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- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 12:38pm (USA Central)
Very interesting. I missed your previous message, as I was writing to you. Perhaps you missed the folowing:
"Perhaps, but in your scenario Tucker learns not to jump to conclusions and in mine he learns not to play morality police."
Not really. In my scenario, Tucker learns NOT TO PLAY morality police because he learns NOT TO JUMP to conclusions.
I get to have my cake and eat it. That is one of the reasons why this is the superior interpretation: it encompasses everything. As I said, this is the more complex interpretation. It takes more factors into consideration. That is also why it is the more realistic approach. This is what we're actually seeing, if we are to take this in any way seriously.
It seems to me that it is you who "WANT" this to be merely a simplistic story, and only want to see part of what's going on. My interpretation gives you everything. Why not take it?
"If 2 is correct our failure to understand enough to judge the Congenitors is a lack of information, not a culture clash."
You are actually completely missing the point here: it is precisely because Trip receives TOO MUCH information that we see this culture clash.
Tucker simply cannot correctly assimilate what he is told in such a short period of time. That is why he jumps to conclusions. It is a paradox, but a very true and well-know one: too much information in too short time is also too little information.
Anything sufficiently "alien" to you will quite simply be misunderstood or not understood at all at first, in spite of the information amount, by any normal human being. It is an ages-old paradox, and one of the reasons why meeting and moving to sufficiently different cultures can be such a tricky business.
Being an expat myself, and having lived in various countries in Europe and Asia, this is perhaps why I tend to particularly like this episode. What Trip goes through is the absolutely typical response of anyone not understanding and not liking what he is experiencing in a sufficiently alien culture. He then jumps to conclusions. And he then gets carried away and plays morality police.
As I said, the cogenitor may or may not be oppressed. But the important thing is that Trip really doesn't know. Unlike what you claim, he's actually suffering from information overload which he cannot possibly assimilate in such a short period of time. i say again: it is possible that the cogenitor is opressed. But Trip can't know. And he wants to know. Because he's been told too much ― and not enough. He therefore loses emotional control, and starts acting clearly on his emotions.
Doesn't this seem a fair interpretation to you?
- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 12:02pm (USA Central)
To phrase the question in another way. Even if the Federation has done away with inherited aristocracy you'd probably, if you were the head of the Federation, allow Mrs. Troi to keep the holy rings of Betazed, right? Because it'd be worth getting the Betazoids into the Federation.
But is there something a race could do that would give you pause? That would be non negotiable? Anything at all?
- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 12:00pm (USA Central)
You accuse me of not thinking big enough, yet when I get to the point where I see your point and yet still tell you I think that reading of the episode is wrong you tell me my interpretation is naive.
I totally agree with you about the EU, but I ask you... would the EU accept a slave state. If the British slave trade still existed, should we allow them into the EU?
Since the ORIGINAL point of the discussion is if they'd be allowed in the Federation, it would be thinking big to discuss if there are lines that shouldn't be crossed. Could we allow Klingons in even though they treat women less well than men? Could we allow Vissians in when 3% of their population isn't allowed self determination? Could we allow Romulans in when they keep Remans as a slave caste.
You say we cannot judge alien cultures, I look at an episode like "The Void" and say eventually we're going to have to. And judging doesn't mean interfering, this episode paints the price of interfering quite high. Judging means deciding for ourselves who we ally with/do business with/whatever.
So I still come down on Interpretation 1. And that's not because I'm not thinking big enough or don't understand your point. It's just because I genuinely don't think that's what the writer was trying to say. I WILL say that it's GREAT that this stuff makes us all think big thoughts about the universe though.
- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 11:20am (USA Central)
A weak season that represent a dark side of Star Trek with Gene Roddenberry abandoning it due to network politic. It's a shame to because a lot of these episodes had some good concept and ideas.
The Enterprise Incident.
Day of the Dove
All our Yesterday
Light of Zeter - Would had been perfect if it an Uhura episode.
- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 11:19am (USA Central)
On a different note, you have of course a point regarding admission to the Federation, that “once you have HUNDREDS of worlds you can be pickier”.
But I gave you an actual, historical example of how such proceedings actually work in a real-world scenario, in a case where all the involved parties are actual human beings.
The United Federation of Planets is not, and cannot be, like the United States of America, a federation of rather homogeneous states with very little history and individual culture, and all sharing the most important common markers, including language.
The UFP will of course much rather resemble the European Union, a more loose confederation of very heterogeneous states, with millennial histories and different cultures and languages, composed of Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Latin, Slav, and a few other, more peculiar peoples, such as the two Finno-Ugric ones.
These are nations with much, much stronger national identities than the individual US member states, and therefore much more akin to the varied nature of the UFP worlds. I mean, even Albania has its own, very peculiar language and more than two thousand years of history. What has Alabama?
I come from a southern European EU member state, and at the moment I live in a northern European one. I essentially live in a proto-UFP. If anything, the multinational dynamics are greater at EU level than they would be at UFP level, because of the geographic proximity and the physical interconnectedness of the member states: an earthquake in Italy may disrupt electricity supply in France; a flood in the Netherlands, or a livestock epidemic in Germany, may affect food supplies throughout the EU in a matter of days. We actually depend on each other, in ways the UFP worlds cannot begin to compare.
