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William B
Thu, May 5, 2016, 7:08am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Strange Bedfellows

Worf/Ezri: I think that Moore is the writer who wrote the best Worf/Dax material -- while I don't love any of them, I think that the portrayal of Worf/Dax in "Looking for par'mach...," "You Are Cordially Invited" and especially "Change of Heart" got to what made those personalities work well together. So it makes sense that his handling of the Worf/Ezri Dax material here is an improvement on the last two episodes. I am on board with the general ideas presented here, which of course are the general point of this set of three episodes. It must be very difficult to deal with one's spouse reincarnated as a new person, or to see one's husband from a past life, and as well as having to do with the specific material in-universe it also matches up, in general, with how hard it is for exes to get along with each other knowing that their past relationship is dead but with those feelings still hanging around. The maturity that they show late in the episode is a relief, and the snark back and forth earlier in the episode is much wittier than the material in "Penumbra" or "Til Death Do Us Part." It still seems to me that Worf and Ezri are written as being a bit *too* obtuse, jumping around in their feelings a bit too readily, at the beginning of the episode (as they were in the previous two episodes, IMO), with Worf largely having to hold the jerk/idiot ball at the beginning of this one. But Ezri's taking Worf to task for his Klingon aphorisms and Worf's admitting that he overuses dishonour help a lot to suggest that these two have retreated into bad habits as a way of avoiding the depths of feeling that they don't know what to do with. It helps to have Ezri and Worf working to try to survive rather than purely sitting around having thoughts or having memories/dreams aloud.

I like, too, that Worf does feel very genuinely guilty about sleeping with Ezri, and that that is the real source of his anger at her. After his angry accusation that he was seduced, followed by his insistence that Jadzia had more than "a few" lovers before him, he acknowledges that really, making love could mean many different things to Jadzia, but for him it meant something very specific and spiritual. There is, in that moment, no judgment implied on Jadzia for having casual sex before she and Worf got together, but an acknowledgment that it means something to him, so that he more or less acknowledges that he was displacing his frustration with himself onto Ezri and Jadzia. It is not that often that Worf admits he was wrong, and that plays well here both as a contrast to Winn's reaction in her conversation with Kira, and sets up Ezri's role in helping Worf change in "Tacking Into the Wind."

So I'm happy with the overall impact of this story, even though I think it could have been done in a shorter amount of time and with the characters not coming off as quite as clueless before the big reveal. I think it's possible this story should have been done as a single episode earlier in the season. The big problem I still have with the previous two episodes (and to some extent this one) is that it seems like a big leap for Worf and Ezri to believe that they could have a relationship, after the dust settles of a one-night stand, and in particular Worf's seemingly acknowledging in "TDDUP" that he *knows* he's just expecting his relationship with Ezri to just be a continuation of his relationship with Jadzia and Ezri blithely ignoring the reassociation taboo. I get why he and Ezri would want to get to that point, but I think that there needed to be more on why they fooled themselves to the extent that they did, or, perhaps, an alternate way of having them fool themselves -- for example by having Worf and Ezri openly state that they knew that their relationship was not a direct continuation of Worf/Jadzia but that they could make it work, only to realize that they were fooling themselves and of course this is all about Worf/Jadzia. Or something like that. I think "Rejoined" actually did deal with the *setup* of Jadzia and Lenara continuing their past-lives relationship better, for what it's worth.

Winn/Dukat: Strong up until the last scene. I like that Dukat gets cockier as the episode goes on, starting to treat Solbor with disrespect and gradually dropping the "simple farmer" pretense; it is hard for a narcissistic manipulator to keep laying on the charm before he gets overconfident, we see. The Pah-Wraiths coming to Winn in a vision and her reaction of horror afterward, followed by her desperate desire to see *something* from the Prophets from the Orb, is well done, as is her shock and horror when she finds out that Anjohl is an instrument of the PWs. I like, too, that she recognizes some of the truth in Anjohl's suggestion that what she really wants is power and that she should embrace that rather than denying it. We know that it impacts her because of the way she seeks out Kira, someone who is both totally devout and also has regularly criticized Winn for her power-hungry nature; she immediately recognizes that Kira can be her moral guide at this point, because Kira has been right about Winn all along. What I like about this moment is the way it demonstrates that a part of Winn recognizes that she is tempted by Anjohl, that part of her *deserves* to be shunned by the Prophets for that reason, and perhaps that she partly regrets the things she has done to consolidate her power. What really works, too, is the way Winn asks *Kira* what she can do to be forgiven, because while Kira believes in the Prophets' unconditional love, *WINN DOESN'T* and never has (see, for example, an early exchange with Bareil where he stated that the Prophets' love is unconditional and she clearly stated that Bareil was wrong). The Prophets' wrath, according to her value system, should be directed at people like her who communed with the beast, even if accidentally. And there is no way out -- except to beg forgiveness and then to do what Kira says. At which point Kira crosses a line and says that Winn should give up her Kaidom, and this shows where her willingness to change ends.

