TheGodBen Revisits Deep Space Nine

Discussion in 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine' started by TheGodBen, Oct 16, 2011.

  1. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Those things did happen but the Bajoran rebel siege of DS9 lacked the emotional oomph that a (proposed) Dominion siege would have had in season 6. Combine really developed characters (DS9 characters) with a Year of Hell style plot (without the temporal shenanigans) and it would be probably be of the same level awesomeness as the first Dominion war arc.
     
  2. callea

    callea Ensign Red Shirt

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    Hey, everybody. Been reading this thread for a month or two as I rewatch the series and finally almost caught up to it.

    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.

    Of course, it might be harder to predict the winner of a interstellar battle than something that's essentially a popularity contest. But with that fresh in my mind, it wasn't too hard to see why Bashir would support the statistical analysis.

    My gripe wouldn't be that Bashir believed in the work of the Jack Pack. It's that the episode doesn't give enough credit to statistical analysis.
     
  3. DonIago

    DonIago Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Except that the Jack Pack's analysis couldn't possibly account for numerous variables that actually transpired, such as the events of ITPM.

    I'm all for forecasts, but the reality is that the further ahead you forecast the greater the possibility that the end result being forecast is inaccurate.
     
  4. callea

    callea Ensign Red Shirt

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    That's part of the point I mean about not giving enough credit to analysis. These people are supposed to be super geniuses who are impressing everyone with their work. But those super geniuses missed some pretty basic concepts.

    I don't know a lot about statistics, but what I do know is that it can't predict the future. It can only accurately predict the probability of something happening. I good prediction model does take into account the miraculous and unusual and assigns a percentage chance of them happening.

    When they went beyond the end of the war to multiple generations down the line revolting, that was pretty absurd. And it makes statistical analysis itself look like some sort of useless voodoo.

    I don't find it a problem that Bashir could get behind properly done statistical analysis, but the way it's presented here doesn't seem properly done. And credibility of the characters presenting it doesn't help either.

    As Dukat recounted the events that lead him and Sisko to be conveniently marooned together, I kept thinking of Zap Brannigan tricking Leela into thinking they were crash landed on another planet and he had saved her. After getting past my amusement at the thought of Dukat attempting to woo Sisko, I realized that's pretty much what he's doing. He's not trying to woo Sisko romantically, but his main goal is to get Sisko to like him.

    Since the situation is so disbelievable, I also wonder whether Dukat was telling the truth about how he and Sisko go there. What if the 3rd guy wasn't accidentally killed? What if Dukat killed him or just left him behind?

    I kind of wish the Defiant scenes had been used to give a sense of believability to the situation by doing something like showing the rest of the crew had survived and implying Dukat had purposely taken his escape pod as far from the others as he could or purposely found a place sensors wouldn't detect them on the same planet as some of the others. Even so, I can still get past it.
     
  5. callea

    callea Ensign Red Shirt

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    [removed double post]
     
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2012
  6. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    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.
     
  7. Spock/Uhura Fan

    Spock/Uhura Fan Captain Captain

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    I think this didn't quite happen for a couple of reasons, the first being Odo. He lived there, and they wouldn't risk him being harmed in the process of defending the station, and he would have certainly been a part of the action to protect DS9. Remember, the head Changeling lady said that Odo was more important to them than the whole quadrant.

    The other thing is why go through the trouble of taking over the station in a war when they could easily get more useful information, etc., with their sleeper agents doubling as officers, even high ranking officers. They used the aggressive approach with the Cardassians (after being allowed to slide in), but with the Federation, which is a large alliance of planets (including Earth/Starfleet), it made more sense to use the subtle approach, using sabotage from within. I think had they been more effective while they were still in "subtle" mode (like they were with the Obsidian Order and their plans), then something more obvious and aggressive would have happened down the line concerning the Federation.

    I don't think they didn't have that in their plans; they just didn't get there. The disease coming along also caused them to change their priorities a bit.
     
  8. Sykonee

    Sykonee Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Given all that's happened to the guy in recent years, I can see Sisko developing a sort of bi-polar condition where he's fine one day, then the stress of everything sends him into a sulk.
     
  9. callea

    callea Ensign Red Shirt

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    The public attempts at wagering thousands of dollars on his results might have caused some of that sleep loss. He might have been worried some of the time, but there were at least a few periods where he was pretty confident.

