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Andy's Friend
Mon, Mar 2, 2020, 6:15am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box


Thanks for the video. The question is of course one of the most profound of our times. The immediate challenge is to avoid conflating artificial intelligence and artificial consciousness as most do.

Several years ago I wrote of this at some length here. A synopsis: I consider Data sentient, but the EMH a program only. I believe that Data’s ‘positronic brain’, though kept deliberately vague in-universe, is the equivalent of the real-life concept of the artificial brain, capable of fully emulating thought and consciousness. The EMH is a program only. I believe—and here I am echoing one side of the science community on the matter only—that no programming, regardless of how unfathomably sophisticated it may be, equates consciousness. Even the perfect ability to mimic human behaviour is but mimicry: Turing’s imitation game is fatally flawed at the root.

How we will deal with the matter of artificial intelligence and artificial consciousness will define humanity. I am glad to be living today and not three hundred years hence. I believe that in just a few centuries, future humanity will be able to understand us as poorly as we understand the caveman of ten thousand years ago: that's how fast things are changing. But I know this: at least the caveman was fully human.

You wrote: ‘This argument reminds me of a few I've had on this forum. One in particular was a disagreement over what science fiction is all about. I said it was about far reaching ideas, where the implications of those ideas mattered as much as the characters themselves. Where in fact, the science fiction is just one more main character in the cast, as important as any other. Others disagreed. It's just all about the characters (…)’

I completely agree with you. When I was speaking of the tragic character before, I was speaking of a symbol only, a vehicle to deliver the morality of the story. Very well then, I shall attempt to be as unpretentious and straightforward as possible.

The best stories of Star Trek, particularly in TOS but also in TNG and in much of VOY (despite execution) have always had the format of fables.

When we read (say) La Fontaine’s ‘The Fox and the Sick Lion’, we have a fox, a lion, and a cave. Similarly, when we watch any episode of TOS, we have the Enterprise crew, the Alien, and (say) the Nebula, or the Alien Planet.

Now, when we read (say) La Fontaine’s ‘The Fox and the Stork’, we don’t ask whether a fox and a stork would be able to communicate. We don’t ask whether they would be able to use utensils as bowls. We understand the fables for what they are. They are about ideas, perhaps not always ‘far reaching ideas’ in your futuristic sense (but see below), but certainly far reaching ideas in the ethical sense. And when we read La Fontaine’s fables in succession, we don’t complain of the ‘reset button’, or the lack of ‘character growth’ from one fable to the next.

TOS in particular, as well as most of TNG, are essentially fables. Necessarily lengthier and therefore more complex, the episodes are typically structured as Greek plays. This does not change their essence. They are moral tales.

The psychological growth of the characters is therefore essentially irrelevant as they are mouthpieces for more abstract concepts. Kirk, Picard, the Ox, the Eagle: it doesn’t really matter, the Enterprises are essentially zoos providing the animals—the archetypes—to people the episodes according to their characteristics, to tell the episode—the fable—of the week. And then, reset. Tune in next week, turn the page: watch the next episode, read the next fable.

This is a time-honoured format, resting solidly on archetypes to explore ourselves and the Other, and in so doing also ‘far reaching ideas’ both of greater morality and, here and there, the occasional futuristic idea. My favourite example is TOS’ ‘A Taste of Armageddon’, in which an entirely novel type of war—a surrogate war—is invented. ‘A Taste of Armageddon’ is as fine a depiction of provocative, terrifying futuristic warfare as any. Within the limitations of TOS, it’s science-fiction at its best.

This is how Star Trek works best: telling myriad self-contained stories, week after week, necessarily of uneven quality as La Fontaine’s fables but always with an ethical core and a resolution in the end. Because fables—myths, archetypes, and moral tales—is what ‘Star Trek’ the original series was all about.

The character growth of our heroes? Who on earth cares about character growth in fables? Character growth is not what fables and archetypes are about. Nor is it what ‘Star Trek’, the original series is about. Does Kirk change? Does ‘the Captain’ need to change in order to keep exploring ‘strange new worlds’ to stimulate our imagination, and our ethics?

‘Star Trek’ had thus an amazing model to tell stories, and that model was the fable. This was continued, by and large, in TNG with better production values. Serialisation compromises this: one risks it becoming more about the characters than about ideas. Which is why TOS and TNG are still the benchmark of Star Trek: they told stories about ideas, week after week.

Sadly, some fans fail to recognise this. They ridicule the ‘anomaly of the week’ as unimaginative, they demand ‘realism!’ and ‘story arcs!’ and ‘character growth!’, and they scream ‘plot hole!’ at anything. They essentially complain that the fox and the stork can understand each other, and that they can use utensils, and that the events of last week seem to have no repercussions this week. They have understood nothing at all. They seem to essentially want soap opera in space. They seem to want the form—ray guns and spaceships—but not the function.

This is why I defend the idea—the intent—over production, or execution, even if I often do it poorly. I hope this clarifies my perspective on Star Trek.
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Andy's Friend
Mon, Mar 2, 2020, 6:01am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box


Thanks for your well-written reply. First, a note on terms. You wrote:

‘Quincy seems to be taking a holistic view of the work for the purposes of assessing its quality as a piece of television, and you seem to be analyzing the script entirely in isolation to determine how well it fits into some "canon" of storytelling.’

In aesthetics, what you here call ‘holism’ is called isolationism. Quincy is looking at the episode, as you write, as a piece of television, in your own words ‘assessing the quality of the episode itself’. And he is doing so, in his own words, caring not for author intent but only for what is on the screen. This is as clear isolationism as it gets: looking at the work itself, and nothing but the work.

And what you here call ‘in isolation’ is, in aesthetics, called contextualism. What I am asking is: what is the context of a given work? What artistic or philosophical current can it be said to be a part of? How does it function at various levels (in casu, as a script, as an episode, as acting, as directing, etc.), and why? What factors influenced the specific execution, and what other executions could be imagined? How would it work as a novel, or a poem? As a theatre play, or an opera? As a bedtime story for children? Is it reducible to, say, a sculpture, or a painting? To an aphorism, or an axiom?

Very fundamentally, I tend to look beyond the episodes as such to ask: what story is the author trying to tell us? What ideas does he wish us to explore? What lessons does he offer us to consider? And in which context—cultural, professional, and perhaps personal—must we see the work, its strengths, and its flaws? This is called contextualism.

Second, I do agree with you (and Quincy) on a number of things.

You wrote: ‘I'd argue execution is more important than intent in storytelling’, and I agree with your examples of the Pinochio story, or a lesser actor playing Data as you presented them.

You wrote: ‘However, if a production of Hamlet kept the script verbatim but decided to stage the climax (…)’, and so forth; and again, I agree with that example as you presented it.

You wrote: ‘If the laziness, incompetence, or simple bad decisions of an actor, director, editor, etc. diminish the quality of an overall episode, it is impossible to escape that fact (…)’, and I tend to agree; see below.

You wrote: ‘any script that gets brought up as being one of "the best" of its medium is almost always matched by an equally high effort in nearly every other department (think Empire Strikes Back, think Groundhog Day, think The Graduate). Directing, acting, editing, etc. will always affect a person's judgment of a work's ideas (…)’, and I most certainly agree; yet see my example below of ‘The Measure of a Man’.

The question of course is how much it takes before a scene becomes an ‘absurd and immersion-shattering moment’ as you wrote. What is a slight mistake we may easily dismiss, and what is truly immersion-shattering?

But when considering this, we must also look inward, and ask ourselves, how forgiving, how generous are we, and can we be more charitable? How much do we attempt to look beyond mere failures of execution to focus on the story, the ideas being told? How great is our power of abstraction?

Finally, the important matters. You wrote:

‘Would that diminish the quality of Hamlet's script? No, but you'd still look foolish trying to make that case to a friend whose only exposure to Hamlet was that disastrous production; bad form would completely supersede good authorial intent in his and most peoples' estimation. Now, imagine if that was the ONLY production of Hamlet that ever existed, and there would NEVER be another one, and suddenly you see the issue with the argument that execution is irrelevant to television and film.’

