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Peter G.
Mon, Jan 13, 2020, 11:19am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Broken Link

@ Fenn,

In response to some serious questions about (a) the Founders, and (b) how DS9 is or isn't channeling the '90's, I would like to offer a theory that I'm not 100% certain reflects the intent of the writers but which is actually my head canon.

I think the reason Odo presents as male is *only* because Dr. Mora was the one who found him. He copied him, his hair, and to the extent he could, his face. But Odo is very bad at faces, which IMO is a metaphorical way of saying he's bad at lying. The Founders, on the other hand, have duplicity and disguide *with solids* as their second nature, the first nature I suppose being the Link, which is the exact opposite: pure sharing. I also think that Odo assumes a hetero take on sex (being attracted to Kira, but not some dude) is likewise due to eventually coming to feel the things a male tends to feel. Now we could argue 'why couldn't he have been a gay male' but don't forget he's copying what he sees, which we assume is hetero Cardassian males, and maybe Bajoran ones too. Now this is perhaps a DS9 channeling the '90's thing, that both races don't have gay couples, but nevertheless I think it's fair to say that Odo probably doesn't even know where his feelings come from. It was embarassing enough for him to have them in the first place.

The Female Changeling is another matter: I think she appears in female form purely for Odo's sake, and only because they know he has an attraction to a female already. We already know she's choosing her form based on what will make Odo comfortable: her face. Founders can copy faces perfectly well but she chooses to have a face like Odo's. I surmise that her sex is also chosen to soften Odo. As a result, my head canon at least is that the Changelings do not have sex or gender at all, but can assume a sex or gender when they shift into forms that have those. At that time they'd adopt the chemical characteristics that that species has including sexual attraction.

About Garak's seemingly hetero leering, I have a different idea about this: I think he's testing Odo, to see if he can learn something about his sexuality. Maybe by being so brazen about it he thinks he can get Odo to open up a bit and not treat sexuality like a taboo, which basically does end up working. The thing is, I always expect Garak is doing this to study his subject, not to have a fraternal high-five session over the ladies. Even if Garak did indeed love the ladies he's not that kind of guy. So this is a performance he's putting on, and maybe in part it's for Odo's benefit as well, as William B suggests. But generally I default to assuming that he's trying to extract information, where all situations to him are a kind of practice at interrogation.
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Peter G.
Fri, Jan 10, 2020, 4:15pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Sons of Mogh

@ Chrome,

I agree that Kurn's consent was certainly not scripted as being the main issue. I think the issue was one of finding the middle ground between Kurn's desires and what the crew was going to find acceptable to settle with.

However I do think it's the case (and perhaps this varies state by state) that if a call is made to the police warning them of a suicide attempt, they will not only come, but will possibly come armed with weapons drawn. I've read multiple stories about the police coming due to a suicide call with bad consequences. What probably varies depending on case is what they do with you after arresting you for making an attempt on your life (which I believe they would do if it came to it). Part of the issue isn't just the law, but medical infrastructure. If the state doesn't have available permanent care facilities (aka asylums) then even if they are legally permitted to commit you against your will, they won't do it if there's no place to put you or no funds for it. So yes, there is a mental health problem in the U.S. at least in part as a result of the lack of care available. That's a bit of a tangent, but my main point was that it's almost universally seen as unacceptable to take your own life in the West. The euthenasia argument tends to come in when discussing incurable diseases, and even then it's contentious. In the case of a completely healthy middle aged adult wanting to just die, it's practically anathema to the American sensibility as far as I understand it. I'm just making the leap and sort of assigning those values to Starfleet since I do think there's a generally American value system at work in much of the Trek universe.
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Peter G.
Fri, Jan 10, 2020, 1:34pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Sons of Mogh

I'll take a contrarian side on this episode, since most people seem agreed that the ending is problematic. To me the matter comes down to cultural values. Klingons believe in dying gloriously, humans (mostly) believe in living no matter what.

This episode shows us the Klingon side and how a life miserably lived is no life at all. They believe in honorable suicide, which ends up being equivalent to dying in glorious battle. Kurn wanted that, and Worf tried his darndest to convince himself that he believed it too. But at the end of the day, the suggestion to mind wipe Kurn turns out to be a humanized version of the Klingon goal: Kurn doesn't have to live in misery any more, but he won't die. It's a completely human ending, and one that shows 'respect' for the Klingon belief without actually giving in to it fully.

So the question is "was this ok"? Well assuming Kurn would have killed himself *for sure*, then the answer is that human values say that, yes, anything is better than that. In our current culture we will actually arrest and imprison people who are trying to kill themselves, that's how seriously we take it. So by human laws and values (never mind that it's a Bajoran station) taking drastic action seems to be permissible if saving a life is the stakes. Kurn's consent is not required to take such emergency actions with him, according to our values. The question then becomes whether another action other than this procedure would save him. My argument would be no, unless we're willing to include torture and 're-education' to force him to change his beliefs, which I believe would be far worse than mind-wiping him. So based strictly on human values this seems to have been both the humane and also the most legally acceptable answer.

