Stargate Archives

Sunday, 30 August 2015

My Random Journey Through Trek #50

State Of Flux

Neelix is leading a scavenger hunt on a world which is abundant in vegetation, restocking the kitchen is vital but a ship is detected in orbit and it turns out to be Kazon, as the away teams are beamed back Chakotay goes in search of Seska and finds her in a large cavern where Kazon are sneaking about. After a brief firefight they escape and return to the ship safe and sound. Later that evening Seska ( Martha Hackett ) visits Chakotay in his quarters bringing some mushroom soup, he's appreciative but when he learns she and a few others stole ingredients from the kitchen he puts them and himself on restricted rations. Voyager detects a mayday coming from the same Kazon ship, Neelix advises caution but they go to help and find only one survivor, the rest of the crew seem to be fused with the very structure of the ship and more mysterious is the console on the bridge which seems to have Federation technology incorporated into it. Janeway orders the engineering crew to remove the device in order to confirm the source of the tech and Seska being alone on the planet is viewed with suspicion however Chakotay defends her. As the investigation continues it turns out that Seska does not have her blood type/spec on file but she then attempts a risky procedure to recover the console, she is hurt and is taken to sickbay. Another Kazon ship arrives demanding to see the survivor of the other ship, when they visit sickbay First Maje Culluh ( Anthony De Longis ) provides a distraction while his officer injects a neurotoxin into the man who then dies very quickly. Eventually they remove the console from the Kazon ship despite the threats from Culluh and it is indeed sourced from Voyager and another surprise is that Seska does not have any Bajoran blood factors and is much close to Cardassian. Chakotay confronts her with this and she informs him of an illness she had as a child and being saved by a bone marrow infusion from a Cardassian woman, it seems to satisfy him and he goes onto tell her of the status of the investigation.  It was however a ruse, they are monitoring the computer and they detect the manipulation of the data and they know that she has implicated herself to throw suspicion on Lt. Carey. Alas she was still one more step ahead and when confronted she blames Janeway for stranding them here and riles against Federation rules, she then beams off the ship to the nearby Kazon vessel and it warps away.

Hands up I never liked the Kazon, as a recurring threatening villain they never made much sense even when their backstory was fleshed out, they stuck around far too long given Voyager was constantly heading towards the Alpha quadrant and well they looked stupid. This is pretty much my first return to the Kazon episodes, I watched them on first broadcast but never really wanted to watch them again especially compared to some of the much better episodes later in the series.

So knowing what happens to Carey it's funny to actually see him front and center in an episode but his introduction acting like a little kid rather than a seasoned officer who would surely scan an organic substance even before picking it up makes him look a little foolish. We do get the famed Leola root but they pushed the joke over it's taste and appearance too far, actually I would have preferred an explanation as to why huge groves of the other "fruit" existed since there is normally a reason why an organic develops poisonous effects, just as likely it wouldn't affect humans IF they had done a full scan. Tom is a freaking god, he saw the alien starship before the sensors on Voyager could detect it and why did the landing party gather in one place, surely the transporters could cherry pick everyone up on the fly. Of course it gives us the Seska aspect of the story which falls apart pretty quickly, I didn't quite understand why after Chakotay was hit by weapons fire he was not dead or stunned, alarms bells were already ringing. I really liked the theft of the food from the kitchens, that one act pretty much underlined Seska was not playing ball and ultimately in any group or organisation you may stick it to the man but you don't steal from each other, second tick on the Seska as evil checkbox. A lot of credit to Chakotay for disciplining himself and those involved but no word if he put it fully into the log, I suspect he still covered for "his" people and well they made it plain there had been a relationship between the two of them. I liked the nod towards Scotty as B'elanna made it clear she did not exaggerate her time estimates and we got a bit more bad vibes from Carey and Seska which worked pretty well to add weight to events to come. Of course we get the unexplainable blood issue with Seska, I don't believe for a second the Doctor would have let that slip, after all he is the computer and gaps in essential medical records would be paramount for him to do address, it was his duty. Sticking with this I liked the fact the Seska had a viable explanation for not having native Bajoran elements in her blood, it was designed to buy her time to engineer an opportunity and if it wasn't for the Doctor being the Doctor she may very well have got away with it. It was also excellent use of the Cardassian mindset and forward thinking for their operatives and her motives made perfect sense in the context for the show and before it being placed within the Maquis. The line of the whole episode was delivered by Chakotay "Was anyone aboard that ship working for me?" and said towards Tuvok made it even better:)
Ok were nearly done, let's say the Kazon had some cloaking tech which close to a planet gave them some protection but how in the universe does a Kazon ship sit 14 kilometers off of Voyager undetected and in a position to accept a transport beam and get away before the automated defence protocols on the ship reacted? I know Seska had to escape, she was too good a character to discard but it was so stupid how it was done or allowed to happen, perhaps Tom was looking in the wrong direction this time.

