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William B - Sat, Jul 4, 2015, 11:52am (USA Central)
Re: Star Trek: First Contact

@Skeptical, I really agree with what you've written. I had started writing something on the movie after rewatching it but began to find the whole thing daunting. On a minor point, I actually don't think it's pushing it at all to include the Data plotline here; Data's corruptibility, after all, is tied *directly* to his search for humanity, and the threat of corruption is specifically geared to his difficulty dealing with human emotions and his desire for human flesh.

The other intriguing parallel, which I think deserves a lot more elaboration than I'm going to give here, is that the title "First Contact" also refers to both/all three plots. The Borg go back to stop humans' first contact with other life forms, which represents the opportunity for humans to expand. But the other big motivation for the Borg, as personified by the Borg Queen, turns out to be the desire for "a counterpart," to "bridge the gap" between humanity and the Borg; the Borg wanted Picard as a counterpart, and then (seem to) find one in Data. The Borg were, and are, seeking their own "first contact." When Picard wanders into the lion's den to find Data, he's dealing with his own unfinished business, which comes down to his own repressed memories of his contact (which the Borg Queen sexualizes as sexual contact) with the Borg; Picard's anger, it seems to me, stems from misplaced guilt which remains in him about what he was made to do as part of the Collective, as well as the fact that he is unable to deal with the brief moment where he and the Borg became one, and he lost himself in that contact.

This all partly works because the Borg is, among other things, an extremely dark mirror of the Federation, where the Borg's desire for exploration and harmony manifests in a desire for total domination, where "work[ing] to better ourselves and the rest of humanity" manifests as a drive to co-opt or destroy anything "imperfect," etc. And it seems to me that the Borg's interest in humanity, and Picard in particular, is in trying to understand that particular spark of...imperfection, maybe?...that eludes the Borg. The Borg's weaknesses have to do with an inability to see themselves as imperfect ("believing oneself to be perfect is often the sign of a delusional mind" -- Data), which is an exaggeration of Picard's flaw in the film, where his belief in his evolved sensibilities makes it hard for him to see his errors clearly until Lily points them out to him. Picard/Lily and Riker/Cochrane are similar stories, in opposite directions -- Riker lets Cochrane, deeply flawed man as he is, that he can be a hero, and Lily reminds Picard, deeply heroic man that he is, that he can be flawed.

I have got to say, there is something weirdly primal about the Picard-Data-Borg Queen climax; I mean, it's almost Oedipal, in that Data's apparent turning on Picard and taking on Picard's Counterpart role with the Borg Queen (who, again, sexualizes the "contact") has the hints of a son killing his father and taking his father's wife (i.e. mother). I maybe get chills from watching this section because I remember how intense it was for me as a ten-year-old who briefly believed that Data would actually permamently go over to the dark side, but it still packs a punch for me. Part of the function of the Borg Queen/Data plotline, I should add, is so that in *real time* we basically are shown (not just told) what the Queen tried to do to Picard; I doubt that she literally tried seducing him the way she does with Data, but the inversion of Picard's assimilation (Data is given human skin on a technological body, in contrast to Picard's technological implants) combined with the Queen arguing the case for the Borg philosophy gives some idea of what may have been going on in a nightmarish, subconscious level for Picard -- and which he seems to have somewhat repressed. Picard's going to rescue Data then partly works as Picard rescuing a part of himself which he had apparently "left behind," which is why, in mythic terms, he "earns back" the repressed memories, even if I'm not clear if it makes literal sense. Data and Picard work together to defeat the Queen and save each other in the process.

I do think that the Borg Queen works best (in this film) as a manifestation of the Borg's consciousness, and her/their use of sexuality in an attempt to crack Data (and Picard, Back in the Day), while a little dubious and contrary to the Borg's usual way of operating, makes sense if we view it as the Borg Collective's attempt to "seduce" a willing partner so as to fully understand the beings they believe are interesting. It's still a retcon which in many ways reduces what is interesting about the Borg, but I think it works pretty well for this movie, at least on mythic levels.
MsV - Sat, Jul 4, 2015, 5:13am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S4: Broken Link

I had the hardest time trying to figure out when did Odo infect the founders in the Great link. I was here, This is the only time Odo was anywhere near them. I had thought it was in Season 6 during the war, but the female changeling couldn't get back to the Gamma Quadrant.

I really liked Odo in this one, he was just as loyal to the Defiant crew as they were to him, Odo looked really scared right before he entered the link.
Luke - Sat, Jul 4, 2015, 1:12am (USA Central)
Re: TNG S4: The Loss

Is "The Loss" good? No. Is it bad? No. It's just another run-of-the-mill episode that does virtually nothing for me either way.

Well, okay, it does do a few things bad. What was the point of Troi's outbursts and general attitude about her loss? Was it to make her look unprofessional and all-around unlikeable? If that was the case then mission accomplished, I guess. And, the way she gets her empathic abilities back is just absurd. A short circuit in her brain because she couldn't handle such intense emotion? Give me a break! If that's the case, why is there verifiable brain damage (which is hand-waved away in the end)?

I would have rather had a techno-babble explanation for her impairment with something like the organisms blocking her abilities with a subspace field or something - because.... wait for it.... techno-babble doesn't bother me. Shock, horror, surprise, fainting, screams, sighs, pants-shitting, mass hysteria ensues and the internet explodes!

Then life goes on. On to "Data's Day."

4/10
Fish Jones - Fri, Jul 3, 2015, 11:18pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S6: Far Beyond the Stars

Er, "lateral-click"hosa. I put brackets around it and the computer ate them.
Skeptical - Fri, Jul 3, 2015, 6:42pm (USA Central)
Re: Star Trek: First Contact

I know people complain a lot about nitpicks. Personally, they usually don't bother me. If you want to, you can nitpick any great movie. So the command codes for Federation starships is a simple 5 digit code? Scotty takes Preston's body up to the bridge instead of immediately to sickbay? Spock gives the most blatantly obvious code in existence? So what? Wrath of Khan is still a great movie even with these silly parts. And First Contact is still a great movie despite its silliness too.

