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Nesendrea
Thu, Nov 16, 2017, 9:44am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Price

It's extremely edifying to witness the evolution of our own culture, right here on this message board, over just the past 10 years. The earliest comments here, dating back to 2007 (though I believe there's only one from that far back), focus their criticisms of "The Price" on the cheesiness of the Troi/Ral romance, the annoying musical score, and the lack of chemistry between the characters. As the years roll on, some reviewers begin to comment that Ral feels like a stalker or even guilty of sexual harassment, especially for the way he first comes on to Troi. By 2017, he is being tarred and feathered as a "creep". The episode itself was made in 1989, a time I'm too young to remember clearly - though presumably there was nothing objectionable about his behavior in those days at all. Today, of course, you simply couldn't make a story like this, with a male character like Ral (you probably could do it with a female character, scoring men like this). Your entire show would be decried as misogynistic, and might even get bullied off the air.

A literary detail of interest to me is the fact that Ral possibly even explains his initial heavy-handed approach to Troi when he remarks to her (and I'm paraphrasing here), "You didn't mind when I used my empathic abilities on you." To me, this is saying that Troi was immediately attracted to him the first time she saw him, and he sensed that. This softens the sting of his behavior, because he knew for a fact she was going to enjoy it and respond to it. It's not clear this is what he means by that quote, but even if he had been more explicit, today's viewers don't have the attention span to wait for this defense - much less accept it. That first scene in Troi's office is all most would need to shut off the TV, pick up their smartphones, and start writing angry Facebook posts.

I can't help but feel a certain sadness at this. Don't get me wrong, the romance in "The Price" IS cheesy and overdone. But in a larger sense, watching it makes me mourn the loss in fiction of the suave, debonair ladies' man who confidently and assertively courts the women that catch his eye. I don't mind seeing these advances occasionally rebuffed, or watching one of these characters try it on the kind of woman who (unlike Troi) wouldn't like it and would proceed to give him a piece of her mind over it. And I'm downright intrigued to see the female version trying her luck with a meek male target.

But these days, that's all we get, isn't it? In 2017, "women's empowerment" means that male characters like Devonani Ral are sexist, not smooth, and including one in your story (along with a female character who would do anything other than put her knee in the amorous fellow's reproductive organs in response) makes YOU sexist. This may make modern feminists happy, but it's easy to miss a certain variety in fiction as a result, walled off at least for a time by the stony ramparts of political correctness.
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Nesendrea
Sat, Nov 26, 2016, 8:45pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S1: The Galileo Seven

@ Peter G.,

I'm afraid you're misstating the facts of my advocated course of action. All murder may be killing, but not all killing is murder. If we are having a civilized conversation, and you pull out a gun and shoot me in the head for no reason, you have murdered me. That is an indefensible crime and you will likely face a lengthy prison sentence (or worse) for committing it. If, on the other hand, upon laying eyes on you I immediately begin throwing pointy spears at you in an obvious attempt to kill you, and you then pull out your gun and shoot me in a desperate bid to make me stop, the situation is different. As in, First Degree Murder vs. Justifiable Homicide different. Now you have done nothing but defend yourself from a spear-wielding maniac, and self-defense is not a crime - legally or, in my opinion, morally. Further, if anyone should later take to an online message board to defend my case and argue that I was murdered because an advanced 21st century firearm was used to meet the threat of primitive stone-age spears, the ready counter is to humbly point out that if I didn't want hot bullets penetrating my brain, I at all times leading up to that had the option to, you know - NOT throw deadly weapons at you.

As for the Prime Directive, I barely consider that point worth raising, considering how frequently and flagrantly the Directive is abused, especially on TOS. Regardless, however, as you pointed out, the doctrine had already been offended by the crew's even landing there. The damage to Giant Apean cultural development was done. I don't see that defending themselves from needlessly violent creatures who couldn't even be bothered to attempt communication would have made things appreciably worse. Either way, thousands of years from now, Giant Ape Giorgio Tsoukalos is going to remark "I'm not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens" when discussing ancient stories about a metal box falling from the sky and people shooting light coming out of it. Sorry.
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Nesendrea
Sat, Nov 26, 2016, 2:53am (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S1: The Galileo Seven

In the discussion section of the review for TNG's "Silicon Avatar", one commenter (and I sadly forget the person's screen name, else I would credit him/her) very correctly criticized Star Trek's recurrent conclusion that, quote, "self-defense is somehow morally suspect." Here, all the way back in first season TOS, we see that this strange attitude has been with the franchise from the beginning.