State Of Flux is a pretty good first season episode of Voyager and a lot better than I remembered it to be, the Kazon are still ridiculous though but we've just got to put up with them for the time being.
Rating 7

Friday, 28 August 2015

My Random Journey Through Trek #49

Chosen Realm

The shuttle pod after scanning one of the spheres in the expanse is tracked by a mysterious ship, soon after the same ship sends a distress call and the Enterprise offers to take the crew onboard as the alien vessel has lost life support. The crew of the ship give thanks to Archer and explain they are on a pilgrimage to one of the spheres, it seems they worship them as divine and while this proves a little awkward especially with T'Pol everything seems to be ok. Their leader D'Jamat approaches the captain and demands that they turn the Enterprise over to his people, an explosion then rocks the ship as one of the visitors triggers an organic explosive, threatened with the destruction of the ship Archer surrenders. It turns out that D'Jamat wants the ship so he can return to his homeworld of Triannon and use it's firepower to end a civil/religious war between two factions one who believes the Chosen Realm was created in nine days the other in ten days.
D'Jamat offers mercy to the crew of the Enterprise for the sacrilege they have committed by visiting the spheres and demands just a single death, Archer has to choose and in the mean time the database that contains all the information the Enterprise had collected gets wiped. Archer chooses himself to be executed and convinces them that the transporter is used for such requirements, T'Pol "executes" Archer who is now free to sabotage the ship. As a side note one of the women in the alien party approaches the Doctor about her pregnancy, a note of discourse is present in the group and Yarrick and Indava prove to be instrumental in undermining the hold D'Jamat has on the ship. The Enterprise is approached by four Triannon ships which are crewed by the opposing faction, a firefight breaks out and in the midst of this Archer puts his plan into motion. Phlox puts a compound into the ventilation system which will nullify the organic aspect of the explosives in the aliens bodies and Archer starts pulling plugs out of sockets.

"Some things in here don't react well to bullets."
The ship is eventually retaken and Archer contacts the surviving two ships, together they return to Triannon to find the cities and population decimated, peace has been achieved as no one is left alive to argue.

First off I've never liked tv or movie plots where the antagonist is driven by dogma over reason, it's a little too easy to create a bad guy that way and it requires an awful lot of work to make said bad guy and his actions work in the framework of the whole. Chosen Realm is no exception, the source of the religious war between the two factions makes no sense at all unless it's within the realm of blind devotion to dogma. As for their overall faith raising the spheres as the work of deities that also takes some accepting, a warp capable science based world to be driven by this level of faith based existence makes little sense.
Ok then specifics, it's a pity the Enterprise sensors can not detect the alien ship which seems to have no active cloaking technology but gold star to Archer for ordering full security but a bit pointless if unknown aliens can sidestep scanning on religious grounds, that was sloppy. It's not long either before the science and faith start to butt heads, it's clear to the extreme that D'Jamat ( Conor O'Farrell ) has no time for reasoned debate and Archer at least moves the conversation onto other things. Alas by this time these unscanned aliens have had the free run of the ship including main engineering so when their plan is acted they catch security and the Maco's totally off guard. Archer and Reed really have to have a good chat but as we know in decades to come Starfleet continue to open their ships to one and all and suffer the consequences. So with a few button presses D'Jamat is able to wipe the database of all references to the Spheres, how the hell would he first learn how the system works and side step any security designed to prevent this sort of action. The question is raised once again how much access and instruction are the crew giving to these aliens and don't they believe in ancillary off site backup or hard copy for such critical data? Granted there are limits, if the central computer gets written off the likelyhood is that no amount of data would allow them to finish their mission but it was just too easily done and only there to let the plot continue. I would have liked to believe that D'Jamat respected Archer for volunteering to die but I think it was more the point he expected him to sacrifice a lesser member of his crew just as D'Jamat would have done, I doubt he would have sacrificed himself if there were others to do the sacrificing. Onto the fire fight, seriously the phasers hardly left a mark on the structure of the ship, I guess that's handy when you are shooting like crazy in and around the warp core but at least we had the Maco's front and center with what looked like much better or useful weapons. It's at this point we get perhaps my favourite moment of the episode as Archer over the coms twists the knife into D'Jamat who still believed he held the upper hand with his suicide bombers "Try to blow yourself up, I'll wait".
The episode wraps with the people's return to Triannon and we get the not so subtle message delivered with the proverbial sledgehammer, the planet is devastated thanks to the intolerance of it's people. I suspect the writers stayed away from condemning faith outright rather they targeted conflict within a faith which led to the extremes taken by at least one element, we really never found out what the other faction actually did over the century of conflict.

The Chosen Realm was not as hard to get through as I remembered but the character type as portrayed by D'Jamat always annoys me to the point where I actually put more stock in the blatant browbeating message as delivered by the original series "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield".
Rating 3

Into The Dire Planet by Joel Jenkins

Into the Dire PlanetInto the Dire Planet by Joel Jenkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The ancient technologies of civilisations past hold the key to the rescue of the Muvari people subjugated by the Exile forces and Garvey Dire with a few companions makes his way to the recently discovered city of Caladrex but with one or two distractions. His much extended family have fled from the massacre of Ledgrim and are wandering the wastelands pursued by an Exile tracking party and to make matters worse a traitor is at work and is willing to do anything to protect herself even at the cost of the fall of the Muvari.
Into The Dire Planet continues the events as told in "Exiles" with multiple storylines at play within the overall events in the piece of Mars. The Exiles led by Stechter the only other human on Mars are making a huge power play with no mercy shown, the city of Caladrex is looking to be reborn in fire and the survivors of Ledgrim look for allies even when faced with scepticism from those who can not believe the city could fall, treachery is everywhere.
The Dire Planet series is great fun to read, the world it creates is full of wonders but life is very cheap and always precariously balanced yet full of unexpected surprises.