But the complaint I really don't like is that this is nothing more than actiony fluff. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Now, I'm probably going a bit far with this, but I think there's a lot of parallels between the A and B plots (and a bit of the C plot as well). I mean, not the Zombies in Space part of the A plot, but the Picard part. Look at how the crew idolized Cochrane, particularly LaForge and Barclay. His flight, his character, and his subsequent first contact with aliens was so built up in the minds of the Starfleet crew that it's hard for them to imagine that their hero was a drunk and a lecher who couldn't care less about the rest of humanity. It was a case of the fallen idol.

Now look at the A plot. To the Starfleet crew, Cochrane represented the best of humanity. But to Trek fans, it is Picard who represents the best of humanity. While people can argue the Kirk vs Picard (vs Sisko) for all eternity, it's clear that Picard is the ideal of Roddenberry's "evolved" human. He is the thoughtful, calm, rational renaissance man, and can always be turned to in order to give the Picard speech about the greatness of humanity. He is the living embodiment of enlightenment. And in this movie, we see him fail. Hard. Like Cochrane to the Starfleet crew, he is the fallen idol of Trek's optimism.

"Don't try to be a great man. Just be a man, and let history take its course."

Yet, Cochrane didn't fail. Yes, he ran. And he got zapped for his cowardice. While it seemed to be that he was forced into it, he really wasn't. In the cockpit, he smiled and said he was ready to make history. Sure, he chickened out for awhile, but he still was willing to go through it with. He may not have been the idol that Starfleet thought he was, but he still did the right thing.

This is most notable in the actual First Contact scene. The Vulcans landed, and everyone just stares at them. Riker eventually reminds Cochrane that he's kinda the reason the aliens are here. And so what does he do? He steps forward. Remember, this is a guy who's initial plan was to retire to a tropical island filled with naked ladies. This was a guy who's idea of a good time is getting plastered. This was a guy who had pretty much zero cares about the rest of humanity. And he knew that this was an extraordinarily important moment in the history of humanity. So he knew that he, of all people, was going to end up being the ambassador of humanity.

And what does he do? He walks forward. He accepts his role as the ambassador, and does the best he can. When the most important moment of his life appeared, he made the right choice. Zeframe Cochrane may not have been the visionary that future engineers thought him to be. But whatever else he was, he was still a good man, and still managed to usher in a new era for humanity. His quote Riker threw back at him fits him perfectly. He ended up doing the right thing and being vindicated and downright revered for it.

(BTW, one nice bit of direction here: we all know Jonathan Frakes is a tall guy. Yet when he talks to Cochrane in this scene, James Cromwell looks about 8 inches taller. Riker is literally looking up to Cochrane at the moment that Cochrane becomes the hero of history.)

So let's go back to Picard. His story is the same thing. Sure, we saw for seven years that he was a great man, and for the most part he lived up to that ideal. But Roddenberry's vision of mankind in the future wasn't "for the most part", it was perfection. Picard's statement here that mankind had evolved beyond such base desires is exactly what Roddenberry wanted. And Lily's response is perfectly in line with ours: "Bull---."

Picard doesn't just falter here, he falls dramatically. We see him at his worst, giving irrational orders that could get people killed (or worse), succumbing to anger, insulting some of his closest friends, and seeking bloodlust. Is it a bit much compared to what we are used to from Picard? Perhaps, but we're used to seeing him at his best, seeing him up on a pedestal. Because of that, this episode needed to knock him off the pedestal as much as possible. It was easy to do with Cochrane, since this was the first we saw him (yes, yes, TOS, close enough...). So it had to be as unsubtle as what we saw, because it needed to be shocking to see his other side. The whole "tale of two Picards" is deliberate!

But like Cochrane, his dark side needed to be temporary. Like Cochrane, all it took was one kick in the pants for him to do what was right and to get right back on the pedestal again. Sure, for Picard, it's not a history-defining moment, but it doesn't need to be. We are already used to seeing him as the great hero, so its enough to see him return to the calm rational captain we all know. The route was a bit different, but the arc was the same as Cochrane: idealized character gets seen at his worst, yet still comes through in the end.

(One could take this further and add Data as a parallel: the incorruptible member of the crew getting tempted by the Borg, but ultimately sacrificing his dream to do what was right. But that might be pushing it a bit.)

So why is this interpretation so important? Again, it all goes back to Roddenberry's utopia. By doing it like this, this film is essentially a deconstruction/reconstruction of that utopia. The writers, quite clearly, do not agree with Roddenberry's view that mankind will become perfect in this new technocratic society. By putting both the Roddenberry ideal character and the in-universe savior of humanity as imperfect, emotional fools, we are shown as plainly as possible that humanity still has its faults.

Yet, most importantly, we see this without removing the fundamental aspect of Roddenberry's vision, that of optimism for the future. This isn't In The Pale Moonlight, where Sisko sacrifices his principles to gain an ally in a war. This isn't dark and grim and pessimistic in the slightest. In universe, Cochrane is still a hero in the eyes of the Starfleet officers despite knowing his flaws, and he still steps forward and accepts his place in history. And to us, despite seeing the anger and fear in Picard, he is still the moral center of the Trek Universe.

And most importantly, this is actually a BETTER vision of the future than Roddenberry's silly utopia. Roddenberry is saying that you are a pathetic, fallen, dark individual, unable to reach an enlightened state, but perhaps someday your children's children's children will become perfect. Moore and Braga are saying that you already have this potential, that you are potentially great, and that the great society of the future is in your reach if you and everyone else would work towards this goal. Which is a better vision? Which stirs your soul more?

