The Grouping Number Method

This is an excerpt from a previous post, but if I want to introduce someone to the grouping number method, they don’t need all of the commentary about the AC method.


Are you looking for a nice and intuitive method for factoring quadratics when the leading coefficient isn’t one? Most people were probably taught to break these these things down by trial and error. That isn’t awful once you’ve developed some intuition, but if you haven’t, trial and error quickly becomes tedious. What should we start with instead? The grouping number method works well, especially if you’re just starting out.

To set up the Grouping Number Method, let’s think about what happens in the following polynomial multiplication.

(4x-1)(2x-3)

=2x(4x-1)-3(4x-1)

=8x^2 -2x -12x +3

=8x^2 -14x +3

Normally, you’d just skip the second step, but it’s important to realize that what you’re really doing is using the distributive property twice. Additionally, let’s think about the -12 and the -2. It’s clear that they add up to the final coefficient of x, but it’s also true that their product (-12)(-2) = 24 is the same as the product of the leading coefficient and the constant term, (8)(3). Notice this has to be true. In either case, it’s the product of 4, -1, 2 and -3, merely in a different order.

So, how do we go in the other direction? That is, how do we factor instead of multiply? We’ll demonstrate the grouping number method on the polynomial 8x^2 - 14x + 3.

The grouping number of a quadratic polynomial is the leading coefficient multiplied by the constant term.

So, in this case, it would be 8 times 3 = 24.

Next, you want to look for two factors of your grouping number that add up to the coefficient of x. In this case, (-12)(-2) = 24 and (-12)+(-2) = -14. We use these two numbers to rewrite the middle term to get the following.

8x^2 - 14x + 3 = 8x^2 - 2x - 12x + 3.

In other words, to rewrite the polynomial in this way, you find two factors of your grouping number that add up to the coefficient of x and use those to break down the middle term.

Why rewrite the polynomial in this way? Because it sets us up perfectly to factor by grouping.

Factoring by grouping is a technique for factoring a polynomial with four terms. In a nutshell, to factor by grouping, you remove the greatest common factor from the first two terms, then remove the greatest common factor from the last two terms. If the resulting binomial factors are the same you can factor this out to get the product of two binomials. Notice, that’s using the distributive property twice, just in the opposite direction as before.

Therefore, to finish factoring the polynomial we can factor by grouping.

8x^2 - 14x + 3

= 8x^2 - 2x - 12x + 3

= 2x(4x - 1) - 3(4x - 1)

= (4x - 1)(2x - 3)

Notice this exactly reverses the steps of the multiplication with which we started.

In short, as long as you have no common factors, the quadratic polynomials where the grouping number can be factored into two numbers that add up to the middle coefficient are exactly the ones that can be factored by grouping. All the others are prime.

Foundational Readings: The Mule

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If you’re keeping up with the Stars End Podcast, Episode 8 has been out for about a week and Episode 9’s release is imminent. In these two episodes, we discuss the entirety of “The Mule” as we know it from Foundation and Empire. If you’re reading along, of course, it’s pretty easy to find a copy of the book including on Archive.org.

If you want to read this story as it first appeared in Astounding Science Fiction, it appears in the November and December issues from 1945. Not-at-all coincidentally it’s broken up just as we did it on the podcast. The first installment covers the Foundation and Trader Worlds first learning about the Mule and then considering how to respond. It corresponds to Chapters 11 (Bride and Groom) through 18 (The Fall of the Foundation) and ends, as you might guess from the title, with quite a dramatic moment. The December installment covers the remainder of the story and completes the tale with a search for the Second Foundation. Asimov’s writing had gotten better here as evidenced by two nice touches; Mayor Indbur III on Terminus and Emperor Dagobert IX on Neotrantor are excellent personifications of their respective dominions.

As we’ve been seeing, Asimov changes very little from Astounding to the novels. As was the case with “The General” The obligatory Encyclopedia Galactica entry that serves as a prologue is absent, replaced in the first part, by this teaser, probably written by John W. Campbell.