I think that here we see some of the limitations in the fundamentalist philosophy: Winn cannot very easily adapt to new information because she cannot truly admit fault in herself without having to break herself and submit to the Prophets' wrath. And of course she doesn't deserve the Prophets' wrath *for accidentally having Pah-Wraith visions*, and on some level Winn is right to recognize that would be unfair. However, something interesting happens in the scene with Kira, and via Dukat's manipulations and the Orb scene -- the idea that the Prophets are punishing her solidifies, and what she has done "wrong" becomes conflated with her entire history of seeking power. Which, yes, should earn her criticism (if not necessarily godly "wrath," but that's another point), but before Dukat subtly manipulated her into thinking of her ambition as related to the possibility of joining with the Pah-Wraiths, it was totally unrelated to her feelings of abandonment by her own Gods. Winn can only break and regroup, but eventually she must either punish herself excessively, follow the philosophy of another Prophets worshiper who has a more openminded outlook (Kira), which also amounts to giving up on her ambition...or find some other way to continue her life. She chooses the last option. She is unwilling to give up being Kai, because she "earned" it.

But you know, it would not be that hard for Winn to rationalize that Kira has always been her enemy and that it was a mistake to go see her; it would not be hard for Winn to find some sycophantic Vedek to tell her what she wants to hear given carefully worded phrases. I am not convinced she lacks the mental resilience to find a new rationalization for what has happened to her. I think that over a long enough period of time, Dukat and the Pah-Wraiths could switch Winn's allegiance, and the majority of this episode is something that works effectively at getting Winn to the point where it is easier for her psychologically to do so rather than to live with the crushing feeling of *having been wrong*, and having a theistic philosophy that punishes heretics brutally. It’s also worth noting how frequently on personal level (i.e. cults) or on national level managed to turn religious fervor to a different cause by using similar symbols, like Nazi Germany playing up Teutonic myths or the Soviet Union essentially replacing the Russian Orthodox religion with a kind of worship of the state.

But that last scene It's not that Winn isn't ambitious, doesn't resent the Prophets choosing Sisko over herself, is not upset that the Prophets have long been absent from her, does not *want* to punish her enemies. She is petty, spiteful, in love with power, and unwilling to brook dissent. But she has based her life around the Prophets, genuinely did fight to save lives during the Occupation, genuinely did seem to be conscientiously concerned with Bajor's safety and future in things like "Life Support" and "Rapture"/"In the Cards." The one element that works in her final monologue is that she felt *nothing* when she saw the wormhole opening, and I do think that a lifetime of disappointment, of feeling that the Prophets have refused to acknowledge her worship, could do things to her. But not in a day, and not in a way that leads to her effectively declaring war against the vast majority of the planet's population the way she does here. Not convinced, and it really hurts the episode and the plotline. That the Restoration involves burning the planet and wiping away those who “aren’t worthy” is also one of those things that I cannot believe wouldn’t give Winn pause.

The Damar material is definitely the highlight here. First off, this is integrated with the Worf/Dax stuff really well—Worf’s snapping Weyoun’s neck is a fantastic, unpredictable moment, and Damar’s delight at it along with a defeatist attitude (“they’ll just clone another one”) gives some sense of how helpless and trapped he is. It occurs to me that Worf’s action does have an impact on Damar’s thinking; feeling impotent and powerless in his “relationship” with Weyoun for so long, to see Worf just out and kill Weyoun, even if it is a futile gesture, is another thing that helps Damar recognize that he actually really admires the Federation for fighting against the Dominion, who have essentially conquered them and him. However, as some people have pointed out, while Damar does care about his people, his motives are not exactly pure. He reacts not just to Cardassian loss of power—the whole of Cardassia had little choice in Dukat’s seizing power and putting them under Dominion rule, and Damar didn’t care then. He believes that Cardassia is oppressed by the Dominion, certainly, but this is partly because Damar is self-centred, and believes that *all* Cardassians are dealing with the same feelings and experiences he is; he sees Cardassians as puppets only once it becomes clear to him that he personally is a puppet. I also think that there is something of a xenophobic tinge to Damar’s negative reaction to the Breen, what with the Breen’s Other-ness being heavily emphasized, down to them being incomprehensible. Don’t get me wrong, for the Cardassians to be forced into accepting an ally who immediately get “territorial concessions” and implicitly get higher status in the Dominion does demonstrate how little power or self-determination the Cardassians have and how deeply the Dominion has them on a leash at this point, but I don’t think the Breen’s *alien-ness*, down to their language (hidden from the audience) is wholly coincidental to why they evoke so strongly a negative reaction. The thing that really does seem to move Damar, though, and the thing that does distinguish him from Winn, is that he genuinely does care about his people on Septimus III, and is reacting to a Dominion strategy that totally devalues those lives. And while in principle in previous episodes Damar could simply feel powerless, here Weyoun outright threatens to have Damar killed and replaced if Damar does not sign the Breen treaty sight unseen, which confirms that Cardassia has lost.

