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Skeptical
Tue, Aug 29, 2017, 8:35pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S7: Tacking into the Wind

Rom, although this sounds like a cop-out, I don't think you can blame the Dominion for being such bad evil overlords as much as you can blame bad writing. As much as I think the decision to have Damar lead a rebellion was one of the better choices made in this grand finale, the way it happened was pretty transparent. You're right, the complete callousness of the Changeling and Weyoun to the Cardassians was over the top. And against everything we know about them.

I mean, compare the leadup to Damar's turn to the Dominion's treatment of the Bajorans. The Bajorans offer no resources, no strategic value, no value of any sort other than happening to be right by the wormhole. A truly callous evil empire would have no problem wiping the entire population and leaving the entire Bajoran system as nothing more than a JemHadar stronghold with no civilian population. And yet, they honored the nonagression pact. Weyoun bent over backwards to accommodate Kira on the station, even though he knew exactly where her loyalties lay. That is the Dominion that we had been privy to. The Vorta - and specifically Weyoun - aren't just managers, they are supposed to also be the PR guys, the pleasant face of the empire. Weyoun's sliminess is one of the reasons he was such a big hit with the fans!

Which is why it's strange that this sudden disregard for Cardassia at the end. It's why I said it was transparent. The writers clearly wanted to turn Damar, so they had to ratchet up the pressure on him. Now yes, there were other circumstances. Weyoun is obviously disgusted by Damar's alcoholism, and Peter does have a point that the Dominion was always planning to dispose of Cardassia eventually. But it was so clear that EVERY single decision was being made to anger Damar, and there's no way that Weyoun didn't recognize that. And while he ultimately takes orders from the Changeling, there's no way that a PR guy like him wouldn't try to alleviate the situation. This whole sequence is just too out of character for him. Like I said, I think it's bad writing rather than providing insights into the Dominion.

Peter, I agree that the Dominion always planned to dispose of Cardassia eventually, but I just don't see this sudden reversal to that plan while in the middle of a war. Yes, the entrance of the Breen may have shifted the tide, but the basic tenet of the Dominion is that they are extremely cautious. Even if the Prophets through them off their game, that would just make them even more cautious I would imagine. I have a hard time believing they would start killing off Cardassians early given that aspect of them.
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Skeptical
Fri, May 12, 2017, 1:10pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S1: Parallax

Chrome, I think there's a separation in philosophy between TOS and the rest of Trek, hence why I was focusing on the TNG era. Besides Bread and Circuses, Balance of Terror made it clear that there was a chapel (er... besides the one in sickbay...) on the Enterprise as well.

Not to play armchair psychologist or anything, but I think Gene's ego grew a few sizes too big after TOS turned into a massive cult following. From what I understand, he was being invited onto college campuses and being considered a "visionary" of the future and all. It's hard to get all those accolades and not start to think all your personal ideas are brilliant. We know for a fact that a lot of the problems of early TNG were due to Gene's specific views of what the future was like, of what is and isn't Star Trek. He said humans must be better at everything than anyone else, hence why the 1701-D was more advanced than anything until the Borg showed up. He said there must not be any interpersonal conflicts of any kind, hence why everyone was so bland. And we know it seeped into the political. There's hardly any Season 1 episodes that DON'T have a random snide comment about how awful 20th century humanity (re: America) was.

So whatever Gene's personal view on God was, he obviously wasn't religious. And that definitely seeped into the TNG era, even if one can argue that Kirk and Bones were at least nominally Christian.

As an aside, this is the first time I've watched TOS all the way through. I like the characters in TNG better, the worldbuilding in TNG better, the plots about 1000 times better. And yet, the feel of TOS is still, in some ways, better. And it's not to do with this Christianity discussion per se, but rather because the world feels more believable. Space IS a frontier in TOS. These ARE recognizable humans. TNG can feel like an epilogue, like everything is already complete. Like running around a videogame that you've already finished. Humanity seems so stagnant and boring in the TNG era (and again, TNG is my favorite series, so I'm not trying to find ways of criticizing it). It's not surprising that every single other Trek franchise tried to go back to the feel of TOS, of being on a frontier and being a little bit rough around the edges. They didn't all succeed, but it seems that Gene pushing TNG to be his vision of utopia also lost something of what Trek should be... which is STRIVING for that utopia.

As for Joe Sisko... I didn't remember him as the pastor in FBTS, but I'll take that as part of my argument! Then again, if that was true, you'd think Worf would have been better in Take Me Out to the Holosuite... In any case, like I said, the main reason comes from the naming convention. I had noticed the interesting coincidence of Joseph, Benjamin, and Jacob all being Hebrew names. That's what got me idly thinking about it. But when looking at Memory Alpha to see if anyone else had caught this connection, I saw that one episode had named Ben's sister as Judith (again, Hebrew). Given how uncommon Judith is as a name, I'm seriously questioning if that can be a coincidence.

And the rest of his lifestyle seems to fit more closely with a traditional way of life rather than a Trek-way or even modern 21st century life. These aren't necessarily specific to Christianity, but they are part of the feel. The Siskos are easily the most positive depiction of family life* for a human or half human character in Trek (compare Ben's relationship with his parent to Picard, Riker, Troi...). It seems Ben has multiple half-siblings, compared to the typical one or two children of the Trek world (and, again, modern Western civilization). Memory Alpha puts Joseph as having 4 kids. The commitment to family life rather than casual dating seems to have rubbed off on Ben, as he married Jennifer at a relatively young age and was serious about marrying Kassidy. While not a luddite like Robert Picard, he likes working with his hands, likes traditional work, and likes being a part of a community. This all seems different than the typical view we see of Trek characters, where they are all so focused on Starfleet and advancing their careers and casual dating and so forth. Joseph just wants to raise his kids right, be there for his family, and use his talents in cooking in order to make others happy. There's no "improving oneself for the betterment of humanity" there, but he still has a strong, positive view of life.

Of course, given that the naming convention is what first set me off, it's possible he's Jewish. But I got the impression that the Siskos were long-time residents of America. And there just aren't enough black Jews (whether members of Beta Israel or otherwise) here in the 21st century to think that they would retain both of those traits throughout the centuries.

And DLPB... I defended your first post because I thought it had to do with Trek. Can't we please keep focusing on Trek only and not the Left vs Right battle?

*The LaForges might also qualify, but that was a one-off episode that was never mentioned again, so I'm not counting it.
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Skeptical
Thu, May 11, 2017, 10:24pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S1: Parallax

Actually, Robert, I do know the reason I responded; because you're one of the best contributors to these comments and thus actually worth responding to... As I said, I thought it strange that DLPB almost had a perfect point with the double standard of religion if he had brought up Chakotay instead, so I was very surprised to see it cause such furor. In any case, I don't care to discuss the politics side either (regardless of what Linda might think of my statement, she can read through the list of my comments to see how rarely I bring it up). All I will say in that respect is this: dude, you SERIOUSLY think Chakotay might not have been a politically correct creation? He (and Journey's End) was such an obvious "look at us, we're so tolerant!" move!

On the general subject at hand, I have said before that Heinlein is the only person I've ever seen pull off a blatantly political story and still have it be good. So I'd rather writers avoid it as much as possible. The single largest problem with political stories (along with online political discussions...) is lack of respect for the subject matter. To again use a Trek example, look at any Klingon-centric episode on this site, and you'll find a few commenters simply responding in disgust that they hate all things Klingon. I certainly wouldn't want them to write a Klingon story, because they have no respect for them. This doesn't mean you have to agree with the Klingon culture, just understand where it comes from. This is actually one of the few parts of Trek that was consistent throughout the entire TNG era; a fundamental respect for Klingon culture (probably due to their popularity) while still demonstrating their flaws. Even though the episodes constantly highlighted corruption or flaws in their system, culminating in Ezri's famous speech, we never lose sight of why people like Worf and Jadzia and Martok are drawn to that culture. We can still understand it. As long as writing like that exists, I'm happy.

The "straw man" version of a lack of respect for the culture you are writing is easy to see and easy to criticize. TNG Ferengi is a clear example of that. But the other side, in which you lionize something you think you should respect while fundamentally misunderstanding it (ie, Chakotay) is also annoying.

