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Skeptical
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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nothingoriginal55
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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moj
Wed, May 4, 2016, 8:45am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Valiant

The only good bug is a dead bug.
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Luke
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.)

6/10
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NCC-1701-Z
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!"
(KABOOM)
[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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Luke
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".

10/10
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Void
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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Stig
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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Andrew
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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nothingoriginal55
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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Andrew
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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robrow
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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robrow
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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Starik
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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MichaelMichaelMotorcycle
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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Skeptical
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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Peter G.
Mon, May 2, 2016, 3:38pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Shadows and Symbols

@ William B,

The mapping of Benny/Sisko as you describe is what I see too. I'll add in one more thing, which goes to the basis for why a lot of people have a problem with DS9. Wycoff/Damar's suggestion that Benny give up the wild dream sounds like good advice. Good, rational, Starfleet-type advice. The crossroads in the asylum is not dissimilar from the ultimatum Admiral Ross gives Sisko about choosing between the hard-reality of the Federation or his role as Emissary. And this, in turn, leads us to something DS9 subtly deals with that TNG never did, which is the difference between Starfleet and the Federation. Gene's vision was never about some great space navy, but rather about a great Federation of different peoples (UDIC) where tolerance and understand begin by not pre-judging others' differences. The prime directive plays right into this theme, and supposedly takes priority over every other consideration for Starfleet.

Here we are shown the narrow, wrong way to view a humanistic future, which is to think that only standard methods of evaluating normalcy should be called rational. The wormhole aliens think and operate on some bizarre other level? Well they're just some weird damn entities, pay them no mind. We need to think about real facts, dammit, not some religious nonsense. But the wormhole aliens *are* that new life and new civilization, and the fact that the Bajorans created a religion around them has nothing to do with what they are: an alien intelligence of unknown proportion. This is not unlike what Arthur C. Clarke and Carl Sagan gave us in Rama and Contact.

Starfleet is largely a military organization, and it's all too easy for that kind of organization to lose the balance between being explorers like Picard and being rank-and-file soldiers. TNG ignored this by always allowing Picard to have his cake and eat it too; by being both strictly bound to his duty as well as free to make moral Federation decision. DS9 shows how this may not always be possible, especially during a war. In the aftermath of Wolf 359 and then the Dominion, we know that Starfleet began to massively produce starships and then warships. This kind of arms race erodes the philosophical properties Starfleet was supposed to represent and make it more military, and I think in this episode we see how far that's come and how it's a dangerous trap. Admiral Ross is even contemplating allowing the Romulans to basically Annex Bajor in exchange for their continued alliance during the war, so we can see how desperate things have gotten.

I see the scene between Benny and Wycoff as being not only about Sisko the man/prophet, and about the mythos of the prophets/wraiths, but also about Starfleet itself and how in times of duress the dream of the Federation is in danger of being lost in favor of victory. I think the message is that even when things appear to be beyond repair and lost the faith in the dream of the Federation must be maintained even if that means edging away from strategic cold facts. To be a leader in the Federation you do have to be a sort of dreamer, rather than an organizational bureaucrat. It's not supposed to just be a better society, it's supposed to involve better people, who turn their dreams into reality. As I see it Kirk was a good example of the romance of fighting for that reality, Picard embodied the logic of it, and Sisko is the heart of it. As of DS9 season 7 I think we now have the complete package of what the Federation is supposed to be about. Faith in the prophets isn't just about some religious nonsense, it's about what it takes to have faith in the Federation and its destiny.

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William B
Mon, May 2, 2016, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Shadows and Symbols

Continued to Peter G.: I do agree with the interpretation of "dreamer and the dream" and the possibility of Sisko being a creative actor (not just in the "artist sense" but in the sense of making his own choices of how best to do good) while also following the path laid out for him, and I think that does get at the mythological elements here. Benny choosing to continue to write his story and Sisko choosing to open the box do work together quite well. Really, the "temptation" the Paghwraiths offer maps on very well (and perhaps is the same) to the one that Sisko gave into for a time -- of leaving his life on the station behind after Jadzia's death and stopping to attempt to fulfill his roles as Emissary or Starfleet captain (or, for that matter, friend or boyfriend -- the only relationships he maintains are his family relationships). The asylum as prison maps onto Sisko locking himself away from life, and the asylum as "place for the 'crazy' people" maps onto Sisko's increasingly erratic behaviour once he starts "writing" again, i.e. once he starts trying to follow his divine inspiration/intuition to save the wormhole.

