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Xepth
Sun, May 29, 2016, 2:44am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Carbon Creek

Well, apparently some people cannot appreciate acting if it is not in-your-face shouting and explicit emotional outbursts.

Because that's all I see in this review. Hating because the acting is not dramatic enough.

Or maybe someone is just anti-Vulcan and can't see the obvious humor in an all-Vulcan episode, with all their coldly emotional behavior.
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Peter G.
Sun, May 29, 2016, 1:40am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Statistical Probabilities

@ Luke,

That's an interesting take on the episode. I always saw it as being more about how there is too much chaos and unpredictability to know how things will turn out, and that logic by itself is no substitute for hope and faith. Jack and the others would, after all, have been entirely correct except for the small matter of the prophets intervening and eliminating a Dominion fleet. That's another instance of a local event involving one decision that changed the whole course of the war. Granted, *no one* took the prophets seriously until then, but still, it showed that Sisko's faith (in the prophets, in this case) was just as important to his victory as his tactical knowledge.

I guess in the schema of American politics a message about faith still veers toward the right-wing and so that parallels the point you made about central planning.

One thing I would note, mind you, is that one should not confuse "central" planning with totalitarian regimes that are structured as bureaucracies. Historically we've seen some instances of the latter, but to date we have seen zero instances of a completely centrally planned democracy, for example. It probably can't work at present since, frankly, you'd need a computer AI to coordinate it, but in any case I don't think the dichotomy between "individual freedom" and "central planning" applies to the Star Trek universe, where it's clear that it is, indeed, possible to both have a humane and just society that is centrally planned due to technological capabilities we don't have. That's something to aspire to in the future, and doesn't require us to suggest that we need to move towards total central planning right now. Just a thought.
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Peter G.
Sun, May 29, 2016, 1:28am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Far Beyond the Stars

Luke,

I find it an odd criticism to call into question Avery Brooks's credentials in understanding the experience of black America in the 50's. I can totally understand your concerns about Brooks' acting method in his breakdown scene, and that especially as an area of artistic critique (acting style) that can have a nuanced and differing approach for each person who considers it. But trying to find an 'inconsistency' in how Brooks portrays life for black Americans...I dunno man, I think you're barking up the wrong tree. There is no discernable inconsistency between suggesting that some people would beat you up, others would sneer, others would smile but covertly not trust you, while others yet would consider you an honored friend. That black people were employed is a fact; that *some people* had a problem with their inclusion in society is also a fact. I don't see how it has to be just one or the other. The dirty cops were physical manifestations of the core of that racism (hatred and fear), but the show doesn't try to imply that everyone hates them like that. On the contrary, the Dukat/Weyoun part in the Benny story seems to me to be about the fact that in any age there will be those who succumb to either fear or hatred, and that one must persevere without resorting to hating them back and becoming like them (the error of the Founders).

Pabst was not overtly a racist in terms of hating blacks (that we know of), but he was the enforcer of racist rules. In current parlance that means he was directly implicated in what's called systemic racism, and in that context he enforced racism. There are degrees to which a person will be willing to take risks to be a hero, and Pabst was not willing to go all the way but certainly did recognize some of the problems in undermining a black writer. Keep in mind that the Benny universe characters are meant to be direct analogues to their DS9 personas, so Pabst *is* Odo in all important senses. Specifically, he's the incarnation of Odo that was chief of security under the Cardassians during the Occupation. Sure, he wasn't anti-Bajoran like the Cardassians were but he also never went out on a limb for them either, like Quark did to an extent (while hiding it as best he could, just as Herbert fervently denies being a communist). As we learn in certain episodes and as Rusot's goon points out, Odo was indeed complicit in Bajoran executions even though he personally had no grudge against them, and for that Odo is guilty just as Pabst is. There is mitigating circumstance, of course - not everyone is cut out to be a firebrand, but still the facts are what they are. So that makes Pabst a 'racist' in the sense of participating with open eyes in a racist system, but I saw no sense that he personally was pleased with that system.

Regarding Brook's acting, he sometimes employs what is called stylized acting, and specifically heightened (quasi-Shakespearean) acting which veers away from verisimilitude and more towards giving a physically large spacial energy to the ideas being put forward. In short, it turns an idea in sound and motion in a theatrical way, and indeed it's probably a mark of theatre training. I can see how someone - especially a student of American film and TV - might be turned off by this since it's 'not realistic' in the way that became famous in the American Method schools, but I can assure you it's not "bad" acting. Brook's dedication to the imaginary circumstances of the scene and the belief in what he was saying was really there. I do personally agree that he let the theatricality go too far, and that's an artistic criticism, but damn his acting was still really good and his passion very real. A small tweak and I think the scene would have been awesome, but you're right that this is a major risk when self-directing.
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Ivanov
Sun, May 29, 2016, 12:21am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Equinox, Part I

Great episode but I do wonder how is what Ransom did any different than what Janeway did in "The Swarm"?

