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Elliott
Fri, Aug 21, 2020, 9:00am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Macrocosm

@Peter G

I'm certainly not going to defend this episode, but it's pretty harmless, regardless of intent. That's why it gets the score it gets from me. It's brainless, pointless, boring fluff.

@Jason R

The Episode as Functionary is--forgive me--the macroscopic view. If I make a blanket judgement of the whole episode in terms of what I gather the intended *function* to be (a farce, a serious commentary, a world-building story, a character piece, etc) and how well it succeeded at this aim. The act by act scores assess my enjoyment of the episode as it's happening. Sometimes I enjoy an episode far more or less than it "deserves" based on its overall success and that can affect the final score. There might be a great scene somewhere or a memorable performance that helps a bad episode or a pitiful production or cringey scene or bad characterisation that hurts a good episode. I hope that helps.
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Elliott
Thu, Aug 20, 2020, 3:00pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Macrocosm

Teaser : ***, 5%

Neelix and an alien are performing the world's worst pantomime of Dragonball Z known to man while Captain Janeway watches with a mixture of bemusement, horror, gratitude and disdain. Our heroes discuss whatever it is we just saw (which I should add was brief enough to be fairly amusing) on their shuttle ride back to the Voyager. The alien was from a race called the TikTok. Ah that explains why they're so annoying; they're a specious made entirely of Teen Influencers. Janeway thanks Neelix for his apparent instinct in mimicking the absurd gestures that accompany the TikToks' language. Well, it took five years, but we finally found a species more irritating than the Waadi from “Move Along Home.”

JANEWAY: It's a good thing you were there, Mister Neelix. I might have been shot at dawn.

Twice in as many weeks. For his ability to discern superstitious dance moves, Janeway “officially” promotes Neelix to the post of Ambassador. Considering the Voyager isn't likely to circle back to chat with most of the species it happens across, this is less insane than it sounds.

Anyway, just like in “Timescape,” the shuttle arrives at rendezvous coordinates only to find that the mother ship is adrift a lightyear away. They're unable to make contact with her, the escape pods are in place and, just like in “Genesis,” there's a bioelectric field in place blocking their scans. So Janeway tells Neelix to arm himself as they prepare dock. This teaser relies almost entirely on the ease of the dialogue and rapport of the characters which, considering one of them is Neelix, works quite well.

Act 1 : *.5, 17%

A quick review of ship's systems reveals some main programmes offline and a ruptured gel pack in the Mess Hall. Remember the gel packs? That computer circuitry that can catch a cold? The pair continue to wander about the ship in search of clues and crews. They stop by Sam and Naomi Wildman's quarters to see that Neelix' YouTube cooking variety show from “Investigations” is running on the monitor. They piece together that the mysterious catastrophe happened about eleven hours prior and then are distracted by what sounds like a giant wasp buzzing through the corridor. They follow this to the transporter room and find a hole with green goop dripping from the edges. Alien snot...

You know, I'm finding that I don't have anything to add to the observations about all the clichéd plot elements. I saw “Alien” once as a kid and don't really remember it. While I find the production, acting and music adequate for this milieu, mindless action of any sort does very little for me. I'm going to streamline a little to avoid the tedium.

While Neelix prattles on about his summers on Rinax, Janeway stares at her tricorder for absolutely no reason and barely tries to make conversation. I found that hilarious.
Neelix reminds Janeway that he only has one Ocampan lung. It's like continuity happy theatre day.

Act 2 : *.5, 17%

The crew keep a supply of big guns and bombs in a locker next the warp core. What could go wrong?

I actually think Mulgrew's choices in the action scenes are smart for the character. Janeway is being a badass because she has to, but she looks extremely awkward in the effort. She's a scientist first and her constant, by-the-books procedural pointing of her big ass gun showcase a real discomfort that help give a little insight into Janeway's frame of mind. Like Picard dealing with brats in “Disaster” or Sisko learning to perform Bajoran weddings, here we see the lead clumsily adopting new skills to cope with their circumstances.

Why to the macroviruses (er, spoiler I guess) buzz like insects? Do they have wings?
The mosquito-sized viruses emerging from the wound on Chakotay's neck was effectively disgusting.
The CGI for the beachball sized viruses in embarrassingly bad.

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

The Doctor's narrated flashback includes establishing shots of the Voyager over the alien planet. Amazing.
Robert Picardo manages to make the Magic Schoolbus Science seem almost plausible with his excited, childlike performance.

CHAKOTAY: Compassion is nothing to be sorry about, Doctor. It won't be the last time you're faced with a moral dilemma in the field.

File that one away.

The Doctor's flashback includes a flirtatious squabble between Torres and Paris. I'm calling it a draw because Beltran and Dawson have good chemistry.
Why exactly is Tom the backup cafeteria chef, anyway?

Act 4 : .5 stars, 17%

The macroviruses are driven by instinct. Of course they are.
I wonder if any of the Maquis crewmembers would be “I'm not wearing a mask, you pussy liberal cucks!” types. I can see that Bajoran kid from “Learning Curve” fitting the bill.

Act 5 : .5 stars, 17%

EMH: ...then I crawl through access port nine, go past three airlocks and then two decks down. Environmental Control's at the end of the hall. Now I remember. Who designed this ship anyway?
JANEWAY: Good luck.

If there had been any dramatic tension to speak of during this action climax, the arrival of the TikTok captain with his jazz hands completely vaporised it.
In this instalment of continuity happy theatre day, we are reminded that the holodecks have an independent power source from the rest of the ship.
An antigen bomb. I can't say more than that.
It wasn't earned, but I kind of liked the light jazz outro while Janeway did some painting. This is a little callback to “Sacred Ground,” where she lamented that it was her sister who was the artist in the family. In the wake of her little workout, she's taken up the hobby.

Episode as Functionary : *, 10%

The only parts of this episode that work are the inoffensive interstitial bits which could have (and should have) gone into any other episode. The production design elements fluctuated between adequate and laughably silly. The laborious action plot is poorly thought-out and pointless. I'm giving a single star instead of .5 (reserved for episodes that are so bad they're good; this one's too boring to qualify) or zero stars (reserved for episodes like “Tattoo” and “Let He Who is Without Sin” which actively damage the series or its characters). This one took itself a little more seriously than “Genesis,” which is to its detriment as there is something redeeming in the kitschiness of Deanna the Frog and all of that. Definitely skip “Macrocosm.”

Final Score : *
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Elliott
Wed, Aug 19, 2020, 9:30pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: In the Hands of the Prophets

@Joe

Yes, I agree. That is why the Prophets (and the Founders) do not work as analogues for post-pagan religions.
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Elliott
Wed, Aug 19, 2020, 8:59pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: In the Hands of the Prophets

@Jason R

That’a simply not true. In BSG, for example, I think the topic was mostly handled well, because the way that universe was constructed allowed the divine to be unprovable. There could have been some deistic force, or it could have been coincidence. The characters’ responses to those circumstances made for an engaging exploration of faith.

There are a few episodes of Star Trek that actually deal with religious faith in a positive and nuanced way. The way the Prophets manifest as the Benny Russel story is an excellent example from DS9. But DS9, despite pretences, treated real theology with about as much respect as “Threshold” treated evolutionary biology.
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Elliott
Wed, Aug 19, 2020, 2:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: In the Hands of the Prophets

@Tomalak

The issue is whether or not the Prophets deserve religious authority over the Bajorans, not whether they exist. There's a missing step that was never explored in the show, or rather was just sort of assumed to have been resolved. For me, that's the glaring misstep in the way DS9 handled the topic of religion.
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Elliott
Wed, Aug 19, 2020, 2:38pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: The Q and the Grey

@Peter G

That's where we part ways a bit. As I said, I think the idea set up in "Death Wish" of exploring how the Continuum works and that their supposed omnipotence was more politics than science (or magic) was excellent as well as morally necessary. In order to demonstrate the way the old propaganda would have to die, the allegory would have to use an historical event that had a similarly zeitgeist-shattering effect on humanity. The Civil War wasn't that at all, and that's why the episode breaks trying to cram the Q's struggle into that allegorical framework. Choosing something like WWII (or better perhaps WWI) would have made it much easier for the Continuum's struggle to overlay onto the allegory.

Basically, the metaphor they chose doesn't allegorise the story they're trying to tell, so the whole thing is meaningless. In the absence of meaning, the contrivances leap to the front of our consciences and make the episode that much less enjoyable to watch.
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Elliott
Wed, Aug 19, 2020, 8:53am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

I haven't watched this yet, so I very easily could be missing something, but I take issue with describing TNG's portrayal of the Ferengi as "problematic." Races/species in Trek allegorise facets of humanity, not actual human races. Any person can be a capitalist--it isn't problematic to generalise about a group that is intentionally meant to generalise an idea or philosophy.
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Elliott
Wed, Aug 19, 2020, 8:48am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: The Q and the Grey

@Peter G & William B

This of where metaphor meets myth meets science fiction seems to fold into the idea of suspension of disbelief. I think that those suspensions are purchased by a story's execution. If this episode had stuck to a coherent metaphor regarding how the Continuum's internal conflict manifests itself to Janeway and the crew, I think many more people would be willing to overlook and/or justify the absurdities of the plot.

Peter said

"There is the tendency to look at the Organians, or the dude from Transfiguration, and to assume 'oh well I guess they're a god now.' But I always preferred to think of it as an evolutionary ladder, and energy-body is the next level up from organic. But even so all that means is you've hit the next rung, without implying anything about how high up on the energy-being ladder you are (if that makes sense)."

I fully agree with this. True omnipotence is impossible in the rational Trekverse, but "omnipotence" as a kind of wrung on the ladder, as you say, appeals to me and fits neatly into the whole conceit of the Q from EaFP.

William said

"I don't necessarily disagree that there's an inconsistency there, but to defend the distinct portrayal of Picard: Riker is a human adult -- and Picard's officer -- upjumped to a Q. Amanda is an apparently human teenager exchange student, born Q."

I was referring to the difference in Picard's attitude about saving innocent lives with the power of the Q. In "True Q," he implores Q to save Planet Climate Change. It isn't about undoing something Q had done to them like in "Q who," it's about getting a freebee.

Good to be back! Macrocosm is next, then Rapture. Lots to discuss I'm sure.
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Elliott
Mon, Aug 17, 2020, 10:03am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

@Trent

I humbly accept the title.

@William B et al.

I have not one but two ex-boyfriends who wouldn't watch Trek with me unless it was Voyager. I would say 80% of this is because of Kate Mulgrew. I might take a deeper dive at another time, but I'd say that the combination of the Berman-era hyper, borderline toxic masculine writing coupled with a cast whose primary characters were two extremely strong women and one flamboyant, opera-lover leant the show and unintended queerness.

DS9 actually has more positive representation in the text, and of course by the Kurzman era, we have actual representation (not something I'm prepared to lavish praise over since there's nothing brave about it in 2020). But Voyager has a decidedly gay aesthetic.
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Elliott
Mon, Aug 17, 2020, 9:51am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: The Q and the Grey

Well, once again I've let several weeks pass without a review, much I'm sure to the chagrin of the three people who care on this forum. In my defence, I don't need a defence. How's everyone enjoying the pandemic? The election? What a year...

Anyway, I'm jumping back in because the latest episode of “Mission Log” has those boys nipping at my heels with their “The Assignment” review on Thursday. They're doing all of DS9 in one swoop, so my current goal is to stay just enough ahead of them by doing a Voyager and a DS9 every week to try and quell the madness. The “First Contact” review included a hefty rewatch of lots of unreviewed episodes given the fact that it is a culmination point in the franchise and for many threads within the Star Trek universe. Today's episode is also a bit of a culmination point for the Q arc. Although it is not the final appearance for Q and the Continuum, it is more or less the end of their developments as a character and a species respectively. “Q2” is a middling coda more than anything else, but we'll get there eventually. “The Q and the Grey” has the added distinction of being one of the most controversial episodes of the Q arc and the Voyager series as it is absolutely loathed by many. So this will be fun.

