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Fri, Nov 22, 2019, 12:02pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Bride of Chaotica!

And yes, Clarke. Thanks for correcting my misremember! Old age brain sieve.
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Fri, Nov 22, 2019, 11:57am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Bride of Chaotica!

I’m not insulted, just amused you feel the need to point it out.

I’m pretty aware of those correlations, and am in fact consistently impressed that Trek’s “technobabble” is as realistic and plausible as it is - given that we accept the technology as presented. Wave guides, magnetic containment, neural gel-packs, crystals, beam coherence, pattern buffers, etc are all logically conceivable concomitants of the proposed technology.

My point - and it’s a dull one - is that those techs STILL violate practical constraints of even hypothetically attainable physics.

Alcubierre‘s warp drive (indeed directly inspired by Trek) is a based on mathematically valid solutions of Einstein’s equations - but its actual realization requires either quantities of antimatter exponentially out of proportion to what mankind might be able to produce, and/or other forms of “exotic matter” as yet unproven and undetected. Not to mention actually achieving that magnetic containment - or controlling the reaction once initiated. And that leaves aside any consideration of achieving the warp miracle with a craft as massive as a Federation starship.

Per my (admittedly incomplete and “lay”) understanding of the actual physical principles underpinning other key Trek tech - gravity plating, transporting, replicating, etc - they are equally unattainable, and for similar reasons. They may have theoretical bases consistent with some hypothetical application of known science - but it’s mighty hard to imagine how we get from that to something that actually works, much less on the scale required for ST.

Which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. We should. And it doesn’t mean ST shouldn’t depict such a future. (Though it would be nice if the writers tried to deploy the fantasy tech consistently, rather than magically as plotting demands.)

On the other hand, from a pure entertainment perspective, they shouldn’t let tech stand in the way of a good story (as is the case in this ep).

After all, it IS fiction.
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Fri, Nov 22, 2019, 11:28am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Bride of Chaotica!

In other words, I’m just peeved that the pokey speed of light (and other universal constraints) are going to limit all our fun before it ever starts.

And, fond as I am of the notion, I don’t think the aliens (who surely don’t look like us anyway) are ever coming. I’m going to miss them.
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Fri, Nov 22, 2019, 11:17am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Bride of Chaotica!

Don’t take me wrong: I love sci-fi, and if we must slavishly observe hide-bound distinctions between academically defined genres, prefer it to “fantasy.” And I’ve been a Trek fan - and defender - since watching TOS episode one during its first TV run.

That said, you gotta admit there’s a wide margin of overlap between the two, precisely in the region where Heinlein observed that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. One can easily imagine Trek presenting sentient mobile trees, magic rings of power, orc armies, elven species, and wizard staffs - but suggesting the enabling power is technology rather than magic. After all, what IS the difference between transporting and magically appearing there rather than here?

I get that casting incredible power and other worlds in the physical trappings of technology rather than of sorcery can inspire and reinforce interest in science. It also makes mythic magic and godlike capabilities more palatable to modern tastes, and so sneaks the archetypes and wonder of mythology into minds which might otherwise be hostile to it.

That’s all good, and no argument from me.

But when virtually every technology which makes a fictional universe and its inner mechanics workable - FTL, transporting, replicating, universal translation, artificial gravity, solid holograms, et al - either ignore the laws of physics as we know them or require quantities of energy exceeding that available in the known universe - I can’t help but observe that there’s a fair dose of fantasy in our fiction.

Science fantasy, maybe.

Which isn’t intended as an insult. Trek’s “science” is only a part of its formula, part of its function, appeal, satisfaction, and value. As is frequently stressed, it’s also about human psychology and relationships, and a medium through which to explore moral and ethical issues, particularly in our relationship with science and tech as it evolves in the real world. (And among a myriad of other attractions, it’s possible to watch it - as my wife does - to enjoy the textures, weaves, patterns, colors, and details of Ferengi couture.)

An episode like “Bride of Chaotica” is intended, I’m pretty sure - and should be taken - as pure fun. If by juxtaposing a 1930s take on sci-fi with a 90s take, it suggests that both are equally ludicrous in the context of what’s plausible in the “real universe” ... well, that’s a useful perspective.