In practice, I still have a hard time seeing Sisko as an active agent in making choices; while it is true that he has faith in himself and that is the key element for Benny, Sisko's faith still must be faith in himself insofar as he has faith that his faith that his Prophets-inspired vision/intuition that he should open the box is not misplaced. Either the Prophets gave him visions/are guiding his actions...or Sisko himself has Prophet superpowers which allow him to "know" that Ezri throwing the baseball to a random spot on the desert means that is the place where they should dig. The latter is more appealing, but still is very heavily abstracted. Sisko's faith in himself means faith that he has Prophet-based superpowers, rather than that he can rise to difficult occasions, though I guess him having Prophet-based superpowers is the Hero's Journey equivalent of having faith that he can rise to difficult occasions. So I take back what I said about this material cheapening FBTS and that the vision coming from the Paghwraiths mitigates its narrative impact; the Benny flashback is effective, but I am still uneasy about the Sisko-frame material relying so heavily on Sisko's Prophet-mystical intuition. Still, I do very much like that the real development here is for Sisko to return to the station (and his life and his responsibilities) as a result of his Orb of the Emissary experience, which means that Benny continuing writing the story rather than being wholly cowed by his breakdown signals that Sisko is ready to move forward past his loss of self-faith in "Tears of the Prophets."

----

On another topic:

Looking at some of the comments here and rereading what I wrote, I think that how one reads the Worf plot depends on how seriously one takes the "suicide mission" aspect of things. The episode tries to play it as a Very Dangerous mission, but the portrayal of it is pretty unconvincing...which to my mind is something of a benefit. Because, you know, given that Bashir and Quark don't have much reason to believe in Sto-vo-Kor, for them to give up their lives to send Jadzia there doesn't really fit them, whether they loved Jadzia or not, and within the episode most of the material focuses on whether Quark deserves to be there on this mission where Julian and Quark seemingly have nothing to contribute. It really does seem as if they are there to *prove a point*, Quark especially, to tell Worf that he has the right to die for Jadzia, rather than because he thinks it's a good idea. And even if they did decide to go, for O'Brien to basically sign up to die because he and Bashir are best friends is very silly. But honestly, despite the dialogue about how dangerous this mission is, no one seems all *that* concerned about it or that worried that they will die. We could see this as *extreme* grace under pressure, which is possible, or we could say that it's simply bad characterization, or we could accept that everyone knows that it's a risky-but-not-THAT-risky assignment, so that it is not that foolish to sign up for the mission just to prove a point. I tend to do the latter, in which case the plotline loses a lot of its heft -- the "suicide mission" stuff is overwrought -- but the character dynamics make more sense. It becomes a somewhat lightweight story, not that riveting but okay, rather than a hugely dramatic story which (arguably) forces much of the cast out of shape to do it.
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William B
Mon, May 2, 2016, 2:19pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Shadows and Symbols

@Peter G., I got why Benny was in an asylum (based on FBTS), and I also recognized that Casey Biggs' character was clearly meant to represent the enemy and, more particularly, the Establishment (similar to how Marc Alaimo and Jeffrey Combs also played Establishment forces who were going to hurt him); obviously Benny is meant to triumph over Wycoff. I had thought, though, that the whole vision was created by the Paghwraiths in a way that matches up with his own vision and experiences, rather than that Wycoff alone is a representation of the Paghwraiths' presence. I felt that the Paghwraiths simply inadvertently hurt themselves in presenting their temptation for Sisko in terms which were clearly narratively engineered for Benny to triumph over the Damar (enemy establishment) analogue, but it makes sense if the writers' framing of the material matches with the Prophets', and that Benny's independent existence continues despite FBTS ending. That helps clarify the matter further; I guess the analogy is that within Benny universe, which is allowed some sort of independent existence (if only as a narrative), Wycoff is a figure who represents the forces that the Paghwraiths control, which then means that he represents the forces that the Paghwraiths are meant to represent and thus the opposition to Sisko's liberation of the Bajorans. I guess I was pretty glib in my take on that plotline, reading what I wrote again.
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Diamond Dave
Mon, May 2, 2016, 1:52pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S3: E2

Well that one came completely out of left field - a definite WTF to find that another Enterprise had been doing a Voyager through the Expanse for over 100 years.

But hackneyed time travel or not, I found this to be an extremely enjoyable episode. That may be because I'm a sucker for the "what if?" episodes, but there were a whole bunch of really nice character beats in there (Reed being the most amusing). Lorian was also an interesting character and brought something new to the table. The shoot-em-up finale, as great as it looked, was probably a little overdone but the ambiguous resolution worked fine for me. 3.5 stars.
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Robert
Mon, May 2, 2016, 1:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Shadows and Symbols

@Peter - Well said. This vision for me does everything the other one doesn't. If FBTS was as organically integrated into the station plot as this episode is it'd go from a 3.5 to a 4+ for me.
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