Chrome, I don't necessarily want Christianity front and center in Trek, but I do think they do a disservice by the situation at hand. We know Roddenberry was hostile to religion in his TNG years. We know that many people care about upholding the "Roddenberry vision" of the future (even though that vision is TNG Season 1...). Episodes like Who Watches the Watchers strongly suggest all humans are atheists. If that's really what the authors want to do, then so be it. But saying that ONLY whites are now atheist, but that Indians are just fine, is a bit insulting. To both sides, actually. If the authors are saying that the advanced humans of the future are atheists, then doesn't that mean Chakotay and his kind aren't advanced and should be looked down upon?

So while "Christian" stories are probably pointless to most of Trek, if the point is to seek out new life and new civilizations, why not contrast with other civilizations as well? DS9 is well known for having a wide variety of opinions, and for having those opinions clash. So why should all the human opinions be the same? Wouldn't, for example, the idea of Sisko being the Emissary of the Bajoran religion make him (or perhaps other members of his family) a mite uncomfortable if he himself (or other members of his family) was religious? Couldn't that have been an interesting storyline?

Anyway, that's all I'll say on the religion side, other than to again mention to Robert that yes, it's not declarative that there aren't Christians in Trek, but given the Roddenberry ideal that's probably why the "default" belief for Joe Sisko is atheist. And yet... the thing that set me off was when I realized that Ben's sister's name was Judith. Now Joseph, Benjamin, and Jacob are all very traditional Hebrew names, but are also all relatively common enough that I figured that might be a coincidence. But Judith as well? It just strikes me that that had to be intentional... and yet Moore and Behr and everyone else did nothing with it. I'd be curious to know if it was a coincidence or not.

As for the gender issue, yes, it's certainly possible that B'Elanna sucker-punched Carey, and it's also certainly possible that her Klingon heritage makes her much stronger than normal. The whole "woman is equal in strength to man!" trope is just so ubiquitous in TV and movies that everyone practically takes it for granted. Heck, I am reminded of Chuck from SFDebris - who prides himself on having no sacred cows - complaining that Troi and Crusher were not swordfighting alongside Riker and Worf in QPid. We're so inundated with this stuff that the one time the difference in strength is acknowledged, it's seen as weird!

Although I will acknowledge that Trek is so over the top with humans beating up Klingon and Romulans and the like that perhaps there's no point in quibbling over anything of that nature on the show... it's already a lost cause...

As for this specific topic at hand... I'm going to go out on a limb and actually say the double standard, to some extent, is not a bad thing in this particular instant. It IS worse for a guy to punch a girl than vice versa. The problem with saying that out loud is that people then assume you mean girls punching guys is ok, when in reality you just mean its different shades of bad. It's the old Spider-Man moral; since men in general have more upper body strength than women, it is more important for them to restrain that strength around others. It's also why it's a worse thing for an NFL linebacker to punch me than me punching an NFL linebacker.

So I do disagree to SOME extent with DLPB that this is a horrible double standard. But regardless of that (and again, that double standard kinda goes away if B'Elanna's Klingon heritage really does make her equal in strength to human males), it is still absurdly unprofessional of her to punch out a coworker, and the fact that this is barely acknowledged by the end of the episode is disturbing. On THAT front, there should be no difference in punishment from Janeway, even thought there probably is here.

So what COULD they have done differently? Yes, it's obvious that this situation, with the crew trapped on the other side of the galaxy, merits different approaches than what would happen in the Alpha Quadrant. And it is true that the Maquis might get restless if they are seen as constantly being put aside for the Starfleet Crew. And it is true that B'Elanna is a better engineer than Carey (or at least that's what is implied here). However, none of that necessarily merits being made the senior officer. Why couldn't Janeway have acknowledged B'Elanna's strengths, but told her that there's more to being an officer than having smarts? Why couldn't, perhaps, she be left as just another engineer (the focus of episodes, of course, since she's the smart one) until a promotion in Season 2 or so?

Obviously because the writers quickly wanted to settle into an episodic format, which is too bad. The formula would actually be used with Seven a few years later - someone obviously extremely talented but not ready to be given any serious responsibility. It could have been a nice character arc for Torres in the early seasons, and could have made Carey be an interesting character (how would he feel knowing he was basically going to be a placeholder chief and be demoted once Janeway thinks Torres is ready?). Alas, another interesting opportunity wasted...
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Skeptical
Wed, May 10, 2017, 10:33pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S1: Parallax

Oy, I don't know why I'm doing this, but here goes...

Robert, DLPB may be acerbic, but he was absolutely (ok, 90%) right in his post. And while he may have insulted a group of people in his post, it was you who made it personal by insulting him.

Let's look at what he said. 1) This episode has a double standard, in that they would never show a man punching a woman in the face and getting away with it. 2) This is a product of the pervasive left-wing thought, 3) this pervasive attitude is even worse, as it creates a poorly thought-out idea of what a strong female presence is like rather than using reality, and 4) this double standard extends to other factors like race and religion.

Now, you seem like you may agree with him about 1 and 3, but think that adding items like 2 and especially 4 are utterly ridiculous and make him look like a lunatic. And yet... #4 is just standing there right in front of us; it's impossible to miss! DLPB simply made the mistake of using the wrong example. I mean, they may not have come out and said it, but it's very heavily implied in Trek that atheism reigns supreme among humans. The idea of a practicing Christian in the TNG era is all but absurd*. You would never see one, right? That seems perfectly natural to you, right?

So why does Chakotay exist? Christianity went extinct, but lame made-up pseudonatural bullcrap religions are fine?

See, double standard. Exactly what DLPB was talking about. It's just that in the 90s, American Indians were the cause du jour rather than Muslims. Hence, Chakotay (note that both Voyager and Pocahontas came out in the same year, for example). So, just like with B'Elanna hitting Carey, it's a double standard. The Trek writers would never think of adding a Christian to the show, but have no problem with a hokey Akusha-Moya claptrap. And I keep mocking Chakotay's religion for a good reason, because it ties in with #3. Just like "strong woman=beating up guys" nonsense that Hollywood pushes on us** even thought its completely against reality, this was a truly made up religion. In their yearning effort to be PC, they didn't even bother to actually research the culture they tried to portray, and thus what was shown was the incoherent ramblings of a scam artist (seriously, go look it up if you don't believe me). They ended up insulting the culture they tried to promote because, in actuality, their devotion to that culture was only a mm thick***.

So you see, DLPB was mostly right about #4, just picked the wrong example. And so, can you really argue that it doesn't come from leftwing thought? That these sorts of things are not due to the burning desire the writers had to want to be politically correct? You know as well as I do that the "diversity" in Trek is all there to appease the American left. There's no great desire to have an Indonesian or a Brazilian in the show, but we must have an African-American! And we must pat ourselves on the back for how tolerant we are, because we are looking to gain the approval of a white guy from Berkeley rather than a white guy from Peoria. You may be "proud" of it, but I still see it as just another form of pandering to white people. And that's fine! Star Trek's audience is white Westerners, after all! What's wrong with pandering to the people who pay your bills? It just doesn't make them moral for doing so...

But anyway, back to #2. I'm not the type of person to judge others, and I'm not going to accuse everyone who doesn't agree with me politically of being evil. But in terms of the thought leaders in the left nowadays... well, look up intersectionality if you want. If you look at what's going on in college campuses, the idea these days is that the world is divided into the powerful (straight white Christian and Jewish males) and everyone else (with varying degrees of powerlessness). And that in order to rectify this situation, it is not only ok but also DEMANDED that double standards be used. Overt discrimination of the powerful is encouraged (I should note that this is the same justification Hitler used against the Jews, but, well, what's a little fascism among friends?). Overt hatred of the powerful is encouraged. Again, this isn't my evil interpretation of it; they're pretty upfront about it.

And again, I'm not going to accuse everyone of believing this. I'm sure, when faced with that, it's only a small portion of the left that believes it. And I do think it's annoying how internet arguments usually devolve into the most baseless accusations on the part of the other person. But the problem is, the "intellectual class" of the left really do believe this! And the other problem is, most people don't think. That's not a criticism or implying people are stupid, it's just the truth. Our brains are wired to ignore anything we deem unimportant, and so we don't constantly question our assumptions. And the "educated" world - the internet, media, education, etc - is downstream of this intellectual hotbed of intersectionality. So as long as its framed in a positive way, people go along with it.