I cannot abide Spock's observation that he "is frequently appalled by the low regard Earth men have for life." I cannot abide it morally, and I cannot abide it logically. As a matter of fact, Mr. Spock, this "Earth man" - and to varying degrees, every other "Earth man" he has ever personally known - has very high regard for life. So high, in fact, that he is not inclined to tolerate those imminently determined to needlessly, frivolously snuff it out. Would it be better, then, to leave the violent to practice their violence unmolested, rather than engage in a measured and rational application of force that is carefully engineered to silence thoughtless savagery? Are not the needs of the peaceful and rational many better served by the latter course, and for that matter, are we to be so unthinkingly devoted to your brand of Christian-style (in the New Testament biblical sense) total pacifism even in the face of deadly assault that we should permit the murder of ourselves and our comrades?

It occurs to me that Mr. Spock would likely base his argument on the supposition that all sentient life is of equal value, and hence it is illogical from a cost-benefit standpoint to sacrifice one even to protect another. But this reasoning is fallacious in that it fails to account for any culpability in the actions freely taken by those lives. If a thinking creature chooses to use violence against another, why is it morally questionable at all for the offended creature to use any means to protect itself, let alone to remove the capacity of a deadly life form to be needlessly deadly to anyone else? Frankly, I have more sympathy for a predatory animal, which perhaps cannot control its own overpowering instincts to attack and to kill. And though I would regret it, I still would use force if necessary to protect myself or others from a dumb but violent animal that may have realistically had no choice in its actions. Should I behave any differently toward an intelligent animal that knew full well it could choose to attack me or let me be, and consciously selected door #1?

I am also baffled here by Spock's belief that a mere display of phaser technology should be sufficient to frighten the aggressors into docility. These beings have no earthly (if you'll pardon the term) idea what a phaser is. By firing one non-lethally in front of them, all you're likely to do is lead them to the conclusion that "these sky people have invaded our territory, and after we killed one of them, all they can do about it is flash pretty lights around. Let's finish them off!" Much better, I submit, to vaporize a few of them, and leave the survivors to mull "these sky people can shoot lightning at will that makes our friends disappear forever. Maybe we should leave them alone."

Very little of Spock's behavior here is morally defensible, and I dare say even less of it is logical. Very disappointed in a character I normally relate to highly, and in Star Trek for persistently suggesting that I should hang myself for the first savage aggressor that might wish me harm.
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Nesendrea
Wed, Nov 16, 2016, 11:51am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S7: Lower Decks

I don't mean to nitpick a fantastic story - I really have nothing bad to say about Lower Decks, except maybe that it's a shame we didn't get Guinan here, but that's not really anybody's fault. I just have to ask, because it's bothering the hell out of me.

Is it not utterly pointless for Deanna Troi (or any Betazoid, really) to play poker? Her empathic sense would allow her to perceive deception, confidence, uncertainty, etc (especially from someone like Riker, whom she knows intimately). Essentially, it should be impossible to bluff her. And poker is a game of skill entirely because you have to determine whether your opponent actually has a strong hand or just wants you to believe he does. Without that element, it would seem to be a pure game of chance. Except, of course, that it makes the game unfair for one player to know her opponents' intentions while the others do not.

Maybe they should all play Space Monopoly.
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Nesendrea
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 1:29am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S4: Night Terrors

Good episode for the performances of the cast, the skillful unfolding of the mystery, and the general creepiness that is so unlike TNG yet so well-done. Very entertaining and engaging; as a child, when I first saw the series, this was always one of my favorites.

However, I have to agree with those who have criticized the aliens' attempt at dream communication. "Eyes in the dark - one moon circles" is a terrible, unforgivable way to describe hydrogen. First of all, it's not even an accurate metaphor. Real electrons do not "circle" atomic nuclei; they exist as clouds of probability surrounding the nucleons. We arbitrarily (and incorrectly) choose to refer to the various shapes of electron motion probability as "orbitals"; aliens would probably not do this, nor would they have any way of knowing that we do.