I read regularly of the various issues concerning transnational or multinational cooperation at EU level on areas of key strategic interest to specific member states. It can be exasperating, at times: here are member states attempting to cooperate for the common good, while at the same time defending of course a minimum of national interest.
But I also read of simple cooperation on matters of less strategic importance, but very long and proud traditions, such as say, reforms of education systems at universities that are more than five hundred years old.
Imagine a EU proposition of reform that would force a few 700-year old faculties to close and be merged with others. How well do you think such a proposition would be received in the affected countries? These are ancient and almost sacred institutions in the respective EU member states. That is the power of history, and tradition, and culture: its beauty, and its disadvantage. It is what makes my Old World so incredibly beautiful. It is also what makes it so slow to change. Old habits die hard.
Now, if ancient European universities can make a fuss about standardization procedures and abandoning old traditions for the sake of a European common education policy, what would the universities on Bolias and Betazed and Benzar say? Why should they abandon their peculiar traditions, and change everything, or anything, to accomodate “HUNDREDS” of distant worlds, of which they probably only regularly interact with the closest dozen or so?
Again, Robert ― and I don’t know how many times I must say this ― you must raise your level of abstraction. You have to think bigger thoughts.
Suggesting that every member planet of the UFP has NOT its own, very specific memberships clauses, but just has signed on the same standard charter as everyone else, with no special provisions for its specific cultural characteristics, practices, and heritage, isn’t simplistic: it’s rather weak thinking. That could only have two interpretations:
1) The Federation charter is nothing but a vague and not legally binding declaration of intents, or
2) The Federation has a legal, educational, etc. framework which is identical in every single world, and once you've signed the charter, you must adopt that framework.
Either one of these suggestions is preposterous.
So even if you’re right in saying that “once you have HUNDREDS of worlds you can be pickier”, the Federation would still need to, as I wrote previously, “allow for some cultural peculiarities and idiosyncrasies to exist [...], even if TNG never showed them.” And this means also at the legal level. And this means negotiating terms of admission.
This is how the real world works. And we must debate Star Trek based on a minimum of realism.
You wrote: “I'm not saying I know the "truth". I'm saying that it's not an alien, it's an actor in an art piece.”
And this is your problem, and my point, ever and always: if we want to have serious talks about Star Trek, we have to stop pretending these are actors and start pretending it’s all actually true. And we have to debate it as such. Not in a concrete, literal sense, but in a more abstract manner, based on how reality actually works.
Ergo, what we see in this episode is a First Contact. Ergo, the cogenitor is an alien. And ergo, you ― or I, or Elliott, or Robert, or Yanks, or anyone ― have no clue whatsoever as to its true nature.
The episode doesn't lose its value as a result. Quite the contrary: it functions also as an important reminder of that old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover".
So what will it be, Robert, of the two in my previous message? Interpretation 1, or interpretation 2?
- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 11:14am (USA Central)
A strong season, but I got a little bit ahead of myself with my top five list.
Top five Season.
The Corbomite Manuever.
The City On The Edge of Forever.
Balance of Terror.
The Enemy within
Tomorrow is Yesterday.
Honorable mention goes out to The Naked Time and Shore Leave.
- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 11:10am (USA Central)
I enjoyed season two, but one thing that hurt it was that they had to many parallel earth. Not only that, but these parallel earth episodes were aired to close together. Ironically this is what Gene Roddenberry wanted to do with Trek is time parallel earth stories that mirrored problem of the present or past.
I love that fact that Scotty and Uhura got a lot more to do this season. Chekov was a great addition to the cast and I'm glad he didn't turn into boy wonder the wiz kid. I feel bad for George Takei who lost out on a lot of great moment for his Sulu character due to filming the Green Beret. It's pretty obvious a lot of great moments that he could have had went to Scotty and Chekov. Takei likes to blame Shatner for his shortcoming on Trek, but he obviously lost out on a chunk of good material because of Green Beret.
Top 5 episodes.
The Trouble With Tribbles.
Journey to Babel
Honorable mention goes out to Obsession.
- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 10:57am (USA Central)
And lastly, Elliott is still right. Sci-fi, and Star Trek in particular very rarely is about what it would be like to meet something alien and much more about shining a mirror on ourselves.
Even if Western liberal culture is the correct morality, going into the middle east and forcing it on them overnight is going to have some pretty horrible consequences. Trip learned a lesson that interfering has consequences, even if your morality is correct. At least that's how I see it. As I said, other interpretations may be valid, but don't kid yourself that yours is deeper.
- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 10:51am (USA Central)
Agreeing that my view is simplistic and naive is meeting half way? You have quite the ego. I think we can all agree on that.
I will agree with you that both 1 and 2 are the two possibilities. At least that eliminates 99% of the rest of this discussion.
"Either way, the episode makes a lot of sense."
Perhaps, but in your scenario Tucker learns not to jump to conclusions and in mine he learns not to play morality police. Both lessons are pretty simple and useful to learn while exploring the stars. Both are pretty basic and simple. Your interpretation isn't some magic awe inspiring life altering lesson. Don't jump to conclusions is advice we teach to young children.
Now if the episode was about our inability to understand the aliens because of how alien they were, THAT might be interesting. But the episode CANNOT be about that. As you yourself said "We know next to nothing about it. And knowing so little, we have no means of really interpreting it."