I think the greatest ire regarding Voyager's completion of the Q arc is really established in “Death Wish.” That episode is seen more favourably, even by non-fans of the show and/or its take on Q, but it is firmly established there that the Q's so-called omnipotence is actually just political propaganda. I for one am very grateful for that information, because otherwise, the Q really are deities with not only the ability, but the *right* to cast judgement on humanity. While in isolation, that could make for a fine fiction, such a truth would be completely at odds with the Star Trek ethos that I think it would break (I will not discuss Discovery or Picard. I will not discuss Discovery or Picard. I will not di...). As I mentioned in the “Death Wish” review, that script reconciled the disparities between “Hide and Q” and “True Q” in as best a way as it could, as far as I can imagine, by retaining the character development for de Lancie Q and ignoring the inconsistent portrayal of Picard as the moral compass in both stories. “Death Wish” reveals that the Q are a pantheon of existentially bored super beings who both appear omnipotent to humans and, critically, *espouse* their presumed omnipotence to humans as a defence mechanism against this very ennui. Quinn's suicide should be a watershed moment for the Continuum, as much an act of whistle-blowing as political martyrdom. Given the metaphorical use of the American 1920s during the trip to the Continuum, we can expect a Q-level “global” conflict of hitherto unseen proportions to follow.

Teaser : **.5, 5%

We begin with the a super nova and the entire cast admiring the sight from the bridge. Neelix, the Doctor and Kes are all there to deliver some truly cringey dialogue to justify cutting their actors' cheques. It turns out witnessing such a rare event in person is almost unheard of in Starfleet history as Janeway congratulates her crew for the monumental achievement of being in the right place at the right time. For all her hard work, apparently, she's convinced by Chakotay to turn in for the night and retires to her quarters.

When she arrives, she discovers that all her copies of Dante and Atwood have been replaced by elevator music and the semen-soaked mattress from the honeymoon suite at Reno's finest wedding parlour. The culprit reveals himself, Q in his cheesiest bathrobe and repeating those god-awful antics from “Q-pid,” “Q-less” and the worst parts of “Death Wish.” Comedy is a very subjective thing, but a lot of the time, I think it comes down to execution. There isn't anything particularly intriguing about the Q/Janeway banter in this scene, but the relative bluntness of the dialogue and the chemistry between Mulgrew and de Lancie sell it. Sue me, but I chuckled quite a bit at “Kathy, don't be such a prude.” The teaser ends with Q informing the now satin-robed captain of his intention to make her the mother of his child.

Act 1 : **, 17%

Janeway rushes off to change into something less flattering as they continue their banter. What we know about Q is, however annoying it can be and when he's not being written by a total hack, his skirt-chasing is always a cover for something else. He told Janeway he wants to mate with her, but he's making this whole thing about the Kama-Qtra or whatever, promising decades of foreplay and orgasms like super novae. Remember that Q *enjoys* Q-ing, whether it's sticking a cigar in Picard's mouth, turning Crusher into a literal bitch or...sigh...letting Sisko punch him in the face. Sexually-harassing Janeway is probably the most direct route to annoying the everliving shit out of her. He just can't help himself.

Q gives up for the time being and we pick up the next morning with Janeway and Chakotay in her readyroom. Their quasi-romance was touched upon in “Future's End” when the pair had some time alone in L.A. with some casual banter. Here it's revisited when Chakotay expresses jealousy over Q's proposal. I've seen it suggested that this is a sincere sentiment on Chakotay's part, rather than the half-veiled tease it obviously is. This is before Beltran was fed up with his job and that little smirk through which he delivers his lines clearly show that he's teasing Janeway for her predicament, as well as flirting in a small way permitted by the short rope they've permitted themselves post-”Resolutions.” Anyway, Q shows up at that moment for some more banter, including a fairly well-played dick joke.

Janeway's log reveals that Q continues to pop in and out. And sure enough we catch up with Harry and Tom getting massages at the Moana Disney Polynesian Resort or whatever this season's holo-setting is called. Being one of the most beautiful People, Harry's in a tank top, but Tom is still basically in his uniform lest these holo-ladies get suspicious about their relationship. Q appears and asks the Misters Furley here for some wooing advice. After that failure, Q tries the “bar rodent.”

NEELIX: You can't bribe Captain Janeway.
Q: Oh, no? Isn't that what you do?
NEELIX: What are you talking about?
Q: I understand that you acquire things for her, create little interesting diversions, prepare little tasty treats. After all, why else would she be so fond of your fur-lined face?

Hmm. File that tidbit away for another day.

For today, Q seems to think he's hit on the key to successfully pantsing the captain and delivers a puppy to her readyroom. The offering is enough to convince her to hear him out. First, he tries Neelix' sincerity.

Q: When you first asked why I wanted to have a child with you, I made jokes, bragged about my prowess, engaged in sexual innuendo. I was using all that to cover up my true feelings...I'm lonely... I want a relationship. I just thought if you and I had a child, it would give me that kind of stability and security that I've been missing.

That completely fails, so he channels Torres instead for a little blunt cruelty.

Q: You're stuck out here, thousands of light years from home, and you aren't getting any younger, are you? All your hopes for home, hearth and family grow dimmer every day. Admit it, Kathryn, you're lonely too. And you wonder if you will ever have a child.

Janeway admits to wanting a family eventually...something else to file away for another day. But no time for more characterisation because their conversation is interrupted by Suzie Plakson who is of course called Q. She makes a lame joke at Janeway's expense because bitches, right? Ugh.

Act 2 : *.5, 17%

Suzie Q continues with the hen-pecking and reveals that she is Q's qimzati or whatever. I mean, she has Q boobs and everything! What, did you think genderless ageless Q was gay or something? Perish the thought. They should have just had de Lancie play the part with a pink bow on his head. This hackery is interrupted by a call from the bridge. It turns out there are three super novae erupting nearby. The technobabble created by these unlikely phenomena render the warp drive useless, of course, and so Janeway in a single breath orders red alert, evasive manoeuvres (wait, what?) and a scathing comment to Q. Suzie Q praises Janeway for deducing the celestial explosions as being part of a Continuum issue. With three shockwaves approaching the ship, Janeway demands that Q rescue them from his little mess. He sort of obliges, whisking himself and her off the Voyager and leaving Suzie Q behind to seethe as the ship is pummelled.

Janeway finds herself playing Scarlett O'Hara in what the budget in what the budget will permit to resemble a 19th Century ante bellum estate. Q appears dressed in Union garb and accompanied by pipes and drums. He explains that he has returned them to the Continuum. He justifies this as follows:

Q: This is a much more colourful representation for a human of American descent, don't you think? An elegant manor house, a beautiful Southern belle, a dashing Union officer determined to win her affections despite her hatred for Yankee interlopers...This has gone way beyond your ship. It's even gone beyond you and me. This is about the future of the Continuum itself...The Continuum is burning. The Q are in the middle of a civil war.

…...............sigh..........

One of my favourite subtle bits from “Death Wish” was the use of the Roaring 20s as a part of the extended metaphor representing the Qs' ontological crisis. As I wrote in the preamble, to the observant viewer, this would foreshadow the Continuum entering into their version of World War II, with new machines of death, the collapse of seemingly unchanging political hierarchies, and the total disillusionment of a generation. And here, we get our war. Except, World War II isn't sexy enough, apparently. What are we going to do, put Janeway and co. in war-torn France? Perish the thought. We've got to do a different war, with black jack and hookers...or at least poofy dresses and harmonicas. So, we get the CIVIL War (see because the conflict is between two sects of Q, see???!!). The problem here is that in trying to go for a more obvious allegory, the metaphor falls apart. The issues plaguing the Q in “Death Wish” mapped very well onto the sociopolitical status quo of the pre-Great Depression world. Decadence leading to depression leading to tension leading to aggression leading to conflict. It all fits. The issues undergirding the American Civil War are radically different. Q is in Union Blue, because he's the good guy and can't be on the side of the fucking racists[*], thank you. But the Union was fighting to *preserve* the, you know, Union, not usher in an era of change.

[*]It should be noted that pretty much everyone in the conflict was a fucking racist, but the Confederates were fighting to preserve the specific codification of one of the most brutal expressions of racism.

Act 3 : .5 stars, 17%

Q explains how the events of “Death Wish” got us here, apparently, that Quinn's “interruption” led to chaos which led to war. My own metaphor for all this is Michael Piller spinning a plate on his finger and then frisbeeing it over to Kenneth Biller who spins the plate so quickly it flies off and shatters against the wall. I really do think this boils down to the dubious decision to cast this conflict as the Civil War. The issues from “Death Wish” have to be made vague and elusive in the dialogue so they can be grafted onto the dynamics of this historical conflict for which they are simply not suited. And in watering them down so much, they lose all meaning and we have little reason to care about them anymore. Sometimes in making art, it's these seemingly small decisions that can have the greatest impact.

Q: War can be an engine of change. War can transform a society for the better. Your own Civil War brought about an end to slavery and oppression.
JANEWAY: But our Civil War came at a time before mankind had learned to resolve disputes without bloodshed. Surely the Q have evolved to a point where you can find a non-violent way to resolve a conflict.

Did you know that oppression ended in 1865? #Facts

Here in the year 2020, there are still people in the United States who believe the American Civil War was not about preserving slavery. It was. But that doesn't mean that the Blues were an army of abolitionists. The United States was well behind the rest of the world in abolishing slavery and modernising aspects of its economy and society. It was the Greys who held the relatively radical (and regressive) position of trying to maintain an outmoded economic model that was widely regarded as immoral *at that time.* The way Q frames the philosophical conflict within the Continuum sounds like a revolution, bucking the status quo in favour of a more enlightened reformation (one hopes). Or as I said, at the very least, the dynamic has to be one where the enlightened (Blue) side is attacking the conservative (Grey) side over a moral issue, which would map onto the American entrance into WWII. In order to make the Civil War allegory work, Q would have to have convinced the Ruling Council or whatever the Q have to enact reforms and the Grey Qs would have to have chosen to secede from the Continuum, sparking this conflict. That much at least would keep the plate spinning in the air at which point we would still need to elaborate on what exactly these reforms are. What is the Continuum's allegorical slave policy? Quinn said it was their immutable immortality. So a reform would seem include the deaths of Qs by their own choosing. Now it isn't entirely clear what's happening outside this setpiece window Janeway's monologuing at, but one would assume that the explosions include the “bodies” of Qs being immolated. So, what's the issue? Shouldn't the Greys be doing everything they can to preserve Q immortality? To prevent Q deaths? Or is it the super novae? Are those the cosmic consequences? I mean, to the puny species in this sector of the Delta Quadrant, it definitely sucks, but to the Q? Stars exploding? Is that really the height of perilous consequences? Hell the Tkon Empire handled it better.

But it gets worse.

Q: It's simple. Mating will create a new breed of Q, which will combine my omnipotence and infinite intellect with the best that humanity has to offer.
JANEWAY: You believe human DNA is going to restore peace?
Q: Precisely.

What happened to “war is good, actually”? No, never mind PEACE is good. You like peace, don't you? All you have to do to restore galactic peace is let me hump your brains out, captain! … If we dumpster-dive into this little back and forth, we see that Q apparently believes that what the Continuum lacks are the essential human qualities of conscience and compassion. Again, this isn't a bad premise for the Q arc. It was adopting those qualities that fuelled Q's personal development in TNG, learning compassion in “Déjà Q” and demonstrating it in “True Q” and “Tapestry.” One could argue that conscience was at the heart of Q's advocacy for humanity in “All Good Things...” and that both qualities led to Q's eventual change of heart in “Death Wish.” That he would seek to disseminate his personal enlightenment to the whole of his people is a natural next step. Where the spinning plate truly flies out the window is in the premise that those essential human qualities are housed in our DNA. That this frankly racist notion emerged in a script wagging its finger at the CSA is kind of hilarious. But even if that were somehow true, if all Q needs is some human DNA, why does he need to mate with a human, or specifically a human who is very unlikely to consent to mate with him? Why not try in-vitro, Q? For that matter, exactly what is the gestation period for a Q-human hybrid? Will there be a super nova in Janeway's uterus?

Q: What the Continuum needs right now is an infusion of fresh blood, a new sensibility, a new leader, a new messiah. Think of it, Kathy. Our child will be like a precious stone tossed into the cosmic lake, sending endless ripples of human conscience and compassion to wash up on every distant shore of the universe.

