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Peter G.
Sat, Feb 25, 2017, 8:36am (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

@ William,

I wonder whether Daystrom going insane might be intended to mean something more than merely that the machine had a faulty programmer. One of the classic sci-fi elements to an AI dystopia is not that the machines fail, but that they entirely succeed in fulfilling their role. What happens is that instead of machines helping man to achieve his dreams instead they serve as an excuse to stop pursuing them altogether. Instead of helping man to think, they give him an excuse to stop thinking and to turn over his free will and volition to them. From the start I think we get the impression that Daystrom is not only excited about the technology itself, but seems to actually be excited at the prospect of humans being replaced by computers; it's almost a self-destructive fantasy coming to life. As he goes mad towards the end, almost in tandem with the AI, my sense is that this might mean not that he was always flawed, but rather that he had by this time placed all of his hopes into the AI and was dependent on it. When it began to fail he began to fail. We don't know his backstory here and can only guess, but what if he had already been using AI to help guide him? What if the computer itself had assisted his research and maybe even given him the idea to put it in command of a starship? The idea that he had become a servant to a machine could indeed make him become unhinged. Of course this is my own imagining, but broadly speaking I think the sci-fi world was already becoming acquainted with the notion that letting machines take over out thinking for us not only poses a danger due to the machines themselves, but also in allowing us to become dependent on them for everything.

As a complete aside, I'm not sure that the correct interpretation of 2001: A Space Odyssey is that HAL malfunctioned. True, that's the prevailing understanding, but my suspicion, especially knowing how Kubrick thought, is that HAL was programmed to deliberately turn on the crew so that it could contact the aliens by itself and report directly to whomever programmed it, without the crew blabbing.
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Peter G.
Sat, Feb 25, 2017, 8:22am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Profit and Loss

@ Vii,

I would consider the possibility that Garak engineered the entire affair with the sole intention of using the "escaping dissidents" as a pretext to kill Toran and get away with it. If he had eliminated him without pretext his safety on DS9 might be in question, but in the presence of Natima and the others he created his smokescreen so that Central Command could never be sure exactly under what circumstances Toran died. From the minute Toran walked into Garak's shop it was clear they had been enemies before, and after the two of them 'agree' to capture the dissidents Toran walks out, and you can see a little smile appear on Garak's face. One can perhaps interpret this as him hoping to go home, but my guess is that he had just come up with a way to eliminate one of his enemies safely. From what we later see in the series (SPOILER) between him and Tain, eliminating enemies seems to be a premium pleasure for them. I don't think Garak would have trusted Toran for a moment anyhow to follow up on his offer to help him get home. I do think the initially Garak notified the Central Command to curry some favor with them, and also to effect a prisoner exchange in order to curry favor with Bajor, Sisko and Kira. But once Toran came on board his plan changed altogether.
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Peter G.
Fri, Feb 24, 2017, 12:07am (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

@ Skeptical,

You may argue that the episode didn't create the greatest case for man over computers, but I think you would be wrong to suggest that it failed to create a case altogether.

The point of the episode isn't just that Kirk is smarter than the computer, or that no computer can match a human in creativity. That may or may not be true, but it isn't exactly the point. TOS always has as a running theme that logic and computation alone isn't enough to make a great person or a great society; this is reflected repeatedly in the Kirk-Spock-Bones trio. Kirk isn't just logic, but is logic coupled with humanity and compassion (Bones + Spock = Kirk). The fact that the episode (as usual) ends with the computer being 'outsmarted' is a tidy way to wrap things up, and I agree that it's a weaker ending than it should have had. But the wrap-up isn't really the point as I see it. The point is that a machine will follow its logic to the end and have any fallback position grounded in compassion, sympathy, or feeling. It's sort of like a psychopath, if you will, in that it will not have internal mechanisms to stop it doing bad things if they seem best.