Secondly, there is simply no need for them to be so circumspect with all this dream imagery. Even if they have a radically different, non-vocal means of communication (something I do wish TNG had explored more often, though that's a separate point), as a spacefaring race, they must understand mathematics and chemistry. Instead of showing Troi an ominously imprecise image of what might be a (again, wrong) depiction of a hydrogen atom, it would have been a lot easier to show her the periodic table - the basic shape and form of which is a universal fact - and simply call her attention to the first element. One way to do this would be to show her the table while simultaneously communicating "1": the atomic number of hydrogen. So the floating eyes in the dark become an image of the periodic table, and rather than yammering on about moons circling, the voice just repeats "one" over and over again. Troi doesn't win any awards for genius in this episode, but assuming she didn't sleep through high school chemistry, even she couldn't miss that message.

A minor point: if I recall correctly, every "element" named in this episode, other than hydrogen, is fictitious. And finally, an even more minor point: the text written under the ship's archived image of hydrogen begins with the sentence "stored as deuterium". Yet, the actual picture depicts protium.

Yes, I am a nerd.
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Nesendrea
Sun, Oct 16, 2016, 2:04am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S4: Brothers

Episodes like this one (the other primary offender being the otherwise phenomenal "Remember Me", in which Beverly runs the entire ship by giving orders to the computer) really make me wonder why Starfleet puts over a thousand people - including families! - aboard a dangerous ship that comes perilously close to getting blown up once a week. The Enterprise obviously doesn't need them. "Brothers" is proof that one officer can not only manage the ship's affairs by himself, but he can do it while simultaneously fending off active resistance by an annoyed legitimate bridge crew. And if it's only Data who's so competent (at least Beverly didn't have a hostile onboard presence with which to contend), shouldn't at least he just be given his own ship? As in, a spacecraft whose entire "crew" consists of only him? He has no need of life support systems, he doesn't suffer from loneliness, and he can obviously captain a ship so well by himself that an entire trained Starfleet crew is powerless to unseat him. Making him work with others seems like a waste of his talents after seeing this.

But I don't want to appear negative on the episode. Fantastic story (save for the painfully contrived "sick little boy" subplot), and positively godly acting from Brent Spiner. It's a shame this is the only time in the series we get to see Dr. Soong outside of holograms and dream sequences. Top notch!
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Nesendrea
Thu, Apr 28, 2016, 5:11pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S7: Inheritance

@William: That's an interesting interpretation that I can honestly say never once occurred to me over the years. And looking back, it's probably right.

Part of the fault lies with my memory, as I always recalled Soong using the word "terminate" (rather than "shut down"), which leaves a great deal less room for ambiguity. In my own defense, however, later in that scene (unless I am misinterpreting or misremembering once again), Soong tells Data that he programmed Julianna to "die" after living a long life, and he urged him, "don't rob her of that." We can still assume under your interpretation that Soong meant Julianna wouldn't be able to enjoy whatever time he programmed her to have left if she knew the truth - though it has to be admitted that this seems an odd and even slightly cruel thing to say to Data. But taken with the "shut down" remark, it bolstered my understanding that Julianna would permanently power down if she were exposed to that information.

Still, the episode's final act makes little sense if that is indeed what Soong was saying (especially since the officers didn't even comment on the abortive ethical dilemma I mentioned), so I'm going to go with you on this. It's easy for me to feel that the script should have been a little clearer, but for all I know I'm the only one who misunderstood.

Thanks for the clarification.
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Nesendrea
Thu, Apr 28, 2016, 12:05am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S7: Inheritance

Strange how this episode short-circuits its own ethical dilemma (and equally strange that no one yet seems to have pointed out that it does so): Holo-Soong clearly states that he programmed Julianna to terminate in the event that she ever learned she was an android. Well, that certainly makes the decision of whether to tell her an easy one! After all, filling her in is equivalent to killing her - killing her, exactly the same as if you had put a knife through any ordinary human's chest. How can her "right" to know something absolve you of such an enormous, unaccountable responsibility? If you met a biological human whom you knew had a truly bizarre medical condition that would cause them to suffer a fatal stroke if they heard a particular sequence of words, and you willfully spoke that sequence to them with full knowledge of the consequences, how are you not a murderer?

Do you genuinely and earnestly believe that it is wrong to withhold from someone the fact that they are an artificial life form, making it morally correct to tell them and morally inexcusable not to? Well sir, then I guess Dr Soong is a contemptible monster. But whether he is or he isn't, he has made it so that you cannot fulfill this person's right to know without immediately and equivalently depriving them of another of their rights - the right to live. Soong has done a terrible thing, then, but your decision is made. You can't murder someone because you have something to tell them. "Dilemma" over.