This is where I disagree. I want to believe that most people are capable of discerning between story and execution, between the abstract and the specific. But more importantly, I cannot accept the premise of ‘the ONLY production (…)’. This is a purely philosophical stance, open to debate, and you are fully entitled to think otherwise. I am a so-called realist: I consider the idea the real thing, not the physical phenomenon. For our present purposes, this roughly translates as the story, not the episode. Which leads us to this that you wrote:

‘A good script is a good script, but a good *episode* is far, far, far more than just a good script.’

And you are quite right, but I am not talking about the script, or the episode, and I never was: I am talking about the *story*, in other words the themes, the ethics, the ideas, and our ability to appreciate this independently of the episode as such. Which is why I initially focused on classical dramaturgy and the correct structure and devices of *story*telling.

Other factors matter, of course. In opera, the music is crucial. In television, both audio and visual aspects may play a part. But in most cases, the most fundamental aspect of a narrative is, quite naturally, the story. This, the fundamental story—the underlying idea, the aesthetical narrative, the philosophical tale, not the teleplay—is what I mean by intent. What is the author trying to say?

Is it a noble story? ‘The Measure of a Man’, regardless of execution, will always be a nobler story than ‘The Vengeance Factor’. Therein lies its greatness, and I believe, to borrow your words to a different effect, that most of the audience will innately understand this: that they can sense that beyond the merely superficial—Patrick Stewart’s powerful portrayal, Brent Spiner’s subtle performance, and so on—there stands a core of ideas that are noble and true.

This is therefore what I think we should attempt: to remember to include the greater—the ideas—while talking fondly about the lesser, the episodes; and to remember to be charitable, and to look past the superficial layer of execution to focus on the nobility, the wisdom, or the wonder at the heart of the stories. Because to me at least, that is really what Star Trek is all about.
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Andy's Friend
Sun, Mar 1, 2020, 9:33am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box


Quincy wrote: "If the author or director wants her to die, shoot the scene so that there's no other way to stop her, but to kill her. Otherwise, we're left with what we're left with ON SCREEN, something that doesn't make sense, despite fans yelling "classic storytelling" in the background."

Thank you for mentioning it. Yes, classic storytelling, meaning, as I wrote, 'fundamentally, correctly constructed, with protasis, epitasis (…)', in this case, concerning the tragic figure. Where shall we begin?

There are a thousand ways Hector can avoid being killed by Achilles, and there are a thousand ways Achilles can avoid being killed by Paris. There are a thousand ways Macbeth can avoid being killed by Macduff. Now, is the Iliad bad storytelling? Is 'Macbeth' poorly constructed?

Again: there are many ways Hamlet, and Othello can avoid death. Is 'Hamlet' bad storytelling? Is 'Othello'?

A few posts back I spoke of post-modernism. One of the central aspects of post-modernism is Gadamer's reader-response theory. I tend to disagree with most propositions of post-modernism, but in this Gadamer was of course right: we all, to a certain point, bring ourselves to the appreciation of discourse.

Now, in the realm of aesthetics two schools exist, contextualism and isolationism. What you are suggesting is isolationism so radical that you are transforming yourself into an automaton, Quincy: a machine that can only see what is on the page, on the stage, or on the screen.

I can only say that should you maintain such a stance, your perspective, and your appreciation, only becomes all the poorer for it.

What ever happened to using not only our intellect in the appreciation of aesthetics, but our sentiments? And our imagination? I imagine that a problem is modern, post-Enlightenment analytical thought. It is mechanistic, and linear: we proceed from point A) to point B) to point C)… Classic storytelling, as classic thought, is circular: at the end of the three-act play, you are reminded that point A) is also point C).

You write: "I don't care about the author or director's intentions, because those intentions either were poorly executed or never made it to the screen at all."

An isolationist would indeed dismiss author intent. But let me ask you: do you remember when your father or your grandmother told you stories as a little boy? Do you remember that once you were slightly older, you could detect little inconsistencies ('plot holes') in the stories they told you? Perhaps the brave Knight might have escaped because... Perhaps the fair Princess might have been saved because... Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps... But did any of it matter? Was it not the intention of your grandmother in telling you those stories that mattered most?

Intent is paramount to the appreciation of any deed. It is so in a court of law, and it is so in the realm of aesthetics, regardless of execution: you may even be convicted simply for the intent to commit a heinous act, for example. It is also a fundamental part of any analysis of discourse: i) By whom was it written? ii) For whom was it written? and finally, iii) Why was it written? Intent matters. The fundamental question in life is 'Why?'

Take craftsmanship, say, carpentry. Some carpenters are highly skilled and deliver their clients outstanding craftsmanship, worthy of their salary. Some are not, even if they try their very best to do a good job. And some are not but are only out to swindle you and move on. The end result of the work of the latter two may be the same. But don't you judge them slightly differently?

Now take art. There exist thousands of statues of the Pietà, which, from a strictly atheist, literary perspective, is simply a moment in the story of a tragic figure: a death foretold to fulfil ancient prophecy. Now, not all pietàs are as outstanding as Michelangelo's in Rome. Yet even the poor, simple sculpture by an unknown artist in a small town may be as aesthetically impacting when you stand before it. Why is it so? Is it not because it is the *story* it tells, and that intent to tell it of the poor artist that made it that matters most—and not the execution?

Michelangelo's Pietà is a good example of modern viewers seeing form and not function, which again is a fine example of the modern desacralisation of sacred art. The *function* of that statue is the *story* it tells: the *form* is essentially irrelevant. How many modern viewers truly understand this, you think? As in my previous post: how many do you think comment only the form, and not the function?

Appreciation of author intent is important concerning aesthetics in modern television for another reason. Quite often—as in 'The Vengeance Factor'—specific execution may be lacking due to a number of factors over which the author has no power. The production may have been rushed, for example. And to continue my metaphor, not all sculptors have the finest marble at their disposal.

@Daniel mentioned some interesting production aspects concerning 'The Vengeance Factor' that I didn't know of (thanks for sharing) which affected the way in which that final scene had to be shot, for example. This is important for the episode as seen *on screen*. But it is entirely irrelevant for the episode *as written*. In other words, that specific *execution* does not affect the *story*: imagine, for example, a stage production of the same script.

It strikes me that you are conflating storytelling with medium and execution. The medium chosen in TNG’s ‘The Vengeance Factor’ is a modern one, television; and the execution is not the best. The storytelling, however, is classic: it’s a play, a tragedy in three acts, extended to five for commercial reasons. It is in fact independent of the medium, and of course independent of the execution.

You wrote: "I only care about what I CAN SEE ON SCREEN."

I can certainly understand emphasis being given to execution. But read what you wrote, Quincy: doesn’t it strike you as frightfully limited? Don’t you think that your perspective, as your appreciation—of the episodes, the stories, the actors, the authors, of art itself—might become richer if you considered context as well?

@Gerontius wrote: ‘It's never been a question of old was better or new is better. And never will be.’

I could not agree more.
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Andy's Friend
Sat, Feb 29, 2020, 4:58am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box


"One thing that I find increasingly irritating doesn't relate to the series, but to the forum, and that is the way people stick in rows of letters to refer to stuff, instead if taking the minuscule effort required to write out the names."

I agree. Sometimes it takes me half a minute to grasp what people are referring to. Every now and then I give up entirely. And it is a miniscule effort indeed.
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Andy's Friend
Sat, Feb 29, 2020, 4:38am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box


"I see several people complaining about Elnor killing the guards. (…)

Contrast that with what Riker did in TNG's "The Vengeance Factor." Rewatch that scene and see how many different options Riker had to NOT kill Yuta. 1) (…) 2) (…) (…) 3) (…) 4) (…). What Riker CHOOSES to do instead is beam down by himself and kill her. Most people actually defend this scene vigorously when this is pointed out. So much for the Rainbows and Butterflies Trekkian outlook."

You seem to have missed the point entirely.