The real 25th century (if we get there) will be far different from either imaginary scenario. And not that I’ll ever know, but I’d be pleasantly surprised if human exploration even manages a manned/womanned Trek to the Alpha Centauri system, just 4 ly away.

And shoot, Voyager can make that trip in a few weeks.
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Fri, Nov 22, 2019, 12:43am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Bride of Chaotica!

Gosh, Trekkies, ya gotta get out more. You need some perspective. do know that Trek left science out of the fiction equation during the first season of TOS, don’t you? That it’s fantasy? As in...the Trek universe, Trek history, Trek characters, Treknobabble...aren’t REAL? (No matter how we might wish they were.)

frantic, who posted above - somewhere in the timeline - has the secret decoder ring. Quoting: “When Paris teaches Janeway about the rules and terminology of the Captain Proton Universe, and she rolls her eyes, it feels like they are also both poking fun at the Star Trek universe rules and terminology, which let's face it, is just as silly and made up.”

This is a purely pleasurable grand romp of an episode, as visually and aurally delicious as it is a love letter to ALL sci-fi (not just old stuff) - and a love fest for (and to) this cast.

The color parts taking place in the “real” Trekiverse are absolutely crucial to any “point” the episode makes, which is that there’s no substantive difference between the fantasy weapons and tech of the Cap’n Photon program and its counterparts in the full-color “24th century” “reality.” (Unquote.)

Hearing the technobabble in the holodeck program vividly illustrates that the usual Treknobabble is just as fatuous. Fergawdsake, Tom even exPLAINS this to the crew when they start to snicker at “death ray” and “rocket ship” and “ray gun” and “lightning guard,” and translates them to their Starfleet equivalents - at which point the crew grudgingly starts to take Chaotica’s realm more seriously.

Captain Photon makes Star Trek look equally fantastic (in the literal sense of the word), in that both are complete and utter fictions, serving simultaneously as brain-tickle entertainment, mythopoetic storytelling, and more or less insightful and emotionally truthful meditations on myriad dimensions of the human experience.

And of course the “death” of “photonic beings” in the context of this episode is treated with little Rodberrian hand-wringing, because it emphasizes what is literally true in every episode: everything we see on the screen - pacifists, killers, and killed - is a play of photons. No aliens were harmed in the making of this episode (or, you know, any other).

I get that in many episodes we’re to take the humans, the aliens, the action, and the interactions seriously - that we can, and do, live with and make it “real” in our imaginations. (At least to the extent we can willingly suspend disbelief.)

But not in this episode. In this episode, people who produce make-believe photoplays - who put on prosthetic makeup and dress up as aliens, who play let’s-pretend for a living, feigning fights amidst stage props - have stepped back to make a little loving meta fun of the whole, so to speak, enterprise. We’re surely meant to laugh with them, not prod for plot holes and violations of canon.

Sometimes we forget that Trek - all Trek - is as much anthology as it is serial, or even situationally episodic. One week it may be hard-core speculative fiction with a philosophical bent, then barely disguised allegory, then space opera melodrama or close character study or mystery or science procedural or courtroom or medical drama or disaster flick or action-adventure derring-do, wartime drama, or light comedy - or gentle satire, parody, or farce.

We can’t bring the same expectations, the same dour and reductive critical stance to every episode. And we certainly shouldn't take a fabulously frivolous outing like BRIDE OF CHAOTICA! more seriously than the people who clearly had so much fun making it.

Sometimes I swar tew Gawd Trekkies don’t deserve nice things.
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Thu, Nov 14, 2019, 12:16am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: The Killing Game

Oh yeah. I forgot the delicious irony of the fragile prey - not EVEN the prey, but a HOLOGRAM of the fragile prey - spouting back to the fierce master hunter his own inane ideology.

Hiro 2 listened so carefully and thoughtfully that for a moment I thought he would hear how inane the cant sounded, have an epiphany that his #1 had been right to see the need to revamp their culture, and shoot Pretty Boy to prevent more killing.

