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- Sun, Aug 30, 2015, 9:05am (USA Central)
Helo: "She [Athena] won't betray us. She says she can resist [Cylons torturing her to extract intel]; she wouldn't let it happen. She'll get Hera and she'll come back."
Roslin:"That's quite a leap of faith you've made there, Captain. And if it involved your family only, I'd say t was brave. But you've put the entire Fleet in jeopardy. Are you aware of that?"
My irony meter just blew up. Is that the same Roslin who nary but a few episodes ago usurped the Fleet's scarce and sorely-needed resources at a crucial time to pursue some cockamamie facocta religious hallucination of hers?
Can this creature GET any more "antipatica"?!?
- Sun, Aug 30, 2015, 6:55am (USA Central)
The notion of a vapiric muses is not new. See the Celtic Leanan Sidhe for example.
- Sun, Aug 30, 2015, 6:47am (USA Central)
This is, by far, one of the best episodes of Enterprise.
It is also, by far, one of the best Borg episodes. The Borg here are even more terrifying than in Q Who and as frightening as in First Contact.
This episode says a lot about the Trek fandom. Those who like Enterprise will see this as one if the cleverest, most intimidating episodes ever, easily on a par with DS9's finest hours. It provides a clever tie-in to TNG.
Those who don't like Enterprise will whine about a broken timeline, ignoring the fact that the Borg timeline is already a total mess (7 of 9's parents were evidently looking for them before Picard encountered them) - the Federation was clearly aware of the Borg before TNG started.
The only issues - and I mean the ONLY issues - I've got with Regeneration are that Reed manages to batter his way through the Borg ship's crew without too much trouble and Phlox irradiating himself shows there's a cure for assimilation that nobody else in the galaxy will think of 200 years later.
The music, action, writing and directing are utterly first class. The music is beyond the atonal shash Berman decreed Trek episodes must use (just one of the many ways he prevented Trek from being truly competitive against cooler, more modern Sci fi in terms of popular appeal.
Only the extras who appear at the beginning are wooden and lifeless. Again, this is Berman's ridiculous decree that no humans must ever show emotion -- because showing emotion might give Trek a wider appeal and make its human characters more interesting and more relevant to modern audiences.
- Sun, Aug 30, 2015, 6:19am (USA Central)
Awful. Reminds me of an extremely bad Season One Next Gen episode.
- Sun, Aug 30, 2015, 4:35am (USA Central)
Cause and Effect
WyldRykers, during the meeting, they weren't 100% sure that Data was the cause of all of the 3's. All they knew was there were a bunch of unexplained 3's, and that there was some modulation in Data's subprocessors. They did guess that the number 3 was a message from themselves, but they didn't know how the message was actually received from the previous loop.
Separate question: In this episode, the Enterprise explodes 4 times - teaser, act 1, 2, 4. At the end of act 2, the explosion is different than the other 3 explosions. In the other 3 explosions, the Enterprise turns and then explodes. But in act 2, the Enterprise flies straight forward into the explosion. Anyone know why that explosion is different?
- Sun, Aug 30, 2015, 1:05am (USA Central)
Second Season Recap
Why did I watch the Season Four of Andromeda, you may ask?
Because of the sunk-cost fallacy, mostly. Given the time I’ve spent on this show, I may as well finish it (I tell myself). I am still mildly invested in seeing in where all of this is going, even if my instincts have been telling me to jump ship for quite some time.
Because no matter how deeply I search, almost no critical feedback whatsoever exists about Seasons 3-5 of Andromeda, and I’d like to at least collect some comprehensive thoughts for anybody considering continuing to watch after Season 2.
It took me almost a year to do this, because it’s rare that I’m in the mood to watch something that is almost guaranteed to be bad. Occasionally, late at night, I’d be half-drunk and/or unable to go to sleep, and I’d think to myself “How about I watch another of those Andromeda episodes?” And here are the results.
Season 4 felt like the product of a lot more effort than Season 3, but it was worse. Season 3 gave up on continuity, whereas Season 4 was driven by several season-long arcs. The problem was that the execution, no doubt the result of rushed shooting schedules and budgetary limitations, prevented any of these stories from developing into anything meaningful or impactful. Season 4 felt like what it probably is: the product of a bunch of overworked, underpaid employees glad to have a job, even if that job is to churn out enough inevitably bad episodes for the show to reach syndication. The fact that the writers even tried to tell (somewhat) complicated stories in this context is admirable. But, as with Season 3, the episode-by-episode quality is so low that criticizing it just feels like picking on a mentally handicapped person. Watching the late seasons of Andromeda makes me value good shows far more than I did before, and it helps me understand why so many people enjoyed making fun of the awful later seasons of a high-budgeted show like Dexter that at least could have (or should have) been good. With the studio pressures and budgetary limitations facing the Andromeda crew, there’s just no way this season could have been decent. At least that’s what I’d like to think.
