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William B
Sun, Aug 20, 2017, 1:57am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Time and Again

One more thought: I was thinking of Pompeii (in addition to Chernobyl) in the early scenes of the ep, which generally worked for me, and I think living more fully with a civilization about to be destroyed (maybe without the Prime Directive elements, which are a little tiresome after all that TOS/TNG did with it) might have been a better direction for the episode.
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William B
Sun, Aug 20, 2017, 1:41am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Time and Again

The second consecutive episode with (to use Bashir's term from "Trials and Tribble-ations") a pre-destination paradox. Really?

Anyway, yeah, I agree with the general consensus on this episode's overall quality. I will say I don't have the reaction to Janeway wanting to not get involved in the planet's upcoming catastrophe that others do, partly because I think part of the point of the PD is that it's really important to impose strict limits on Starfleet officer's authority lest they develop god complexes; saving one civilization is maybe a good by itself, but the temptation to abuse the power of interference is too great for the next civilization around. It's even worse in this case than in some "natural disaster" eps because the civilization destruction seems to be self-inflicted (before it turns out it's a paradox etc.). In this case it's not really about fairness or even in some cases about the good of an individual species but about heading off god complexes on the part of Starfleet, which comes up often in Trek (in fact, it's pretty foundational; The Cage has the Talosians as vain quasi-gods and Where No Man Has Gone Before is about the dangers of a human developing godlike powers at the space frontier without the experience necessary to wield it properly). In that sense, it's even more important for Janeway to not start randomly interfering when she's far from home, because the temptation to start rewriting the universe is greater with no oversight. I think that the PD is maybe somewhat arbitrary in practice, but I get it as fundamental principle that should only be broken in very specific instances.

Anyway, yeah, this ends up being pretty dull, without much character work to speak of. The Doctor's "voyage of the damned" scene is great. I guess maybe the thing with Paris and the kid is significant especially since we were reminded of Paris' contentious relationship with his father; the kid has an Important Father too, after all, and maybe Paris' initially antagonistic and later warm interaction with the child tells us about Paris' dislike and underlying compassion for himself. The episode flirts with making some kind of statement about dangerous energy sources and environmentalism (along with eco-terrorism) but doesn't really build to any point -- we don't even learn what the eco-terrorists' actual plan was, nor is there any attempt to give any hints as to what this civilization is going to do, if their super-dangerous energy system will blow them up a year from now or whatever. It's refreshing I guess that they don't really try to push a "message," but what remains is just some hints at some kind of environmentalism-themed story without any actual, well, story. It becomes pretty painful to sit through the "integrating into society, pretending to be from another province, getting kidnapped after a demonstration," etc. scenes, none of which really go anywhere. And Janeway and Paris end up passive through most of this, which makes it harder to watch.

The longterm arc significance is mostly the Kes hints, I guess. I don't really mind the reset button in and of itself -- whatever, as people said above, if we learn something about the characters, it doesn't matter if they learn it too -- but it's maybe a bit much in the third episode. A misfire. 1.5 stars.
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William B
Sun, Aug 20, 2017, 1:23am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Parallax

Skeptical's comment pretty perfectly sums up my feelings about the episode -- I agree that the Torres material was decent but the Chakotay stuff was a highlight and that the SF plot was weak, especially given their flagrantly bad attempts to use real science. I am hopeful that Neelix's bizarre explanation of the event horizon was meant to be Neelix being an idiot, BS-ing a fake backstory to make himself seem impressive to Kes, except that his description of the event horizon as some kind of energy barrier yadda yadda seems to be the take the episode wants us to buy, too. Guys, just make up fake phenomena! Anyway the episode really does fall apart for me when it focuses on the SF plot, which is drenched in tech, makes little sense even on its own terms, and somehow is *also* too slow-paced and obvious (wasn't it clear to everyone that they were seeing the Voyager from early on?), but the character bits are worthwhile.