The “Q and the Grey” drinking game is officially to take a shot every time a character modifies a noun with the word “cosmic.” … If you're going to do a Messiah story, there are one or two you may have heard of, and they all have fuck all to do with the Civil War. Eh whatever, Q is shot and looks surprised that he's bleeding because...

Anyway, the Voyager is still in tact, but also bleeding (METAPHORICALLY!); Suzie Q is also bleeding (LITERALLY!). Leveraging her unexplained mortality, Chakotay gets her to spill the beans about the Civil War (Beltran's delivery is actually very good in all this). Plakson repeats a line from “The Schizoid Man” to Tuvok regarding Vulcan obtuseness, which is a cute reference to her turn as Dr Selar. She suggests that there may be a way to get herself and the Voyager into the Continuum using non-Q means. Sure.

Meanwhile—I think—Janeway tends to Q's “wound” until the Grey Qs outside demand his surrender. The Grey Qs speak in Southern drawl because they're a little more committed to the cosplay.

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

Suzie Q pops into Engineering to check on Torres' progress in updating the Deflector Dish with magic or whatever and to drop the second reference to Plakson's history with the franchise.

FEMALE Q: you know, I've always liked Klingon females. You've got such spunk.

Janeway has managed to haul Q to a Blue campsite and save his life. Sure. Despite some more head-scratching lines and nauseating deadbeat dad jokes, a few lines delivered quietly by Mulgrew manage to make this the best scene in the episode.

JANEWAY: Those best qualities of humanity you talked about aren't a simple matter of genetics. Love, conscience, compassion, they're attributes that mankind has developed over centuries, values that have passed from one generation to the next, taught by parents to their children. Creating a new kind of Q is a noble idea, but it will take more than impregnating someone and walking away. If you want your offspring to embrace your ideals, you're going to have to teach them yourself.

Okay, good. Then we get this wrinkle:

Q: Ah, yes. The crew of the intrepid starship Voyager. Perhaps you'd be interested in sending them home.
JANEWAY: You've tempted me with that prospect before. But frankly, your credibility is more than a little suspect. My crew and I will get home. We're committed to that. But we're going to do it through hard work and determination. We are not looking for a quick fix.

So, Janeway's not wrong that it would be risky to trust Q to send them home in exchange for allowing herself to get pregnant. It's also morally dubious—although as I think about it, there's something biblical about a deity figure impregnating a woman against her will to create a messiah, isn't there? And at this point, Janeway is still living by the ideals seen in “Hide and Q,”; you don't do immoral things do further your own ends. That's been her essential tension since “Caretaker,” and, although the sands are shifting somewhat since “Basics,” that's still where she lands.

Meanwhile on the Voyager, a symphony of technobabble is sounding buoyed up only just barely by Plakson's intentionally aloof and disinterested performance. Torres and Helm Boy follow her babbling instructions that allow the Voyager to enter a star as it's exploding. Sure.

Janeway brings a “white flag” to the Confederate camp and Robert Q Lee or whoever informs her that the Continuum is going to solve this problem the way the always do, by extinguishing it. Q will be executed (exeQted?) just like Amanda Rodgers' parents. Oh yeah, Amanda Rodgers, a Q born of two Q who chose to mate...who was raised by humans with human values...In fairness, the issues underlying the messiah Q, who is to be created intentionally with the consensus of the Continuum, are somewhat different from Amanda's, but the similarities here are at least worth mentioning aren't they? And Q's insistence that he doesn't even know how two Q could mate seems like a pretty glaring gaffe. Eh...so Q is captured and he and Janeway are both sentenced to death. But not right now, that will have to wait for the big finale because STAKES.

Act 5 : .5 stars, 17%

Dawn. Metaphorically speaking.

Q makes a little speech where he begs the Continuum to spare Janeway's life. In a bitter irony, his pleas are ignored as irrelevant by General Q in the same way Picard's were ignored in “Encounter at Farpoint.” Every possible movie cliché is then employed by the director, including quick zoom close ups and snare drums until the Voyager crew (boys only of course) emerge in Union Blue to rescue the pair. Christ. Oh and Suzie Q is there, too, in a giant poofy dress. We must be historically accurate in this METAPHOR.

So, while Chakotay and co. capture the Greys, Q makes his proposal of fucking to Suzie Q and they do the ET finger touch. Another mildly amusing sex joke, the crew is whisked back to the Voyager and the war is over. Tahdah

Janeway finds Q and a baby Q in her readyroom.

Q: Well, I'll admit, I look at the universe in an entirely different way now. I mean, I can't go around causing temporal anomalies or subspace inversions without considering the impact it'll have on my son.

Didn't we do this already? Didn't Q say he had reformed in “Death Wish”? What's happening? Well the baby is cute and Janeway is told she will be asked to babysit at some point. I'm sure we all can't wait for that epic followup.

Episode as Functionary : *.5, 10%

I'm pretty much in agreement with Jammer on this one. There are good ideas in here; there are good jokes in here; there are good performances and good lessons. But overall, the episode is awash with conceptual mistakes, primarily the realisation of the Continuum. Forcing the conflict from “Death Wish” into a Civil War shaped hole pretty much broke the story I think they were trying to tell. Because of this, it makes the entire Q trilogy on Voyager feel like a mistake, which taints “Death Wish,” a story with enormous potential. This in turn sours every other aspect of this episode; the jokes don't seem as funny, the performances don't seem as tight, the technobabble seems especially grating. In execution, it's roughly as irritating to me as “Qpid,” with similar conceptual issues and redeeming facets. But that story was a one-off adventure with low stakes. This one is a defining capstone to a race that's been with the franchise since TNG premiered. A real disappointment.

However. I stand firmly by the notion that exploring the Q in this way and revealing their omnipotence to be a matter of perspective more than absolute truth was the right move to make. A few tweaks to this script, including swapping the setting for something closer to what we'll get in “The Killing Game” would probably have made this an adequate final chapter for Q.

Final Score : *.5
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Elliott
Thu, Jun 18, 2020, 4:35pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Visitor

@Mostly because the protests are only superficially similar. BLM protestors are wearing masks. And as a result, there has been no observable spike in cases related to them. The lockdown protests were quite literally spitting in the face of science and risking people’s health.

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/06/protests-covid-outdoor-masks.html
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Elliott
Thu, Jun 18, 2020, 3:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Visitor

Dianne Feinstein.

Predatory capitalist. Major proponent of surveillance state. Supporter of the death penalty. Democrat. Is she liberal or conservative?

Elon Musk? JK Rowling? Ron Paul? The labels aren’t important in and of themselves but we do need to be clear about what we mean.
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Elliott
Thu, Jun 18, 2020, 11:22am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Visitor

@Omicron

You are not in a bind.

"There's a considerable mass of people"

"Most people - both on the left and the right - accepts them these guys as liberals."

'We've reached the point where these crazies outnumber people like you and me in our own camp."

You seem to be worried about which faction of which subgroup outnumbers whichever other group. Don't. Ignore the media. Focus upon policies. Do you want to see the police defunded? I do. Are the protests affecting policy. It seems like they are. Does that mean you have to support them to call yourself a leftist. No, but I would ask yourself why a little property destruction is of such grave concern when we're talking about stoping institutional murder and disenfranchisement.

Now if we're talking about political parties, forget about it. Both major parties in the US are completely purchased. There are good candidates here and there, and if you care to be involved, I would suggest supporting them individually.

Finally, the word "liberal" is difficult to pin down. It's not a leftwing or rightwing ideology per sae, and it means pretty different things depending on what country or year you're talking about. I would just not use the word at all unless it's in an academic context. Politically, it has lost all meaning. There's social democrat, there's neoliberal, there's neoconservative, there's conservative, there's libertarian and there's anarchist. Those six are roughly enough to pin down where a typical American's politics lie.
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Elliott
Wed, Jun 17, 2020, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Visitor

@Dave in MN

"My evidence is mostly anecdotal, but at least I'm basing my opinion on the reality from my own experiences."

"A little critical thinking goes a long way."

I don't have anything to add.
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Elliott
Wed, Jun 17, 2020, 9:19pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: First Contact

Thank you for the feedback, Peter. I know it's a long one.

I agree that Data's was probably the thinnest of the arcs in the film, but I still found the temptation more convincing than in "Descent." Emotions are the the vehicle in both instances, but Data actually has a choice in this case instead of having his ethics turned off by tech tech. I find that much more compelling.

Regarding the Borg--and I don't usually say this--I think it's okay to agree to disagree on this point. Unless you're going to give the Borg "personality," as you put it, there is simply no reason to bring them back into the franchise after BoBW. "I Borg" already set the stage for the Queen and for Seven of Nine. For my money, what you lose in this new interpretation is made up for with what you gain. I am very impressed with stories that dissect seemingly impenetrable cultures. What attracts me about Star Trek is the idea that with enough time and effort, we can eventually understand one another. I think Voyager's takes on the Borg worked at least through "Dark Frontier." The later stories were kind of a mess. That's one reason I had such high hopes for "Picard." It seemed like a great opportunity to rectify some of that wasted time. Anyway, as I say, I understand why not everyone feels this way, but if they're going to keep using the Borg, I think this approach is more or less the right way to go.
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Elliott
Wed, Jun 17, 2020, 4:03pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: First Contact

CONTININUED

...failing to measure up to the man we know him to be. His moral decay manifests itself in his revenge-addled machismo, meaning that his character flaw is driving the action pieces in the movie. This is a brilliant way to have your cake and eat it, too. It is fucking hard to sustain a franchise that's supposed to be about peaceful exploration while giving people what they expect from a space adventure film—lasers and explosions. They're never making another TMP, I'm sorry to say, so this approach seems to be the closest we can hope to get. Considering the next two TNG films are going to fail artistically (sorry), the only thing which would have made Picard's journey better here would have been to have him choose to stay behind with Lily. I don't necessarily mean they needed to develop a romantic bond—I actually like that there's no romantic subplot—rather that I think a fitting end for him would be to sit under a tree gazing at the stars the way his René did at the end of “Family.” Lily gets that moment instead, which still works, but I think a little bittersweet closure for our beloved captain would have served him well.

Data's story here, while a little goofy at times, manages to pull off what “Descent” could not, and provide a genuine temptation for him. Data has, in a way, been on a journey to assimilate human culture into himself. While he's grown tremendously, he is still frustrated by being unable to bridge the gap. The emotion chip was a cheap and obvious means to attempt this, but the Borg's ability to fuse man with machine is anything but.

Cochrane's presence was important to underline the difference between evolved humanity and its straw man. “Don't try to be a great man, just be a man and let history make its own judgements.” Put another way, don't try to be a perfect human, just be a human and let social evolution take its course. His growth over the film provides the blueprint for the Roddenberrian human of the 24th Century. In a Star Trek film about Star Trek, that's a critical component.

Finally, the Borg. I don't dismiss those criticisms of the film or especially the Queen for making the Borg less scary. It's certainly true that they will never hold power over the audience again they way they did in “Q Who” or “The Best of Both Worlds.” But that is simply the inevitable end of exploring an alien culture through a Trek lens. Whether friend or foe, the Trek way is to develop mutual understanding. Every Trek alien is not really an alien, but a version of humanity against which we should measure ourselves. The human humans are, in the show's opinion, the best version, but Klingons, Romulans, Changelings, Wormhole Aliens, the Q and even the Borg all represent possible futures and human conditions. Given that, I think expanding upon this political element, this insidious hierarchy within an alleged pure democracy of thought which sloganeers and proselytises just like any other power, works pretty well. The Queen herself is a tad too broad at times (playing bitchy ex-girlfriend to Locutus is rather cheap), but I think holds up in the context of the film.

Final Score : ***.5
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Elliott
Wed, Jun 17, 2020, 4:00pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: First Contact

As I said in my review for “Death Wish,” I knew that I was going to have to do extensive TNG rewatches for the Borg as I did for the Q. I forgot at that point that, since I'm going chronologically, I was going to get to “First Contact” before the Voyager hit Borg space. And “First Contact” requires even more backstory rewatch than “Unity.” Luckily for me, many of the stories in this arc are top shelf, so this is going to be fun.