The final scene really hurts the episode but overall it’s quite good—3 stars.
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William B
Thu, May 5, 2016, 6:33am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: The Begotten

@Luke, it is true of course that protecting their own would be a Founder's priority normally...but I have largely read this episode as being that the Founders used the "baby changeling" to give Odo his powers back, especially given the Female Founder's later implying that they did so. That being the case, there are a few possibilities:

1) the baby changeling was going to die anyway, and the Founders decided to make the best of the situation;
2) the "baby changeling" was actually not an independent entity after all, and was maybe just a part of (say) changeling Bashir, with enough independent existence to "live" for a little bit and then unlock Odo's changelingness, but which was not, by the Founders' standards, actually a person rather than just the equivalent of strands of hair or nail clippings. In this case, it's basically like that little trinket in "Vortex." This one is a bit unlikely since we know that it more or less "learns" the way Odo did at the beginning;
3) "the drop becomes the ocean, the ocean becomes the drop" as the Female Founder says later -- so maybe the baby changeling actually does continue living in combination with Odo when it gives him his powers back, and was not sufficiently advanced as to have its own independent life and thoughts, and so Odo does not notice the change when the two merge into one entity, which is actually standard operating procedure for changelings. I don't know entirely what to make of the Female Founder's claims, but her indication that they are not actually entirely separate beings makes it seem to me that maybe it takes a long time -- years? -- for Founders to differentiate themselves from each other, away from the Link, and that the Founders make no meaningful distinction between different changeling lives, in which case the fact that the changeling baby merges with Odo means that it continues living.
4) the Founders are assholes, who despite purporting to hold not harming others as the highest value are willing to sacrifice their young in pursuit of their agenda. Their agenda here is to manipulate Odo, who is strategically placed, to give him his powers back without letting him know they are doing so, so that he still feels the sting of their rejection but can be played and "brought into the fold" in season six. We know that the Founders send out their young to go suffer in the galaxy without protection and program them somehow with an insatiable yearning to return home, and then deny them when they return, as we have already seen. The Founder in "The Adversary" was going to destroy the Defiant, which Odo was on, without caring that Odo would die, which undermines their "no changeling has ever harmed another" line anyway, which indicates that the Founders at least exaggerate their position. We know from "By Inferno's Light" that changeling Bashir was going to blow up himself and Odo along with the system, unless Founders are somehow supernova-proof. (Gah, that supernova plot in "BIL" bothers me.)
5) changeling Bashir actually just swapped the baby changeling with some tissue from himself, which is then sufficient to merge with Odo; the baby changeling was escorted to safety somewhere and the whole thing was just a ploy to let Odo think that he is still in the doghouse with his people.

I'm not sure which it is -- I think (3) is the most interesting interpretation -- but I don't think the Bashir reveal (retcon) damages this episode if one sees the baby changeling as a sacrifice that they make, for their mysterious reasons. Then it's still a bigger problem in the series that the Founders remain mysterious and their hypocrisies in how they treat Odo and even other changelings are still not *quite* examined well enough. Odo's objection to them is, understandably, their treatment of solids, but that they keep violating their no-changeling-has-harmed-another rule and their ill treatment of him and the others doesn't get quite as much play as it could have, IMO.
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Thu, May 5, 2016, 12:47am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Coda

Blech. So many cliches crammed into one episode. Chakotay plays the Janeway resuscitation scene like he just took a TV tropes acting class. Banging on her chest yelling "breathe, damn you!" and "don't you die on me!". That stuff was silly even back in the 90s.
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Thu, May 5, 2016, 12:35am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Man of the People

"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few...or the one."

Unless it's Troi?
Clearly, Picard did not share the beliefs of his predecessors.
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Wed, May 4, 2016, 11:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: The Begotten

Like "The Darkness and the Light", "The Begotten" is a very well acted, character-heavy outing that has serious flaws.

First, the A-plot. While it is remarkably well acted and gives us some great insights into Odo's character and relationships, it ends with a total WTF moment. And I'm not talking about Odo getting his shape-shifting abilities back. I'll admit I used to think it was rather nonsensical how the infant Changeling gave him the "gift", but after hearing SFDebris' explanation (that the Founders simply locked Odo into a Human form and the infant only "unlocked" Odo) it's not so bad anymore. And, given that the writers really weren't doing anything with Odo's newfound solidity anyway, it's acceptable that they just discarded it. No, I'm talking about how Bashir responds to the infant's impending death. On a first viewing this would not be a problem for anybody; but on any subsequent viewings it drastically harms the episode. The Bashir Changeling would simply not allow the infant to die. The moment he realized there was nothing he could do to save its life with the resources available on the station, this is what would have happened in extremely short order - he would have went into full-on berserker mode, taken control of the station, stolen a runabout (or possibly even the Defiant) and hightailed it through the wormhole toward the Founders' new homeworld at maximum warp. His undercover operation on DS9 be damned straight to hell. His only concern would have been getting the infant back to the Great Link so it could be cured. The Founders have already shown a willingness to sacrifice absolutely everything for the safety of just one Changeling. At one point, the Female Changeling will flat out say that they value Odo more than the entire Alpha Quadrant. And yet, this Changeling is willing to let one of his own die? Apparently just to keep his cover in place for the upcoming attack on the Bajoran system? Bullshit! Now, I know the writers didn't even have it planned at this point that Bashir was a Changeling in this episode. But the decision was made to make it so and therefore "The Begotten" retroactively suffers as a result.