Again, let's be honest Robert. Regardless of their monetary background (IIRC DLPB is British; he may not realize that middle-class isn't necessarily a condition of the left-wing culture; the US has always been less class-based than Europe), you know as well as I do that the writers of Trek would feel more at home in San Francisco than in Texas. They're downstream of this thought process that demands double standards at every level. So even if they'd like to think of themselves as tolerant of everyone, they might live in a world where they never question their assumptions. Never question if it actually makes sense for a woman who weighs half as much as a man and has far less testosterone to build upper body strength can actually physically compete with a man. May not question that people can be capitalist and still be ethical or interested in science or anything else that is apparently anathema to the Ferengi. Never question that if you are actually serious about creating an atheist future, you have to insult other cultures besides Christianity as well. It doesn't mean they're bad people. It just means they may live in a bubble. And perhaps by criticizing them, we may get them to snap out of that bubble.

Who knows, maybe it might lead to better writing! Unless you think Chakotay is the epitome of a great character, or that Ferengi are a well thought out race...

I can't speak for DLPB, but I still believe in outdated, hate-filled, intolerant ideas like "all men are created equal" and "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Given that, I can be rather sensitive to areas where the opposite belief - that one should explicitly be judged by their skin or their sex - end up sneaking its way into mainstream culture. Perhaps DLPB is as well. And while I can't be certain that intersectionality itself goes back 20 or so years to when Voyager was created, I know the roots of this concept do go back quite a long ways, so maybe it was there as well.

Oh, and Robert? Of course a Star Trek site is no place to rant about right-wing politics. Star Trek is so steeped in leftwing thought that it's completely off topic! =)

So while I generally do agree with you that we should leave politics out of these discussions (I try to as much as possible), there are plenty of people who do inject politics into it... on both sides of the aisle. Mostly, I tend to ignore them, because I don't like dealing with it. Frankly, I don't like it that DLPB tends to bring it up in places, just as I don't like all the older posters who brought up junk from a leftwing perspective. But was the fact that DLPB brought it up here so far beyond the pale that you had to insult him (and thus cause the topic to devolve even further)? Do you also call out the people on the left who inject it in? Perhaps, to prevent such flame wars from breaking out... if we are truly committed to having discussions on Trek only with only the bare minimum of politics as related to the episode only... perhaps we should all only call out the people "on our side". Less chance of things rolling out of hand that way, eh?

* As a complete and random aside, if there is a character in Trek that is a closet Christian (or possibly Jew), I'm going with Joseph Sisko. I have my reasons for believing that, but I'm sure it was never intentional on the writers part. Actually, some of it may be intentional...

** Also as a random aside, I think Kira IS a strong portrayal of a woman even without the utterly absurd idea that she can beat up Cardassians while 8 months pregnant. She has a deep sense of morality and a strong sense of self, and is confident, assertive, and utterly true to herself (other than dating Odo, but that's another pet peeve of mine...). It's why I find it silly that people call her a Ro clone. Ro was a WEAK woman (that's not a criticism, she was a very interesting character because of it), and very much the opposite of Kira. But because they could both be sarcastic, we should find them identical? Sounds kinda stupid to me.

*** As an even more random aside, a NYTimes reporter recently complained because the new film version of Murder on the Orient Express didn't include Asian cast members. So she didn't know either the historical train OR the famous novel! That's what I mean about being 1 mm thick in culture but deep into identity politics...
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Skeptical
Wed, Mar 15, 2017, 8:30pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: Day of the Dove

Sorry, I'm gonna gave to go against the grain here. I felt the episode was a wasted opportunity, and I think it comes down to one problem: the mind control. It's a tricky thing to work with, trying to work with characters when they aren't really themselves. Take Conundrum, for instance. Whatever you think of the plot, the mind control aspect was well done, leaving it at nothing but amnesia. Thus, there was real tension on whether their true character would break through in time. The Mind's Eye had a deeper mind control, but it was only one character so we could still see the rest of the characters work. And watching a mind controlled LaForge was a nice change of pace. But here? The power of the mind control was completely arbitrary. And thus, it wasn't a satisfying conclusion. Or even a satisfying journey.

I mean, look at Spock and Scotty and Kirk. They would flare up and get emotional, and then calm down. So, ok, fine, maybe it just amplifies the latent feelings you have, keep you off your game. Like Naked Time or something. Except, wait, they can also completely alter your memories. Chekov remembered an entire freaking brother that he doesn't actually have! Kirk remembered an entire colony that didn't exist. If this alien being can do that, surely it can do more to manipulate the emotions of the crews. It's implied that Mara gained false memories of Federation personnel torturing and killing others. Couldn't the alien have implanted more memories of atrocities in everyone's mind, make them both think that they are at a state of war with each other rather than a truce? Do something similar to what was done to Chakotay in Nemesis? The episode strongly implies that it has that power, creating Piotr out of nothing, but it doesn't seem to bother. Instead, it apparently had no hold on Kirk for nearly the entire episode.

Hmm, well, maybe it depends on the willpower of the person. Hey, it makes sense that maybe a hothead like Chekov would be more amenable to the mind control than a cool character like Kirk. I could buy that, except why is Bones so affected? Yes, he's emotional, but he also has shown no real animosity toward the Klingons before, and certainly isn't a warmonger. I'd think Scotty would be going off the bend before Bones, but the episode said otherwise. And even Spock got more into it than Kirk did. So maybe the aliens could impact anyone. Then why didn't it focus more on Kirk? Why was Kirk allowed to be cool-headed there at the end?

And more importantly, if the alien isn't influencing everyone that much, how much of what happened really comes from our characters and how much from mind control? Hopefully a fan favorite like Chekov isn't really a rapist, but, well, how can we be sure?

In the end, we aren't really watching our favorite characters. We're watching puppets. Sometimes. And our characters sometimes. And it's not clear which is which, and why they are only puppets sometimes. That's a sign of bad plotting.

Meanwhile, of course, the episode was trying as hard as possible to be a message show, but naturally it failed miserably. How can you be an anti-war episode when everyone is being brainwashed? It reminds me a lot of Nemesis (again, the Voyager episode, not the movie), where a complicated situation is ignored in favor of a silly message. I mean, did you listen to Kang? "Nobody tells ME when I get to kill humans!" Is that really a message of peace? Ah, whatever...

But like I said, this was a wasted opportunity. The idea of a game of wits and game of strength against Kirk and a worthy Klingon opponent is certainly exciting. We never had a true evenly matched episode with the Klingons, so it would have been interesting. And keep the alien influence, but no mind control. Have the alien setup the conflict by framing each side, much like the start of the episode, but for real this time. And keep trying to keep the conflict going. And Kirk and Spock could realize the problem halfway through, and try to get through to the Klingons that they have a common enemy. In the end, Kirk's bravado at trying to get a truce would be enough to convince Kang, as it is here. We could have a very similar story, but without the mind control. Instead of arbitrarily hoping that the alien emphasis would be forgotten for long enough to get the fighting to stop, we could wonder about the true character of both sides. Instead of being contrived, it would be real. Instead of stupid tricks from the alien to keep the battlefield even, the threats could be suspenseful. This episode should have been a classic, should have been better than Balance of Terror. What a shame.
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Skeptical
Tue, Mar 14, 2017, 8:30pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: Spectre of the Gun

WRITER 1: We need a new idea for a Star Trek episode. Anyone got any ideas?

WRITER 2: How about an all-powerful alien makes Kirk fight to the death to teach a lesson about pacifism?

WRITER 1: Bleh, we already did that. I want original ideas people. Original!

WRITER 3: OK, ummm... Kirk comes across a planet that looks exactly like some CBS backlot and so re-enacts a portion of Western history?

WRITER 1: I said original, dagnabbit! That was like half of the last 10 episodes!

WRITER 4: Hmmm... I'm just spitballing here, but what if... what if we had an all powerful alien make Kirk fight to the death to teach a lesson about pacifism... within a planet that looks exactly like some CBS backlot in order to re-enact a portion of Western history?

WRITER 1: Brilliant! That's the sort of original thinking I like to see here!

OK, snark aside, it really was that hard for me to get past the premise of the episode. I mean, the execution was pretty well done. Like others said, the mystery of what was going on built up well, and I think the reveal, that this was all in their heads, worked reasonably well given the clues we were given beforehand. Even the very first reveal of the aliens - when they spoke to everyone in their own languages - hinted that nothing they did was necessarily physical. And the clue of the knockout bomb not working was a big one. It was maybe a bit silly that Spock had to meld with everyone in order to save them (yet another example of Spock's magical Vulcan-ness saving the day), but the scene of the crew standing calmly while the Earps shot them was effective I thought.

