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- Mon, Jul 6, 2015, 3:34pm (USA Central)
I thought that the Augments were pretty much by the numbers duplicates of Khan and his crew but the underlying concepts in this three parter make this a superior outing for the genetically engineered supermen when compared to the inferior treatment given in JJ Abrams' second Star Trek movie.
- Mon, Jul 6, 2015, 3:31pm (USA Central)
Resurrection Ship, Part 2
Actually Adama's character is morally ruined in a later episode when he threatens to kill a certain character during a worker problem. The character never recovers from that and is basically worthless there on.
- Mon, Jul 6, 2015, 1:28pm (USA Central)
I didn't like this episode 1-1/2 stars. This is similar to "The Game" (which I loved) where aliens use a cunning tactic to take over the enterprise. This episode seems so much less plausible, and this may just be as another reviewer suggested that watchers are more forgiving if they are enjoying the episode. Big issues for me is that Data seems like he should have to have been disabled rather than have his memory selectively wiped and the whole selectively wiping on the ship memory and all people of several different species all with a 3 minute blue light.
I didn't find it very fun either. An exception Riker and Ro was a highlight. Made me think if Ro didn't have such a bad reputation, Riker might fancy her.
As for McDuff making himself captain, possibly the least issue I had with it.
- Mon, Jul 6, 2015, 12:55pm (USA Central)
This is a 3 star episode, very well done. The tit for tat rivalry between the doctors is great and very plausible. Tge guest doctor was very well written and performed. Others have suggested that the injury being non-curable in the time of transporter technology are spot on, this is an Aesop fable about the 20th century, not the 24th. Repairing spinal cords can't be more than a century away and I suspect within a generation. But that is a small quibble for this satisfying episode.
- Mon, Jul 6, 2015, 12:16pm (USA Central)
I liked this episode maybe 2-1/2 stars (and I liked it more when it was new). Some of the nit-picky critiques do point out flaws that really don't present themselves with a cursory viewing of the episode.
I'm not sure why it would be a problem having two kid oriented episodes in a row. I'd also add that "New Ground" is a Worf episode and "Hero Worship" is a Data episode. The thesis of the episode is to contrast Data's desire to be human with this kid who wants to be android. I actually think the kid was fairly good at the role.
While many people ignore the tech talk in episodes, I enjoyed how the solution to the problem was actually the reverse of what they were doing (Powering the shields would make the problem worse). A good lesson for thinking outside the box.
- Mon, Jul 6, 2015, 10:51am (USA Central)
This two parter did very little for me (2 and 1-1/2 stars for me) It is obviously written around Spock, which is OK, but I guess I'm not hard core enough of a Trekkie to get thrilled by it (yes it is cool). The low point is Sela, and I'm not sure why I dislike her so much, but a lot of it is the underwhelming performance by Denise Crosby. I also didn't care for her as Yar. She is very one note with her performance just Yar with pointy ears and a Moe hair cut. I did like how she was smart and a good tactician in the earlier appearance, but even so it is a bit like eggs without salt, just missing something.
There are great moments, finding Spock was cool, Data and Picard sleeping in the same room, and my favorite is the multiple hand keyboardist and the Klingon Opera, with Worf chiming in.
I guess the question is, would the episode about an anonymous Vulcan going to Romulus to work on peace be a compelling story without Spock? I think you know the answer.
- Mon, Jul 6, 2015, 10:08am (USA Central)
Cause and Effect
I love this episode. Destruction of the Enterprise multiple times, fantastic! Patrick Stewart's "abandon ship!" is so intense, so believable, the icing on a very delicious cake.
Rewatching it after about 20+ years was a delight, even though I knew the 3 pips reveal (which I also love). Yes the plot has some issues, like how would deja vu manifest itself? Doesn't matter really, since Trek always needs a bit of suspension of disbelief.
I thought Gates McFadden was very cute in pink hair band. She usually does nothing for me, but I thought she looked hot in that.
- Sun, Jul 5, 2015, 9:34pm (USA Central)
Hey, anybody out there not an atheist? Because if you aren't then you're a brain-dead moron who will fall anything!