Regarding the issue of whether the Torres v. Carey thing is fairly handled, I think the general point here is that fairness doesn't come into it. I'm sympathetic to the point made above that Carey maybe didn't know that his job was in jeopardy, but I think the broader point is that no one was stopping Carey from coming up with the explanation for why they were in trouble; Torres supplied it because she's a quicker thinker and better scientist/engineer. Chakotay points out that attempting to assign seniority will give automatic preference for Starfleet personnel, and Janeway provides a good counterargument that Starfleet personnel *are* trained to work on starships in a particular way. But the bottom line is that Voyager's situation is unique. Its survival depends on having the best crew. Its survival should also depend on having crew who can control themselves, which is why Janeway's initial skepticism about Torres is *also* warranted. I think what we learn in this episode is that Janeway is a scientist before she's a commander, in her heart, and she tends to see Torres' intelligence and insight as a greater asset than Carey's competence and self-control, in a situation where they will be constantly encountering new phenomena. And I think that the idea of having a brilliant loose cannon is a pretty believable, appropriate trope -- lots of people who are gifted in one way or another also have big demons, in real life as well as in fiction. Janeway's looking to what is distinct about Voyager's situation, when they are far from reinforcements, from other starships is a good sign about her command ability. I think that stronger characterization of Carey would have helped the episode, certainly, and there was potential for Tuvok to make a stronger case to Janeway that discipline would be jeopardized by letting Torres off the hook for the punching and so on; having Tuvok and Chakotay play a kind of Spock-McCoy bifurcation with the captain balancing the two extremes probably would have worked. But yeah, I'm pretty happy with the personnel aspect of the episode overall.

I think the punching element has to be taken in the context the episode supplies -- it was an escalation, starting with a push and then Carey pushed back, and then finally punch; we also apparently learn that this type of thing is common on Maquis ships. This seems a bit of a dubious premise -- how do Maquis ships get anything done? -- but they're anarchists, I guess, whatever. It *is* the premise; Torres is a Maquis so picks up their habits, and she fit in with the Maquis because the Maquis was a place where her habits were tolerated and even encouraged. That guy with Seska talking openly about mutiny was hilarious -- the way the usual "We're with you" / "What does that mean?" type of exchange usually plays out is with a *slightly* more explicit take, not a "what I mean is, I will mutiny with you." Chakotay's scenes with Janeway really are great, and I love the idea that he really *is* partly looking out for his crew because he recognizes that if he doesn't, they will not be controllable and Voyager will fail, because it needs the Maquis aboard. This is also potentially a rationalization for Chakotay to play favourites.

If Torres' profs at the academy loved her so much, maybe one of them should have said something to her.

2.5 stars seems right given how incoherent the SF plot ended up being.
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William B
Tue, Aug 15, 2017, 2:30pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

If the only appearance of Khan was in "Space Seed" and he was never mentioned again, maybe it would be necessary to bring him up several times -- who knows what details in random (albeit iconic and memorable) TOS episodes are of such great importance, and even the major importance of the Eugenics Wars in the 20th century might be a detail in early TOS that sort of eventually got dropped from "important" canon. But I dunno. The Wrath of Khan is probably one of the five or so most famous works in the franchise. (I'd say maybe Tribbles, City on the Edge, WOK, The Voyage Home, and BOBW, in terms of general renown and cultural penetration, FWIW.) I don't think that multiple reminders were really necessary.
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William B
Sat, Aug 12, 2017, 12:16am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Caretaker

So, it begins. I'll *try* to keep comments on Voyager short, for my own sake, mostly. This will probably be an exception, ha. My wife (formerly girlfriend) and I just watched Caretaker tonight, and I think we'll probably continue.

So overall, it was okay -- but I was left disappointed. Not terribly disappointed, because I didn't remember Caretaker being that strong. Still, I think the episode doesn't quite succeed in the goals it seems to set for itself.

The biggest flaw, which many seem to agree on, is Janeway's decision to destroy the array at the episode's end. Unlike many, I don't really have a problem with Janeway making a call to strand her ship and crew for a higher moral imperative. I suppose I don't even necessarily have a problem with her violating the Prime Directive in doing so. I do have a problem with the way in which this central, series-defining decision played out. Now, Elliott has argued that Janeway's decision here recurs throughout the series, in large ways and small, and that it's by no means decided the moment that Janeway does it, and I will keep an eye out for that. There is indeed something interesting about that idea -- about resting a series on a momentary, almost instinctual decision by a main character, in which we in principle already have all the information at the time she makes it, but have a whole lots of hours left in which to consider its ramifications and so on. In this way of looking at it, it might not even matter much that Janeway didn't particularly explain herself, because there's a whole series to explore that. I like the idea, but I'm maybe skeptical about it in practice (or that this is what ST:V actually does). We'll see.