If I may quote Ronald Reagan for a moment (please, no politics about the source of the quote): "I've seen what men can do for each other and do to each other, I've seen war and peace, feast and famine, depression and prosperity, sickness and health. I've seen the depth of suffering and the peaks of triumph and I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph and that there is purpose and worth to each and every life."

That is the message of First Contact. And that is a beautiful, stirring, uplifting message. It is a far better message than Roddenberry's, and so this movie, which ended up essentially being the swan song of the TNG (lets face facts, nobody cares much for Insurrection or Nemesis), serves to reboot and improve on Roddenberry's message. TNG is the show that focused so much on the philosophical, so much on fleshing out the optimistic future that Trek stands for. So it is fitting that we have the final statement on that message. Not subvert it, not try to tear it down, not show the dark side of it, but to clarify and perfect the message.

And it is even more fitting that that message culminates in the focal point of Trek history, the moment of First Contact itself. Such a beautiful scene.

I love Wrath of Khan, but this movie defines Trek for me.
Peter - Fri, Jul 3, 2015, 4:15pm (USA Central)
Re: TNG S7: Attached

I agree with the 3 star rating on this one. I always found Crusher very attractive (guess I have Picard's taste), but it was a shame to see their relationship was basically just a tease. I guess one of those stars is just for the prominent role Bev plays. I frankly found the neck gadgets quite contrived, and even more so when they don't even let the two apart from each other.

There's a whole unexplored political element to this episode as well. It is hinted at in the first scene, when Picard posits that any non-unified planet should not be admitted to the Federation. I personally don't believe that a world government would be a good thing...Just too much chance of unrepresentative politicians and bureaucrats trampling over individual rights. We actually see that hinted at here, on a planet that is ALMOST unified in that they are down to only two governments. One of them is paranoid and obsessed with spying and the other is fine with kidnapping and false imprisonment without trial, not to mention that even their Prime Minister all but panics when he finds himself speaking with an outside party (the Enterprise) without prior clearance from the security folks. The whole planet seems like it's out of the Orwel's 1984. And then there's the forcefield border fence -- surely an orgasmic dream of every xenophobic nativist. I agree the episode's best moment comes when Riker reveals his opinion of Kesprytt.

Peter - Fri, Jul 3, 2015, 2:46pm (USA Central)
Re: TNG S7: Dark Page

I thought this episode went a little way towards redeeming the Lwaxana character. In her previous appearances, she was strictly there for comic relief. At least in this one, she is not desperately trying to get Troi to marry someone, anyone. (OK, she does in one early scene, but then it moves on her own story.) And Majel Barrett did do a convincing job of carrying the story. I must admit I laughed out loud when she berates Riker in Ten Forward. For all the breakdown-related craziness, she probably has a point.

I thought all the acting performances were competent, in spite of the "Care Bear stare" telepathy. Not sure why they couldn't just use the TOS Vulcan-style hands-on-side-of-head approach. That at least made some sense and looked dramatic.

The episode lost me at the very end with the revelation of Deanna's older sister's death by (presumably) drowning. I can accept that Lwaxana hid the tragedy from her younger daughter all those years (though I'm not sure why) and deleted many diary entries to hide the fact that she had had another daughter. But the show made it a point to say that all of Lwaxana's long-time friends were contacted to see if there had been any traumatic events in her past. Did NONE of them know about the older daughter's death? Wouldn't that be a pretty major traumatic event in the life of any friend that one might be able to recall even 30 years later? Yes, fine, they had been sworn to secrecy. I can buy that if they had been asked by Deanna as a youngster -- but not by Deanna as an adult Starfleet officer 30 years later, desperate to find some information that would save her mysteriously dying mother! I just don't buy that none of the friends who were contacted knew about or was willing to confess the truth.

Still, all in all, I liked this episode better than the previous "let's delve into someone's unconscious psyche" episode with Data. There, the very fake-seeming Freud ruined it for me...Along with a view on Freudian psychoanalysis that's more akin to a 1950s Hitchcock movie than a supposedly 24th-century sci-fi story.

datalal - Fri, Jul 3, 2015, 1:15pm (USA Central)
Re: TNG S7: Interface

After watching this episode, I thought it was...ehh. The scenes between Geordi and Data were well played, and the idea of using Geordi's VISOR implants as a way to interface with a probe was also intriguing. But I was kind of with Geordi, when everyone is giving the Hera up for dead. How long does a person have to be missing to be presumed dead? The Hera hadn't been missing more than a week, if I remember correctly. So..huh? Funerals already? Ben Vereen/Daddy LaForge just gives up all hope before his son does? Why? Oh right, plot.

[It might have been cool to see what kind of person Geordi's sister actually is, too. Maybe she's a complete contrast, a religious non-techie who's married with kids. Or she's a tech nerd like him, in Starfleet too?]

I also think it's kind of rotten that we only just now get to see LaForge's parents. And he didn't get back to his mom, after she sent him that message...3 WEEKS ago? Why? They could have perhaps hinted that the reason for his lack of communication might be from resentment on the part of Geordi toward his mother - which might naturally stem from her constant nagging and date-arranging. It would have added to his guilty feelings and need to save her - because maybe he didn't just fail to respond to her message one time, but hasn't talked to her much in a LONG time, and with her dead, he could no longer get a chance to heal the wounds and bridge the gap.

We also might feel more pain and distress if we'd seen them before, just as in "Generations" the bit about the death of Picard's brother Robert and his nephew Rene only holds such dramatic impact when you've seen them before in an episode, on the Picard family vineyard.
datalal - Fri, Jul 3, 2015, 12:42pm (USA Central)
Re: TNG S7: Descent, Part II

@ Peter: Haha, I love the idea of Data calling Dr. Maddox over to pick up Lore. Dr. Maddox would be so grateful! It would have been too comical a way to end the episode, but oh well.

