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Wed, Mar 6, 2019, 8:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Before and After

The name of this episode should have been "After and Before". Really, a little bit of clever can help a show, and they didn't have much of it on Voyager.
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Sat, Mar 2, 2019, 12:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Accession

Judging from some of the reactions on here to religious ideas, it is harrowing to know just how little the serious fans of scence fiction programming understand or care about adherence to organized religion. Could any of you even imagine being a Christian (ie Catholic) prior to the Protestant Reformation? Do you know what it's like to actually respect authority, or at least see the demands of an authority as being equivalent to your own desires?

The episode is okay, but I could write a thesis on the reaction to it on this page, how it reflects the individualism, the post-Enlightenment self-interested rationalism, and the consumerist effect of the Reformation on religion that has led to modern secularism. Then I could write another thesis - this time a purely philosophical one - on the contradictions of believing in self-actualization as a high value at the same time you believe in sacrifice for the group. It would be entertaining if it weren't so clearly inchoate as a moral perspective, and therefore slightly alarming on a cultural level.
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Wed, Feb 27, 2019, 11:12pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: Progress

A lot of you are getting this twisted up. The title of the episode is "Progress" and that's the theme. The nitpicking over the necessity of tapping the moon is a device, executed somewhat poorly (of course they should have a found a way to heat 200,000 homes without destroying a livable moon's atmosphere) but in a way, it's one of the least hot-button but most relatable ways to get across the idea of leaving people who don't want to change behind.

If you want to go hot-button with today's issues, imagine something more like the debate over gender roles. You can still be charmed by people who believe that the old male-female gender role split is ultimately good, but the times change. You don't want those people raising their children to believe such things, and the public school system will not be supporting those views, thus leading to conflict between a view held by a minority and a view held by a majority. Hell, in the case of gender roles, both sides would have a case for being in a position of persecution, and which you sympathize with would probably say much about the culture you were brought up in. Who the actual individualist is in such a case is not clear; what is clear is that inertia favors one side and authority, more and more, is backing it. This is why Sisko's words to Kira matter here: siding with the underdog makes it hard to win but is practically a cheat code for an easy conscience. Being compassionate and an authority figure at the same time is a nasty business; you always have to be the one to resolve the zero sum games, which means you're always screwing someone. It's a good rebuttal to the usual Trekkian optimism, which assumes a just society would pull the needs of the individual and the needs of the group into harmony through reason. It just doesn't always work that way; it may seem like that's because some people are irrational, but how much of your own desires, identity, and agency SHOULD you have to sacrifice to the altar of rationality, anyway?

This episode certainly isn't about individual land ownership, capitalism, or anything of the sort (although the inclusion of the B plot and leveraging of land that was eventually sold back to the Bajoran government gave me pause). I've never even seen firm confirmation that the modern concept of individual property rights exists in Bajoran society. It is clear enough that the old man would not have a problem getting a new home on Bajor, so there may be socialized distribution of housing or other goods, and the economics are clearly not the point. We do know that dignity and respect for people exist on Bajor, which is why they needed permission from the 4th owners (Jake and Nog) to build a new reclamation facility, but respecting people's expectation to be able to stay in a domicile is not specifically a matter of property rights so much as a broader moral matter. There are too many other ways to interpret it.
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Fri, Oct 27, 2017, 10:22pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Conundrum

Fun episode. If you had any fun to begin with, then all the plot hole crap can be easily explained away in a number of ways. The tech disparity, for example, is one of those things where you could imagine a society emphasizing neurology and computer technology at the expense of weaponry for a very long time, then suddenly war were declared, you get the Sutterans.

The only exception to this would be Troi becoming a chess savant, but they clearly did this because it put Data and Troi in ten forward and they needed to give them something mildly competitive to do, something which resulted in Data making a drink and becoming a bartender.

I'll allow it, even though it's preposterous. Maybe I just have a huge tolerance for plot holes, but I just don't care to deconstruct an episode I'm watching to look for them. I agree with the rating.
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Thu, Oct 26, 2017, 5:02am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Radically underrated film, and I'd say it's probably my personal favorite, even though I know Wrath of Khan and First Contact were better movies from a standpoint of cinematic common sense.