First of two parts of Asimov’s first serial of the Foundation — and of the one factor that even Hari Sheldon could not predict — could not defend the Foundation against. The defenses were based on human psychology; The Mule was a mutant!

Unlike the for “the General,” unfortunately, the layouts have largely reverted to being rectangles and a lot of the images are tiny. We can hope they do a bit better in part two.

Once again there are some nice illustrations in both parts by Paul Orban. Unfortunately the scans of these issues aren’t as clean as the previous installments have been so the image quality is uneven.

You can find the entire issue here: Astounding Science Fiction, November 1945 while the interior artwork can be found below.

Part 2 starts off with this teaser.

Second of two parts. Across the ruined, dying Galactic Empire , fleeing from a conquered Foundation, three frightened people and the hunted jester of the new conqueror, the Mule, sought the Second Foundation — the only hope, but it must be warned

That’s followed by a summary of part 1, which you can find here: Astounding Science Fiction, December 1945 if you’d like to read it. Paul Orban’s illustrations are below. They’re larger and more textured than the illustrations from part 1.

You can find every episode of our podcast here:

The Atomic Age

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There are a few anniversaries of major historical events at this time of year. A couple of weeks ago we had the anniversary of humankind’s first landing on the Moon. That commemorated a momentous occasion. Speaking on CBS News, Robert Heinlein called the Moon Landing the “greatest event in all the history of the human race up to this time.” “This is New Year’s Day of the year one,” he continued; if we don’t change the calendar, certainly others in the future will change it for us. Heinlein saw in the Moon Landing the very survival of our species. “The descendants of all of us will be in colonies elsewhere, the human race will not die. Even if we spoil this planet, the human race will not die. It will go on and on and on…”

Even if we spoil this planet, the human race will not die. That’s a theme he returned to in his writing; it’s not true as of yet, but it may well be true in the future. It was a hopeful moment.

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Yesterday was the anniversary of a less hopeful moment but one that probably had a far greater impact on day-to-day life in much of the world. Not the dawn of the Atomic Age precisely, but it was the day that the world at large learned that the Atomic Age had begun. It’s likely the reason that the survival of the human race was foremost on Heinlein’s mind mere moments before Armstrong took his first step onto the Lunar Surface. August 6th is the day the United States dropped the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima.

It’s hard to overstate the changes that came about as a result of the Atomic Age. The Soviet Union detonated its own “device” on 29 August 1949. The Cold War followed, as did nuclear proliferation, civil defense drills, duck and cover, the red scare, proxy wars, and fall-out shelters.

Asimov’s Foundation is one of those Science Fiction series that, as much as anything else, deals with the long sweep of history. While we were preparing for our next episode of The Stars End Podcast we realized that the story for the episode appeared in the first issue of Astounding that was published after that initial atomic bomb and John W. Campbell dedicated his monthly editorial to the event and we chat about it a bit on the podcast. It’s not every day that you run across a primary source of this salience.

Why? Well as Campbell points out, unlike the general public who were learning about nuclear energy for the first time, the SF community had been thinking about it for years. It’s a major plot point throughout the Foundation series for example; Asimov uses it as a metaphor for modernity. Campbell mentions three short stories specifically, two by Heinlein and one by Lester Del Rey. All three of these stories were published in Astounding, “Blowups Happen” in 1940, “Solution Unsatisfactory” in 1941, and “Nerves” in 1942. All three were prescient. “Blowups Happen” and “Nerves” foresaw the possibility of incidents like Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima while “Solution Unsatisfactory” preconfigured the debate about the United Nations’ role in preventing this use of Nuclear Weapons.

Here’s the editorial in its entirety. This issue went on sale on 16 October 1945, so I’d guess this was written in mid to late August. It’s a fascinating read, mixing common-sense proposals with a realistic fatalism about what’s possible before the people are ready for it. It reminds me of the debates about taking COVID precautions vs. reopening the economy and it reminds me of the Rolling Stones’ Street Fighting Man. “For where I live the game to play is compromise solution… well now, what can a poor boy do, ‘cept to sing in a rock-n-roll band?”