Still, there were some positive qualities. Although his character (like all others) stopped developing long ago, Gordon Michael Woolvett at least brings a lot of energy and commitment to his performances. When Harper is on-screen, I can at least feel like I’m watching an actual character in the actual Andromeda universe. There were a couple decent episodes (described below) and a general sense of dread brought about by the approaching Magog threat. I also found myself laughing a lot at the unintentionally hilarious dialogue, which is a good quality at least in some sense.
But the episodes continue to be overwhelmingly Dylan-centric, and Sorbo’s acting is barely passable. He seems bored with the material, with only the finale bringing out a multifaceted performance. The rest of the cast (aside from Woolvett) isn’t much better. The guy playing Rhade (who joins the main cast, as the genetic reincarnation from Season 2’s “Home Fires”), in particular, seems to have a difficult time delivering his lines and ends up being a very poor replacement for Tyr. Beka and Rommie get to be the focus of one episode each, but outside of that they continue to be annoying and underdeveloped, usually acting as a interchangeable cyphers. Trance says her usual pseudo-profound lines but never gets to do anything important until the finale. Dylan saves the day and flirts with the attractive young female guest star of the week. The villains within the New Commonwealth, the Collectors, are united mostly by their bad acting. None of the characters show any consistent growth or development.
The episodes lean excessively on unnecessary flashbacks, which usually are only tangentially to what’s occurring on-screen. Reaction shots often don’t quite match the actions preceding them. The same musical cues occur again and again. The evil-looking characters who are nice at the beginning of the episode end up as the antagonist. Something like three episodes in a row feature a character’s voice dropping several octaves as soon as they are revealed as villains. And so on.
I know that the later seasons of this show actually have fans, but I don’t know why. Is there a point in my continuing to review a show that so long ago became unwatchable? You decide.
1. Abridging the Devil's Divide
By far the best episode of the season, despite opening with the entire show’s worst line of dialogue (“Insulting a Nietzschean is unhealthy for a human’s health,” mumbled by Rhade). Michael Ironside (reprising his role from last season as a resurrected Old Commonwealth general) is a terrific villain. He breathes life into material that could have easily come across as stock and stale. The story has a proper sense of mystery, buildup and slow reveal, leading to a devilishly morbid plot twist at the end. Harper betrays Dylan to support in the name of scientific discovery, which is about the most interesting character moment all season. A lot of the action is burdened by typically atrocious editing and derring-do dialogue, but some of it’s actually entertaining and effective. About as good as a standalone episode of post-Wolfe Andromeda is capable of being. (8/10)
2. The Dissonant Interval: Part Two
According to the review by SF Debris, this episode was conceived as a possible finale to the show. That’s kind of hilarious to think about, as it would just be a giant middle finger to all the fans and to Dylan Hunt’s entire journey. But that’s kind of fitting, too, considering what the show became. Visually, this episode is definitely impressive by late-Andromeda’s standards, and there’s a lot going on in terms of character and plot development, including the only genuinely interesting conversations all season about Dylan’s quest and the consequences it’s had for his crew. Still, it could have been a lot better, and there’s no more obnoxious way to end an already excessively Dylan-centric season on a Dylan-centric show than with Sorbo stumbling upon a godlike image of himself. I’ll call it “good”, though. (7/10)
3. Soon the Nearing Vortex
The first in a two-parter for which Keith Hamilton Cobb returned to conclude Tyr’s storyline. I admire that the writers went all-in with making Tyr a complete antagonist in this story instead of giving him a carny last-minute redemption. Everything he does feels true to his character, especially his scenes with Beka. The episode is a continuity goldmine, too, for anyone paying attention, with a story touching on Tarazed, Tyr himself, the Abyss, the Rhade clone from “Home Fires” and the Route of Ages. The mystical elements are campy and insufferable, though, burdening an otherwise solid character episode. (7/10)
4. The World Turns All Around Her
The conclusion to Tyr’s storyline, cleverly worked into the first real appearance of the Spirit of the Abyss in quite a while. The reveal that Beka is only a pawn in Tyr’s scheme is wonderfully in-character. The episode has some smart visual ideas, and there’s definitely something poetic about Tyr’s attempt to strike a bargain with the devil only to find that evil is uncompromising and uncontrollable. Still, the episode is poorly executed, with a crucial death scene never even addressed by the characters in its aftermath. And after all the buildup, the climax takes place in (drum role please)…the recurring cave set. In theory , the ideas here are quite strong, but in practice, the filmmaking is so clunky that I can’t fully recommend it - which is a generous way of describing Season 4 as a whole. (6/10)
An adventure episode filmed mostly outdoors, which made for a fun variation to the usual cramped soundstages/cave sets. Harper got a lot to do and the action is better directed and more entertaining than in a typical Andromeda episode, though still quite cheesy. (6/10)
6. The Dissonant Interval: Part One
There’s an actual story here, with ideas, themes and everything. The execution is lackluster, but there’s enough going on to make it stand out a bit. The storyline reminds me of “The Mission”. There’s a lot of untapped potential, but the concept at least presents an intriguing ethical dilemma (should Andromeda attempt to defend a colony of pacifists willing to die for their beliefs) with symbolic overtones. (6/10)
7. The Torment, the Release
The Collectors (New Commonwealth officials controlled by the Spirit of the Abyss) interrogate Dylan and accuse him of treason. It’s the entire season in a nutshell: an excessive use of flashbacks (are we supposed to believe that the Commonwealth officials have hidden cameras all over the place in a way that matches footage from older episodes?) mixed with noble attempts at building a long-term story off of old continuity that fall flat due to abysmal execution. I’ll give this a 5/10 for effort, but it’s honestly pretty bad. (5/10) Pulitzer-worthy the dialogue of the week:
Collector to Hunt: “Do you care to make an opening statement?” Hunt: “Yeah, I think you’re an idiot.”