As for the B-plot, I could take it or leave it. I do like that they were willing to give us something new in the actual birth scene (Kira is an alien after all, it wouldn't make sense for Bajorans to have the exact same birthing process as Humans). I'm not as opposed to TV birth scenes as Jammer apparently is, but this was enjoyable because it actually made the alien character look, you know, ALIEN. However, I really could have done without all the standard cliches attached to it. The one about the men being bumbling fools while the women all have to suffer through their stupidity especially wasn't needed. Not only does it harm O'Brien and Shakaar's characters but it also doesn't do any favors for Kira or Keiko either. The men look like doofuses simply because they're men (so you have a hint of misandry) and the women are intelligent and understanding simply because they're women (a "nice" hint of misogyny as well). Ugh! And, by the way, Shakaar appears here but not in "Rapture" for the ceremony inducting Bajor into the Federation? Huh?!

Auberjonois and Sloyan (the always reliable character actor) knock it out of the park acting wise and everyone else puts in workmanlike performances. And it was really nice to see Odo's "paternal instincts" kick in as a response to the Changeling's development - to the point of even have a nice, heartfelt scene between him and Quark of all people (something I honestly thought I would never see, even after "The Ascent"). So, it's not a bad episode by any stretch of the imagination. But, man does it have it's problems.

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Wed, May 4, 2016, 7:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Workforce

I don't really have too much to say about this episode. It is very well plotted piece as others have stated. It was also an enjoyable change of pace, similar to The Killing Game but without the flaws (albeit also without the big impact). Basically, it was just a pleasant two-parter.

It does seem weird to me that they chose this story of all stories to be a two-parter. It just doesn't mean anything. It's not a grab-you-by-the-seat, big dramatic story like Best of Both Worlds, nor is it a this-changes-everything story like Improbable Cause/Die is Cast, nor is it a cheap ratings ploy like Killing Game. It's just... there. Which isn't a bad thing, especially when they use the two parts wisely to make a well-executed story like this. But given Voyager's penchant for trying to make everything a cheap ratings ploy, it seems a surprising choice. There are plenty of other stories in the past couple seasons that may also have deserved a two-parter and were actually relevant to the characters, but oh well. At least they didn't waste it.

One aspect I liked was the variety in the random aliens of the week. Normally, they would just be the hard-headed aliens of the week who are here to be the bad guys. Instead, it was just a conspiracy of bad guys within a relatable, likeable, non-hard-headed alien world. Yelid was a competent investigator doing his job, who effortlessly switched from becoming an antagonist to a protagonist when he saw some of the oddities of what was going on. Jeffen, despite the show seeming to give hints that he may help out the conspiracy out of ignorance, never wavered and never betrayed the trust Janeway put in him. The young doctor thought he was doing good work in helping his patients, and refused to help when he learned the truth, even at risk to his own life. The power plant wasn't an evil exploiting company; they treated their workers well and it seemed a decent enough job opportunity. And in the resolution, the government didn't cover anything up nor shirk its responsibility; they worked to help out the victims of this conspiracy even though it would hurt their labor shortage more. Just ordinary, average people doing their job and behaving admirably in the face of evil.

Speaking of which, I disagree with Jammer that there should have been some sort of message here. Quite frankly, what sort of message can you give? Any anti-capitalist message (the sort you would expect from Trek) just wouldn't make sense, as the premise is just too sci-fi ish to work as an analogue. No nation, regardless of their politics, are kidnapping and brainwashing people in order to get workers. So how do you make a parallel with this premise? Likewise, if they did decide to make the power plant into some sort of evil capitalist straw man company, then it would just distract from the tightly-plotted intrigue that we saw. Yes, that makes this a relatively meaningless episode, but so what? It was a good meaningless episode, and that is plenty.
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Wed, May 4, 2016, 11:05am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: Q Who

A goid episode...the first scene is horrible...i could do without the sonya gomez character...but the borg were wicked.
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Wed, May 4, 2016, 8:45am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Valiant

The only good bug is a dead bug.
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Wed, May 4, 2016, 2:57am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: The Darkness and the Light

"The Darkness and the Light" is a fairly disordered episode. For the first four acts it wants to be a dread-filled investigation episode about the hunt for a vicious but highly skilled killer. Then, in the final act, it desperately wants to be "Duet". The investigation part works fairly well, with some noticeable problems. The final act, however, just does jell into anything approaching "Duet's" standard.

First off, the opening four acts are wonderfully acted by all involved. Nana Visitor shines, as always. And the slowly building sense of dread and approaching doom is remarkably well written and conceived. However, unlike Jammer, I did not find Kira's actions all that commendable. So, her friends are killed in O'Brien's quarters by having the room exposed to the vacuum of space and what is her response? To rush down there and to try to open the door. Um, what?! Yeah, just depressurize the entire Habitat Ring there, Major! What the hell was she thinking?! I understand that she's enraged, confused and depressed over her friends' deaths, but come on now. Season One Kira I can see doing something this ill advised. Season Five Kira? I thought she was more mature than that now. Then, of course, there's the fact that she just runs off and tries to find the murderer herself. What exactly did she hope to accomplish here? Yeah, just run off and endanger the O'Briens' baby (and yourself) because.... the feels, man! Ugh! This definitely feels like a massive step backwards for Kira. I'm all for her being a firebrand, but not for her running off half-cocked and crazy like this anymore - especially since "Rapture" established that she had changed considerably in the last five years.