In Janeways case she killed Thousands of Swarm aliens to shave 15 months of her Journey Ransom killed dozens of these extra dimensional lifeforms and harvested their bodies for fuel. To me both have done horrible things to try and get their crew home. The difference is that this is Janeway's show so she has to be right no matter what.

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Luke
Sun, May 29, 2016, 12:19am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Honor Among Thieves

A pretty average episode, when all is said and done. There is nothing particularly bad about "Honor Among Thieves" but also nothing particularly good - aside from the acting.

The main problems are two-fold. First, this isn't exactly the most original of stories, is it? An undercover agent tries to infiltrate an organized crime syndicate. Hm, I think I've seen this somewhere else before. Said agent begins to grow fond of his target and has trouble dealing with the consequences of his assignment. Yeah, definitely seen this before. It's almost as if the writers just stuffed the script full of mob movie cliches. Second, I just don't have that much sympathy for Bilby. Sure, he has his charms, but so does Dukat. Oh, he really loves his family? Well, so what? The man is a cold-blooded killer who literally killed a man in front of O'Brien and was planning on carrying out a cold-blooded political assassination. You can talk all you want about how his life has forced him to do these things, but at the end of the day he still chose to live this way. In other words, he chose the thug life; the thug life did not chose him. The fact that he's a loving family man really pales in comparison to the fact that he's a stone-cold, unrepentant killer, doesn't it? I do feel somewhat sorry for his family (do they even know what he does for a living? - the episode leaves that fairly vague). That is, until next season's "Prodigal Daughter" comes along and destroys any sympathy I had for them. As a result, the only new character I have any sympathy left for is.... Chester. That's right - the cat!

Still, like most "Deep Space Nine" episodes, the acting saves what is otherwise a lackluster outing. Everyone involved delivers a very enjoyable performance. Even Nick Tate (Bilby) delivers a nicely understated performance - I may not care for the character, but I will admit that the actor did a fine job. Colm Meaney delivers his usual top-notch work - there really should have been more O'Brien focused stories, though preferably ones that don't always involve torturing him in some way. I also somewhat enjoyed the basic plot of the Dominion using the Orion Syndicate to further their goals. It seems like something the Dominion would do - working from behind the scenes to influence the course of events.

It could have been a lot worse, and in the hands of a lessor lead actor undoubtedly would have been, but it's not a complete waste.

6/10
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Ivanov
Sun, May 29, 2016, 12:03am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: The Swarm

Main plot:This was a great Doctor episode it really made me sad at the prospect that he might have to start all over again with the crew. Picardo is a really great actor.

Subplot:So Janeway decides to pass through another species space regardless of what they think about it. and kills tens of thousands of border guards. She probably killed a few thousand more when they reached the other side to. would have been nice to see them capture one alive and convince it to speak with their leaders, or at least some form of communication.
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Luke
Sat, May 28, 2016, 11:40pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: One Little Ship

"One Little Ship" is an episode that should not work. The basic premise - shrinking three of the main cast members and a runabout down to the size of Lilliputians - would be the most absurd idea in the franchise if it wasn't for the fact that VOY once transformed two characters into sex-crazed salamanders. The Jem'Hadar First is a complete blithering idiot who can't see the blindingly obvious even when his own second-in-command is screaming it in his face. The animosity between Alpha and Gamma Jem'Hadar is unnecessary, only offering a potential distraction from the mistrust between Dominion and Cardassian forces (thankfully this was immediately dropped, aside from a new make-up design for the Jem'Hadar). And the idea of the tiny runabout flying through the ship seems like an idea that a ten-year-old would come up with. But, surprisingly, despite all these shortcomings, it manages to be fairly engaging and genuinely entertaining.

The tone of the episode is kept exactly where it needs to be kept - whimsical silliness with tongue planted firmly in cheek. The jokes work, for the most part. There is a legitimate sense of suspense in scenes where it is needed. And the special effects really hold up well after all of these years. The scenes of the Rubicon flying through the Defiant are worth the price of admission alone - they are remarkably well done F/X shots.

A lot of people like to say that the difference between "Deep Space Nine" and VOY is either one of serialization or moral ambiguity. I disagree, to a point. It's episodes like this that clearly show the differences. On VOY, they tried many forms of "high concept" science fiction. Most of them didn't work? Because VOY often made its episodes entirely about the high concept being played with - the problem had everything to do with the concept itself so the solution had to be at least as silly as the problem. On "Deep Space Nine", however, the high concept episodes are about people facing strange problems, not the problems themselves. In this episode, the problem isn't the fact that Dax, O'Brien and Bashir are small. The problem is the Jem'hadar seizing control of the Defiant. All of the things done with their size limitations aren't ultimately the point. And returning them to normal size isn't the resolution of the crisis. We don't even see the process of making them tall again, because it doesn't matter. We care about the Jem'hadar on the Defiant. TNG also understood this; it's why "Rascals" works so well - we have the ridiculous idea of people turning into twelve-year-olds but the problem is ultimately the fact that the Ferengi have seized control of the ship. On VOY, however, the ultimate problem that needed to be solved was fixing the malfunctioning holodeck or escaping the random anomaly of the week. See the difference?