If 2 is correct our failure to understand enough to judge the Congenitors is a lack of information, not a culture clash. You WANT this to be about the alien-ness of it all. About how we are not able to judge them because we're too human, too Western, too whatever. You want to think that you've expanded your abstraction enough to see this episode as some great truth... but if 2 is correct than Tucker was wrong because he judged without all the facts. Not because of any great truth.
And if 1 is correct Tucker learned something about not being an arbiter of morality. PERSONALLY, I find #1 more interesting, but your mileage may vary. Either way (1 or 2), the episode isn't about what you think it is.
- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 10:33am (USA Central)
Why don’t we meet each other half-way?
ROBERT ― ”But if you look at what the WRITERS are trying to say (or at least I will admit that it's what I THINK the writers are trying to say), the episode stops making sense if the Congenitor is not oppressed. And it REALLY stops making sense if the Congenitor is unbalanced.
I will agree with you that Archer's speech is the moral of the story. But we disagree on what it means. I think it means that it's not OUR PLACE to judge these aliens. You think it means that we CANNOT judge these aliens. I hope you are wrong.”
There are two possibilities here:
1 ― The Cogenitor is oppressed. Yet, it is not Tucker’s, or Archer’s, place to judge these aliens. “it's not OUR PLACE to judge these aliens”. And Archer tells Tucker that.
2 ― The Cogenitor may or may not be oppressed. We don’t know. We know next to nothing about it. And knowing so little, we have no means of really interpreting it. Yes, it may very well look opressed to us, but that may be our interpretation tricking us. Knowing so little about it and Vissian society, “we CANNOT judge these aliens”. And Archer tells Tucker that.
Either way, the episode makes a lot of sense. But one of these interpretations is for children, and the other is for grown-ups. One of them is simplistic, and childish, and the other is intelligent, and adult. You choose, Robert.
...and I had already written this, on May 10, 2014:
“As such, this episode is clever writing because it speaks to a Western audience with our present moral beliefs, and provokes reactions based on those Western beliefs.”
So what are the writers really trying to say? This episode is outstanding because it knows its broad viewer base, and reaches both the simple minds who can only make literal readings of everything they see, and the ones who can reach a higher level of abstraction. It thus fuels discussion between the two. Which is exactly what we are doing here. This does not change the fact that your interpretation is the simplistic and naïve one, and mine is the more complex and much more realistic one.
Can we agree on that?
- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 9:32am (USA Central)
Ludicrous. How this could follow the brilliance of the Doomsday Machine is beyond me. Somesort of Halloween special? It wasnt very 'special'. I did enjoy the ending though, ive never laughed so much at the actual forms of the fat bald bloke and the cat. What was that all about???
- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 7:22am (USA Central)
I guess my point is... I would hope the EU wouldn't accept "it's totally cool to fry the Jews" as a rule bending from a Nazi Germany that was trying to join. And yes I know you automatically lose internet arguments when you mention the Nazis, but I still think it's a good point here. Mostly because I'm not comparing the Vissians to Nazis.
- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 7:19am (USA Central)
Huh.... I lost the bottom there. Did I make it too long?
It should say
"Because (insert Archer's speech here). I will agree with you that Archer's speech is the moral of the story. But we disagree on what it means. I think it means that it's not OUR PLACE to judge these aliens. You think it means that we CANNOT judge these aliens. I hope you are wrong. I hope when we make the eventual Federation we don't allow the Vissians in while they are still oppressing their Congenitors, the Vidiians while they are still harvesting organs or the Cardassians while they are occupying Bajor. As a cautionary tale for building a Federation with the "wrong people" go watch the very excellent VOY S7 episode, "The Void"."
- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 7:14am (USA Central)
"The spirit of this episode is that we should not interfere in that which we do not understand. The spirit of this episode is Archers fantastic final delivery to Tucker. YOU see a slave. I see an alien. And I recognize that I am in no way in a position to even begin to make an educated guess about its nature.
You seem to believe that you are not merely capable of making that educated guess, but in fact of knowing the Truth. You, Robert, must be a wiser man than I. "
I'm not saying I know the "truth". I'm saying that it's not an alien, it's an actor in an art piece.
I do agree that if we were watching a documentary about this incident there would be no way to no if the Congenitor was unbalanced, if the other Congenitors are happy, how oppressed they are, etc.
But if you look at what the WRITERS are trying to say (or at least I will admit that it's what I THINK the writers are trying to say), the episode stops making sense if the Congenitor is not oppressed. And it REALLY stops making sense if the Congenitor is unbalanced.
If the Congenitor is unbalanced and none of the other Congenitors are like this it stops being a story about Trip interfering wrongly and starts being a story about Trip getting supremely unlucky. Can we agree on that?
"I cannot possibly believe that something similar is not the case in the Federation, and that every single world has not specific clauses of membership, and specific local legislation that accomodates and respects its historical heritage."
Yet a small moon penal colony where former soldiers are pampered caused Picard to recommend that Angosia not be Federation members. It didn't matter that they were treated well or that the government deemed it necessary to make a bunch of super soldiers to fight a war. Picard deemed it wrong, so no soup for you!
I do agree that in the beginning Archer was likely bending over backwards to lick the Andorian's and Vulcan's boots to get the first few guys into the Federation, but once you have HUNDREDS of worlds you can be pickier. Now perhaps they SHOULDN'T be pickier, but I don't think I'm arguing that here.