The only "believers" in this episode are so unbelievably stupid that I find it hard to believe they can tie their own shoes. The "skeptics," on the other hand, are all rational in the extreme and shown to be so compassionate that they'll risk their own lives for the sake of this alien planet. Nope, no hidden message there! Move along, nothing to see here. Just ask yourself if this would be acceptable if the roles were reversed.
Good grief! I am getting so sick and tired of TNG's treatment of religion. TOS was never this heavy-handed or dismissive. And thank God (oh wait, does that make me stupid?) that DS9 came along and offered an actual balanced look at this aspect of the human condition. While I can appreciate the fact that it's a false religion and a con-artist the crew defeats here, couldn't we have had at least ONE Ventaxian believer that wasn't so damn gullible?!
Add to all of this the the fact that Jammer is absolutely, 100% correct when he says that the episode is weak, choppy, tedious and predictable. God, at least "Who Watches the Watchers" had something of an interesting plot. "Devil's Due" is so weak that it's almost painful to watch, even without the ham-fisted anti-religion message.
Then there are the plotholes. 1.) Why does Picard even get involved in this dispute between Ardra and the Ventaxians to begin with? Once Ardra frees the Federation hostages, the Enterprise should have left. What happens on this planet is no concern of theirs after that point. If these morons what to throw their lives away to this con-artist, that's there business. Doesn't the Prime Directive apply here? Picard decides to interfere in the internal governmental affairs of a sovereign planet because.... shut up, that's why! "A starship captain's most solemn oath is that he will give his life, even his entire crew, rather than violate the Prime Directive.... unless he feels like doing it anyway." 2.) Why does Ardra risk everything just to get Picard into bed? Really, is she just that horny? Lady, you stand to gain an entire planet and all the resources that entails, find another man! I guess it only stands to reason that since the Ventaxians are so dumb that their supposed mythological beings should be as well. 3.) Ventax II is an agrarian based society? Umm, no, no they're not. Does this world really strike anybody as agrarian? They have a unified world government (which again TNG rams down our throat as the only way to end war and live in peace - that's bullshit), a massive capital city, the ability to communicate with orbiting spaceships, etc. This is not a farm based economy, people.
Seriously, this episode is bad, really bad! I thought "Who Watches the Watchers" was bad, but this is worse. The only thing I can point to in its favor are two legitimately funny sight gags. I honestly laughed out loud when Ardra transformed herself into Fek'lhr of Gre'thor and Satan. Though, that's more in the realm of unintentional comedy, as I don't think they meant those scenes to be funny.
- Sun, Jul 5, 2015, 8:16pm (USA Central)
Balance of Terror
I have to agree with everyone else here. I just watched this episode for about the 10 time and still love it. It's epic Trek, along the lines of The Wrath of Khan and worthy of 4 stars. The sets are cheesy but who cares, the plot and acting are great. The is definitely among the top 5 of my favorite Trek episodes period.
- Sun, Jul 5, 2015, 5:25pm (USA Central)
Just FYI, W Smith - I think you mean Catholic vs. Orthodox instead of Catholic vs. Protestant. I say 99.9% of Protestants are in agreement with Catholics on the nature of divinity. They have other differences in doctrine. Orthodox Christians, on the other hand, actually do have a slightly different view of God's divinity than Catholics (mostly involving the nature of the Holy Spirit).
- Sun, Jul 5, 2015, 5:02pm (USA Central)
An all-around superb episode, with one major flaw.
First, what's so good? Well, the introduction of the Cardassians for starters. Leaving aside their stupid looking uniforms and helmets (not to mention Marc Alaimo's ridiculous looking facial hair), these are villains of the week that really stand out. I'm trying not to look at them through the lens of the following nine seasons we end up spending with the Cardassians after this and only focus on this episode. If they were simply intended to be another alien menace of the week which later got picked up as recurring (and then main) villains, the writers did an excellent job of making them as three-dimensional as possible. Macet is obviously a good man who wants peace (seen in the scenes where he reprimands his aide on the bridge and his talk with Picard afterward) but who also isn't above skirting the edges of the treaty for Cardassia's benefit (the ending and the scene where he suspiciously eyes Picard and Riker when they discover the supply ship has heavy sensor shielding). A normal villain of the week would be just straight-up evil and not so well-rounded.