Then there's the confrontation with Silaran. Suddenly the episode wants to recreate "Duet" with a Cardassian and Kira trading barbs and insults while debating the Occupation, including the fact that one of them is restrained somehow. Unlike "Duet", however, the Cardassian doesn't come off remotely sincere or disquieting. Silaran only comes across as a villain; there is nothing morally grey about him. The one thing that could have made him morally complicated was the fact that he was sparing the innocent, only targeting the people directly involved in the Resistance attack. But then he endangers the baby by attempting to remove him from Kira. Now, either he didn't know the baby wasn't Bajoran (which I don't buy given the elaborate lengths he went to to plan this retribution) or he just didn't care when Kira told him the baby had very specific medical needs. By having him adamant about removing the baby immediately (instead of waiting to kill Kira for a few weeks), thereby directly endangering him, any moral ambiguity about him is completely and utterly destroyed. Also, unlike "Duet" his speeches about the Occupation aren't convincing. When Marritza was pretending to be Darheel he made legitimate statements about the Occupation - that no matter what the Bajorans did, they could never undo the atrocities. You couldn't argue with that. And that episode worked because the one making those statements actually was an innocent. Silaran isn't. He's actively seeking revenge on others. Marritza wasn't. As a result, all sympathy and understanding is marshaled for Kira and Kira alone.

This could have been a great episode. If it had just dropped the whole split personality aspect and focused solely on either the investigation or the chamber drama between Kira and Silaran, we might have gotten another classic. As it sits, however, it's a wonderful acted and character-heavy but flawed outing.

(As a final note - one thing I did love about "The Darkness and the Light" was a small piece of the score. The opening scene in the Bajoran monastery had some music that was clearly influenced by Gregorian Chant. It gave the scene a nice spiritual or otherworldly feel. I absolutely adore Gregorian Chant; it's one of my favorite musical styles. It's a shame the series didn't use something like this more often as a Bajoran Theme or something similar.)

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Wed, May 4, 2016, 1:16am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Unimatrix Zero, Part II

I'm imagining this as a How It Should Have Ended short:

Borg Queen: "Give me the frequency or I'll blow up this cube and all of the innocent drones!"
Janeway: (sarcastically) "No! Please don't! How could you do such a horrible thing?"
Borg Queen: "Too bad!" [KABOOM] "And I'll blow up this cube if you continue to not comply!"
Janeway: (sarcastically) "Oh, you're going to destroy another Borg cube? I'm soooo scared!"
[Hours later]
Borg Queen: "And this is the last cube left in the entire galaxy. Will you or will you not give up the frequency?"
Janeway: "Never! But spare just these drones!"
Borg Queen: "Nope!" (KABOOM) "I win!"
Janeway: "Ha ha, jokes on you! I just tricked you into destroying the entire collective! Sucker!"
Borg Queen: "But you killed all those drones who were free in Unimatrix Zero!"
Janeway: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."
Borg Queen: "AAAAARGH!" (assimilates Janeway)
Janeway: "...totally worth it."
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Tue, May 3, 2016, 11:35pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

"'Rapture' is about as perfect an episode as I could hope for."

Indeed! This might very well be the best of series thus far.

I suppose I should start my rundown of how awesome this episode is with the fact that it absolutely obliterates Trek's usual rational materialism right off the map. Okay, sure, Sisko's visions are started by a rather mundane (and easily explainable) malfunction in the holosuites, but that simply does not explain the total, 100% accuracy of these visions. There is no way a random power surge like this can explain how he finds a city lost for 20,000 years, or how he can know about the Admiral's family problems, or how he can foresee the coming war with the Dominion, or how he can deduce that Bajor must remain independent in order to emerge on the other side of the war unscathed. These definitely are visions and they are decidedly otherworldly or - dare I say it - supernatural. Even Sisko himself holds this view. When the Admiral practically begs him for a secular, materialistic explanation, all he can say is "it really was a vision." And yet, like so many treatments of religion here on "Deep Space Nine", all sides are given equal treatment. Whatley, the stand-in for the secularist/atheistic viewpoint, is not made to look like a fool. Kira's open religiosity is not mocked. The magnificent scene in Ops with Kira and Worf defending faith and O'Brien and Dax defending skepticism explores rather profound differences of opinion - which exist even among our main characters - and yet tolerance, actual true tolerance, is the name of the game. BRAVO!

Second, "Rapture" is a stellar outing in the characterization department. Everyone's character is utilized perfectly. Sisko, Kira, Jake, Yates, everyone is at the top of their game and completely acting in character. But, of course, the real stand-out here is Winn. Her transformation from a semi-antagonist to a possible, reluctant ally is superbly handled. And it fits with her established character from at least as far back as the Bajoran Trilogy in Season Two - when she turned on the attempted coup for reasons left unexplained.

