged by this one, so why bother staggering around in the hopes of stumbling over something useful to say?  Seems a waste of time.

That said, I do want to hit two topics.

Monday, February 12, 2018

20,000 Words About "Star Trek: Discovery"


This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.
This is not Star Trek.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Life Was Sacred To You Then: Star Trek episode 9, "What Are Little Girls Made Of?"

Dr. Korby has discovered that as their sun dimmed, the inhabitants of this planet moved underground ... from an open environment to this dark world.  
When you were a student of his, Christine, you must have often heard Dr. Korby remark how freedom of movement and choice produced the human spirit; the culture of Exo-III proved his theory.  When they moved from light to darkness, they replaced freedom with a mechanistic culture.  
Dr. Korby has been able to uncover elements of this culture that will revolutionize the universe when freed from this cavernous environment.
One of the predominant concerns of science fiction at large and Star Trek (in most of its incarnations) in general is delineating the place where humanity ends and artificiality begins.  Put another way, science fiction often seeks to answer the question: what is real?
This isn't even the first time Star Trek had wrestled with the issue; early in its run, we'd already been gifted meditations on the question in "The Cage," "Mudd's Women," "The Enemy Within," and "The Man Trap."  Spoiler alert: we'll revisit the question a great many times.
I don't see it as a bad thing.  It's an important question, one that bears asking over and over again.  Even if you never land on a firm answer, the process of asking the question is enriching.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

They Had One Weapon Left and Both Knew It: Dune Club, Session 12

Well, y'all, here we are: our twelfth and final post on Dune.  (I say "final," but you can count on there eventually being a series of posts about the various film adaptations.  Plus, with a novel as good as this one, there's no such thing as having said it all; I didn't even scratch the surface, I just felt the itch and twitched my finger a bit.)
And it came to pass in the third year of the Desert War that Paul Muad'Dib lay alone in the Cave of Birds beneath the kiswa hangings of an inner cell.  And he lay as one dead, caught up in the revelation of the Water of Life, his being translated beyond the boundaries of time by the poison that gives life.  Thus was the prophecy made true that the Lisan al-Gaib might be both dead and alive.
Princess Irulan's epigraphs are almost always worthy of attention.  Some are more worthy than others, and this is one of them.  Consider the phrasing in that final sentence: "thus was the prophecy MADE true" (my emphasis).  This implies that there was a scenario in which the prophecy was not true in and of itself, which surely misses a bit of the point of a prophecy.
Or does it?  It's a matter that could be debated, and one could also debate whether Irulan is -- in her texts -- attempting to subconsciously hint that Muad'Dib really isn't all he's cracked up to be.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Little Enough Profit in Our Venture: Dune Club, Session 11

You cannot avoid the interplay of politics within an orthodox religion.
Can of sandworms avoided...
  • "Suddenly he understood why Stilgar had warned him once about brash young men who danced and played with these monsters, doing handstands on their backs, removing both hooks and replanting them before the worm could spill them." -- This brings up an axiom: on all planets, in all cultures, are there teenage dirtbags.  Do the young men of the Fremen sometimes listen to Megadeth and hang around in Kmart parking lots?  I'm certain of it.
  • "But he knew he could not let any consideration deflect him.  He had to remain on the central line of the time storm he could see in the future.  There would come an instant when it could be unraveled, but only if he were where he could cut the central knot of it."

The Illustrated Dune p. 403