It's just that the idea is so hokey... Maybe I was just in a snarky mood when I watched it or something, but some of the decisions just seemed weird. What was with Chekov being more obsessed with getting it on with the girl than the fact that he was scheduled to be executed in a few hours? How is Spock so absurdly well-versed in everything that he is fully aware of one single even that happened on Earth 400 years ago? Why is the Federation mission to establish contact "at all costs"; what if these people just want to be left alone? Why is it that the answer to everything in the Star Trek universe is a quick battle to the death rather than any sort of communication?

I guess it was just too much of a pill to swallow for me.
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Skeptical
Tue, Mar 14, 2017, 8:27pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: Is There In Truth No Beauty?

Perhaps not, but the obsession over the Medusans being too ugly to look at (as opposed to simply being too incomprehensible to look at or having mild telepathic ability or something), as well as to a lesser extent the emphasis on Dr Jones' beauty, makes it seem like they did mean to say something about beauty. Sure, the second interpretation of the title is equally possible, but it's not exactly groundbreaking theme that not all truths are pleasant, and of course its not true that all truths are pleasant. Like I said, it works as an interesting experience of an episode, but hardly an important message or theme.
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Skeptical
Sun, Mar 12, 2017, 10:15pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: Is There In Truth No Beauty?

Yeah, this was a weird one. There were so many plots going on, and even though the episode seemed to claim the theme revolved around beauty, it didn't really. It was more geared toward unrequited love, or longing for something that you can't have, the dangers of letting your emotions rule you, or something like that. You had Garvick in love with Miranda, but she rejected him and it drove him mad. Bones seemed to have at least a little crush on her. Jones had a love for Kallos and was intensely jealous of Spock. Kirk felt sorry for Jones being isolated and away from the rest of humanity. Once Kallos merged with Spock, he wanted to stay that way so he could interact with the crew. Even Jones' blindness works for it, as its part of her isolation and inability to connect with others. All of these stories running through the episode. And how many have to do with beauty? Not much. Not really sure why they tried to shoe-horn that theme in.

But other than that, it was a nice, pleasant episode. You usually don't have this many plot elements, so it was a nice change of pace episode. There really isn't another episode like it I think. I don't think any one plot element could have carried the story, but by smashing so many possible ideas in there it kind of feels like a slice of life tale. There's a feeling of wistfulness, of roads not taken, of sorrow in almost everyone's character (both regular and guest star). Yet, in the end, it was willing to move past any resentment of those roads not taken or the isolation that saved the day. Jones had to accept that Spock was the right one to meld with Kallos, and then she had to do what she could to keep him from going insane. A fairly low key episode, despite the rather silly ship-in-danger plot and the "they're so ugly you go mad if you look at them!" concept of the Medusans. But a pleasant low-key episode.
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Tue, Mar 7, 2017, 8:43pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: And the Children Shall Lead

Where's the kids from Miri and their bonk-bonk when you need it?

Where do you start with an episode like this? I guess with the premise itself. I suppose there could have been some promise here, but it's hard to see. Kids that seem brainwashed by an all powerful entity? Kids unable to come to terms with their parents death and their own guilt? Kirk having to protect his ship from people who are as much victims as they are aggressors? Those ideas COULD work, but it's not a slam dunk idea to begin with. So you better make sure the execution makes the relatively weak idea worthwhile. And needless to say, this episode did not do that.

When your all powerful entity that has to carry the episode is an old fat guy in a grandma dress whose voice makes Ben Stein sound animated, it's hard to take the episode seriously.

When four little kids and one annoying teenager manage to take over the Enterprise that easily, even with magic powers, it's hard to keep the willing suspension of disbelief going. Almost as bad as the Ferengi taking over in Rascals.

When that teenager has the worst fashion sense ever, it starts becoming impossible not to laugh at them.

When the solution to the crisis is just Spock and Kirk, well, coming out of it for some reason, it just makes you go "huh"? So nobody else had the willpower as these two? Nobody that evil green guy ever met before? Or is this just more of the magic Swiss Army Knife powers that Spock gets whenever the writers find themselves stuck in a corner? And frankly, seeing them with strained faces for 10 seconds and then suddenly all better is hardly an effective means of showing their inner struggle. Then again, Shatner's acting was so over the top this episode that

When the solution to the kids' lack of emotion over the death of their parents is nothing more than showing them pictures of everyone playing, it completely ruins any depth that this theme might have. By the way, what's with McCoy constantly saying that recognizing their parents' death would traumatize the kids, and then look pleased once they actually do recognize it?

In other words, a weak idea, and now terrible execution. So yeah, it's definitely among the worst.
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Sun, Mar 5, 2017, 10:11pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: The Enterprise Incident

Finally, a truly great TOS episode. It's been a while. I shouldn't be surprised that it's a Romulan one; it just seems that they have a way of elevating any episode they're in. Unlike the Klingons, they're smart, and tend to always be portrayed as smart. It usually means the plot is more complex than usual and our characters need to be more clever than usual.

Not that the plot didn't have its problems. After all, it seems that Starfleet planned out its operation with all the skill of the Underpants Gnomes. Step 1: head into Romulan territory. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Profit! I mean seriously, how did that plan actually work? Talk about luck! But I think we're able to suspend our disbelief, because the suspense was high and the characters interesting.

Like others, I do think this was partly what impacted Unification in Spock's mind. It did seem pretty clear that he did actually care for the Romulan, and did wish that there was some alternative other than betraying her. Likewise, I think he recognized that the Romulan did care for him too. There must have been some respect for each other deep down, which would translate, at least to some extent, to a respect for each other's culture. That must have given Spock some inkling that a reunification could be successful, even if he would have known that the odds were microscopic. I think the scene with them touching each other with their fingers extended (reminiscent of Sarek and Amanda) was probably the best scene to reinforce this. It may be alien to us, but it was perfectly natural to BOTH of them. It really reinforced the idea that this was, at one time, a single culture, and that they could relate to each other better than perhaps either of them could relate to humans. Perhaps it was that memory that kept Spock's hopes alive?

Of course, there was also the betrayal. Spock said, clearly, that he was a Starfleet officer, and that he had to do his duty. One questions whether he agreed with the theft and agreed with the deception, given that it seems a bit out of the norm for Starfleet operations and given the whole "Vulcans don't lie!" thing. We know in Unification that he stated he wanted to keep Starfleet out of the loop on this one, in part due to the mixup that happened in ST6. Now, obviously Spock chose a lengthy career in Starfleet even after this episode; even after dying. So it's not like this event made him resign in a huff or anything like that, but it does make it clear that Spock doesn't want to be put in that position again with the Romulans. He knows that, with Starfleet, the political angle will always be there. He knows that working directly through official Romulan channels means the political angle is definitely going to be there from that side. That's why he worked the way he did, away from the official channels. Just going directly to the people. Seeking that connection that he would have had with the Commander if their duty (on both sides) didn't get in the way.

But anyway, back to the episode. Like I said, the pacing, suspense, and character stuff just worked, and worked well. The fact that you couldn't really tell the moment that either the Commander started legitimately caring for Spock or vice versa, rather than just using the other for their own gain, is what made it work. That and the poignancy at the end, when both of their plans were laid clear. Neither of them regretted their choices that kept them apart, but neither of them were really happy about it either. And given the emotionless state of Spock and the reservedness of the Commander, the fact that they were able to show it in their words and actions was really quite impressive. Definitely a true classic.
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Sat, Mar 4, 2017, 9:55pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: Bread and Circuses

And we are back, once again, to a magical parallel Earth. You know, I hate to admit it, but maybe the network executives were right to try to cancel TOS after the second season. It really seems like they ran out of ideas in the end. I mean, look at the latter half of the season, starting after Tribbles (yes, I know, technically in second half, shut up):

Four period pieces from random parts of Earth's past.
Two "aliens take over the Enterprise to use it for their own objectives."
One "Kirk outwits a computer", which was cliche by the end of the first season
One "giant thingy in space!" episode, which was overused in the first half of the season
One backdoor pilot.

That leaves Private Little War and Gamesters of Triskelion as the only really unique ideas in the second half, and both of those were just as bad. Other than Piece of the Action, none of the other episodes really jumped out as really strong episodes, although admittedly some were watchable. Compare that to the first half of the season. We had absolute classics like Journey to Babel, Mirror Mirror, Doomsday Machine, Trouble with Tribbles. And, of course, Season 1 had plenty of great episodes too. It just seemed like they ran out of steam in the end. I know people like to say that Gene leaving and the slashed budget was the reason Season 3 was not as beloved as the first two, but honestly, it seems like they ran out of steam here. Maybe Season 3 wouldn't have been any better than what we had. Maybe this was the extent of the stories the original crew could tell.