A fluff piece, to be sure, but a very well executed fluff piece.

7/10
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nooffenseintended
Sat, May 28, 2016, 10:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: Trailer: Star Trek Beyond

On Dxember 14, Jammer asked if he needed to create a new comment thread for "Star Trek Beyond." To which Matthew (December 14, 2015 at 1:51 PM) replied to the effect of, "that. I ght not be a bad idea. People are going to need a receptacle for their hate."

@Jammer, think about how many comments that have been made on Trek #11, Trek # 12, Star Trek Beyond, The Force Awakens, and the comments that will be made about the new Trek series premiering in January. There's so much hate for all of the above that not even Ambassador Alkar in TNG's "Man of the People" could find enough receptacles to contain it.

Things have reached the point where the trolls ( who are promptly and mercilessly upbraided) are the ones saying the GOOD things about these movies. Movie critic Pauline Kael made an interesting remake about the 1968 film "Petulia." She criticized that movie's director, Richard Lester, for using San Francisco (to her, one of the most beautiful places in the U.S.) as the setting for a showcase of ugly American behavior. She mused that if the director, who was British, had to go to such lengths to speciifcally portray the best America had to offer as evidence that America was culturally sick (which, to her, was like framing what a cop viewed as an obviously guilty suspect with crooked evidence), then what was it that the director REALLY hated? Her conclusion was that he hated not America but rather the idea of being "unhip," and that if his movie didn't gratuitously attack America, it would have committed the sin of being too ""square." When people who claim to love Star Trek or Star Wars attack the best that these franchises have to offer (click on a review of a great episode, scroll down a bit, and voila - instant hate!), what is it that those people really hate? The idea that they might give the impression that they actually are mortal enough to be entertained by something?

Now, the way comments sections work, not everyone can flood those sections at once with their comments. Whomever clicks "submit" first, gets to the head of the line. To eceryone else waiting in line who didn't like what I just said, well, I guess you'll just have to hate until it's your turn!
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Luke
Sat, May 28, 2016, 10:31pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Far Beyond the Stars

@ William B

"1. I don't mind Brooks here, though I don't like his over-the-top performances elsewhere...but I don't particularly mind this."

I'm about the exact opposite. I can stand his over-the-top performances, in fact I think they're very in keeping with his character. But this.... this was just unbearable. I honestly find it hard to watch. Not only is it horrible acting, it also completely destroys the climax of the episode - dragging down what should have been a very emotional scene into utter lunacy. A better way to play Benny's breakdown would have been to take a lesson from none other than William Shatner himself (another man known for his tendency to chew the scenery). In "The Search for Spock", when Kirk is informed that David is dead he also has a breakdown, but it's a subdued and nuanced one - he stumbles back, loses his footing and then begins to cry. This.... this is just outlandish.

"2. What makes you think the episode is saying Pabst is a racist rather than a coward?"

I think it's pretty clear that we're supposed to see Pabst as a racist. Even Jammer agrees, calling him a "covert racist". Yes, it's true that the cops played by Alaimo and Combs are more villainous, but it's Pabst who Benny has to struggle against more often. In fact, for most of the episode, it's Pabst and his unwillingness to publish the story as originally written that is the primary obstacle Benny has to overcome.

"3. I'm a white man. I would not be surprised if I got beat up for throwing a punch at a police officer today."

I'm a white man as well. I doubt that if I threw a punch a cop that I wouldn't get a beating. I'm just saying that the level of escalation the cops inflict on Benny wasn't needed for the story - unless the producers were trying to say that society at large really was *that" horrible, something I disagree with.

"As far as the point about riots, I thought the implication was that Pabst was suggesting that having a black character in a story would cause black people to riot, suddenly realizing the possibilities."

I've always interpreted that line as Pabst fearing that white people would turn violent at the thought of a black main character. But, I could be wrong on that one.

"7. Did he look into the camera?"