But I think the main event for us here isn't whether mind-wiping someone without consent is ok generally speaking; I think the main event is Worf signing off on it. This shows us clearly that in the end he really does have values that are more human than Klingon. And we see this again and again where his sense of honor isn't actually quite the same as his fellow Klingons. Through TNG and DS9 real life Klingons have never lived up to what he idealized them as. The truth of the matter is that Worf is more like a Klingon-convention cosplay fan than a real Klingon, so true to their ideals and the image of Klingonness that it's actually not like the real thing. It's more like a human trying to be like a Klingon so hard that he ends up as something else: a perfect Klingon impression. Sons of Mogh shows me pretty well that deep down he really doesn't long for some of the cultural things Klingons do, even though genetically he does have the bloodlust and so forth. Killing Kurn without killing him is the perfect representation of Worf being a human wanting to be a Klingon. That he could accept this course of events means that he'd rather Kurn live than die gloriously through suicide, and that's a huge statement of his beliefs.
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Peter G.
Thu, Jan 9, 2020, 3:01pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S1: Past Prologue

I'm with Chrome that I'm not a fan of revisionist artistic vision. What they intended *then* is what they intended then. On the other hand it's worth asking what Robinson intended then. Could he have been exaggering his belief in Garak's pansexuality because it was cool to talk about? Not that he didn't believe it, but did it really impact the performances very much? So I do think it's relevant to inspect the episodes for signs of this, if for no other reason than out of curiosity.

I suppose I'm not surprised that some viewers distinctly see Garak's *sexual* attraction, whereas for my part while I do see attraction I've never really seen it as sexual. Maybe that's the issue, that a dude liking a dude, and even wanting to touch him, risks being seen as homosexual in America when in some cultures it wouldn't be seen that way. The German notion of friendship and kissing is totally different from the American one, for instance. So to be a bit more objective I do think we need to do what Booming is wary of, and look for signs of gay coding in either the writing or the acting.

The issue about gay coding *in art* is that there are certain objectives in art, one of which is usually (and in the case of TV, almost always) to clearly communicate content. If you have a gay character, it's not enough to say that in real life you might not know someone is gay; on TV you need to 'show your work' in the sense of having the content be *presented* to the audience for their understanding. Usually you'll know things about TV characters you wouldn't know about real people except maybe for those closest to you. It's not because they're telegraphing stereotypes necessarily, but because it's the job of TV to show you stuff and portray it in a digestible and clear format. This might well mean going above and beyond verissimilitude for the sake of storytelling. So a real life Garak might be inscrutible totally, whereas on DS9 we do need to be able to scrute him a little. If we didn't see it then it wasn't there, basically. Like, if the character successfully hid that he was with the Obsidian Order for the entire series, then it would simply not be canon that he ever was a member. It's a simple as that. So if we're going to assert something in canon about Garak's sexuality it has to have been onscreen somehow, and therefore in absense of an actual homosexual relationship we need the coding signals to at least flag it somewhat.

This argument runs parallel to another one I could make, which is that in real life LGBT people code signal plenty themselves. Some of it may be subconscious, some may be overt, as there are definite advantages to being able to make others (at least certain others) aware of your proclivities. It's no accident that the gay stereotypical characteristics exist as they do; it's because many gay people really do exhibit them. So portraying a gay character in art that has gay signal coding baked in surely doesn't run counter to actual reality. To me the only question is whether it's tasteful, interesting, and relevant. An insultingly broad depiction of gayness may get a laugh but it's probably 'not nice' on some level either. But throwing out the baby with the bathwater makes it almost as bad, where no signalling at all would probably mean that we are even mor restricted in portraying gay people than real gay people are at portraying themselves. And that can't be right.

So for Garak we have:

1) Is into clothes.
2) Is a bit touchy-feely, at least at first.
3) Wears slim-fitting clothing and comments on others' looks quite frequently.
4) As others have mentioned, often chooses sass over violence.
5) Does not do that arrogant alpha-male thing that other Cardassian males tend to do.
6) Feels kinship with the two other people on DS9 (Odo and Bashir) who also have something to hide and are odd men out.

However when inspecting this list I'm not sure I buy it very much:

1) I've always felt his positive references to clothes and tailoring were completely ironic, as if to say that he hated everything to do with it despite it working excellently as both a cover and a side business. Whenever he compliments someone's looks I can almost feel the sarcasm meter rising, as if to comment on the banality of actually caring about such things. I think he actually detests the preening side of Carassian culture, as seen in Civil Defense, and as a result probably has made a habit of jesting about liking clothes, just as his regularly seen smile is a gigantic jest in the face of living in a place that's practically torturous to him.

2) I guess this point might hold, but I guess it's hard to tell the difference between "this guy is weird" and "this guy likes guys". I also think his objective in Past Prologue was to maximally mess with Julian, so I don't really buy that it was all just a come-on. He was totally manipulating Julian on multiple levels and making him guess what each weird signal meant.

3) The slim clothing style for him didn't persist much past S1-2, and in terms of his manner in observing clothing in general, I think it was part of his 'game' of always pretending to be Plain Simple Garak even while knowing no one believed it. He was always poking people about this, like a double wink.

4) I actually see this as being strategic rather than a personality trait. He uses violence exactly as often as needed, and no more. The difficulty of being too violent too often is it shortens your lifespan. Garak is all about surviving. Also been seen as physically threatening is something his image could not sustain, so I think he tried to minimize exposure to that side of him.

5) I think part of this is the self-hatred of his society, despite having been shaped by it. It takes us the entire series to see it, but his view of Cardassia is not to rosy-colored as he'd led us to believe in The Wire (when discussing The Never-Ending Sacrifice). And likewise, his view of himself. The self-critical part of himself, the one needing help in early S7, is probably the self-examining faculty lacking in the narcissistic Central Command people we meet. That being said, that preening attitude seems to be more a thing among power-hungry guls and legates rather than ordinary people, of whom we have little contact. Judging regular human behavior based on military officers ranked Captain and above would probably create a ridiculously skewed vision of us too.

