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William B
Wed, Jun 14, 2017, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Jason, I had thought about that -- that Picard was sufficiently isolated by that point in the story. I think that's why Beverly *would* be a good person to try to reach him, particularly how often she is supposed to represent humanist principles in the show. I know that she's not always that effective of that, but it still makes it seem like no one on the ship *could* have reached out to him further. ("The crew on this ship is accustomed to following my orders." "They're probably accustomed to your orders making sense!")
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William B
Wed, Jun 14, 2017, 1:55pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

But, yeah, to reiterate, I think the aspect that's most incredible is how the crew fails to rein in Picard. The Picard and Data material, by itself, mostly only requires that extraordinary circumstances put them out of their ability to keep track of themselves, which isn't that hard for me. Worf does try to rein Picard in -- but he's also the warrior, uncontrolled guy, and still doesn't succeed. IIRC, Beverly doesn't even try.
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William B
Wed, Jun 14, 2017, 1:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

I agree with you, Peter (and I agree on the Ender's Game point). I'm not so sure how much the "dorky" aspect of things is a serious issue -- it's not so bad for people to be out of touch. Barclay's dorkiness, for example, is pretty endearing and also consistent with Barclay's dorkiness *in the 24th century*. But yeah, I think there is a little something to the "I'm not detecting any leak..." "Don't people in the 24th century ever PEE!?" stuff that fits right in with the sense that our 24th century people are out of touch.

I think that with Data, in particular, it's only very indirectly the 21st century material that affects his story -- he doesn't actually interact with any 21st century people. Not only that, but he doesn't even interact with any 24th century people besides the Borg after he gets kidnapped. And maybe there's a metaphor in there somewhere, generally, especially since Picard tells Data to turn off his emotion chip early in the movie, as if underlining that Picard views emotions as a liability (and thus is unable to see clearly what they are doing to him). Within TNG proper, Data *wants* to have emotions, which is something of a counterbalance to the general state where Data appears to be an ideal to strive to in every other way. It may even be that Data partly represents some of what you mention here, which was sneaked into TNG subtly -- that Data is close to what the Federation seems to be striving for, and yet he longs for the emotions they've lost. And yet what Data generally seems to want is not anger and other "negative emotions" (as he calls them in Descent) but the ability to feel love and joy -- which I think is not something that they are attempting to remove. Within the context of Data's story, it is maybe necessary to eventually indicate that selfish emotional desires are inseparable from the larger spectrum of human feelings and that it's important to be able to resist temptation, rather than to simply eliminate the feeling of temptation entirely, to be a complete person, and that maybe has some impact for the Federation generally. But I dunno.

It's also worth adding that it's a weird enemy to have Picard need to access his deeper rage etc. in order to understand. I mean, the Borg are...not angry, or at least weren't before the introduction of the Queen. The Queen seems to be motivated by narcissism and petty revenge, which means that it does take Picard and Data getting emotional for them to understand and defeat her. If there is a point, it may be that the thirst for dominance usually does, in the end, from comprehensible baser instincts, and is hidden behind nobler pursuits. And there's something to that. But it seems a little un-TNG not just for the Federation but for the enemy, too. Part of the appeal of the Borg as an antagonist was that it is *not* motivated by petty concerns. That the Queen, and thus the Borg indirectly, is motivated by base instincts makes Cochrane less of an anomaly, as if that is really how the world works. And it sort of works within the movie, because I think that Cochrane really does genuinely grow a bit in going to meet the Vulcans at the end, and that Picard and Data affirm their enlightened selves after having dabbled in their more barbaric ones, but it's still odd in comparison to TNG as you say.

You bring up Family, and I'll add that in Family, Picard's difficulty forgiving himself for his finitude was a personal problem. He was not really endangering anybody else, and wasn't even really endangering himself, except in terms of hurting his career (and thus hurting his overall well-being, because he would stop doing something that fulfills him). Family, by Ron Moore no less, did still have Picard have to be saved by a Luddite traditionalist who was skeptical of the whole project Picard was involved in, while also affirming the future via Rene and via Picard's returning to the stars. It's a minor variation on the material in FC -- minor enough as to be plausible within the show's world, without threatening to undermine it.
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William B
Wed, Jun 14, 2017, 10:47am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

I agree with Jason R. that Picard having actually read the book is more of a "Picard is the real deal" thing. One problem, though, with this movie in terms of the rest of 24th century stuff is that no one stands up to Picard, Worf aside -- Lily is the one who gets through to Picard, because everyone else is unwilling to break the chain of command, and implicitly because they are unwilling to believe that Picard is flawed. What's interesting is that, as Peter points out, Starfleet actually *does* get it. We could, indeed, argue that the 24th century is advanced not so much in that people aren't sometimes unstable, but that instability is generally recognized and dealt with; Starfleet was correct in identifying Picard's problem, and it was a combination of Picard's own willingness to break with them and the crew's unwillingness to break with Picard that led to Picard being in the situation where he's showing very un-24th-century lack of control.