"What you are implying, Robert et al., is a policy of admission to the Federation that would be narrow-minded to the extreme, and more akin to pure fantasy than anything resembling science-fiction. "
Actually I don't think I am. The Klingons are one of the quadrant powers. They nearly became Romulan allies multiple times during TNG. If I were the head of the Federation and they asked to join I'd lick their boots.
And now back to what the episode is about... and of course here we can agree to disagree.
To me the writer of the episode seemed to make a Congenitor that was oppressed (I understand I'm seeing this through human eyes, but the writer was human and wrote it with human hands) so that Trip could do the right thing and still be wrong. I mean, that's a helluva kicker right? You did the right thing and you were still wrong! Why were you wrong? Because
- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 2:34am (USA Central)
thanks for the review. I agree, the episode was pretty bad for most the reasons you stated.
- Tue, Nov 18, 2014, 1:38am (USA Central)
Flesh and Bone
Seems we have those who think:
"Torture never works, therefore it shouldn't ever be used." Very pragmatic. I'm not going to touch on the "does it ever work?" question except to say "never" is a long time.
Other (eg Zane314) say:
"It's Wrong and against Humanity." An appeal to an absolute morality. Except not everyone shares that morality. How far will you go to force others to follow your moral code? You won't torture -- how far will you go to stop others from torturing?
To me, though, the interesting question is: "Is it OK to torture Cylons?" Knowing what the humans know about Cylons, I'm not sure you can *automatically* assume that they have any "rights", or that there's any moral problems with torture. Maybe they really do just have software, maybe they really do just mimic being human, maybe Leoben really COULD turn the pain off at any point. Starbuck's questions are relevant: Why should a Cylon feel pain? A better might be: Why don't immortal Cylons have a "kill" switch built in?
We're all used to Data...... (Rachel from Blade Runner -- featuring EJO -- comes to mind as well; I'm sure there's a zillion others). If we'd never seen Data, we might be more comfortable with torturing Leoben.
Don't the Colonials have TNG? ;-)
And yeah, I was shocked when Roslin then spaced him....
- Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 7:58pm (USA Central)
I am with you.
In awe with this conversation and I loved Interstellar too! :-)
One comment. If "it" looked like Jaba the hut 90% of the empathizers wouldn't be there.
- Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 6:47pm (USA Central)
Errand of Mercy
I really enjoyed watching this. The remastered version includes a couple of pretty neat battle scenes with the Klingons but they don't intrude too much, they just really emphasise that Kirk and Spock are going to be on their own for a while. It was really great watching them muck about a bit on the planet. Kirk's mutual disgust with Kor at the Organians seemingly pacifism was funny and probably in character for Kirk but feels a bit out of place against the Federation's ideas about acceptance and understanding of other cultures. Sulu was great in his brief bit as acting-Captain.
My only problem with it was that it dragged a bit in place and it stuck to the same few rooms for most of the duration. There was obviously something going on with the Organians and it was just a matter of how long until the revelation came and if that would be worth it. The planet seemed deserted except for the room the council was in and there were only ever a handful of Klingons, and even though I understand budgetary concerns it still feels lacking. The ending seems a bit simplistic but since it didn't seem to stop the Klingons being adversaries I'm just just going to believe it affects this region of space only.
John Colicos as Kor was fantastic, such an amazing antagonist but not really a villain, almost like he's playing a recurring character and it's such a shame he never came back. I really like his version of the Klingons which feel more like Cardassians than the 24th century Klingons and Kor's deviousness reminds me of the layered characters of Garak or Dukat. I was watching Generations the other day and to go from those stupid cartoon Klingons to something like this was striking.
- Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 3:54pm (USA Central)
Andy's Friend, I am in awe. My respect to you, good man! I am tempted to write something more, so that this doesn't sound like simple "what he said", but I feel I can't contribute anything meaningful to your fantastic series of posts.
And yes, I'd also recommend Solaris. A great book, to be sure. (While we're at it, Interstellar has energised my SF batteries to dangerously high levels. I plan to re-watch some great SF movies these days, both Solarises included.
- Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 3:13pm (USA Central)
Yes, Eddington's words echo Lem's in this passage. But unlike you when you write: "[Lem's "seeking Man"] is what we're likely to do when we go up there", I'm pretty sure that the minute we meet a truly alien species, we'll give up such childish, foolish thoughts.
Before I get back to your main question, consider this, though: the fact that you are willing to seriously discuss the one cogenitor you have ever seen in your life, and that for a mere half-hour or less, and use him as sole reference, concerning a species that you have also only seen once in your life, and that for about the same half-hour, just proves my point: you are being concrete to the extreme.
You need to raise your level of abstraction, Robert.
ROBERT ― "When I say "I take the episode how it's presented." I mean that if the writers did not intend the Congenitor to be mentally unstable then it is not. It's not the same as quoting scriptures without understand them, it's a matter of seeing things that aren't there."
My point is much, much simpler: these are alien beings. You don't know what you are seing. You only think you do, because you choose to interpret it in human terms.
ROBERT ― "When I say "I take the episode as it's presented" I mean the SPIRIT of the episode."
The spirit of this episode is that we should not interfere in that which we do not understand. The spirit of this episode is Archers fantastic final delivery to Tucker. YOU see a slave. I see an alien. And I recognize that I am in no way in a position to even begin to make an educated guess about its nature.