Indeed he did. Not at the moment when Sisko sees Benny's reflection in the window though - right before that, when Sisko and Joseph are still sitting on the couch.
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dipads
Sat, May 28, 2016, 8:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Infinite Regress

The scene where Seven is crouched on the floor acting innocently and Tuvok releasing the forcefield seemed to me a risky move on his part. She still had the phaser pointed at him and could easily have killed him once the forcefield was disengaged. The prudent move would have been for Tuvok to have her drop the weapon first.
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Andrew
Sat, May 28, 2016, 7:40pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Justice

Could of mentioned those extreme laws when the crew beamed down really instead of trying to mount them. Definately a heads up situation. However it would of been nice to see wesley exercuted but all multi dimention god needed was a good talking to so that was a bust. Cant really find anything to redeem this episode but there is something about star trek that makes me forgive the bad ones and plough on.
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Andrew
Sat, May 28, 2016, 7:22pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Encounter at Farpoint

I glad this series made it to 7 seasons but looking back at the early episodes im amazed that it did. I really liked all the characters after a while (except wesley) but in this episode apart from Q and picard i found them all so bad especially troi. Joy and gratitude. Joy and gratitude. Jeez. And i still to this day dont know what that anzardi or something like that was all about. Also the guy from the station was incredibly annoying. I thought the fx where ok for 1987 and didnt really find tasha any more boring than the others although the series did get better when she got gunged and more focus was put on worf.Im a really big fan of trek in general tng and im afraid to say voyager being my favorites. But overall this episode was a little lame and 2stars seems about right to me
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Greg
Sat, May 28, 2016, 7:22pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S7: Lower Decks

I must agree with Peter G. that while Picard is usually painted in very heroic and morally unambiguous terms he certainly doesn't come out here snow white. He killed Sito just as if he had pushed her out an airlock and he knows it. I agree that Stewart nailed the scene where he announces Sito's death to the crew. His voice and manner conveys just the right combination of regret, guilt, and resignation.

A lot of TNG comes off as adventure in space and I think it was the writers intent to remind the viewer that if this was really the military in space things would be a lot tougher and it would probably be more like the military is now. Most of the time the viewer is invited to love Picard because he is portrayed as not only an exceptionally great man but also because you know that if you were one of his crew and were in mortal danger he would move heaven and hell to do his best to save your bacon and consequences be damned. The Picard we see here is more militaristic. Totally willing to manipulate his crew in order to accomplish the mission. More willing to see his crew not as living breathing people but as pawns on a chessboard that are at his disposal for use in any way he sees fit. This is not a Picard we are used to seeing and it is a bit uncomfortable.

I am also forced to agree that Sisco was frequently painted with a darker brush. (No double entendre intended) He was a man that tried to do the right thing but as his character progressed he continually found that Star fleet set the bar too high with the prime directive and finally he was forced to take a more pragmatic view of things. He was faced with morally ambiguous choices while at war and had to sometimes abandon his principles or else risk losing the whole ball of wax. This was very reminiscent of Kirk, a man that could dance on the head of a pin with respect to the prime directive. Most of his compromises were both creative and pragmatic.
I did like the journey that Sisko made. From a man not quite sure if his new assignment suited him to a man that was faced with an interstellar war and was forced to compromise his principles for the greater good. In some ways I see him as a sort of Lincolnesque figure. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during his war. But he did it for what he saw as the greater good. Sisko did much the same.

And DS9, while a bit uneven, had one of the best episodes in Trek. Yes, I'm referring to Far Beyond the Stars. That show was pure art. And I'm to the right of Attila the Hun.
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dipads
Sat, May 28, 2016, 5:55pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Night

Enjoyed this episode but would have liked more insight on these aliens. How did they happen to be in the void? Where is there home? They did say there are a million of them in the void.
I've read all the reviews posted here but I am puzzled that no one spotted an out of sequence scene. I am referring to Chakotay and Tuvok in the briefing room. It happens just after the scene where we see Chakotay and Janeway in sickbay. I am positively sure that the Chakotay-Tuvok scene should have taken place earlier, rather than after the sickbay scene. Any thoughts?
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Shaen
Sat, May 28, 2016, 5:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Timeless

My favorite part of this episode was the Doctor nonchalantly holding a piece of Seven's dead skull while holding a conversation with Harry. A little disturbing.
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William B
Sat, May 28, 2016, 3:44pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Improbable Cause

@nothing original 55,

I think Tain had designs on expanding Cardassian space into the Gamma Quadrant afterward. He had big plans for his dramatic comeback, for sure.
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nothingoriginal55
Sat, May 28, 2016, 12:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Improbable Cause

So my only question is why attack the homeworld? Why not shut down the wormhole. Sure theyd have a war with the federation...but it seems to be a more believable outcome than taking on the dominion.
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Xepth
Sat, May 28, 2016, 11:06am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S1: Desert Crossing

Seeing Trip in yet another bad spot makes me feel like he's the O'brien of Enterprise.

Other than that, it just seemed like a real drag to Archer and Trip, to drive home the necessity to formulate something like a Prime Directive.
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dipads
Sat, May 28, 2016, 10:48am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Sacred Ground

Yanks,

In the episode "The Gift", Kes senses that something is wrong, and uses her abilities to send an electrical surge that stops Seven. Maybe I'm wrong, but it does seem she can forecast danger.
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William B
Sat, May 28, 2016, 9:40am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Far Beyond the Stars

@Luke,

I love this episode so I wanted to say a few words in its defense. The irony, of course, is that I like DS9 season six's other episodes less than you do, for the most part. But anyway:

1. I don't mind Brooks here, though I don't like his over-the-top performances elsewhere...but I don't particularly mind this.