Now, it's true that if the programming is good then the output should be ok too, and likewise if there is a bug (a la Skynet) things will go pear shaped and the computer will not be able to be reasoned with past that point. But more to the point, the Trek theme is TOS is that advancing humanity isn't about technology or capabilities, but primarily about advancing values and how we treat each other. This is an area in which the inclination to push capability will not only be a sidetrack to advancing humanity but will in fact hinder it if pursued incorrectly. Take, for instance, the eugenic wars, where in an effort to 'advance humanity' in capability a monster was created instead. Likewise here, where a captain more sophisticated than a human is created to obsolete humans, just as Khan wished to obsolete homo inferior. The danger outlined in "The Ultimate Computer" is along these lines, and although it didn't fully realize the treatment of this issue I do think it's in there and is still pertinent to this day; maybe more so than even it was in the 60's, when human obsolescence was still science fiction.
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Peter G.
Thu, Feb 23, 2017, 9:52am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Offspring

@ philosopher-animal,

I think it's meant to be factually true that Data doesn't experience emotions; it's not just a whitewash of real emotions he does feel but aren't identical to the human ones. I think a tendency in episodes like "The Most Toys" to attribute Data's actions to an emotional desire for revenge is ironic, because a lot of the appeal of Data is in the fact that he's written in such a way that we can project our feelings onto him, and since he's not exuding any feelings our projection is never contradicted. He can be a placeholder for us, in a sense, which is very interesting. But on the other hand this doesn't mean that emotions we may instinctively attribute to him (by imagining ourselves in his position) are actually felt by him.

I agree that the crux of "The Offspring" is in Crusher's implication that Data does love Lal, but the reason this is crucial isn't because he actually does experience emotions; it's because real love isn't an emotion but rather a choice and an action. Acting lovingly IS love, rather than merely being a sign of it. The 'loving' emotions can feel very important and even overwhelming to a human, but it is the desire for the good of another that is the hallmark of love, and in that Data certainly does love Lal as well as anyone could love someone else. That's one of the reasons I find the episode so touching - that someone even bereft of all the rewards that normally stimulate our behavior (positive feedback mechanisms like endorphin release and hormones) can still live out a loving relationship, and in Data's case maybe even better than we can since he additionally lacks fear and selfishness. By the end I feel more sorry for him that he can't grieve for Lal than even the fact that he lost her.
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Peter G.
Thu, Feb 23, 2017, 9:38am (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S1: The Return of the Archons

This morning I watched the first half of the episode for the first time in many years. I was struck by a few things I never noticed before. For one thing, the manner of calling the citizens members of "the body" is an automatic Christianity reference, implying "body of Christ", which is a term for the Church. Looking at the episode from memory I remembered thinking it was about communism as Jammer suggested, but watching it again made it clear that it was meant to be a Christian community. The tone of the citizens support the idea that they are supposed to be Christians, on account of the apparent mindless glee on their faces, the 'vacant minds', the friendliness (at first glance), and the absolute requirement to take in strangers and put them up for the night. This strikes me as exactly the way someone critical of some aspects of Christianity would view a Christian community, and especially so for the fact that everyone was brainwashed by a central authority.

To hammer in the point that this is about Christians (and how new members are 'absorbed' rather than killed if possible) we have the "red hour", which seems to me clearly to imply the pandemonium and violence associated with communism. In Russia, for instance, communism was ostensibly a response to a very Christian society, where all of the old values were turned on their head through force and mayhem. Within the context of the literal details in the episode Festival serves to vent the frustrated energies of the people, while on the interpretive side it seems to imply that when you enforce an unnaturally perfect behavior code on people it will result in extreme blowback, which on a cultural level can lead to very bad results like communism.

A side note I'll make about this episode is that it seems to almost serve as a counter-argument against the future of humanity as depicted in the later TNG series. In TNG we're told that humanity has evolved beyond the point of aggression and violence, and that the people on Earth are peaceful and resolve all differences intellectually. But for those who are TOS fans we know that in Kirk's time there was plenty of 'red blooded' heartiness among the Starfleet officers we see, including lust, aggression, sometimes the desire for vengeance, and so forth. And as humane as Kirk's approach typically was to resolving conflicts, one thing we cannot realistically say is that the methods on TOS were universally non-violent. "Errand of Mercy" is a good showcase for that. The events of "Return of the Archons" seem to suggest that mankind naturally has a kind of aggression and pent up energy (including sexual) which must be expressed in some way in order for people not to explode from time to time. In TNG we seem to be presented with a sort of sanitized society free from those visceral impulses, except maybe for Riker, who almost stands as a commentary on the docility of the other humans on the show. But here in TOS we're being shown that being docile or perfectly calm isn't the end-all in becoming an advanced culture. Rather, the key probably ought to be to integrate all of the darker impulses into a constructive way of life, rather than to pretend they're not there. Right or wrong, TOS seems to frequently argue for the Kirk way of life, which is passionate but logical, adventurous but humane. In Voyager Janeway basically refers to this crew as cowboys, and from the perspective of TOS it seems like the idea is being put forward that anything shy of having the gusto of cowboys is selling humanity short.
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Peter G.
Tue, Feb 21, 2017, 11:25am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S4: The Drumhead