6) To be fair Bashir's secret didn't exist at this point in the series; or at least the details of it didn't. Pillar's original plan for Siddig may or may not have been dropped by this point. And regarding Julian being anything other than a keener womanizer, I'm not sure there's evidence of it yet here. Garak just decided to take advantage of the green officer who could be gulled into thinking he was breaking into something important. Anyone less arrogant wouldn't have imagined they'd be the center of an amazing adventure. The scene where Julian asks to be bugged (a laugh every time) seals for me why Garak chose him, at least in terms of the scripting: it's because he's a brlliant dolt, the perfect tool to use. The idea that his looks has anything to do with it seems to me far-fetched.

In conclusion: I'm not writing all of this to denounce the theory. I guess I'm inclined to believe Robinson's statement about it. But like Chrome I'm not sure it matters. I don't quite see any evidence of it on-screen, and to whatever extent DS9 (unlike other Treks) really explored male-male non-sexual love in Bashir/O'Brien, Odo/Quark, and Garak/Bashir, the Garak parts of it fit right in with that and don't seem to me to be of a significantly different color. At least to my eyes.
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Peter G.
Tue, Jan 7, 2020, 2:06pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S1: Past Prologue

@ Some Garak Fan,

Thanks for adding all that info. I've never researched the matter and generally only confine myself to watching what's onscreen. As a kid I loved cons but over time I've come to actively avoid them and even avoid watching interviews, because basically it takes the magic away for me to see them out of uniform talking about the show. It's now a 'show' to me, it's a real place populated with real people. Taking the stuffing out puts me off. However that does result, on occasion, with me probably missing some information such as you just provided. If Robinson has repeatedly mentioned his take on Garak then I'm sure that's legit. I still can't say that really comes across clearly to me in Past Prologue (or even in The Wire), because since Garak is so opaque it's never clear what his motives are. And if the average TV viewer would notice flirting then so would Bashir, which he didn't, so perhaps we didn't either. It was probably smart for Robinson to cloak that aspect of his character. Or maybe it just got lost in the mix. It can often be tough to tell if you got your idea across clearly enough, and in this case if you're actually doing something contrary to the desires of the writing team or producers then you can't exactly go up to them and ask if the pansexual idea was evident in the work.

In hindsight I agree with Robinson in that thinking of Garak as gay, straight, pansexual, whatever, actually affects my understanding of him about zero. It basically doesn't matter, Which is maybe the point. Or at least it wouldn't to a futuristic alien dude who's an exile anyhow.
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Peter G.
Tue, Jan 7, 2020, 10:46am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S1: Past Prologue

I have to grudgingly give one to Elliott about this episode. I recently watched What We Left Behind, where Andrew Robinson said very cdirectly that Garak was obviously gay in this episode, practically coming on to Julian with every word. Now to be honest I never saw that when I watched the episode, nor do I see it to this day even with this in mind. But I suppose I can see why it might be taken that way; Garak's slim fitting costume, his strange touching of Julian. I always took it as Garak trying to put him on edge; perhaps even to feed into what might be Julian's homophobia, since we can likely assume that a skirt-chaser might well be very self-consious about being seen as gay. Maybe that's a 20th century conceit, but I suspect that this hesitation to want to be seen as gay won't go away anytime soon.

The thing is, though, that Garak didn't end up written the way he did by accident. The writers clearly fed off Robinson, to the point where that's the only reason he was written back into the show in the first place. And I suspect that Robinson is a first class troll. So I am extremely hesitant to outright accept what he says about Garak clearly being gay, especially in a statement made now, about a show made 25 years ago, where there has been plenty of time in the interim to come up with theories about Garak. And Robinson eats that stuff up; so much so that he wrote his own Garak book. In which Garak was clearly not gay.

SPOILERS

But then that raises another point: maybe Robinson really did think of Garak as gay, until the writers screwed him over by giving him a Ziyal romance plotline. And once the series ended and Robinson wrote his book he was maybe stuck with the continuity they gave him, rather than his original conception of the character. It's pretty telling that Robinson made Garak straight in the book, since in theory he could have made him bi or anything else. It could even have been possible to imagine that his relationship with Ziyal was more for company and love than sexual attraction, and that he really was into guys and not ladies. Who knows.

So I'll give Elliott kudos for his certainty that Garak is gay, even though I'm not sure if Robinson was trolling us in the documentary or not. But he did say it, so that can't be ignored.
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Peter G.
Tue, Jan 7, 2020, 10:25am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Rejoined

I have a sneaking suspicion that the reassociation law has more to do with contract law than with emotional baggage. Imagine if you could have your head detached and re-attached to a new body. Would the 'new you' still be subject to contracts signed before? I doubt very much that the legal system can define which 'part of you' is entering into a contract. We can't argue it's "all of you" because you are constantly shedding skin and altering aspects of yourself. Your brain itself is not static. So there is some sort of vague continuity which we take for granted, but would become nearly impossible to chart if people could treat their body parts (or brains) as plug-and-play. I don't know how a society would cope if Altered Carbon was possible. Is it your mental "essence" that enters into a contract, or a relationship, or is the body relevant? If so, what about when Bareil's brain was largely computerized, but he had the same body? Was he still subject to old contracts even though he didn't even have the same personality or cognitive system any more?