2. What makes you think the episode is saying Pabst is a racist rather than a coward? I'm honestly curious on this point. Pabst is played by Rene Auberjonois. The actual villains of the piece are the cops, played by Alaimo and Combs (and to an extent Biggs in "Shadows and Symbols"). Auberjonois' role here means that he is seen as being akin to Odo in some way, from Sisko's perspective. The key traits are (as Peter G. has mentioned elsewhere) that Pabst likes order, and I think that Odo's link to Sisko's current enemies -- "his people," as Odo often refers to the Founders, are the ones who are threatening Sisko's way of life -- hence why Benny can't help but see Pabst as part of the machine that his grinding him down. Odo of course also worked for the Cardassians. Pabst's role here is ultimately to be an apologist for the Establishment, in this case the publisher who refuses to publish Sisko's story (on the station, for working with the Cardassians and having ties and sympathies for Sisko's major enemy), partly due to a sometimes misplaced need for order. To the extent that Benny's confrontation with Pabst is what triggers the end of the episode, I think we are meant to see it as the final straw; Pabst finds Benny's behaviour worrying because it is disorderly. Pabst is only "racist" insofar as he is unwilling to admit how much he is failing to recognize how much Benny stands to gain by shaking up the establishment, and how much he has to lose in not doing so, which means that he comes closest to the read of Odo in, say, "Things Past," where Thrax-but-really-Odo argues that the Bajorans should accept their place in history and stop making waves.

3. I'm a white man. I would not be surprised if I got beat up for throwing a punch at a police officer today. My white mother had run-ins with the police in her youth which got pretty rough, and she is not all that strong. I'm not saying all police respond disproportionately, but it happens; the issue here is that the police were racist enough to pick on Benny in the first place. Michael Dorn's baseball player is treated worse than white baseball players, but nothing outrageous is happening because he is playing. The magazine makes a point of hiding Benny's race and Nana Visitor's character's sex, but there is no law against them working for a magazine -- except hiding who is working for them clearly indicates that they fear that the magazine will lose sales or fold entirely if it was known who was working for them.

As far as the point about riots, I thought the implication was that Pabst was suggesting that having a black character in a story would cause black people to riot, suddenly realizing the possibilities. Black riots were, you know, a big fear. This is what Shimerman's character finds disingenuous. But even there, the point that Shimerman's character is making is that to hide behind "this could stir up trouble" (read: cause disorder) is cowardly because it is failing to acknowledge that the trouble is already there, and the story would just bring a tiny bit of the difficulties to light.

4. I don't think we need to see the portrayal within this episode as implying this is the experience for all individuals, everywhere. But fair enough, some more nuance could always be useful.

5. If someone was convinced to stop being racist by this episode, I certainly am happy that happened. However I don't think that's the episode's intent. First of all, Marc Scott Zicree is a SF enthusiast, and particularly a television SF enthusiast (he wrote a definitive book on The Twilight Zone), and partly this is a reflection on a period in SF. One can say that the episode failed to evoke that time properly, but it certainly attempted to and it was something of a love letter to the time. Further, it is a reflection on the Star Trek mythos. How often do people discuss what it meant to have Uhura on the bridge of the Enterprise, a decade after this episode takes place? It is about the possibility of sci-fi to change the world. But it is also a sort of apology; even a decade after this episode, Uhura had to be "snuck in" (as both woman and black person) in a role that would read to the audience as something like a secretary, even though it's obviously in-universe a more significant and high-ranking position. The first and only episode where Uhura is in command is in an animated series episode later in the 70's where the men all fall under a spell (I forget the name). The highly-touted interracial kiss was forced by alien telepaths. It's about the possibility of SF to change the world, and Star Trek's history of doing so, but it's also about the difficulty of actually committing to that.

Mostly, I see it as being about how sci-fi and imagination can change one individual's life. In a society which is personally oppressive to him, Benny finds his writing inspires him. It has a surface tragic ending, but it's only the surface; even if Benny is taken away to an institution, as long as he believes in the possibility of a better future, which he creates, he can continue to find meaning in a difficult, rocky existence. It is about how fiction about the future can help create that future. Racism is important to the story in terms of finding a very specific, personal grounding for what kind of oppression Benny is dealing with, and it's obviously one that is important to the cast and crew as well as to Trek's history.

I think it strikes a balance between the obviously self-congratulatory tone of many Trek meta-episodes (like Voyager's "Muse," WHICH I VERY MUCH LIKE, which presents the "one play can change the world!" thing without too much irony) while acknowledging the reality that Trek was sometimes a little more the type of publication that Pabst would do -- well-intentioned, but too safe and unable to make waves. And it says that ultimately what is important is how the art inspires the individual rather than the whole society, and that the change to the society comes about through changes in the individual.