Yuta is a tragic character. Her tragedy is to die in the end as she cannot escape the fate her 'gods' (her makers, or bioengineers) have designed for her. She *must* do her murderous attempt, for a murderer is what she essentially is *by design of the gods*.

Contrast this to Remata'Klan in DS9's 'Rocks and Shoals', another entirely tragic figure and exactly for the same reasons: he too is, quite literally, a product of his gods.

Remata'Klan works better dramatically than Yuta as he (and the entire episode) is better written and is provided with truly Homeric lines by the writer (that episode is easily one of Ronald D. Moore's most powerful efforts). This does not change the essence of either Yuta or Remata'Klan: also some of the tragic figures in classical Greek plays were better written than others.

That is at the core of the 'Star Trek vs modern dreck' question. Star Trek, even in DS9's most subversive moments, is usually sound from a dramaturgical perspective. Unlike what seems to be the case now (I'm not watching), the episodes not only draw extensively from classical storytelling devices but are, very fundamentally, correctly constructed, with protasis, epitasis, and catastasis, the latter often including catastrophe (in the dramatic sense: the change or revolution of events) that leads to catharsis.

Allow me to quote myself from 'Q Who':

'You have to look at it from the perspective of classic storytelling, and forget about such silly modern notions as 'plot holes'.

Take for example Picard's initial assertion that Starfleet is prepared for whatever is out there. This is admittedly out of character for Picard and outright silly. But it is nothing but an instance of Classical hamartia, the hero's 'tragic flaw', moving the plot forward and leading to catharsis as he is humbled by Q and learns his lesson: "I need you!"

We know Picard to be better than this. And therein lies the greatness of this episode. Facing Q and letting his animosity toward that entity get the better of him, Picard, our hero, errs. And it costs him eighteen of his crew to learn that. In other words, his over-confident initial stance is not a 'plot hole', it is a time-honoured plot device.

Star Trek is rife with such classic storytelling devices, which we must know to recognise in order to fully appreciate many of the stories told. Star Trek, more often than not, is not about 'realism': it is about archetypes, classic tropes, and ancient lessons. This was understood thirty years ago when this episode aired. '

Unfortunately, audiences today are growing ignorant of classic storytelling. The serialised structure of much modern television is one of the main culprits, as it shreds to pieces classic dramaturgy, sacrificing sound structure to mystery and obfuscation week after week until finally providing answers that usually prove unsatisfying.

Still, it surprises me when people fail to see classic drama as it is unfolding right before their eyes. Yuta is a pawn of her gods just as Remata'Klan is—or, in essence, the alternate Voyager crew in VOY's 'Course Oblivion'. All those characters *must die* in the end for the drama to reach maturity. The fact that 'The Vengeance Factor' is not particularly well-written has no bearing on the nature of her character. And the writer correctly places Riker in the end in a position that makes it impossible for him to prevent her crime unless he kills her. From a purely dramaturgic perspective, this is entirely satisfying.
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Andy's Friend
Tue, Feb 25, 2020, 7:10am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag


'What STP tacitly acknowledges is a galaxy where Federation hegemony no longer exists, and the edges are not precise because they never really were. A galaxy where the Federation has been decimated (…)'

The Federation was never a hegemonic power, it was merely and barely the dominant power. A hegemon has sufficient power to take on all neighbours simultaneously and prevail: Athens under Pericles, early Imperial Rome, etc. That was never the case with the Federation.

We were always given the impression that any alliance between the Klingons and the Romulans, the Romulans and the Cardassians, or the Cardassians and the Klingons would be a grave test to the Federation. Fortunately, those powers all loathed each other. So all things being equal, nothing really should have changed as far as the balance of power in the quadrant is concerned.

But since I am not watching the new series, please tell me: in what way has the Federation been 'decimated'? As far as I have understood, it is the Romulans who have lost their homeworld due to the power of plot; and, for plot reasons also, apparently most of their vast empire as well. How does this not, in fact, tip the balance of power in favour of the Federation?
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Andy's Friend
Mon, Feb 24, 2020, 5:54am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

@Booming (to someone else)

‘I'm not a big fan of postmodernist thinking but this is just not correct. Do you really believe that the show is constructed around a philosophical framework created in mid 20th century France about how all societal narratives are constructed to reinforce societal power structures? Is that your point? This sounds like dark web nonsense to me (…) Have you actually read Foucault?!’

You should take care not to opine on what you do not know well. The notion that postmodernism can be reduced to ‘a philosophical framework … about how all societal narratives are constructed to reinforce societal power structures’ is (to be blunt) sheer nonsense.

Despite what I just wrote above, you could expurgate Foucault from world history without affecting the essence of postmodernism itself. Foucault is but one manifestation of something much larger.

Postmodernism is one of several continuations of classical scepticism, questioning our ability to know anything with any degree of certitude. In essence, postmodernism denies fixed meanings.

Postmodernism denies Plato’s realism and the contrary idealism. It denies conceptualism attempting to bridge the two, as well as reductionism attempting to reduce them. It denies the general validity of projectivism even if it sometimes is just that; it likewise denies the general validity of eliminativism even if it often employs eliminativist arguments (see the video you suggested).

Foucault is a post-structuralist within the larger framework of postmodernism. He is as far removed from Plato as any philosopher (and a dilettante in comparison), yet he represents but one strand of postmodernism.

Yet Foucault is nevertheless a good example if you read him correctly. Along with Derrida, he advocates above all the refusal of objectivity, even truth itself. According to him, there is no truth, no reality, only subjectivity. This is at the core of his theory of power relations. In other words, relativism reigns supreme.

I don’t know ‘vain and self-obsessed’ to be an adequate description of this new series as I am not watching it. But it is a valid description of the cynical worldview that often follows in the wake of postmodernist mania with scepticism, subjectivity, and relativism. And it certainly holds true that virtually all modern television series are essentially espousals of postmodernist thinking, if unwittingly. You can’t seriously want to dispute this.

(When was the last time you saw a television series clearly espousing a coherent philosophical school other than postmodernism, let alone a moral absolute?)

Only two comments on the video you so kindly suggested. Not only does Foucault take a synchronic stance that wasn’t even true in 1971; had Chomsky replied with a diachronic approach, he would have made his point much clearer, and undermine Foucault’s entire argument. But more fundamentally, there is a reason why natural law has existed as a concept independent of divine law since Antiquity, and has been debated by philosophers and theologians ever since. Foucault would of course deny this.
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Andy's Friend
Mon, Feb 24, 2020, 5:47am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

@Booming (to someone else)

"Is your hypothesis that TNG was some kind of regressive view on society that only solidified power structures (for anybody who doesn't know. We have just entered Foucault territory)?
I always preferred Bourdieu over Foucault by a wide margin."

Same here. Without wishing to reduce Foucault to his theories of power, they are a disaster to humanity. Suddenly, friends aren't friends but compete for power in some warped relationship of 'power dynamics'. Suddenly, siblings don't love each other but compete for power in the 'power structure' that is the family. Everything is about power. It is sickening.

I personally prefer Ricœur over Bourdieu, and feel he is much more needed, even as regards Star Trek. But first:

I'm a historian. Your comment reminded me that in my own field, most scholars today write from a Foucauldian perspective. In a way, it’s not their fault: it’s what they were taught at university.

For the same reason, they generally lack an understanding of Philosophy and Theology that goes beyond the superficial. The same applies to sociologists, and so on. Whereas philosophers and theologians lack a deeper understanding of history, sociology, and so forth. The myopia in modern academia is frightening, and the lack of abstraction atrocious. In my field, other than a few specialists, historians today are philosophical and theological illiterates, obsessed with positivist approaches. Increasingly specialised and myopic, they are more like assembly-line workers than thinkers. This goes for all the human sciences.

The result, in my field, is a bleak, pessimistic, highly cynical interpretation of history that denies all idealism and sees hidden agendas everywhere. Aristotle’s vision of genuine, selfless friendship and any loving sentiment espoused by Christianity are nowhere to be found or accepted as true. A prelate distributing alms to the poor is not attempting to better the life of the indigent, but simply to ‘widen his power base’, and so forth. There is always some sinister, or simply egotistical ulterior motive.