Beka to Collector: “You’ve got to know about jokes. You are one.”
8. Machinery of the Mind
The New Commonwealth holds a conference about preparing for the Magog invasion, which provides plenty of opportunities to reuse footage from earlier episodes. Sharon/Number 8 from Battlestar Galactica shows up. Harper’s Magog eggs somehow made it through the most-Wolfe script simplification filter. Meanwhile, Dylan gets pushed towards evil by agents of the Collects by proposals as tantalizing as “We offer riches and power, Captain”. Shockingly, he turns them down. (4/10)
9. The Warmth of an Invisible Light
An alternate reality episode that needs a much higher budget to capture the scope of the universe where it takes place - instead, the episode plays like the regular cast trying out different power dynamics as part of an acting exercise than a legitimate look at another existence. Still, it’s fun seeing Woolvett as an evil genius and there’s some nice foreshadowing for the season finale when Trance offers to go supernova to sacrifice herself to save everyone else. Not good, but not bad for a Season 4 Andromeda episode. (4/10)
10. Double or Nothingness
Dylan is forced into an incredibly unconvincing virtual reality game run by two awful guest actors. Sorbo fights a clone of himself, which actually kind of results in him losing a fight for the first time in the show. Yawn. (4/10)
11. A Symmetry of Imperfection
The show delivers on the promise of an impending Magog invasion that’s been around since the first season finale, with an advance force arriving and facing off against the Andromeda. The action is all pretty forgettable, but the context is at least interesting. (4/10)
12. The Others
A bad TNG story pretty much on autopilot, as the Andromeda tries to reconcile two warring cultures. Dee from Battlestar Galactica plays the leader of one of the sides. (3/10)
13. Fear Burns Down to Ashes
Rev Bem returns with a changed costume style, which is in turn applied all the Magog. Having Rev Bem initially ambush Dylan provided some nice shock value, but the dialogue in their many scenes together was lacking. Some noble ideas here, but it’s too cheesy overall. (3/10)
14. Time Out of Mind
I honestly wasn’t able to focus on this episode. We get to see our lovely cast playing alternative versions of themselves, agents of the Abyss assassinate someone, and a brief nod to “Double or Nothingness” from earlier in the season that’s kind of clever. Still, it’s pretty dumb. (3/10)
15. Lost in a Space That Isn't There
Beka’s only lead episode, dealing with the aftereffects of the Abyss taking over her body earlier in the season. Tons of unnecessary flashbacks ensue, all leading up to a physical fight within Beka’s subconscious against Dylan. (2/10)
16. The Spider's Stratagem
Bad costumes. Rhade stumbles over his lines even more than usual. Dylan literally rescues a princess from a tower in a swashbuckling Rapunzel story. Yuck. (2/10)
17. Trusting the Gordian Maze
An entire episode of characters walking slowly so that they won’t run out of set. Powerful stuff. (2/10)
18. Answers Given to Questions Never Asked
The disappointing follow-up to the superb Season 3 cliffhanger. The first third of the episode, showing the cast debating how to address the destruction of most of the Commonwealth fleet in the previous finale, is fine. But it only takes 25 minutes into the PREMIERE episode for the recurring cave set to show up, where an endless and laughably ineptly filmed showdown takes place between Dylan and a cranky old guy. Like the Enterprise finale, it cuts away right before a crucial speech that would have actually been interesting to see. (2/10)
19. Pieces of Eight
Andromeda gets retro-fitted by “Citizen Eight”, who gives the most grating acting performance so far in the show. The special effects are terrible, although at least they’re unique to the episode. (1/10)
20. Conduit to Destiny
An Incredibly evil looking prison warden asks for the Andromeda’s help in containing a riot and catching a young attractive female escapee. You’ll never guess what happens next. What’s the only thing more fun than Andromeda kung fu fights? Kung fu fights in Andromeda’s cave set, of course. The line “I guess you could say that our work here is done.” is a actually said unironically in this episode’s conclusion. Dylan discovers that he is “The Conduit”, which I guess makes up the lack of a gratuitous Dylan sex/makeout scene this week. (1/10)
21. Exalted Reason, Resplendent Daughter
Yes, that’s the actual name of the episode. A creepy old guy asks Dylan for help catching a dangerous criminal who happens to be a young attractive woman blah blah. I can’t say any more, as I don’t want to spoil any of the twists and turns of this episode’s intricate and unpredictable mystery. (1/10)
22. Waking the Tyrant's Device
Everything you love about Andromeda, all wrapped into a single episode! I laughed more at this episode than any other. The villain pronounces “I am Kroton” and “With the help of the Magog, I will lead a revolt of androids and the Commonwealth will fall.” Dylan retorts “Not on my watch” before diving into the air and setting off several spark-squibs with his laser gun. Later, Kroton declares “I am not finished with you, Captain Hunt”, to which Dylan responds ““Well that’s too bad, cause I’m finished with you!” before making out with the young guest star of the week. Great stuff. This episode makes “Dance of the Mayflies” look masterful. (1/10)