I'll say one thing about this episode which never occurred to me in all the years I've been rewatching the series: they clearly meant for this episode to be part of a larger Romulan arc that they'd been building towards during season 4. As much as we think that DS9 initiated the long arc, the TNG writers were keen to do it despite being prevented by the network, and in S4 they did get in some building continuity. The arc traces back to "Sins of the Father", and in S4 goes something like this:

"Reunion" - Introducing internal Klingon tensions.

"Data's Day" - Bringing the Romulans into the picture as being up to something (we'll omit "Future Imperfect" as counting).

"The Drumhead" - Reintroducing the idea of a Romulan scare, and in the process subtly implying that Satie believed in the possibility of Klingons and Romulans conspiring together. To our knowledge this hadn't happened since TOS when they shared technology with each other.

"The Mind's Eye" - Bringing to the forefront that the Romulans are up to no good. And I had completely forgotten until I watched this again the other week that Sela makes her first shadowy appearance at the end of this one.

"Redemption" - Where it all comes together.

To have five separate episodes in a season all leading towards the cliffhanger finale is pretty darn good considering they had to slip it in, most likely under the network's noses. From that standpoint I'll forgive some of the details in "The Drumhead" that don't add up to that much, because I can see now that as an arc they were using it to put certain ideas in our heads about wondering what the Klingons and Romulans were up to. The fact of the matter is that the way the script dealt with Tarsis wasn't very compelling in terms of us actually considering he might actually be guilty of something, and so Satie being wrong ended up overshadowing the legitimate concern about Romulan interference, which I think should have been written in better.
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Peter G.
Sat, Feb 18, 2017, 10:14am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S2: Peak Performance

@ Cajun,

We're talking about the 24th century. What makes you think the game wasn't designed specifically to make it impossible to use brute force searching? That would most likely be the primary design factor in creating a game meant to be played at high levels in the future - make sure computers aren't good at it.
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Peter G.
Fri, Feb 17, 2017, 9:38am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S7: It's Only a Paper Moon

@ Caedus,

So, what you'd prefer is a series where there is no personal risk to any crew members and Starfleet is made out to be a pleasure cruise where everyone is always happy? This episode is fundamentally about how "risk is our business" and that sometimes the optimistic dream of serving in Starfleet will come with dangers and negative repercussions. Even if 24th century science could furnish a perfectly functional robotic leg replacement, that doesn't mean there would be no psychological trauma in knowing you've lost your real leg. Plus what Nog went through on AR-558 would be enough to traumatize someone anyhow. And what technology would you like to have seen "deal with" Nog's psychological distress? Why not just have technology 'deal with' all kinds of distress, like in "Brave New World" and no one would ever be upset again?
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Peter G.
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 10:24am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

@ Chrome,

I think it's in this episode, but it could be in another one as I've watched a few of them lately - someone asks Data point blank if he's ever killed before and he says no. I think it might be Fajo who asked him. I assume the implication was about killing with his own hands, as he's obviously contributed to killing by manning ops during ship-to-ship battles.
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Peter G.
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 10:01am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

Thanks, William, that is the sort of thing I was hinting at but you said it clearly. Considering what we've seen Data capable of doing, such as in "Brothers" for instance, he is not only a security risk but actually a clear and present danger at all times *unless* he can be trusted in so unimpeachable a manner that there is no cause whatsoever for doubt. No other person on the Enterprise would be able to take over the ship without opposition, fly it himself, and lock everyone else out in the meantime. If there was even a shred of a doubt about Data being completely 'tamed' I can't imagine they'd be able to tolerate that kind of threat potential from a single crew member. But instead we see in the series how many times the safety of the entire ship is left in Data's hands in certain circumstances; so much so that their trust in him appears to be unshakeable and complete. Knowing that his programming now allowed for preemptive killing "for a good cause" might cause them to re-assess how much latitude to give him in the future, and that's not even getting into the mundane fact of his enormous physical strength.