That said, I sort of think that the philosophy still tilts toward 24th-century humans being better. Picard and Cochrane are (sort of) the two protagonists, with Lily and Riker as the time-shifted companions. Cochrane's triumph comes from an abandoned missile silo, and in general we find that he and the others have been (ha) "warped" by the trauma of...human civilization's collapse from WW3, which is by humans. He would have done the flight, we presume, but Riker needs to help him get over what is basically a technical setback (from the Borg shooting the Phoenix etc.), combined with his own reticence to be selfless. Picard is basically a selfless man who usually has his darker impulses under control, but it takes the extraordinary event of the Borg trauma to bring out his darker impulses. Even there, the 24th century society has a general way of dealing with that type of extreme trauma -- they have Picard be counselled and they keep him away from the battle which will trigger an emotional relapse -- but Picard ignored it; and so it takes someone closer to large-scale horror (21st century) to trigger Picard's self-healing.

To further the comparison with Star Trek IV, the subtext of ST4 is maybe actually that we *do* have to save our own asses in the 20th century (now 21st); however, we are not doing that. The fantasy of 23rd century types coming to save us from ourselves is maybe (in the subtext) more of a metaphor for how the *idea* of an enlightened future can be the thing that gives people like Gillian the courage to make changes in the present. There's some of that in STFC, with Riker giving Cochrane the hope etc. I think the Picard thing suggests how history and myth can inspire a person when they fall; occasions in which humanity as a whole raised itself up from its darkest impulses can help an individual do something like the same thing.

I am not sure how this all fits together, but I'll add that I think that the film seems to suggest that Picard was also right to defy Starfleet orders, because he understands the Borg to do the deus ex thing in the battle, but also because he eventually goes and confronts the Borg Queen, which, uh, I forget if that actually matters (I think it's mostly for dramatic effect), but he does destroy the Queen. I don't think it's Picard's *barbarism* which saves the day, and it is shown to be wrong, but I think it's suggested that somewhere in his psyche, Picard has a connection to the Borg which allows him to understand and defeat them, and that the rage is actually even *covering up* some of this insight. It's implied that he has repressed memories of the Queen wanting a counterpart which he only gets when he returns to her--and so the rage was partly some sort of defense mechanism against this. This is all weird psychodrama stuff, which maybe doesn't even make sense in Trek terms, which I still like anyway (partly because FC blew my mind when I saw it when I was 10). It's as if Picard needed to make peace with his barbaric instincts in order to access the real truth of what the Borg wanted, which runs in parallel to Data gaining the upper hand over the Queen by leveraging her temptation of him, and that the 24th century non-barbaric humanity doesn't fully prepare him for acknowledging and then putting aside his worse emotions. The problem, I think, is that I think within the series generally Picard was not meant to be someone who didn't understand that he could feel anger and hatred, etc., but someone who could recognize and get over them, and so we have to maybe jump to saying that the Borg experience (and the implied repressed, even psychosexual memories) messes with his usual ability to keep himself in perspective. I don't even mind that so much, though I think it's also true that the crew should have recognized that something was off with his judgment.
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William B
Tue, Jun 6, 2017, 11:43am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Loss

@Robert, I thought of "The Masterpiece Society" too, and I agree LeVar adds a great edge to it. (I added "generally" to the discrimination line to account for moments like that -- and any others I can't think of.)