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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

My Random Journey Through Trek #48

Angel One

The Enterprise investigates a wrecked freighter and discovers that a number of escape pods could have reached a nearby system and the inhabited planet of Angel One. The planet is pre-warp and on par with mid 20th century Earth in terms of technology but has a global single state under a matriarchal leadership. Picard has Troi lead the opening contact and after some issues they are allowed to beam down a party which includes Riker, Data, Troi and Yar. They are taken before the ruling council which comprises of six "mistresses" and the "elected one" named Beata (Karen Montgomery) who is the voice of the planet, she allows the Enterprise to search for survivors on the promise of removing them. Meanwhile back on the Enterprise some of the crew fall under an infection, it looks like a severe cold or flu but it's rapidly spreading and the Enterprise is on a schedule to finish it's mission on Angel One then warp to the Neutral Zone to aid in a Romulan issue.
On Angel One the landing party are shown graphic examples of the dominance of the female half of the native population but still Riker asks for a one on one meeting with Beata and dons the traditional male garb and well she enjoys a man that knows what he wants...
Beata with her man toy.
The Enterprise sensors track down the survivors of the freighter (all male) via the platinum they were carrying, the metal being absent from this world's ecology but it turns out they don't want to leave, they have wives and families and their crime is that they won't live as second class citizens and they don't want that for their make children either. The twist is revealed that one of the mistresses of the planet is secretly married to Ramsey the "leader" of the survivors but when Enterprise prepares to leave being unable to force repatriation Beata arrests the radicals and when they refuse to leave they are sentenced to death.
Back on the Enterprise Crusher is having no luck, Picard and Worf are down for the count and Geordi is in command but more and more of the crew are sick and the pressure to get to the Neutral Zone is increasing. Data beams back to the ship and takes command but there is only really him running around but he won't leave until it's impossible for the crew to be cured and to make it on time to the Neutral zone. This leaves just enough time for Riker to make an impassioned plea on behalf of the condemned citing that martyring these people will not help in the long run and that the issues with Angel One are down to the culture evolving which would happen with or without the arrival of the male survivors of the Federation ship.

The Patented Riker Stance
Angel One reminds me quite a bit of a Buck Rogers episode where Buck ends up on a Female dominated world although that was down to war rather than cultural development and the same theme was used in a show I watched as a kid which for the life of me I can not remember the name of. Neither example of this sort of story really worked even though at times the message being conveyed comes through with some clarity and logical presentation. To be fair Riker's speech in defence of Ramsey and his people was spot on, the global culture of Angel One was beginning to be pushed and poked by those with a more encompassing world view. Funnily enough I didn't make half as many notes for this episode as a few more recent Trek episodes, my attention may have waived if I was being totally honest:)
First off what is with the Federation and Starfleet taking seven years to look in on the Odin and if Angel One is pre-warp why are they even visiting now let alone 60 odd years earlier (the Federations last visit). I thought it was also a stretch that a civilian freighter would have warp capable escape pods, you know the Enterprise doesn't even the saucer is only impulse.
So Picard is spot on letting Troi lead the communications with the ruling government but then sends Riker down in the landing party and he is argumentative and judgmental from the word go, that was bizarre and I don't buy a lack of development for the 1st season. We did get one of the Data not knowing something he should in this case perfume, that gets old pretty quick and never made much sense given his pre Enterprise history. So they find Ramsey and his people via the platinum in his wings, wow they are good sensors to pick up a few ounces of a metal from orbit yet why didn't they just seal the deal by beaming everyone up, stripping them of weapons and job done. By going in person they not only get talked out of their promise to the elected one but also lead the government to the revolutionary element. That said score one for the boys when Trent (Leonard Crofoot) the personal assistant(?) of the elected one gets to press the disintegration beam button, just the once because Riker saved the day and not with his man parts but with reasoned logic.
Deep breath, Wesley what a useless waste of time, the infection showed how useless Crusher was and what the f**k is the Enterprise doing looking into a 7 year old incident when the Romulans are on a war footing in the Neutral Zone?

This was not a good episode, we did get Riker doing his patented leg up which is always worth a point and Troi was pretty useful even if she was sidelined but overall not a favourite.
Rating 2

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

My Random Journey Through Trek #47

Vis À Vis

Tom is once again spending time in the Holodeck tinkering with his latest project when he is called to duty when a mysterious vessels emerges close to Voyager. Tom identifies the malfunctioning drive system on the ship and offers a solution to contain the imminent explosion and saves the day. The pilot of the ship introduces himself as Steth and informs them he is a test pilot and pushed the ships as yet perfected engines beyond their limits. Tom asks Chakotay to assign him to the crew fixing the ship and despite some reservations with Tom's attitude he agrees. Steth and Tom get on great and it seems Steth is living the life that Tom really would want to, no ties to friends and family, go anywhere and fly anything but it's not all that it seems. Seth when unobserved is accessing Voyagers computers and his appearance seems to be fluctuating as confirmed by his own ships DNA scans. When the ship is fixed thanks to Tom and his idea of a carburetor to control the flow of energy to the engines "Seth" flies away leaving "Tom" to pine for his "friend" but "Tom" isn't acting quite himself. He seems unfamiliar with the layout of the ship, knows little of her close interpersonal relationships and his general attitude seems to be devil may care to the point of laying hands on both B'elanna and Seven.
It's Bulldog !
Janeway confronts Tom about his recent actions and then a call for security prompts Tuvok to rush to the ready room where Tom is strangling his Captain, he is restrained and taken to sickbay where the doctor discovers from peculiarities which they think may explain Tom's strange behaviour. Meanwhile in some distant part of the quadrant the real Tom awakes in the body of Seth and finds himself under attack, a woman beams onboard demanding her body back and everything falls into place. Together they attempt to release the locks on the ship's systems and when it's done the two set off to find Voyager and get their own bodies back. They arrive and the Janeway imposter shoots Seven and steals a shuttle, gloating and she flies away confident they won't fire and risk killing her but Tom targets the newly installed carburetor and disables the ship. Tom and Janeway are returned to their own bodies along with the alien woman "Steth" leaving her former body inhabiting the identity thief. The two of them return to their own star system leaving Tom to make amends to B'elanna and the crew for his recent behaviour prior to not quite being in his own body.
Vis À Vis was a fairly straight forward body swap episode which relied on Tom and his inherent wanderlust to make it work, to be fair it would not have worked if Tom had been more settled in the first place. One of the issues with dipping into shows in a random way is that you miss out on any character build up which would pay off in an episode like that but for now well Tom was a dick and luckily for Voyager so was the alien entity which was stealing other peoples bodies.