6. I too find Sisko's initial depression a little forced, though SPOILER it does help set up his coming to the breaking point in "Tears of the Prophets." Anyway I mostly agree on the point that the initial set-up doesn't work.

However, "you are the dreamer and the dream," a line which was also used in the "Birthright" dream sequence with Data, is an important message for the Prophets to convey. I am actually not very happy with *most* Prophet appearances and most messages which they convey, but this is a kind of spiritual message that I can understand. When Sisko gets visions that tell him the location of B'hala, one must either take it as an overt miracle, overtly a function of alien workings that is not really analogous to anything on Earth, or to view it very abstractly as how "divine inspiration" can be a sort of creative engine that allows one to gain new insights...but it's very, very specific an insight. In this case, the key insight is that Sisko is his own creator; he can choose his fate, because he *is* the person who has created himself. The oppression that Sisko is experiencing is very different from the kind that Benny is experiencing, but he can be inspired by Benny's fighting against those who would squash his creativity, AND be inspired by Benny being inspired by Sisko. By closely identifying with a figure from the past, Sisko also can see more clearly that things can change and get better in a visceral, rather than abstract, way.

This is something that IMO the art conveys better than I can express it, and I apologize for my limitations, but: it is, in many ways, easier to write a hero than to behave as one. And yet the elements that make up behaving as a hero and writing one have a lot in common. Living well is the ultimate creative act -- and so Sisko has to step back and see "Benny," another version of himself, as the author of his own life, in order to be able to withstand it and continue living it, despite the trials behind him and before him. There is a codependency between the two layers -- Benny needs Sisko and Sisko needs Benny for strength -- and Benny's possibly "pointless" struggle becomes the model for Sisko's struggle just as Sisko's was a model for Benny's.

7. Did he look into the camera? Certainly he saw Benny in the reflection. Heh. OK, so not exactly the subtlest of moments, but I'd argue very important to emphasize what the real message of the episode is -- and it is *not* "racism is bad," but how Benny's endurance against racism through the creation of Sisko allows Sisko to see himself differently, how art and life are interrelated.
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Wilt
Sat, May 28, 2016, 4:50am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Royale

I agree that this episode was not classic status. But I always enjoyed. A guilty pleasure? Most definitely.

Couldn't imagine something like this being made in the 2010's. It seemed somewhat old timey even by the early 90's. But it is a snapshot in time of how scripts could be as opposed to how scipts are currently. And truthfully I miss those times just a bit.
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Luke
Sat, May 28, 2016, 4:12am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Far Beyond the Stars

Well, this is sure to be a heckle raiser, but here I go. "Far Beyond the Stars" is no classic. In fact, it's "Deep Space Nine's" version of "The Inner Light" - i.e., the series' most over-rated episode. In fact, I'd say it is the weakest episode since "Soldiers of the Empire". Don't get me wrong, I don't hate it. I can't even bring myself to actively *dislike* it. But, wow oh wow, does it have issues! After six and one half seasons of usually high quality writing, I expected the "Deep Space Nine" version of the "Racism Show" to easily surpass the show's predecessors (anybody remember the sledge-hammer to the face known as "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"?). Sadly, "Far Beyond the Stars" does not meet that expectation.

Issue #1: Some actors simply should not direct themselves. While Avery Brooks does a splendid job with the technical details of the episode (the sets, costumes, lighting, etc. all look fantastic!), there REALLY needed to be some else in authority to reign in his acting. "Brooks may have overacted his payoff scene a tad more than he needed to."? Damn, Jammer! Over-the-top does not even begin to describe his performance at the climactic moment of the episode. It's bad!! I mean, REALLY BAD!! Seriously, did the man just decide to literally eat the entire sound stage or something? Because that is quite possibly the most egregious example of scenery chewing I have ever seen in my life - and I've seen a lot of Nicholas Cage movies, so that's saying something!

Issue #2: If you're going to condemn a character as a racist, make sure he actually is one. The Pabst character is absolutely presented to us as a racist by the episode. And yet, I honestly don't think he is one. Sure, he might be a moral coward who isn't willing to stand up for what is right, but he's not a racist. This is the guy who employs Benny and goes out of his way to help him get his story published eventually. When the Albert character suggests making the first story a dream, Pabst is right on board with it. He even takes the revised story to the printing press and has it included in the magazine, despite the fact that the hero is a black man. If he were such a racist, why would he do this? And then there's the scene where he has to fire Benny. Watch that scene and then tell me that this person is standing there with glee in his heart as he fires Benny. No, instead he can't even make eye contact with Benny, he's so distraught at what he has to do - his facial language alone gets that point across. If he was such a racist, why would he be so distraught at this? Wouldn't he instead be happy that he gets to dehumanize the man he only sees as a "nigger" (a word I'm not shying away from using since the episode itself uses it)? There is a racist in this story, but it's not Pabst. It's the unseen publisher who pulps the entire run of the magazine against the wishes of Pabst. But instead, Pabst is the one we're supposed to condemn. Um, okay then.