I honestly have no idea if I’ll ever watch Season 5. I may just skim through it and give general impressions.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 11:31pm (USA Central)
Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy
This episode was fantastic! Brilliantly written, acted, and directed, to as Jammer said give us a rare comedic gem you don't often find in the Star Trek universe. That wink that Seven gives Doc had me busting a gut, it was so subtle yet so damn funny since it's out of character for Seven. Love how at the end she kisses him on the cheek that qualifies it by saying "that was strictly platonic"... Great stuff, a 4-star episode for me.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 7:47pm (USA Central)
The Inner Light
Ah, okay, I just realized one flaw in my first paragraph -- the family (sans Eline and Batai Sr.) were going to "the launching" excitedly and so presumably knew what was being launched. So, okay, that part of my argument is not so solid -- Kamin's family, within the probe's simulated universe, presumably approved of the probe. But the way in which Kamin's family are "good people" is personal, local -- rather than on a larger scale of the Kataan civilization. I think the episode encourages a rosy picture of Kamin's-family-as-community rather than Kataanians-as-probe-makers, is my point.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 7:40pm (USA Central)
The Inner Light
I'm not so sure that we are expected to think the Kataanian probe-makers are unquestionably good guys. Despite Eline being the voice of the probe's purpose at the end of the simulation, Eline, Meribor, Batai etc. seemingly had no involvement in the probe's construction, and so the parts of Kataan that Picard-as-Kamin comes to love are not necessarily the same part of the civilization that decided on the probe itself. The guy who says that they do have a plan is the commissioner fellow that Kamin has a somewhat chilly, distant relationship with. The Enterprise crew spend their whole time trying to stop what the probe is doing and just disagree on how. Riker gives Picard information at the end, but does not comment on it. Picard is *not* objective, but even he does not state that he approves of the probe. Picard-as-Kamin states that he understands, Eline et al. explain the probe's purpose, and that ends. There is no dialogue where Riker states that he now understands of the probe's purpose and that he approves of it, and is sorry for having tried to stop it. There is no dialogue where Picard explains to Riker the probe's meaning and its importance and why that justifies what it did to him. The crew's suspicion of the probe is never repudiated by their changing their behaviour, and Picard makes no steps to comment on it to the crew on screen. TNG's talkiness is sometimes overstated, but most episodes end with some sort of debrief where the position of the episode's protagonist and perhaps opposing opinions are reiterated. It is not that I think that the episode is presenting arguments *against* the Kataan probe. There are ways the episode argues in favour of it indirectly -- by having Picard-as-Kamin insist on the need for some way to save the civilization, for example, and of course by the fact that Picard *does* feel an attachment to Kataan and Ressik via the flute. But I don't take his emotional reaction purely as *approval* or as some statement on the goodness of the probe manufacturers.
Rather, I think Picard is humbled, dazed and moved by what has happened to him and has not the emotional context to evaluate the actions of a whole civilization which was dying -- nor does he feel the need to. Maybe that would come eventually, and I have no doubt that Picard has had something happen to him that is bigger than his ability to handle -- which means that the Stockholm Syndrome experience of loving his tormentors is a possible interpretation. But this strikes me as a particularly non-didactic episode of this show. This is how a planet responds to its destruction; this is what happens to Picard; this is how he feels. Responses to this obviously vary. The episode may manipulate in terms of getting the audience to *feel* what Picard feels, but that is distinct from a moral approval of the planet's last message into the darkness, which is left almost entirely unexamined, neither approved nor condemned but simply let to be as an imaginative experiment. Whether the lack of debate over the justness of what the Kataan probe does is a serious flaw in this episode or the result of this episode's focus being understandably elsewhere is a point about which people can disagree, though I am pretty firmly in the camp that the episode's focus being elsewhere is very much justified.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 3:49pm (USA Central)
The Man Trap
"He's dead, Jim."