You seem to believe that you are not merely capable of making that educated guess, but in fact of knowing the Truth. You, Robert, must be a wiser man than I.
...which brings us back to the Federation issue. I get it: all you're arguing "is that the Vissians wouldn't be accepted into the Federation" because of the cogenitors' situation as per this episode.
I understand you, and unfortunately, gladly concede that you may have a point. This is because the TNG Federation has failed, abysmally, in depicting true alienness within its member planets. How are the Bolians different from humans? They're blue!
But what else do we know of the Bolians? Or the Betazoids? Or the Benzites? And so on and so forth. I can't recall a single episode of TNG that deals with serious ethical problems arising from the native customs of a member planet.
TNG thus unfortunately painted itself into a corner by not establishing, through carefully studied example, what situations would and would not be accepted in member worlds. And we of course tend to see Picard, the paragon of virtue, as representative of all the Federation worlds, not merely professionally (which he of course is), but also mentally (which he can never be).
Are we to believe that the only difference between Bolians and humans is that the former are blue? This is ridiculous. We must make room for some cultural idiosyncrasies in every alien species in the Federation. Again: it is Star Trek's fault that we were never presented such true, cultural diversity.
And again: this is why you, and so many others, must raise your level of abstraction.
Allow me to give a real-world case: in the European Union, every single expansion has included specific clauses for each country that allowed for some very specific national legislation to be maintained above the common EU law.
In the case of Austria, for instance, when Austria joined the European Union in 1995, that country specifically demanded that its constitutional paragraphs barring the members of the former Imperial House of Habsburg to candidate for the presidency of the country be maintained. So if you happen to be the great-grandchild of the last Emperor of Austria, you can't run for president. These paragraphs are of course illegal under European Law and might be contested at the European Court; but the EU gladly accepted this among Austria's several demands in order to have them as members. And other such highly specific exceptions have been made in every single admittance to the European Union.
I cannot possibly believe that something similar is not the case in the Federation, and that every single world has not specific clauses of membership, and specific local legislation that accomodates and respects its historical heritage.
Are we for instance to believe, as suggested by Elliott here the other day, that the Klingons wouldn't be accepted to the Federation just because they won't allow females on the High Council? This is a ridiculous thought. I can think of much better reasons why the Klingn's shouldn't be allowed to join, and could also argue that they should. Klingons give their females ample rights. Who cares if there are a few special cases of "males only" or "females only" to certain specific bodies or institutions ― on Qo'noS, on Betazed, Bolias, wherever? These are alien planets and cultures, after all. There must be some fundamental Federation law that is important. Are they democratic? Austria is.
What you are implying, Robert et al., is a policy of admission to the Federation that would be narrow-minded to the extreme, and more akin to pure fantasy than anything resembling science-fiction. We must allow for some cultural peculiarities and idiosyncrasies to exist on alien worlds, even if TNG never showed them. Is our goal to seek out new worlds, and new civilizations? Or are we really merely seeking Man?
- Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 3:05pm (USA Central)
That Which Survives
This is one of my favourites of Jammer's "bad episode" reviews -- as usual, funny, and funny in that same kind of way that Roger Ebert's (whom I know Jammer really values) negative reviews are funny.
So, uh...Kirk suggests early on that this is a Ghost Planet, and then it turns out that the planet really is haunted, albeit by a computer-created ghost. Trek has a few episodes like this, where there's something of a gothic fantasy story justified at the last minute by some technobabble; an episode for which this works well is "The Tholian Web," and an episode for which this works terribly is "Sub Rosa." This one isn't quite at "Sub Rosa" depths, because Kirk and Sulu don't end up sleeping with the fake Losira, but it's pretty terrible. Still, I feel like this episode could have worked; the ghostly apparition leading visitors to death becomes something of a trapped spirit, with pale reflections of Losira doomed to live out on the planet for centuries to kill intruders to protect a set of people who will never come. It's sort of poignant if you think about it; the episode's failure is of course, that it fails to present this in an interesting way, and it certainly fails to portray the Losira spirits convincingly as being somewhere between computer program programmed to destroy and Real Person created. (TNG's "The Arsenal of Freedom" does something a little bit similar, this time focusing not so muh on spirits of the dead and more on the tech side of weaponry destroying civilizations and outliving them; and in general it's a far, far better episode.) But hey, it's kind of a cool idea, I think. The sci-fi explanation sort of works -- it's plausible that the computer could create Losiras, I guess, if it's sufficiently advanced -- though it falls apart, as other commenters mentioned, with the idea that it can both launch the Enterprise a thousand light years away and then project a Losira onto that ship. Nor is there an explanation of how the computer cube can produce person-specific cellular poisons and know their names, and so on.
Anyway, there is so little tension in the episode; none of the landing party seem concerned when they believe the ship blew up, nor do any of them remember that they saw Losira kill the transporter chief right when they beamed down until they see another Losira. The stuff on the ground is so inept. My favourite Sulu line is, and I can't believe this actually was said on air, "How can such people be, Captain? Such evil and so, so beautiful." My second favourite is probably his "I don't want to kill a woman!" exclamation. My favourite general concept is the idea of crew members interposing themselves between Losira and her intended victim, and then, once there are three Losiras, Kirk's exclamation, "Shift positions!" so that they stand in a slightly altered permutation of their standing in a line.
