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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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

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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.

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

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E15

S4E15 “Hunters.”

Voyager is stealing cable to talk to Starfleet in the alpha quadrant and the Hirogen don’t like it. I wanted to see more of the Hirogen, but the face painting thing is too cliché for me.

It’s weird to see the crew have hope. I predict the writers will use this for some cheap pathos.

Meanwhile, Pro Tip: Don’t want to hire an extra to play a corpse? Throw an empty costume on a biobed and claim there’s been a “complete osteotomy.” That’s technobabble for “This alien has been fileted.”

So, yeah. Letters from home. We get cheap pathos in spades; some of it’s organic, like news about the Maquis, but a lot, like Harry whining about not getting a letter, is just annoying. And Neelix hovering over everyone as they read their letters… Ugh. Très creepy. You’d think there’d be a better way to deliver e-mail in the 24th Century.

And I’ve lost interest in the Hirogen; they’re a completely forgettable morass of hunting clichés and despite having warp drive, they’re idiots. Maybe it gets better, but for now, they rank with the early Ferengi, utterly one-dimensional. At least they aren’t the Kazon.

It was fun watching Janeway be a complete and total badass, but that didn’t make up for the rest of the episode.

This one did not work for me.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Foundational Readings

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If you’re following our podcast Episode 6 dropped on Wednesday and in it, we discuss “The General” from Foundation and Empire. If you’re reading along you can find the book in all sorts of places. I’m sure that Apple and/or the publishing company have made sure that it’s available in all sorts of places and there is of course your public library or Archive.org.

The Empire was the theoretical obstacle to the growth of the Foundation in the first book. In “The General” we meet Bel Riose a general loyal to the Empire who will be the first to oppose the Foundation directly. What will this mean for Seldon’s Plan? You’ll have to read it and then listen to our podcast to find out.

And if you’re looking for a more nostalgic or, dare we say interestingly atavistic (to borrow Emperor Cleon’s description of Bel Riose) way to read “the General” we can again turn to Archive.org.

This story appeared for the first time under the title “Dead Hand” in the April 1945 issue of John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction. The cover proclaims “A Foundation Story by Isaac Asimov!” Evidently, the series has developed a following as well as the Author.

The story as it appears it’s very similar to the book’s version. Mostly the text is word-for-word the same, but there are some differences. The Encyclopedia Galactica entry, seemingly obligatory in the books is absent. In its place, we get this preview.

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The Foundation had always been weak — but heretofore the sharp wits of it’s leaders had protected it. But this time — Foundation’s leaders were stupid men , and a clever general, under a strong Emperor teas attacking.

As well as this abbreviated prologue.

Four centuries of internal wrenchings subsided into another faint interval of quiet and order, that was half-exhausting, and for twenty-five years under Cleon II the Galactic Empire experienced the milky feeble gleam of a last Indian Summer.

The other big difference is the internal artwork, four nice images by Paul Orban who seems to be settling in as the Foundation series illustrator.

The presentations of the image have evolved here. The opening drawing depicts the most exciting moment in the story rather than something that happens towards the beginning. In previous installments, the illustrations are square or nearly so. Here the second and third images are “L” shaped; strategically placing some white space allows for larger images without sacrificing space for the story. The final image is tall and narrow, taking up an entire column on one page. It seems that Campbell is allowing Orban more freedom to change up his layouts to good effect.

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

References:

If you haven’t already, this is a perfect time to check out our podcast.

Stars End Episode 6

Orginally published at <StarsEndPodcast.Wordpress.com>.

Episode 6: “A Podcast is a Good Weapon but It Can Point Both Ways” is now available! This week, Dan starts his tenure as quiz master, Joseph learns what wasn’t covered in his Shakespeare class (way back in 1988) and as always Jon tries to keep us all on track.

We also have breaking news! So breaking that we had to add an addendum in post production! That means Monday.

And of course, we start discussing “The General,” the first section of Foundation and Empire. This one is almost like Asimov himself was replying to our discussions of the “Great Man” theory of history vs. the “Bottom Up Theory.” Join us!

Visit our site for the Stars End Podcast!

Foundational Readings

The internet has since its inception been a remarkable tool for gathering and sharing information. Lately it’s been both better and worse than it used to be and one of the reasons that it’s both is Archive.org.

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It’s a literal treasure trove of information. Think of it as an internet library. If you’re looking for something, especially something out of print, there’s a good chance that it’s there, scanned and ready to be checked out. Archive.org was especially gracious during the lockdown. In May 2020, when I taught Science Fiction, all the novels we covered as well as most of the short stories were available there for my students to use free of charge. It was a huge help.