I still find it ridiculous anyone would spend serious time "fixing" an holographic vehicle let alone where all the energy overhead is green lit along with crew privileges, seems some of the crew get a lot more time recreating than others. That of course begs the question why Tom was called to the bridge when he was off duty, so the helm officers on the other two watches were incompetent? Miraculously it works out as Tom is able to identify a piece of blue sky technology, diagnose the problem and offer a solution based on classes in a theoretical subject, he was still a dick. We then get it plastered on with a shovel how unsatisfied Tom is with his current duties and relationships and how lax security is when a visitor roams the ship with no oversight and strangely enough Seven didn't seem to check the logs for what Seth was up to nor report it. Tom of course fixes this alien engine in the grand tradition of Starfleet engineers throughout time, hang on a minute Tom is a helm officer with a passing interest in ship design how the f*"k did he fix such a theoretical piece of technology!
Lucky for us he did and that's when Seth makes his move, he takes over Tom's body and sends him on his way then we get the out of place stranger whose weird behaviour gets little attention until he manhandles two of the female crew and Janeway confronts him. To be fair no way they could foresee what would happen but even when Tom finally turns up in Seth's body Janeway is still capable of throwing a smoke screen and flying away despite any restrictions onboard. On a side note, although we didn't see a great amount of detail the designs of the two large alien starships were really good, looked like a lot of work was done for a small payoff.
Anyhow back to Tom as he convinces Chakotay he is who he says he is and defeats the enhanced shuttle (not even going to ask how they built the coaxial drive on one of them) and hey presto we're all back to who we were apart from the female alien, not to worry she ain't important.

The best thing about Vis À Vis was Dan Butler who unfortunately for the actor will always be Bulldog from Frasier to me even under a layer of prosthetics:) Alas the story relied too much on convenient actions and reactions as well as leaps of plot for everything to work, it's watchable but not a good episode.
Rating 4

Sunday, 23 August 2015

My Random Journey Through Trek #46

Cold Fire

Kes is being tutored by Tuvok in her mental abilities and it seems Kes is a little impatient and when she arrives late for her duties in sickbay the Doctor isn't pleased with her. They are distracted by a resonance coming from a storage closet and inside are the remains of the caretaker and we are reminded that another of his species is somewhere in the galaxy.
Voyager attempts to track the energy signature to it's source and eventually finds a space station modelled on the caretaker's Array but when they approach they are fired upon and then warned to stay away. Kes is informed that there are Ocampa on the station and their leader Tanis agrees to come to Voyager after seeing Kes on the bridge. It turns out that they have heard Voyager was a "death ship" and has raided planets, waged war against the Kazon and killed the first caretaker but Kes seems to sway Tanis towards the truth and he opens up to her about the Ocampa and their extended lifespan and mental powers. Tanis tells them that in time they will meet the caretakers companion "Suspiria" but in the meantime he teaches Kes some mental exercises with some mixed results and less than ethical intent.
Tanis continues to drive Kes in her embrace of the enhanced mental abilities despite almost killing Tuvok when she was showing off her new skills but eventually Tanis gives Voyager the coordinates of an area of space where Suspiria will meet them. It is perhaps fortunate that Tuvok has been working on a way to nullify and contain the being if she posed a threat because when she eventually turns up it goes poorly. It's not surprise given that she believes the same as the Ocampa that Voyager killed the caretaker who was her mate but after she is contained Janeway releases her and Suspiria leaves the ship intact and takes Tanis with her. The episode closes with Tuvok and Kes once again discussing her abilities and his wish to continue to instruct her.
Feel the Burn
Cold Fire didn't really do a lot for me, I wasn't never that invested in Kes and as it came to pass neither were the writers and producers but it's not that bad an episode and it did give us some possible avenues to explore as Kes matured and her abilities grew. 
A few issues with the episode, the exposition at the beginning was a little much and where were the privacy issues when training a telepath, pretty sure Tuvok should have addressed the inappropriately in listening in to someone else's thoughts. The Doctor seemed a little jealous of the time Kes was spending with Tuvok, that was interesting or maybe it was just the more cantankerous character of the Doctor in the early seasons. I'm not sure Voyager was even attempting to approach Suspiria in good faith, oh no we didn't kill your mate but we just have weapons and containment tech if you so much as flinch. The mental powers of the Ocampa were impressive although a little too powerful as it seemed more Q like to cause vegetation to bloom just like that. So we know modern Federation medical science is very advanced and that Vulcan's are tough nuts but no way Tuvok should have survived the rapid rise in internal temperature nor after that regaining his outward appearance, totally took me out of the narrative they were trying to create.
I did like the idea (if that was the intent) of the Ocampa being Space Vampires draining the lifeforce from other sources to fuel their manipulations and well throw out the ethics and morals of how you deal with other lifeforms then there are no limits, come to the dark side young one! Suspiria finally turning up and presenting herself as a young female, clever manipulation but she didn't need that edge it only provided Janeway with the option to capture her, didn't like the writing for that nor how quickly this uber powerful alien just left and life went on as if nothing happened.