I think that it's worth noting that the Romulans' using his VISOR in "The Mind's Eye" is especially despicable because of using his disability against him -- not exactly "discrimination" in the sense we're talking about, but very brutal.
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William B
Tue, Jun 6, 2017, 11:33am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Loss

Geordi indicates in The Naked Now how much he misses that he can never see a sunrise or Tasha's beautiful face, and does *want* to see in Hide and Q, even though he ultimately rejects it as a lie. I think we can reasonably believe that people generally don't discriminate against Geordi for being blind without it meaning that he doesn't feel a sense of sadness at being shut out from an experience felt by most humans.
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William B
Tue, Jun 6, 2017, 10:54am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Loss

Also what Peter G. said.
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William B
Tue, Jun 6, 2017, 10:52am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Loss

In fact, I actually like some things about this episode -- the Riker "aristocratic" scene I mentioned is pretty great. I don't mind Troi dealing with her loss in a way that reads as (and is) self-absorbed, because I find it pretty believable and realistic. I don't think the episode does much to have Troi actually break through and gain real understanding of other people, or of the crew to gain a real understanding of Troi, which is why I think it largely deserves the general disdain it's held in, despite the things I like about it.
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William B
Tue, Jun 6, 2017, 10:48am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Loss

Right, but part of this episode seems to be a disability metaphor. Troi's disability is hard to relate to in some ways because she loses a power that most humans don't have. Nevertheless, if they *are* going for disability, there's an opportunity to deal with it by having Troi interact with the disabled member of the cast. It's not even that Geordi could necessarily help Troi that much, but I think it'd add a lot to the episode as a drama.

But it's possible the episode is a bit of a non-starter because she loses a power that no one in our world actually has. This is why Riker's "aristocratic" accusation maybe has some weight -- there is a bit of a "poor little rich girl" vibe here, where Troi has to suffer the unbearable fate of...being like other people. And I think that doesn't mean that it isn't a horrible and painful loss, at all -- anything that is central to a person's identity is hard to lose. But it also seems as if Troi doesn't quite get to the point where she adjusts to recognizing that her experience post-loss is actually what other people go through all the time. She sort of does, but I'm not sure if she learns that much, besides some generic "have confidence in yourself" lesson. I think that she maybe does view her empathic powers at the episode's end much more as a gift that she should treasure, rather than a default setting she takes for granted, the loss of which she should mourn, which is something.

This is one frame, though; if we look at it from Troi's perspective, it's awful, especially since this is part of her connection to (one of her) species. But I think that element of the story gets lost, too. I mean, imagine how her relationship with her mother would change if she could no longer communicate telepathically. There are lots of angles the episode could have taken, I think, to make the episode richer and deeper. I don't hate it like many do, but it plays to me as (jokey reference intended) pretty 2D.
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William Barklam
Fri, May 12, 2017, 5:53pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: Turnabout Intruder

Definitely one of my favourite Third Season episodes. I don't get all the outrage that this is sexist. The fact is that Dr Lester was probably passed over for captaincy not because she was a woman, but (a) she is unhinged (b) she's a Doctor, not an officer aiming for the top position. I mean seriously how many Doctors have you seen in the captain's chair? None ! As to Kirk's assent that it's not fair she wasn't considered, you have to remember the context in which that line was spoken. Kirk is visiting his old flame who, as far as he has been led to believe, is dying. Of course he's going to agree with her-he's clearly humouring her to appease her in what he thinks are her final moments. As to the notorious final line which seems to upset a lot of fans, I'm afraid I can't empathise with that outrage. What Kirk is saying is that Dr Lester's life could have been as rich as any woman's because the most successful women would focus on the strengths that they have as women, maybe different is some cases to the strengths that men have, but no less important. I think it's a compassionate line, not a sexist or patronising one. The bottom line to this episode's message is that Dr Lester is not penalised for being a woman ( though SHE thinks she is ) but rather given a wide berth because of her mental instability. When Shatner portrays Lester in Kirk's body, he's acting hysterically not because he's emulating a woman, but a very disturbed and unhinged individual who just happens to be female. And the other reason is that this episode is not sexist is that for at least half of the episode Lester does a pretty good job of being captain. So the underlying message here is "Yes, a woman CAN captain a starship" It's only Lester's own panic that she will be found out that puts a stop on her leadership skills on the bridge. I personally find this a thrilling, suspense-ridden episode with both Shatner & Smith at the top of their game, especially in the wonderful courtroom scene. Certainly compared to frankly turgid episodes such as "The Savage Curtain" and "The Mark of Gideon" ( both episodes with hardly any pace or energy to them at all ) "Turnabout Intruder" was a healthy dose of wild melodrama, excellent special effects, thoughtful acting, and an overall interesting take on the eternal Battle of the Sexes in an innovative sci-fi context.
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William B
Mon, May 1, 2017, 4:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S3: Yesterday's Enterprise

"And to be fair, this wasn't an isolated incident, because there was literally no mention at all of Crusher leaving the ship prior to being introduced to Dr. Pulaski."