We'll start with the most distant story, “Metamorphosis” from TOS' 2nd season.

The way Cochrane figures into the Trek mythos is rather unique. He is introduced to us in the original series at what amounts to the end of his life. So this tale, written well before the series would blow up into the franchise it is today, must serve as both the character's introduction *and* his apotheosis. Unlike with Kahn, plucking this one-off character from the OS annals presents a real challenge if there's to be any hope of making his arc work. TWoK could develop Kahn in any way it needed to to suit the story without concern for where this left him. “First Contact” is going to have to make use of Cochrane and leave him poised to become the character we meet in TOS. Here, we meet a man who is rather resigned and wistful. The script and direction do a great job of convincing us that this 30-something is really hundreds of years old.

COCHRANE: Believe me, Captain, immortality consists largely of boredom. What's it like out there in the galaxy?
KIRK: We're on a thousand planets and spreading out. We cross fantastic distances and everything's alive, Cochrane. Life everywhere. We estimate there are millions of planets with intelligent life. We haven't begun to map them.

In the Kirk speech to the Companion, he lays out one of the primordial Trekkian values, that people require obstacles, a sincere purpose in order to “continue.” As we already saw, for Kirk, that purpose is the exploration of space. For Cochrane, we learn, his ultimate purpose is companionship. He's incredibly accomplished, famous, and physically immortal, but his life has been lonely. In the end, he asks that Kirk tell no one where he is or what he's doing and he finally gets his private island full of naked women, er, woman-eternal-being-hybrid.

“The Neutral Zone”

This somewhat infamous season 1 finale is foundational to our story and to the canon in two important ways. The first is obvious in that the Enterprise is sent to the Neutral Zone to guard against threats from the Romulans when it's really the Borg who are encroaching into Federation space, a motif that “First Contact” will repeat. The second is that running alongside this action plot is a B story about contemporary humans who are brought out of stasis by Data able to observe, contrast, and comment on the nature of the 24th century. This has the effect of reminding us what it is Picard and co. are defending against, whether it be the Romulans or the yet-unseen Borg.

PICARD: A lot has changed in the past three hundred years. People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We've eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We have grown out of our infancy.
RALPH: You've got it all wrong. It's never been about possessions. It's about power...to control your life, your destiny.
PICARD: That kind of control is an illusion.

Remember that in “Encounter at Farpoint,” Picard told Q that humanity is aware of its past, even if they are “ashamed of it.”

“Q Who”

Q's dialogue identifies the narrative purpose of the Borg as basically the same as the trial had been, to test the human condition, to determine whether human evolution can hold against an enemy that would make the Enterprise's hitherto mortal enemies look as naïve as Sonya Gomez. I already mentioned in the “Death Wish” preamble that “Diplomacy, philosophy and technology are all, well, irrelevant when stacked up against the Borg. In the end, Picard doesn't hesitate in embodying humility, throwing himself upon the mercy of [Q] in order to save his ship...Q believes in attrition as a method of persuasion. [He] will continue to push, to confine and confront humanity until it breaks down and admits that it remains the child, savage race of the past.”

Regarding the Borg themselves, whom we finally meet in person, it's hard to overstate how tremendous the design of the Borg cube is. It echoes the Borg themselves as its shape and form give it the aura of a massive animate corpse in space. It's lack of æsthetics remind one that it is unfeeling technology, yet it moves with deliberate purpose. Star Trek hadn't attempted anything so cerebral and horrifying since The Motion Picture. The drones are pretty effective, too, despite looking like a group of gang-bangers who raided a hardware store. Q says that the Borg aren't interested in the human lifeform, but that, whatever the original intention, must be considered deliberate misdirection (he also said Guinan was and “imp,” and we know that amounted to nothing). Since we eventually find out the Borg are somewhat selective with species they assimilate, we can infer that the Borg at this point are ambivalent about humans and whether or not they might wish to assimilate them.

TROI: We're not dealing with an individual mind. They don't have a single leader. It's the collective minds of all of them...A single leader can make mistakes. It's far less likely in the combined whole.

We will definitely need to revisit this topic.

“The Best of Both Worlds”

Here of course, we confirm that the mysterious force from “The Neutral Zone” had been the Borg all along. While the continuity isn't perfect, we can say, without too much difficulty I think, that the Borg had at least scouted as far as the Neutral Zone, but that Q's interference in S2 made the Federation seem like a more tempting target, having somehow entered the Borg's territory. This led to their plan to assimilate Earth directly (this would explain why they contact Picard by name when the Enterprise engages the invading cube). I don't need to heap extra praise on this beloved story, but between Cliff Bole's deliberate direction and Ron Jones' haunting score, the alien dread from “Q Who” is effectively ramped up into the iconic horror now widely recognised in pop culture.

Guinan is brought back into the story to provide some perspective, not unlike our thawed friends from TNZ. Once again, we are reminded that what Picard and co. are defending isn't just the human beings under threat from this malevolent force but the human condition itself.

GUINAN: We survived. As will humanity survive. As long as there's a handful of you to keep the spirit alive, you will prevail.

Further cementing the Borg's mystique is the dialogue between Picard and the Collective after he's captured. “Strength is irrelevant. Resistance is futile. We wish to improve ourselves. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service ours...Freedom is irrelevant. Self determination is irrelevant...Death is irrelevant.”

One final thing to note is that during the final battle in Part 2, Riker is able to distract Locutus *who has taken “control” of the cube* using his and Shelby's antimatter tricks. So already we have an indication that the Borg's collective consciousness is...complicated. There are circumstances in which the Borg yield to a hierarchy. Every advantage is a double-edged sword. Crusher noted that the interconnectivity of the Borg was their “Achilles heel,” and hierarchical structures have their own weaknesses.

“Family”

One of my favourite scenes from BoBW is the wordless assimilation of Picard aboard the cube, his body outfitted with cybernetics, his skin drained of colour, and a single tear visible in his eye. That combined with the famous final shot of Picard staring blankly out the window of his readyroom seem to be the germ for this unprecedented “part 3” story that devotes itself primarily to the character repercussions to our captain. From a character standpoint, BoBW was mostly a Riker story, so this provides an absolutely essential coda to the epic 2-parter. Picard tells Troi that “the nightmares have ended,” which is of course a lie. But the fact that he chooses to spend time with his estranged brother is telling. What was going through his mind as he lay on that Borg operating table? Whose faces did he see as the tear fell? Well, it might have been René's, the symbol of his family's legacy and reminder of what he sacrificed for his career. And of course, we get the distillation of just how broken he had become:

PICARD: They took everything I was. They used me to kill and to destroy, and I couldn't stop them. I should have been able to stop them! I tried. I tried so hard, but I wasn't strong enough. I wasn't good enough. I should have been able to stop them.

Even when forced to grovel to Q, Picard never showed any sign that his spirit had been broken. He realised the pragmatic need to admit his mistake, but he still felt confident in his mission and himself. In the wake of his assimilation, he truly feels like a failure, possessed of Impostor Syndrome. How can he be the hero Captain Picard when he is responsible (in his mind) for so much evil?

“The Drumhead”

While there's a brief mention of the Borg incident during Picard's famous interrogation at the hands of Admiral Patriot Act, I include this episode in summary because it is the first indication we have that there are sociopolitical consequences to the invasion. Satie's ability to get so far in her paranoid overreach is largely due to an unspoken consensus that the Federation's evident vulnerability *justifies* a shift away from core Federation values.

SATIE: My big brothers and I would wrangle [a debate question] around, from one side and the other. Father would referee, and he kept a stopwatch on us so we'd have to learn brevity. But he wouldn't let us leave until he thought we'd completely explored the issue...Father loved it when I nailed one of them with some subtle point of logic.

This is a very telling line, because it reveals the kind of amoral thinking that pushes one down the slippery slope. Not that I, obviously, oppose intellectual debate, but when it's more about winning the argument than discovering the truth or upholding the good, well, we've lost our way.

PICARD: She, or someone like her, will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish, spreading fear in the name of righteousness. Vigilance...that is the price we have to continually pay.

“I Borg”

TNG's fifth season is an odd one for me. It contains some of my favourite episodes of all time, yet it is less cohesive or consistent than the 3rd and 4th seasons. The show definitely found itself searching for a stable identity, having finally achieved success that equalled the original series. As such, tales like “Ensign Ro” and “The First Duty” show signs of poking around the Trek ethos in a way DS9 would make its hallmark the next year. “I Borg” is perhaps the best example of the series wrestling with its identity with regards to Federation morality. Our principal viewpoint characters from the Borg arc, Picard and Guinan, are given the opportunity to test their assumptions and weigh their trauma against their better judgement.

One detail I love is how at first, Beverly is insisting on caring for and rescuing the drone that will become known as Hugh, and Picard, while not dismissive of her perspective, still believes she is being naïve (c.f. “The High Ground”). It's only when Worf says “kill it now. Make it appear it died in the crash,” that Picard seems to realise the callousness of his position (oh god, am I'm condoning Klingon blood-thirst? Yeah, better beam up the Borg). Then when Picard sees the drone for the first time, visibly reminded of his trauma—and of his failure—it dawns on him to use the drone as a weapon. Here is Picard's opportunity to make up for his perceived failure. If he can destroy the Borg, using one of them as they used him, then it would all at least have had a purpose. Note that right before this scene Picard insists to Troi that he's completely recovered from his experience in a way that absolutely guarantees he has not recovered from his experience. His actions are being informed by his trauma. Now of course, Picard is no fool. There is a logical justification for this plan, their de facto state of war. But this is logic divorced from ethics, motivated by fear and anger.

LAFORGE: Part of what we do is to learn more about other species.
BORG: We assimilate species. Then we know everything about them...is that not easier?
LAFORGE: Maybe it is. It's just not what we do.

We—the Federation—don't take the easier path. That's been the unspoken truth since “Hide and Q.”

Running alongside all this, we get more details about the Borg culture, their designation system, the voices of the collective in their mind, their pronoun preferences, etc. Moreover, the conversations between Hugh and the cast reveal the *political* nature of Borg. While it was easy to dismiss their validity as a people because of the artificiality of their collective intelligence, to say nothing of the aforementioned horror that this sentient artificiality arouses in us, it becomes evident that the Borg propagandise, they sloganeer. Why do they *tell* you that resistance is futile? Of what relevance to a person or people about to be assimilated is such a warning? It creates a reputation, it creates a mystique. Hearing that collective voice speak those words instils fear. Fear is a political tool. Someone or something within the collective understands this.

Finally, at Guinan's urging, Picard does his damnedest to prove to himself that the Borg cannot be deprogrammed, that their propagandisation is immutable, but Hugh resists; “I will not assist you.”

PICARD: I think I deliberately avoided speaking with the Borg because I didn't want anything to get in the way of our plan. But now that I have, he seems to be a fully realised individual...To use him in this manner, we'd be no better than the enemy that we seek to destroy.

“Emissary”

It's been...over nine years since I reviewed “Emissary” on this site. Oh god. I've softened on Sisko over the seasons, but seeing this jerkbag from the pilot sends me right back to those heady throes. Anyway, the teaser is still the best part of the episode in my opinion. Looking back on it now, I was perhaps a little harsh on the Sisko/Picard scenes. Sisko is still an immature ass, but I can at least partially excuse Picard's timorousness considering the guilt he's still hauling around with him...partially. I still don't buy for a second that he'd allow Sisko to openly disrespect him (twice) like this and offer nothing in rebuttal.

(Sidenote: skipping through the episode, I watched the wormhole Sisko/Prophet scenes back to back and it's clear to me now how much a disservice the editing choices did to this story when I first reviewed it. There are some great moments in here, totally sabotaged by the incomprehensible choice to cut back and forth between them and the mundane space station go bye bye plot. Having gotten well used to DS9 by now, I would probably up my overall score to 2.5 stars. I might revise all of my scores for the first season before I close out the series).

“Descent”

“Descent” isn't so much bad as un-good. It introduces a few elements to the franchise that would have been better left in the writers' room; the emotion chip (technically introduced earlier, but still a generally bad idea), a directionless Lore, and Admiral Fuck Your Conscience Necheyev. She always seems to be the voice of unhinged paranoid psychopathy in the admiralty. And considering some of the admirals we've met, that's saying something. See “The Search II” for more. The Borg themselves are certainly different from their earlier appearances, but this change is pretty much totally isolated from their development as a culture or a threat. The Borg Lore has “liberated” from the Collective are little more than punks who happen to have cybernetic implants. They're cyberpunks.