Third, there's the family dynamics between between the Sisko family, including Yates. One the many wonderful things that "Deep Space Nine" did was humanize the main characters by giving some of them families. Sisko is a family man. O'Brien is a family man. Quark has an important relationship with his brother and nephew. On TOS, aside from Spock in "Journey to Babel" (probably not a surprise that it's my favorite TOS episode), none of the characters are given any familial ties. Oh sure, we met the wife and son of Kirk's dead brother in "Operation -- Annihilate!", but is anybody seriously going to count that? On TNG, Picard was a loner who hated kids and only slowly softened to them over time. Riker was a ladies man. Data manged to get some development with Lore and Soong. Troi had her mother but was never close to her. Crusher and Wesley were mother and son but their interactions (certainly family interactions) were extraordinarily few and far between. The closest we got was with Worf and Alexander, but even then there wasn't much. But here, the dynamics between Jake, Ben and Kassidy are extremely well written. Jake wants to understand the spiritual journey Sisko is on but is still just a kid who doesn't want his dad to get hurt. Yates, another skeptic, naturally sides with Jake. Sisko, while he feels it's necessary to see this journey to its conclusion still does everything in his power to comfort his son and girlfriend, like any good person would. Even the dynamics between other characters and the family work wonderfully. For example, another reason the scene in Ops works so well is that Kira and Dax, despite having diametrically opposing opinions, know that they will both be there emotionally for Jake and Yates if things go bad. The amount of love and sympathy on display is astounding. If only we could duplicate this in the real world when discussing politics and religion; the world would undoubtedly be a much better place.

Fourth - the mythology. The way "Rapture" handles so many different story arcs is astonishing. There are no less than six different arcs that come together here - SIX! There's 1.) the "Sisko as Emissary" arc, 2.) the quest for Bajoran admittance to the Federation, 3.) the Dominion arc, 4.) the Sisko family arc, 5.) Kai Winn's arc and 6.) the Maquis arc - tangentially, through the return of Yates to the station after her prison sentence. Each one is handled delicately and with wonderful success. Just focusing on the Dominion arc, the level of foreshadowing here is unprecedented for Trek. We get references to an upcoming war with the Dominion, a "swarm of locusts" heading to Cardassia, and a revelation that Bajor must stand alone in order to survive the coming calamity. Obviously the locusts represent the Dominion annexation of Cardassia. Jem'Hadar ships do look an awful lot like bugs, don't they? And the revelation that Bajor must stand alone is naturally a foreshadowing of the Non-Aggression Pact Sisko has the planet sign with the Dominion. All of this foreboding will come to pass by the end of the season. It's damn impressive and a wonderful use of the Prophets (without actually showing them on screen). There's also, more mundanely, the new uniforms (first established in "Star Trek: First Contact") which ties the series to the larger franchise.

Granted, there are some nitpicky problems with the episode. For instance, given what we later learn in "In Purgatory's Shadow", Bashir has already been replaced by a Changeling infiltrator by this point. That means that the Bashir Changeling was the one who performed the life saving brain surgery on Sisko. He must have been really prepared for his role! And there's the rather unnecessary scene of Odo man-handling Quark for a non-crime. There's also the scene where the Admiral and Winn are going to formally induct Bajor into the Federation, before Sisko stops them. Where the hell is Shakaar?!! This is one of the most important moments in all of Bajoran history - and that's really saying something since the Bajorans were producing literature and culture before Humans were even standing erect! And yet their political leader doesn't bother to show up?!! I'm assuming that Duncan Regehr's schedule prevented him from appearing again, but damn. At least the rest of the Bajoran delegation makes since - a mixture of civil and religious officials, which adds to my belief that the Vedek Assembly plays at least some role in Bajor's civil government. But the Federation delegation makes no sense at all. Where the hell are the representatives from the Federation government?!! Apparently they only sent one (and his aide) because the rest are all Starfleet admirals. Why is the U.F.P.'s military so heavily represented while the civilian government isn't? Or did Leyton manage to launch another coup on Earth from his prison cell without the audience being told about it? Still, these are all rather trivial problems that don't ultimately harm the episode.

The ultimate conceit of "Rapture" - that we live in an ordered universe and that you can access that order in a moment of religious ecstasy - and the open acknowledgement of the supernatural represents a very dramatic (and welcome!) departure from Trek orthodoxy and puts the episode in the running for "best in the franchise".

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Tue, May 3, 2016, 9:35pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Unimatrix Zero, Part II

I always imagined that this was a story that Neelix told to the borg-children after he finished the other story from "The Haunting of Deck 12".

I don't know if this is the worst episode of Voyager, but it comes close for me. The more I think about it, the less I like it. At every point I think "wait, that wouldn't work".

Example: The Borg Queen sees Janeway in Unimatrix Zero. Drones not under the control of the collective are a vital threat to the borg apparently. There is a Tactical Cube within 3 lightyears of Voyager. Soooooo .... destroy Voyager? Episode over, series done? No.

Janeway is onboard of your tactical cube. You are the Queen. You know everything. You assimilate Janeway. You can't hear Janeway. Kill Janeway, while tracking down Voyager and assimilating it. If you can't assimilate it, kill it. I was fine with the Borg ignoring intruders before when they didn't view them as a threat, that was fine in TNG and earlier in Voyager. But now you KNOW they are a threat.

A Tactical Cube has no tractor beam apparently.

A super advanced torpedo from a megapowerfull tactical cube that has Voyagers shield frequency instantly destroys ... half a hull plate of Voyager.

Voyager shoots the Cube. Harry says "Direct hit, no damage to their shield emitters". Later, the cube needs two hours to repair his transwarp drive. Why? You didn't even scratch the shields.