In the case of the Trill we're dealing with a partial continuity from and old person, of which it's unclear how much of the previous remains. In Jadzia's case we have a slow arc where it's made very muddy how much of Curzon, for instance, is really still alive or not. Because it would be an endless cycle of debts and burdens, I think Trill society basically had to outlaw any continuity from past lives in any strict legal sense. The problem there is that society and law are usually in a sort of sympatico, and it would naturally be very difficult to pretend that all bets are off from a past life even though you're maintaining the same relationships. How can you be legally absolved of obligations to an old marriage if you're actively carrying on as if the marriage is still on? It would be impossible for the individuals in the society to function in this way. So I can see why they would need the law to be officially broader than just voiding contracts; they would need to 'unoficially' (but still with force) have social rules where you also *act as if* old contracts are voided, even romantic ones.

The trouble comes in when you have a relationship with no 'official' obligations. Are you really carrying something over, or are you just enjoying a new relationship? That's a question they could have done a better job investigating between Jadzia and Benjamin. Was their relationship a new one, or a continuation of Curzon's? Maybe there was something wrong with Ben calling her the old man. Ezri made a much clearer statement about that then Jadzia ever did.

All of that being said, I can't help but feel that the writing intent here really didn't explore any of those things. I would actually have liked a episode, maybe a follow-up to Dax, to discuss what exactly Trill society does need to do in order to function. But as it is Rejoined seems to me to *entirely* be about homosexual relationships. The rest of it is window dressing and 'sci-fi' stuff to place the modern gay theme in a futuristic setting. On the one hand that makes it clever, but as Ira Behr said in the documentary, it also made it somewhat craven since it wasn't "obviously" about gay relations. But although as Fenn points out no characters make a big deal about it being two women *in the script*, the entire problem itself is clearly that it's two women. We can tell this not only because we've never before seen the same issue brought up in context of a hetero relationship, but also because the showrunners clearly knew what they were doing with the two-women kiss. You can't pretend that's anything other than what it is, and all the rest of the dialogue will be understood in that context whether or not you want to pretend the story is about something else. So from that standpoint I think the intent here was clear enough. It was about how much are you going to risk to express love regardless of the threat society is focusing on you.
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Peter G.
Thu, Jan 2, 2020, 12:22pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: For the Cause

What is it with everyone calling the Maquis the Marquis? What are they, a bunch of aristocrats?
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Pete
Tue, Dec 31, 2019, 1:29pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S7: Seventh Season Recap

Ive just finished watching the whole series forthe first time, and enjoyed reading Jammers reviews as I went along. If anyone is interested, this is what I posted on Amazon

Over the last seven or eight months I have watched every episode of the seven seasons of Deep Space 9 and my overall summary is that when it is a science fiction show, it is a very, very good, in fact one of the best examples of the genre. Of course over 176 episodes quality is variable, and much of this comes when it isn’t being a sci fi show, of which more later.

The set up is that the Cardassian Empire is withdrawing from the planet Bajor after a long occupation and bloody guerrilla war. The Federation has arrived to help Bajor rebuild in the hope of eventual admission to the Federation. Heading the mission is Commander Benjamin Sisko who takes over a Cardassian mining station, renamed Deep Space Nine. This immediately gives DS9 a different feel from other manifestations. The static location allows a move away from the “monster of the week” style of the endlessly moving spaceship and allows for a deeper development of a wider range of supporting characters, and for politics to pay a much greater (and fascinating) part. That said, the development of long term story threads only really happens as the series progresses, season 1 is much more classically episodic.

In the very first episode a wormhole opens near the station,giving access to a distant part of the galaxy, the gamma quadrant. The wormhole itself is inhabited by a race of aliens who live outside the constraints of linear time, and who are known to the Bajorans as the Prophets, around whom they have established a religion. Sisko, in encountering and speaking with the aliens becomes a figure of religious importance, the Emissary. This is one of the three main problems I had with the series, and the reason for the title of this review. My taste is for hard sci-fi, and there was the possibility of exploring the relationship between the religious Bajorans and the secular federation. There is also an argument for saying that any sufficiently advanced technology will look like magic to outsiders and that the worm hole aliens fall into such a category. However, Sisko himself, and and indeed the series, move from distance to embracing the religion. In possibly the most significant event in the whole series, in season 6, the aliens become a literal deus ex machina. This lends air of what Robin Ince and Brian Cox in their excellent podcast, “The Infinite Monkey Cage” describe as Woo, as as wooooo ghostly spirity things woooooo. The nadir, the tipping point for this step over the line from sci-fi into fantasy is an episode called Rapture in season 5, which I have seen praised elsewhere but which for me was an exercise in shark jumping. Sisko receives visions from the prophets, goes bat-manure crazy, ends up directly frustrating the purpose of his Star fleet mission but still keeps his job rather than being withdrawn from the front line and put into therapy.

Returning to season 1, the best episode is probably Duet which involves one of the leading characters, Major Kira Nerys, Sisko’s Bajoran deputy, interrogating a Cardassian war criminal. As well as being a superb standalone episode, this brings together three of the strongest elements of the show. Firstly Major Kira, played by Nana Visitor, is fierce, tigerish, but also deeply wounded by her past as a Freedom Fighter, in which she was virtually a child soldier. The tables are turned on her during the interrogation and she is forced to confront the morality of her own actions. This is one of the most enduring themes of DS9, possibly the defining one - the balance between morality and necessity in time of war. The third great element of the episode is an entire race - the Cardassians. They are magnificent, haughty, arrogant, domineering. There are undoubtedly an enemy from a Starfleet perspective, but they are allowed develop far beyond moustache-twirling villains, with a rich and ancient culture. Two of the best characters in the whole series are Cardassians. Garak, played by the superb Andrew Robinson is exiled from his home world and works as a tailor on DS9. However, right from his first appearance it is clear that he is a devious operator, constantly enveloping himself in a fog of equivocation, hiding a mysterious past which may or may not involve the Cardassian secret service,the Obsidian order. The other is Gul Dukat, governor of the enslaved Bajor, who becomes the series’ Swiss Army villain, fitting into a number of different roles, some of them verging on the sympathetic. Actor Mark Alaimo brings real depth to the character at least until the final season when the writing lets him down by making him pantomimic and loses him in a fog of metaphysical woooooo. We see the best of Dukat in his evolving interaction with Kira which deepens through the series.