The Atomic Age

by John W. Campbell, Astounding Science Fiction, November 1945

There’s a considerable lapse between the time Astounding goes through make-up and the time it appears on the newsstands, as you are well aware. We are not, nor have we tried to be, a news magazine. This time it made a difference, of course; not knowing beforehand when the news would be released made us a little behind the times for a change.

The atomic bomb fell, and the war was, of course, ended. During the weeks immediately following that first atomic bomb, the sciencefictioneers were suddenly recognized by their neighbors as not quite such wild-eyed dreamers as they had been thought, and in many soul-satisfying cases became the neighborhood experts.-Perhaps they’ve been able to do some good — give the people near them, who had no intellectual forewarning of what was coming, some idea of what it means. I recommend, as most salutary little lessons, the stories “Nerves”, “Blowups Happen” and “Solution Unsatisfactory” — particularly the latter. It is of some interest that, at the moment, there is considerable agitation toward the idea of a world peace force, a United Nations set-up, using the atomic bomb as a weapon to enforce peace. The precise proposal made by “Solution Unsatisfactory”.

It might work as a stopgap, and, at the moment, all we can hope for is a stopgap. The troubles to come have their roots in two factors, factors already quite evident in the world today.

People do not realize civilization, the civilization we have been born into, lived in, and been indoctrinated with, died on July 16, 1945, and that the Death Notice was published to the world on August 6, 1945.

The second factor is this: it is a basic characteristic of people that they refuse to accept change when it arrives.

On that latter point, which is, of course the most important, you can readily observe by the various newspapers and magazines that the Socialists go on being socialists, and see in the atomic bomb and its consequences the opportunity to spread and enforce socialism. The Communists see in it the final proof of the necessity of being communist. The Anarchists naturally see it as the perfect way of obtaining the annihilation of all government. And, of course, the reactionary sees it as the way we can finally teach those blasted revolutionaries to behave themselves.

People simply go on trying to be just what they were before, with the same old viewpoints, the same demands, the same prejudices and intolerances. Each sees the atomic bomb only as a way of enforcing more violently his own particular will.

The natural result is that they are trying very hard to patch up the old civilization. It won’t work, of course. The chicken has been beheaded; it still runs squawking across the world, acting very much alive, and not yet knowing it is dead. But you can’t sew the head back on, no matter how hard you try. You can’t simply outlaw the atomic bomb, and expect, thus, to thrust it back into the limbo of undiscovered things.

Civilization — the civilization of Big Power balances, of war and peace and bad international manners, of intolerance and hates, of grinding poverty and useless luxury — is dead. We are in the interregnum now, the chaos of moving our effects, our ideas and our hopes from a blasted edifice into a new structure. If we can make it in one move, we are an extremely wise, sane, and fortunate race. Probably we will require about three to six moves, from one unusable structure of world order to another before we find one that can work.

Each time we move — as in moving from one house to another — we will leave behind a few more things that we find we don’t need, can’t use, or were even responsible for the ills we knew in the old place.

The interregnum is beginning now, and we do not have a Hari Seldon to predict the ways in which sociopolitical psychology will work out. What structure the new culture will have, we can’t imagine, because we know too little of what atomic powers can be made to do. It’s conceivable that we might discover, in a period of a few brief weeks, the secret of the force-wall — something that can establish an absolutely impenetrable barrier. In that case, rather minor modifications of our culture would be possible.

If we do not — and I do not expect it — cities are impossible. At least until such time as the human race has learned to get along without intolerance, without hatred, and without their inevitable concomitant — vigorous, even violent, proselytizing.

What the world most needs is a breathing spell long enough to permit the peoples of the world to absorb the basic facts that we of science-fiction have at least a fair appreciation of. Too many people see the atomic bomb as simply a Bigger and Better, New-Type Bomb. There is only one appropriate name for the atomic weapon: The Doomsday Bomb. Nothing known to man can stand against its power. Some writers have proposed that this will mean “cities of the future, if they are to be safe, must be underground” — which is sheer balderdash. It’s a perfect acknowledgment that the writer doesn’t even vaguely know the score. The man who says any such thing is blatantly admitting that he believes that mere mechanical strength of material can defeat the power of the atomic bomb.