How does that "Neuro Supressor" even work? The borg uplink is physical, not psychological.

The Queen tries to supress the interlink frequency of UMZ. She fails, but recognises that it is a triangulating signal or whatever. But instead of adapting she --- gives up. Later, the Voyager supresses the same frequency. The fuck?

The Delta Flyer beams Janeway aboard the Cube - after being destroyed. Given that the transporters on Voyager fail if somebody sneezes at them ... this is totally believable.

The Queen wants to spread her virus in UMZ. That is like spreading cholera in an internet chatroom.

One guy in UMZ says that the queen has identified them all. But she does not kill them all? I thought if she found one - she could identify them in the real world, as demonstrated earlier.

The collective is comprised of hundreds of billions of drones. There are maybe 20.000 in UMZ. The queen sends small groups of up to 12 drones at a time. Why not 12 million? A Billion? One hundred billion drones?

Seven does not remember UMZ, even when inside UMZ. Later, she remembers shit from UMZ. SHE kisses Axom, says "We had something more", then SHE is angry at him for saying "yes we did"? And apparently being frightened by his advances or something? Her reaction made no sense to me, and was out of character for her.

Btw, how the fuck did Axom contact Seven if he can't act in the real world? If she has the mutation - wouldn't she always be in UMZ when she regenerates? Why can she remember shit from UMZ in the real world? If you are severed from the collective, can you still reach UMZ? I thought that UMZ is a subset of the hivemind, and relied on borg infrastructure.

Well, and Janeway sucked as well, but that's nothing new I guess.

So, my TL;DR: Nice special effects, but you can cover a turd in sugarcoating, it will still taste like shit.
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Tue, May 3, 2016, 8:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

@erasmus palmer: I'm not justifying it, but it's been handwaved away in the past for a couple reasons, usually because of the ol' "in the 24th century we've erased all bad behavior" reasons and that the Enterprise crew generally seems to allow guests mostly free reign of the ship for some reason (Picard offered Kamala the same, though).

Of course it is silly that there were a) no locks on the doors on the ferengi doors, b) no guards posted, c) no computerized logs of people leaving their quarters, d) no alerts of the ferengi getting to the cargo bay, e) no crew saw them (or thought it of interest to report it), f) no logs of entry into the cargo bay (with sensitive diplomatic cargo in it, nonetheless - cargo that for some reason needed to be in a ridiculous contraption (why not have a box around it?). You'd think there'd be the equivalent of key fobs on a starship.
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Tue, May 3, 2016, 6:00pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Hard Time

Not a complaint but a comment-the way Siddig delivered the memory wipe comment suggested he (or the writers or director) knew it was inconsistent with "Sons of Mogh" and there was a deliberate distancing from the previous episode.
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Tue, May 3, 2016, 5:13pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: Pen Pals

Anything negative I say about this episode would be nitpicking, it was enjoyable. My gripe is actually with Picard. When did he suddenly go horse crazy? Also I cringe at the blunder blindly forward line.,,but thats all i got...i should hate the Wesley plot, but I don't.
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Diamond Dave
Tue, May 3, 2016, 3:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S3: Third Season Recap

A definite and significant improvement here - overall I scored this season at 2.58 on average and that makes it the 9th best Trek series of all, and better than anything Voyager scored at. Looking back what's noticeable is the consistency - after some patchy early stuff that tried some new stuff that didn't always work (zombie Vulcans!) virtually week after week it was scoring 2.5-3.0. Nothing much higher, nothing much lower. Just banging in decent episodes.

And I think that is a reflection of the series long arc. I've said a number of times that I thought it was too ambitious and was running on empty by the end. Perhaps that reflects that the action was carrying the plot by this point. But the production values by now are uniformly excellent, so action is something that can be carried off with aplomb. And with the serial nature, long running plot developments (like T'Pol's addiction) can be given room to breathe, which is to the writers' credit. So not perfect, but a strong season. With the WTF-ery of the final 10 seconds of Zero Hour though, who knows how the next season will play out...
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Diamond Dave
Tue, May 3, 2016, 2:50pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S3: Zero Hour

Well, you have to commend the sheer brass balls to come up with something like this. It's almost as if all the WTF moments you could think of have been shaken up with the Xindi arc and this is the result.

The mice toasting intro! Daniels! Shran! Exploding, blood splattering Reptilians! Archer running slow mo Rambo style as explosions chase him! And the ultimate - Nazi frickin' aliens!

If I wanted one thing out of this it was some resolution out of what I thought was ultimately a too long and over ambitious Xindi arc. Not only did I not really get it, it now seems we are off on another story. Ah well. As ever, this did the action well and never pretended to be anything else. But ultimately it was just too much - it's never a good sign when your laughing at the sheer over the top effrontery of what you're watching. 2.5 stars.
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Diamond Dave
Tue, May 3, 2016, 1:33pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S3: Countdown

Well, you can't say that this episode doesn't rattle along after a fairly slow start, and the action sequences are again standout. But after so many episodes of this I'm starting to find it a little exhausting and can't help feeling that this whole back end of the arc could have stood a little weeding. It's not that it's bad per se, just that with the resolution constantly being shunted off ahead please show me the money already. At least that has to happen next ep!