    I think now maybe your gripe is more similar to mine than thought, because it they had shown more of the Jack Pack's work, it could have allowed us to see Bashir make the transition from skeptical to overconfident (which is I think what you're getting at) as well as given a more accurate/realistic portrayal of statistics. So I suppose makes you more right than me. :techman:

    That score seems about right. This was my first time seeing this episode. The story of Benny was enthralling, and it was fun to see all the cast out of make-up. Avery Brooks gave an amazing performance.

    But as Benny was being carted off, I looked at how much time was left and was surprised it was almost over, because I still didn't see how the story tied into Sisko's. At the end, I was still scratching my head trying to figure out the point, because it was sort of implied the prophets might have something to do with it. I didn't see what reason the prophets would have for giving Sisko that vision.

    I was looking forward to your review hoping you'd point out something significant I'd missed. There was something I missed, but it wasn't significant. The fact that Sisko was considering quitting at the beginning of the episode didn't really even register. Once you mentioned it, I remembered that he said it, but I just thought he was venting. I didn't take him seriously, and I think you outlined well the reasons why.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012
  10. callea

    callea Ensign Red Shirt

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    That was a nice bit of foreshadowing btw. I rewatched season 7 before rewatching anything else, and was trying to remember why I liked this show, because I thought the resolution with Odo and Female Changling aka Dead Fish was pretty cheesy. But that line actually makes that ending pretty cool.
     
  11. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Spot on TheGodBen. This episode would have only worked out if it solely focused on the Benny Russell story but then it would not, could not, fit in with DS9's continuity which is great until it hints that the whole DS9 universe, the whole Star Trek universe, is perhaps nothing more than the imaginations of Benny which is something totally outrageous. It sort of kicks you in the teeth really about how one perceives Star Trek.

    The way I see it, there was no real Benny Russell, giving the non-linear nature of the Prophets I'm sure they conjure up any old past for their Emissary to have a vision about. The story's botched period and it's a bold experiment that did not work out.
     
  12. Paper Moon

    Paper Moon Commander Red Shirt

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    When I first watched this episode, I was rather young. The visceral quality of the racial violence and Benny's breakdown kind of overwhelmed everything else for me. I understood that it was a great episode, with a very striking story, but the bright lights of those relatively disturbing aspects of the episode really blinded me to being able to look at the rest of the episode, particularly the framing sequence.

    A few years later, I noticed the same problems you identified, GodBen. What the hell did Quentin Swofford have to do with the 1950s?

    This bothered me for a long time. However, I have come up with an analysis that I believe is satisfactory. As a caveat, I should say that I think the writers/producers could have been a little more explicit in making these connections during the episode, but ultimately I'm not sure it would've been necessary, nor should it have been the point.

    (Spoilers for the rest of the series ahead.)

    The inciting conflict is Sisko's fatigue at fighting The Good Fight. Everything seems to be "turn[ing] to ashes." Assuming we take him at face value, he is very seriously considering leaving. (For the purposes of argument, let us assume that it is a crucial part of the Prophets' plan for Sisko to be on the station at least until Dax dies. Therefore, if he leaves the station, he would be straying from their path and that would be a Very Bad Thing in their eyes.)

    So, in response to his fatigue, the Prophets send Sisko what is essentially a pagh'tem'far, a vision. In this vision, Sisko is shown viscerally what it is like to be oppressed, to not be free. The Prophets even specify that Weyoun and Dukat (though, interestingly, not Damar) are oppressors. (Perhaps more interestingly, they say/suggest/imply that Odo is ambiguous. Consider this alongside his actions during the Dominion Occupation, and his actions at the end of the war. Where are his loyalties? You might argue first and foremost to himself, but, when push comes to shove, he will cave to what is easiest.)