Then there's O'Brien. It's wonderful that a guy who has been a part of this show from the very beginning is finally given an episode of his own. And Colm Meaney knocks it out of the park, as his is wont to do. Anybody who says this isn't proto-DS9 must not have been watching the same episode as me.
Finally, there's Maxwell. I have to disagree with everyone saying he was unhinged. I don't think he was unhinged at all; and that's what makes him so compelling. He's obviously a very damaged man but not unhinged. He doesn't go around in fits of anger or paranoia. He's rather restrained for a man who lost his family and is seeking some form of revenge. And to that the fact that he actually is right in the end and I can't see how he's "unhinged." And, now looking at the events of "The Wounded" with that nine years of hindsight we have on the Cardassians, history might very well side with him and view Picard as a fool.
And that brings me to the major problem I have with this episode - the insistence on maintaining the treaty above all else. Picard is even directly ordered by Admiral Haden that he "must preserve the peace, no matter what the cost." It's all based on the fact that the Federation is not in a position to sustain a new war. Obviously this is a reference to the critical blow dealt to Starfleet by the Borg at Wolf 359. Now the problem is this - the Borg only destroyed 39 ships at Wolf 359. The only way that that could conceivably be considered a "crippling blow" is if Starfleet is a teeny, tiny organization, which it simply cannot be. Even if we assume that the 39 ships lost were among Starfleet's topmost ships of the line it still can't be a "crippling blow." If we were talking about the U.S. Navy, then, yes, a lost of 39 capital ships would indeed be a devastating loss. In fact, it would most likely bring an end to the U.S. Navy as a strategic power. But, we're not talking about the U.S. Navy. We're not even talking about the combined navies of Earth. We're talking about an organization that is the combined military (navy and army), not to mention the exploratory, scientific and partial diplomatic/judicial organization, of countless worlds! Starfleet simply has to be GARGANTUAN in size!
This has always been a particular pet-peeve of mine when it comes to Trek. Starfleet is almost always presented as this small close-knit organization when it simply cannot be. It even goes so far as having virtually everyone with the rank of Captain or higher be on a first-time basis with each other. It's so bad that at one point in DS9 when Dax refers to a Captain Shelby, intended to be Shelby from "The Best of Both Worlds," the writers flipped out because in the Expanded Universe novels (yes, I'm bringing EU stuff into this, sue me) Shelby was still a Commander. So they came up with a convoluted explanation about how Dax was referencing someone else (because we can't possibly expect the viewers/readers to simply assume that there are two people in Starfleet with the last name of Shelby who aren't directly related to each other - it's impossible!) Thank God DS9 eventually gave us scenes of large Federation fleets with hundreds, if not thousands, of ships during the Dominion War.
This absurd situation really harms the drama here in "The Wounded" because the drama is absolutely based on it. The Federation, with Picard as its agent, must maintain the peace because they lost a grand whopping 39 ships less than a year ago. SMH, it makes no sense.
- Sun, Jul 5, 2015, 4:05pm (USA Central)
Everybody always talks about how the episode "Lower Decks" is one of the best of TNG. I, respectfully, disagree. "Data's Day" is a much better example of such a story. In both stories, we're not given the entire picture of what's going on. However, unlike in the later episode, this one focuses on a character who is much more enjoyable to spend time with and who has already been developed enough to merit an entire episode from his point-of-view.
Add to that some rather enjoyable character development for O'Brien, the introduction of Keiko and Spot, excellent scenes that use the rest of the main cast and their personalities well and the rather shocking twist at the end (which leaves the good guys outclassed by the Romulans) and you have a wonderfully enjoyable episode.
It's not ground-breaking or classic by any means, but definitely a pleasant offering.
- Sun, Jul 5, 2015, 4:03pm (USA Central)
Far Beyond the Stars
So Geordi's from Somalia, so what? He was born in 2335, in a Somalia that has undergone quite dramatic social, political, economic change from today (ethnic, too, judging by his decidedly non-Somali appearance)... Somalia 320 years ago certainly had none of the problems we see today.