Evaluating the episode by itself: I think the decision to have Janeway make a choice to strand the crews in the DQ is a great idea, overall, dramatically. The ships being brought to the DQ was basically an Act of God (or godlike being), over which the crews had no control, but having Janeway make the call to strand them there restores her character's agency and creates a baseline of responsibility that Janeway feels for the rest of the series for the plight of her crew. The problem is that despite the running time, Caretaker leaves out huge amounts of information we need to understand and make our own minds up about Janeway's decision, to say nothing of having her justify it beyond "we didn't want to be involved...but we are" sophistry.

Let's, for a moment, leave out that she's stranding the ship by her decision, assume that Janeway's moral obligations to act (or not to act) go beyond her own crew's (and Chakotay's crew's) safety, which actually does work for me -- the Ocampa species hangs in the balance, possibly. Let's take it as a sort of star system of the week one of the Enterprises might have encountered. Why *is* this Banjo Man-Ocampa-Kazon situation different from any other Prime Directive situation? And if it's not, does this mean that Janeway rejects the PD? Does Janeway really have enough information to conclude that the Kazon shouldn't get access to the Caretaker's array? Does she actually believe the story she tells about the Ocampa being stronger than Banjo Man thinks they are, when, you know, Banjo Man *destroyed their planet* and their barely-livable surface is apparently ruled by a Kazon tribe? I feel like if this were a (good) TOS or TNG episode, there would be a long discussion between Kirk/Picard and the senior staff, where they weigh the pros and cons of interference, try to separate the letter and spirit of Federation law, and so on. There's a lot of fuzziness about how the PD applies to superior-powered beings, and many episodes, like A Private Little War or Redemption II, feature the Enterprise captain specifically running interference on an enemy species interfering in the internal affairs of another. So Janeway is maybe in a grey area, where Banjo Man has already "interfered" in the Ocampa system (first by destroying the Ocampa planet's surface, then by restructuring their society so that he can preserve them) and can act to stop him from further interfering with the Kazon. But she's also in a situation she knows nothing about, where all she has to go on is that the Ocampa look friendly and the Kazon look like jerks, and the presumably self-serving narrative peddled by the Caretaker who by his own admission kidnaps and fatally experiments on people from all around the galaxy in order to procreate (?). What if the Kazon were harmed by the Caretaker too? Maybe here we have to just accept the surface narrative, which later episodes will support, that the Kazon are dirty, grimy bastards and the Ocampa are smiling children who "need to grow up," but even the most generous reading I can supply still leads to the contradiction that it still seems like no matter what Janeway does, the Ocampa are becoming a slave race in five years when their supplies run out and they head to the surface where Kazon mining operations are still running. A little dialogue on why Janeway feels it's her responsibility to interfere this far but no further -- in fact, exactly enough to set up the show! -- would have been nice and would have helped the episode, to put it mildly.

This probably bothers me because I also feel like Janeway and the others were largely left without many choices for the rest of the story; there were a few vague murmurs about investigating their situation, which mostly involved things like Paris and Kim looking around the barn where Banjo Man kept all his secrets. Really, the decision to destroy the array is not just the most important, but in some senses the first major decision Janeway makes in the episode after Voyager leaves DS9. We don't have enough sense of who she is to make total sense of it, despite Melgrew's always-great performance. And here I'll add that it's not as if there wasn't time in the episode to clarify this point. The entire sequence in the faux-folksy farm simulation could have easily been excised, the "crew teleported in, shots of crew being experimented on, crew teleported out" stuff could have been reduced to simply Kim and Torres being beamed away, there was lots of redundancy in the "Kim/Torres wait for their chance to escape" material, and so on. There are funny little details which seem like either half-finished set-pieces with no payoff or obvious padding, like that part in the tunnels when Kes informs the others that they have to not touch some energy barrier or their skin will come off. Knowing how the show will eventually be balanced, the disproportionate focus on Paris and his redemption story could easily have been toned down to make more room for establishing stronger, at least one-off-episode-strong pictures of the Ocampa and Kazon and a stronger sense of Janeway's values to get to that big moment.