But no. I guess supremacists will be supremacists. If only they could have transported that nutty Dukat over from Alpha, maybe the supremacists would have won.
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Wed, Nov 13, 2019, 11:07pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: The Killing Game

These episodes were hilariously ridiculous - and ridiculously hilarious. Every over-the-top inane meme you could imagine, from reptilian aliens in Nazi uniforms to a surrealistically pan-historical holodeck free-for-all to drunk Klingons led by a Talaxian with pointy teeth.

Psychedelic Star Trek Soup.

WITH non-comic bonuses like recent character developments continued in period drag, meditations on how cultures atrophy and devolve, one incisive speech about the arrogant pretense of superiority (by the Hirogen to Pretty Boy Nazi), and the purest distillation I can recall hearing of the corrosive poison in ideologies of racial or cultural exceptionalism and social Darwinism (in the speech Pretty Boy used to reinforce what Hiro 2 already believed and inspire him to continue the holy mission).

Make Hirogen great again!

All of that - AND Seven singing torch songs. And wearing bobby sox!

What more could we ask of free entertainment, I ask you?
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Wed, Nov 13, 2019, 8:44pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Hunters

I have no opinion on how well the character of Kim fulfills some particular function in a presumed pedagogic compositional formula, whether considered universal to drama in general, or specific to Star Trek convention. I guess that aspect doesn’t matter to me. I’m taking the characters as they’re presented, as I find them - not holding them up to a theoretical standard to calculate what they’re not.

If other Star Trek series prior to VOY had Everyman officers, I don’t recall them. (MAYbe O’Brien, but he’s clearly presented more as gifted blue-collar than as college-trained.) So maybe Kim’s role is an innovation for Voyager, another perspective from which to see the ensemble - rather than a failed something-else.

I guess I’m not interested in the structural genre schematic of the show, just whether or not a character works. For me, Kim works.

You know who didn’t work for me? Yar, on TNG. And Seska on VOY. Whatever marks they were intended to hit, they missed.

I think any comparison between Kim and Picard as Boy Scouts is specious. They’re totally different characters. For one, we meet Picard when he is much older, wiser, and drippIng the kind of gravitas that immediately justifies his command, and inspires confidence - whereas Harry, as you say, is all wide eyes and unproven youth. Maybe Harry would in some imaginable future grow into a commander of Picard stature - but I don’t think so. I could see Harry maturing into Riker.

All three can be accused of being Boy Scouts - but the difference is that Picard has the psychological and philosophical depth, rigor, and will to examine, test, and wrestle with the deep moral ambiguities out of which scout ethics are distilled, and deeply feels the shadows. He’s capable of MAKING moral/ethical rules when circumstances demand.

Kim - and, I think, Riker - are honorable upright officers who intend to do their duty. But neither is the deep thinker, the ancient soul that Picard is. They follow the rules Moses brings down from the mountaintop; they don’t ascend it to face - and wrestle with - God. (Metaphorically speaking, of course.)

I take your point about the other promotions and demotions, and Harry’s being overlooked. I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe he should have been pipped up. But maybe he fulfilled his duties so ideally that there was just no point.

As for his competence, I don’t recall his being a notable screwup. (Other than occasionally failing to get a lock, or having to report systems down - but we all recognize that critical systems on Starfleet fail in response to contrived plot necessity.) Has there been an occasion when Harry screwed it up?


Chakotay very clearly and specifically does NOT enquire into Katy’s sexual availability. That was my point, made in his defense to others who thought he was too analytical and counseloresque. Ish. Instead he behaves cautiously, respectfully, honorably.

As for the emotional calculus of a day when, after 3 years, a crew first hears the news from home, and some have had to absorb truly devastating impacts...for one thing, we don’t know that it had been “only 10 minutes” in ship time since Chakotay learned about the Maquis. I guess the writers assume we viewers can fill in some of the blanks.

But Chakotay’s response to that news was well and believably covered “hours earlier” (I assume), and we got a double down when he shared it (again believably) with Torres. It was clear during that tranasaction that he felt it necessary to take it in stride “as an officer” (who, with responsibilities to hold an emotionally fraught crew together, may not have time, luxury, or inclination to freak out) - and he encouraged Torres to get an officorial grip as well.