It strikes me that this cynical worldview is also what is seen in much modern television: there is no idealism anywhere, no moral absolutes defended. All we find is postmodern relativism, and disenchantment in the Weberian sense.

Also in modern, so-called Star Trek. It is really all very depressing.

Concerning the discussion on Star Trek being had here, Ricœur comes to mind, and his need of the exegete to make himself contemporary with the source. But try explaining that to people. Most seem convinced that the past must be judged by today’s standards, not contemporary ones; and many seem to think that their own, uninformed opinions are as good as any. This deserves a few comments.

Unfortunately, the absurd idea that 'all art is subjective' has spread. But other than (post)modern, abstract art, all classic narrative art is highly objective. People tend to forget this.

'Oedipus' is a moral tale, not early incest porn.
'Medea' is a moral tale, not a feminist manifesto.
'Robinson Crusoe' is a moral tale, not a white supremacist proclamation.
…and so on, and so forth.

Stories until the postmodern era were bound in moral absolutes and used to contain an ethical lesson, which could be more or less obvious, and better or worse executed. But the ethical lesson was always at the core of any great piece of narrative art. This includes, e.g., paintings.

Take 'The Surrender of Breda'. It is a powerful moral tale as much as it is a panegyric to the victor, Spinola. It reminds the viewer that if you rebel against your rightful sovereign, you will ultimately fall: but also, that the pious and the righteous shows magnanimity in victory.

That painting is in the best tradition of Star Trek. It depicts not the harsh siege, but the peaceful surrender. Not the blood-stained, battle-hardened victorious commander, but the diplomatic, gracious victor, already establishing friendly relations with the vanquished. Not ‘vae victis’, but 'gloria victis’. In it, it is not only Ambrogio Spinola we see: it is also Jean-Luc Picard.

This also includes say, sculpture. Take Thorvaldsen's 'Jason with the Golden Fleece'. It reminds us of course of Medea, and Orpheus. You can almost hear the various statues and paintings in any great museum of art talking amongst themselves after dark, holding a great reunion after the guests have left. All it takes is knowledge of the tales they tell.

Unfortunately, people today don't know classic stories (let alone storytelling devices), whether of pagan mythology, Christian origin, or their own, national histories, other than at the most superficial level. They therefore fail to recognise the themes and the ethics in most classic art.

So when looking at say, Thorvaldsen's 'Jason', they will not comment on the story of the Argonauts; nor will they comment on how it relates to that of Medea, and that of Orpheus and Eurydice, and that of Castor and Pollux, and, and, and…, and finally, how well the statue brings to life the moral tale: how seeing Jason at the supreme moment of his life reminds the viewer of his fate, also: his downfall. Catharsis. A moral tale.

Instead, they will comment the superficial only. They will comment the craftmanship of the artist: the perfection of the toenails in Jason's feet, or the curls of the Golden Fleece. The smoothness of the marble, or the colours in the painting.

They will comment the form of the art, not its function.
They will comment the aesthetics, not the ethics.
They will comment the 'How', not the 'Why?'

Suppose they see a killing in a painting. The depiction itself will of course provoke an aesthetic response in the viewer. But who was it that was killed? Was it a vicious murderer guilty of heinous crimes? Was it a father guilty of stealing bread for his starving children? Or was it simply a good man, wrongly accused of some misdeed? If the viewers know not who is being killed and why, their aesthetic response to the artwork is meaningless.

However, staring at art they fail to comprehend, many tell themselves that their uninformed opinion is as valid as any other. ‘It doesn’t matter who it was, or why, this is what I feel when I see it.’ This conviction many further transplant to other fields of human intercourse. And the problem is upon us:

We increasingly see the absurd proposition that no opinion is intrinsically more valid than any other. This is blatantly false and has been known to be since Plato: εἰκασία is a lower type of opinion than πίστις. But more importantly, as Plato reminds us, it is not such types of *opinion* that one should strive for: it is types of *truth*. If not the highest νόησις, at least διάνοια.

Unfortunately, people, and this includes most of my fellow colleagues, no longer study much philosophy.

And so, we get some of the absurd claims we have here, that this new series is somehow pregnant with meaning and that TNG was actually all about attempting to perpetuate white Anglo-Saxon political and patriarchal power structures leading to Trump and Brexit and what not. Talk about missing the point(s).

You're quite right, Foucault and his huge influence is partly to blame. I will put forth Ricœur rather than Bourdieu as one countermeasure. But more fundamentally, we need more hermeneutics and less positivism in the world today. We need more realism, in the philosophical sense, and less physicalism, or materialism in the philosophical sense. We need more idealism in the common sense, and less relativism. Above all, we need more philosophy: we need to think better and understand more.

Or at least know to *know* more: to seek the truth, and opine less. The widespread notion that 'I am entitled to my opinion' is a logical fallacy. As Picard once put it, 'The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth'. In this, he was echoing Plato's theory of forms.

It's curious, isn't it? Here we essentially have two factions. One wishing to discuss, based on recent, in-universe precedent, the truthfulness of the setting of this new series. The other advocating their right to... opinion. On whose side would Plato be, one wonders?
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Andy's Friend
Fri, Feb 21, 2020, 4:58am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag


"I personally prefer the way the new shows are geared towards adult viewers. Adults swear, bat'leths stab, people bleed, and the preachy utopia of a well-run Federation starship in peacetime is revealed (…)"

i. I personally prefer the way Chinese Communism is now geared towards market forces compared to the 1960s. I just don't call it Communism anymore.

ii. The thing is, I never liked Communism to begin with. So I have no problem with applauding the steps that have been and are still being taken towards a more market-oriented, private venture-friendly economy in China despite the authoritarian nature of the regime. But as I recognise that the ideology of the Communist Party of China is no longer Communist, I call it something else.

iii. This is the crux of the matter. From what I read, Star Trek: Picard is as much Star Trek as China under Xi Jinping is Communist. China is still authoritarian, sure. But so was Pinochet's Chile. Communist it ain't, however.

iv. You apparently never accepted the "preachy utopia" premise of Star Trek. Fine. You prefer cynicism. Fine. There are many bleak series in sci-fi trappings to watch. You enjoy this new series. Fine. All fine. But please, don't insist on calling this Trek.

v. The feeling I have is not that some fans abhor the cynicism in some modern television productions. I believe that a great many Star Trek fans also liked BSG, for example. But they were able to see that the fundamental assumptions regarding society and human nature of BSG was another than Star Trek's.

vi. The feeling I have is therefore simply that many cannot understand how some will handwave away the evident discontinuity in psychology and ethos depicted in the new series vis-à-vis its immediate predecessors in-universe, TNG-VOY.

vii. It is perfectly valid to criticise the new series (Discovery and Picard) as not being Trek, and it is perfectly valid to like the new series. What is not valid is to like them *as Star Trek*, due to said discontinuity of psychology and ethos.

viii. This, then, is the problem. Some fans who never truly accepted the fundamental "utopian" premise of Star Trek insist that this *is* the "realistic" depicture of humanity, also in the 24th century. They grasp at straws, they conjure every imaginable line of script despite massive evidence to the contrary, because they *want to believe* that this cynical vision could be Star Trek.

ix. Perhaps it could. But not in the span of twenty years, from the late 2370s as in TNG-VOY to the late 2390s as depicted now.

x. Paradoxically, this goes precisely against the *realism* that so many argue that NuTrek represents. It is simply not realistic to expect that people born in the 2330s-2360s -- in other words, the *adults* in the late 2390s, not only the people in positions of power but the entire living, breathing, adult human tissue of the Federation -- would revert so much from their "evolved", "utopian" psychologies as depicted in the 2370s to what is depicted now.

xi. You want a "gritty", bleak, pessimistic, cynical vision of Star Trek? Fine. But place it in the 2440s, and give us *plausible causality* that may explain how, in the course of two or three generations, things changed. Don't have us believe that it happened in a mere twenty years, *over nothing*, and defend such an untenable proposition.

xii. See viii.

xiii. See i.
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Andy's Friend
Sat, Feb 15, 2020, 5:05am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Absolute Candor

@ Melota, @Yanks

Melota — 'We saw plenty of very morally dubious decisions from Starfleet Admirals throughout TNG.‘
Yanks — ‘Yeah that is kind of the running joke of Star Trek. The moment you become an admiral you want to do nasty stuff.‘

I wouldn’t say plenty, and Yanks is essentially right: it was more a running joke than anything serious. However—and this is a huge however:

Melota — ‘We saw how quickly the McCarthyite witch hunt took hold in The Drumhead.‘

No, we certainly did not. What we saw was how quickly unjust accusations were revealed to be just that. And please note that those unjust accusations were made by a deranged admiral.