Season one introduces us to the other major characters, most notable of whom are Constable Odo and Chief O’Brien. The former is a changeling, able to change shape at will. At the start of the series he is unsure of his origins. Played by Rene Auberjonois (who was memorably the priest in M*A*S*H) he plays the role taken by Spock or Data in other incarnations, the outsider observing humanity, albeit in this case a rather snarky, sardonic one. Colm Meaney is everyman O’Brien, in a wonderfully naturalistic performance, despite having at least one deeply harrowing episode thrown at him in every season. Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) is a young woman carrying a three hundred year old symbiote, previously carried by Sisko’s mentor Curzon Dax. She is a sort of ladette, drinking, gambling, and going off on crazy missions with Klingons. She is the early aspirational love interest for Dr Bashir (Alexander Siddig). His is a character which grows and develops through the series, starting as hopelessly naive and gauche, but eventually, through the trials of the war and an unlikely friendship with O’Brien becoming much more rounded and mature. And then there is Quark. On his own, Quark is fine. He is the bar tender on DS9 and a member of the unrelentingly acquisitive, mercantile, capitalistic Ferengi, who could be seen as representing 20th century humanity in contrast to the idealistic federation. The problem is the rest of the Ferengi, Quark’s brother, his nephew, his mother and the leader, the Grand Nagus played by Wallace Shaun. He is an actor of whom I could forgive a great deal for the Princess Bride, but not this. There are frequent episodes which focus on the Ferengi, and these are intended to be humourous, are universally awful, and could easily be dropped from the series at no cost to the whole. The problem is the spectacularly bad acting, which seems to consist of shouting, cackling and bad scenery chewing. Armin Shimmerman who plays Quark is at his best in one of the most enjoyable episodes of season 6, Far Beyond the Stars, when Sisko dreams himself as a struggling SF writer in the 50s, with the rest of the crew populating the publishers office.

The first two seasons are primarily concerned with Bajoran politics, the ongoing relationship between Bajor and Cardassia, and the armed truce between Cardassias and the Federation. This truce is threatened by the Maquis, rogue humans settling in the buffer zone between the two powers and who feature across a number of seasons. Season 2 ends with the first contact withthe Dominion, an aggressive Delta Quadrant power who eventual provide the major protagonist for the Federation. Season 3 sees a gradual change of focus from Cardassia and Bajor to the Dominion and introduces the final major character, Klingon Starfleet officer Worf, following O’Brien from The Next Generation. The role of the Klingons is almost emblematic of a lot if what happens in DS9. At times they are hopelessly two dimensional. Take an actor, make him/her wear a wig and some prosthetics, and endlessly repeat the words “warrior”, “honour”, “victory”, “blood wine” and generally stomp around like an adolescent heavy metal fan. However, bring in a quality actor, in this case J G Hertzler, and something much more interesting and intelligent starts to happen.

Seasons 4 to 7 while remaining to a degree episodic are primarily concerned with what eventually becomes a war with the Dominion and include a number of multi-part story arcs. Amongst the standalone episodes,mention must go to Season 5’s Trials and Tribble-ations, which, in a tribute to the 30th anniversary of the Original Series, inserts the DS9 crew into the original classic episode. This is probably the only time a humourous episode really works, and the moment the DS9 crew first encounter the original Enterprise is memorable.

Meanwhile, the Dominion story thread introduces the second great villain, Weyoun, a member of the Vorta, the Dominion officer class. Like all of the other stand out characters, his prominence is primarily a result of the actor’s skills. Here Jeffrey Coombs is notable for playing the least objectionable Ferengi, financial enforcer, Brunt, at least once playing both characters in the same episode.

And so I must come to my third major problem with the series. It gives me no pleasure to say this, as the actor’s heart is so clearly in the right place, but I was never really convinced by Avery Brooks as Sisko. In the early times his acting is sadly simply wooden. He improves but he is often often guilty of being actorly, overly stagey, using bizarre intonation. Now while strange delivery of lines brings us right back to Kirk, Shatner probably got away with it by playing a straightforward larger thanlife action hero. Brooks tries to play a more nuanced, sometimes morally compromised character (particularly in the excellent Season 6 episode In the Pale Moonlight), which makes his lack of natural speech patterns stand out more.