Who can balance relative tragedies, or judge how others are pulled by emotional gravity? Tom’s personal trauma was that he claimed not to want to hear from Pop, then found himself disappointed when there WAS a letter, but it was fragmentary. Even by comparison to Harry’s letterlessness, that seems trivial. But even Torres, who seemed more affected by the Maquis news than Chakotay, had a bit of leftover compassion to sympathize with him - before he (Tom) pivoted to her objectively greater loss and grief.

We have no information at all how (or whether) Janeway had reacted to and absorbed the Maquis news. For all we know, she and Chakotay had found time to cry it out - or, more realistically, for her to genuinely sympathize with and console him.

Or are you saying that Chakotay’s loss was so much greater than Janeway’s that he - or the story - should have ignored hers? “Oh, your fiancé moved on? That’s nothing to what happened to me!” I fail to see how that would have worked on any level.

In any case, we as the audience, along with the crew, had to receive and process the news from home, and consider how it might affect everyone. The script had to present all that business, and move the story along (again, counting on us to fill in some blanks). What Janeway and Chakotay had to say to each other, how their relationship might be changed, was part of that business. The script and the actors did a great job of bringing it out, I thought realistically.

I’m glad Chakotay had enough compassion left over from his own grief to acknowledge the captain’s personal loss - without in any way exploiting it.
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Tue, Nov 12, 2019, 11:22pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: Hunters

I’m really tired of Kim/Wang bashing in these reviews.

I take Harry to represent the ideal Starfleet officer of the line: professional, competent, respectfully embedded in the chain of command, unfailingly pleasant to all during the faithful discharge of his duty, neither slacker nor rank-climbing ambitious, steady, dependable, honest forthright steadfast and brave...etc.

In other words, a boy scout. And what’s wrong with that? A vast semi-military operation needs a whole lot more people like that than they need forceful, erratic, life-gambling, ego-ridden, brilliant but unstable, messianic captains and rogue commanders.

So he hasn’t been promoted. So what? There aren’t enough places in the command structure for everyone to move up. On Voyager, 60 light years from home, no one is going to get transferred. Besides, by this point in the voyage, the crew works together more as family than hierarchy, so rank has become less significant.

Harry seems eminently believable - and likable - to me in this context. In a way, his above-average steadiness anchors the rest of the flamboyant, conflicted and troubled crew. He’s a realistic emotional center point. And I don’t recall Wang ever representing the character with less than the full range of acting chops required (obviously within the limits and opportunities of the script he’s given).

I also think the writers have a pretty good handle on his character. Not every character has to shoot off sparks. Someone has to be the straight man. (No, don’t go there, snarkers. It’s “irrelevant”. Thank you, Seven.) And now that I’ve mentioned her, I think it’s perfect that Harry is fascinated, attracted to and intimidated by the Borgesse - isn’t that how most normal non-godlike human men would react?

And yes, in this episode, Harry’s boyish yearning for a letter from home was an oft-repeated note, because he was to represent earnest, normal, uncomplicated anticipation - while we knew many other crew members’ letters were likely to be ambivalent and bittersweet, and their reactions more complex. AND I think the writers were weaving an ambiguous web for us: the longer we waited for Harry’s letter, the more I expected the news to be tragic for him. Can’t believe no one else has mentioned that. I was relieved at the end when he did NOT get bad news.

I also think the Neelix-bashers are out of line here. We sensed (I think accurately) that by the end of Mortal Coil, a Neelix (who turned out to be deeper and more complex than we assumed) had barely come back from his eminently believable and affecting crisis of faith. Hyper-vigilant character-continuity nazis wanted to see evidence in future episodes that Neelix was still feeling the effects.

Well, did we want him to be fragile, or break down, or slip back into paralysis and depression? At the end of Mortal Coil, he was called back to life by the thin thread of human need for his services - his care, compassion, personal ministry (in the generic, not the ecclesiastical, sense). And I think, given his nature as we’ve learned it, that was a reasonable and powerful incentive for his renewed grasp on life. (In fact, given loss of faith in gods who are not there, in a vast meaningless universe which could not care less about sentient life, I believe our service to each other is indeed one of very few profound and sufficient ways in which we make our own meaning.)