I'm more than a little surprised that no one - Data, Picard, Crusher, Troi - even mentioned this while they were discussing the matter.
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Nesendrea
Mon, Jun 16, 2014, 12:45pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Bliss

Much of the relevant points about this episode have already been covered. It's a fun and engrossing story, blending Moby Dick, Jonah and the Whale, Jaws, and a number of other tales and cliches. Interesting that "Captain Ahab" Qatai survived the ending; usually characters of that archetype die or are ruined by the final act as an allegory on the futility of pursuing obsession. I was expecting him to sacrifice himself to get Voyager out, dying happily in the knowledge that he had given his life to deny his hated nemesis a meal.

There are, however, two major plot holes here:

1) Like Jammer, I can't sign on to the notion that this creature isn't sentient. Reading the minds of an entire crew of intelligent life forms and crafting pleasing fantasies based on the information you find there isn't something you can do without complex, reasoned thought. I understand that the writers had to address the issue of the creature's intelligence, and I get that they didn't want it to be smart. It would elevate Qatai's Ahab-style obsession to the more dignified level of a genuine rivalry, and of course it would raise the thorny issue of the creature's moral awareness, rather than keeping it a dumb beast that doesn't even understand that a survivor of one of its feeding attacks harbors personal hatred for it. In short, it would rip the soul out of the show's primary guest character and introduce complications that don't work to the story's benefit. But at least poor Moby Dick was just swimming around randomly, looking to eat; an unintelligent creature's ability to intelligently mess with people's heads severely strains credulity.

2) Ok, so I can accept that Seven of Nine is immune to the creature's influence. She's a former Borg drone who isn't even 100% sure she doesn't want to rejoin the Collective, and while there she literally had no individual wants at all. So it's believable that none of the wants which may have developed since she left are strong enough to fall prey to Moby Mindreader. I like how the beast even gave it the old college try by throwing the letter from her aunt at her, and failed, only then seeking to KO her when it became clear she wasn't going to play ball. The message being that even if you had the power to root around inside Seven's head and read her emotions directly, the one thing you'd find that she longs for more than any other is to have a family, and even that ranks under "meh" for her. But none of this should apply to the little subunit. Naomi is a child, and children are both gullible and possessed of intense, simplistic desires. The creature probably could have gotten her on-board by telling her the alpha quadrant was full of puppies and candy. Instead, so far as we're shown, it didn't even try. And unlike with #1, I'm not sure why. The Seven/Naomi interaction was certainly cute, but hardly essential to the story. Naomi's role could have been entirely filled by the Doctor with no ill effect. Totally glaring and unnecessary plot hole.

But, I don't mean to hate. As I said, it was a good episode, and deserves its 3 stars.
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Nesendrea
Fri, Jun 13, 2014, 9:19am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Relativity

This episode is hilarious. More than once, I just shut my eyes and shook with laughter while I was watching it. I nearly busted a gut during the scene in which Braxton is arrested on his own bridge for crimes he "is going to commit", by his first officer (who had a facial expression that looked like he'd just found out Braxton was sleeping with his wife), to a furtive plea of "I haven't done anything!" Comedy gold.

The plot, of course, is utter nonsense. We all know that. Viewed from outside the story, it's simply a chaotic mess that can't hope to fit together, while even the "logic" of the narrative itself often relies on the absurd notion that the past is somehow happening right now, just because you've got a man (or a woman) on the ground there. But we know better than to expect plots involving time travel to stand up to scrutiny. This one doesn't even try, which is to its benefit. It's just a ton of fun and that's all it strives to be.

A quick thought on Janeway: Something that has always been consistent about her character is her impatience with "temporal paradox", usually right down to her specifically claiming that it gives her a headache. It's as if the character is intelligent enough to realize how loony the concept of time travel is, and is exasperated by the fact that she has to live in a universe where it happens regularly. I see the hand of the writers in that, pointing out the insanity of their own cherished plot device (just as Jammer remarks on this episode being a self-criticism concerning how often the idea is used). It's good to know the writers are aware of these things.

Something else that's interesting to note, as Horan indicated, is that this story raises a morally challenging science fiction question, sometimes seen (and usually treated more seriously) elsewhere in the genre: If you could know for certain, based on scientifically provable methodology, that someone was going to commit a crime in the future, would it be right to preemptively arrest that person? It's a difficult dilemma that can tie you in knots, but the context in which it's brought up here is so hysterical that I didn't waste time grappling with it.