‘The Drumhead’ is likely one of the most abused episodes of TNG. Note that I write ‘abused‘, which it certainly is. But it is possibly also one of the most *misunderstood* of TNG episodes.

‘The Drumhead’ is a moral tale, and it is a cautionary tale, yes. Picard rightly warns of the dangers of succumbing to paranoia, yes. But it does not depict a Federation on the verge of becoming paranoid, not even a Starfleet prone to paranoia. Quite the contrary. The initial suspicions against the Vulcan officer are relatively innocuous. And the moment it becomes clear that Admiral Satie’s accusations are but paranoid delusion, she is cut short. She is cut short by Picard, in one of his ‘wonderful little speeches’, yes. That happens because Picard is the main star of the series. But it could have been anyone, and it would have been were Picard not said main star, and able to deliver such ‘wonderful little speeches‘.

The point is thus not that Picard is some sort of ‘More Starfleet than Starfleet’ super-captain, able to perceive what no-one else does, denounce what no-one else can, and uphold higher values than both the organisation and the society he serves. The point is thus not that Starfleet, and the Federation, are in fact baser than Picard is. No. He is simply the mouthpiece for the ethos of the Federation, entitled to the more substantive lines and grandiloquent speeches as per Mr Stewart’s contract and talent.

Note how that episode cleverly uses Worf, a Klingon with extreme sense of order and naturally biased against Romulans, to service the plot. Had it not been for Worf, another character, with a backstory similar to O’Brien’s re the Cardassians, would have had to be written to serve Worf’s function. For in TNG, we all know that around 2370, more ordinary Starfleet officers would balk at Satie’s propositions.

Note also how the episode must make Admiral Satie psychologically unhinged in order to even make the story believable: for in TNG, we all know that around 2370, only an unbalanced person would make the kind of false accusations she makes.

In short, ‘The Drumhead’ is as fine an espousal of Star Trek 24th century Federation ethos as any. It does not, contrary to what is so often claimed, show how quickly Starfleet or the Federation might succumb to racism, xenophobia, isolationism, and other paranoias. It does quite the opposite. It shows us how quickly any Starfleet officer *with sufficient insight*—in this case, quite naturally, our main star—would unmask such paranoia. All while, quite correctly, warning *the audience in the 20th century* against such paranoia.

As always, we must know to differentiate, and to recognise when the ‘big speech’ is being directed primarily at the in-universe characters (say, ‘The First Duty’), and when it is being directed primarily at the audience as commentary, as here. TNG generally stroke a balance between the two deliveries, and did so masterfully. Unfortunately, in the case of ‘The Drumhead’, this is not understood by most fans. Picard is not speaking to his fellow officers: he is speaking to us.
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Andy's Friend
Fri, Feb 14, 2020, 8:36am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Absolute Candor

@A A Roi

‘Maybe watch The Undiscovered Country regarding a similar situation with the Klingons. Maybe watch Balance of Terror re: racism towards Romulans/Vulcans among humans in the Federation, or Dr. McCoy's casual racism versus Vulcans throughout TOS. Maybe watch the episodes in the Berman era where O'Brien refers to Cardassians as 'Spoonheads'. Maybe watch Measure of a Man and Offspring to see how Starfleet feels about Androids. Maybe watch how the Federation Council voted to withold the cure for the virus Section 31 from the Founders in the Dominion War.’

1. One shouldn’t use TOS (2260s) as benchmark for the Starfleet and Federation of the 2390s, but TNG-VOY (2360s-2370s).

2. a) Please tell me in which episode O’Brien uses the term ‘spoon head’, I seem to have forgotten.

2. b) You seem to have missed the point. O’Brien’s ‘Cardies’ shows his resentment for what he experienced at Setlik III, yes. But he uses that term in DS9, not TNG: different writers, and a different ethos. And this notwithstanding, it shows how restrained that resentment of a Starfleet officer is even in DS9-Trek. He didn’t call them ‘F*cking spoon heads’, did he?

3. a) re ‘Measure of a Man’. Again, you seem to have missed the point. Maddox and Starfleet simply haven’t grasped the nature of Data. To them, *in this episode*, Data is essentially a robot, a glorified toaster: they have not understood him to possess artificial consciousness. Granted, *this a conceit*: he would never have graduated from Starfleet Academy without making the Academy aware of this, and by inherence, Starfleet. But it is a conceit we must accept in order for the episode to play out its story, which is a glorious one. And again, *as nearly always in TNG*, we see *dialogue, even if adversarial as here, bring about enlightenment*, and change of heart. By the end of the episode, Maddox no longer regards Data as a mere advanced robot, does he?

3. b) re ‘The Offspring’. I’ll partly grant you this one. After ‘The Measure of a Man’, Starfleet should, perhaps, be ready to let Data evaluate and educate his own creation. Starfleet does appear to be too adversarial here. But again, this is one of those conceits we must accept in order to tell a story, which is what TNG did in virtually every episode. The episode itself is sound. Like ‘The Measure of a Man’, it is a story that uses advanced, futuristic science in order to tell what is essentially a moral tale. Some would even call it science-fiction.

4. I’ll grant you this one, on two counts. The cure for the virus affecting the Founders *should* have been given them by the Federation to prove the benign nature of the Federation, and thus bring about an end to the Dominion war; but of course, the virus should never have been developed by the Federation in the first place. More idealistic writers might perhaps have thought of having the virus evolve independently and affect Odo also, and let Federation doctors attempting to cure him develop a cure to all the Founders as well. Roddenberry would surely have preferred such an ending, as it would showcase the best values humanity has to offer. Roddenberry-era Star Trek was never so much about realism as it was about idealism.

Point 4. above is one of the (many) reasons why so many TNG fans have a problem with DS9, even if we readily admit that it was a fine series. It is a symptom of something deeper, with problems concerning both its serialisation—it tells much fewer stories—and its core ethos: if the quantity of stories is lower, their quality, in ethical terms, is often lower, too. DS9 is less morally satisfying (or, if you prefer, more morally challenging) than TNG. And whether one prefers TNG or DS9 is, essentially, a moral question.

A better example of the Federation and Starfleet ethos around the same time as the end of the Dominion war in DS9 is VOY’s seventh-season ‘The Void’, which takes place in the year 2377. VOY as we know is plagued by very uneven writing, and Janeway proves to be a fascinating study of a captain broken by circumstances. I find many of Janeway’s decisions provocative, and some, as in ‘Tuvix’, outright disgusting. Perhaps it is true that it is when we are most tested that our true colours show, and the extreme circumstances in ‘The Void’ certainly test our crew, and captain. It feels reassuring—or, if you prefer, morally satisfying—that even after being stranded in the Delta Quadrant for seven years, that broken, guilt-ridden captain is able to display such fine Federation values as in ‘The Void’. Some would even call it humanism.

Humanism is also displayed by The Doctor in the episode ‘Critical Care’ that same season.The Doctor is ultimately the end result of Federation programming, and exhibits that same Federation ethos. I am reminded of both him in ‘Living Witness’, and a younger Jean-Luc Picard, in ‘Emergence’:

‘The intelligence that was formed on the Enterprise didn’t just come out of the ship’s systems. It came from us. From our mission records, personal logs, holodeck programs, our fantasies. Now, if our experiences with the Enterprise have been honourable, can’t we trust that the sum of those experiences will be the same?’