Of course, part of the reason for that misapprehension is that the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the first ever made. They were the weakest, crudest, least effective atomic weapons that will ever be used. Those who have followed the discussions of atomic power and atomic weapons in Astounding will certainly recognize that the United States Army, in applying its available atomic arsenal to the purpose of forcing the Japanese to defeat, consciously and carefully selected the least damaging, gentlest application of the terrible agency at their disposal. Then that manifestation of the weapon — the simple energy bomb — was applied in the least damaging possible manner; it was set off in the air, not on the ground.

Talk of cities safe underground is nonsense for the very simple reason that atomic powers are such that, if the rock is solid enough to resist the titanic blow of atomic detonation, the delicate isostatic balance of the Earth’s crust can always be upset. If the city can’t be reached directly, it can be destroyed by earthquakes.

Personally, I’d prefer being above ground, a long, long way from any target of sufficient concentrated value to merit the attention of the atomic bomber.

Everyone knows that the first atomic bomb was the death of the city of Hiroshima.

It would probably save a lot of lives if they would recognize that it was, equally, the death of every big city, the death of an era, and the death of a cultural pattern based on a balance of military power, controlled exclusively by big and wealthy nations.

Atomic war is as suicidal as a duel between two men armed with flame-throwers in a vestibule. Neither party can have the slightest hope of surviving.

The atomic weapon is, to nations, what the revolver was to the men of the old West — the Equalizer. It didn’t make any difference how big you were; the gun makes all men the same size. The atomic bomb makes all nations the same size.

And, just as the revolver produced an era of good manners or sudden death, the atomic bomb must, inevitably, force upon us an era of international good manners and tolerance — or vast and sudden death.

When the peoples of the world fully — both intellectually and emotionally — realize that, we may get somewhere.

THE EDITOR

You can find all episodes of our podcast here.

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We Came in Peace…

Each year, on 20 July, we fly a flag to commemorate when the first humans landed on the Moon. Two years ago was the 50th Anniversary. That was a lot of fun and also a good day for the blog. We flew the NASA flag, wrote about the probable state of the flags still on the Moon, and watched a lot of the coverage in real-time, just 50 years removed. I’ll share those posts below.

This year, we are flying an Apollo 11 flag. Well, kind of. We’re flying a flag that was marketed as an Apollo 11 flag. But it’s probably something that was cooked up for the semicentennial. It’s just the Apollo 11 mission patch on a black background. Vexillologists would call this a seal on a bedsheet like most of the state flags in the US.

But honestly, it’s better than those for a few reasons. First, the background is black, while most seals on a bedsheet have a blue background. Most predominantly black flags are black-and-white, so this one is distinctive in both of those groups.

The “seal,” as noted, was a mission patch, and unlike most state seals, patches are designed to be visible on clothing from across a room. That gives the design a simplicity that’s missing from most state seals. It’s clear what you’re looking at even from a distance. That makes it work much better as a flag.

Thirdly, the symbolism is clear and straightforward. The black background represents space, while the meanings of the Earth in the background and the lunar landscape in the foreground are self-evident. The eagle carries an olive branch in his talons to denote the spirit of peaceful exploration. The plaque left behind in the Sea of Tranquility is moving, “We came in peace for all mankind.” The eagle itself can be seen as a representation of its namesake, the lunar lander. Of course, the eagle, a national symbol of the United States, also proclaims that it’s the United States that got there first. Peaceful exploration is all well and good, but it’s impossible to deny the underlying motivation; the US had a Cold War to win.

There’s a lovely article on the NASA Website about the design of the patch.

There are also a couple of things that would mark this flag down according to the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) standards from Good Flag, Bad Flag. and so, I decided to play with the image.

The first is that there’s text. The NAVA standards point out that text is problematic on Flags. It’s both notable and gracious that Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins declined to have their names incorporated into the patch. That allowed it to represent all of the thousands of people who had a part in the endeavor. But it still says “Apollo 11.” How does the flag look without it? Pretty damn good. We don’t need the text to tell us what this is about; that’s undeniable.