I grant that it would still have been in character for Data to have pulled the trigger and then put himself on report for it (he's taken himself off-duty before for doubting himself), but in context of his 'mental' process after shooting Fajo I think they were trying to show that his general moral guidelines had just undergone a significant shift, of which lying was a glaring sign.
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Peter G.
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 2:06am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

I mostly agree that "trying to avoid getting kicked out of Starfleet" is a little thin, even though I do think it's plausible. Mostly I think the effect of the scene in the transporter room is to be ominous and cast Data in a threatening light. I think the idea is more to show he isn't as innocent as we think, since his programming can make deadly determinations just as easily as friendly ones. It's quite Asimovian in that sense.

DLPB, I wasn't arguing that Data did the wrong thing, or even that he episode suggested he did. But his ethical subroutines may well have noted that although it was his *most* ethical action possible that it was still, on the whole, unethical on an absolute scale. Our conclusion may well be that he did the right thing, but Data's standards are somewhat different and he may have concluded that he was cornered into doing a bad thing, and that his integrity was compromised as a result.

Skeptical, the only thing to bear in mind about a jury is that the standards in the 24th century might not be what our modern common sense tells us. Killing an alien life form to save yourself may well be a more shady proposition than the simple 'self-defense' argument is for us now. And also, even if we fully grant that Data had no choice but to use lethal force, he could have literally walked up to Fajo and snapped his neck with no possibility for Fajo to prevent it or defend himself. But instead Data used a torturous weapon. I expect the reason for that wasn't to torture him, but rather to guarantee that he actually died, compared to a physical injury such as crushing his head which perhaps he could somehow survive. But even so, a Federation jury might well condemn the use of forbidden weapons under any circumstances whatsoever.

But yeah, I'd still be content to conclude that Data's lie is a sign that his ethical programming has just branched out into a new territory and that he's not quite the same android he was before; especially not after his final ominous like to Fajo. The 'sinister' element introduced here is, of course, dropped in any subsequent episodes, but I think feel like it's a cool bit to watch.
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Peter G.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 12:39pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

I suppose it's ambiguous, but at the time when he shot, Data was in no direct danger of harm, and could theoretically have attempted non-lethal means of subduing Fajo. Instead it appeared that Data chose that the only way to ensure Fajo never harmed others again was to kill him. The "this" in question when Data said "I cannot allow this to continue" seems to me to mean not only Data being held prisoner, but in fact Fajo's criminal exploits in general. Shooting the disruptor reads to me less as a means to escape, and more as an execution. And yes, I think Starfleet would court martial someone who decides to summarily execute someone.
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Peter G.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 10:52am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

Now that we're on the subject of Asimov, I'm thinking of a particular robot story where Dr. Calvin was brought in to locate a 'malfunctioning' robot, who was in effect trying to avoid being caught. The story highlighted the fact that a robot could develop the ability to lie under the right circumstances and if it served some purpose that conformed to more fundamental laws. Maybe that's what happened here: Data decided that if he told the truth he'd be kicked out of Starfleet, in which case people he could save in the future would die due to his absence. To save them he'd have to lie in order to be able to keep serving. This is hardly even hypothetical, as Data had single-handedly saved the Enterprise many times over by this point.
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Peter G.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 10:02am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

That makes sense. To be honest the scene where he lies to Riker strikes me as possibly having the intention to create a bit of a sinister vibe for Data, which is less of a logic point and more of a point of showing that Data may not be entirely the innocent cherub he's sometimes made out to be. Especially leading into the final scene with Fajo, I think they were hinting that Data had taken a shift towards being a bit darker.
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Peter G.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 9:46am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

@ Chrome,

That would be plausible, except for Data's phrasing of "I CANNOT allow this to continue." Given that Data's speech is precise, I don't think the line could be interpreted as being rhetorical. Since Fajo's own argument that led Data to this conclusion spoke repeatedly of Data having to kill Fajo as the only way to make it stop, it seems like the intention of the scene is to show Data realizing that he was right. I can't really see it interpreted any other way that makes storytelling sense, even though you're right that it's within the realm of possibility that Data was aiming wide. But nothing in the visuals or text suggests that at all, and since the first time viewing it when it aired until watching it again last week it was always clear to me that Data was going to kill him.