As for the episode itself, whatever. Both the potential onset of Christianity as a revolutionary concept and Merrick's cowardice and the Romans disgust of it, even as it worked to their advantage, were the only two interesting part of the episode. The rest of it just seemed by the book, as Saavik might say.
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Fri, Feb 24, 2017, 7:47pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

Well, I still stand by my statement, that the implementation of the episode to complement the theme was not done well at all.

William, you seem to state that the theme shows by comparing Daystrom erraticness to the M-5's going cuckoo. And yes, perhaps that is the reason the M-5 did poorly, since it was his brainwaves that he used to create the M-5. And therefore, you say, the theme is that the people who want to supplant humans have their own problems that preclude them from being the best judge of humans. Well, ok. But still... well, it's obvious the theme the episode wanted to show was that humans are not going to be obsolete by this computer, what with the whole "dunsel" bit. And if William's interpretation is true, then I, like Garak and the Boy Who Cried Wolf, see a different moral. If the importance is to show the connectivity between Dyson and the M-5, then the moral of the story isn't that computers are inferior, but rather that better humans should be used as the template for computers.

After all, if the fault of the M-5 is just that Dyson was erratic, why not try the M-6 with Kirk's brain? Will that computer be perfect enough to replace human captains? I don't think the episode answered that. Which is why it's a bit of a straw man story - it's not really Kirk vs The Ultimate Computer. It's Kirk vs the Insane Computer. And that's not a fair comparison.

Peter, I don't really disagree with what you say. But I just feel a bit more strongly on the fact that it's weak than you. Yes, computers will follow their logic to the bitter end, which can seem horrifying. And yes, it does mean that there should be some human oversight. Which honestly should have been obvious, but of course they didn't show it. Naturally our superintelligent future means people will test a complex new computer by giving it complete control of a freaking battleship that has enough firepower to exterminate a planet, and make the only kill switch an electronic one that the computer can hack.Perhaps it should be Starfleet command that should be seen as insane...

But I digress. My problem is that I, Robot came out in 1950. The Three Laws were first introduced in 1942. While Trek may have been blazing a trail for television sci-fi, this episode feels 25 years behind the times when it comes to sci-fi in general. There should have been safeguards put in place on that computer. There should have been better logic programmed into it. But apparently, Dyson didn't think of it. And apparently, Starfleet didn't demand it before thinking about putting it in one of their ships. It just wasn't very intelligent plotting, and so it's tough for me to care about the theme when it relies on dumb plotting.

(With that said, I will point out that this episode came out about a month or so before 2001, so it's not the only visual medium showering murderous AI. But HAL is a lot more memorable, so I'll let that one slide...)
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Thu, Feb 23, 2017, 9:25pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

Sigh, Kirk outwitting a computer... again.

I mean, I get what they were trying to do with this episode, and I understand the uncertainty of how these newfangled computers would fit into society back in the 60s and all, and I realize it was a hot topic in sci-fi, both profound and silly, but man, there's nothing that makes an episode look more dated. All these old shows and stories assumed you would feed a few pieces of information to a computer, and it would make surprising connections and leaps of logic that would shock and amaze people. Hey, maybe that will still happen in the future, who knows? But our modern computers seem to be on par with the normal Enterprise computer these days, and this idea is still well beyond our comprehension. So it just seems bizarre that all these SF shows completely missed all the ways computers would actually impact our lives and jumped straight into these superbrain stories. And, just like all those other SF stories, the ultimate computer ends up being evil.

And that's what really bugs me, makes me think this episode is not a true classic. The computer just goes straight to evil. The character arc or struggle or theme of the episode was Kirk worrying about being replaced, being obsolete. That's a fair story to consider, so the antagonist of the plot (the computer) should be one that complements and reinforces this struggle. But instead, it just acts as a straw man. The resolution should be that Kirk isn't obsolete because he has some unique quality that the computer doesn't have. Think about, for example, the Corbomite Maneuver, where only a bluff would work to save the ship. Or all the old Kirk speeches to get the antagonists to change their mind. A proper resolution would show that Kirk had something above the computer, like the battle of wits between him and Khan. Instead, he doesn't have to show why he deserves to be a captain when it became clear that the computer is crazy evil. Just shut off the computer, abandon the project, and fly off into the sunset, and no more self examination of Kirk. Is that really what we wanted?

Thus, a potentially interesting idea went to waste. Too bad.
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Mon, Feb 20, 2017, 8:37pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: The Omega Glory

The absurdity of the parallel Earth aside, this episode had some serious promise, and then just tossed it all away in favor of silliness. Just look at all the possibly interesting plotlines that were thrown at us in the first act or so. The Enterprise discovers a mysterious virus that killed an entire starship crew, save for the captain. They learn they too may be infected, and their only hope is to go to the planet. There, they get caught in a war between two sides by the natives, only to discover the captain is assisting one of the sides in clear violation of the Prime Directive. But the captain says it is for a noble cause, that these people have the Fountain of Youth. So Kirk must resist the temptation to join him and to fix the damage he has done, all while McCoy races to find a cure. That's good stuff. Needs of the many (Fountain of Youth) vs the needs of the few (Prime Directive) vs the needs of the very few (the danger to our heroes) vs the needs of the one (Captain's desire to survive on a planet he is exiled to). Honestly, the setup is better than Insurrection, which had a similar premise. If they could have focused on that instead, we might have had a dramatic, tense, engaging episode. Instead, they dropped the ball on every single one of those possible storylines.

McCoy searching for the cure or the Fountain of Youth? Just one or two scenes of him working. I know, it's hard to make that dramatic or interesting, but they managed to do it before. McCoy actually has something to do for once on the away team rather than being irascible and insulting Spock, and they don't let him do it!

The potential danger to the away team? Bones doesn't even have to work to find a cure, it's already there! Actually, that could have been a nice twist, perhaps adding to the guilt of the captain knowing that he could have saved his entire crew and left at any time. But we barely see his reaction to the news. The twist has no dramatic impact. We hear about it, and that's it. No angst at all.

A villain with a reason to do what he does, who can argue for a position besides the prime directive? A villain, perhaps, trapped in a scenario in which there are no good choices? Ha, forget that! He just went into full evil mode, fighting Kirk for no reason even after learning that his dreams of eternal life were just dreams.

Weighing the values of the Prime Directive? Kirk declares he must do everything to stop him, then just up and interferes himself. They even lampshaded it with Spock! After all the posturing Kirk does about the seriousness of the PD, he just up and reinterprets the Constitution for the Yangs. And after waxing poetic about the sacredness of the PD, his response to Spock at the end was just flippant. I know, lighthearted endings were the style at the time, but if you're going to claim the PD is a serious topic, you need to treat it seriously!

So even ignoring the absurdity of the ending, the episode managed to fail. Good riddance.

OK, I can't ignore the absurdity entirely... Wasn't it just two episodes ago that Spock was claiming the odds of another planet creating Nazis was completely astronomical? What about the odds of not only creating America, but also having the exact same handwriting for the Constitution?
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Mon, Feb 20, 2017, 8:34pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S7: Critical Care

Sorry Quincy, I disagree.

Oh sure, perhaps you have a point that an ethical person, seeing a situation like that, would do whatever to escape. Heck, we just had a lengthy discussion on that various topic over with The Most Toys. I'm not arguing that part. There are two specific aspects I argue: that this is a doctor doing harm under medical conditions and that this is an AI doctor doing those things.

Let's deal with the first one. You gave an example from Dr Strange. Note that he struggled mightily with simply using violence as self defense completely outside of his medical ethics. And eventually, he became more used to it. Whatever. Again, it's outside of the medical sphere. No one is saying a doctor can't engage in self defense, and no one would expect that. Dr Crusher had no qualms with firing phasers at various Borg or at a bug-controlled admiral, for example. But that's because it's not in her professional realm. The Hippocratic Oath is applied to the medical realm. If Hitler gets wheeled in on an operating table, you do your best to heal him. It doesn't matter that it's Hitler. Again, using Crusher as an example, I believe she still did her best to help the terrorists who kidnapped her in The High Ground. Bashir worked to help the Jem'Hadar. It doesn't matter what outside ethics means once you have a medical kit in your hand; you do no harm. The Doctor violated that. So if the Doc wanted to take a pipe and smack the evil guy upside the head, that makes more sense than deliberately poisoning him and then withholding medication.