And so, in summary, I really enjoyed DS9, and would agree with those who rate it the best Star Trek series. It isn’t perfect, but that would be impossible in a series so long. It is at its best when it is both hard sci-fi, and is using sci-fi as a vehicle for exploring the nature of the human condition. Also, a series this long has no hiding place for poor acting, and the characters who shine do so primarily as a result if the skills of those portraying them. In contrast, the series doesn’t work where the Ferengi take front stage, and where things move into the realm of fantasy and low budget mysticism. A case in point would be the Season 7 episode Tacking into the Wind. This is an absolutely terrific story, and is totally devoid of any of the elements of wooooooo which form part of the wider terminal storyline.
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Peter G.
Thu, Dec 19, 2019, 1:57pm (UTC -6)
Re: Star Trek: Generations

Sometimes it feels like the franchise never left the nexus.
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Peter G.
Thu, Dec 19, 2019, 12:13am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S2: Pen Pals

@ Omicron,

Agreed, which is why I think it's a bit funny to disagree with warp drive being a good indicator of 'advancement'. Disagree on what basis? We don't know how tough it would be to invent, which is why I made the scale argument: if it's much harder than Trek would lead us to believe then perhaps it's a good indicator. Maybe it's not 'the line', but at the very least very clearly past the line where you should make contact with them. I don't see it as being an unreasonable standard, personally, although I also agree with the notion put forward that there could be parallel standards that could also permit first contact.
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Peter G.
Wed, Dec 18, 2019, 12:31pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S2: Pen Pals

@ Booming,

I think a more reasonable interpretation of Jason R's comment could avoid the insinuation that he's calling leading scientists a bunch of children. There is a much better way to frame the issue, and it involves an analogy just like the 8,000,000 km walk that a little kid thinks they can do since they can walk downtown. The issue is about timeframe. Given infinite time I personally have no doubt that we will be able to juggle galaxies like Q can do. However the fact that matter might be amenable to manipulation using incredibly advanced techniques doesn't give us even remotely a comprehension of just how tough that next quantum leap in technology would be. Will the next thing comparable to the computer age happen in 100 years, or in a million? No way to know.

Sci-fi's usual failing is in woefully mistaking how hard certain things really are to achieve. In TNG for instance, we see PADD's which looked super cool at the time, like, 'futuristic' and all that. Thing is, we already had stuff better than PADDs a mere 20 years later (granted, not run with isolinear chips). But Trek also had warp drive being developed around 2063, which is reminiscent - but far more egregious - of Back to the Future's flying car system by 2019 or whatever. Such infrastructure changes, and the necessary AI accompaniment, are far more costly and difficult than they perhaps thought; but it's a fun movie so whatever. But warp drive? That might take 10,000 years to achieve, if it's even possible. Frank Herbert is one of the few sci-fi authors to have the good sense to set Dune 20,000 years in the future, as he saw it as unrealistic to expect grand advancements too soon. His timeframe is arbitrary, but at least it recognizes that some discoveries may be so far-off that they may as well be impossible from the standpoint of current planning purposes.

So when discussing the PD, having warp drive may or may not be a good indicator of advancement. In Trek they seem to think it is; some here think othewise; but really we don't know. The gist seems to be that if an alien can come to you then there's no point avoiding them. But whether they really means they're 'advanced' would have to do with how hard it is to achieve warp drive, which we can't actually assess. Do we expect transporters would be easier or harder than warp drive? At present it woudl seem to be impossible (Heisenberg compensators) - but is it? Maybe it's waaaay easier than warp drive, and for all we know could come in a fraction of the time. Or maybe in 10x the time; or maybe it's impossible.

But just for comparison's sake, assuming we had a policy in North America of leaving native villages alone if they have no contact with outside civilization, if we saw them flying around in stealth bombers you'd better believe we'd be making contact with them.
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Peter G.
Tue, Dec 17, 2019, 3:38pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S2: Pen Pals

@ Top Hat,

Interesting point. On the one hand I'd have to assume that Starfleet's primary mission guidelines come down from the Federation council, and thus have civilian oversight. On the other hand, their rules may be different in some cases from civilian rules. However in an age where warp-capable vessels are available for regular use by citizens I find it hard to believe that while Picard is hiding under a hill watching the Mintakans with binoculars civilian ships can land freely on the planet and teach them how to make transparent aluminum. So this element of Trek - let's call it the detailed world-building - is really not on the menu in terms of giving us great amounts of detail. The relationship between the Federation at large and Starfleet in particular is hazy at the best of times, and frequently enough it seems to me that Starfleet's policies are treated as basically being the views of Federation citizens.
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Peter G.
Tue, Dec 17, 2019, 2:01pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S2: Pen Pals

I doubt we will get any kind of consensus about the merits of the PD *as depicted on TNG*, partially because the depiction isn't entirely consistent. For instance take Booming's comment:

"I think every crew should have some wiggle room which seems to be the case considering that Picard broke the Prime Directive at least nine times."

This doesn't sound unreasonable, and based on how the PD is discussed it sometimes does sound as if there's no wiggle room. On the other hand we know that Kirk and Picard have each broken the PD several times (Kirk probably more so) and each time their explanation was accepted by Starfleet. So in fact it does seem to be the case that a potential violation of the PD has room for the Captain to make a case for how necessary it was. It probably also means that the default is to assume that the interference was wrong, but still does allow an argument to be made.

Nolan's comment about Q got me thinking, and it occurs to me that Picard's reaction to Q seems to reflect a decent example of an enlightened Federation person actively disliking a superior life form interfering in their activities. Now to be fair Q isn't exactly there in the friendliest capacity, but on the other hand he does all the things Starfleet is forbidden to do: stopping their natural progress (even if their progress will lead them to danger), offering them free magical stuff (like Q-powers), and giving unsolicited advice. And they pretty much brand him as a villain, primarily because of (a) his snark, but more importantly, (b) his arrogance and lack of them discerning what his agenda might be. In short, they don't like his superior attiude, and probably don't like that he thinks of them as insects. Using Jason R's example above, this is how the Federation risks looking to just about anyone.