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Peter G.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 9:15am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

@ Chrome,

"If you read one of the interviews with Shari Goodhartz, one the writers for this episode, it's stated they actually wanted to make it ambiguous as to whether Data fired or not."

That's an interesting piece of trivia, but if that was their intention then they failed. The script and editing both make it 100% clear Data fired. There is both a sound effect as well as the transporter system reporting an energy discharge. I think "wanted to make it" might be read as meaning 'originally had the idea, but decided to make it unambiguous in the end.'
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Peter G.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 8:08am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

I'll just add one final thought about the ending. Data's actions are reminiscent of an Asimov story, where rules designed to reign in robots end up giving the robots justification to do things humans would never have anticipated. This episode gives us a version of Asimov's 1st law of robotics (harm no humans, and do not allow harm to come to humans), and the inevitable result of such a law is that if harming one human prevents harm to many humans then the law might just be interpreted by a robot as requiring murder. It's kind of a spooky scenario, and one I think Data wouldn't have thought of himself had Fajo not literally spelled it out for him and forced him into that situation.

The other thing I forgot to do was to explain the "I'm only an android" line at the end. Since Data can't be saying it to "rub it in Fajo's face", since that would require emotions, I think it was Data saying to him that, being an android, it was that very nature which should have led to Fajo's death. If a human had held the disruptor there's some chance Fajo might have been killed or not, depending on various factors in the human's experience. But with Data there was a 100% chance he would pull the trigger there, given the variables outlined. The very fact Fajo thought protected him doomed him, which is a piece of irony suggesting that Fajo's own pride destroyed him. I think the message also reminds Fajo that he should rightly be dead at this point, since only a deus ex machina took Data away before Fajo was killed.
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Peter G.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 12:50am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

@ tara,

By chance I watched this one the other day and have it fresh in my mind. I'll try to provide an explanation for the ending of it, although it's speculative.

Since we know Data has no feelings, and since he has unbreakable ethical subroutines, we must conclude that his firing of the disruptor was both logical and 'ethical'. This must be the case unless he was damaged, which there's no reason to believe he was. Since we can assume his action was ethical, we now have two questions: 1) In what way can cold-blooded murder be ethical? 2) Why did Data lie to Commander Riker? The answers to these questions solve the ending, and as you'll see make the episode far more interesting than it would appear at first glance.

To answer how murder can be ethical - which sounds like a contradiction - note exactly what Fajo said to Data right before he pulled the trigger:

"You won't hurt me. Fundamental respect for all living beings. That's what you said. I'm a living being, therefore you can't harm me [... ] You will return to your chair and you will sit there. You will entertain me and you will entertain my guests, and if you don't I'll simply kill someone else. Him, perhaps. Doesn't matter; their blood will be on your hands too, just like poor Varria's. Your only alternative, Data, is to fire. Murder me. That's all you have to do, go ahead. Fire. If only you could feel rage over Varria's death, if only you could feel a need for revenge, then maybe you could fire. But you're...just an android. You can't feel anything, can you. It's just another interesting intellectual puzzle for you; another of life's....curiosities."

So you see Fajo himself foolishly spells out for Data exactly why he *can* murder him. Data feels nothing, and if Data declines to be entertaining he will be causing murders to occur. And if he complies he will be condoning slavery. But since data can feel nothing like revenge if he therefore came to the conclusion to do murder it would have to be as a result of solving the intellectual puzzle; Data's only tool. That line was the key: that the ethics would have to be solved as an intellectual puzzle. The puzzle here is simply how to interpret Data's ethical subroutines such as murder is ok. The answer is simply to create a scenario in which by declining to do one murder more murders than that occur as a result. That conclusion would lead Data to a startling conclusion (you can see the confusion on his face), which is that it's ethically permissible to kill in cold blood if even worse harm would be done otherwise. However the problem with this conclusion is that while it satisfied Data's personal programming it doesn't satisfy Starfleet rules, and so Data would have to tell them about it and resign his commission. And yet he lies, knowing that it be bad for him to admit to having just realized his ethical program totally allows him to commit murder. That alone would have made his shipmates nervous, and maybe even not trust him any more. But worse than that, when he lied about it he likewise did an ends justify the means calculation as he's not supposed to lie either, ethically. What's really interesting here is that Data's ethical subroutine was just used in what appears to be a brand new way for him, and no one on the ship knows about it. He can do murder now, under the right conditions, and it would satisfy his programming.