Classic line, first reel before the first commercial of the first episode. Other than that... :-D
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 2:29pm (USA Central)
The Inner Light
Good point. I'll admit that I forgot about those people who die in "Q Who?". Given the choice between death and a lifetime forced on you, I'd gladly chose the lifetime of experience. Still, Q wasn't directly responsible for those deaths. Indirectly, he was absolutely responsible. But he, himself, didn't pull the trigger, so to speak; the Borg did. All he did was set the stage. To hold him accountable, we'd also have to hold Picard accountable since he also helped set the stage by refusing to follow Guinan's advice of "get out of Dodge as quickly as possible." In fact, to be honest, we don't even know what exactly happened to those people. They could be dead or they could have been assimilated; we just don't know. The episode itself, if I'm remembering correctly, only says they are "missing." And, I don't think that "Q Who?" expects the audience to think that Q is unquestionably the good guy like we're expected to think the Kataanians are. He's not presented as clearly a bad guy but not as clearly the good guy either.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 1:39pm (USA Central)
The Inner Light
I mean, Tapestry maybe, but eighteen people die in Q Who. Maybe a quick death is preferable to a lifetime positive experience, but I very much don't personally think that's true in this case.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 1:21pm (USA Central)
The Inner Light
"The probe would be less ethically dubious if it got his permission..."
You know, that's something I never considered but now that I think about it, it would have eliminated so many of the problems I have with the episode. If the writers had re-worked the script so that Picard agreed to it instead of having it forced on him, I would find the story much more moving. Instead of having the probe simply lock onto whoever it encounters, it instead comes with an automated greeting - something along the lines of "we offer you a chance to experience our world as it was, come aboard our probe for further instructions if you're interested." Picard then decides that any archaeologist worth his salt would never refuse such an opportunity and so beams over with Crusher (to monitor him during the "procedure") and Worf (for possible protection).
That would solve the problem of the mind-rape. It could also solve the problem I have with the coda. Instead of Picard's playing of the flute being disturbing (or bittersweet as the show-runners intended) it's now something more triumphant and I could buy his deep connection to it since it wouldn't be burdened by the bad subtext. Also, a simple line toward the end about it being possible for others to now experience the same "procedure" would solve the problem of "all your eggs in one basket." There would still be the problem of the over-the-top schmaltz. But, it would be a drastic improvement none-the-less because I do agree that the Kataanians do have something worthwhile to impart - it's just the method of delivery that really kills it for me.
I don't think you're comparison with Q in "Q Who?" and "Tapestry" quite works, however. Q indeed forced some experiences on them in "Q Who?" but he didn't make them live entire lives as Borg drones. And in "Tapestry," he didn't force Picard to live another life with his new altered past. Q was trying to teach a lesson in both instances, just like the Kataanians are trying to do, but his methods don't strike me as quite as morally reprehensible as theirs do.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:57am (USA Central)
I think this is the first episode where you really see the crew coming together. It had been in development for some time, with Bashir-Miles's friendship and Odo repudiating the Changelings in The Search Part 2. Now you see they have really developed into a team reminiscent of TNG.
I would have liked to have seen more of the Trill homeworld but that is only a minor point.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:53am (USA Central)
I agree in your review about Trek love stories. This is not a good episode. It reminds me of a lot of flimsy TNG mid-season Troi episodes: ''Troi falls in love with a member of an alien specie. It does not work because he devotes himself to his life's work (the sub plot) or dies or something or other. There is a Crusher love story involving a Trill which also is similar.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:48am (USA Central)
Good episode. There is an episode in TNG which this is a virtual remake of, 'Suddenly Human' (S4) with the exception that here the Jem Hader is a Jem Hader whereas in Suddenly Human it is a human boy who has been brought up as a member of an obscure hostile alien race. It is the same premise, an (ultimately doomed) attempt to teach someone inherently hostile (because of their upbringing) the merits of peace, civility, humour, etc, - there is even a scene in which they try to make him laugh in both episodes. The ending is a bit different though.
There is more than a bit of I, Borg also thrown into The Abandoned.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:39am (USA Central)
Voyager looks so small compared to the people standing on it. I don't think it's big enough.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:37am (USA Central)
The House of Quark
It is a nice comic interlude episode, what I call a typical Trek 'coasting' episode where there is a bit of comedy and character development but nothing is that tense or politically charged.
I do wish they would revise that matte of the Klingon home world - is that the only viewpoint?
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:34am (USA Central)
Great episode, even if it does borrow a lot from TNG's 'Face of the Enemy', that one where Troi wakes up and finds herself a Romulan. I suppose in someways both episodes owe a lot to TOS's Enterprise Incident, the whole plastic surgery thing (although there it was intentional).