One of the arguments being made here is that as long as no one is aware of it them it's ok. But is that a good argument? Does an action you wouldn't condone if conscious of it ok when you're unconscious of it? I know that in certain modern areas this argument would not be accepted, to say the least. But it's a no-brainer, right, we're talking about saving a species about to die, like Sarjenka's race? Surely they would welcome that? And probably they would. But the problem becomes about how sure you are that they would welcome it. Is Data *really sure* he understands what this race wants? Is Sarjenka supposed to represent her entire race? In First Contact we see how much of a mistake this would be. And let's say there's a race whose religion dictates they'd rather die than have anything to do with aliens; do they lose the right to choose? But by doing it behind their backs you do take away their right to choose. Playing god is all too easy when you have all the power; and that's exactly why the more power you have the less you should be gung-ho to use it, even for supposedly good reasons.

I don't know exactly where I sit on the PD, myself, but I do recognize it as a *mature* policy. Right or wrong, it's thoughtful. I think JMS takes a potshot at it in Babylon 5, and his argument is valid, but I also think it's easy to underestimate what the PD is supposed to be. Among other things, it's also supposed to be a guarantee that Federation member *does not* include being a party to deciding the fate of other races. Don't forget, these are not human-only rules, but are imposed on all members.
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Peter G.
Fri, Dec 13, 2019, 12:41pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Children of Time

@ Chris,

I think the difference there lies in what the ship's mission is. Starfleet crew members join up with the idea of serving to do their duty, knowing they could die in the line of duty. That's part of the deal, that missions can be dangerous. In this scenario, however, Sisko's choice is to sacrifice his crew's lives as they know them (and his mission as well) in order to populate a colony. This is (a) not what Starfleet personnel signed up for, and (b) not part of any mission that has been assigned to them. I think these are very important issues because it is not correct to suppose that a Captain has the moral authority to sacrifice his crew for any purpose he deems fit, unless it falls under doing so for the purposes of a mission of the defense of the Federation. There may be many 'good causes' around the galaxy for which a Captain could sacrifice his ship and crew, but it would not be appropriate to play god and use them like that.

So in this instance I think the more dangerous choice would be to choose to stay, unless it really was some kind of unanimous vote and everyone agreed. That still doesn't speak to them losing Starfleet's ship, but at least the personnel question is spoken for.
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Peter G.
Wed, Dec 11, 2019, 4:40pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: Deja Q

@ James G,

"That line about changing the gravitational constant of the Universe. That would have have devastating consequences in billions of star systems in billions of galaxies, for the sake of one planet and its satellite. I don't like to think that Q has that power."

I see no reason to believe Q doesn't have that power. That being said, he might have meant that he would change the gravitational constant of the universe - but just locally. The "of the universe" is a term that means it's contant across the universe, but wouldn't necessarily mean that he'd have to change it for the entire universe to do this. All changing it locally would mean is that it's no longer a "universal constant"!

As an aside on this point, extending the warp field to the asteroid pretty does exactly what Q suggested, so his idea wasn't even far-fetched. It was supposed to sound ridiculous, but I think mostly in the sense that he would just do it by thinking it, whereas humans would have to come up with a technological trick to approximate that effect.

"Every time Q turns up, it's "oh jeez not you again", yet he is possessed of powers and knowledge that might transform the human experience for all eternity."

Yes, I've had this problem myself with early Trek's use of Q. It might be fair to surmise that after Encounter at Farpoint and maybe Hide and Q that Picard has his ego hurt by Q's power over them, and his attitude after that was to treat Q as an annoying blight. Maybe the only power Picard could ever hope to have over Q was to not treat him seriously. Personally I think that was a mistake, and apparently Q did also because in Q Who he took steps to rectify them taking him more seriously. By Deja Q I agree it would be illogical for them to suddenly treat him like he's useless and to be dismissed, so I think (and some of us here have sort of agreed on this point already) that Deja Q sort of breaks continuity and even Trek logic for the sake of a wonderfully comic and fun episode. Trying to make sense of the remaining Q episodes is a lot easier if Deja Q isn't counted among them. One reason being, it's hard to believe that Deja Q's story is canon-worthy if we're also supposed to believe the premiere and finale in terms of Q's role in helping humanity.
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Peter G.
Tue, Dec 10, 2019, 2:17pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S6: Time's Arrow, Part II

" I was talking more about the period near the end of the episode, where most of the Enterprise crew have returned to their time but Picard's stayed to look after Guinan. She's not trapped there, but he definitely is."

Yeah, I took this to basically be "where is that so-called deeper-than-family relationship they're supposed to develop?" And I totally agree. I have no idea if the showrunners were actually trying to show that backstory here (in which case they FAILED) or whether this was just a teaser for what was to come. They did in fact later try to fill this gap in Generations, and as it happens they FAILED again (or maybe for the first time). I guess we'll never know!
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Peter G.
Mon, Dec 9, 2019, 2:58pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S7: What You Leave Behind

This guy Auberjonois is a brilliant so-and-so. He was always marvelously inventive and nuanced as Odo, and as Garak pointed out, had a flair for sarcasm. He's worked for years in many projects including MASH and even Frasier, and I've lately been watching him on Boston Legal. I don't even care for the show that much but his scenes are gold, as are those of 1-2 others on the show. Feeble as it is, I watched another episode last night with my wife to commemorate him.

When I saw him on Broadway in a silly musical, I was amazed at how much his graceful motions and perfect timing translated into a movement-based piece of theatre, because on DS9 his movements, body positions, and even head angle often help determine what the view is meant to understand. He was just that good of a storyteller.