The other place that this doesn’t meet the NAVA standards is in the colors. NAVA recommends no more than 4, but this flag has at least ten. That presents a question. Do we need the circles? Here’s a version without them.

I replaced the moonscape and background with part of one of the photos from the mission. This looks a little bland. I think I would be inclined to enlarge the Earth and eagle. And I’d make the background either a black and light grey bi-color or an extended drawing of the Lunar surface from the patch.

The other thing that I did on the 20th was to watch this again, the CBS interview with Arthur C. Clarke and Robert Heinlein. It’s always a treat.

My initial plan for this article was to transcribe this video and annotate it. There’s some great stuff there, but that turned out to be a time-consuming process. That might be the plan for next year.

For now I’ll leave you with this portion of the interview:

At about 3 minutes into the video, Cronkite muses, “I can’t imagine a moment to equal this. The only thing I could imagine is if some fella came forward and could say, positively, that we’re not going to have any more war.” “I think this is a step in that direction,” Clarke responds, “because this sort of thing is making our stupidities here on Earth seem more and more intolerable. And I think this might be the greatest result of the Space Program.”

Let’s hope that he was right.

Here are the posts from 20 July 2019.

References:

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E16

S4E16: “Prey.”

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That Hirogen is @TonyTodd54! Even under all that makeup the voice gives it away. The hunting other sentient creatures motif remains distasteful to me but the EMH teaching Seven social graces on the other hand is nicely comedic & sets up the core of the episode.

The crew gets a big data dump on the Hirogen, stuff that was already obvious. They remain One-dinemsional cookie-cutter villians. Meanwhile we learn more about Species 8472, intriguing mainly because the show has the sense not to tell us too much. Trek should leave things mysterious more frequently.

The heart of “Prey” is Janeway’s interactions with Seven. Her initial stand on helping the Hirogen is odd, more

about the learning than the compassion. When the conversation shifts to saving the member of 8472 she remains dispassionate while Seven is intense. That’s a nice inversion especially when coupled with Seven’s defense of her own individuality.

Todd is great but after “the Visitor” I wish there had been more to this character. It still isn’t enough to make the Hirogen interesting. There are some dubious (distracting) decisions along the way but overall this was a fun and enthralling episode.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

#StarTrek #StarTrekVoyager

Images used under the fair use doctrine.

I, Momentus

If you’ve been listening to Stars End Episode 7 you know that this comic, Superman #355 (January 1981) came up during our Asimov Trivia segment. It looked pretty interesting and so we spared no expense to obtain a copy and bring it to you.

In it, Asa Ezaak, a thinly veiled parody of Issac Asimov, struts around arrogantly and eventually uses his scientific genius to turn himself into a muck monster of some sort. Scratch that. He becomes the self-titled “Momentus, Master of the Moon!” That’s exactly the sort of name someone who refers to himself as “a person of note, sane and rational, fearless and intrepid, witty and forceful, and above all devilishly handsome” might choose for himself. Also there are werewolves. Don’t know what’s up with that

We’ll probably come back to this one and spend more time with it, giving you a better overview of the story once I’ve, well read it. And we’ll ponder the origins and the inspirations for the story. Is it a fair portrayal? And why a muck monst… er, excuse me “Moon Master?” *Cough.* That will appear here and on our podcast website StarEndPodcast.Wordpress.com.

In the meantime, here’s a short unboxing video to whet your appetite.

If a podcast about the Foundation Series and other things Asimovian sounds interesting to you, check out our show below.

Stars End Episode 7

All the children danced in the street! “It’s here! It’s here!” they cried! “The seventh episode of Stars End is here!!”

It’s true! Our seventh episode, “Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing a podcast” is now available! Even though we had some technical difficulties (the sound quality isn’t up to our usual standards; our apologies) it’s a great episode!

Cora Buhlert

It’s great in part because it’s different! We’re honored to welcome Cora Buhlert as our first guest on the podcast! Instead of talking about Foundation, we’ll talk to someone else about Foundation. Also, science fiction in general, becoming an SF fan as a kid, Hugo Awards and, a bunch of other stuff.