Secondly, this isn't a person. Maybe the Hippocratic Oath says that you give Hitler the best treatment you can, but it's certainly possible that a human doctor would "accidentally" mess up a surgery there. This was a plot point in a MASH episode, for example. But the important thing, the thing the Voyager writers forgot about so often, is that the Doctor is not human. In fact, he's not even Data. Data was programmed to be like a human, to emulate humans. Thus, Soong programmed him to be able to make his own choices and his own ethical decisions. Obviously this backfired horribly with Lore, but it was still the way Soong programmed them. But the Doc? He was not programmed to emulate humanity, he was programmed to be a tool. A highly complex tool, but a tool nonetheless. His sentience is accidental in nature rather than designed like Data's. So why would Zimmerman program the Doc to be able to make ethical decisions outside the standard accepted medical practices? It shouldn't happen. The episode even lampshades the fact that it shouldn't happen, yet did it anyway! Why? How?

Keep in mind that less than 2 years ago, it was revealed that a simple triage decision outside standard medical standards caused catastrophic errors the likes of which we haven't seen since a good old fashioned Kirk Logic Bomb! How could he have evolved so fast such that he couldn't make that decision then, but could violate his own personal Prime Directive just a few years later? And again, all without a conscience decision on his part to overwrite his programming, which again is at odds with multiple other Voyager episodes.

So the idea violated continuity, and violated common sense. And it failed to use the Doctor's unique position of being an AI creatively, preferring instead to have him act like yet another boring human. Tis a waste.
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Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 8:19pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: By Any Other Name

So two episodes ago we had trapped aliens take over the Enterprise in order to fulfill their mission, and now this episode we have trapped aliens take over the Enterprise in order to fulfill their mission. TOS isn't exactly known for the diversity of their plots, huh?

I agree with Jammer that this is the better of the two episodes, although perhaps not for the same reason. Basically, I like the thematic resolution to the episode. It doesn't revolve around Kirk outsmarting the villains (although there is some of that) or Kirk beating up the villain (although there is some of that too). Instead, we have a nice sci-fi resolution to the conflict, that the bad guys simply cannot escape the entire meaning of what it is to convert themselves into being human.

What would it be like to completely change one's body? How much are we the product of our independent mind vs how much a function of our bodies? This episode implies that it's a bit of both, that while these aliens still thought and acted like their old selves, the feelings were overwhelming. That much is simple enough, something we might be able to expect. But then they imply that, as time goes by, those feelings will take over its thoughts. They won't be able to keep from thinking like a human, simply because they will be so used to feeling like a human. It is a unique approach, and even though we don't see if this is true or not, it feels like the right approach. And obviously the aliens agreed, and stood down on their original plan.

As for the fact that they weren't punished for their transgressions, I can see how that could be annoying. And really, they could have easily rewritten the episode slightly to make them less of karma whodinis. There was no reason to kill the Redshirt; turning them into cubes and turning one back would have had the same impact. And at least then the aliens wouldn't have been murderers. Of course, there's still the bigger problem of how to deal with the aliens stuck in Andromeda that haven't turned into humans yet, but presumably the Federation will work that out before inviting them over. At the very least, though, it is a rather positive and uplifting ending, and kinda makes the case that humans are awesome. After all, even a race of close-minded conquerors can be redeemed simply by themselves turning into humans. Sometimes Trek optimism can be a bit silly, but other than a few logical quibbles I think it works well here.

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Skeptical
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 8:17pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

I'm not sure I can agree on the "Data trying to avoid getting kicked out of Starfleet" scenario.

Was Data's action - absent emotion - justifiable? I would say yes. Peter, you say that Data is not in any direct harm, and that is true. However, he was still kidnapped and is being held against his will. Even though Data doesn't have the emotion, that is still a major affront to himself, and aggravated kidnapping like this is one of the most heinous acts someone can do to an individual, right up there with murder and rape. I think most justice systems allow use of deadly force to protect oneself from such kidnapping. So let's look at Data's options at this point:

1) Passive resistance was no longer working, as Fajo demonstrated his willingness to murder others to get Data to do what he wanted. Data's sense of ethics is too strong to allow others to die simply because of Data's resistance. So that option is out for him.

2) Non lethal attempts at force never worked; Data already tried that. Fajo had that personal forcefield thingy. Data already tried it, it didn't work. And Data did not have a weapon that could nonlethally penetrate that forcefield. All he had was the banned disruptor.

That leaves ONLY lethal force as a workable method of escape. Before, Data was willing to be patient, since he figured he could find a way out non-lethally. His lack of emotion allowed him to be patient. It was only when Fajo upped the ante by killing Whatsherface that the rules of the game changed. Data was trying multiple nonlethal methods of escape before. Now, though, Fajo showed a willingness to murder others to control Data, and clearly showed Data that he would murder others if he tried anything else. Data's patience is eliminated now, as there are really only 3 possible futures: 1) Data PERMANENTLY submits to Fajo to prevent any more death, 2) Data continues to try methods of escape, most likely causing multiple innocent (or mostly innocent) lives to be snuffed out because of him, 3) kill Fajo. His line makes perfect sense in this context. The possible futures were all very bleak. And since Data, as a person, cannot deny his own personhood (which is what submitting to Fajo would be), he chose to use lethal force to escape.

If I was on the jury, I'd say he's not guilty of murder. This is clearly a case of self defense to me.

Which is why the lying to Riker bit always bugged me. If the writer wanted it to be ambiguous, the episode was shot as Data pretty clearly trying to kill Fajo. So yes, it does come off as a lie. And actually, it seems the writer wasn't necessarily on board with that line either! From Memory-Alpha: "I asked Brent Spiner whether he thought Data purposefully pulled the trigger or not, and he was adamant that Data did fire the weapon, which was my intent as well, but the powers-that-be wanted that kept ambiguous, so it was. If I had a chance to do it over, with all the experience I have behind me now, I would argue passionately for Data's actions and their consequences to have been clearer, and hopefully more provocative." Sounds like it was probably Gene that forced that line in there. So frankly, I'd rather just pretend it doesn't exist. It just doesn't seem to fit.
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Sat, Feb 11, 2017, 8:09pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S7: Preemptive Strike

Well, I don't think it's romantic love, but yes, Picard obviously cares a lot about Ro and obviously took this betrayal pretty hard.

It was mentioned a couple times that Picard cared a lot about the Bajorans in general (Ensign Ro and Emissary IIRC). Presumably, he wasn't very happy with the diplomatic situation that left them under control of the Cardassians and he wished he could do more to ease their suffering. Whether that played a part in his attachment to Ro is unclear, although I think it is a part of it. Likewise, the fact that Guinan cared about Ro may also have tipped the scales a bit, given how much respect Picard has for Guinan.

But going back to Picard's feelings about the Bajorans in general. I get the feeling that mentoring Ro was his way of doing something for the Bajorans as a whole. If he felt sympathy for the Bajorans, he felt some sort of guilt that he couldn't do more, even though intellectually he knew there was nothing he could do. So there may have been a subconscious transfer of his longing to help to trying to "fix" this emotionally broken refugee. It may have been why he cared so much about her.

He did everything he could to help her, and then she went and joined a criminal organization. And it was *his* fault. The guilt he felt for not helping the Bajoran refugees now crystallized into a specific action and loss. He tried to save one refugee, and instead he failed.

Keep in mind that a month or so ago he ordered Sito Jaxa to her death. So that's two Bajorans he not only failed to save, but instead did the opposite. No wonder he was so grim at the end.

When I watched this episode before, I was focusing mostly on Ro's character. But now that you mention it phaedon, I can see how this is, at least to some extent, a Picard story as well.
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Sat, Feb 11, 2017, 7:44pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: A Private Little War

Can we just call this episode A Silly Little War instead? There was just too much going on: random attacks from the absurd looking Mugato, the sinister schemings of the Sexy Midriff Witch, dealing with the Klingons, Super Important Cold War Allegories!, Kirk being put under the spell of the Sexy Midriff Witch, Spock and Chapel's BDSM roleplay, and Tyree's inconsistent conversion from pacifism to aggression (but not, unfortunately, from bad acting to good acting). Some of the plot seemed worth exploring, but all the random junk, most of which wasn't needed at all, simply got in the way and made it kind of absurd to watch.