So, why better and worse? Well, having access to “a literal treasure trove of information” has a bit of a downside. When I’m researching something like, for example, Asimov Trivia there are things to find that I’ve never even heard of and didn’t know I needed. Sometimes this is helpful, like when I discovered Isaac Asimov Presents: SuperQuiz (See Episode 5). Other times it’s not; I take a long and winding road that doesn’t lead anywhere. Next thing I know I’m 6 books over and barely even aware of where I started or what I was doing. That’s fun, but it’s not productive unless serendipity lends a hand. No kidding. Paragraph two got put on hold while I looked up something random.

Suffice it to say that Archive.org is, well, astounding. But “What does this have to do with Foundation?” you might be wondering. If you’re following Stars End: A Foundation Podcast or even if you’re merely looking forward to the forthcoming Apple TV+ series you might be wanting to reread the books. They’re all there for sure.

But what I’m really excited about is that Archive.org has many issues of John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction. That’s the seminal SF pulp that defined the genre. There we find the original Foundation stories 8 years before they were collected into book form. This is the DNA of the Foundation series. As the story was developing, while Asimov was figuring out how psychohistory works, we can see this universe evolve in Astounding. And as an added bonus, we can read the stories with their original artwork, enjoying them as few have been able for almost eight decades. So here are the pieces of Foundation as they appeared in Astounding Science Fiction. Not too different. With his prodigious output, Asimov was known for writing rather than rewriting but I’ll note the changes that I noticed.

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Foundation isn’t actually a novel, it’s what is known as a “fix-up,” a collection of short stories linked together with a framing sequence. “The Psychohistorians” is that framing sequence and is the only part of Foundation that was original to the book. It introduces Hari Seldon and sets up the universe replacing a much shorter introduction that ran as part of the next story.

The Encyclopedists” originally ran in the May 1942 issue of Astounding under the title “Foundation.” Other than the short introduction that was supplanted by “The Psychohistorians” it’s largely the same as the version from the book.

There are two lovely illustrations by Manuel Islp and the issue also features “Asylum” by A. E. Van Vogt and “Beyond this Horizon” by Robert Heinlein writing as Anson MacDonald.

Here’s the entire issue Astounding Science Fiction, May 1942.

The story continues just a month later as “The Mayors” was published under the title “Bridle and Saddle.”

John W. Campbell showed a lot of enthusiasm for this story. Taking up half of the previous issue’s coming attractions, it was the lead story for the month, it was featured on the cover and was graced with 4 (Count ’em! 4!) lovely illustrations by Charles Schneeman. You can click on any image in the gallery for a better look.

For a science fiction adventure story the art work sure shows a lot of people sitting in chairs.

The issue also includes “My Name is Legion” by Lester Del Rey, “Proof” by Hal Clement and “The Slaver” by L. Ron Hubbard who actually wrote some Science Fiction before branching out into… let’s call it other areas.

Astounding Science Fiction, June 1942.


The Traders,” the shortest section of Foundation was published as “The Wedge” in Astounding’s October 1944 issue with little or no fanfare. This story has the most significant difference between the magazine and book versions. Here the main character is named Lathan Devers rather than Limmar Ponyets as it is in Foundation. The story has three illustrations by Frank Kramer.

Astounding Science Fiction, October 1944

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“The Big and the Little” appeared in the August 1944 Issue of Astounding and once again it’s very similar to “The Merchant Princes.” There’s a difference that’s noticeable immediately though, rather than opening with a quote from the Encyclopedia Galactica, it begins with a different quote that prefigures the names of the sections of Foundation.

“Three Dynasties molded the Beginning: the Encyclopedists, the Mayors, and the Traders…”

Ligurn Vier, ‘Essays on History’

We never really see the traders as a formal dynasty leading the Foundation but perhaps we can infer one; in this story, we meet the third major figure in Foundation History after Hari Seldon and Salvor Hardin the first of the Merchant Princes, Hober Mallow.

Like “Bridal and Saddle,” “The Big and the Little” is both the lead and cover story for this issue. It is illustrated with six pictures rendered by Paul Orban.

Astounding Science Fiction, August 1944

We’ll be back soon with the stories from Foundation and Empire. Meanwhile, I’m inspired to work on a project that uses Archive.org.

References:

If you haven’t already, this is a perfect time to check out our podcast.

My Voyager Rewatch: S4E14

S4E14 Message in a Bottle

The Doctor’s alpha quadrant adventure is pure cheesy fun! Andy Dick works well as an even haughtier Emergency Medical Hologram Mark 2. It’s a joy watching them play off of each other.

Auto correct tried to give me “Andy Duck.” I’d watch that too.

I could have done without the Paris and Kim side plot. In 2021 it seems silly that something as important as the EMH program doesn’t have a backup.

Voyager 4x14 Message in a Bottle - Idrin is shocked by ...

I would have preferred more of the Hirogen subplot. I don’t remember anything about them and they seem interesting.

But at least we’re finally moved the big “voyage home” story forward. From now on it’s less Star Trek: Gilligan’s Island and more Doctor Who: Blink sans the Weeping Angels of course. An above average episode.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

#StarTrek #StarTrekVoyager

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