Issue #3: Was 1950s America racist or not? The episode seems hellbent on saying that American society at large was abominably racist (and sexist) at this time. Cops harass a black man over the slightest provocation, like a picture of a space station (I doubt that would ever actually happen). They beat the living hell out of Benny for little reason (sure Benny threw the first punch but their reaction is massive over-the-top). White society won't even accept a highly accomplished black professional baseball player as an equal. And yet, the episode also wants us to believe that if it is known that a black man and a woman write for this magazine, that nothing all that outrageous will happen. When Pabst speculates on Benny's story possibly causing a riot, it is instantly dismissed as "the most imbecilic attempt to rationalize personal cowardice" by the Herb character. Well, if they live in such a violently racist society, isn't the possibly of a riot at least a possibility? Pick one guys! Either the society is completely racist or it isn't.

Issue #4: If you are going to portray an actual historical period, at least attempt to portray it accurately. Yes, racism was a problem in the 1950s. But it wasn't the monolithic culture-wide phenomenon that is portrayed here. The 1950s as depicted by "Far Beyond the Stars" is a society of cultural stagnation and white-bread, "Stepford Wives" style conformity. In truth, the 1950s laid the groundwork for the social upheavals of the following decade. This was the era that saw the beginning of school desegregation, for crying out loud! Kinsey was publishing his analysis of sexuality during this period. Elvis Presley (gyrating hips and all) was already shaking up the pop culture. Murray Rothbard was in the process of writing his tomes on economics, which would radically affect that discipline. The portrayal of science fiction's Golden Age is especially absurd. To say that nobody would have published Benny's story - even with the "it was all a dream" device - is to commit a massive over-simplification. Robert A. Heinlein's "Starship Troopers", for example, had a Filipino main character, and it was published in the 50s. The comic that apparently expired this episode, which SFDebris covers in depth in his review, had a black main character - and lo and behold.... it was published, and without the dream device. Again, I know that racism was a problem at this time. But surely there was room for some kind of nuance, wasn't there?

Issue #5: Who exactly was the intended audience for this episode? We Trek fans tend to be a pretty solidly non-racist demographic; I think we can all agree on that. However, by this point in the franchise, with the ratings falling precipitously, who besides people who were already Trek fans were going to watch this episode? This doesn't exactly strike me as an episode that is intended to reach out to the wider television audience and draw them into the show. When is the last time you heard a non-Trek fan, or even a lukewarm fan, list "Far Beyond the Stars" as one of the franchise's premier episodes? I'm left with the distinct impression that the writers and producers honestly think that us Trek fans are the most vile, racist pigs imaginable - people who have to be constantly reminded that "Racism is BAD" [TM] - especially given how many times this theme comes up in Trek. I get it, okay? Racism is bad, that's why I'm not a racist!

Issue #6: Even though it is never once stated directly in the episode, I'm assuming that all of this was a vision sent to Sisko by the Prophets. My only question in this regard is simple.... why? What was the point of this vision? What lesson or truth were the Prophets attempting to teach or impart to Sisko here? Fight the good fight? I would think Sisko already knew that. Were they trying to give him some moral stamina in his hour of questioning and doubt? If that's the case we're left with the problem that Sisko's depression in this episode literally comes out of nowhere. Not once since the war started his he shown any sign of tiring of the fight. Just two episodes ago, in "Waltz", he was rock-solidly (diamond hard, in fact) determined to keep Dukat from harming Bajor; but now he's contemplating just giving up on that and retiring? It's just a convenient way of setting up the message of the episode.

Issue #7: "But I have begun to wonder. What if it wasn't a dream? What if this life we're leading, all of this - you and me, everything - what if all of this is the illusion?".... all said by Brooks while he stares directly into the camera. Jesus, real subtle there, guys! Break that fourth wall a little harder next time; I think you left a few bricks standing.

Well, if I haven't lost you yet by being heavily critical of yet another fan-beloved episode, let me say this. I do not disagree with the message; racism is indeed bad. Who does disagree with that in this day and age (or for that matter in 1998) - aside from actual Ku Klux Klan members (and how many of them are actually still left, 36?, 80% of whom are FBI informants?). Like I said, I don't dislike this episode; I just wish Trek would stop using such two-by-four-to-the-skull tactics in getting this message across. Like with similar Message Episodes, like "The Outcast" or "Rejoined", I'll give "Far Beyond the Stars" a similar score because the powers that be definitely had their hearts in the right place, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

6/10
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Luke
Sat, May 28, 2016, 3:36am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Who Mourns for Morn?

While it's a somewhat enjoyable comedy, "Who Mourns for Morn?" certainly doesn't compare to the heights of "The Magnificent Ferengi".