I guess I'm one of the few who really liked Descent I AND II. I can concede that they are both flawed episodes, but they were interesting to watch. I didn't mind the presence of Hugh, or the change in Data, plus the dynamic between him and Lore and him and Geordi was interesting. I also liked the way Beverly commands a ship, although when the question is posed to Picard "Who will stay behind to command?", the OBVIOUS choice is Captain Picard, not the freaking CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER (who should be sending some of her medical staff with the teams instead). I scratched my head when the possibility of Picard staying behind isn't even *considered*. (But this episode involved a mistake that Picard made, so he had to fix it in person, I guess.

It was also interesting to see a multi-away-team deployment - like, they can DO that? Neato. But just as it's easier to pretend most of the time that the ship can't separate and doesn't have a battle bridge, It's also simpler most of the time to pretend the ship isn't a compliment of just over a thousand, except as an abstract reference during times of all-encompassing danger.

I laughed at how Troi had to make herself useful somehow. "I'll watch the door". And then she bungles the attempted escape. (Or was that an intentional bungle, just so Picard could retrieve the transceiver thingy from the downed Borg? That wasn't made clear).

I also didn't mind the bridge officers bantering, even if the dialogue was very "OF COURSE the Lieutenant is a dick, and the Ensign is a chirpy fresh-out-the-Academy uber-genius, who talks WAY too damn much." [I guess all the other bridge officers there are mutes? Ehh, they hardly ever talk anyway]. But at least the Ensign character progressed in her scenes from being nervous and unsure of herself to being confident and bold, which is slightly more than one can say for entire seasons of certain TNG character's arcs.... And some of the banter between her and Lt. AngularFace McTallGuy was cute enough, esp. the reversed "I'll just have to make sure my calculations are accurate, ".

I actually starting thinking of some fanfiction story for the grumpy Lieutenant and uppity Ensign, but that would be too likely to descend into a cheesy "characters in conflict for no real reason realize [because...plot] that they're totally IN LURVE with each other" kind of storyline that infests most romantic comedies.
methane - Fri, Jul 3, 2015, 11:52am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S2: Rivals

This is an episode that I find more entertaining now than when it first aired. When I first watched it, I groaned at the "science". Now I just accept it and find myself amused with the character interactions.
Fish Jones - Fri, Jul 3, 2015, 8:21am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S6: Far Beyond the Stars

This episode got me to spend a year studying Africa and now it's my least favorite episode.

It's like watching an someone whine incessantly about how he grew up as the runt in a mildly dysfunctional family while the next room over has a guy who survived a childhood of 2nd degree burns in a severely abusive home and nobody cares.

Uhura is Bantu. Geordi's from freaking Somalia. Sisko is from New Orleans.

Now compare how much fun it was to live in 1950s Bantu-speaking areas or Somalia versus 1950s New York or New Orleans. (or ya know, 2015 right now. "Do ya wanna live in New Orleans or Dar es Salaam?" kinda depends on how much money you make individually, but "Do you wanna live in New Orleans or Mogadishu... pick New Orleans.)

There are parts of current USA racism that are horrific, and there's huge parts of Africa that are really, really awesome. But bringing up "US Racism Bad!" when you have Happy Somailan (SOMALIAN!) Geordi and Totally Chill Bantu Uhura is cringeworthy. 1 mention once? Fine. Giant meta weird crap all centered around you personally? Very very VERY not fine. It's so America-centric it misses the point and ruins the effect.

---
Studying this also generated a funny pet peeve: Xhosa is hosa, not "zhosa". I accidentally "correct" it every single time.
Mallory R. - Fri, Jul 3, 2015, 4:10am (USA Central)
Re: ENT S1: Fallen Hero

Probably could have used another re-write. I hate when a guest character comes on under suspicious circumstances and the writers don't bother with a solid backstory.
I agree some characters are under-written, but I find Reed enjoyable and sexy, and Phlox always a joy. Travis aka "that black guy" seems intentionally bland. Connor Trinneer is a superb actor, imo.
William B - Thu, Jul 2, 2015, 6:39pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S1: Battle Lines

So Opaka spells out for us a big part of what this episode is about: warring factions locked in perpetual combat as a reflection of the state of Kira's soul. Or pagh, I guess. Kira is both ready to fight others at a moment's notice and is in a state of war with herself. There is the Kira who refuses to step down from a fight, even one that is not her own, and even one in which there is very little evidence suggesting that Their Side is any better than the other side; and there is the Kira who does not believe that the Prophets could ever forgive her for the things that she did to survive, and to help Bajor survive, the Occupation. There are no easy answers here; in a broad sense, I think Kira deserves forgiveness and peace, but in practice Kira's keeping at least some degree of self-loathing may have been one of the only things holding her back from greater horrors; meanwhile, a full-on embracing of peaceful ethos puts her prior behaviour into a new context that makes it seem horrible, unforgivable; and how can she be a woman of peace, eschewing these people locked in perpetual combat, when she would not have *been* here if it weren't for her intense dedication to violence?

That Kira needs to start healing, and needs to forgive herself, is well taken, and the backdrop of a perpetual combat which sets the same people through an endless cycle (in the metaphor, this is akin to blood feuds lasting generations, where no real progress can ever be made because the combatants essentially view themselves as part of a long line) helps clarify the type of person Kira does not want to be. Still, in spite of that nice scene between Opaka and Kira, the situations are pretty non-analogous either to the way Kira was during the Occupation, or the way Kira is now. The Resistance to the Occupation was not an endless cycle of revenge, in that they actually *did* achieve the goal of getting the Cardassians to leave. And current Kira certainly very quickly starts barking orders about how to improve their defenses, and seems in a perpetual state of readiness for a fight...but this PTSD-ish readiness to combat is not the same as wanting personal vengeance.