Given that, I think it’s likely and appropriate that lonely, lost Neelix - who has been adopted by and adopted a family of creatures carrying him ever further from the home which was ripped from him, and the family and loved ones who are no longer there - would, after his Hamlet crisis, redouble his efforts in service to those fellow-sentients. He might even be a little over-bright in compensation for the darkness which may still crowd his consciousness. He might try too hard - and the crew, recognizing that, might be more tolerant than usual because they understand he might still be a bit brittle.

So in the context of his recent crisis, his presentation here seems poignant and textured to me - because we can imagine how hard he’s working for it, and how much this lifeline of connection to this crew means to him.

Cut him (and Ethan Phillips) some slack. I think it’s good work.

Janeway and Chatokay. PERfect. Both of them. Brilliant, subtle, powerful acting on Mulgrew’s part as she absorbs the bad news she was surely half-expecting. Both scenes were powerful. And I think both the script and Beltran nailed Chaoktay’s reaction.

Remember there’s still a chain of command. Remember Chakotay has learned enormous respect for Kathryn, both as captain and as a woman. Remember they were on the verge of becoming, effectively, man and wife when they were stranded together on a planet - that Chakotay accepted their situation before Janeway, is clearly attracted to (but not, I think, head over heels about) her, and patiently gave her space and time to begin to accept the situation and him in the same way. And I can’t be the only one to have read, at the end of that episode, a bittersweet note in both characters’ reaction to being rescued. I think both were on the verge of finding satisfaction, even happiness, in building a life together on the planet. It was somewhat emotionally wrenching for both to go back to business as usual on Voyage, decades from home.

And since that rescue, both have been more attentive and attuned to each other, more personal and solicitous - yet still within the bounds of appropriate command staff decorum. I can read into that both that Janeway reined in her growing affection for Chakotay, and Chakotay backed off (as the principled, perceptive gentleman he is) in deference to Janeway’s engagement to the distant Mark, to whom Janeway’s emotional commitment would have revived along with hopes of going home.

In other words, he’s respectful and classy enough not to crowd her. So when he learns her fiancé has moved on, of course he proceeds both honestly and tentatively. At the same time he recognizes this loss on her part might free her emotionally for the relationship he’s clearly ready for, he is also enough of a friend - and, again, principled enough - not to assume, push, rush, or take advantage. And since both are very matter-of-fact people, for whom seeing things clearly and gathering evidence is habitual before leaping ahead, before he leaps, he first wants to know how she’s taking the news.

In a way he’s being a counselor, because that may be what she needs, and he’s intuitive and empathetic enough to want to offer a friend’s shoulder. He wants to “be there for her,” in any capacity she needs. Hs also wants to know where he stands. “How do you feel about that” is a PERfect line to open the dialogue (significantly, after Janeway has already opened up to him matter-of-factly, with some bravely open misting-up during the telling demonstrating her trust and vulnerability).

She then jumps ahead to where he is: “go ahead and say it, I got a Dear John,” and the dialog proceeds into territory showing they’re both very much on the same page. Both recognize a relationship might blossom again, and that given the situation there’s plenty of time.

Was he supposed to just jump her bones? Was she supposed to collapse into his arms? That would have been ridiculous, and untrue to both characters and four years’ worth of relationship-building.

I don’t think either is infatuated with the other, that either sees the other as a love-of-a-lifetime, that they’re fated to be, that the universe has brought them together - nor are they driven by any combination of hormones and puerile fantasy. I think both recognize they’re compatible, they respect and care for each other - they’re important to each other, maybe each others’ best friend - but they’re not obsessed or mad about each other. They could commit to each other in a solid, loving, mature relationship. But neither of them is going to perish of a broken heart if it doesn’t happen

They have time. The dialog and acting captured that perfectly, enhancing two already wonderfully realized characters.

Geez, the critics here! Please submit your screenplays and screen tests for our consideration.
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