Writing entire episodes about one-note side characters is an error that a lot of shows make in their later seasons. They can be mildly diverting or downright horrible - they almost never end up being classics. This one works well enough, I suppose. It does have some genuine laughs (mostly between Quark and Odo) but the cost of those jokes is the total over-extension of the Morn joke. Up until now what has made Morn so likeable as a background character was that he was just a normal guy trying to live a normal life in extraordinary circumstances. He was a guy who just liked to hang out in the bar with his friends and every now and then chase some women. But now, we find out that he's really a brilliant, master thief who dates supermodels, is an expert bat'leth swordsman who spars weekly with Worf and is really, really, really, really rich. If you really enjoy the joke that Morn is just DS9's resident barfly, you almost have to pretend that this episode never happened.

Add to that the fact that the plot - so to speak - is stretched remarkably thin. This was, at most, a story that should have taken twenty minutes to tell. Instead, it stretches over the entire forty-five minute run-time. The Hain character adds practically nothing to the mix other than to pad things out and make Quark look like a fool for falling for yet another obvious scam. "Who Mourns for Morn?" is an episode that desperately needed a B-plot of some kind in order to avoid all the padding.

Still, some of the jokes work, it's not offensive in any way and it was nice that Quark got to get a little profit at the end of the day for once (usually in these comedy episodes focusing on his greedy nature he ends up with nothing to show for his troubles or he ends up worse off than when he started). So, it's not a total loss, but it certainly isn't memorable.

6/10
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Luke
Sat, May 28, 2016, 3:11am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Waltz

"Waltz" is yet another controversial episode, much like "Sacrifice of Angels". There are many fans who hate it because it strips away the fascinating shades of grey from Dukat's character and leaves him as a stereotypical villain. That's a view I don't share. Others love the episode because it's a well-written psychological piece about a man's descent into madness. That is a view I do share.

I don't believe people are capable of being pure evil, even the worst human ever has committed some small act of good at some point (Hitler loved Eva Braun and so forth). But I do believe that someone can do so many bad things that they can be considered an evil person. Dukat is such a person; he does have some positive aspects to his personality (he's charming, he truly loved Ziyal, etc.), yet he is driven largely by his own ego and need for self-aggrandizement. This episode doesn't present anything new to make Dukat seem evil (everything we see here was present before in one form or another), it just puts together all the pieces already on the table and allows us to finally see Dukat for who he truly is, with all the pretense and lies stripped away. You could make the case that it goes somewhat overboard with Sisko's declaration that Dukat is "truly evil", but if someone had just beaten me half to death with a smoking pipe and then declared himself to be a proud racist bent on genocide (complete with his own version of the White Man's Burden), I would probably come to that same conclusion!

I'm usually a fan of stories like this - taking two characters and locking them in a room together until something interesting happens. Like happens so many times with "Deep Space Nine", this episode is often compared to a "Babylon 5" one - "Intersections in Real Time". I personally think this is the better of the two, because while I'm a fan of these chamber dramas, B5 showed their limitations. A drama like this which takes up the entire episode gets boring really, really quickly. You need something to divert the audience's attention, if only temporarily. Thankfully, "Waltz" has a decent B-plot involving the search of Sisko and Dukat which allows the audience opportunities to catch their breath. And I love how Worf has apparently grown as a command officer - understatedly telling Bashir he is out of line. Worf from earlier seasons, especially early TNG ones, would have just snarled at him.

10/10
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Luke
Sat, May 28, 2016, 2:37am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: The Magnificent Ferengi

Another Ferengi comedy episode.... oh joy! Wait, it's actually funny? Well I will be!

You know what makes "The Magnificent Ferengi" so good (and I do think this richly deserves to be placed in the top tier of Trek comedies)? It's the fact that for once it's stupid but the writers fully embrace the stupidity, instead of it being stupid and the writers being oblivious to that fact. Behr and Beimler decided to stop their small, limited, anti-capitalist thinking for once and then did two things. 1.) They actually attached a positive element (bravery) to the Ferengi shenanigans. 2.) They went balls to the wall with a "fuck it, let's have some fun!" attitude.

And fun is what this episode is! It's fun in spades! The jokes actually work. All the Ferengi characters are legitimately enjoyable and likeable - even Ishka!!!!!, something I certainly thought I would never say! Iggy Pop plays a wonderful straight-man against all the antics of the Ferengi. Christopher Shea plays a thoroughly enjoyable wry observer. Everything in the episode simply clicks, at least for me. Even the "Weekend at Bernie's" gag of the dead Keevan being made to walk was uproariously funny!

What else really is there to say about "The Magnificent Ferengi"? There is virtually no meat to sink your teeth into. I suppose one could argue that it shows that the Ferengi are determined survivors underneath their greedy, materialistic exteriors. But, Jammer is absolutely right this is the quintessential example of a "shut up, turn off your brain and enjoy the ride" episode. And enjoy it I did! Immensely!! If only all Ferengi comedies, or even non-Ferengi Trek comedies, could be this good.

10/10
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