I don't know how it happens, but the tour de force performance seems to come in the odd roles on Trek, like Spock, Data, and now Odo, all of which are the outsider trying to make sense of humans. Funny how we relate to them the best. Voyager had their outsider begin as Doc, although that didn't really seem to gel as the person trying to learn about humanity sort of role, and so although Picardo is endlessly entertaining I don't know how much we identified with him as a person. Seven probably occupied that niche when she came on the show. But out of all of the above characters, you could be sure of one thing: Auberjonois' scenes were never going to be boring.
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Peter G.
Fri, Dec 6, 2019, 1:16pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: Tin Man

@ Chayton,

Yep, I agree. This is a top episode for me. Maybe not in the "classics" category like some myth-level episodes are (BoBW, Chain of Command, etc) but among regular episode it's top-tier.
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Peter G.
Tue, Dec 3, 2019, 2:11pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S1: Angel One

"it's nice to have a middle aged woman who is not defined by her relationships to men at all."

Other than Riker's dad :(
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Peter G.
Tue, Dec 3, 2019, 11:26am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S1: Angel One

@ Chrome,

"According to Muldaur, putting an anti-tech character on a show that was considerably pro-technology made her character unlikable. There’s a Memory Alpha on the subject, but whether it was the writing or the acting the character wasn’t a good fit for the show."

I guess this makes sense on the surface, except for one thing: Pulaski was a shameless copy of McCoy right from the start. They brought her in guns blazing, ripping into the Vulcan - sorry, the android - and groaning about technology. This is McCoy's character bible in a nutshell, other than that she doesn't represent humanity's empathy. I found it irritating right from the get-go that they would have such an obvious lift from TOS rather than come up with a new character. That said, McCoy is such a better character than people like Crusher or Geordi that, yeah, it's going to come on strong and leave an impression.

But one thing I don't buy is Pulaski's interpretation of why it didn't work. Although it's a reasonable hypothesis, contemporary with TNG S2 was ST 5: The Final Frontier, featuring the very anti-technology character they were lifting, even down to the luddite campfire scene (self-mocked by the rocket boots). But McCoy was a fan favorite and certainly never stood against the grain of Trek even though he always complained about having his molecules scattered across the galaxy and called himself a good old fashioned country doctor. I think one big difference between them is McCoy's concern about technology always seemed to reflect concerns about culture, the human condition, and what would become of us if replaced by tech (see: The Ultimate Computer). Pulaski, on the other hand, came off as disliking things that others liked not out of concern for humanity's heart, but out of personal arrogance and disdain, like her values were better than theirs. *This* is, I think, what stood to make her unlikable, and that's a writing issue rather than an acting one. I do agree with Jason R that her acting seems more interesting than Crusher's.
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Peter G.
Fri, Nov 29, 2019, 2:37pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S6: Sacrifice of Angels

@ D K,

In a sort of literal way I think you have a point that the Defiant is best saved for other purposes. But I think the intent here was for high drama and to portray just how hopeless things were at this point. The idea isn't so much that Sisko is suicidal IMO but rather that 'it's all over' and there is zero chance at this point that the Federation will be able to offer any substanital resistance. In other words, any action Sisko takes of any kind will be irrelevant in stopping the Dominion, and maybe he prefers to go down fighting than to be part of a Federation surrender into slavery (a fact he said outright in Statistical Probabilities).
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Peter G.
Fri, Nov 29, 2019, 11:33am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S1: Angel One

@ Jason R.

I actually sort of agree with Booming on this one, in that we would really need an actual metric of how many Troi/Crusher scenes are private conversations, and what they discuss during them. I'll agree with you that there aren't many anyhow, and none are memorable like Pulaski's scenes are. Pulaski's scene with Moriarty alone is more memorable than any Troi scene, I think, at least to me.

Just from my anecdotal and maybe skewed memory, I seem to definitely recall a couple of 'girl talk' scenes between Troi and Crusher about romance, and I just don't remember any about anything else. If there were some then they were forgettable in the sense that I literally forgot about them. Ogawa is barely a character on the show, and if not for Lower Decks she'd probably be even lower on the radar than Dr. Selar.
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Peter G.
Fri, Nov 29, 2019, 10:17am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S1: Angel One

One of the things I liked best about TOS was that the doctor, even as early as The Cage, wasn't just a medical professional, but was especially supposed to keep the Captain in good shape physically and mentally. That didn't really continue on from TNG onwards, which is too bad. In TNG we got the occasional rare interlude between Jean-Luc and Troi but it was rarely seen and certainly not a primary function in her job as we saw it, which is too bad. Bones as the moral/human backbone of the series translated into some great material in the films, whereas Troi...got married. I guess this isn't a male/female issue so much as TNG wasn't focused as much on the 'spiritual' well-being of the crew so much as their technological stability. Maybe that is a male/female thing after all?
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Peter G.
Thu, Nov 28, 2019, 10:20am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S1: Angel One

@ Booming,

Chrome may have been quoting me with referring to "caregivers". But yeah, I meant mostly what you do with this one. Crusher was a doctor, which went on to define her whole character, other than also being a dancer, which was no doubt a meta nod to the actress' actual skills. Troi should have been a tactical empath but instead was someone who only talked about people's feelings - and was later soft retconned into being purely a social worker. Yar should have been something else but never had the chance. That's not much of a chance for women's empowerment, cast-wise. To be fair I think this was a result of the original casting choices, moreso than any lack of caring on the part of the writers.
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