Cold Fire at best is an average episode, it didn't really do enough to flesh out Kes or at least it didn't lead to her character having more growth and that was certainly not Jennifer Lien's fault and is too often the ship sails on with little consequence.
Rating 4

Exiles of the Dire Planet by Joel Jenkins

Exiles of the Dire Planet (#2)Exiles of the Dire Planet by Joel Jenkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stuck on Mars and 47,000 years in the past is not that big a deal for former US astronaut Garvey Dire who has carved out a niche for himself within the native Muvari tribe both as a warrior (rare for a male) and a husband. Mars however is a still a wild place with competing tribes some of which are viable and well maintained societies and others feral and predatory including the cannibalistic Galbran race and mercenary Exiles. A hard fight with a band of Galbran once again racks up an impressive body count and leads to Garvey encountering his old "friend" Arnold Stechter who was also pulled back in time after the Mars missions Chinese mishaps. Unfortunately Stechter is the leader of assorted "exiles" groups of warrior mercenaries and his next goal is to take everything Garvey which leads to Garvey and Ntashia venturing into the wilds in search of Caladrex to claim it's advanced weaponry.
Exiles of the Dire Planet is simply bigger in every way than the first novel of the series (Dire Planet) and although we leave the present day action behind we do bring Arnold into the current time frame which adds a whole bunch of quite significant distractions. We learn a lot more about the Martian races and civilisations most of which are pretty blood thirsty although some by necessity and without the need for an origin element there is much more room for epic and quite bloody thirsty battles.
If you liked Dire Planet you'll love Exiles and if pulp scifi or simply a good action scifi adventure is your thing then you won't go wrong with this book or series.

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Dire Planet by Joel Jenkins

Dire PlanetDire Planet by Joel Jenkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Garvey Dire was a US astronaut on a covert mission to Mars during a troubled time on Earth, he crashes into the surface of the red planet thanks to a malfunction and no other soul is due to arrive for a year. No one outside of a small circle of NASA and US military/state personnel know he was onboard the mission so his discovery of ruins and technology will go to waste but in twist of fate he is thrown back in time to around 47,000 BC when Mars was populated and is discovered by Lana Shar a native Martian from the local Muvari tribe.
Thus Garvey's adventures on Mars begin, he gains the favour of Lana who healed his wounds and with his superior strength thanks to the weaker gravity he is able to prove his worth to the local tribe but if he is to make a life on Mars and with the Muvari he will have to marry (maybe more than once) and father children while accepting the limitations on the males of the tribe but when the tribe are attacked he throws himself into combat and well then the fun really starts as he learns of the threats on Mars first hand.
Dire Planet is a rip-roaringly good story, there are no apologies for it's pulp nature and if you are not familiar with the genre that isn't a negative as all you need is a willingness to go along for the ride and be entertained. As the first book in the series it sets the tone very well both in terms of creating the origin story and providing the reader with the tools to visualise Mars nearly 50,000 years ago as well as events as the play out in the year after Garvey vanishes from Mars of today.
Dire Planet is highly recommended as are the other novels in the series.

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Sunday, 16 August 2015

My Random Journey Through Trek #45

Time's Orphan
Deep Space Nine

Keiko and the family have returned to Miles onboard DS9 after the station was taken back from the Dominion and they decided to take a trip to Golana IV for a family picnic and for a little bonding between Miles and his children. It's a beautiful day on the uninhabited world and Molly cart wheels aways and then we hear a scream, Miles frantically searches for here finally finding her hanging on a small ledge above a strange fluctuating energy field inside a small cavern, he reaches for her but she falls out his grasp and vanishes into the energy field. Science teams from DS9 are investigating this unknown technology and Dax believes it's a time portal and Molly has been thrown back around 300 years into an empty world but if they can get the tech working again they believe a transporter beam can lock onto her DNA signature and beam her back.
They are successful but the girl they bring back is much older but there is no question that it is Molly and the DNA scan confirms this but after sedating her they now have to deal with a feral creature who doesn't recognise her surroundings or anyone. Worf babysits Yoshi O'Brien which allows Miles and Keiko to concentrate on Molly who is now living in a cargo hold converted to a habitat but with mixed results. Slowly but surely they gain Molly's trust but she pines for her home and while a major breakthrough occurs when they take her back to their quarters it's not until they use a holodeck to simulate Golana IV that Molly is truly happy. It ends badly when Quark asks them to leave and as the hologram is turned off Molly panics and in her terror and confusion she attacks a guy in the bar wounding him severely. Molly is placed in detention and is expected to be shipped to a suitable facility but Miles and Keiko decide that the only place Molly will be safe is back in the past where her real home is so they attempt a jailbreak, it fails. Odo however lets them go and now back on the planet Miles activates the time portal and Molly is told to go "home", they give her the doll she had as a child and with a final goodbye and joy on her face she steps through. Three hundred years in the past Molly hears a young child sobbing, she finds young Molly sitting in the shadows and gives her the doll and points to the portal and young Molly returns to the arms of her parents.