For the purposes of this write-up, the important bits of this episode relate primarily to connecting Data to the Borg via the temptation of emotions. There is an irony in the fully mechanical Lore unleashing the emotional potential of his little cyborg army. And there's...an effort to show Data struggling with the temptation Lore offers him. But it never really sinks in or feels sincere. Data's actions don't appear to stem from actually experiencing new emotions, but from a manipulation of his ethics; it's not really a temptation, it's basically mind-control. In that way it's not unlike “Warlord”--we do get some insights into Data's character (although really, the fact that he wants to feel feelings is something we knew since at least “The Naked Now”), but the pretence that Lore is a kind of devil on Data's shoulders doesn't work as intended.

“Generations”

The best scene in the film is still Picard weeping over the loss of his nephew. This would seem to close the door on the thread from “Family,” leaving Picard with little besides his career and his command to look forward to. In lieu of any further interesting character beats, Patrick Stewart's influence behind the scenes leads the writers to continue the “Starship Mine” angle and turn Picard into an action hero. Which fucking sucks. And the emotion chip is fused into Data's skull. Which fucking sucks.

Anyway, Kirk is dead, the Enterprise D is dead, René is dead. Onward!

Credits : ****, 1%

Jerry Goldsmith is back, baby! “The Best of Both Worlds” is probably the last time chronologically a Star Trek work was blessed with a truly great score, and so this lush romantic theme, echoing his work for Voyager, but with a slightly more masculine bent, is a reassuring sign. The sequence is incredibly simple, with the title cards emerging from a mist, while the horns glide along cantabile. Psychologically, this puts us in a Trek frame of mind; these actors play the heroes of our dreams, and our dream is a future that looks like Star Trek.

Teaser : ****, 1%

The dream is suddenly revealed to be a nightmare, specifically, Picard's nightmare from his time as Locutus. I told you he was lying to Troi! The tracking shot and use of various distortional lenses and disorienting cuts showcase how much more of a cinematic vision Frakes has compared to David Carson. Picard awakens (twice, repeating that little trick from “Projections”) and receives a message from Admiral Hayes. We see that Starfleet has upgraded the uniforms *again.* This change is reminiscent of the change between TOS and the films, especially TWoK. The uniforms are again heavier, more consistent. But to my eye, the effect is actually the opposite. Rather than emphasising naval militarism, as the red wool uniforms did, the grey-band jumpsuits maintain a focus on department as well as an outer-space sleekness. I like them. Hayes tells Picard what he already knew. The Borg are back. Again.

Scene 1 : ***, 3.75%

Picard gives us the captain's log introduction proper while the Enterprise E is slowly revealed in a beauty shot. The senior staff gather in the conference room for Picard's briefing. There is no chief of security because...anyway, once again, the Enterprise is being sent to patrol the Neutral Zone to keep an eye out for Romulan ne'er-do-wells, while the Borg scoop up Federation colonies. A few other production details: Spiner's skin has gotten shinier, Burton's visor has been upgraded to ocular implants, McFadden's hair has been horribly dyed, and Sirtis has given up all efforts to speak with Troi's accent. Those chairs look comfy, though. The film is playing fast and loose with spacial geography, getting dangerously close to Star Wars territory, as the Enterprise is less than four hours from Earth, but will make it all the way to TNZ and back within the span of the a few hours. The thematic significance of the callback overshadows the plot holes, but, it's not an invisible contrivance. The crew are surprised by Starfleet's orders considering the brand new Enterprise is the most advanced ship in the fleet, but Picard reminds them they have their orders.

Scene 2 : **.5, 3.75%

While the Enterprise patrols, Picard listens to “Faust” in his quarters, Berlioz' booming score failing to drown out the devil's whispers in the captain's mind. Picard is staring out the window of his readyroom again, always a sign of psychological distress. Riker pops in to deliver a report on their findings, a fat lot of nothing.

RIKER: Captain, why are we out here chasing comets?
PICARD: Let's just say that Starfleet has every confidence in the Enterprise and her crew, they're just not sure about her Captain. They believe that a man who was once captured and assimilated by the Borg should not be put in a situation where he would face them again.

Except in, you know, the last Borg story we saw, “Descent.” Whoops. Anyway, the fleet engage the Borg and the staff gather on the bridge to listen to the audio communication of the battle. This is an old trick, but a good one. The Borg live in our imaginations now and this is the last opportunity to heighten our expectations of the threat they pose. The Borg repeat their trademark line of propaganda and then chaos ensues over the comm. It becomes very clear very quickly that Starfleet is about to repeat its failure at Wolf359. It takes Picard only seconds to decide to fuck his orders and warp to Earth. Data says a swear word because that's his job now. This action-movie schlockiness is probably the least impressive part of the TNG films. At least it's brief. Lieutenant Maybe Gay is ordered to set corse and engage.

Scene 3 : **.5, 3.75%

Jerry Goldsmith manages to work in Ron Jones' Borg motif from BoBW, which is a nice touch. We see a cube making its merry way to Earth, closer in fact than its predecessor. The fleet, including the Defiant, is doing its best but to little avail. The Defiant's presence is actually a good reminder that Starfleet has been attempting to upgrade its technology to fight the Borg for about eight years now. The fact that there still is a fleet, despite heavy losses, instead of the infamous graveyard from Wolf359, speaks to the efficacy of these upgrades. While one would expect Sisko in command of the Defiant, avenging himself on the invaders who murdered his wife, he's apparently got more important shit to do and so has sent Worf out with a bunch of no-name extras to defend the Federation. Goldsmith gives Worf a musical cue as well, the Klingon theme from TMP. This is a tad racist, but whatever. Worf is banging his fists against the controls, deciding its time to just crash the Defiant directly into the cube. The Enterprise heroically arrives to protect Worf from his own silliness, rescuing the Defiant and her crew.

Picard hears faint voices of the collective in his mind and is able to identify a key vulnerability in the cube. He assumes command of the fleet (Hayes' ship has been destroyed...although he's somehow not dead as we will see in later stories), and orders the ships to concentrate their fire in a particular spot, causing the cube to blow up. Before the big green boom boom, the cube launches a small sphere from itself which continues its path to Earth. Picard follows, but makes time to welcome Worf to the bridge, who is eager to get more screentime, I mean to help. Oh and Crusher is there. Hi Bev. Okay, you're done, now. Worf is assigned to tactical because...I guess the Enterprise E has no chief of security.

Anyway, the sphere creates a temporal vortex, which even Riker immediately recognises as time travel. No big deal, I guess. This scene is really packed to the gills with so many plot contrivances and “huh?” moments. To the script's credit, because all of this happens so fast and breezily, it doesn't bog the story down. We bulldoze our way through the plot holes to get to the real story. Obviously, if the Borg can travel through time with seemingly no effort, this should cause a host of paradoxes for Star Trek, but don't think about that, look at the shiny ball!

With the Enterprise caught in the sphere's “temporal wake,” they observe that the Earth has been completely transformed before their eyes.

PICARD: They must have done it in the past. ...They went back and assimilated Earth. ...Changed history.
CRUSHER: Then if they changed history why are we still here?
DATA: The temporal wake must somehow have protected us from the changes in the time-line.

Bev...who gave you another line? Bulldoze bulldoze bulldoze...Picard decides to follow the sphere through the hole in time, and scene.

Scene 4 : ***, 3.75%

The next thing we see is a group of very (American) sad people at a large encampment. One of these sad sacks is a tall drunk played by Trek vet James Cromwell. His companion is a much more sober, if equally depressed woman played by Alfre Woodard.

LILY: You're gonna regret this tomorrow.
COCHRANE: Well, what I think you should have learned about me by now is that I don't have regrets...Come on, Lily, one more round.
LILY: Z, you've had enough. I'm not going up in that thing with a drunken pilot.
COCHRANE: But I sure as hell's not going up there sober.

Their banter is cut short by an aerial bombardment which starts levelling the camp. Lily's first instinct is to get to “the Phoenix,” but 'Z' can't be bothered at the moment. As the Enterprise emerges from the vortex, we see the bombardment is being carried out by the Borg sphere. Data identifies the year.

DATA: We're in the mid twenty-first century. From the radioactive isotopes in the atmosphere I would estimate we have arrived approximately ten years after the Third World War.
RIKER: Makes sense. Most of the major cities have been destroyed. There are few governments left. Six hundred million dead. No resistance.

So much to look FORWARD to in 2020! The Enterprise has (conveniently) lost its shields, but not its weapons. It easily destroys the sphere with quantum torpedoes. Having dealt with that, Picard and co. piece it all together.

CRUSHER: Then the missile complex must be the one where Zefram Cochrane is building his warp ship.
PICARD: That's what they came here to do. Stop First Contact.

If there's one thing you can believe after watching “Metamorphosis,” it's that Zephram Cochrane is from Montana. Realising they still have work to do, Picard assembles an away team to survey the damage on the surface, leaving Riker in command. This tracks with the original design of the script, putting Picard on Earth to interact with Cochrane while Riker and Worf fight the Borg on the ship. More later.

Scene 5 : ***.5, 3.75%

Data, Crusher, Picard and others beam down and immediately uncover the launch site for the Phoenix, humanity's first warp-capable ship. The flight crew is dead, the site disheveled...but the ship is intact at least. Lily is around, armed with a machine gun and opens fire on Picard and Data as they examine the Phoenix. Data subdues her by being bulletproof now and she collapses from radiation poisoning. Crusher takes the unconscious Lily back to the Enterprise while Picard has Riker bring down search parties to scour the area for Cochrane. This whole movie seems like a redo of “Descent,” doesn't it? Geordi and his engineers are also summoned to the surface to work on the Phoenix. Before he leaves, he notes something is up with the environmental controls. The Enterprise is getting a little muggy.

As dawn touches Montanta, Data and Picard touch the Phoenix.

PICARD: Isn't it amazing? This ship used to be a nuclear missile.
DATA: It is an historical irony that Doctor Cochrane would use an instrument of mass-destruction to inaugurate an era of peace...Sir, does tactile contact alter your perception of the Phoenix?
PICARD: Oh, yes. For humans, touch can connect you to an object in a very personal way. It makes it seem more real.

After the action-movie stuff, this scene effectively gets us back into Trek territory. Data is getting a little human lesson, one that is simultaneously familiar and novel, and without relying on the lazy crutch of the emotion chip. Picard is reminding us of his archaeological roots. And we are reminded that, despite all the destruction we've been witnessing, the future is supposed to be about peace. It is taken for granted that Cochrane “inaugurated” this new era, self-consciously. And Troi makes a little joke implying that this lesson in tactile meaning has sexual overtones to it (“Would you three like to be alone?”). A very tidy and effective scene.

Scene 6 : **.5, 3.75%

In Engineering, the backup team is discovering that this humidity problem harbingers something much more serious. Two bit parts are taken out in horror movie fashion. Their pained screams are accompanied by that slithering Borg noise, and sure enough Picard can hear them in his head again. He calls Worf for an update, and decides that he and Data will return to the ship, completing the scrip switcharoo to put the top-billed actors into the action plot.

Crusher and her staff finish treating Lily but are greeted by ominous banging at the door. The doors aren't just opening automatically because drama. Picard and Data arrive on the bridge for an update. The captain has deck 16 sealed off, having fully pieced together that the Borg have begun assimilating the Enterprise. It's implied that this was their ultimate plan, launch a cube, send a sphere back in time, assimilate the Enterprise and then Earth. Once again, this is fucking stupid, but the plot wisely bulldozes along and focuses on other things. Like the fact that the communication system is now down, with Picard unable to hail Riker on the surface. They see that the Borg are rerouting ship controls to Engineering, and so Picard has Data repeat his trick from “Brothers” (no not rubbing his tummy and whistling, the other trick) and lock out the main computer with a complex security encryption.