    The setting of the pagh'tem'far is significant as well, and clearly tailored specifically to Sisko: Sisko is clearly well-read on the histories of the peoples of the African Diaspora, as well as the histories of the 20th and 21st centuries on Earth in general. Consider:
    • the Yoruba mask that he brought from Earth to DS9 when DS9 became "home," and that he then brought to Starbase 375 when he was assigned to Admiral Ross; the Yoruba are a major tribe in Nigeria, and Sisko's possession and admiration of a Yoruba mask suggest an awareness and appreciation of that culture (and perhaps even an identification with it, although that is a question for another time).
    • Sisko's attitude in "Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang"; he knows the history of the American Civil Rights Movement down to the specific years, over three centuries after the fact. The topic is clearly important to him.
    • his detailed knowledge of the Bell Riots, their background and their repercussions; again, his level of knowledge suggests quite a bit more than a passing interest.
    • though this is weaker evidence, it could be argued that Sisko's familiarity with the Bell Riots resulted from a careful study of African diaspora leaders, of whom Gabriel Bell would surely qualify as.
    • lastly, and this is rather weak evidence, and is very subjective: Sisko's off-duty attire has always struck me as being influenced/inspired by traditional African fabric designs. Again, this is very circumstantial, but it fits into this overall image of a man who understands, values, respects and admires the histories and cultures of the African diaspora.

    The pagh'tem'far is crafted to be uniquely understandable and relevant to Sisko. In a way, its effect is heightened: something that was previously presumably a solely academic endeavor (the study of Africana history) is made vividly real. Quite a contrast.

    Furthermore, the Prophets use the vision to remind Sisko of the need to have faith in the righteousness of his cause and in the inevitability of his eventual victory, through the character of the Preacher. The Preacher provokes Benny to "write the words that will set them free," to "open their eyes." The Preacher reminds Benny to continue the struggle, despite the darkness, just as Joseph reminded Sisko what Quentin Swofford would've said to him at the beginning of the episode. Critically, Benny follows through where Sisko had tossed the words back at his father.

    Here, the Prophets use a simple psychological tactic understood by leaders everywhere: sometimes you simply must be irrationally hopeful in order to stand any chance of prevailing against nearly impossible odds. They reinspire some level of irrational hope in Sisko, in order to get him to stay on the station.

    Essentially, the Prophets need to shake Sisko up enough that he is able to actually hear the verse from 2 Timothy that Joseph recites to him at the end:

    The Prophets need Sisko to keep fighting The Good Fight, they need to him to finish out the course and they need him to keep faith in them. So they give him a vision that he would be uniquely sensitive to and understanding of.

    The vision reminds Sisko what the costs of losing the Dominion War will be for those who survive: the entire Federation reduced to a civilization of Benny Russells.

    I realize that, this being Deep Space Nine, there may not, in fact, have been this level of forethought put into the episode. But I think the episode is actually rather gracefully elegant in its subtext. If we step back from the specific form of oppression (racism) and interpret the vision as a commentary on the destruction that any type of oppression creates on a fundamentally personal level, the parallels with the Dominion War suddenly become much more apparent. In a lot of ways, the Founders are the epitome of racism; destroy the Others because they are not like Us.

    Maybe the writers should have spelled that all out more explicitly for us. But I think that would have mitigated, if not ruined the effect, and made the episode overly preachy. As it is, the subtly makes us think, and that's one of the best things a Trek episode can do for us.

    I actually don't see a need to attribute his changed attitude to a psychological condition. During Operation Return, Sisko was high on adrenaline. Now he's comparatively low and he's dealing with the consequences of a massively destructive war, without being able to do anything about it. He's experiencing huge levels of stress, and he even admits that everyone might have been expecting a let-up in the conflict after DS9 was retaken, which would then add disappointment on top of the stress.

    I know I personally have experienced burn-out a few weeks after being gung-ho about something, so I don't find Sisko's feelings inconsistent, though I can certainly understand the critique. (Also, it's worth noting, from a devil's advocate point of view: we only see Sisko showing these despondent symptoms for a brief time. We have no idea if they have persevered for hours, days or weeks. Modern psychopathology usually requires these sorts of problems to be present for a matter of weeks before they can be diagnosed. For all we know, Sisko had felt in the dumps for no more than a day at this point, but the Prophets decided to nip this problem in the bud early before it became a bigger problem.)
     
  13. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    This is one of those things that writers often seem to find cute or thought-provoking and I just find annoying. Is Benny Russell real, writing sci-fi stories in 1950s New York? Or is Benjamin Sisko real, experiencing visions on a space station in the 24th century? Neither! They're both constructs of a bunch of Hollywood writers in the 1990s.