The Enterprise stuff is indeed terrible. Spock really is intolerable in this ep, isn't he? Since when does Spock correct every single calculation people say? And Spock of course shuts down anyone who "speculates" or "guesses" and then engages in wild, unreasonable speculation himself. I think the worst Spock episode in the series. Scotty's excitability I usually find cute, but it's really hard to take in this episode, too. Just overall pretty disastrous. 1 star -- mostly for the poignant idea behind the Losira "ghost story."
- Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 3:02pm (USA Central)
The Changing Face of Evil
@Weyoun: I also have fond feelings for the earlier-season uniforms. I think the later gray and black uniforms look better and more professional, but they would never happen in real life - they look so incredibly uncomfortable. First of all, your neck is being half-choked, and second of all, there is so much material that is part of the uniform that you'd be sweating constantly if you were wearing it in a normal outdoor environment. I feel uncomfortable just seeing the later uniforms. The TNG uniforms (seasons 3-7, of course) were the best - they looked great and looked just as comfortable.
- Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 2:52pm (USA Central)
The Mark of Gideon
After spending a while writing about "LTBYLB," I am glad that this and the next episode will be extremely quick. In "The Mark of Gideon," we learn that extreme overpopulation would be so devastating that people will want to die. We get a glimpse of what overpopulation looks like -- a bunch of people in one-piece suits with their face cut out wandering around bumping into each other, but never quite moving away from each other, like they're a bunch of molecules in a liquid. As for why overpopulation is such a problem, we helpfully have this exchange:
HODIN: And so it was! A long, long time ago what we described was true! The atmosphere on Gideon has always been germ-free. And the people flourished in their physical and spiritual perfection. Eventually, even the life span increased. Death became almost unknown to us. It occurred only when the body could no longer regenerate itself, and that happens now only to the very old.
KIRK: Those are conditions most people would envy.
HODIN: But Gideon did not find it enviable. The birth rate continued to rise, and the population grew, until now Gideon is encased in a living mass who can find no rest, no peace, no joy.
KIRK: Then why haven't you introduced any of the new techniques to sterilise men and women?
HODIN: Every organ renews itself. It would be impossible.
KIRK: Then let your people learn about the devices to safely prevent conception. The Federation will provide anything you need.
HODIN: But you see, the people of Gideon have always believed that life is sacred. That the love of life is the greatest gift. That is the one unshakable truth of Gideon. And this overwhelming love of life has developed our regenerative capacity and our great longevity.
KIRK: And the great misery which you now face.
HODIN: That is bitterly true, Captain. Nevertheless, we cannot deny the truth which shaped our evolution. We are incapable of destroying or interfering with the creation of that which we love so deeply. Life, in every form, from foetus to developed being. It is against our tradition, against our very nature. We simply could not do it.
KIRK: Yet you can kill a young girl.
Well, I think it's weird that Kirk *started* with sterilization and then moved to contraception. Also, I think that someone should explain to Hodin the difference between contraception and abortion. And also, it occurs to me that sex among the people of Gideon must be quite the affair, if the whole planet is as tightly packed as we saw it. Must be rough without privacy! No, but really, it's very, *very* hard for me to find Hodin sympathetic when he pretty genuinely seems to believe that introducing a virus to kill off large segments of the population is a far better long-term solution than teaching people about barrier methods.
Why, exactly, is introducing a virus any better than just taking a gun and shooting people in the head? About the only thing I can think of is that the people of Gideon just LOVE LIFE SO MUCH that they view a virus as a living entity, with just as much right to exist and kill the host, as anyone. This is not stated in the episode, but it's the type of argument I suspect Hodin as written would make, and the type of thing that would fit this episode as written. I'm willing to accept a fair amount of silliness from this show but something of this episode just passes my limits.
And that is a shame because there is something interesting in the idea of a planet so overpopulated that a virus must be introduced into the system to allow for a higher quality of life, or indeed long-term survival of the species. There are ways in which this idea can be examined, but this is not it.
Some of the Spock/Hadin scenes are fairly fun, though I think that Hadin's slippery use of words is a little overrated by the episode -- Hodin's statement that Spock requested a "most thorough search" is treated by the characters as if Hodin is technically telling the truth, but missing the meaning behind the words Spock used, but that's not actually true, since Hodin was the one who used that phrase the first time. This subplot lacks the grace of the similar subplot between Picard and the Sheliak in "The Ensigns of Command," but at least there's some fun to be had.
As for Odona, I think there is something a little bit wistful about Odona's joy at being able to be alone with Kirk; the emptiness of the Enterprise does actually work to create some of the atmosphere required to convey the horror of the overpopulation by contrast. So some points for that. Still, I don't find her love for Kirk, which I think we're meant to see as "real," believable, except maybe if we're meant to see this as the first time she's been alone with a suitor.
The episode isn't really actively painful but it's boring and silly. I guess 1.5 star, though I could go down to 1.
- Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 2:37pm (USA Central)
Let That Be Your Last Battlefield
You know, I actually think this episode is a bit more ambitious than is given credit for by Jammer and most of the commenters. It's certainly true that the episode points out the irrational racial hatred of judging people by useless visual cues. But the episode is also pretty explicitly about how class intersects with race, and while it's not entirely successful it sort of works. Lokai and Bele are from, respectively, the less and more powerful of a set of two races apparently coexisting. According to Bele, Lokai's people are violent savages who can't take care of themselves, and Bele and Lokai's conflict is of the just policeman against the vicious, terrorist criminal. According to Lokai, Bele's people are a race of cold and heartless slavedrivers, and Lokai and Bele's conflict is of the passionate freedom-fighter against the cruel, tyrannical despot. Bele is a part of a mass machine of enslavement slaver out to protect his people, and Lokai is a killer of (apparently) a million people as part of a campaign of emancipation. And in that sense, the values of the two, and their approaches, are diametrically opposed, and the episode follows through on this: Lokai, the populist, tries to rouse some rabble among the junior officers (Chekov, Sulu, etc.) in the rec room, whereas Bele, the aristocrat, tries to appeal to Kirk and Spock's sophistication while fine dining in Kirk's quarters. What they have in common, though, is that both are obsessed with hatred of the other, screaming at the Enterprise crew to kill the other (or in Bele's case, to allow them to go back to his homeworld where Lokai can be killed); they also state pretty openly that the other is representative of his entire species (species being marked by which side of the face is which), and both believe that the other's race is evil in a fundamental way. The point, I think, is that both Bele's characterization of Lokai as an irredeemably violent savage and Lokai's characterization of Bele as an irredeemably cruel tyrant are, ahem, *mirror images* of each other, that hate is hate regardless of whether it's coming from the uprising oppressed or the defensive oppressors. Bele and Lokai actually really are class opposites as well as race opposites, but they are joined in their hate, which makes it difficult for the Enterprise crew to recognize them as different from each other; and ultimately, their respective species destroyed each other.
Now, I think the implication for the civil rights era is an appeal to compassion for everyone. And as far as that goes, the episode makes an important point. And certainly, I think that there is some need for "balance," that hatred and violence is not automatically justified from the oppressed any more than it is from the oppressors. I go back and forth on whether the episode sets up a false equivalence here, because someone forced into slavery hating his slavemasters is far different, and far more justified IMO, from a slavemaster hating his slave for disobedience. However, over the top as it is, the "1 million people" figure listed of the people who died in support of Lokai's cause at least makes it seem as if Lokai's crusade for freedom of his people most likely had some big unethical actions. So I don't know. The "1 million people" figure is also, it should be noted, Bele's version of events, which is not confirmed by any in-episode story; in the episode, Lokai is certainly a bit of an obsessed madman himself, but I kind of think that Bele comes off far worse, and the episode's pushing the equivalence leads to weird effects (which are only balanced out, and then some, by the implication that millions or more died because of Lokai). Lokai ultimately is just trying to get away from Bele and Bele is bringing Lokai in to get executed; Lokai is a little bit closer to just wanting to be free and escape the cycle of violence, though Bele's presence seems to agitate him back into wanting political action. The episode suggests, probably unintentionally, the ways in which white collar and blue collar criminals are sometimes treated differently: Lokai, the episode's oppressed criminal, steals a shuttlecraft to escape and Kirk continues to insist for most of the episode on his plan to bring him to Starbase 4 to face charges, largely because Lokai acts frazzled and angry, whereas Bele steals the entire Enterprise with all hands on board to accomplish an illegal extradition, and then Kirk just talks him down and the Starbase indicates that they will probably agree to Bele's request, because Bele can put off some degree of sophistication and carries some authority. I think, notably, Kirk is mostly humouring Bele at this part in the story, recognizing that Bele can retake the Enterprise if he wants to, but still, it's a pretty interesting contrast.
The episode does actually undermine some of its own points, because in spite of the suggestion that the two races are FUNDAMENTALLY THE SAME SPECIES, that Lokai and Bele's obsession with their petty physical differences as indicative of inner worth is ridiculous from any objective viewpoint, well, Bele has ridiculously powerful mind powers which can take over the Enterprise and send it hurtling through space at super-speeds and Lokai can't. My girlfriend helpfully, somewhat jokingly/somewhat seriously, suggested that maybe the difference is because Bele has more education, ha, which fits with the general political content of the episode. I can buy that. Still, it's kind of weird, and without more information directly confronting whether Bele and Lokai's apparent power differential ultimately does mark them as different species, it's hard to say that the Enterprise crew's reflexive assumption that their physiological differences are purely superficial is necessarily correct. It doesn't mean that a physiological difference that allows for super telekenesis powers in one and not the other would give Bele's species a right to enslave Lokai's, but it would change the episode's message a fair amount, and I think it's fair to say that this is something the writers probably just overlooked, in their giving Bele superpowers for mostly plot purposes. On the other hand, this exchange is kind of interesting:
SPOCK: Change is the essential process of all existence. For instance, the people of Cheron must have once been mono-coloured.
BELE: You mean like both of you?
KIRK: There must have been a time, long ago no doubt, when that was true.
KIRK: Excuse me. Kirk here.
SCOTT [OC]: We're orbiting Ariannus, sir.
KIRK: Very good. Commence decontamination procedures when ready. Advise when complete.
SCOTT [OC]: At once, sir. Scott out.
BELE: I once heard that on some of your planets people believe they are descended from apes.
SPOCK: The actual theory is that all life-forms evolved from the lower levels to the more advanced stages.