Data's final comment before firing was "I cannot permit this to continue." Note that he says "cannot", rather than "should not." This already gives away that his ehtical programming works in categorical imperatives. The conclusions his intellect drew *necessitated* him murdering Fajo, there was no other option. No kidding that he'd hide from his crew that his ethical systems are not quite as restrictive as they previously thought.

An interesting ending, indeed.
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Peter G.
Sun, Feb 12, 2017, 5:29pm (UTC -6)
Re: Star Trek: Discovery

The day may come soon when I'm forced to treat a new Trek series as non-canon...
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Peter G.
Thu, Feb 9, 2017, 11:28am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: Yesterday's Enterprise

I agree with Chrome about the command structure. But also, Picard may well be the fleet commander in the war timeline, in which case he would actually outrank her anyhow. Garrett doesn't have information to make an educated decision, and so on the balance that also makes Picard the correct person to make the call. This is furthered by Guinan being the one to tilt the scales, and her relationship is with Picard.
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Peter G.
Wed, Feb 8, 2017, 1:39pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S2: Manhunt

@ Tara,

I think Lwaxana is a character that will be hard to inspect seriously, primarily because I think she was intended as little more than a joke. It was an excuse to include Barrett in the series and let her have some fun, and maybe Lwaxana's excessive behavior is in some way a nod to the fact that Barrett 'owns the place' as it were, having been married to the father of Trek.

If we're going to treat Lwaxana seriously, though, I think the place to start isn't with her gender but rather with her telepathic powers, which the show mentions but treats as a joke rather than as a sci-fi premise. When observing how seriously Babylon 5 took the idea of telepathy, we can look back on episodes like this one and note that someone who could actually read minds (and did so with impunity at all times) and still 'not get' the hint isn't about being a woman, or a matriarch, or someone of a particular age; it's more like a piece of anti-humor meant to take the piss out of Trek. The Federation is egalitarian? Well she is an aristocrat! Trek abhors inequality? She endorses slavery! People in the future respect each other's privacy? She will read your mind and blurt out loud what you're thinking, ha! ha!

She's sort of a proto-DS9 Ferengi type character whose purpose seems to be to highlight Federation values by flouting them. In this case, as in the case of the Ferengi, I feel like they missed the mark and ended up making it look like she was just an annoying lady. Maybe that was the trouble - they were probably also going for the 'annoying close relation' trope, and baked that into a satire of a Federation VIP. The result ends up looking like a mishmash played for humor that neither says anything pointed nor is particularly funny. That being said I don't exactly hate her as a character, but I do view her as a failure when compared to Nurse Chapel, who I thought contributed very positively to some TOS episodes.

Maybe I should be more charitable and assume she was meant as a pastiche of how annoying patriarchal attitudes can be to the women in a modern society? Could this be a way of highlighting how objectionable it could be for a man in 1980's society to feel entitled to chase women in the workplace? I really don't know. Maybe this is what they intended and our annoyance with her is a successful piece of irony. I just never felt that it came across as much of anything.
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Peter G.
Wed, Feb 8, 2017, 8:23am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: A Matter of Perspective

Tara, it sounds like we're on the same page about this ep. I agree it had more potential and that the ending was too pat, based on a technobabble solution that removed the ambiguity from the table.
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Peter G.
Tue, Feb 7, 2017, 11:18pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: A Matter of Perspective

Tara & Jason,

You'll get no argument from me that in practice TNG was unable to portray the world that is oft spoken of by Picard and others in conversation. I think part of this was due to the guest actors doing their normal thing, the writing staff being diverse and not completely unified, and probably more to the point, the need to create 'drama' on a weekly basis that would appeal to a contemporary audience. This last one is pernicious because it constantly creates the temptation to show ugly behavior even in a world supposedly past it. Tara gave some examples of less than stellar behaviors, and to whatever extent they were conducted by Federation citizens we might argue that, being the basis of an episode, they were meant to portray exceptional and noteworthy breaks from the norm. This should actually be taken for granted, since we only 'drop in on' the crew when something exceptional happens.