Cora is an amazingly prolific and eclectic writer. So prolific that Jon joked about her owning “Asimov’s Typewriter” and we suddenly had a new imaginary episode of Warehouse 13 in our heads. So eclectic that no matter your tastes there’s a good chance that she’s written something that you’d enjoy. If you like stories about galactic empires like Foundation, she’s written two full series you might like, In Love and War and Shattered Empire.  She’s also a two-time Hugo Finalist for Best Fan Writer.

I could go on and we do in the Episode. She was an excellent first guest and you can learn more about her at corabuhlert.com.

The episode is also great because it’s the same! We have new installments of our two regular features, the “Apple TV+ Minute” and “Asimov Trivia.: In the Trivia segment, we explore Asimov and Comic Books while in the Apple TV minute we react to the new trailer which you can watch “with” us right here!

Join us and Enjoy! Please rate and review.

You can find all our episodes here:

Watching Loki: S1E6 For All Time. Always.

Spoiler warning, obviously.


But first, a bit of space.

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I had some good conversations after episode 5, so I’m going into this episode with a bit of headcanon. It seems clear to me after “Journey into Mystery” that the person behind the TVA must be a Loki; it’s the logical extension of what they built up there. My preferred outcome is that Mobius is actually the Son of Loki and Sylvie and he’s been the driving force behind the TVA from the start with the goal of bringing about the circumstances of his own birth. That’s not very likely because it doesn’t fit into the larger MCU narrative and because this is more about alternate realities than time travel. If you haven’t, you should read “By His Bootstraps” and “…All You Zombies” by Robert Heinlein and while you’re at it, watch Predestination. In that order.
But onto the episode.

It’s interesting seeing Loki and Sylvie on the cusp of realizing their goals become hesitant before they enter the suspiciously gothic castle.


The two statues we see as they enter are reminiscent of Sylvie when we first saw her. Their faces are clocks which is a cool juxtaposition.

Miss Minutes is clearly Satan.

Actually, to borrow a line from The West Wing, Miss Minutes is the guy who runs into the 7-11 to get Satan a pack of cigarettes.

“He who Remains.” Hurm. Could still be a Loki I suppose. So far, pretty cagey. Nice office though. Very Sanctum Sanctorum.

B-15’s scene in 2018 is a nice development, showing the other Hunters Ravonna’s pre-variant self, a high school principal(?) in Ohio. The diploma on the wall says “Rebecca Tourminet.” That’s an alias that the comic book Ravonna used when she was hiding in 1905 in the “Terminatrix Objective.” Checking the source material those do not look good. It was in the middle of the Cross-Time Kang storyline which I remember being tedious. This is a still stronger reference to Kang the Conqueror though.

Avengers: The Terminatrix Objective (1993). Own ‘em. Probably read ‘em. No memories whatsoever.

“I already know what’s going to happen” is a standard time-travel trope. Here it’s a pale reflection of Doctor Who’s “Blink.

He Who Remains is Kang, (really Immortus as he appears here). It was always the most obvious answer but that doesn’t mean it will be bad. Here he’s laying out the Cross-Time Kang storyline; I hope they can do that better. That story led to the Council of Reeds which I thought was pretentious but THAT led to the Council of Ricks which is great.

Quick aside: I’ve mentioned Hiddleston and Wilson before but Sophia Di Martino and Jonathan Majors and a bunch of others are terrific. This is a strong cast from top to bottom.

“Why would you give up being in control?” is a very Loki question. Sylvie wouldn’t ask that which is part of the reason they could work as a team.

Shades of Doctor Manhattan. “The threshold” is crossed and the time master no longer knows what will happen. That must be a standard part of that trope but I can’t think of another example, although Asimov’s “The Dead Past” has a similar device in the other temporal direction. Never mind. “By His Bootstraps” again. Right there at the end but in a much more organic way.

A “bazillion boogymen” sounds much better in a British accent.

Sylvie and Loki’s debate is authoritarianism vs. anarchy again. Until it isn’t.