Camille Saviola is strong as Opaka, and it is also nice to see Breaking Bad's Jonathan Banks as Shel-La, leader of one of the warring tribes. Nana Visitor is okay in most of the episodes, but I agree with commenters above that her breakdown over Opaka's death did *not* work, and her breakdown when Opaka read her pagh similarly left me cold. Those help elevate the episode, which is something like a grimmer version of TOS' "Day of the Dove," except transposed to aliens and thus leaving Our Heroes mostly off the hook, despite the examination with Kira. Opaka's decision to stay behind is kind of annoying; there is some vague reference to a prophesy, which she does not go into (and the show is not really dipping its toes into the murky waters of the Prophets stuff), and to her having gut feelings blah blah blah, but it's worth noting that Sisko/Kira/Bashir do not get the words out that she's trapped on this planet forever to live out an eternal damnation, and while it is surely a noble endeavour to help these guys, there *is* still Bajor, isn't there? She saw Bajor through the Occupation, but Kira can only start healing because Opaka tells her to, and Opaka leaving Bajor very suddenly just opens up the power vacuum for people like Winn to seize control and steer Bajor toward fundamentalism. I guess maybe Opaka is meant to understand that she is dead if she leaves the planet, in which case her behaviour makes a little more sense.

The pagh ear thing does bother me, though not entirely -- touch telepathy is a feature of the Vulcans, so it makes sense that some Bajorans with a certain amount of training would be able to do that, though at times it seems as if the only thing Opaka is doing is grabbing someone's ear so hard they go delirious from pain. This would not grant mystical powers but a certain amount of understanding of a person by touch-telepathy (through another name) is consistent with the Trek universe. I've got to say, Opaka does not talk about the importance of the Celestial Temple as the Prophets' home, and indeed I'm still not sure, on a rewatch, if we are meant to understand by this point in the season that the wormhole aliens are The Prophets, who are really mostly mentioned here and there in passing.

The Runabout scenes were very filler-y and tech-y. Nothing to see there.

2.5 stars.
HawgWyld - Thu, Jul 2, 2015, 4:03pm (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S5: Let He Who Is Without Sin...

Oh, yeah. This one stinks. On reflection, this is the episode that made me start thinking that the time had really come to get rid of Dax. In terms of character development, she became completely unappealing in this episode and the "ick" factor remained for the rest of the her run on the series.
W Smith - Thu, Jul 2, 2015, 2:30pm (USA Central)
Re: ENT S3: Carpenter Street

Yeah, wow, that was pretty bad and boring. Can they ever time travel someplace besides the US (particularly California, even when they say it's Detroit and obviously LA), and not the present day? In any case, I'm so sick of Trek time travel episodes, they just overdosed on it to the point of it being silly and trite. At least DS9's Past Tense was about something interesting, it had a point. This episode was completely by the numbers and pointless.
And I agree with the other commenter that Daniels needs a new barber.
Del_Duio - Thu, Jul 2, 2015, 10:42am (USA Central)
Re: ENT S1: Dear Doctor

I think he means if only it was cancelled during this point, in season 1 and not when it was later.
Toony - Thu, Jul 2, 2015, 10:39am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S7: Shadows and Symbols

I think DS9 handles time like Timecop the present is immutable but the past isn't. It's possible Sisko, Dax and Bashir impacted their own histories in 'Past Tense' and maybe 'Trials and Tribblations' and the Prophets saved them by fixing a few threads that modified the present.
Sisko is now compatible to join the prophets because Sarah and Joseph were originally meant to be together but the premature death of Gabriel Bell and who knows who else in Past Tense unraveled all that, changing their characters and fates. I recall in season 2 Sisko talked as if Joseph had died years earlier but he pops up alive in season 4.
William B - Thu, Jul 2, 2015, 10:21am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S1: Vortex

The episode's big draw, naturally, is the Odo of it: it's a better episode for the character than "A Man Alone," and it gestures to some of the other Big Themes besides Odo's search for justice, namely his loneliness and difficulty fitting himself in to the world of solids. The episode emphasizes different kinds of family units (Quark and Rom, Croden and his daughter) with the Miradorn who cannot live without his twin and so turns to revenge as a sole purpose being the biggest example. And along there is Odo, chasing after a necklace and the chance at meeting *someone* like him. The way the Miradorn and Croden are willing to give up everything for their missing family member -- in the Miradorn's case, to give up life entirely for a *dead* family member -- gives weight to Odo's plight; and Odo's somewhat intense questioning of Quark about other beings from the Gamma Quadrant, as well as his feelings of intense disappointment that Croden was lying about whose family was in that Vortex (as well as those tall tales he mentions) hints at Odo's own capacity. Odo's intense, connections-free attitude to his work is his protection against those feelings of isolation, but his willingness to be somewhat distracted by Croden's playing on Odo's desire to see his "family" (or at least evidence of them) suggests that, in the fact of true connection with others of his people, Odo might well find it difficult to keep his head for Justice! straight.

Croden plays on Odo's feelings quite well -- by making himself out to be a persecuted prisoner and describing the way the changelings were persecuted, he essentially casts him as another person like Odo's people, even on his own planet. That his stories may have some background in myths and legends makes sense with later revelations; the Founders claim that they were persecuted before they decided to become conquering gods. Croden is playing Odo here, but it does seem plausible that Croden's life of crime did start the way he claims it did, as a nonviolent political dissident whose family was slaughtered in front of him. Of course, he might be lying. Odo's suspension of his usual absolute dedication to justice is a step toward his recognizing that things aren't as black and white as he wants, in particular the recognition of the mitigating factors in Croden's life, and that is mostly a good thing. On the other hand, there is some indication he lets Croden go because Croden has been able to convince Odo that the two of them are alike, and indeed that Croden might be like those mysterious changelings from long ago, an impression which may have lasted until even after Croden's stories about the changelings were revealed to be mostly BS. Personal feelings gradually wear down Odo's absolutist moral code, which renders him less rigid (good) but also increasingly willing to put personal feelings far above other ethical concerns (bad), and some of that ambiguity is here.