Scene 7 : **.5, 3.75%

With doom knocking on the sickbay door, Crusher revives Lily to get her to join her staff in escaping through the Jeffries Tubes. To provide a distraction, Bev gets to do her big thing for the movie and relinquish the stage to Robert Picardo and his EMH cameo. Picardo is his hilarious self, and apparently succeeds at distracting the Borg long enough for the team to escape.

CRUSHER: Twenty Borg are about to break through that door. We need time to get out of here. Create a diversion.
EMH: This isn't part of my programme. I'm a doctor, not a doorstop.
CRUSHER: Well do a dance. Tell a story. I don't care. Just give us a few seconds.

The Doctor, dance? Talk? Pshh. You might as well ask him to sing.

Lily for her part says fuck this noise and ditches Crusher and her staff in the Jeffries Tube.

Accompanied by a snare drum, Picard, Worf and Data are being all badass or whatever, devising a ridiculous action plan to defeat the Borg. They're going to melt the flesh off their bodies by puncturing some coolant tanks that Starfleet conveniently installed *right* next to the warp core. Good thing lawsuits are obsolete in the 24th century. The not stupid part of the scene comes from this single line:

PICARD: One other thing...You may encounter Enterprise crewmembers who've already been assimilated. Don't hesitate to fire. Believe me you'll be doing them a favour.

Picard is admitting here to strong suicidal feels during...and perhaps after his assimilation. That certainly tracks with what we saw in “Family.” It's understandable, but it's also troubling. As in “I Borg,” Picard is driven towards an amoral pragmatism via the residual emotional trauma of his own experience. Militarily, yes Picard's edict to shoot first ask questions later may be justified in this emergency, but the supposition that his crewmen would *prefer* death to rescue or even continued existence as drones is a presumption informed entirely by his own guilt. Moreover, he's propagandising just like the Borg do, giving his people license to potentially betray their own consciences. How did the Borg put it?

“Freedom is irrelevant. Self determination is irrelevant...Death is irrelevant.”

In adopting this policy, Picard is enforcing the Borg's cultural framework.

“We'd be no better than the enemy that we seek to destroy.”

You said it, Jean-Luc.

Scene 8 : ***.5, 3.75%

Meanwhile, Troi is drunk. Riker finds her and Cochrane at the bottom of several bottles of backwoods moonshine and great northern Tequila. Cochrane is a fan of jukeboxes and 1960s rock, which is a cute homage to the era in which his character was first created. He has given up on the Phoenix and drinking away his...I wouldn't call it sorrows so much as general ennui. How very 2020 of him.

TROI: Will, I think we have to tell him the truth.
RIKER: If we tell the truth the timeline...
TROI: Timeline! This is no time to argue about time. We don't have the time! ...What was I saying?

Overall, this is probably the best Troi material in all the TNG movies. She's a funny drunk and Sirtis is a funny lady. The scene efficiently conveys to us the general premise here, that Cochrane is nothing like the legend his fame would suggest. I suppose it would be like finding out that Christopher Columbus was a racist piece of shit. Oh wait...okay, more like finding out that MLK was a sexist and a homophobe. Troubling. Complicated. But not likely definitive.

Scene 9 : ***, 3.75%

Back on the Enterprise, Picard and co. are making their way down darkly-lit corridors to Engineering. Encountering a partially assimilated hall, Data finds himself feeling fear once again. Luckily for all of us, he's able to simply deactivate the emotion chip these days. Along the way, Worf runs into Beverly who informs him (and reminds us) that Lily is crawling around the ship somewhere. Beverly...who gave you a LINE?

Finally, we see the updated Borg who have swapped their sex dungeon by way of Ace Hardware gear for some nifty, movie-quality prostheses. “First Contact” actually establishes that the Borg assimilation process is twofold. Before the horrifying dismemberment begins, the Borg take your mind. The Collective consciousness is forced upon its victims via the injection of what we will later learn are nanoprobes into the bloodstream. This accentuates the zombi/vampire horror angle to the Borg as we see a number of crewmembers partially assimilated, as Picard had warned.

Picard and co.'s meddling finally causes the drones to start attacking. They can be held off for the moment with phasers, but that quickly gives way to Worf beating them with his gun and Data using his superior strength to protect Picard. This lasts only a few moments as the crew find themselves overwhelmed and Data captured. So Picard retreats, but not before he phasers one of his men to death, one who's been nanoprobed and is begging for his captain's help. Yikes.

But his problems aren't over when he flees into the Jeffries Tube. He's lucky enough to run into Lily, who steals his phaser and uses it to force him to show her a way out of this place.

Scene 10 : ****, 3.75%

Data finds himself strapped to an assimilation table right in the middle of Engineering, surrounded by drones. He notices them attempting to break his encryption and informs them they will fail. Ah, but then he hears a voice from the shadows. A *sexy lady voice*...

BORG QUEEN (OC): Brave words. I've heard them before from thousands of species across thousands of worlds since long before you were created. But now, they are all Borg.
DATA: I am unlike any lifeform you have encountered before. The codes stored in my neural net cannot be forcibly removed.
BORG QUEEN (OC): You are an imperfect being created by an imperfect being. Finding your weaknesses is only a matter of time.

And with that, the Borg begin delicately drilling into the side of Data's skull. Sounds like a good idea.

Meanwhile, Riker has decided to break the timeline and get a slightly less drunk Cochrane up to speed on what's really going on here. Geordi proves the point by getting the Enterprise in the sights of Cochrane's telescope.

COCHRANE: So, what is it you want me to do?
RIKER: Simple. Conduct your warp flight tomorrow morning just as you planned...tomorrow morning when [aliens] detect the warp signature from your ship and realise that humans have discovered how to travel faster than light, they decide to alter their course and make first contact with Earth, right here..It is one of the pivotal moments in human history, Doctor. You get to make first contact with an alien race, and after you do, everything begins to change.
LAFORGE: Your theories on warp drive allow fleets of starships to be built and mankind to start exploring the Galaxy.
TROI: It unites humanity in a way no one ever thought possible when they realise they're not alone in the universe. Poverty, disease, war. They'll all be gone within the next fifty years.

This is a tremendous scene for many reasons.

1.It affirms the Trek ethos in a concise way that both recapitulates what we know from the series (echoing similar speeches in TNZ and “Time's Arrow”), and introduces the notion of an evolved humanity to an audience that may not be Trek specific. That's not something you see in many so-called action movies.
2.For the first time, it *ascribes* human social evolution to a series of tangible events. Humans didn't just decide to forgo money and war, it happened as a direct result of realising their isolation in the Universe, and that illusions of control Picard talked about in TNZ simply weren't true.
3.It deliberately includes all of humankind in its assessment, not just a privileged few left on Earth (looking at you Maquis asshats). Humanity is given the freedom, finally, to pursue a higher purpose unencumbered by concerns over wealth and power.

Without going too far on a tangent, this is what series like DS9 and “Picard” are missing in their more cynical takes on the franchise. It would be reasonable to question whether this evolved status would sustain itself over time, but there has to be a specific event that explains the change. I know some would argue that BoBW *is* that event, but that's not really what we saw. The first Borg invasion woke the Federation from its complacency about how hostile the galaxy could be. That is fair. But it in no way disrupted those systems that eliminated hunger, want, or the need for possessions. And events like the Maquis crisis and later the Romulan refugee crisis depend completely upon a material deficit that is not explicable in the Star Trek universe.

It is this understanding of the human condition that elevates what is otherwise a fun, but not exactly cerebral action film about fighting zombie bad guys. Riker and co. understand what they're fighting for, just as Guinan reminded us in BoBW. It isn't just humans, it's the human spirit. And that human spirit isn't some vague platitude, it is a specific set of ideals tied to an historical event in which the crew realise they are lucky to participate. Cochrane says it plainly, “And you people, you're all astronauts, ... on some kind of star trek?” Astronauts, not soldiers. On a journey. Seemingly inspired, he agrees to give it a go.

Scene 11 : ***.5, 3.75%

We see another couple of minutes of Enterprise crew getting Borged to death before Worf and Lieutenant Only Gay If You Don't Write Angry Letters discuss the possible reasons the Borg have stopped their rampage at deck 11. Picard meanwhile is trying to explain himself to Lily. The two have an somewhat surprising chemistry. Picard is an intellectual trying to be an action hero and Lily is an engineer trying to be a soldier. Although Patrick Stewart got his continued wish to swash-buckle with the Borg, the script deftly makes this out-of-character behaviour part of the fabric of the story. Lily being out of her depth helps to accentuate this dynamic, and Woodard is so incredibly human in her portrayal that our sympathy remains with her even as she keeps her phaser turned on Picard. Jerry Goldsmith's instincts pay dividends here as the First Contact theme gently plays while the two tentatively hold hands and peer out a space door at the Earth below. The isn't THE First Contact, and yet it very much is. Lily is touching the future she has helped to shape, without realising it, in the same way Picard and Data touched the Phoenix (“For humans, touch can connect you to an object in a very personal way. It makes it seem more real.”).

Scene 12 : ***.5, 3.75%

While this touching is going on, the Borg are getting horny with Data. Horny and enigmatic.

DATA: Who are you?
BORG QUEEN (OC): I am the Borg.
DATA: That is a contradiction. The Borg have a collective consciousness. There are no individuals.
BORG QUEEN: I am the beginning, the end, the one who is many. I am the Borg.

Remember what I mentioned in BoBW. The Borg's collective consciousness is complicated. Like any pragmatic power, some of what we are led to believe is true only insofar as it serves the political needs of the moment. There are moments when operating under a hierarchy, a queen and her drones or a Locutus and his cube, is more advantageous that a pure collective will. Eventually in “Scorpion” and later in “Survival Instinct,” we will see that the Borg make a habit of designating leaders when the moment demands it. But that's not part of the propaganda. Such minutia doesn't fit on a bumper sticker.

The queen is finally assembled in an impressive composite shot while she introduces herself as “the Borg.” She probes him, noting her intimate awareness of his character and motivations. Again, this is politics, but a different flavour than the Borg tend to use on organic species. The irony is that Data can't be plugged into the Collective the way a human can be, so he must be assimilated with words. And, of course, with touch. She activates the emotion chip (proving what a bad idea it was to keep the damned thing), then reveals that she has grafted human skin onto his arm. She blows on and he has a little Data-gasm.

BORG QUEEN: Was that good for you?

These things are a matter of taste, but for me the tongue in cheek here is just classy enough to get a sincere chuckle out of the exchange. Alice Krige plays the role sexually but there is something refreshingly subversive about the power play. And let's be real, the Borg have always come across as incredibly kinky, so this was inevitable.

Scene 13 : ***, 3.75%

Picard and Lily are still making their way through the ship. He has been filling her in on more details about the 24th century, repeating his lines from TNZ.

PICARD: The economics of the future are somewhat different. ...You see, money doesn't exist in the twenty-fourth century.
LILY: No money! That means you don't get paid.
PICARD: The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. ...We work to better ourselves...and the rest of humanity.

He doesn't condescend to her the way he did to Ralph Elon Gates Bezos, but his assessment of his present is unambiguous. Whatever else may have changed since BoBW, money is simply not a thing in the 24th century. Which means...the Maquis can all fuck themselves.

On the production side, I have to say the Enterprise E seems to be the most inefficiently-designed ship we've seen so far and that's including a starship which apparently housed dolphins. There are just endless corridors filled with empty bulkheads and rail guards, not to mention rooms with tiny doors that go into space for no reason. I like this movie, but someone should have put a little more effort into all of this.

The pair finally run into a Borgified section and walk through a sea of drones, who ignore them per their idiom. But Picard bores of this and so shoots a panel to get their attention. Actually he's trying to lure a couple of them into the holodeck. He plays a programme called “The Big Goodbye” (I see what you did there) and gets himself and Lily dolled up as Dixon Hill and a 1940s gal...er, somehow.

Scene 14 : ***.5, 3.75%

The Borg break in to what is supposed to be the Café des Artistes in the 1940s. Ethan Philips is manning the bar, decidedly less furry and paedophilic than we're used to seeing him. The not-Neelix hologram is manhandled by the drones until Picard realises he's started the wrong chapter. He fast forwards and suddenly the room is filled with happy dancing couples into which Picard and Lily blend. Ruby makes a cameo (she was his secretary I think. I actually didn't check), and it's all very cute (“dump the brunette.” Yeah that's what a gal in the 40s would say about Hill's black girlfriend). Picard's actual plan is to get ahold of an holographic machine gun which, with the safeties off, will manage to do what his phaser no longer can and kill some Borg.