I dunno. Not to defend The Child overly, it devoted an entire B plot to Wesley trying to decide whether to join Beverly at Starfleet Medical. It was maybe in media res (Crusher already off the ship) but the show spent time establishing where she was and how that affects the regular most closely associated with her in the first episode where she's absent.

Re the general topic, Armus specifically underlined that he killed her for no reason, and that's why he did it. It's not hard to see why the crew didn't exactly see the poetry in a death which wasn't even an accident but an act taken out of malevolent nihilism.
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William B
Tue, Apr 4, 2017, 12:08am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S6: Memorial

@Chuck, if you check the thread for "The Inner Light," there are some people who bring up the "mind-rape" elements of the Kataan probe.

That said, I think that there's a simple reason why that idea comes up more for this episode than for "The Inner Light": Janeway makes the active decision to repair the war-influencing beacon. There is no equivalent in "TIL." In fact, there is no dialogue from Riker, Crusher or the rest, and in fact not even from Picard, in favour of what the Kataan probe did to Picard. Picard treasures the flute at the end, and we gather from there (and from his reference to it in "Lessons") that he treasures the experience rather than seeing it as a bad thing, but that's also a pretty deeply personal, internal thing, and Picard does not have to render any kind of judgment on whether anyone else should go through it. For me and for a lot of fans, I suspect, evaluating the morality of the actions of a long-dead, non-human civilization is less important than evaluating the moral choices of the show's protagonists.
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William B
Thu, Mar 30, 2017, 3:08am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Bounty

Well, again, I haven't seen this episode. And I haven't watched those SFDebris reviews, for that matter -- so maybe I just missed the big sex-negative movement. But anyway, I mean, "sexualized character is interested in sex" can be a necessary condition for liking a sexytimes Trek story, without being a sufficient one -- it still has to not suck, which is of course the problem most people (including me) have with, e.g., Let He Who Is Without Sin, and some (not me, because I haven't seen) have with this one.
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William B
Wed, Mar 29, 2017, 1:12pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Bounty

"The 90s were, to me, a really bad time for this kind of thing. You had this kind of corporatized PG13 level of tittilation that seemed gratuitous and exploitative yet tame and prudish at the same time."

I very much agree, Jason R. It's really frustrating in this time because it's like there is an intense prudishness about actual sex or sexuality combined with the exploitative outfits. Part of what's frustrating is that with Seven and T'Pol (at least early T'Pol -- I only saw s1 and some of s2, and I gather that she's eventually allowed to be a sexual being rather than sex object), they read as purely adolescent fantasies partly *because* it seems inconceivable that they could actually have sex or be so interested -- to appeal to teens who are hormonal but also threatened by sex (and especially by female desire, as opposed to desirable females). And that genuinely seems to be part of the design -- as if people being sex objects for audience purposes is what they want, in order to sell the shows, but for them to be sexual beings with their own desires would be a bridge too far and might alienate people.

I'm not apoplectic about it, but it certainly makes the shows feel tacky and hollow.
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William B
Wed, Mar 29, 2017, 10:04am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S2: Bounty

I am also reminded of Ron Moore's comment in his famous Voyager rant about Seven's outfit -- if you want her to be sexualized, have her be interested in sex. Seven is put in a body suit which is designed to be super attractive for audiences but has no organic role in story. Most of the people who complain about the titillation in costuming divorced from actual characterization don't complain about all the sex (and the titillation associated with the sex) in BSG. I can't speak to this particular episode, though.
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William B
Sat, Feb 25, 2017, 10:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

@Peter, right, I mean, my point wasn't really supposed to be that Daystrom himself is *particularly* unhinged and always has been. Rather, Daystrom thinks that he's a good model, and the reason is simple enough -- Daystrom is also self-evidently a genius. And under normal circumstances, he would be a good example of what is good in humanity: he's brilliant, creative, altruistic, working toward the betterment of the species. His flaw turns out to be monomania; his obsession with prioritizing the M-5 above all else ended up spilling over into the M-5 prioritizing...itself over all else. But I think that other people have different flaws, which when wedded to an Ultimate Computer-style starship which is expected to fulfill the function of dozens of humans would also be disastrous. I think Daystrom's breakdown suggests both that, as you indicate, he had put too much of his hope in machines, and also that he also was overloaded. We learn that he succeeded early in life, was seen as a whiz kid (something of a human computer) and then has spent the rest of his life trying to live up to those expectations, sort of like Stubbs tells Wesley in "Evolution"; while Daystrom has an inflated ego, it's not simply arrogance but some fundamental lack of conception of his worth outside his success. This overloading is similar, maybe, to M-5's overloading, but it also fits in well with the idea of a person desperately seeking a way to do away with human failings. I'll have to think about it.