I guess I do find Croden's heel-face turn at the episode's end a little unconvincing. When he finds his daughter, he really does seem to become a different character, and while I get some of that (he is going to behave differently when back with his daughter, and around her), to some extent the depiction of him as mostly a man of conscience who Did What He Had To Do to get back to his daughter doesn't *quite* settle with exactly how cavalier he was about killing the Miradorn earlier in the episode. I also think that Quark is pretty blase about a guy dying because of his negotiation tactic/trick, but then I'm still not quite sure how to read Quark's attitude about, you know, people dying because of him. Just business, I guess? The chase sequences are okay but not stunning. I think overall this is a strong episode with some significant weaknesses. 3 stars from me.
SecMan - Thu, Jul 2, 2015, 10:08am (USA Central)
Re: ENT S2: Canamar

Eh...pretty dull. I couldn't agree more with Elphaba. To me, quality entertainment has to have a point i.e. interesting plot. I don't care how well produced something is - see the Transformers movies - if it doesn't have a compelling plot, I'm bored with it very quickly. I don't *need* social commentary because quite frankly I usually disagree with the point of view of the writers OR I find the commentary so heavy handed as to be irritating. But at least have some interesting plot twists. I always wished ST hadn't gotten away from accepting "original" scripts from outsiders. I suppose that's just how business in Hollywood is done now...if the writer isn't part of the guild, then their script can't/won't get used. It's a shame IMO since many of TOS' best scripts came from outsiders. Most people only have so many good ideas in their heads. To expect them to come up with a great new idea 22x per year (or more if they work on multiple shows) isn't realistic, so why do they try? If they are going to spend so much money producing these episodes, can't they find a method to generate better writing? More writers, original scripts, etc? Almost all of these shows have the "story" by Braga and Berman. Then they hand the plot outline to someone else who writes the screenplay. Having all "creativity" coming out of these two was a very poor idea. Have you watched any of the extras on the Blu Ray discs? One is an interview with these two, and if there are two more sarcastic, less defensive, less likable people I haven't seen them.

I'm watching Enterprise all the way through again, and with many episodes I'm seeing them for the first or second time. Many are rather good; others are just decent. Still others are terrible. I't put this outing in the "decent" category. Definitely a rehashed, cliched plot derivative of previously-done Trek. I won't go as far as to say "wasted hour" because with toddler twins I only get 45 mins of TV a day. But it's certainly a worse-than-average Trek outing.
William B - Thu, Jul 2, 2015, 9:45am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S1: The Nagus

This is indeed a lot of fun, and a great addition to the Star Trek universe, even if the second-order effects (i.e. most other DS9 Ferengi episodes) suffer badly. The episode functions as sort of a parody of "The Godfather," filtered through Ferengi values -- one of many occasions in which Quark is chosen to be the centre of one of the classic American films. ("Profit and Loss" -- LOSS, not Lace -- is essentially a low-quality "Casablanca"; Harry Lime's monologue from "The Third Man" is repeated to Quark close to verbatim in "Business as Usual.") The most explicit "Godfather" reference is of course in the darkly lit scene with Quark stroking the Ferengi cat thing, which sets up the pattern: Quark enjoys the feeling of power and demands personal loyalty, like the Don, but unlike Don Corleone the second a sufficient amount of profit is offered to him he drops the act, so to speak:

QUARK: A very lucrative opportunity. Tell me Nava, when Zek announced I was to succeed him, were you pleased?
NAVA: No, Nagus.
QUARK: Did you come to me and offer your support?
NAVA: No, Nagus.
QUARK: Yet, now you call me Nagus. But is it out of true friendship? No. You only pretend to show me respect so I will grant you this immense opportunity.
NAVA: Which I'm willing to split with you. fifty-fifty.
QUARK: Well, in that case, let's hope the Gamma Quadrant develops a taste for synthehol.

Ha. The same pattern is repeated at the end of the episode. (Major spoilers for "The Godfather, Part II" in this paragraph.) Rom, as Quark's "idiot," put-upon brother, who complains that Quark has so much and he, Rom, has so little, can't help but fall into the orbit of an ambitious man who makes promises to Rom which he will likely overturn the moment Rom's usefulness has been outlived. So Rom plays Fredo Corleone to Quark's Michael. The episode ends with what seems to be the start of a "You broke my heart!" scene of Quark unleashing his anger on Rom, perhaps with some sort of threat; or maybe, like Michael, Quark would wait until their mother dies but all the time be planning to dispatch Rom. Nope: Quark sees that Rom had it in him to kill his brother, and suddenly recognizes that their relationship needs to be realigned. On the one hand, Rom is better for profits if he is put in a position where he can use some of his ruthlessness (which up until now Quark didn't even believe existed), and I think Quark also recognizes on some level that, yes, Rom's actions were extreme, but maybe Quark had it coming just a bit for the constant abuse and threats to send Rom out an airlock.

(I guess on Rom nearly killing Quark, I do find it hard to believe Odo would simply let an attempted murder slide like that, even if Quark would. And I do think that Rom's hard edge here is inconsistent with later characterizations, but it works here -- Rom as a mostly soft-hearted man who is easily manipulated and who also responds to his brother's constant mistreatment.)