The café magically clears of patrons which—eh, it's the holodeck—but more importantly, Picard is driven to absolute rages. Yeah, there's a genre within the genre justification for this, a space-Rambo layer that fits the artificial setting, but really this an important window into Picard's psyche. This drone is actually Ensign Lynch, and the the sight of him fully assimilated by the Borg brings up all that flotsam from “Family” once again. Picard has failed Ensign Lynch and dozens of other crewmen by now. He absolutely canNOT fail to stop the Borg now, and that determination is manifesting itself in another loss of emotional control. Lily, observes and comments on all this (as is the motif for these Borg stories) from from her 21st century perch.

Scene 15 : ***, 3.75%

Back on Earth, Cochrane is growing tired of the slack-jawed admiration he's getting from Geordi's team of warp core nerds. Speaking of nerds, Reg Barclay makes an appearance to do a little gushing, driving the good doctor to his favourite pastime, booze!

COCHRANE: Do they have to keep doing this?
LAFORGE: It's just a little hero worship, Doctor.

Geordi goes on to tell Cochrane about the statue they're going to build in his honour and this causes Cochrane to piss himself. Literally, he has to take a piss in the woods. Komedi! But then we see Riker and Geordi racing through the wilderness trying to catch Cochrane, who after peeing on his own shoe and thinking, “I don't really want a statue commemorating this,” ran away from the launch site.

Picard and Lily finally emerge on the bridge where Worf once again scares a primitive woman half to death with his inhuman forehead. Picard accessed a neural processor from the late Ensign Lynch and determined why the Borg stopped on deck 11. They're trying to build a communication beacon on the deflector dish (which can do anything) in order to contact the Borg of this time in the Delta Quadrant and facilitate the assimilation of Earth. Sure. Anyway, Picard, Worf and Lieutenant We're Just Roommates, I Swear suit up in pressure suits to “take a stroll” along the Enterprise hull, their only means to intercept the Borg on the deflector.

Frakes once again makes excellent use of his setting, utilising upside down shots and gorgeous views of the Enterprise and the Earth. The space walk is an excuse for an action scene, but the direction manages once again to elevate this material into something which reminds us, hey, space is pretty cool.

Scene 16 : ***.5, 3.75%

Data is having more skin grafted onto his arm. He tries sublimating his chip-induced fear by engaging in technobabble.

BORG QUEEN (OC): Do you always talk this much?
DATA: Not always, ...but often.

The Queen sings the praises of the Borg's evolution, creating a foil for Picard's proselytisation of Lily on behalf of humanity. This is important, because now we are invited to test the assumptions of both parties. Is Picard as evolved as he claims? Are the Borg? Well, Picard claims that humanity has altered its priorities to *seek after* betterment, to be selfless in the service of a never-ending project that feeds the spirit of all. On the other hand,

DATA: Believing oneself to be perfect is often the sign of a delusional mind.

The Borg do not seek to better themselves, they propagandise and, as Data said earlier, they conquer others, forcing them to be what the Borg culture deems perfect. We have seen Picard be quite sure of himself and his beliefs, unto the point of maybe being a little smug. But he never forced anyone to adopt his values. Eddington would call this insidious, but it is not insidious to model good behaviour and live your values. Insidiousness is deceptive. Picard isn't deceiving Lily about the future she's shaping. He certainly isn't hiding his own flaws from her.

Anyway, Data seizes the opportunity afforded by a moment of lapsed security and escapes the assimilation table, knocking out several drones. But Data's new skin is ripped and suddenly he finds himself humbled in pain.

BORG QUEEN: Look at yourself, standing there cradling the new flesh that I've given you. If it means nothing to you, why protect it?
DATA: I ...I am simply imitating the behaviour of humans.
BORG QUEEN: You're becoming more human all the time. Now you're learning how to lie.
DATA: My programming was not designed to process these sensations.
BORG QUEEN: Then tear the skin from your limbs as you would a defective circuit. ...Go ahead, Data. We won't stop you. ...Do it. Don't be tempted by flesh.

But, in a manner much more convincing and conceivable than we saw in “Descent,” Data is tempted by flesh, leading to the most infamous moment from this part of the film as he and the Queen start making out. Mmmm. Slimy Borg kisses.

Scene 17 : **.5, 3.75%

While Picard and co. scale the hull and Data dusts off Yar's favourite sex toy, Riker and Geordi finally catch up to Cochrane. I mean, they're Starfleet's finest and he's a drunk so naturally this was an epic chase. Cochrane tells them he “doesn't want to be a statue,” and so Will just stuns him.

The space drones are building their device on the deflector and Picard and his team surround them to activate the maglocks and release the whole thing from the hull. This again prompts the question, “who the hell designed this ship?” Picard, Worf and Lieutenant You're Breaking Your Mother's Heart each have to individually activate a release panel like this is a damned video game. The Borg begin to care about this activity, I guess, and one by one they start stepping away from the beacon to stop our heroes. Worf pulls out his mini-Bat'leth, dismembering and killing a drone, but piercing his own suit, Picard does a zero-g dance, and Lieutenant Have You Tried Not Being Gay gets assimilated. Hurray for inclusion! Happy Pride Month! The dish is eventually released, Borghawk killed and Worf gets to spout his trailer-fodder before they make a boom boom.

Scene 18 : ****, 3.75%

Aboard the Phoenix, Cochrane finally confesses his sin to Riker.

COCHRANE: I've heard enough about the great Zefram Cochrane. I don't know who writes your history books or where you get your information from, but you people got some pretty funny ideas about me. You all look at me as if I'm some kind of saint or visionary or something...You wanna know what my vision is? ...Dollar signs! Money! I didn't build this ship to usher in a new era for humanity...I built this ship so that I could retire to some tropical island filled with naked women. That's Zefram Cochrane. That's his vision. This other guy you keep talking about. This historical figure. I never met him. I can't imagine I ever will.

There's an excellent parallel here between Picard and Cochrane. Picard is still trying to live up to an unrealistic expectation for himself, of the captain who never fails in his duty, and Cochrane is trying to avoid having any expectations for himself. Each is a man of his own time, with values which reflect the relative states of his universe. But, unlike the Borg, neither sees himself as perfect. And in the end each will “assimilate” his people, to a certain degree, into a better way of being. But it will be through leading by example, not force or propaganda. Through leadership.

Scene 19 : ****, 3.75%

Speaking of Picard, Worf and the rest of security (still led by no one) report to the captain that their efforts to stave off the Borg are failing. To the shock of the bridge crew, Picard orders them to stand their ground and fight the Borg with their bare hands if they have to. Yeah. Worf steps in and points out the obvious, that they should self-destruct the Enterprise and evacuate the surviving crew. Picard absolutely refuses, becoming increasingly hostile to the point he calls Worf a coward to his face. This is what I mean when I say the script uses Stewart's inane requests to its advantage. Picard has resorted to the most childish and toxic form of bullying possible to deflect any argument against his plan, such as it is. This blatant machismo is so obviously wrong-headed that even the Klingon warrior who tied a severed arm around his leg before gritting his teeth and saying “assimilate this” is telling him he's gone too far.

This is of course the moment when Beverly should relieve Picard of command, but we wouldn't want to overwhelm her character with meaningful action, so instead she sighs deeply. She and the rest begin acquiescing to their orders, so it's up to Lily to set Picard straight.

Since machismo won't work on Lily, Picard tries continuity. He explains his history with the Borg and claims that his experience gives him an insight that justifies his decision, but Lily sees right through it.

LILY: It's so simple. The Borg hurt you, and now you're going to hurt them back.
PICARD: In my century we don't succumb to revenge. We have a more evolved sensibility.
LILY: Bullshit! I saw the look on your face when you shot those Borg on the holodeck. You were almost enjoying it!
PICARD: How dare you!
LILY: Oh, come on, Captain. You're not the first man to get a thrill from murdering someone. I see it all the time.
PICARD: Get out!
LILY: Or what? You'll kill me, like you killed Ensign Lynch?
PICARD: There was no way to save him.
LILY: You didn't even try. Where was your evolved sensibility then?

Several points:

1.Lily isn't exactly correct, but she's close enough. Picard isn't avenging himself on the Borg because they hurt him; lots of people have done that. No, it's that the Borg forced him to betray his own principles to such an extent that he was responsible for killing thousands of his own people. This is the trauma that still haunts his nightmares. He wasn't defeated, he was corrupted.
2.Picard's claim that 24th century humans don't succumb to revenge is a sign of his psychological distress. Unlike the litany he gave Lily earlier, there is absolutely no evidence for this. He's making shit up, and he's hiding behind his own form of sloganeering.
3.Unlike with Miles in “Hard Time,” I don't object to Picard's dishonesty in this case because there is no effort being made in the script to invalidate the claim that humanity has evolved. Picard is using the excuse of humanity's evolution to hide from his own problems and the script is entirely aware of it. It's not subversion, it's a character flaw.
4.Lily's assessment that Picard “enjoyed” murdering Lynch is incorrect. It wasn't pleasure, it was relief.

But the reason Picard didn't try to save Lynch is the same reason he phasered that officer who was begging for help; Picard is imposing his own guilt on the Borg's victims. He's projecting. Deep down, he wishes that someone had killed him before he was assimilated, or filled his chest with bullets when he was Locutus.

The scene culminates with the iconic destruction of the “little ships” and the recitation of Melville. It is, of course, a tour de force performance from Stewart and Woodard, but, as I hope I've made clear, what elevates the violence, the anger and the hatred into the realm of Star Trek is way this resolves. In a typical action movie, this would be the point at which Picard would need to be convinced not to give up, to fight on and believe in something, to be motivated to pick up his gun and charge into battle. Here, Picard finally lets go of his demons and gently sets his phaser rifle down next to his broken ship models. Picard's trauma has been corrupting him every bit as much as the those nanoprobes did.

“We'd be no better than the enemy that we seek to destroy.”

And so, he puts it away; he chooses to be better than his enemy. Picard orders the ship evacuated.

Scene 20 : ***.5, 3.75%

The Phoenix is readied for launch while the Enterprise is prepared for auto-destruct. Crusher gets to give command codes because it's redundant and shouldn't be necessary, as does Worf because...I guess they officially promoted him to security chief at some point whilst fighting space zombies. Anyway, Picard apologises to Worf and, like the Voyager crew had considered, the survivors make plans to blend in to contemporary Earth. Picard bids farewell to his one-year-old bridge, but then he hears Data's voice in his mind along with those familiar Borg whispers.

Cochrane gets his rock and roll playing on the Phoenix' boom box and they launch into orbit. Her nacelles are revealed in all their Trekky beauty and the flight crew, now consisting of Cochrane, Riker and Geordi prepare for the historic jump to warp. The Enterprise launches her escape pods to Earth, bookending this mirrored scene nicely.

Scene 21 : ***, 3.75%

Picard returns to the lower decks and calmly enters the Borgified Engine Room. He eyes the warp core, that thing Cochrane worked so hard to develop, and considers those prominent tanks full of flesh-liquidiser on its sides. The queen enters and greets “Locutus” bitterly. She retcons herself into BoBW, accusing Picard of “forgetting” her like a jilted lover. Unlike her interactions with Data, this aspect to the Queen (not the retcon so much as the character dynamic with Picard) is pretty corny and silly. He sees that Data has been outfitted with more flesh and blood.

PICARD: Let him go. He's not the one you want...It wasn't enough that you assimilate me. I had to give myself freely to the Borg, ...to you...You wanted more than just another Borg drone. You wanted a human being with a mind of his own, who could bridge the gulf between humanity and the Borg. You wanted a counterpart.

This cements what I said about the hitherto nebulous political nature of the Borg. Many lament that the introduction of the Queen and her agenda “neutered” the Borg by removing the advantage Troi spoke of in “Q Who” about the Collective mind being less apt to make mistakes than an individual leader. But that's the whole point. Remember the conversation all the way back in “The Neutral Zone.”