In some ways, there is also a parallel between Daystrom and Kirk -- because Kirk also may in fact need to feel useful even if, as he acknowledges at one point, he is *not* needed as captain anymore. Daystrom mostly seems to want to make everyone else obsolete, and there may be some latent sense of revenge on Federation society in it -- he wants to make everyone feel like he felt, after his own tech made *him* obsolete, to the point where his only possible use to society seems to be an apparently unattainable goal. Kirk's ability to question his motives seems to be the thing that sets him apart from Daystrom at this moment -- but this is by no means an indication that Daystrom is congenitally a madman, so much as that extreme fame and adulation followed by inability to meet one's lofty standard create perverse incentives and take a big psychological toll. In fact, maybe that's the trick -- Daystrom, whose own invention put *him* out of work, is the proof of the long-term psychological damage of replacing a person with a machine entirely. Daystrom's desire to have an even better machine seal his legacy by replacing all of humanity is not only self-destructive in the abstract, it's specifically almost a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, repeating-of-trauma -- Daystrom's sense of worth has eroded since his first big breakthrough. (It reminds me of the classic image of a gambler who wins big on his first time out, and then develops a strong addiction because that rush/depression pattern is absolutely set early on, though I do think we are meant to see Daystrom as a genius rather than having succeeded by accident; very few people have one moment of humanity-changing brilliance, let alone multiple ones.)

Good point about HAL. I tend to think that even if he wasn't specifically programmed to kill the humans, he didn't particularly "malfunction," in that he was still following a logical course. The consequences of humans mucking up contact with alien life forms are too great to ignore, and it is logical from a certain perspective to eliminate potential sources of error and to maintain total control in what could be a major turning point in human history. This would make sense even if HAL was entirely programmed to put the mission (and the ultimate good of humanity) as a top priority.
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William B
Sat, Feb 25, 2017, 5:18am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

Skeptical, it's a good point that the M-6 could be imprinted with Kirk's brain. In my interpretation, the episode erred by having Daystrom go bonkers at the end, because I don't think the point was even that Daystrom was a particularly crazy or bad individual, so much that any computer created by humans (let's narrow the focus from aliens here, this is TOS and pretty human-centric) will inherit human flaws. The issue then is lack of balance. No individual human would be capable of running the Enterprise not just because of the physical or even computational demands, but because humans need constant checks and balances to keep from losing perspective. Kirk is in command, but he has Spock and Bones to constantly play off, and Kirk listens to them. But even if it weren't for that, Kirk has humility not to expect that he can run everything by himself -- or, indeed, the humility to recognize he's not perfect. Actually since Kirk sometimes has mild megalomanic traits, kept in check largely by his close attachment to Spock and McCoy, an M-6 designed on Kirk would also run into the same problems. The delusion is not that the M-5 is capable of running the ship's systems, but that it should and that its "judgment" will remain superior to humans', when it is still based on humans and so will likely not be a magic way of evading well-known human flaws. I think this is part of the point in 2001, as well -- HAL is a tool crafted by humans, and so his programming is still susceptible to "human error," just at a different point and level than human mistakes. Or, rather, HAL works perfectly according to the code as designed by its/his human programmers, and the underlying flaws in their thinking only become exposed once it runs its course, similar to (say) the underlying logic of the doomsday machine system (including both the tech circuitry and also the loyal soldiers following orders) in Dr. Strangelove.

I do see what you mean that it's a strawman because Kirk doesn't actually face The Ultimate Computer. But...I think the episode's point is that there *is* no "Ultimate Computer," or at least it's far further away than people think. If we define the Ultimate Computer as a computer capable of running a starship *technically*, then Kirk could outthink it with lateral thinking as is the case with most of the computers he faces; if the Ultimate Computer is a computer capable of human-style lateral thinking and creativity, as seems to be the case here, then it inherits human flaws along the way and so it is necessary to install the usual checks and balances, which really comes down to wanting a human making the final shots anyway. That Kirk outsmarts the computer in the traditional way here is, I agree, another flaw in the episode -- this computer should be smart enough not to fall for it, or else it *is* just another Nomad or whatever.