I kind of love that Kang thinks this is all funny even to his death.

Tom Hiddleston is a good actor even when he’s just sitting there.

That’s a chilling moment at the end when Mobius doesn’t remember Loki and then worse when we see the fiction of the Time Keepers replaced with a version of He Who Remains looking much more Kang-Like than Immortus.

And Loki’s made the switch from being a budding authoritarian to being a revolutionary. Season 1’s Sylvie may foreshadow season 2’s Loki. Assuming that all this isn’t resolved in Doctor Strange: The Multiverse of Madness.

This is a great end to an excellent season.

Episode:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Season:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Previous Episode:

My Voyager Rewatch: S1E01

S4E01 – Scorpion pt. 2

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Since I started tweeting these in the middle of season 4, I decided to go back and fill in, working my way outward to S1 and S7. A lot of the previous episodes were on as background noise; this gives me an excuse for a closer watch.

At the start of the episode Janeway has made an alliance with the Borg. I’m sure this is one of the things that will figure prominently in her trial when she’s charged with war crimes. Working with the Borg is dumb and using Borg nano-probes medically is playing with fire.

A lot of stuff doesn’t make sense, like Species 8472 trying to speak through Kes, but having nothing to say. The Borg aren’t quite acting like Borg and everyone seems vaguely out of character. It’s clear this is a contrivance to get Seven of Nine into the show. That at least is well done

From the start Seven is distinctly more human than a regular Borg. It’s curious that Janeway recognizes her as human (how?). The build-up works and Seven’s isolation from the collective in fluidic space nicely foreshadows the resolution. The story ends as it inevitably had to and isn’t too silly.

So, overall this episode is pretty good despite its flaws. Species 8472 appears to be a malevolent new presence and Jeri Ryan as a new cast member shows a lot of gravitas. We can hope interesting things are forthcoming.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

#StarTrek #StarTrekVoyager

Watching Loki S1E5: Journey into Mystery

Spoiler Alert!

Nice title. “Journey into Mystery” was Thor’s original comic; that’s especially nice with Richard E. Grant playing Classic Loki.

Ravonna is a skilled liar.

I love that the Alligator with the horns is also a Loki. I approve of making things just a little more surreal.

Also, I had been hoping that the guy with the hammer was a Thor but he’s a Loki too. I’m now convinced that Sylvie really is a Loki herself.

I guess that the Thanos Copter is the big Easter egg that everybody was excited about. Yawn. But we do get a glimpse of Mjolnir and Frog Thor. Better.

Sylvie’s self-pruning is a gutsy move; trusting Ravonna even in that was risky.

Classic Loki’s story involves being captured by the TVA and “pruned” after ending a self-imposed exile. God of Outcasts. But he inspires Main Loki to confront Alioth.

We get Sylvie in the void. And a better look at Alioth. I hope it’s Mobius in that car. And it is. Nice.

I’m pretty sure Alligator Loki is the best character. Classic Loki’s reflections are interesting. “We’re broken. Every version of us.”

Sylvie and Loki have some synergy themselves. They both independently decide to confront Alioth.

I had to look this up but the Eldridge is the ship from the Philadelphia Experiment. Real ship, probably fake experiment though.

Sylvie keeps getting better as a character.

Nice exchange between Classic Loki, Kid Loki, and Mobius. “It’s never too late to change.” That’s a nice setup for the Loki and Sylvie conversation.

The battle with Alioth is a good action sequence and Classic Loki gets his moment in the sun turning the tide. Recreating Asgard is a big distraction and visually stunning. And the music, strongly evocative of Wagner’s The Ride of the Valkyries is a nice touch. “I think we’re stronger than we realize.”

Classic Loki brings himself full circle, ending another exile by sacrificing himself. A pivotal character.

Everything is tinged green befitting the Lokis’ victory over Alioth and we see the episode title wasn’t just a nice nostalgic reference. Loki and Sylvie get to travel beyond the void to confront whoever is behind the TVA. The Journey into Mystery continues.

We’re perfectly set up for the finale.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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