RALPH: It's about power...to control your life, your destiny.
PICARD: That kind of control is an illusion.

In the same way Ralph's Reaganomic economic fetish was illusory, so is the Borg's Collective mind. Whether it's the Invisible Hand or Borg Perfection, we are dealing with propaganda. Yes, the interconnectivity of the drones makes the Borg very powerful. That kind of collective power is something understood as well by ant colonies as by labour unions. But power is always in the service of something or someone. Now we understand that for the Borg, that someone is their Queen.

At any rate, while Picard offers himself to the Queen (knowing that the Enterprise is about to blow them both up—remember, Picard still has a death wish), she is quite happy with her new toy and Data appears, once again, to have succumbed to temptation. He refuses to leave, deactivates the auto-destruct, taunts Picard, releases the encryption and locks torpedoes on the Phoenix. Does any of this make sense? No! But, you know, drama!

Scene 22 : **.5, 3.75%

So the Phoenix does its whole Apollo 13 shtick and Data fires the torpedoes.

BORG QUEEN: Watch your future's end.

Aww thanks, Queeny. I already watched it a couple weeks ago, but I appreciate the suggestion! Anyway, Data was just fucking with her and with us as the torpedoes intentionally miss. He yells “resistance is futile” and breaks the coolant tubes open with his fleshy arm before the Phoenix jumps to warp 1. There's a clichéd struggle involving ropes and tubes and wordless grunting and finally the Queen is destroyed by magic gas, disabling all the other drones on the Enterprise for some reason and the day is saved. Picard vents the gas, snaps the Queen's robot neck in half and has Banter® with Data.

Scene 23 : ***.5, 3.75%

Picard makes his captain's log explaining how the Phoenix' trip has made way for the “rendezvous with history.” Goldsmith's score swells and Cochrane is given the honour to make first contact with the Vulcans, which is an inspired choice for the film. The Vulcans were Star Trek's very first alien culture, after all. There's a metatextual element that just fits neatly into the narrative. Cromwell plays the part of a man waking up to an enlightened future, while stumbling over his own feet (and alien hand gestures), perfectly.

Lily and Picard say their goodbyes, acknowledging the mutual understanding they've developed.

LILY: I envy you. The world you're going to.
PICARD: I envy you. Taking these first steps into a new frontier.

This is what I meant before, the film in no way undermines the Trekkian ethos. Lily is looking forward to a future without money, disease and war. She wasn't jaded by seeing the personal flaws of one man, even if that one man is supposed to be the avatar for his people, because she saw him overcome his demons and live up to his evolved sensibilities in the end. And she's seen her alcoholic friend overcome his own short-sighted, if relatable goals to change the world for the better.

“As long as there's a handful of you to keep the spirit alive, you will prevail.”

They beam up, the Enterprise travels back to the future...eh, just go with it. Everybody pose for a picture and make it so.

Film as Functionary : ****, 11.75%

This film shares a lot of DNA with “Generations.” We've got action schlock, head-scratchy time travel, our leads behaving out of character, and a very convoluted master villain plot. Two things make this film a great if imperfect success while the other remains, in my assessment, a failure.

First is the execution; from the music to the performances, to the set design, to the effects, and most importantly, in the direction, “First Contact” has a cinematic scope and feel from beginning to end without abandoning the ethos that makes this feel like Star Trek (c.f. Abrams 2009). Every scene is excellently paced, masterfully acted and stylish without being pretentious. Considering Frakes only had TV experience up to this point, that's an impressive achievement. Although it would have been nice to give Crusher something significant to do, every other character is well-utilised and gets at least one stand-out scene. The optimistic title plot and often gruesome villain plot complement rather than compete with one another. Thematic connections aside, showing us the sunny Cochrane story helps remind us of the stakes in the Borg story. We're never bogged down in misery nor sugar-rushed with lightheartedness. It's a well-balanced film. Because of this, pretty much all of the script's flaws can be forgiven.

The second, arguably more important ingredient in the film's success is its sense of purpose. TOS was cancelled abruptly and, even if it hadn't been, the nature of the 1960s programme it was didn't spend a lot of time developing its characters. TOS was thematically interesting with memorable characters, but it wasn't until the film franchise began that we really started to see significant changes in characterisation. So the TOS films functioned as necessary character pieces for Kirk and Spock. The individual films have their individual strengths and weaknesses, but all feel like necessary components to completing the story of the Original Series and its characters. TNG, on the other hand, completed itself. “All Good Things...” provided the perfect capstone to the characters and the series' themes and most of its running plots. So, execution aside, “Generations” felt more like an appendix to the series, yet another adventure, as opposed to something which needed to be made. “First Contact” takes the bold approach of being a Star Trek film *about* Star Trek.

“First Contact” shows us Picard at his darkest, confronting his most pernicious demons head-on and nearly
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Elliott
Wed, Jun 17, 2020, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Visitor

@Jason R

Now you're being obtuse. I can back up what I say about the left. I can demonstrate why certain principles and policies are left-wing. That's my point. Unless you can do the same, it isn't fair or accurate to accuse "the left" of being or doing something it isn't.
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Elliott
Wed, Jun 17, 2020, 12:31pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Visitor

@Jason R

As I said, words have meaning. To call something "left," one has to examine its origins and accurately pinpoint how it falls on the spectrum of a given issue or movement.

You have a spectrum on economics. On the far right, you've got laissez faire capitalism, monopolies, trickle-down. On the far left, you've got collective ownership and the dissolution of wealth. You can pinpoint an economic proposal, such as tax brackets, as left right or centre based on which of these extremes most closely and to what degree align with said proposal.

You have a spectrum on social issues. On the far left, you've got full secular humanism. On the far right, you've got theocracy.

You have a spectrum on political issues. On the far left, you've got non-hierarchical direct democracy bordering on anarchism. On the far right, you've got military dictatorship.

The items I listed as being part of the left can be labelled as such because you can chart them on the political spectrum based on their *intrinsic nature,* NOT because they are causes taken up by any particular people or groups. If George Bush came out in favour of Universal Basic Income, that would not make UBI a conservative policy. If Noam Chomsky claimed support for Sharia Law, that would not make Sharia Law a progressive policy.

You are ascribing a left/right dichotomy without examining the intrinsic nature of the issues you're complaining about. You are also abusing the word "care" here. I used it ironically to make a point that I don't think worked as I intended. What I am saying is that there are specific policy goals that individuals or groups propose. One can determine whether those policies are left or right through analysis. I still have absolutely no idea what "aggressive caring" means.

Now, as Peter G sort of alludes to, groups can and do (especially in a politically polarised environment) sometimes align many of their policy proposals along the same political axis. So if you have a group that makes diverse policy proposals (diverse meaning that pertain to economics, social policy, political policy and more), it can sometimes be the case that *all* of those policies align with the left end of the spectrum. And in such cases, it would be fair to call said group a "leftist" group, because an analysis of the policy stands up to such a description.

I will counter Peter G's assessment "on both the right and the left in America you will find massive alignment on seemingly disparate issues that correspond to one 'team' or the other." The self-description as economically conservative but socially liberal is one of the most American political tropes there is. This is quintessential neoliberalism on the individual level. There are also a large number of religious socialists. It's very common in the Catholic Church for example. These folks vehemently oppose abortion and in some cases LGBTQ+ rights but advocate for aggressively redistributive economic policies.

However, I do agree that the media tends to be unhelpfully (IMO intentionally) reductive about these labels, especially when it comes to political parties.
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Elliott
Wed, Jun 17, 2020, 11:22am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Visitor

You are moving the goalposts.

If a "legion" of people on the streets, in the news, or on a campus gather together and protest for "black lives matter," for example, is that "the left"? Is everyone in said legion a Marxist? Is every one of them looking to get "Cops" off the air? What?

My point is that positioning yourself against a political ideology because you find the priorities of a group you've decided represents that ideology annoying or problematic or dangerous or whatever exactly the complaint is is incoherent. You're tilting against windmills here.

If your position is that cancelling tv programmes or changing sports logos is wrong, either at all or in specific cases, then make that claim and we can talk about it.

If your position is that redistributive economics is a bad idea, then we can talk about it.

If your position is that the police should not be defunded, then let's talk about it.

But lumping all these things together gets us absolutely no where. It just provides you with an excuse to dismiss any argument you disagree with. I'll ask you again, what does it mean to "aggressively care about something"? I sincerely have no idea what that is supposed to mean.
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Elliott
Wed, Jun 17, 2020, 10:41am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Visitor

@Jason R

There are certainly people who care about these things, but labels have meanings. Identifying what motivates these people is important. When you lump it all together as "the left," you've completely lost the ability to debate the issues.

Left-wing economics are a distinct set of values that like to see wealth distributed more equally.

Left-wing social policies are a distinct set of values that like to see people treated fairly and respected for their personal autonomy.

"there is mountainous evidence that the left cares about all these and similar things quite deeply and aggressively."

1. Please define "mountainous evidence"
2. Please show how said evidence constitutes "the left"
3. Please explain what "aggressively caring about something" means
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Elliott
Wed, Jun 17, 2020, 9:51am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Visitor

I'm just tickled by this idea that the limousine liberals in Hollywood and elsewhere censoring TV shows and rebranding syrup and butter are considered "the left." These assholes are capitalists trying to market their products. They could give a fuck about racism, history, sensitivity, heritage, slipper slopes...they care about making as much money as fucking possible at all times.

The left doesn't care if you watch "Gone With the Wind," the left wants black people to paid paid reparations for the economic devastation of slavery.

The left doesn't care if you read Harry Potter; the left wants to ensure that the trans community is given equal protection under the law.

The left doesn't care if Land-O-Lakes butter has a picture of an Indian on it; the left wants the Dakota Access Pipeline shut down.

The left doesn't care about Aunt Jemima; the left wants the police to be demilitarised and defunded.

There are bushels of straw men on this thread.
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Elliott
Mon, Jun 15, 2020, 12:03pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Warlord

@Peter G

"we definitely needed to know whether they stood with each other."

Yeah, and we do know where Kes and Neelix end up, it just isn't spelled out in *this* episode. As I said, they certainly could have dedicated an entire episode to the breakup, but the material between "Warlord" and "Darkling" doesn't depend upon whether we know if they broke up or not. It works either way. And we discover in "Darkling" that they had indeed held to the breakup seen in this episode.

"There's no scene to tell us what's going on because nothing is going on."

That can't be true considering what happens in "Second Chances," "All Good Things..." and "Insurrection." Obviously, something was going on. There's also the ambiguous memory from "Violations" in which Troi remembers them making out after a poker game. Until the telepathic rape stuff comes into play, it certainly seems like they're about to hook up and that this is just something that happens now and again. They must have some sort of arrangement, but they never discuss it on screen. I think this is fine.
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Elliott
Mon, Jun 15, 2020, 10:49am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Visitor

@Cody B

1. I may have misunderstood, but I think Jason R was saying his neighbour has put up a sign on their home which he has to see whenever he steps out of his, not that the neighbour had vandalised Jason R's home.

2. Cancel culture is pernicious on every side of the political spectrum. Right-wingers do it all the time (remember Nike?).
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Elliott
Mon, Jun 15, 2020, 10:47am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Warlord

@William B

I think that's fair, and I am not, despite perhaps some reputation, a Voyager apologist. I think a conversation discussing their breakup between "Warlord" and "Darkling" would have been great--it would have improved the development of the characters. But without it, we still have the necessary events and dialogue to see the progression and it does, as you say, make sense. I think it's significant that Neelix is his most...Neelix in this story, pushy, sincere, cloying, and we never see the two of them interact again until the confirmation in "Darkling" that they broke up. This requires no more reading between the lines than decoding Troi's and Riker's relationship on TNG. In "Haven," Riker's pouting about her engagement, then in "The Price," he's wishing Ral the best in pursuing something with her, then in "Ménage à Troi," they're picnicking, then in "Family," they're vacationing together in Venezuela, then in "The Game," Riker's whoring it up on RIsa...I don't object to any of this, but there are no conversations between them that spell out the nature of their relationship or how it's changing; we are expected to piece it together. I just tend to see a much more dismissive attitude about Voyager's writing that makes me a little defensive.
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