A mere twenty-two years separate the events in ‘Critical Care’ and ‘The Void’ from those in this new series. Young men and women then should now be people in their prime. Do tell me, A A Roi: what happened to humanity?
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Andy's Friend
Fri, Jan 31, 2020, 8:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Maps and Legends

@ Bold Helmsman

"On the matter of cursing on Trek, I've never looked at it as them taking license to be immature. People have been spicing their language with curses since time immemorial, especially when they get emotional. It's simply part of human nature, even evolved humans."

That is only partially true. The more well-bred you are and the more education you have received, the better manners you will have and the less you will curse.

Take a thousand Ph.Ds. and a thousand [insert menial worker of choice] in [insert country of choice]: despite national differences as regards what levels of profanity are tolerated, the thousand Ph.Ds. will, on average, curse less than the menial workers *in any country*. They will curse less in normal daily life, and, if exposed to the same levels of stress, they will curse less under stress, too.

I have not watched and will not watch Picard; but a 24th century Starfleet Admiral using that kind of language, especially to *Picard's* face, is like having Grace Kelly using it to James Stewart's face. Unimaginable. Grace Kelly wouldn't have done it in 1955, and she wouldn't have done it in 1975, either.

Society has to deal with a huge inertia when it comes to the human psyche. People don't change much in the course of their lives, and certainly not in twenty years: generations change from one generation to another. This applies especially to good manners. Good manners is part of your identity, part of what gives you your dignity. You may lose your fortune, your friends, your family even: good manners is one of the last things to die.

The people who had very good manners aged thirty-five in 1955 still had very good manners aged fifty-five in 1975: it was their kids who were behaving differently. This is true as far back as you wish to go in recorded history. A well-bred late Victorian lady and gentleman -- say, Professor Moriarty and his lady friend in 'Ship in a Bottle' -- wouldn't curse and swear even after the horrors of the Great War.

On TNG's Earth, all men and women were modern-day ladies and gentlemen, so to speak, and certainly all Starfleet Academy graduates, infused with the Federation ethos: if not wise, at least educated; if not elegant, at least sophisticated; if not noble, at least gracious. (And, the reprimand given with wit and sagacity is much more effective than profanity.)

In other words, it seems like an absurd societal development has occurred from the year 2367 to the year 2397. People who grew up and were brought up to be gracious have forgotten even their manners. I don't, I can't believe it. But then again, based on what I read here and elsewhere, there are many things I can't believe about modern 'Star Trek'.
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Andy's Friend
Mon, Nov 18, 2019, 12:17pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: Q Who

You're quite right, Jason, but let's not split hairs: you remember the episode as well as I do, and what matters is not the above, but *how* Picard delivers this line:

PICARD: Absolutely. That's why we are out here.

That is what causes Q's response: Picard's nonchalant 'absolute' certainty. For it is (to be blunt) sheer nonsense: Starfleet could of course never be 'ready to encounter' all things, and Picard should have known this. So in the end, while I appreciate the difference between being 'prepared' and being 'ready' that you mention, it is largely academic, and beside the point. Other than that, you are obviously right.
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Andy's Friend
Mon, Nov 18, 2019, 11:33am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: Q Who

@George Monet

You have to look at it from the perspective of classic storytelling, and forget about such silly modern notions as 'plot holes'.

Take for example Picard's initial assertion that Starfleet is prepared for whatever is out there. This is admittedly out of character for Picard and outright silly. But it is nothing but an instance of Classical hamartia, the hero's 'tragic flaw', moving the plot forward and leading to catharsis as he is humbled by Q and learns his lesson: "I need you!"

We know Picard to be better than this. And therein lies the greatness of this episode. Facing Q and letting his animosity toward that entity get the better of him, Picard, our hero, errs. And it costs him eighteen of his crew to learn that. In other words, his over-confident initial stance is not a 'plot hole', it is a time-honoured plot device.

Star Trek is rife with such classic storytelling devices, which we must know to recognise in order to fully appreciate many of the stories told. Star Trek, more often than not, is not about 'realism': it is about archetypes, classic tropes, and ancient lessons. This was understood thirty years ago when this episode aired. The problem is that viewers these days have an exaggerated appetite for realism, all while they seem to have forgotten all about classic dramaturgy and apparently only know how to shout 'plot hole!'
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Fri, Mar 15, 2019, 2:37pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Project Daedalus


I agree with everything you wrote. Most importantly, in this episode, there were whole moments at a time where the story was so compelling that I forgot I was watching "just another episode of Star Trek." The best episodes, including "Q Who?" are just able to pull the viewer along, and the logical questions that immediately present themselves in poorly or merely decently-written episodes, only come up once the episode is over.
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Andy's Friend
Thu, Aug 23, 2018, 6:47am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Galaxy's Child

@Chrome, Peter G., William B:

I have never really seen what the problem is in this episode, or its predecessor (‘Booby Trap’). It is a story as human as it gets. Are people really so detached from their humanity nowadays? Are we really so fast becoming robots?

Meet Peter, Paul, and Mary. Mary has just met Peter. Peter then tells Mary about his good friend, Paul. Over the next few days or weeks, as Peter and Mary keep meeting and having nice conversations about themselves and their lives, Paul keeps coming up. In the end, after several long chats, Mary feels that she has a pretty good idea of who Paul is. But when she finally meets him, she finds that, although everything Peter told her about him was true, Paul doesn’t correspond, perhaps not at all, to the idea she had made of him.

This is something any minimally adult person will have experienced in life. Nothing new here so far.

Now imagine that Peter is absent at Mary’s first meeting with Paul. This immediately creates a slightly awkward situation, for Mary will have some or perhaps detailed knowledge of some events in Peter’s life, and Peter has no idea of which. What does she know about him? What has his friend told her? Has he exaggerated? Has he been truthful? Has he told her any truly intimate details? Familial matters? Matters of life and death?

Again, none of this should be unknown to any adult: if it is, he or she has been watching too much television, and interacting too little with other people. This is what happens when people meet, and talk. ‘I have a friend who…’ … ‘My cousin is…’ and so on, and so forth. And any sane adult knows which kind of details of a personal nature are innocent to share with a new acquaintance, and which are not. ‘My friend Paul likes wasps’ is fairly innocent. ‘Paul has weird sexual fantasies of being a giant wasp‘ is perhaps not. But of course, if Mary tells Paul, in Peter’s absence, ‘Your friend told me that you like wasps…’, the poor fellow will have no idea of just how much more his friend has told her. Again: absolutely nothing new here.

This episode and its predecessor are therefore intelligent, in that Peter is replaced by a computer, and Paul is artificially created by one in the first instalment. This is simply science-fiction doing what science-fiction should, and showing us new iterations of ages-old human issues made possible by technology. But the problems themselves are as old as mankind. There is nothing new under the sun.

None of this is creepy. None of this is inappropriate. None of this is unprofessional — especially in 'Booby Trap'. We are humans, for Christ’s sake, not robots. All this is extremely human — although I will agree that Geordi’s handling of the situation is, shall we say, clumsy. But that is precisely his trademark when dealing with the opposite sex. As such, these two episodes are good both as sci-fi and as character studies.

A final commentary: I am baffled at the amount of criticism Geordi gets from viewers over these two episodes. I believe this is a cultural phenomenon. I realise that in the United States these days — as well as in Scandinavia where I live — a current in society wishes to transform human beings into orderly robots, or robotic consumers. Disenchantment, in the Weberian sense, is everywhere around us. Society is increasingly desacralized. There is no magic garden any longer, no wonder. Everything is explained rationally and scientifically, with molecules and mathematics, and we humans are increasingly expected to behave rationally and scientifically, while increasingly being reduced to numbers in algorithms ourselves at the same time.