3.5 stars for being so funny.
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Nesendrea
Mon, Jun 9, 2014, 1:28pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Counterpoint

Come on, now. A race of over-the-top xenophobes that performs random warrantless searches and goes out of its way at every turn to show the rigidity of its authoritarian command hierarchy, all while hunting a powerless minority of innocent people who have committed no crime other than being born a certain way, doesn't scream "Nazi" to you? If they hadn't been this way, I find it hard to believe that Janeway would so readily have thrown the prime directive out the airlock. I can practically hear her voice saying "I'd like to get the Devore's side of this" before agreeing to smuggle people she knows nothing about. For all she knew, these telepaths were criminals fleeing justice, or political insurgents flying around planting bombs. But their enemies were bullying strangers with invasive police state tactics and trying to root out space Jews; that's all she (and we) needed.

Of course there have been similar regimes and persecutions elsewhere in history, but it is an established American literary device to make the bad guys - especially when they are cardboard bad guys not designed to have moral ambiguity or elicit any sympathy from the audience whatsoever - noticeably reminiscent of Nazis. The Empire from Star Wars is probably the most well-known example in science fiction. Voyager itself has done this before, again symbolically, in "Remember", and of course literally in "The Killing Game". It's an effective technique. Decades of social conditioning have already trained most people to (rightly) regard the Nazis as evil, so bringing them to mind in a group of bad guys sends a clear message to the audience in a short time: Don't worry about understanding or sympathizing with these characters; just hate them and root for the good guys to triumph over them. In terms of storytelling, it's one step deeper than making your antagonist an animated skeleton who laughs maniacally and sits on a throne of bones. And it works.

Finally, it's interesting that you should bring up "Prime Factors". I actually never thought Gath was as creepy as most others seemed to, probably because I found his accent amusing. I also thought it was plausible that Janeway was developing feelings for him during that episode. Ultimately, Gath never did anything but show her kindness; even when he did deceive her about the transporter technology (he was never going to give it to her or anyone else), it was only in an effort to get her to prolong her stay so she and her crew would decide for themselves that they didn't want to leave. That doesn't excuse lying, of course, but it's a far cry from a man who practically spent half of "Counterpoint" slapping Janeway with his generative organs. Besides, if I remember correctly, "Prime Factors" included a "kissus interruptus" scene (Gath and Janeway were about to kiss, but somebody walked in or something happened to distract them and ruin the moment). That's another American literary device, used by writers to signal that nothing happened. These characters like each other, they might be interested in taking it to another level, but it hasn't happened yet because their kiss got aborted. I can believe that; it doesn't move so fast (or give the viewer whiplash) as the Janeway/Kashyk thing did.
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Nesendrea
Sun, Jun 8, 2014, 10:13pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Counterpoint

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the symbolism here of protecting a caste of innocent people just trying to live their lives from a ruthless, authoritarian regime seeking to exterminate them for no good reason. This is an allegory for hiding Jews from the Nazis.

My biggest problem with this episode was the romantic tension between Janeway and Kashyk. It just doesn't work. I know Janeway is lonely and Starfleet is forgiving, but I don't buy for a second that she could go from resenting this man for subverting her authority to passionately kissing him like an old lover so quickly. In time, perhaps, but this episode didn't have enough of that and it makes the whole thing feel forced.

Other than that, an intriguing and interesting story. Not for the first time, Kate Mulgrew's performance carries the day. Sometimes I feel like this lady can say more with subtle facial expressions than with Janeway's entire not-unsophisticated vocabulary. A brilliant actress. On this show, only Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo can compare. Bravo.
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Nesendrea
Fri, Jun 6, 2014, 4:30am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Nothing Human

Interesting how an episode so fundamentally concerned with medical ethics could make so light of the issue of patients' rights. Especially in the case of the Doctor, whose ethics drove him to sentence and carry out the murder of a sentient hologram (why was Krell Moset less deserving of personhood than the Doctor himself, who most likely would've demanded and received a trial and legal representation if his deletion were even proposed?) over a matter of ethical outrage, yet apparently had no qualms about administering treatment to a patient who had clearly refused it. And I don't want to hear about Janeway's orders. The Doctor wouldn't even give Tuvix an injection because it amounted to euthanasia without consent, forcing Janeway to do it herself, yet he was happy to perform delicate experimental surgery on a patient who had expressly declined to allow it. Janeway couldn't even require him to do it if he had objected anyway, since we know the Chief Medical Officer on a starship outranks the Captain in medical matters. Where were the Doctor's cherished ethics when he was treating B'Elanna without her permission?
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