Good episode though.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:31am (USA Central)
I thought it was an alright episode. Bit too heavy handed on lazy techno babble resolutions. What I did like about it was, it shows how paranoid a state the Cardassians are, as each attempt uncovers another protected layer, finally snaring Dukat. It was quite clever.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:27am (USA Central)
The Search, Part II
I completely agree with your review Jammer. It is as if the writers did not know what to do after the Defiant was captured and Odo met his specie and fell back on lazy plotting. I would also like to add that you see the 'twist' coming really early, as soon as O' Brian and Dax reappear. It is also a typical Trek plot trope, the whole ''Ship in a Bottle'' - false continuity - thing.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:20am (USA Central)
The Inner Light
To be clear, I think the Kataan arrogance is justified in that they DO have something worthwhile to communicate, and Picard ultimately would not trade this experience away. That is not me condoning the decision to launch the probe itself, about which I find myself ambivalent, an ambivalence I think the episode's elegiatic tone absolutely encourages.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 10:04am (USA Central)
The Inner Light
@Luke, I don't hate you for your mixed review of a favourite episode, so rest easy on that score :)
There is more to say, but I tend to view the morality of the Kataan probe on a similar level to the way I view the morality of Q in "Q Who" or "Tapestry" -- under normal circumstances, *AND PERHAPS EVEN IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES*, I would describe what is done here as wrong. However, the message that is communicated is extremely important, and Q/the Kataan people are not themselves Picard-like figures we should necessarily admire.
I very much agree with a point made by Lewikee earlier:
'I rationalize that aspect as the probe doing what life does to everyone of us. We didn't ask to live and yet here we are, whether we like it or not. Then we deal with it as best we can. I think the probe is as unethical as life itself. We all got hit with the "like it or not, live a life" directive. Picard just got hit with it twice.'
It is likely different for theists for whom life is a divine decision, but for me and many others simply *being here* is a fact that we have not had control over. Bringing a person into this world is a guarantee that they will suffer, at some point or another, and the people can hardly be asked permission before they are born. The hope is that their life will ultimately have more joys than sorrows, and that they will exit their lives having been glad they lived it.
O'Brien's lifetime in "Hard Time" was *specifically* designed to torture and break him. Picard's here is something different. And, yes, much of the goal of the Kataan civilization is the stated goal -- to preserve something of their culture, for someone in the future. AND YET -- it also imparts to Picard (and vicariously, the audience) something even greater. What is special about Kataan, for me, is not that they lived, but that they died, and Picard is given a chance to see into a dead civilization, and live through that death and still continue his life. He has seen his whole civilization die, and returns to his own world with fresh eyes. The probe would be less ethically dubious if it got his permission, but the full-immersion is what makes the probe's experience a kind of second life, including death.
I am glad that this episode happened, and thus I am "glad" the probe did what it did to Picard, just as Picard himself is on some level happy that the experience happened, but it is a particular kind of happy, of the kind of someone who nears the end of their life and realizes that they are glad to have lived, but are not sure that they would have chosen to do so. That the Kataan people have no *right* is plain, but then I rather think that of all parents. The "arrogance" of the Kataan people is that they have something to share with their probe, and on the balance I would say that this is justified; they are not imposing torture but the experience of what it is like for an individual lifetime and for a civilization to meet its end. It is an incredible gift, one which is also painful and unwanted.
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 9:02am (USA Central)
The Inner Light
****Disclaimer - I honestly thought about not posting this review and have spent several days now debating with myself whether or not to do so. I thought about just skipping it outright or simply posting my score and hoping it would slip by unnoticed because I'm probably go to stir up some ruckus with this one. But, since one of the main messages of Star Trek has always been about being tolerant of others even if you don't agree with them, I've decided to go ahead and post it. So, here goes nothing.****
Well, ladies and gentlemen, we come to it at last - the show-stopper. I tend to run against the grain with a lot of episodes around here (especially well-loved episodes). I thought that "The City on the Edge of Forever" was over-rated. I thought that "Yesterday's Enterprise" was also over-rated. I stirred up some controversy with my thoughts on "Who Watches the Watchers?" and "First Contact." I even thought that "The Best of Both Worlds" was slightly over-rated. And I doubt it's going to be any different here with "The Inner Light." So, strap your seat-belts on, we're going in.
Is "The Inner Light" the single best episode of the entire Trek franchise? Is it the single best episode of TNG? Is it the best episode of Season Five of TNG? Is it even 10 out of 10 worthy? I can honestly answer each one of those questions with a resounding "absolutely not!" This, folks, is undoubtedly the single most over-rated episode of Trek I have ever seen. In some cases, I would go so far as to say that it is the single most over-rated "anything" I've ever seen. That's because, and I'm not joking or using hyperbole here, I have actually encountered people who have said that "The Inner Light" is hands-down the most poignant, moving, touching, heart-warming and emotionally satisfying piece of fiction they have ever consumed. Give me a break! Is it good? I can answer question with a "yes." But to listen to so many people, you would think that it doesn't just deserve a 10 out of 10 but an infinity to the infinity power out of 10. It's not that good. Sorry.