    It's the sort of concept that can work if you think of it in advance and plan the narrative around it, but don't just throw it out there in the dying seasons of a show and expect fans to latch onto it. That just feels cheap to me.

    You make some interesting points and I agree with a lot of what you say, but the core of my problem is right here. Like with Bashir's ego taking over in Statistical Probabilities, I don't have a problem with Sisko feeling depressed and considering leaving Starfleet, it's just presented poorly. Some friend that we've never heard of before, but who is apparently of huge emotional significance to Sisko, dies off-screen and suddenly sends Sisko off the deep end. It comes across as incredibly artificial, and since that's the foundation of the entire episode it weakens the whole story.

    When Jadzia dies and Sisko is isolated from the Prophets, it makes sense to me at that point for Sisko to lose faith and leave Starfleet behind, those are two elements of his life that have been established as being important to him. If the Benny Russell visions had come to Sisko following those events, that would have been much, much more satisfying to me as a viewer because it would have meant something. The framing story for Far Beyond the Stars lacks that meaning that it really needs for me to get fully invested in it.


    One Little Ship (**½)

    This episode has to be one of the silliest concepts ever put into production on a Star Trek show. It almost seems to come from the mind of a ten year-old child playing with their Star Trek toys. The science behind it is completely absurd, and I'm certain that if anyone tried to shrink down people and objects in the way this episode suggests then the entire universe would implode. (That assertion is scientifically inaccurate.) But here's the thing, I used to be ten years old. In fact, I was ten years old longer than most people because that was a leap-year. And I did have Star Trek toys, especially those little Micro Machines Star Trek ships, and I used to fly them around the rooms of my house and pretend that they were a shrunk down version of the Enterprise fighting off a shrunk down Galor-class ship in the epic battle of the coffee table. So this episode, while completely ridiculous, appeals to that ten year-old within me and allows me to forgive the absurdity of it all.

    The main plot is also kinda stupid though. The Jem'Hadar manage to capture the Defiant somehow and decide to bring it and the crew back to their territory for some reason. Because their First is completely incompetent, he reveals sensitive information about the divisions between Alpha and Gamma Jem'Hadar to Sisko, he allows Sisko and his crew to have access to the computer systems so that they can attempt to take back control of the ship, and he doesn't notice the noisy, glowing runabout flying around his head. With the Ferengi outsmarting the Vorta in The Magnificent Ferengi and now this, you begin to wonder how the Dominion is actually winning the war. Then you remember that the Ferengi captured Starfleet's flagship once and you wonder how any of these races ever mastered spaceflight.

    The episode also suffers from the fact that the divisions between the Alphas and the Gammas is never mentioned again, making this the only episode where it's an issue. It makes sense the the Dominion would breed new Jem'Hadar if only so that they can be drugged with something other than ketracel white, but I'm glad that they dropped the division between the two groups because it's kinda uninteresting. There's already a division forming between the Cardassians and the Dominion forces that promises to be far more interesting down the line, a conflict between different breeds of Jem'Hadar would just deflect attention away from that.
     
  14. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Far Beyond the Stars is just one of those episodes I suppose I don't "get." Though often enough when I voice this though, DS9 fans look at me as if I was speaking blasphemy or something. It's an interesting premise and certainly it's fun to see all the characters out of makeup, but the overall theme of it really doesn't seem to have anything to do with DS9's story arc.

    Certainly racism in the 50's is a worthwhile theme to write about, this isn't really what Star Trek should be doing. If they wanted to do a show about the horrors of racism, hello they have several races that hate each other most prominently the Bajorans and Cardassians.

    So the whole episode just seems rather out of place, and too close to a time travel episode for my tastes. Supposedly, I heard somewhere, it was considered to have What We Leave Behind close with Benny writing it as a finish script and I'm glad they didn't do that. It really would've just been a facepalm moment turning that hilarious It's a fake/It's real! youtube video into a general application to the whole series.
     
  15. flemm

    flemm Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Well, from that point of view, I can understand why you would find it annoying.

    But the point of it isn't really for you to wonder which is real. Obviously neither is real, but you are not expected to hesitate about that. It's assumed that you will notice that neither is real, as you say, and the point is more to make you think about why the stories we tell about our past and future might be important.