Again, some good stuff in here and some average stuff. 3 stars.
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Tue, May 3, 2016, 11:43am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Hard Time

I thought this episode was pretty great except for the last act which did feel too much like attacking, on unnecessarily explicit terms, TNG Roddenberry idealism; the episode had already showed O'Brien had fallen from the ideal and was feeling bad about it, there didn't need to be the explicit discussion of how it related to his society in general. It also felt gratuitously grim and dark that the other prisoner wasn't even actually hiding/hoarding food, that the cause that made O'Brien furious was actually a misperception.
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Tue, May 3, 2016, 2:40am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Distant Origin

One of those ideas that seems so imaginative and cool I don't care how implausible it is. And the thinly veiled allegory of political and theological hostility to science appealed to me. Lovely episode.
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Mon, May 2, 2016, 10:45pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Favorite Son

I think that' B5s Patricia Tallman playing one of the women who attacked Harry just before the end. The only time I actually concentrated on this. Couldn't get over the stupidity of Taresian reproduction. Very poor.
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Mon, May 2, 2016, 10:24pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Learning Curve

That little boy in the cold open could act!
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Mon, May 2, 2016, 9:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S3: The Xindi

Two things. First, I can't believe they managed to make the theme that much worse. Please give me back the cheese ball, soft rock of the first two seasons. Second, they FINALLY fixed T'pol's eyebrows!
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Mon, May 2, 2016, 7:21pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: The Void

Well, I have to say that was enjoyable. I'm going to ignore the issue of whether or not this should have been the way Voyager always was. I will say, though, that it does show that it's possible to have kept up Voyager's initial premise without losing its optimism. It didn't necessarily require a Maquis mutiny or everyone constantly on the edge, it didn't require hard headed aliens to always be there. We could have had a series of aliens coming in and out, with Janeway needing to deal with them as the situation required. Not just be used as backdrops for whatever silly plot contrivance they could come up with.

But such is life, the show was what it was, and at least we had this episode to show for it.

Basically, this was a very well plotted, enjoyable episode. Just take the musical squatters, for example. First of all, they were a unique species with multiple unique aspects of their personalities. They were basically a fun diversion from the rest of the episode. Or at least that's what you might think, but they intersected with the rest of the plot in ways that you wouldn't expect. The comment by the one guy about how they're vermin was the tipoff that he would be a bad guy. But it was also the excuse to get more of them, creating the nice symphony scene, but also get used at the end to sabotage the bad guys. It's nice to see the A and B plot intertwined like that.

They also had plenty of good scenes, such as the Tinker Tenor aliens using Stellar Cartography to spy on everyone else, which starts out seeming to be ominous but actually just them contributing in their own way. We had an interesting montage rather than technobabble gobbledy-gook to get ready for the jump. We had Janeway frustrated at the actions of one of her alliance members and cursing herself for letting him in in the first place when she knew he would be trouble. And we had a variety of different cool aliens to see. What fun!

By the way, one tiny bit that I really liked. At the end, when the alliance captains were saying their goodbyes, Janeway made a comment to Chakotay that it was almost like being back in Starfleet. Yes, I know, that part and the overall optimism was pushed way too much. But while she said that, the music quietly played the Star Trek fanfare. It was good to here again, and helped to emphasize that this series isn't just about getting home, and they aren't just wearing those uniforms because they're comfy and stylish. It's always good to have a reminder that these people are proud of their society and proud to be a part of it. And by tying it in with the classic music from TOS, TNG, and the movies, well, it was a nice moment. I really hope the new series puts that fanfare into their opening credits; I really miss it from DS9 and Voyager.

I do agree, though, that the positive Starfleet ideal aspect was being laid on a bit too thick. In particular, Tuvok and Chakotay arguing so heavily to become raiders seemed out of place and only there to make Janeway look better. It's a common trope on Voyager, and I really wish they would do a better job of writing these morality conversations. Instead of having Chakotay argue for becoming thieves themselves, why not have him agree that it seems like a good idea, but that he doesn't feel they can trust anyone. The only survivors in this void are the most battle hardened, most cynical, most underhanded thieves. How can Janeway possibly think any of them would be willing to put their cynicism aside and agree to join her?

Then Janeway could respond by asking him how she could possibly ask her enemy to become her first officer (hey, if this is the "Voyager as it should have been" episode, why not mention the Maquis again?). This would serve to still give Janeway's optimism center stage, but not make Chakotay and Tuvok look intransigent to get there. Instead, Chakotay would be bringing forth a real criticism of her plan, but Janeway could use Star Trek idealism as well as her own past experiences to move past it. Would have been much better.

But that's all I'll complain about, because I did really like this episode.
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Diamond Dave
Mon, May 2, 2016, 3:52pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S3: The Council

I thought this was a bit of a let down in the end. After all the build up Archer's intervention to the council results in a bit of shouting and a lot of over-acting and then the Reptilians (who by this point are basically caricature villains) do what the hell they want anyway. The Sphere Builders are also definitely coming over like the Founders as they direct behind the scenes.

The B-story is fairly light and throws away Hawkins to justify an extraordinary outburst from Reed that was so over-acted it threw me right out of the story. The action scenes are, as ever, exemplary so that gains another half point for a 2.5 star total.
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