I think I do get, though, why some of the material I'd consider extraneous was included, though. For example, the "simulation of Earth" stuff with Banjo Man strikes me as hoary and unnecessary, but it at least is setting up the theme of nostalgia, and the question of whether a Caretaker (parent?) has a responsibility to create the illusion of home. It strengthens what might be parallels between Janeway and Banjo Man -- Janeway ends up quasi-parent to two crews, as Banjo Man is a caretaker for the Ocampa, which we already get a sense of in her maternal instincts regarding Harry (see "at ease before your break something," or that "his mom called me about a clarinet" story) and Tom (for whom she's already serving as a representative for his own father, whom he maybe can impress). There's a tension between Janeway's humanist (sentient-life-ist?) belief in self-determination, for example of the Ocampa, and her belief that she needs to act as a shield to protect them, e.g. from the Kazon getting the Caretaker's technology, which maybe sets up her arc as captain: how much is her role to allow her crew maximum freedom to be themselves, and how much of it is to guide them with absolute authority (and maybe a "benevolent" iron fist) to protect them, to create an illusion of home to sustain them? Given that the Caretaker is himself responsible for the Ocampa's plight, as Janeway bears responsibility for stranding her crew, the parallel does tend to pop. And like the Caretaker who sets himself as a type of God, Janeway, cut off from Starfleet Command and the rest of the Federation, immediately gets total authority, beyond any real checks and balances; the first major decision she does is to break the Prime Directive, and unlike those times Kirk or Picard did it, there's no one even in principle to reprimand her for 75 years.

TORRES: What other way home is there? Who is she to be making these decisions for all of us?
CHAKOTAY: She's the Captain.

In principle, the rebellious anarchism of the Maquis and the humanistic, IDIC core of the Federation should run counter to Starfleet chain of command on a "mission" like Voyager's, in which people can't quit or put in for a transfer. The conflict between the IDIC/"we work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity" emphasis on personal growth and choice and the hierarchical nature of Starfleet isn't as big a deal on the Enterprise, where, yes, Kirk/Picard must be obeyed on any given mission but people can (and, in the case of e.g. Worf, do) get off any moment they like, even if there is a lot of sunk cost in career damage that might result. So it's with mixed feelings that I report that Janeway's iron fist is already on display, and Chakotay basically already surrendered any opposition before we even got to the ending where Janeway opens with talking about how the two crews will work together, then concludes with "It'll be a Starfleet crew." Is it lazy, five-seconds-from-the-end writing to establish the show's ground rules as fast as possible in a pilot already overstuffed, sometimes with stuffing that didn't seem terribly important? That was meant to be rhetorical, but, yeah, probably I'd say "yes": it seems bizarre to include all the set-up for the Maquis (over two other shows, no less) just to have Chakotay give up immediately, even if, let's face it, maybe this Starfleet/Maquis conflict concept for the show was doomed from the start. (The primary difference between the Maquis and other Federation citizens is their take on how best to deal with Cardassians in the de-militarized zone, which is precluded from ever coming up again, except through extreme contrivance; maybe the fault isn't with the later episodes of the show but with the whole idea that this astropolitical difference would matter enough half a galaxy away from the source of the conflict to build a show around.) But hey, maybe Chakotay falling in line behind Janeway in an episode whose story is about the Ocampa's unquestioning obedience to a flawed god isn't a complete coincidence. Will Janeway manage to preserve her crew, including the recently-added criminal anarchist wing, by giving them uniforms, a mission, and places on the chain of command? We'll see!

I had forgotten how much the episode is already leaning on the Paris/Kim and Tuvok/Neelix pairings. Neelix, I'm sorry to say, is mostly annoying already, though the fact that he was playing Janeway et al. to rescue Kes gives a bit of hope that the original conception of the character was someone who deployed his annoying traits as a way to fool people into underestimating him; the way he's unequivocally *dangerous* while holding onto the bumbling exterior (see the way he grabs the Kazon knife, or shoots their water supply) is an element that I think largely dissipated, for a while anyway, and will probably be missed. My understanding is that Paris was supposed to be a sort of co-protagonist in the original conception of the show, and that really comes across here; as with the Maquis material, I think that his "redemption," including heroic rescues and an immediate commission, happens too quickly and ends up being dramatically pat. B'Elanna (which she pronounces "Bay-Lanna" in this episode) gets little material but has one "ah yes, that's my KLINGON HALF" exposition moment; Harry is Harry, which isn't a problem for the first episode but will, IIRC, become one when he's mostly the same a few years later. Kes is a total blank except for her moment of moral responsibility when she convinces Neelix to stay and help. Picardo is great, but I don't really think the Doctor's material in this ep was that funny. Russ is a wonder at making a great deal out of small amounts of material, and I'm really looking forward to watching him more closely this time through. Chakotay -- well, I dunno. I don't think he comes across that strongly in this episode.