Now, the science of all this is, ahem, dubious, but let's presume that all the statements in this section are true. In that case, Spock's statement that life forms evolved from "the lower levels" to the "more advanced stages" suggests that Bele and Lokai are more advanced than humans -- the analogy, I suppose, is that Bele and Lokai are to humans and other monocoloured species what humans are to apes. This actually fits the fact that Bele, firstly, has extreme super brain powers, and secod that Bele and Lokai are apparently extremely long-lived. They are "more advanced" than humans -- and yet are still trapped in a cycle of hatred which they cannot escape. I think the point here is that hatred, racial prejudice, long-term effects of class differences and the resentments that come from this, etc., are not things that the intelligent are immune from: anyone, who is not careful to check themselves, can find themselves destroyed by this.
The scene where Bele expresses shock that no one can recognize the difference between him and Lokai is indeed effective. I think that many of the individual scenes with Bele and Lokai work, too. The ending is, uh, heavy-handed, yes, but there's a certain poetic desperation in it all. Frank Gorshin, probably best known for playing the Riddler in the Adam West Batman series, brings the proper self-assured disgust to his role as Bele. I do agree that the episode has several weaknesses, some of which I've mentioned, some of which Jammer and the others on the board have mentioned. The self-destruct sequence is a *huge* detour which kills the episode's tension. In general, Bele's extreme superpowers are not taken seriously enough by the narrative; it may or may not be true that Kirk could do something about them, but there is something frustrating that Kirk et al. don't even try to figure out an alternate way of dealing with Bele, some kind of way of preventing him from taking the ship over again. The episode's pacing is slow and it's somewhat more fun to talk about than to watch, and not actually hard-hitting enough to make up for this lack of fun. Still, I think it's got a fair amount going for it. I think I'd say 2.5 stars.
- Mon, Nov 17, 2014, 2:26pm (USA Central)
I appreciate what you're trying to say. Really, I do.
The thing is, is sci-fi and Trek in particular really supposed to be a handbook to our real-life encounters with alien beings, or is it an allegorical structure for dealing with ourselves? It could possibly be both, I suppose. But Trek has at this point a very firm foundation in using sci-fi (the undefined other) as a vehicle for social commentary. While it may not have been perfect, TOS' idealistic diversity of crew and hierarchy of principles managed to get on the air *only* because the sci-fi setting shielded the show from critics to an extent. I don't know if I'm willing to grant ENT this level of social-awareness, but the episode seems to me like a 21st-century equivalent to the integrated crew of the 60s.
We have found ourselves in a world where fundamental differences in culture have encountered an impasse. The ideals and achievements of Western Enlightenment can no longer coëxist tranquilly against the reactionary sects of the old world, and we are called upon to accept an ugly truth, that perhaps, in the words of Bill Maher, "liberal, Western culture is not just different – it’s better."
From your quote of Lem's :
"We are searching for an ideal image of our own world: we go in quest of a planet, a civilization superior to our own but developed on the basis of a prototype of our primeval past."
Yes, that is called mythology, of which Trek is a futuristic subtype. Like it our not, life is an egocentric experience; all we can do with the information we accumulate over our lifespans is change ourselves, and hope that that change will be for the good of many. While Lem's idea (as presented by you; I confess I have not read his work, but I intend to) is an interesting exercise in exploring the truly unknown, in the end it seems woefully limited to that hypothetical space. In sci-fi which mirrors the human experience (as Trek often does masterfully), we are asked specifically to see ourselves in these aliens and, in so doing, *evaluate* our choices, our morals, our standards and our future. Evaluation often goes hand in hand with judgement. While I think Robert's (and Trek's) attitude about withholding judgement is a wise rule of thumb, what really can we do in this case? Either we accept at face value the Vissians' claim that their social order is not only natural, but GOOD for their society, or we evaluate their society by the only means we have at our disposal, the mirror.
"Now take our hypothetical 3% scenario.
This is a scenario so radically extreme that it would completely have transformed humanity. The concepts of democracy, free will, personal freedom and slavery would never have developed the way they did. Everything, from religions to philosophies, would be radically different, to reflect the fact that the 3% were, for all practical purposes, a third gender, a class of its own. "
While, of course, such a scenario would totally change the way human cultures look and feel, the *concepts* of class, race [yes it's a concept], freedom, etc. would not be any different. Equality of gender, for example, is not based on the fact that humans tend to be about half female and half male. The *concept* exists independent of statistics. That is why, conceptually, those who identify without gender or as transgender or as possessing non-binary genders are afforded equality of status, even though their numbers are somewhere in the ballpark of the Vissians' cogenitors or even smaller.
Your scenario about stud farms and the like is certainly a plausible course of human history given human nature, but that doesn't make it RIGHT! No more so than slavery (which is also plausible). We have decided to evaluate our own societies based on certain axioms which are borne of the European Enlightenment. Either we abandon those axioms or we embrace them. You keep suggesting that, because some cultures do not embrace those axioms (you specifically mentioned the Chinese--which is, ironically, a broad generalisation that doesn't hold up, as I know personally at least a dozen individuals who grew up in China who not only understand by embrace Western ideals), they cannot be regarded as Universals. Well that may be true, but let me ask you, do you think societies (all societies including the Chinese's) would be better or worse off for embracing those Universals? I think it's worth lifting your head outside the cave of abstraction for a moment to answer that question honestly before continuing.
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