"gung, gung, gung"
It has to be said that Miles is a fan favourite but his family not so much but you can't have a family man and totally ignore the wife and kids not that it hasn't been done:)
So Keiko is not overly impressed with Miles having put on a few pounds although we can assume they boinked like rabbits the night before so he can't be that bad although Quarks adult novelty outlet may have helped in this regard. I was a little disappointed that they still used sunscreen, this is scifi guys take a pill or shot that boosts the skin's protection, job done but I let that go since Miles was his henpecked best even down to his sausages. Of course when one or two characters go overboard saying how they will never leave and everything will be great you just know things are going to go turn out badly. I was a little confused when they got to the planet, I didn't pick up any indication that this wasn't Bajor so the appearance of this hidden alien technology didn't make a lot of sense but later in the episode they make it clear Golana IV is an uninhabited world the Bajorans had lay claim too. Once you know that then yeah it is possible that this time portal remained undiscovered but surely the shuttle/runabout sensors on a normal landing procedure would have picked up the energy field. I was rather surprised the tech guys from DS9 were so happy to dismantle the portal's control systems so quickly and it was maybe a reach to accept a transporter beam (or similar device) could penetrate the portal, identify a target via DNA and bring them back. Of course it went wrong since they simply did not have the fine control they needed to pinpoint to the second when Molly arrived so having brought back a feisty 18 year old who immediately went postal they took their sweet time sedating her or even stunning her. Fortunately over the ten years Molly had been stranded she felt the need to remain fully clothed which spared the blushes of many but then the question of what to do, interesting the choice to keep her was not one sided, the point was made this Molly had ten years which they shouldn't take away from her. Ok, yes she did but that would probably be ten years of hell for at eight years old and only casually clothed having to find food and water and shelter not to mention while there were not sentients on the planet I'm sure their were native animals.
We take a break now and enjoy the fun and games as Worf convinces Dax that he is fully capable of babysitting Yoshi and by extension being a father to any children they have together, it is a matter of honour although I thought it was a little silly for Worf to use Alexander as an example of his parenting skills:)
I really liked the nice touch of older Molly getting as low as she could to look up towards Miles and Keiko emulating the viewpoint of a child and Lupe the doll with a Bajoran nose ridge was something they didn't need to do but made sense with Molly getting the doll acquired locally. It was also typical of Miles to worry over his repair schedule even though I am sure Sisko would have taken him off rotation and the scene with the hairbrush was enough to break any heart. Molly reacting poorly to the holosuite being turned off, well should have seen that coming but how exactly did they get her there and introduce her to the simulation. If they walked her in with it running they could surely have walked her out, the panic was triggered by suddenly taking away her "home" so a plot contrivance. Odo finally came into his own after the jailbreak, loved his statement to Miles that if anyone could sneak a person out of detention and off the station it would be Miles so Odo felt let down he had to get involved, mind you Odo was never a fan of Starfleet paperwork:)
Now maybe this is just me but security and research team should have been stationed at the time portal, it's value and danger is pretty evident but not to worry Miles got it up and running again and they ushered 18 year old Molly through and back home. It would have been interesting if they had left it there, the loss of a child could have been used to really pressure Miles and maybe breaking up the marriage as a side plot to the final season but no they went for the happy ending and maybe that wasn't a bad thing.

Time's Orphan worked pretty well considering it was a Mile's and family centric standalone episode although I really did enjoy Worf and his adventures in babysitting but there were some touching moments in a plot that pretty much overlooked a lot of issues. There was some nice acting from Michelle Krusiec (Molly at 18) and if anything she was the one that get's the most credit at making this episode above average.
Rating 7

Mistress Of The Ages

Mistress Of The Ages (The First Empress, Book 3) (In Her Name 9)Mistress Of The Ages (The First Empress, Book 3) by Michael R. Hicks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The long anticipated conclusion to the The First Empress trilogy part of the In Her Name series arrived just as I finished reading the previous novels in the series, I wanted to get back into the swing of things:)
The final novel had a lot of work to do since at least to me it seemed that Michael would have to put a lot of content into a single book if we were going to get from where we left off to the where we knew the story was going (according to the information from the previous novels in the series dealing with Keel-Tath). As it turns out he knew what he was doing and the solution to the search and use of the seven crystals that were at the heart of the Priesthoods made sense and by using known plot points he managed to put in an awful lot of narrative which led us ultimately to the society/culture changing curse and eventually to the war with the humans millennia later. The real bonus was that much of what we knew from previous books had left us with so many questions (or was that just me again) and I came away from this novel very satisfied with how events played out even if most of them were tragic in nature.
The novels gets five stars without a doubt but I think if I was honest I would say the more human centric books in the series have the edge since we are dealing with a prequel series where some events are known and others awaiting answers but Mistress of the Ages and The First Empress trilogy are excellent additions to the In Her Name epic science fiction creation.