Sisko's highly personalized vision-story is presumably about US racism because he *is* from New Orleans. I don't really see the problem.
- Sun, Jul 5, 2015, 3:50pm (USA Central)
This episode was actually pretty good until the 9 or 10 days schism reasoning. That line was delivered so pat that nobody, including the actor, could take it seriously. Yes, others here have mentioned seemingly ridiculous reasons for schisms on Earth but none of them deal with the number of days for creation. They relate to leadership succession (Shia vs. Sunni) or the nature of divinity itself (Catholic vs. Protestant). This number of days issue was just too absurd and immediately took me out of the story. The action scene ending was also cliche with the GI Joes of Earth military making their obligatory appearance. A solid first half wasted by a poor second half.
- Sun, Jul 5, 2015, 7:45am (USA Central)
I agree with most that this was a good episode that could have been so much better given its premise.
Lal's death was contrived to be sure. If this story had been pitched in a season or two later, I'm sure the writers would at least have considered making Lal a recurring character.
Haftel struggles for the whole episode to make his points; even he doesn't seem to believe his own arguments. His role should have been excised entirely, OR, what would have been a very bold choice, Lal could actually left Data and gone to Galor IV. I think that somehow would have been more tragic than her random death.
- Sat, Jul 4, 2015, 9:55pm (USA Central)
The Savage Curtain
This episode could have been better had the writers actually come up with a reason for Evil losing to Good other than Kirk being amazing at hand to hand combat. Evil has a tendency to turn on itself and it seems reasonable to me that at some point, possibly with the right push from the Good group, the Evil group would have self-destructed due to infighting.
- Sat, Jul 4, 2015, 2:42pm (USA Central)
"There's also a B-story, where T'Pol, Reed, Mayweather, and Cpl. Hawkins (gee, who's gonna die?)"
^ I laughed out loud at that line. I think the audience would have been justifiably upset if Hawkins hadn't died. Hey, redshirts are a Trek tradition.
I'm glad they gave Hawkins' death some meaning though with Reed and T'Pol's discussion.
- Sat, Jul 4, 2015, 2:39pm (USA Central)
The MACOs could have been more than they ultimately turned out to be, but in the end for the most part they were nothing more than disposable action props, although later S3 episodes tried to give individual MACOs some depth.
I would have liked to see an episode or two in S4 where it's explained why we don't see MACOs or any other full-time soldiers in the Kirk era and beyond. (Although there were specialized infantry in DS9, but that could be explained by simply reassigning personnel around due to the wartime emergency.) Something along the lines of "MACO and Starfleet philosophies come into conflict during a critical mission, heads butt, eventually the two sides compromise, resolve the crisis, MACOs are taken off Enterprise and merged into Starfleet security to become the redshirts of Kirk's era". Sort of like the Vulcan arc in season 4.
Such an ep also would have served as a good opportunity to discuss the question of to what extent the presence of the MACOs conflicts with Roddenberry ideals, something that commenters on this site have talked about a few times. Sigh...what could have been.
- Sat, Jul 4, 2015, 12:21pm (USA Central)
If Wishes Were Horses
I'll start with what I liked:
The way I read the Rumpelstiltskin thing with O'Brien is this: O'Brien's fear of the character turns out to be that the fairy tale character steals firstborn children. When Rumpelstiltskin eventually suggests that O'Brien can save the station by making a deal with him to give up his daughter, I think it's playing out, in an exaggerated fashion, a fear that O'Brien probably has had for quite a while: what if, at some point, I will be asked to choose between my work and my family, but with impossibly high stakes? Between my daughter, and hundreds of thousands of lives? And what if it's a choice between my daughter *AND* the whole rest of the station, or only my daughter? That he brought his family to a risky location with Gamma Quadrant forces and terrorists factions and periodic Cardie visits has *got* to weigh on him, and his Starfleet career is such that Molly was even born in the midst of a quantum-filament disaster where O'Brien was on the bridge waiting to see whether Troi made the call to sacrifice much of the ship's personnel, IIRC including his wife and about-to-be-born daughter. It's not milked for much drama, but there is some slowly mounting dread, covered up by irritation, which Meaney plays wonderfully.