Nic Locarno's behavior in "The First Duty", for instance, should probably be taken to be more problematic than the episode portrays. The real face of that episode is when Picard dresses down Wesley, as that is how outrageously Picard sees lying and covering up the truth. That the episode still ends up making Locarno looks somewhat heroic is, I think, a bit to do with the fact that it's partially told from Wesley's point of view, who respects him greatly. The shifting POV can muddy the 'message' of the episode, which I think Picard gets across nicely. It wasn't just some kids who got into trouble and made a bad choice; it was a real stain on the Academy and on Starfleet. People in that era are clearly expected to be better than that, unlike today when such things are bad but not altogether unexpected.

That being said I do think TNG consistently failed to show us the world Picard seemed to be talking about, where man had moved beyond violence, jealousy, and greed. Maybe it really was too utopian to show on TV, but I think that was Gene's intention. I try to see TNG's world through Picard's eyes when possible, and leave the dark underbelly to DS9. As far as Riker goes, I'm not convinced, as you seem to be, that he is a typical modern male in that he goes after women nonstop. In and of itself trying to have sex with a lot of people is something that's becoming more acceptable, and at any rate with a secular humanist world view there ought to be no moral objection to it, so long as the people in question are respectful of each other. Overall Riker can come off strong, but that's a question of style and confidence rather than force. I think there are times he made overtures to women he should have left alone, but even so I think assessing him as a modern man because he's a womanizer asserts an implicit premise that women are therefore victims of this. I would argue that in an open and equal future society that would be an incorrect assessment, and that all he's doing is frequently making his desires known, and leaving the choice up to them. I'm trying to recall whether he ever actually went too far and became 'pushy', so to speak. I can't recollect any moments like that right now but maybe there are some, which indeed would make him a flawed character in that sense. But calling him flawed purely because he likes women and isn't shy about it - that seems to me an all too modern assessment that has baked into it the premise of men preying on women.
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Peter G.
Tue, Feb 7, 2017, 10:56pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S1: The Return of the Archons

@ Rahul,

I would suggest to you that Festival is the most relevant event in the episode. The argument against controlling people through an enforced 'peace' would be that they only submit to it through force, not through agreement or good will. The episode seems to me to show that although passivity was forced upon the populace on the surface (in this case, technologically), brewing beneath it was a chaotic frenzy that no threat could squash. Festival was that society's way of venting those angry and frenzies impulsed brought on by the everyday tyranny of life there. Although it's notable that even the need for Festival already admits to a flaw in that kind of forced control of human beings, nevertheless by actually seeing the ugliness of it we're shown the ugliness of what that system really is. There is nothing at all peaceful about civility at the point of a gun.
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Peter G.
Tue, Feb 7, 2017, 2:29pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: A Matter of Perspective

I don't see why those are at cross purposes. Why should it be feared that someone announcing attraction will resort to physical force? That may be a reality now, but I don't think it's a reality in TNG's world.

Mind you, I didn't say that "pushy" attraction will be normalized, but rather suggested that overt courtship would probably not be taken as a offence or cause for concern. In that context the word "pushy" becomes probably more a matter of not backing off when asked to do so than of being very upfront about your desires. So while harassing someone despite their protests would likely not be normalized, making 'a go of it' in the first place hopefully would be, so that making one's feelings known isn't the shameful thing it often is now.

The size issue seems to me tangential to the above, because physical size would only matter in a case of physical aggression and has nothing to do with good manners. A smaller woman (or species) would only have cause to fear if physical aggression was something commonplace in their society. If it was unheard of there would be no cause for fear. It may be truly difficult to think of a culture like that, but I think Roddenberry was distinctly thinking of the human race as living in a drastically different way than we do now. It takes some effort for us to realize that difference even hypothetically because the way things are now is so baked into our world view. Even the writers struggled to remember this at all times and sometimes painted individuals as being basically contemporary with us in their behavior. But taking that for granted can backfire when we just assume that a Trek character is a modern person set in the future. That's not what they're supposed to be.
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