So, let's just get to the overall problem I have with "The Inner Light," shall we? The fact of the matter is that what the Kataanians do to Picard here is evil, pure and simple. Let me be as clear as I possibly can about this - they violated him, in about the worst way imaginable. What happens to Picard here is the exact same thing that happens later to O'Brien in the DS9 episode "Hard Time." But, at least that episode was willing to take the time to explore the emotional implications of what happened to the character. And yes, I know that in "Hard Time" O'Brien was forced to endure a lifetime of unpleasant memories while Picard here got to experience rather pleasant ones. But, that's a difference of degree, not of kind. They both still had a lifetime of experiences literally forced upon them against their wills. Who the FUCK did the Kataanians think they were to do that to another person? If this was the only way they could think to save their civilization, then I'm just going to say it - maybe their civilization wasn't worth saving! They apparently had the option of doing something like preserving genetic samples, or setting up a library or launching a traditional time capsule. Instead, they actively choose to go with the option that involved the mind-rape of an innocent bystander. And I don't use that term (mind-rape) lightly here. If we're going to accept what was done to Troi, Crusher and Riker in "Violations" as a form of rape, then what the hell else am I supposed to call this?! The fact that they provided Picard with a pleasing setting for his rape doesn't negate the fact that it is still rape! And the episode never addresses this issue. Not once! We're just supposed to accept what happened, think of it as moving beyond belief and then move on.
Now, let's get to a second huge problem I have - the fact that "The Inner Light" is so damn schmaltzy. Jesus Christ, apparently the show-runners decided to cover up the fact that Picard is being thoroughly violated by making the story as sickeningly, sugary sweet as possible. It's like they thought "if we just crank up the sweetness factor to a factor of about 1000 it will distract everyone from the subtext." God Almighty, this story is so damn sugary that I feel like I need an insulin injection! If I had to come up with a single word to describe this episode with, that word would undoubtedly be "schmaltz."
Now, with all that said, there's a much more practical problem I have with this story. Jammer is willing to skim over it in his review, but I'm going to focus on it because I think it is a rather significant plot element - the method the Kataanians used to preserve their culture/civilization. Leaving aside all the subtext and rather barbaric implications of the method, I'm still left thinking "talk about putting all of your eggs in one basket!". What exactly was their plan for the long-term here? They implant a lifetime of memories into a passing alien's mind and.... then what? Okay, so the Kataanian civilization now exists in one person's memory, but what happens when that person dies. Given that at it's heart this story is ultimately about mortality I really don't think the Kataanians were planning very far ahead. All they achieve is a momentary remembrance in the grand scheme of things. Once Picard eventually dies, their civilization dies with him. If I haven't lost you or you're not angry with me yet, prepare yourselves, because that is probably about to happen. If the Kataanians were really serious about preserving their culture and civilization in an actually tangible way, they should have done something similar to what the aliens in the future episode "Masks" did - create a moving library that actually materially recreates elements of their world. That's right, I'm going there. In at least one way, the much derided "Masks" does a better job than "The Inner Light." Also, talk about lucky that the probe managed to find a Human on a Federation ship to do this to. Just imagine if it was a Klingon, or a Romulan, or (God forbid) a Cardassian ship that stumbled onto the probe. It would have been destroyed the moment it locked onto any member of the crew, let alone the captain. Then the Kataanians would really have been up the creek without a paddle.
Finally, one last problem I have with the episode - the coda. I'm sorry, but I do not find the scene with Picard playing the flute in his quarters touching in any way whatsoever. Not. At. All. You know what the scene strikes me as? I strikes me as a man who has been so completely and thoroughly abused that he has come to identify with his abusers in a way. I'm probably going to lose anybody who stayed through the "Masks" comparison - but ,essentially, when he starts playing that flute and the episode fades to black he's basically displaying Stockholm Syndrome. The Kataanians have so thoroughly indoctrinated him that he now misses the mind-rape. And, once again, the episode doesn't focus on this and instead expects the audience to think it's sweet. It's not! To me, that damn flute is nothing but a symbol of Picard's torture and I simply don't understand why so many people both think the scene is touching and why so many people are so attached to the actual flute. (I mean, I've said it before and I'll say it again, to each their own, but I simply cannot wrap my mind around it.) The actual prop of the flute even once sold at auction for close to $50,000. WHY?!! Even Brannon Braga and Patrick Stewart himself have been known to laugh at that, through probably for different reasons than I would.
Okay, so I did say that I thought that the episode was good, so what did I like about it. Well, I can only point to one thing that I thought was good - the acting, because it seriously is top notch. Patrick Stewart, even though he was given some rather disturbing and not very well-thought-through material to work with here really knocks it out of the park. I really don't think much else needs to be said about that because it's one area that everyone agrees on that I'm more than willing to go along with. I also really liked the dynamics back on the Enterprise bridge. Not so much with the Kataanian characters (that's where the schmaltz comes in). I really liked that there was something of a tension with Riker and Worf on one side and Crusher on the other. All three had the same goal in mind - protecting Picard - but they had vastly different ways of going about it. And Frakes, Dorn and McFadden handled that tension rather nice I thought. I suppose I can also like the fact that the show-runners were trying to tell a story about the acceptance of mortality. If they had just turned the sugar quotient down by a factor of about 1000% it could have been much better.
So, there it all is - my thoughts on the most over-rated Trek (not just TNG) episode ever. If anybody is still reading this, this is the moment when you probably come to hate me, but....
- Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 7:57am (USA Central)
The A-plot here has two main functions: provide exposition on the Jem'Hadar and to further Odo's character. On that level, the episode is pretty much successful. What this episode does not do with The Nameless Jem'Hadar -- give him some individuality apart from his species, show ways in which he might be partially reachable (and enhance the tragedy when he cannot be reached) -- is later done in "Hippocratic Oath," "To the Death," "Rocks and Shoals" and "Treachery, Faith and the Great River" (admittedly with a Vorta instead of Jem'Hadar), and so I cannot really complain that this episode does not do it. This is the baseline for who Jem'Hadar are, which is: programmed killing machines loyal to and dependent on the Founders. That's it. That the crew immediately jumps on this improbably accelerated aging process and genetic engineering as probable proof that the Nameless Jem'Hadar is definitely unreachable is a bit unreasonable given that they have no real information about how deep this programming goes. But I don't mind, exactly, that it turns out that the Jem'Hadar really has no interest in becoming an independent person who is something other than a killing machine for the Founders' will. He is programmed with that, after all, and he is also isolated on a station with a bunch of people scared of him, knowing that his own people are out there to provide him with a life exactly along the lines of the one he wants.
The problem I do have is that the episode is kind of falt dramatically -- it's an exercise in futility. More to the point, Odo's attempts to get through to the Jem'Hadar are hobbled by Odo's limitations, and the episode would probably have been stronger if there were someone to point out those limitations beyond Kira tongue-wagging that he's wrong to try at all. It's worth remembering that this punk kid is also three weeks old. That he was programmed with rudimentary quick-forming language and whatever is one thing, but Odo keeps seeming to expect the Jem'Hadar to have spontaneously formed his own hobbies. I'm not sure I want a repeat of that banana cream split scene in "Suddenly Human," but without *some* scene of Odo at least attempting to get the Jem'Hadar to bond with others the episode's defeatism about the Jem'Hadar is a little hollow.
What works is that Odo's desire to help the Jem'Hadar hits several points of comparison with Odo himself and is clearly both a matter of Odo having guilt for what His People have done, and Odo projecting his own story onto the boy. Odo's moving out of his bucket and into a set of quarters, which he describes with Kira with an almost unsettling enthusiasm, is the backdrop against which this is presented, and his attempts to convince the boy that he *can* "fight his nature" and find satisfying alternatives to his fundamental urges is Odo's way of trying to tell himself that he is satisfied with the play structure he's made for himself as an alternative to his people and the Link. His insistence that the boy no doubt has his own desire to be a moral being, coexisting peacefully in spite of his violent instincts, probably also comes from Odo's attempt to affirm that his loyalty to "solids" comes from his sense of justice which is real and fundamental, and not at all just his self-deception about his desire for order, as the Female Changeling insisted. This all plays out while Odo is also telling everyone he is not trying to *control* the boy, and insisting that he is only giving him options, when, in the end, *of course* he is trying to control him. Odo's belief system requires that justice and goodness are external values that only need to be "discovered," that once he imparts the value of nonviolence the boy will immediately see things Odo's way, but it is more complicated than that, especially when someone's programmed nature runs counter to it. Odo's attempt to step in and prevent the boy from either being the Founder's slave or an experiment leads to him somewhat becoming both Founder and Dr. Mora in his effort to use whatever resources he has to force free will on a boy who does not want it. But ultimately, for Odo's flaws he did want to try to help the boy escape from the Founders' clutches, and it does hurt him that he fails. That he lets the boy go makes sense to me -- the Jem'Hadar has not hurt anyone, and he can hardly be locked up, and Odo's identification is such that on some level he would rather this analogue be with his people, whatever that means, rather than be a test subject (and one who genuinely may have to be killed in order for that to last).
The B-plot with Sisko, Jake and Marta bugs me a little in that there is some weird classism around Sisko's bringing up that she's a DABO GIRL every few minutes; he is called on this, indirectly, by Marta, who points out that her Dabo Girl job is a way to survive as an orphan Occupation survivor, so that helps, but I sort of wish he were less explicit about it, especially since Sisko has the advantage of coming from a post-money society where people don't have to take whatever jobs they need to in order to survive. I do agree with Ben that the age difference seems to be a problem, and I get why it bothers him on a visceral level that her job involves flirting with people. I have got to say, my reaction is pretty similar to O'Brien's mixture of confusion and suppressed disgust when Sisko reveals that he's mainly inviting Jake's girlfriend over for retcon so that he'll be better able to break them up. I'm not a father though, so who knows? Maybe this is one of those things people like me can't get. The turnaround that he realizes that the situation is not so much innocent-Jake and vamp-Marta but that both of them are a mixture of idealistic and worldly does work for me, for one thing because it ties in with the A-plot, where Sisko seems to recognize that the limits to his understanding of Jake mean that his attempts to control his son's life are bound to fail, or at least are bound to be a little on the misguided side. It's smaller-scale than the Odo/Jem'Hadar plot, of course, but Sisko reluctantly lets Jake go just a little bit.
The foregone conclusion feeling to the A-plot makes it drag in spots but it's a pretty decent Odo story. 2.5 stars for me, I think.
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