We see how this affects cognition, and argumentation. People increasingly attempt to win arguments based on statistics, not philosophy: numbers, not ideas. We are fast un-learning how to reason. 'Time is money', we are told, and in order to save eight seconds here and twelve seconds there, we are increasingly asked to forget how to think. Let technology do that for us. What a 'Brave New World' this is becoming: that nightmarish scenario is fast becoming true. And it is becoming one at an alarming pace.

Unfortunately, part of this discourse seems to have distorted the perceptions of younger generations of what it means to be human, to the point that even loving and caring gestures are deemed ‘inappropriate’. I have seen people online commenting that Melanie in Hitchcock’s ‘Birds’ (1963) is behaving ‘inappropriately’ for ‘breaking into' Mitch’s house to leave him the two lovebirds , and the note, for example. I have even read American students online commenting that Romeo is a ‘creep’ for ‘stalking’ Juliet, for crying out loud: this is how far removed younger generations seem to be of their own humanity today.

And here I see people complaining that Geordi, the nicest guy on all Star Trek, is a creep, too. Why is that? Is it because he is seen to behave like a pervert? No: it is precisely because he is see to behave like a human. What a truly scaring scenario this is.
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Gary O'Brien (M)
Sat, Aug 11, 2018, 2:40pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Eye of the Needle

plot holes I spotted which have been mentioned by others;


1. telek tells senior romulans (the "high council"?) about voyager before realising the dangers of timeline contamination - so how does the timeline maintain its integrity if only he subsequently keeps quiet?

2. the timeline safe options of transporting to be home in 20 years certain instead of ostensibly 75 years of unknown threats are rejected out of hand and not even thought of (the romulans would agree to not alter the timeline but telek would know that the Romulans and federation are not at war by 2371 and that both empires still exist by then because his initial conversations with voyager unwittingly make that clear when both are oblivious to the true situation - Romulan intelligence could make use of such advance info for use in 2371 and therefore gain a timeline safe advantage then)

but here are another 2 plot holes;

3. since Tuvok knows when Telek will die before Telek actually leaves, why didn't Tuvok just approach the subject of a Will etc with him in a roundabout way? You wouldn't need to tell him when he will die, just pretend you don't know but bring up that risk - and ask him to therefore make a timeline sensitive Will as soon as possible after he beams back?

4. a pointy eared Romulan beams halfway across the galaxy to a federation ship, and sees a pointy eared Vulcan amongst them. Knowing their shared heritage and the completely remote location, he wouldn't have some personal special interaction with Tuvok of some kind however brief?
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Tarth of Brienne
Mon, Dec 18, 2017, 12:53pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I liked it but didn't love it. I really liked The Force Awakens. It took two viewings, but I thought it was edited tightly and had a great energy which overcame the lack of originality. I had also really missed the Han Solo of it all in the prequels. TFA really showed how much Han is a part of what people fell in love with the original movies.

The Last Jedi, however, is not tightly edited, and has a penchant for meandering. The movie is overlong. I wouldn't be surprised to hear it underwent rewrites a plenty in development. Han is missed. They're trying to turn Poe into the Han Solo of the new cast, but he doesn't have the same charisma or chemistry with his fellow castmates that Harrison did.

Laura Dern is offputting. She was in Jurassic Park, and she is in this. The story never gives us enough time attention to get to know her character to make us care about her self-sacrifice. Captain Phasma is another character that's underserved in this film like she was in the first. Also, if I never sea another sea cow, I'll be just fine thanks.

I do like that TLJ takes more chances, but it is a mishmash of ideas that don't cohere into one unified whole. Maybe a second viewing will help with that.
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Andy's Friend
Sun, Nov 12, 2017, 12:18pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

Re diversity on Star Trek: Discovery:

The problem with the ‘diversity’ seen on DSC is that it is defensive in nature, not innovative.

The ‘diversity’ seen is not trendsetting: it is merely following trends. It is meant to avoid accusations of not living up to the sensibilities of some modern viewers—not to serve as inspiration to make us appreciate true diversity.

There is nothing particularly ‘diverse’ about showing blacks, or gays. They are people like everyone else, and virtually the entire target audience already acknowledges this. This is not a series for Muslim fundamentalists, after all.

I cannot understand the silly American obsession with wanting to see oneself on-screen. It’s puerile, self-absorbed, and actually quite pathetic. I don’t need to see straight white males as myself to enjoy a good story. If China were making great sci-fi with an all-Chinese female crew only, I would love to watch it. When I lived in India, I watched Indian tv and films almost exclusively. I don’t need a straight white male in ‘Devdas’ (1955) to grasp the beauty of that story. What an intelligent audience wants is good stories, and good writing. So far, DSC is offering none of that.

Showing diversity would be having a couple of Hindu bridge officers profess their undying mutual respect and affection in an arranged marriage after Indian—or Vulcan—tradition, and show that arranged marriage evolve to be a happy one.*

Showing diversity would be to have an exceptionally charming, male Muslim bridge officer marry three different women among the crew, and show that polygamous marriage evolve to be a happy one.*

Showing diversity would be to have say, three people of assorted races and sexes all knowingly date each other—and showing that polyamorous relationship to evolve to be a happy one.*

*Within the ‘normal’ parameters of ‘happy’ relationships, not utopian bliss.

Think about it. What would that tell us about diversity and tolerance, regarding just this one aspect—relationships, amorous relations, and marital traditions in other cultures—in the future society depicted?

But we know why this is not the kind of diversity we are shown, don’t we? The truth is, there is neither much creativity among the creative forces behind DSC, nor any desire to show a more tolerant and diverse future.

So, we get this rubbish ‘diversity’ of ‘black female’ and ‘gay’, which is nothing but deeply offensive if you stop and think about it for a moment.

A Russian, a Japanese, and a black woman meant something fifty years ago. The ‘diversity’ we see on DSC means next to nothing today. It is not innovative, and it is not provocative. All things considered, the only thing that is provocative about these characters—including the gay relationship—is the lousy writing affecting virtually all of them in virtually all episodes of Discovery.
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Andy's Friend
Sat, Oct 28, 2017, 5:13pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Lethe


Q is something entirely different, and you know it: he is a device to tell fabulous stories that deal with myths and archetypes. He is on an entirely different level of storytelling than Magical Tardigrades on Mushrooms[TM].

I had never thought I would be repeating Elliott's arguments, but there you are: the main point of Q is to present us with possibilities and challenges untold, without us having to delve on pedantic minutiae of plausibility. For we understand that the nature of Q is mostly symbolic, and that he functions on what is essentially a metaphorical plane.

In this interpretation, Q is the ultimate abstraction in Star Trek, beyond even the sort of outlandish alien existence I used to write that Star Trek should have more of, to force us to imagine and attempt to understand the truly alien. Who else but a seemingly omnipotent entity could put mankind on trial? Who else could tempt human beings with that sort of omnipotence?

Q has little to do with the technological debate you were having with wolfstar. Indeed, he even serves as an example of the possibility of the theory that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, making that magic-like quality precisely a crucial part of his function. In that other interpretation of his nature, he enables that very question, contrary to his nature as an abstraction that I first mentioned: is Q merely a being possessing extremely advanced technology?

Many Star Trek fans focus on the *form* of Q. What really matters, however, is his *function*. The ambiguous nature of Q is inherent to that function. Either way, whether as a near-omnipotent entity, or a being manipulating unfathomably advanced technology, Q is, essentially, the perfect enabler of stories.

Who else could transport the Enterprise to a distant part of the galaxy, to humble our heroes and give them a very necessary perspective on the challenges awaiting them? Who else could have one of our heroes die, only to give him an equally valuable perspective, and a second chance at life?

All this is on an entirely different level of storytelling from the sort of 'storytelling' we see on DSC. But there you have it: TNG was dedicated to thematically ambitious storytelling. I still don't know what DSC is about. Frankly, I also no longer care: this series is a complete mess.
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Andy's Friend
Fri, Oct 27, 2017, 6:53am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Behind the Lines


" Do you honestly think Hitler was doing PR during his campaigns across Europe in WWII? Dear god, some of you will excuse any bad writing with any ridiculous crap that enters your skull. "

Hitler in Paris and the Nazi German flag being raised over the Acropolis in Athens immediately come to mind.