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Sunday, 9 August 2015

My Random Journey Through Trek #44

Ties of Blood and Water
Deep Space Nine

Tekeny Ghemor (as seen in S3 Second Skin and played by Lawrence Pressman) visits DS9 and Kira to reestablish their relationship after the Cardassian regime allied itself with the Dominion. Kira is hoping that as a known dissident he would be willing to be the voice of an off world Cardassian government in exile but he reveals he is close to death. He tells Kira that a Cardassian custom allows him to offer up all his secrets and knowledge to a family member who could then use that information and he considers Kira to be his daughter and so she agrees. Gul Dukat demands that Tekeny is returned to Cardassia but after Sisko brushes him off he turns up in a Dominion Battlecruiser along with the latest version of Weyoun and attempts to bribe Tekeny to return and what that fails well he tries to assassinate him. Kira learns that during the occupation the Tekeny was assigned to the unit that destroyed a religious order and she refuses to see him although her feelings towards him are mixed with her own memories of her father's death. Tekeny finally passes and Kira buries him alongside her father while Dukat states that he will return and proclaim that Tekeny embraced the Dominion.

DS9 at it's best excelled in character studies and building whole episodes around individuals, not a common theme in Trek as a whole which is perhaps why TNG and Voyager did better in the ratings. In this story we get a history of Kira and her relationship to her real father and one she considers worthy of the same respect. In the flashbacks we see that the occupation has taken it's toll on a young Kira and she has never truly addressed the issue of putting revenge ahead of compassion. It was fitting that she got a chance to make amends and serve her people and the Federation as a bonus. It was a telling opening scene between Kira, Dax, Worf and Tekeny in regards to how DS9 delivers Trek, there were no humans present and none where needed, these characters have been built with care and precision to reflect everything the viewer needs to understand them. I was and always have been curious why the station never had a docking port/pylon more suitable for higher ranking or vip visitors but that's not really important I guess. I did find it vastly amusing that Kira also had her own section within the Cardassian central archives, probably different from Dukat's personal files which given his history may include some candid photos, he does like the Bajoran women.
Putting aside the central theme of Kira and her relationship with two particular men in her life we did some good stuff from Dukat and Weyoun 5 was as ever brilliant, once again Jeffrey Combs excels with a few brief comments and expressions. Weyoun's utter fascination as Sisko and Dukat traded barbs and the attempted assassination plot was the perfect counterbalance to what was an emotion heavy episode.
How Delightful
Ties of Blood and Water was directed by Avery Brooks and since this story is all about Kira it was ideal for the lead actor to take himself out of the limelight although he did have fun scenes with Ducat as you would expect. Nana really did herself proud with her portrayal of both the Kira we know and all younger self who was being pulled in many directions during the occupation. Her admission that sje left her father to die alone was mostly due to her own emotional weakness showed how far she had come and may explain her more volatile nature but in returning to Tekeny she took a giant step to addressing a flaw in her character. The final scene of his grace next to her father's was glorious and also showed how Bajor was being brought back to life, what was a piece of dirt and rock was now an area of beauty and tranquility.
Rating 9

In Her Name: Forged In Flame

Forged in Flame (In Her Name: The First Empress, #2)Forged in Flame by Michael R. Hicks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Forged In Flame is the second book in The First Empress trilogy of stories under the umbrella of the In Her Name series and continues the life story of Keel-Tath who is prophesied to lead her people into a new age. Her enemies and opponents (not always the same thing) watch her with caution for if her path is true then the Dark Queen will see her plans for the destruction of the worlds and the Priesthoods and their generations of control thrown to the winds.
Keel-Tath now a young female is highly skilled in combat but events conspire to open her eyes to the path she is taking, showing the strength required to move her people in a new direction she ventures alone in the world and meets both companions and enemies and discovers long hidden truths and secrets.
Forged In Flame is a fast paced story as huge battles and personal combats set against an uncertain future are played out and despite all the characters being Kreelan you never feel as if you are reading something that doesn't feel right or make complete sense. The story is a very easy read but as you would expect it benefits from being part of the bigger picture even if that is just following on from the first book "From Chaos Born".
The In Her Name series is truly an epic tale of Human and Kreelan societies and learning of the birth of the Empire as we come to know it makes extremely enjoyable reading.
I eagerly await the next book in the life story of Keel-Tath which is due very soon :)

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In Her Name: From Chaos Born

From Chaos Born (In Her Name: The First Empress, #1)From Chaos Born by Michael R. Hicks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The In Her Name series continues with a new trilogy, the first book of which is "From Chaos Born". The story takes place thousands of generations in the past when the Kreelan people were still fragmented and their society living through cycles of death and rebirth as technology outpaced their social development.
Without giving too much away the events in the book expand upon the histories of the Desh-Ka priesthood and the Kreelan Empress as told in the previous six novels and we begin in the time before the one that was to unite the people was born, the nations/regions are involved in a global war led by a Dark Queen who had appeared out of nowhere and slew all who challenged her. Prophecies from the fallen second age of the Kreelan people foretold of one that would be born with white hair and red talons who would bring together the people and ultimately curse them and it is such a child that is born to Ulana-Tath and Kunan-Lohr of the city state Keel-A'ar. The Dark Queen Syr-Nagath has her own secrets and destiny and sees the child as the ultimate threat to her plans and her actions to remove this threat drive the story and the epic battles and struggles which follow.
From Chaos Born is a much faster paced story then those that preceded it although that may have more to do with the detail and scope required when dealing with one on one conflicts and ground battles rather than space based combat. That is certainly not a negative though, with a slightly smaller pool of characters and events the dialogue and emotional/logical reasoning of the characters is every bit as compelling and you accept the fact that there are no humans in this story as the lives and deaths strike at the core of what we regard as being human.
The question is often asked, what does the individual believe and is right or wrong and how will they act on that belief and it's the tragedy of this world that the people's honour and loyalty has been given to one not worthy who has her eyes not only on this world but all the worlds in the skies and the slaughter of an innocent is nothing but one step in the process.