For all the talk about pacifism in Star Trek, the episode was intelligent enough to understand that this is a messy situation. Let's be honest, the Klingons weren't going to back down; if things continued the way they were going, the peaceful villagers were going to be wiped out or conquered. And, as Bones so wisely pointed out, because of Tyree's pacifism he would probably be one of the first to go. A speech wasn't going to solve the problem; the main bad guy even said that his people had started to enjoy the killing. The war was going to continue, whether Kirk liked it or not. I liked the intensity of his conversation with Bones. Bones was absolutely convinced Kirk was making the wrong decision, so Kirk challenged him to come up with a better one. And Bones didn't have an answer to that. It was ugly, and you could see Kirk's ruefulness at the end when he started waxing poetic about the end of the Garden of Eden. This part of the episode had potential; this part was worth exploring. But it just was buried underneath all that other stuff.

It also doesn't help that, for all Kirk's complaints that there is no other solution, the other one is kinda obvious (as others pointed out). Presumably, Kirk's mission was successful in exposing Klingon interference on the planet. We can presume also that, once exposed, the Klingons abandoned their plan (since war didn't break out at this time). The Federation, then, can fire phasers on stun onto the Klingon allies from orbit (as seen in A Piece of the Action), and then beam down a troop of redshirts to confiscate all of the weapons and means of producing them. Maybe even have Kirk or another Starfleet captain make a speech to the leader that worse will happen if he tries to reproduce what he learned. Voila, problem solved. No need to escalate the weapons each side has, and all done with minimal interference. Just fixing the contamination the Klingons made. Kirk's dilemma ends, and everyone goes home happy. But then Kirk can't angst about his decision, so we had to pretend not to notice.

Meanwhile, I have to question Dr. M'Benga's professionalism. So Spock's survival is dependent on being smacked back into reality. Does he explain this to Chapel, despite having adequate time to? Nope, he just gives her vague instructions and leaves, even though he knows its an awkward situation. Obviously it was done for our benefit, not Chapel's. Except the payoff is just dumb and ridiculous anyway, so why bother?

Also, as an aside, the time between the dawn of the iron age and flintlocks was 12 centuries Uhura? The iron age started around 1200 BC, and muskets around 1500. Just a bit more than 12 centuries...
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Thu, Feb 9, 2017, 5:36pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: The Immunity Syndrome

As the episode moved along and it became clear that this was a space amoeba episode, I feared the worst. I mean, Enterprise crew must find a way to escape weird space anomaly episodes are usually acceptable at best and rarely among the best. But I did end up pleasantly surprised at how this one progressed. And I think there's two reasons for that.

For one, I think there was an actual sense of danger in the episode. Yes, we know the Enterprise will be saved, and we even know that Spock won't die either. And yet, the tension was enough that we could still pretend that they could. It felt real, akin to Balance of Terror or Corbomite Maneuver. Perhaps part of the reason the threat felt real was because the crew was committed to finishing the mission, not necessarily to save their own necks, but rather to save the galaxy. There was at least the possibility that a heroic sacrifice might be needed. So when Kirk ordered Scotty to keep a little bit of impulse power in reserve, it allowed you to think, sure, they will use it to escape... but maybe they won't. Maybe they'll have to use that power. And plus there was the tension of the shuttlecraft, and how they would be reunited. So yes, I think the episode did a good job of building up the suspense.

And secondly, the Big Three all did a good job this episode. Sure, there were some parts that were very awkward, such as Spock continuing to needle McCoy even while on a very dangerous mission (I would get McCoy doing that to Spock, but not the other way around). But in general, the banter and the concern over all aspects of the mission were real. I liked Kirk's dilemma of who to send, and I thought his and Bones' concern for Spock when they thought him dead were nicely understated. Obviously, they couldn't focus on it too much at the time, they needed to complete the mission. But you could tell it was in the back of Kirk's mind, and more or less the front of Bones' mind. Someone said this episode needed a guest star, and I disagree. I think the three leads all contrasted nicely with each other, and no real need to have someone else there to provide a different perspective.

Of course, all of that is against the backdrop of an admittedly hokey premise (so it eats energy, so everyone feels tired, but because it eats energy we need to move forward to move back, and antimatter will kill it because its negative energy?). And for all the buildup of their impossible situation, it's a bit of a deus ex machina ending (we are told they don't have enough energy to escape, and then... they do, somehow. With the shuttle intact, no less). So while it may be a good space anomaly episode, it's not exactly a real classic. Just good enough to be an acceptable hour of entertainment.
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Skeptical
Tue, Jan 31, 2017, 9:14pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: A Piece of the Action

I know this is generally considered a good episode, but even with that in mind, I think this is still a guilty pleasure of mine. One of my favorite episodes. There's a lot of cliches about the original series, things like cheap sets, silly period costumes, and human-like aliens. Usually, those stories tend to be the dumb ones, but this is an exception. Sure, the 20s gangster set was probably used to save money with something CBS or Desilu or whoever had on hand, but thankfully the plot was actually quite clever and ends up being perhaps the best Prime Directive piece in the series, perhaps of all the shows. And the use of the gangster atmosphere gave it a wonderful sense of levity and humor to keep the pace moving and enjoyable the entire way through.

Don't get me wrong, there's obviously a giant logical leap here. One would assume the book left behind didn't have so much detail as to describe the suits, the accents, the intricacies of how Tommy guns work, to say nothing of 1920s style and architecture. And the throwaway line that the aliens are very imitative still makes it hard to swallow that they would radically change that much. But who cares? It set up an interesting plot, so I can willingly suspend disbelief for the sake of the action.

On the Prime Directive side, this works better than the "dying peoples" storylines. We see how something as simple as a book can contaminate a culture. Yes, this is an extreme example, but if they assumed that that book was how the Federation actually operated, and they saw how advanced the Federation actually was, maybe they would try to incorporate those ideals into their life. It's interesting, too, that the problem isn't actually interference in this case, but rather limited interference. If the Horizon stayed behind and talked to the Iotians more, they would certainly explain to them that this culture is just one of many that sprung up on Earth, that was a short lived culture, and is certainly not one that should be emulated. If the Federation decided to be fully invested in this planet (as they are after Kirk's visit), then there could certainly be some positive ramifications. But a fly-by visit? We can see how the lack of full communication could cause the other culture to get some wrong ideas. And so one could argue that unless the Federation was interested in a permanent presence on this planet, it is better to simply stay away entirely. It does not fully justify the Prime Directive, but that's ok. It tells one little piece of the Prime Directive story, and does it well.

And one reason why it does it well is because it's in the background. We don't get into a philosophical debate on the PD like what seems to happen too often. Instead, the situation is presented simply: these people were contaminated, and we can see pretty quickly that the contamination is a negative. Instead, the plot is, besides all the twists and turns of who has the drop on who, about Kirk trying to find a way past this mess and to get it to work. I'm a bit confused about wanderer's statement that there was no resolution; I thought the resolution was very clever. We saw that scene where the two women complain about services while pointing out that they pay their cut. It showed Kirk that, as messed up as the situation is, the Iotians were making it work somehow, and that things were still functioning. It showed that the mob bosses were actually performing as a government. We also see that both Oksmyx and Krako did have grander aspirations, and we could see why Kirk thought he could use them. And naturally, given the reverence the people had for The Book, any reversion to normal would have to be gradual. Kirk couldn't just give a speech and expect everyone to abandon their ways. So his subtle solution, to basically declare that he is the top mob boss and that the rest of them would have to work together to give him his cut, serves the primary purpose of unifying the people and stopping all the "hits". The secondary goal, moving away from a gangster culture, would take more time, and Kirk even got a head start on it by basically creating a tax that would be reinvested in changing their status. I'm not necessarily on board with the solution, but it is in fact a resolution to the story. And a good one. It solved both of the two major plot issues (Kirk must fix what once was wrong, and Kirk must outwit the two mob bosses) quite effectively.