The other element, which the episode does talk about, and which I think would be better to look at squarely, is the question of whether computers running things, even if they could be entirely trusted, would be whether human dignity would be removed/ruined by giving power to the machine. And I think most stories still use the idea that computer-run societies will end up being some kind of dystopia to avoid the issue of whether a fully pleasant computer-run world would really be so bad. I still think that the dystopia argument has value because I think that there are lots of reasons to suspect that any system designed by humans will eventually run into human-like problems, but, still, it is hypothetically possible that this is not the case, and then there is still an issue of whether humans should avoid over-reliance on machines for their decision-making, even if those machines are genuinely able to make those decisions better. That's what this episode seems to be about for a time, and I value what it "turns out" to be about...but, yeah, I would also like to see that other story.
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William B
Fri, Feb 24, 2017, 2:55am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

Interestingly, I was going to make something of the opposite point to Peter, though in a way that is not inconsistent. The episode actually suggests that the M-5's value is not just because it can do normale computer things, but because it goes beyond usual computing into the domain of people -- creative thinking and all that. Specifically, this is because Day Strom programmed it with his own memory engrams. When the computer goes haywire, it is because it has inherited Daystrom's flaws as well as his strengths. I tend to see the message of this particular element as that computers are still created and programmed by people, and so will always be limited by the people who made them. The computer's apparent usefulness was that it could match human genius without flaws, but that was wrong, and the reveal that there is no machine utopia allows Kirk's Imperfect humanity to be back in command. There is a similar story in TNG where Data and Lore "inherit" some of Soong's flaws, though this is much more pronounced in Lore and Data was deliberately created to be aware of his limitations and to want to coexist with rather than dominate humans.

To build off Peter's point, Daystrom going insane may be a way of showing that the danger of thinking that machines can supplant, rather than supplement, humans is that the humans who subscribe to this may develop their own machine-like flaws. Daystrom's inability to think of the universe in terms besides efficiency and the attainment of his goals (and his inability to conceive of his own worth) make him kind of computer-like, as does his social isolation. This ends up enhancing his human flaws, which again seems to result from hanging his identity on a dream of escaping from human flaws entirely. I think the end can be both that Daystrom has made the mistake of thinking like a machine, and that M-5 is dangerous because it "thinks" like a person, though it is maybe a bit complicated.
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William B
Fri, Feb 17, 2017, 1:36pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S7: Inheritance

I'll certainly grant that it's implausible that Julianna could be so well-designed as to fool scanners, and it's a big buy in the episode that Julianna gets her head smashed by a rock during the episode's events.

I think Soong makes sense, though. It's a retcon, of course, and that carries with it some of the usual retcon problems, but I think it makes sense for Soong's character. He was never after fame per se, certainly -- he went to an isolated community to do his experiments, for example. I also think that his original intent was not to reproduce a human but to improve on humans -- hence Lore was super-smart, super-strong, while also having human feeling. That worked out badly, and so Data is still super-smart and super-strong without emotions. He talked in "Brothers" about wanting his children to carry on his legacy/be better than him. So certainly Julianna is more advanced in terms of representation of humans, but that wasn't *all* of Soong's original goal, which was to create a *new* life form. Julianna is more of an achievement than Data in that sense, but it also makes sense that Soong would still work on finding a way to fix Data after Julianna left, because he wants to make up for what Data is missing.

As far as Julianna being a better achievement that people would look to recreate, well, yeah, that's why he kept her being an android a secret. I think after the Crystalline Entity struck and all, the best Soong could really hope for is to mitigate the damage he's done, rather than create a new, positive legacy. Data is his positive (public) legacy, and so he tinkers on making Data better while people think he's dead; and Julianna is his personal legacy, his attempt to atone for being responsible for her death. Because he's still an egomaniac, it's a kind of frightening kind of legacy, where he even leaves the choice of whether or not Julianna should know the truth with his son or even some random observer rather than acknowledge Julianna's own agency (as a person or a robot).