A purchase of "From Chaos Burn" is a no brainer for anyone who got the slightest bit of pleasure from the previous books and it's not that bad a place to start if you are new to the world Michael R Hicks has created.

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In Her Name: Dead Soul

Dead Soul (In Her Name: The Last War, #3)Dead Soul by Michael R. Hicks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Her Name: Dead Soul is the final book in the second cycle of stories telling of the war between the Human worlds and the Kreelan Empire. After the brutal battles on Keran and Saint Petersburg the battle is joined on a number of fronts but the time has come for the Confederation to fight back and reclaim a world if for no other reason than to give hope to the humans who are now realising this is a fight to the death, failure means the extinction of the human race.
On the agricultural Alger's World the Kreelans have attacked and the human task force comprising of the most powerful warships built engage the enemy while thousands of marines make planet fall to take on the occupying forces. As the long bloody battle commences we are drawn into the experiences of both the young survivors of the initial invasion, the recon units who have landed prior to the attempted liberation and finally the marine contingent. The biggest hurdle to overcome is the Kreelan Priestess Ku'ar-Marekh the last in her line whose soul is fractured and longs to die but will not sacrifice her life and dishonour her Empress. Whilst the story of Dead Soul follows the theme of previous books with the battles of the individuals immersed within the vast scale of global and space combat we find some nice touches when dealing with characters both human, alien and in some cases not quite fully one or the other. This all adds huge depth and enjoyment to the story and makes this a fitting end to the current cycle and despite being shorter then the previous stories the ultimate pay off from characters we've followed is most satisfying.

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In Her Name: Legend of the Sword

Legend of the Sword (In Her Name: The Last War, #2)Legend of the Sword by Michael R. Hicks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tesh-Dar second only to the Empresses herself leads her sisters against Saint Petersburg a world modelled on the Soviet society which has been secretly rearming itself in preparation for its own phase of empire building. When the newly formed Confederation hears news of the development of nuclear weaponry on Saint Petersburg coupled with a satellite world's (Riga) petition to join the Confederation and break away from the totalitarian rule the battle lines are drawn human against human until Tesh-Dar makes her appearance. In Her Name: Legend Of The Sword tells the story of the rise of Tesh-Dar from a highly skilled young warrior to becoming the High Priestess of Desh-Kar and the terrible consequences of her own weakness as she serves to not only bring honour to her Empresses but seek out the the one soul amongst the humans who shares the Bloodsong. This second book in the Second Cycle delves more into the political and social structure of the human race which adds depth to the epic tale as well as offsetting some of the carnage of both ground and space born conflicts and just as Tesh-Dar believes some of the actions may seem bizarre and well stupid they are very human, unfortunately:) A worthy addition to the In Her Name series which not only builds on existing characters but introduces some new ones, not everyone lives and not everyone dies in an heroic manner but that's probably the reality of war but we still fight because for Humans and Krellans there is no other option.

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In Her Name: First Contact

First Contact (In Her Name: The Last War, #1)First Contact by Michael R. Hicks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First Contact is the initial book in a prequel trilogy of the In Her Name series and as you may expect by the title tells the story of the Humans first encounter with what became known as the Kreelan Empire. In many ways this is a much simpler story than any of the books from the first cycle (Empire, Confederation and Final Battle) as it concentrates on the physical aspect of the interaction between the Aurora and her crew with the Kreelan fleet when battle is joined on and above Keran. I've no doubt the political, social and economic aspects of merging multiple states and military will be covered in a lot more depth in the next two books but for now revel in the blood and guts offered up by vast energies flashing through the voids as starships battle each other and the total flipping of the world-view as duels with swords are taking place where nothing is more important than honour.
As a primer to the whole series First Contact does an excellent job and as a new chapter in the history of the Human race and Kreelan empire for those who know what happens a century later it's just unashamedly entertaining.

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Sunday, 2 August 2015

In Her Name: Redemption

In Her Name: Redemption (In Her Name: Redemption, #1-3)In Her Name: Redemption by Michael R. Hicks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Her Name: Redemption is the omnibus edition of the first three novels of the In Her Name series and to put simply these stories confirmed to me that there was a world of great storytelling to be had outside of the shelves of bookstores. Yes my exposure to these books and others went hand in hand with my first Kindle purchase and to this day I eagerly await the novels of Michael especially the final book in The First Empress Trilogy released August 2015.
The three novels (Empire, Confederation and Last Battle) basically recount the story of Reza Gard a human boy caught up in the final events of a century long interstellar conflict between the human race and the Kreelan Empire. Through the books we see him grow from the terrified but brave young child who saved his own life through his courage and then surrounded by those who view him as nothing but an animal both survive and prosper raising himself to a point where the future of two sentient races hangs on his love for the society that birthed him and the one that raised him.
These three novels combine some great characters with an incredible amount of world building and a very healthy amount of both ground and space combat in which courage, sacrifice and honour go hand in hand with scifi technologies which never take away anything from the individual.
Highly recommended as is the five novels that came after this trilogy and no doubt the sixth which is just over the horizon, yep I am reading the whole series once more to prepare for the next novel :)

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