I've sort of talked myself into liking it more than I liked it while watching it, but I still think that the big things it needed to sell -- Janeway's decision to destroy the array, and then the combining of the Starfleet and Maquis crews -- were left pretty unsold, and in an episode that overall left me kind of cold, that's really damaging. I know that Parallax does more with the latter subject, though specifically with the Carey/Torres competition thing, so I'll see how that goes. For now, 2 stars.
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William B
Fri, Aug 11, 2017, 10:31pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: Emissary

Having just watched Caretaker and rereading my comment here, I don't know why I went for 2.5 rather than 3 stars. (I still wouldn't go to 3.5, probably.) I think that I tried to be a bit harsh on DS9 at times because it's so beloved (including by me) and at times I wanted it to be even better, but while I agree with my brief criticisms earlier, this episode is pretty successful as an intro.
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William B
Wed, Jul 26, 2017, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Best of Both Worlds, Part II

There's no question that Data would be in command under normal circumstances if Picard and Riker were incapacitated. But I think the idea is that Riker's field promotion in this episode was more official, since the idea is that they are going to fight a major battle and also that Picard has been treated as entirely lost. So there's more expectation that Riker will have to appoint an official XO, rather than having the chain of command basically kept as was. You would think that would be true in Gambit as well (where Picard was apparently dead), but I think the idea in Gambit is that it's treated as Riker leading the ship on a (low stakes compared with the Borg threat) mission before the command structure is finalized; Riker doesn't get a field promotion, for instance. Presumably eventually either Riker would be officially promoted to captain, and he'd choose Data or whoever to be his XO, or a new captain would be assigned, but maybe the urgency of investigating Picard's death allowed them some leave before a full restructuring would take place.
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William B
Thu, Jul 6, 2017, 2:01pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S7: All Good Things...

@phaedon, great comment. Love Q as the sphinx and the connection to the three ages of Picard, the Enterprise and her crew.
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William B
Mon, Jul 3, 2017, 7:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Course: Oblivion

@Robert, that's a great way to put it, yes. Although, in this case it was a sentient tree that fell in the forest :)
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William B
Sun, Jul 2, 2017, 10:44pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Course: Oblivion

Hm, I think that Course: Oblivion and Yesterday's Enterprise are different in a significant way in what their message is, to the point where I can see why Jammer, for one, dislikes one and loves the other. YE shows an alternate version of our crew, yes, and it shows their sacrifice, and we see Tasha's sacrifice. However, it's made very clear that their sacrifice actually does alter the course of history. The themes get doubled up because the episode is also about how a seemingly insignificant, pointless destruction of the Enterprise-C actually changed history in a huge way. It doesn't actually matter that people don't know about Tasha's sacrifice (at least until Redemption), or the sacrifice of the alternate Enterprise-D, or of the full significance of the Enterprise-C. As the audience, we can see the "objective" view that if it were not for these courageous people, including the alternate version of our crew, all would be lost. It's partly a war story, about how even sacrifices which seem unimportant in the short term can change the world.

With Course: Oblivion, the point seems to me to be very much that what happens to the alternate Voyager doesn't affect anything else. The real Voyager doesn't find out about them, and in that sense they're similar to the real Enterprise-D not learning of their alt selves' sacrifice. But the real Voyager is also apparently completely unaffected by them. We can maybe presume for ourselves that the alt-Voyager left some sort of lasting impact on the universe, but the narrative doesn't (unless I'm forgetting) supply any evidence of such. Apparently, the rest of the universe would be unchanged if this alt crew never existed. That's a bitter pill to swallow and I can see why people find it not worth taking. However, what C:O does is attempt to affirm that the alt-crew's lives meant something, *even if* it has no impact on any one else. If a tribe lives in total isolation on some island, and then eventually is wiped out without a trace by some volcanic eruption, does that render their lives pointless? I'd say no, and that is the episode's argument. That is actually very different from YE, which gets much of its strength from demonstrating to us how much what happened to the Ent-C and the alt Ent-D/Tasha meant to the whole narrative. That doesn't make C:O's themes better or worse than YE's, but I think it means that the "pointlessness" of C:O is much more important to it, whereas what happens in YE is not only not "pointless," but is shown to affect the entire world of Trek.

As to whether C:O executed the idea well that the alt-crew's lives still had meaning, even if they fail to achieve their goals, live on, or even affect the real crew -- I dunno. I saw it half my life ago. I think it stayed with me more than most Voyager episodes, for what that's worth, but I'm by no means sure that it didn't suck. I'm not so much defending it or condemning it as giving a take on what I think it was attempting.
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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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