Anyway, the episode's humour doesn't depend directly on the knowledge of "The Godfather," but I think familiarity with gangster narratives definitely helps. And the episode, ultimately, points to something interesting about what Ferengi society maybe has to teach us. Quark, Zek, Rom and Krax all want profit, but Zek comes out of the episode as a triumphant mastermind, Krax as a miserable failure, Rom as an idiot, and Quark as -- well, as Quark, but not much the worse for wear, and somewhat regarded by Nagus Zek as a guy with potential. Putting morality aside, I think the big difference amongst these guys has something to do with pride and ego. Quark lets the Nagus-ship get to his head, but one thing that is to his credit is that with, say, that Nava scene, Quark is either just pretending to be angry that Nava didn't show him respect, or genuinely is bothered but drops it the moment he stands to gain. Similarly, he doesn't react to Rom's betrayal by angry demands that he will destroy Rom, which one could imagine lots of other people doing -- I mean, for an example from later in series, compare Quark's reaction to Rom's betrayal to Sisko's reaction to Eddington's; by any reasonable standard, Rom's betrayal was far greater, but Sisko becomes twisted up with rage. Quark is greedy and Quark is ruthless and Quark's moral compass doesn't often point in the right direction, but Quark doesn't actually hold grudges; Quark may get angry briefly, but he gets over it and moves on to enjoying life. Quark doesn't really do that revenge thing. Quark's main downfall in this episode is his somewhat pompous behaviour as Nagus, believing the thing is legit and being unable to fully come forward to Odo out of a sense of stubborn pride, as well as his refusal to see Rom's treachery coming (or to start treating Rom better) because he is so used to being the good brother. But ultimately the ego dissipates when confronted with the possibility of major profit or loss; Quark is not so full of himself to be blind all the time, which is what distinguishes his moderate failure/moderate success to Krax's failing MISERABLY -- Krax, who seems to want the Nagus job for the prestige and out of a sense of entitlement and so makes risky, obvious plays rather than, as Zek suggests, be content to acquire profit and influence gradually and in a less flashy way. Quark's willingness to discard pride at a moment's notice means he grovels an awful lot, but it also means that he doesn't actually go out of his way to injure others when his ego is wounded; I'm reminded of the exchange in "The Battle," that there is no profit in revenge, and nor is there in a straight power-grab that is bound to backfire.

The Jake/Nog subplot is sweet, though, yes, I have a hard time understanding why Nog doesn't know how to read at his age; Rom must really be an idiot if he thinks that ability to read couldn't help Get Profit. I do like how the opening sequence gives a pretty good description of how privilege operates, with Nog's failure to do his homework being a direct result of the living conditions he has, being currently at the bottom of the food chain below Rom (below Quark), whereas Sisko's nurturing parenting gives Jake plenty of time to do homework. The subject of the paper -- "ethics" -- ties in with the main plot, in which the seemingly unethical Ferengi end up demonstrating a sort of code, wherein placing one's pride above other benefits is an automatic downfall. In general, Jake and Nog's friendship develops nicely in this episode, which is also the first show to get under Jake's skin a little bit; Jake's unwillingness to see Nog as A Ferengi whereas Sisko can't help but see Nog's uncle when he looks at him creates some nice interpersonal conflict that is delivered in an appropriately low-key way.

I think this earns 3.5.
William B - Thu, Jul 2, 2015, 9:18am (USA Central)
Re: DS9 S1: Dax

The strongest episode up to this point. Not only does this give a good introduction to who the Trill are and what kind of internal and external conflicts Jadzia Dax will face, it also is probably the first great vehicle for Sisko -- "Emissary" was okay, but he otherwise has been more part of an ensemble than lead.

Criticisms out of the way first: it is odd, as others have pointed out, that there doesn't seem to be a set Trill policy on the culpability of new hosts for the crimes of their previous lives. Maybe there is such a policy, or maybe Trill society is so invested in the transcendence of symbionts that they deny that joined Trills could ever commit capital crimes at all (the cover-up of Joran supports this theory). Now, the way the episode gets around addressing this directly is by suggesting that there is a Klaestron-Federation unilateral extradition treaty -- but is that really plausible? I mean, if the Klaestrons do not have to show any evidence *at all* that Federation citizens committed crimes against them, what is to stop them from picking up any Federation citizens, i.e. to blame them for unsolved crimes or some such -- with no consequences? Along those lines, the idea that the Klaestrons *can* extradite Jadzia Dax for Curzon Dax's ostensible crime either suggests that the Federation accepts this transfer of responsibility from one host to the next (which would be good to know!) or that the Klaestrons can genuinely apprehend any Federation citizen they want even if the Federation would not even accept that that person was accused of crimes at all.

This type of thing is a problem with most Trek courtroom shows, which tend to fudge the details for the sake of getting to the dramatic meat, which is generally exploring some fundamental issue -- liberty vs. security in "The Drumhead," the responsibility someone has for command decisions in "Court Martial" or "Rules of Engagement," and, most relevantly, the status of an artificial being as person/non-person or property/non-property (or author/non-author) in "The Measure of a Man" and "Author, Author." The courtroom scenes are a great way to introduce the relevant questions of Jadzia Dax's one/many joined identity from several different angles, expanding the Trill metaphor from its use in "The Host" (which was a good use for a one-episode story but limiting for a long-term one).

I like Elliott's suggestion that the big allegorical question here is ancestral crimes and responsibilities -- should children pay for their parents' sins, in some way? This interpretation is given added weight by the fact that it's General Tandro's son who is pursuing Jadzia Dax's extradition and execution, suggesting the way a sense of responsibility passes through generations under normal, non-joining circumstances, where the bonds are of genetics and upbringing and name rather than of symbiont/memories. I think that most people would agree that children are not responsible for their parents' crimes, and so the idea of punishing someone for what one of their ancestors did is clearly wrong. However, in both metaphor frame (Dax) and literal frame (Tandro), people feel a real sense of responsibility to and for their progenitors. Tandro is acting in a legal capacity here, but he is also seeking something like personal justice (vengeance?) due to wrongs committed against his father, and believes that wrongs committed against his father still need to be answered for, both to the state and to him personally. As we'll see in the series, Jadzia has similar feelings about wrongs committed against Curzon and Curzon's "family" (c.f. "Blood Oath") -- where the responsibility to right past wrongs (in the Klingon way, no less) falls on future hosts, to ensure that injustices are not simply forgotten in death. And I think that's the rub: Tandro wants to believe that no crimes go unpunished, that even in death -- death of the victim OR death of the criminal -- there is some way to balance the cosmic scales.