DLPB, think of any major incident in the Eastern Front in WWII, or of many in the western front: what images come to mind? How many of those images are not German? Is the majority of photographic material, so many of the images we usually associate with a great many events in WWII, as in the examples above, not of German origin, made by officials of Nazi Germany?

You may wish to have a look at the German Wikipedia page on the Propagandakompanie of the Wehrmacht, the professional corps of German war photographers, filmmakers, journalists, etc., with a good introduction and links to several dozen of its most prominent individuals:

It fittingly opens with one of the most famous photos documenting its use: a photo exhibition in March 1940 in Berlin "documenting " to the Germans the fine war effort of their troops:,_Berlin,_Ausstellung_von_PK-Bildern.jpg

To see a few thousand photos by 462 Propagandakompanie photographers, see:

Note that many photographers more or less specialised: in certain theatres of war, but also, in certain types of photos, say, 'the everyday life of our troops' -- the canteen or sanitary facilities in barracks, soldiers doing routine maintenance of equipment, soldiers eating, playing games, or otherwise socialising, soldiers writing and sending letters home, etc.

All this is, to some extent, documentation. But it is also a deliberate selection of themes for specific purposes. It is also propaganda.

The same is true of photos of German troops interacting with occupied peoples. Usually, such photos humanise the German troops. Often, they humanise some of the occupied peoples. And some times, they dehumanise certain other occupied peoples. Which, where, when, and why? Again: propaganda.

Finally, note that some of the most memorable photos of the war were specifically staged for the photographer, even if seemingly taken in mid-action during some event, as if the photographer were simply a bystander taking a picture. Often, he was not: entire scenes were choreographed, rehearsed, and repeated in his honour, for his camera to capture. This also includes newsreels, etc. Pure propaganda.
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Andy's Friend
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 4:58pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: General Discussion

@ Jammer

Indeed. I was referring to the three latest films, for as I also just wrote, I haven't seen Discovery, and I don't presume to be categorical on what I haven't seen. And in any case, a pilot episode, and one without most of the crew absent at that, is not enough to give anyone a clear indication, of course. Let's see what happens, and hope for the best.
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Andy's Friend
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 4:32pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: General Discussion

@ Brian S.

You're absolutely right about everything you just wrote. But there is more to it than that. While I cannot presume to speak for Michael, I should say this:

TOS did something amazing: it had its cake and ate it, too. Meaning it created a diverse crew, to promote diversity, as you just wrote. But it didn't do it at the expense of great stories: it told great stories, also. And many of those stories were monuments to humanism: there was a *coherence between the cast and the stories, between style and substance*.

Modern 'Trek' doesn't do this. Modern Trek, meaning the post-Berman age of the J.J. Abrams films, tells atrocious stories. Modern 'Trek' doesn't care to edify, doesn't care to inspire, doesn't care to provoke our thoughts *story wise*.

Therefore, all its diversity is superficial only. And therefore, it becomes extremely frustrating to see such focus on what is but hollow and token diversity. "Look, we have transmorphics and robosexuals among the bridge officers!" This is shallow, and puerile. It's all about style. The stories told simply don't support any claims of humanism. What does it matter, then, that there are transmorphics and robosexuals among the crew, when all is but a cynical, shameless lie?

As I said, I can't presume to speak for Michael. But I for one resent all the emphasis given to the composition of casts, when the stories told are as atrocious as they are. Regrettably, the American public seems to care more about having x% blacks, x% Asians, x% females, and x% robosexuals among the cast than what stories are actually being written and told.

In that sense, all the talk about diversity in 'Star Trek' nowadays strikes me as very tiresome: for not only is it superficial, but even worse, it is cynical, and calculating. It is no longer setting the trend, as it once was: it is merely following it, expecting to get our hard-earned money in return. Diversity doesn't get much more fake than that, does it?
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Andy's Friend
Fri, Sep 29, 2017, 2:29pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

@Chrome, @Omicron (below)

Chrome: "Re: the pointless "SJW" witch hunt, can't we just use normal words like activists or progressives or something? I feel like SJW is a net-only derogatory term that just leads to polarized discussions"

You're right about the last part, but that is true of any term, regardless how correct it is: using terminology to divide people and limit them to one of two positions in a discussion, even when objectively correct (positivism vs hermeneutics; idealism vs physicalism; isolationism vs contextualism, etc., etc.), tends to be divisive, as if no compromise, not even dialogue is possible.

But---and this is a big but, for I am not American and don't live there, and American reality, from my European point of view, seems tragically and almost hysterically warped these days---I also tend to view "SJW" (a term I never use myself) as a very unpleasant type of personality.

The way I see it (and I may be wrong), SJWs are beyond simple "activists" and "progressives", as you suggest. To me, they seem to be radicals: the sort of unpleasant people suffering from some monomania, whether animal rights, women's rights, or whichever cause they have become enamoured with.

Such people tend to be exceptionally obnoxious, as they seem to live to see transgressions of the particular cause they have adopted everywhere. They see little else and speak of little else, but speak about it a lot.

I agree with you that we should avoid simple labels; we are all more than Marxists, meat-eaters, or Real Madrid fans. But I always thought that the more intelligent type of people who nevertheless use such terms used it to denote an excessive zeal of some sort---whether a radical, a true fanatic, or simply a youth who just wants to belong somewhere, doesn't really have a clue of what he or she is talking about, but does so excessively.

Tell me, is this perception wrong? Is the term really used that loosely?


I'm with you on this one. I haven't watched Discovery yet, and may never. The trailer suggests anything but Star Trek to me: take away the familiar badge etc., and all you have left seems to be a war saga in space. None of what has been written here indicates otherwise.

That is not what Star Trek is about. Star Trek is single stories---episodes---dealing with single issues: myths, as Elliott, who doesn't seem to frequent this site anymore, so well used to put it. Star Trek is larger than life. Star Trek doesn't need continuous story-arcs and character development, for that is not what Star Trek is about.

It's funny: I used to disagree with Elliott on many particulars, but he was absolutely right on the universals. Star Trek is about myths, and archetypes. And above all, like so many of you here have noted, it's about making us believe in a brighter future.

Let us compare the levels of ambition. In "Encounter at Farpoint", TNG began its run by putting humanity on trial by an enigmatic entity who was, shall we say, a little more powerful than you and I. And that entity said it himself, all those episodes later---the trial never ends: for it's about the unknown possibilities of existence.

Forget about flaws in execution: there is a greatness to that episode, an ambition that sets the tone for what TNG would become, and also reflects what Star Trek is all about. I just can't see that ambition in anything the many commenters here have written about these episodes.

P.S: I have read all the comments here by all (took me a while!). Thanks, everyone :)
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Andy's Friend
Sun, Sep 17, 2017, 4:46am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S1: Old Wounds

@OmicronThetaDeltaPhi, @Cosmic,

For the record, I have not seen the Orville. Just want to point out a misunderstanding on the part of Cosmic.

OmicronThetaDeltaPhi: “So please explain to me: How is our treatment of these two shows "a double standard"? It certainly seems consistent to me."

Cosmic: “Light tone = I like this. Dark tone= I don't like this. (…) Treat a light toned Trek-style series as something amazing, treat a dark toned Trek show as something terrible. Double standard.”

Cosmic, that is not the definition of double standard. An example of double standard is this:

1 - Treat a *light toned* Trek-style series *with a Western, English-speaking crew* as something amazing.
2 - Treat a *light toned* Trek-style series *with a non-Western, non-English speaking crew* as something terrible.
...even if everything else (story, sets, music, etc.) is exactly the same.

Here, you no longer have one standard, but two, that both must be met to make you happy. It is when you discover that to someone, it is not only a matter of A, but also B, when all that someone's great speeches of A turn out to be hollow unless also that tiny, little, hidden B -- that you may accuse them of double standards.
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