A few weeks ago, this very topic was front and center in the US media -- statistical analysis vs gut feelings. Only it wasn't about determining the chance of winning a war. It was about something much dirtier, politics. On one side were the math and statistics people claiming it was a highly likely victory for Obama. On the other were pundits, especially the conservative pundits who claimed it would be a landslide for Romney, because of all the heart and excitement they'd seen for him on the campaign trail.
The statisticians turned out to be overwhelmingly correct. Two separate analyses got it dead on. One got everything but one state.
Keep in mind that even the statisticians, while confident that their methodologies were superior to gut instinct, still had reasonable doubts that their models were accurate. I read Nate Silver's blog during the lead-up to the election and he was constantly pointing out that while his model had Obama as the clear favourite, it could still be wrong. He even said once that he was losing sleep worrying that his model would be proven wrong on election day. That's a good thing, scientists are supposed to have a healthy dose of scepticism about their own work.
Bashir lacked that objectivity, which I gather was the point of the episode, that he let his superior mental abilities cloud him from his better judgement. I have no problem with that as an idea, I just felt that the execution was lacking because we didn't spend enough time seeing Bashir working with the Jack Pack and witnessing his ego take over.
Far Beyond the Stars (***½)
Some of you may look at that score and think that it's a little on the low side for what some consider to be DS9's finest episode. If this episode had been just the 1950s material, the social issues, the characters out of makeup, the trials of early science fiction writers, and the wonderful production work to make it all look authentic, this episode would have earned a much better score. It's the framing story that holds this episode back for me. The writers wanted to do a story about racism in the 1950s, but they unfortunately found themselves working with a post-racism society in the 24th century, so that necessitated some creative thinking. But I personally feel that what they came up with doesn't mesh well with the Benny Russell story, and since the framing story is the entire point of the Benny Russell story, it hurts the entire episode.
Sisko, who just two weeks ago was absolutely determined to stop the forces of evil and protect Bajor, suddenly recants on that and considers retiring. The Prophets don't want him to because they have future plans for him, so they send him a vision of a guy that is so put-upon by racism that he has a mental breakdown and is committed. This convinces Sisko to continue the good fight for some reason or other. A story with the gravity of the Benny Russell story needed to mean something more than what we are presented with here. What obviously happened in was that the writers wanted to tell Benny Russell's story, so they conjured up a problem out of nowhere and used the Benny Russell story to fix it. In some ways all storytelling is like this, it's just not always this obvious.
My reaction to this episode may be the result of the circumstances in which I first watched it. New episodes of DS9 used to air on Monday nights at 20:00 on Sky One, but on the night that this episode aired there was a signal transmission and for the first 15 minutes I was stuck watching a screen apologising for the error, assuring me that it would be resolved shortly, and slowly getting infuriated by the repeating pleasing music. When the channel finally returned, I had absolutely no clue what was going on, I was not expecting for it to be the 1950s and for all the characters I knew to be someone else. I needed a damn good explanation to find out what happened, and that wasn't forthcoming. That event sticks in my mind as the most frustrating viewing experience I've ever had, perhaps I would be more forgiving on this episode had it not happened.
In summary, kudos on the Benny Russell story, boo on the Benjamin Sisko story.