Just to add a bit of my own take on this episode: I tend to read Data's not telling Julianna the truth as a bit of a downbeat, somewhat tragic moment late in Data's arc. I think that pre-"Datalore," Data might have simply followed Soong's instructions; mid-series, I think Data would have optimistically told Julianna the truth. The reason he doesn't here is not because Soong told him to -- he specifies in the conference room scene that he doesn't think Soong's wishes are paramount. It seems to be more because of Troi's comment that he'd be taking something away from Julianna that he himself wanted -- the recognition of being fully human. Most of the conversations between Data and Julianna end up having to do with the string of bodies, human and android, in their wake -- the colonists are dead, Soong is dead, Lal is dead, Lore is dead -- and one of the big moments in the episode is Data trying to find out from Julianna why she left him on Omicron Theta rather than take him with her, and the answer was more or less that she loved him, but what Lore had done was so heinous that she couldn't trust Data wouldn't turn out the same way. By this point in the series, especially post-"Descent," where Data chooses not to put in the emotion chip (at least for a while), I think Data has lost some faith in the Become Human Project; that he really *might* turn out to be like Lore if he didn't continue to restrain himself and hold himself back. I think his decision not to tell Julianna is based on this loss of faith -- Data now seems more uncertain that an android can become close to human, and Julianna's sense of her humanity may even be endangered by her knowing she's an android. And I think he maybe weighs Julianna's not rescuing Data because he was an android into effect, too, not out of petty revenge but because despite her ability to love him, she *didn't* see him as fully a person those years ago, and maybe wouldn't be able to see herself that way now, either. This is part of why I've never had a problem with Data not telling her, because I don't think this point is that Data is "right" but that it tells us something about Data's tragic condition and how he sees himself.

In response to earlier comments that Beverly should have told her -- that's probably true. It does seem like Julianna should know her own medical situation. And if we take Julianna's rights seriously as a person, it doesn't make sense for Picard et al. to leave the decision with *Data*. But I think they defer to Data because, well, android rights maybe aren't as settled as it seems. "The Measure of a Man" established that Data is *not* property, but numerous other episodes, including "The Offspring," "Clues," arguably even "Descent" (where Data shuts down Lore rather than trying to bring him into custody), and possibly (see recent discussion) "The Most Toys" suggest that android rights are still a fuzzy area where the right to procreate, not be disassembled for lying, and not to be *summarily* executed after committing serious crimes are still a little undefined and up in the air. No one quite knows what to do in this situation, so they defer to Data because Data is the one who seems most able to identify what being an android would be like. This is probably not actually a good or appropriate idea, but ties in with the overall theme that androids are still subtly treated as apart from other beings, even by Data's closest friends.
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William B
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 9:43am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

Jason, I agree with you If Starfleet truly treated Data like another sentient being. However there are pieces of evidence that go against that, such as The Offspring. Moreover, I think that besides 'rights' in the broadcast sense, Data is an intense security risk if he can't be trusted. I think this is part of why the writers, the other characters and Data himself often treat him as a cherub, as Peter put it. If killing people is an option for Data, that suddenly makes him a lot scarier, even if he was justified in this particular case.

Further, I suspect that personal, emotional components would factor into seeing killing Fajo as justified. But Data doesn't appeal to those, which is itself kind of frightening. Data could in principle just wait out Fajo's death without experiencing inner torment in the way a humanoid would, even though Data would still suffer in a harder to understand Data-ish way. I'm not advocating that Data was wrong, just that I think it's reasonable to think Starfleet would have concerns about Data's action, and I think Data recognizes that his friends (personally) and Starfleet (professionally) might not approve and to play it close to the chest.
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William B
Tue, Feb 7, 2017, 11:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S3: A Matter of Perspective

Well, I agree with Tara about the episode, particularly since she brought up my comments positively :). And I think Tara/Jason R. are correct that the show doesn't really present a gender dynamic substantially different from what we mostly see today --

And yet, I think Peter is right in what we are supposed to assume of the world in Trek. To use the Riker example, a modern-day Riker who was completely unaware that someone might find him overbearing or even threatening would be insulated from the reality of what women face. This could be seen as a symptom of the problems of a male-dominated society -- men have the "option" of choosing not to see what is wrong around them. There are lots of other "symptoms" that we can point to -- women having fewer high-ranking positions than men, etc. -- which are also problems in their own right, but in our world could be seen as part of larger problems. I think that the 24th century world is probably one where the symptoms are still there, because the symptoms are present in the writing staff and also because symptoms tend to last...but the larger disease is "cured," or at least in remission. That's what is being presented, is what I mean. In the 21st century analogue, Riker would himself be horrified if he saw an association between his behaviour and women being frightened of him, because Riker wouldn't think of himself as dangerous to women in the least, or as having anything in common with those who do. In the 24th century analogue, he'd be even more horrified, because those who do apparently don't exist. If Rikers can exist today who are non-violent but clueless about how they come across, I think it's plausible for Rikers to exist in the future who are even more non-violent, and even more clueless, because that violence is even further away. To the more general set of examples Tara presents, I agree that they paint a pretty weird picture -- it's particularly weird to think of how much Worf gets away with almost doing, especially, when it comes to violence.