And yeah, it was funny. Shatner, Nimoy, everyone seemed to be at their best here. The levity involved made the obviously silly concept a lot of fun to watch, and the jokes and humorous moments hold up well I think. I even like Spock's grimace at the end when Kirk declares that his solution was completely logical. Like he didn't want to admit Kirk might have had a point. Especially since he was probably embarrassed about the whole outing the entire time. Well, he may have been mortified at having to dress as a gangster and talk in slang, but his loss was our gain.
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Skeptical
Wed, Jan 25, 2017, 7:21pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: The Gamesters of Triskelion

At the risk of incurring the wrath of all Trek fans, there's something I need to get off my chest. I'm halfway through my first full run-through of the original series, and quite frankly... Bones is not a very good character. For all the hype that the Kirk-Spock-Bones triumvirate gets, Bones just comes off as an irascible idiotic contrarian. He and Spock are supposed to represent emotion and logic, with Kirk as the perfect fusion between the two. Which strongly suggests that the emotional side is needed, and should be, if not equal to logic, then at least close to it. Yet in every single conflict with Spock so far (with the possible exception of Galileo Seven), he comes off poorly. Spock is ALWAYS correct. Always. Not only that, but Bones almost never has a good point when he argues. Look at the situation here. Kirk and company clearly disappeared by a very highly advanced technology, and they are clearly nowhere in the system. There is, however, one anomalous reading. The logical AND emotional response is to follow that one reading, since there was clearly no hope in that system and, since whatever happened is beyond their technology, there is no reason to believe they are still in that system. So why not follow the gas trail? But Bones argues against it just to be a jerk... again. I know Jammer complained about this too, but unlike him, I don't think it's a problem with just this episode. This exchange seems to have come up in a dozen other episodes before. And each time, he always looks stupid. And he always seems so angry about it too. Well, I can't blame him. I'd be angry too if the writers were giving me those lines...

As for the episode itself, so Kirk and company become gladiators for a bunch of talking muffins? There's a winning idea.

Actually, I thought the talking muffins were the best part of the episode. Their bemusement and disattachment over everything was a good characterization, and it made for a good foil to the normally in-charge Kirk. He's gone up against god-like beings before, but he always seemed to be able to grab their attention and talk to them as something akin to equals. Here, the muffins are clearly interested in Kirk, but are completely dismissive of all of his arguments and speechifying. He can't appeal to their better nature, he can't even convince them that there is a better nature. He basically has to stoop to their level to get anything done. They like to wager, so the only way to get their attention is to wager with them. I don't think they are even all that upset when they lose. It kept them from being too shallow of villains (given how shallow the slave-gladiator concept is to begin with), so I will give them props for that.

On the flip side, the "humans are special" bit was way overplayed. I can understand it if all the Thralls were natives of the planet and had lived in slavery for generations. Then, it makes sense if Kirk's appearance can cause that many disruptions. But it's clear that the Gamesters were kidnapping people from all over. So everyone else, as soon as they were kidnapped, just rolled over and became compliant? Does anyone think Vulcans would be like that? Could you imagine a Klingon being so meek? Kirk fought an Andorian at the end; so the Andorian never resisted? That doesn't mean other aliens wouldn't eventually comply, but the Gamesters act like everything Kirk does is completely novel. I know, I know, humans are special, but it was laid on pretty thick.

One final bit: what's with Shana surrendering at the end? Since when was that allowed? It just seemed to come out of nowhere. Battle to the death! Unless you say uncle, then it's cool... Don't get me wrong, I knew they would never let Kirk kill her. But I figured that rule at the beginning - about how Kirk had to stay on yellow and the others on green - would be the loophole that allows both of them to survive. Why set up that Chekhov's gun if you aren't going to use it? Wait, they took Chekov's gun after he beamed down, nevermind...

Anyway, it's a bad episode sandwiched between two hilariously awesome ones. So let's just move on. As strange as it may sound to say, if you really want "crewmember kidnapped and forced to become a gladiator", Voyager did it better (not by much, but still better).
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Skeptical
Sat, Jan 21, 2017, 4:53pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: Wolf in the Fold

I'm convinced the events leading up to this episode didn't quite happen the way they are described. See, I'm assuming Scotty woke up in sickbay after the accident, declaring himself fine and wanting to get back to work. Bones agreed, and everything was all set until someone realized there was a Starfleet regulation requiring Scotty to undergo psychotherapy for the accident. Scotty insists it's pointless; he has no emotional trauma. Bones agrees, assuming this is all some ridiculous pansy bureaucratic rule made by stuffed shirts in their ivory towers not understanding what life was actually like out on the frontier, but rules are rules... Scotty continues to argue, while Bones realizes that while psychotherapy is required, the precise form of this psychotherapy is up to the ship's doctor. So he throws his hands up in the air and declares strippers and booze to be the best therapy he knows, and Scotty decides he can get on board with that idea...

Hey, it's better than the ridiculous excuse they had in the actual episode...

As for the story itself, it... didn't really work. I mean, the mystery aspect should have been a success, and as long as you didn't think too much worked well enough to be entertained. But it just didn't help that everyone kept carrying the idiot ball around. The fact that the two follow up murders occurred showed a distinct lack of foresight on the part of Kirk and company, who despite seeing women stabbed left and right never thought to maybe, I don't know, stop leaving the knife lying around in broad daylight... Seriously, as soon as the hearing on the Enterprise convened with all the cast members and guest stars and front and center is a nameless female redshirt, I was convinced she was doomed (congrats for surviving the episode!) Also, the revelation that the knife came from the same planet as Piglett came way too late, after we already knew it was him. Why wasn't that fact disclosed earlier? Still, it was a semi-acceptable murder-mystery story...

...That then turned into a weird problem-solving episode at the end. A mystery's climax is supposed to be the revelation of the murderer, but here we have the last quarter of the episode switch genres and be about trying to defeat a ghost that feeds on fear and is possessing the ship. Fine, the resolution to that - hopping everyone up on happy pills (guess Psychiatrist McCoy didn't have enough booze and strippers on hand to prescribe that to everyone...) - was somewhat interesting to see, but the mood swings in the last 10 minutes kind of ruined whatever good will you might have had from the mystery part. At least, it all seemed messed up to me, and not really a satisfying payoff to the story.
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Skeptical
Tue, Jan 17, 2017, 8:14pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: Obsession

Bones and Spock confronting Kirk over his obsession was probably my favorite scene in this episode. The easy way out would be for the writers to make an appeal of friendship, to have Bones and Spock acquiesce to Kirk despite thinking he's in the wrong. It would be for Kirk to make a plea that this is something he has to do, something to ease his soul, and for the other two to think about what's best for Kirk instead of what's best for the ship. Instead, the scene and the dialogue has everyone behaving professionally and competently. Bones goes to Kirk first as a friend, but when he doesn't get quick reassurances of his doubts, he instead moves to a formal questioning. His line of questioning is perfectly reasonable given the behavior that Kirk had been showing. And yet... Kirk responds just as professionally. He lays out a case for why he is pursuing the creature. And even though that case has a lot of assumptions built in, Spock agrees that his logic is sound if those assumptions are correct. And since it is difficult to question the captain's gut instinct, Bones and Spock are forced to go along with Kirk's argument. But Bones isn't 100% convinced, and is willing to keep Kirk's demeanor an open question. If Kirk continues to seek out the monster when and if the assumptions are proven incorrect, he makes it clear he will act accordingly. And, naturally, when the assumptions prove more true than false, Spock is more than ready to follow Kirk's approach.

Also, one thing that works for this episode was that it wasn't a simple revenge tale. Kirk's motive was redemption, not revenge. He feels he screwed up all those years ago, and this was his way to atone for that mistake. And perhaps the episode is saying that the drive for redemption is even more powerful than anger, and can be just as destructive. But while Kirk's need for redemption is nearly complete, he still has the presence of mind that he could be too emotional, he could be making a mistake. And yet, again, there's enough probable deniability that Kirk is doing the right thing that he continues... but we never really know just how clear-headed he is or if he really is obsessed. It's that nice bit of uncertainty that helps move the episode along.

Well, that being said, I think the episode does suffer somewhat coming after Doomsday Machine, which I agree with William B was a better episode with very similar themes. The overall feel of this episode was ok, but there were a few minor points that bugged me. People kept name-dropping the word obsession way too much. The subplot with the ex-captain's kid didn't really go anywhere and didn't add too much to the story. The cliche that the Enterprise had to rendezvous with someone to give away critical medical supplies is a bit annoying as well. And, once again, Spock's Vulcanness ends up saving the day, or at least saving him (and what's with Spock trying to keep a cloud from coming through the vent by covering it with his hands?). Minor issues, yes, but well, it's enough to keep it from being a true classic. Still a good one though.
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Skeptical
Sat, Jan 14, 2017, 3:23pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: I, Mudd

Oh sure, you could make that argument, that technology can be liberating or captivating depending on how you use it. But my point was that the episode didn't bother exploring that concept, which I thought was more interesting than anything else that was shown. For example, both Bones and Scotty were tempted by advanced technology on the surface, allowing them to improve themselves in their fields. Which sounds like something that is a worthwhile goal, but wasn't in this situation. These and other contrasts weren't explored to the extent that I thought they should have been. Hence why I thought the episode was weak.
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