    Obviously, this episode wants to be a bit of a tribute to the type of stories told in Star Trek, i.e. presenting an optimistic vision of the future, where humanity has united and accomplished a lot of amazing things, helps make that future possible.

    You can see it as the writers motivating themselves in a sense. Why are we doing this? Oh, that's why. (So, that's like Sisko being re-motivated because of his "vision.")

    Writing about writing like that can be a little self-indulgent, but I think it's handled in an entertaining way here, so I like the episode.
     
  16. Seven of Five

    Seven of Five Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I agree with flemm - I really love Far Beyond The Stars. 50s racism may seem a bit out of date on a 90s show, but DS9 was using their black lead to their full advantage here, and it was well played.

    One Little Ship is another random fluff episode, though they seem to try and give it a bit more gravitas by having conflict between Alpha and Gamma Jem'Hadar. I liked the concept of that, but it was dropped quicker than a hot potato. In that regard, they were simply the wrong enemy in the episode.

    On its own, I enjoy it enough to be three stars; cheesy fun doesn't even start to describe it. But I guess that with it being yet another fluff episode, and also that the Jem'Hadar issue just disappears, I'd say two and a half is probably right.
     
  17. TheGodBen

    TheGodBen Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well, I'm thinking particularly about how the writers were tempted to end DS9 with the revelation that Benny Russell was real and that DS9 was a show within a show. That sort of ending might work for a movie, or for a TV series that planned it out from the beginning and left hints along the way, but just throwing that ending into the final two seasons and pretending that that was the intention from the beginning would have been disastrous for the show. It would be like The Sopranos ending with the revelation that Tony really was a precision optics salesman, as he dreamt he was in his coma in season 6, and that Tony Soprano and the rest of the characters from the show were nothing but figments of an Alzheimer's riddled mind.


    Honor Among Thieves (***½)

    Honor Among Thieves doesn't have a terribly original story, the tale of the police officer/spy/space station engineer that works undercover with the mob/street gangs/an interstellar criminal consortium and becomes emotionally involved with its members is one as old as film-making itself. But what this episode lacks in originality, it makes up for with some interesting character material and a tragic ending. It's an entertaining drama that doesn't reach greatness, but it's not a bad way to spend an hour.

    It's a little odd that O'Brien is the one drafted for this mission, but the episode tries to explain this by revealing that Starfleet Intelligence is compromised and they needed to find someone from outside their ranks. When you consider that the Orion Syndicate would be looking out for people with technical expertise, and that O'Brien is a combat veteran should the assignment go south, I'm willing to accept that O'Brien is a good candidate for the job. Also, Starfleet records show that he's good at handling torturous emotional situations, and he spent 30 years in prison, so he understands thug life. What's not so understandable is how DS9 falls apart without O'Brien. Maybe that computer puppy from The Forsaken got out and went on a rampage because O'Brien wasn't around to give it attention. Say, whatever happened to that thing while the Dominion occupied the station?
     
  18. Sykonee

    Sykonee Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Unintended casualty during the great mainframe meltdown at the end of Call To Arms.:(




    :evil:
     
  19. Deranged Nasat

    Deranged Nasat Vice Admiral Admiral

    This is a strange detail to focus on, but one of the things I find fascinating about Honor Among Thieves is that Farius Prime is in fact a planet that's been mentioned before. You see, I always assumed Farius Prime was called such because, in everything from who we meet there to how it's visually presented, it's the setting's "wretched hive". It's a nefarious place, and "farius prime" is therefore a cute name. But apparently the debut of the name Farius Prime was in season 2, when a random freighter was said to be leaving random planet 1 for random planet 2, and random planet 2 happened to be named...Farius Prime. I'm assuming that the decision to use this planet as the setting of Honor Among Thieves is still entirely due to the name being cute, but I'm impressed that - rather than invent a planet - they remembered a random unimportant world from a much earlier script that had an "appropriate" sounding name...
     
  20. TheRoyalFamily

    TheRoyalFamily Commodore Commodore

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    Those were some of the best toys. I still have a couple that have survived all the years (one being rescued from a friend's old house when he moved; I had to be the one that gave it to him, as he was a dirty Star Wars fan ;))...and one of them is the Galor. Sitting on my desk right now, in fact.