For the Trills, there actually is no simple answer of responsibility. That Jadzia, the host, is blameless for Curzon's crimes is obvious, and I was going to say that Sisko won the case in a slam-dunk (or home run, which I guess would be Ben's preferred metaphor) until Tandro pointed out that Trill hosts accepted all responsibilities when they joined. Now, on the one hand, the idea that Jadzia takes on responsibility for Curzon Dax's actions *about which she knows nothing* by joining, once again is clearly unfair. It's one thing if Jadzia knew that this hypothetical Curzon Dax was a murderer (and, again, we know from "Equilibrium" that this type of thing gets covered up, even from the symbiont), but it's quite another if she is not told that by joining she's both becoming a murderer and sentencing herself to death should the Klaestrons ever release their military files and extradite. AND YET, Jadzia benefits from previous Dax hosts, and agrees to give up some of her separateness in the exchange in order to carry on the Trill legacy. If she gets the benefits, is it not fair that she gets the drawbacks?

And of course, there is also the question of what *does* happen rather than what *should*. It is unfair that Jadzia give up her life because of Curzon Dax's decisions, but Jadzia Dax certainly feels the weight of Curzon's desires nevertheless. Ilon feels the pain of his father's death acutely and wants to try to make it right, even if a generation has passed.

The Sisko/Dax friendship, similarly, depends *entirely* on Sisko's bond to Curzon going to Jadzia. Sisko's frustration with Jadzia, though weirdly expressed (IF YOU WERE A MAN I WOULD PUNCH YOU), comes down partly, yes, to the fact that she is refusing to provide any explanation, but also because Sisko *wants* Jadzia to be Curzon -- take charge, be the life of the party, be expressive -- and she stubbornly refuses to be the withdrawn, aloof Dax she currently is (though Jadzia's character will be somewhat rebooted over the next season or so). Sisko's desire to defend Jadzia comes down to his bond with Curzon, which is also how/why he knows that Curzon didn't commit the murder.

The explanation that Curzon did not commit the murder is a bit of a cop-out, but it reveals again that Jadzia puts stock in her loyalties to past lives. And it also, interestingly, shows a Dax who is willing to give up her life to do the opposite of Ilon Tandro holding grudges across generations. On the one hand, continuing to maintain the deception about General Tandro having betrayed his people is maybe a bit shady (the truth is a good thing?), but a lot of it comes down to an unwillingness to open old wounds that could destabilize the Klaestron society -- a willingness to die to let the past be the past. It's an appealingly complex situation.

3.5 stars, I'd say.
Al - Thu, Jul 2, 2015, 12:30am (USA Central)
Re: TNG S5: Silicon Avatar

This episode has some merit. The relationship between Marr and Data is one of them. However, I could never really like this episode because of how hypocritical it makes the characters look. When encountering the Borg, it wasn't long before the crew understood that they had to be stopped by force. However in this episode, Picard suddenly decides to avoid the use of deadly force at all costs, even after witnessing first hand the planet-killing potential of the entity. On the other hand, Picard never saw the Borg assimilate an entire planet, but nonetheless saw the Borg as an enemy (this was still before he was assimilated himself). To me, Picard's treatment of the entity made no sense whatsoever. His attempt to justify this using a sperm whale analogy doesn't make sense either. While the sperm whale offers some kind of benefit to nature by keeping certain populations of organisms in check-it is part of the 'cycle of nature', if you will. However, the Crystalline entity does not do this. It literally devours organic nature by the planet-load, putting an end to whatever natural cycles existed in the first place! Not one of Picard's better moral philosophies I'm afraid.
Claire - Wed, Jul 1, 2015, 8:21pm (USA Central)
Re: TNG S7: Dark Page

Just rewatched this ep for the first time since I was about 12. I don't recall getting emotional then but I did this time. I personally really bought Majel's performance. In fact, I don't think I would have started crying if not for her breaking down as she relived Kestra's death.
NCC-1701-Z - Wed, Jul 1, 2015, 5:43pm (USA Central)
Re: Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

Why would the Klingons send their boarding party through the Starfleet transporter rather than just transport them straight into a corridor or something? If I were Kirk, I would just arrange for a convenient little malfunction a la poor Commander Sonak in The Motion Picture. "Oops!"

Kidding, kidding. This is still a great Trek movie, and it's pretty amazing that they are able to bring Spock back to life without it feeling like a push of the reset button. That's no small feat.

The scene where Enterprise is stolen is a classic. Jammer is right, operatic is the best way one can possibly describe it.

James Horner does a terrific job with the music, although the TWOK soundtrack is still his best work within the Trek world. He was a man of incredible talent and will be deeply missed.

High 3 out of 4.
Jonn Walsh - Wed, Jul 1, 2015, 5:05pm (USA Central)
Re: TNG S5: Power Play

Actually, as much as I never really cared for this episode, '90s guy' never really struck me as out of place. He's an off duty officer in civvies. Adult civilian clothing on TNG was typically distinguished itself from '90s couture by altering the waistline and/or the neckline and I felt that that was accomplished adequately here. The narrow belt with the waistline showing above it was a stylistic touch along with the no lapel neckline giving the ensemble a crisp neat look that said, "we still wear pants and shirts in the future but style still exists as well." It does not scream '90s to me.
I must agree with one of the comments above stating that hellish disembodiment will rewrite anybody's personality after 200 years. Surely enough to drive anyone insane in but a fraction of that time.
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