While the spatial anomaly was boring and the tech was difficult to sit through, I liked the twist that the anomaly was caused by Jadzia's imagination. Maybe I should have seen that coming, but even though I'd seen the episode before I'd totally forgotten it. It's especially neat because the episode did show every other regular having some sort of imagination fantasy but they downplayed Jadzia's own fantasies, especially since it seemed like the episode would posit Jadzia reacting to Bashir's version of her as sufficient "Dax fantasy" material for the episode.
The way Bashir stutters out that he's always imagined that Jadzia has a sense of humour is a particularly funny line, something about (Alexander) Siddig (El Fadil)'s delivery (NOTE: I'm not sure what I should call him at this stage -- the name he used at the time, or the name after he changed it? I guess Siddig covers both).
The episode itself is pretty terrible, though. The format of Aliens Run Experiment To Learn About Human Trait X is usually ineffective (which I consider distinct from the Aliens Put Humans Through Test/Trial genre). Here aliens want to learn about imagination. What they actually learn, I have no idea -- at the end, Alien Buck Bukai tells Sisko that he thought at first that imagination was a waste of time, but now thinks differently, because, uh...well.... The positive aspects of imagination -- that imagination can be used to create things in the real world, to come to a deeper understanding of others, to make reality more bearable, etc. Quark imagines hot women, Odo Quark in jail, and patrons imagine winning at dabo, demonstrating the vast possibility of imagining Good Things among our cast. The downsides to imagination we see -- Big Fires, disastrous vortexes, etc. -- are, it should be noted, only a problem if a) a person suffers or makes bad decisions based on their fear which make those fears come true (or other bad outcomes), or b) if aliens make Imagination come true for real, which, you know, doesn't normally happen. It's not that BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR stories or FACING ONE'S NIGHTMARES have no merit, because they can often be great, but for the most part no one learns anything from their Imaginings, for good or ill, which means it's hard to see what the aliens learn. I guess Odo learns that he has enough imagination to imagine seeing Quark locked up. The ending plays a bit like Sisko gets that Imagining Disasters Sometimes Creates Disasters or whatever, but it's not well executed. In general, both the desires and fears are extremely dull. This episode's idea of upping the ante on Crazy Imaginings is to go from having one bird on the promenade to two. No one has any imagination on this station!
The Bashir/Dax/Dax stuff is particularly painful, partly because Terry Farrell can't muster much enthusiasm or energy for *either* role. Why is Bashir's Imagined Dax so boring? She goes from low-energy aloof and calm science person to low-energy aloof feigning-affection person, and it should be said that neither role is particularly believable. It also occurs to me that there's very little sense of what it is exactly that makes Bashir and Dax friends, as she states at the beginning of the episode; Bashir presumably is into her because of her body, but what is it that makes Dax tolerate Bashir's presence, let alone be friends with him?
There is something interesting in Bukai's statement to Sisko at the end, that Bukai, a person who died two hundred years before Sisko's time, still feels real to Sisko, and that this makes Sisko (and by extension all humans) interesting. I don't know what to make of it in the context of this episode, but it does coincide with "Emissary's" depiction of Sisko being a man somewhat out of time, both in his ability to communicate with the Wormhole Aliens and also in his being briefly "stuck" at the time of Jennifer's death. It's not just that Sisko has a sense of history; there is a part of him that seems to be tied to other times in Earth's history, which comes up again in the series, whether it's through the baseball thing, his father's long sense of New Orleans history, his eventual living out the key role in the Bell Riots, or Benny Russell. I don't know what to make of this exactly as a character trait, but it may be that something will develop that helps me see the big picture.
Probably 1 star, maybe 1.5.
- Sat, Jul 4, 2015, 11:52am (USA Central)
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.
- Sat, Jul 4, 2015, 5:13am (USA Central)
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.
- Sat, Jul 4, 2015, 1:12am (USA Central)
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."
- Fri, Jul 3, 2015, 11:18pm (USA Central)
Far Beyond the Stars
Er, "lateral-click"hosa. I put brackets around it and the computer ate them.
- Fri, Jul 3, 2015, 6:42pm (USA Central)
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.
- Fri, Jul 3, 2015, 4:15pm (USA Central)
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.
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