I gotta say that while Kirk's womanizing was mostly played for laughs and as something cool, which only really comes under the microcope in "Wrath of Khan" where we also find out he's got a son in the background, in Riker's case I really do detect the show making fun of him, at least sometimes. I don't think it's seen as harmful, but there's a sense that he's being immature, especially since it seems to be a way to avoid commitment with Troi (or maybe Ro, even). I tend to think it's a mommy issues thing, not in a strict Oedipal sense but in a fear of commitment because his mother died so young and his father and he fell apart soon after.
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William B
Tue, Feb 7, 2017, 10:55pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: I, Borg

In "Q Who," the idea of assimilation wasn't even entered into the picture. The Borg *were* a race. And they had babies. We don't know exactly how those babies were born -- but it seemed as if they were produced internally, rather than assimilated. It's only in "BOBW" when assimilation was presented as an option. So it's by no means clear that Hugh ever had a life before he was Borg; I think he was born a Borg and lived a Borg. And even if he wasn't, he was assimilated at an early enough age that he doesn't remember any other existence, so there is no other fundamental him that the Borg took away from him. The Borg adding numbers by both birth and by assimilation, and while the latter doesn't qualify them as a race, the former does. Voyager sort of made assimilation the primary way Borg operated, but I think that's not assumed to be the primary way Borg perpetuate as an organization or species in this episode.
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William B
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 10:46am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

Well, sort of. I think it says more about Riker's issues (commitment-phobia, dead mother) than it does about he world that Riker gets attached to Minuet so much. But I think Minuet is still "supposed to be" really special -- and thus Tara's point that she is depicted as a certain kind of woman's role in the show makes sense. Although, she was always meant to be a too-good-to-be-true fantasy; it maybe just sucks that this is what Riker's fantasy is. She is not wholly subservient; she is meant to have some spark and aggressiveness and challenge Riker a bit -- but, obviously, only enough to entice him and not enough to be independent enough to scare him. I think 11001001 is pulling some of the same trick as Peter suggests this episode is, but is less sophisticated about it -- though 11001001 also has more plot elements than this one, and Min is less central to that than Kamala is here.
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William B
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 10:32am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

@Robert, I get what you mean about Minuet, but Riker and Picardy treat it/her as being very different from other holodeck characters, and in Future Imperfect we are told that Riker still has a strong emotional attachment to her years later. I don't think Minuet *was* intended as a sex toy on the authorial level, or rather she was meant to be person enough to floor Riker.
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William B
Wed, Feb 1, 2017, 10:13am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

My take:

I think that the TOS model was supposed to be that Trek is post-sexism, post-racial. Hence Lincoln's line to Uhura saying he should have realized that racism was so far in the past that he did not have to choose his words as carefully to avoid imagined offense. TNG, I think, is/was meant to be similar. However, the three white male adult actors are still the three top officers on the ship, with he twor playing human adult white men being the top officers. Crusher, Pulaski and Troi are highly-ranked women but outside the chain of command, with Troi's job only intermittently being taken seriously. Yar was probably the next in command after Data in season one, as a full lieutenant who was part of the chain of command, but the character was poorly executed (writing and acting) and then was...poorly executed (by Armus).

So TNG didn't quite present a post-racial, post-sexism TV show, but I think Starfleet itself, and Picard, is still meant to be beyond 1980s/90s sexism. For the most part I think Picard is. But I think Peter's read, which I agree with, indicts Picard to a degree -- for failing to fully recognize Kamala's plight until he is confronted, first by Crusher, then by a Kamala specifically imprinted to speak his language. And that implies the episode takes place in a sexist world, which Picard is ultimately not above. Now, I think the analogue to Kamala is mostly princesses or other royals who are meant to make peace between warring faction by marriage, and so whose "job" is to be beautiful. I think it is a reality of human history that this exploitative role was more often expected of women than men, and I think this episode comments on that. However, it is hard to see Picard coming under the criticism that he is part of the sexist institution, because we don't think of Picard that way and the show generally does not portray him that way. In that sense, this episode seems like a criticism of all of TNG for failing to note some of the show's biases...but it is subtle enough that this episode could rightly be criticized for still living within those boundaries. And the critique the ep puts forth, if Peter is correct (and I believe he is) is not something the show maintains.

So IMO Tara is absolutely right about the show in general, it is just a question of whether this episode suffers from the same faults of the show as a whole or whether it undermines them -- but maybe is insufficient on its own at underlining the limutations of the ostensibly utopian future.
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