The beginning is probably why. Several minutes of just looking at the damn ship with awe as Goldsmith's gorgeous score plays with incredible dignity, I can watch that any time. And the ideas of the plot work well as representative for what science fiction should be, no matter how much reach exceeds grasp. The slowness is an asset in my opinion. Four stars.
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Thu, Oct 26, 2017, 4:47am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek Into Darkness

I was never offended by STID because I've never really seen the Abrams Treks as Trek. Still like having a starship in the shiny-cool future with a good crew, which the Abrams Treks do, but otherwise they're just action movies with a touch of moral messaging and some parody callbacks.

A lot can be made up for with good performances, and STID has those. The most difficult to mix in with the group is Cumberbatch, who is so powerful in his role that no one could possibly match him in this cast. The rest of the cast is good and I was pleased to see Peter Weller in particular, but even with an uneven role from this script, Cumberbatch is on a completely different level of gravitas.

I'm okay with 3 stars. Decent popcorn flick.
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Wed, Oct 25, 2017, 5:02am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Silicon Avatar

Am I the only one that was bothered by the guest doctor holding the tricorder upside down in the caves? The shot was from the side, but clearly upside down.

This kind of little goof significantly messes up the suspension of disbelief for me.
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Wed, Oct 25, 2017, 4:26am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Drumhead

Okay episode, not great, the production and characterization and believability criticisms here are valid. My interest usually boils down to the principles at play, so:

Courtroom dramas that play out social overreaction to possible subversion - recalling HUAC and the Red Scare, most obviously - thrive on showing the impact to individual rights. Not often mentioned is how such screwups malign something that is probably more important: social trust. I would like to have seen, in some narrative way, an attitude of suspicion break down crew morale, harm the crew's ability to trust its officers (Worf, for example, could have started having problems with performance from crew members who thought they might be investigated), and ultimately break down the interdependency upon which every group relies upon. You do this enough, and you won't have a crew anymore. You will have a collection of alienated individuals terrified of having every little questionable detail of their actions viewed in the worst possible light. This is how good faith dies.

Paranoia is a response to one's social environment, what happens when you sense that trust is collapsing. And while the case in favor of individual liberties has the biggest gut punch to it, individuals die regularly in Star Trek and it is not at all like what we see here. Individual welfare or utility are really not the point. Simon Tarsus could have been killed by the Borg, and it is not the same kind of failure, not unsettling in the same way. An internal breakdown is far worse, far more debilitating, and takes far longer to recover from than any direct enemy action. It has been said that no society is conquered from outside until it first fails from within.

My views are quite right wing and from the usual Trekkian perspective, I prioritize security, in-group "prejudice", and competition enough that you might call it gleeful assholery, especially if you didn't know me personally. But if caught between upholding security and enabling trust, I would support trust in the vast majority of situations. Picard should have, somewhere, showed some concern that Satee was breaking down his ship from the inside more than sabotage ever had, and appealed to his crew, especially his senior officers, to find a way to get those hearings off the schedule. I think this would have been a better resolution than a noble speech on freedom and an unjustified mental breakdown from someone who had been built up to be a legend for her rationality.
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Wed, Oct 25, 2017, 3:03am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Mind's Eye

Great episode, just rewatched. And thanks to SkepticalMI, I can now put a more cynical face on Bochra from "The Enemy".

"Some of the camera shots where a little over the top, like when they show Geordi walking down the corridor at the end."

I noticed this immediately and even though I know you aren't supposed to notice it consciously for it to be fully effective, I still love it, probably because I've been messing around with indy film how-to's for the last few months. Wide angle lens, close-up, dolly back. One of those great shots that communicates a bit of mentally unhinged. In unconventional films or when playing with the subjective effects of certain drugs, they really ratchet this up by getting a variable width lens, and widen it as they zoom in fast for an extreme close up on the face. This episode had great music and cinematography.
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Tue, Oct 24, 2017, 7:21pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: First Contact

@Peter G,

We have the exact opposite perspective. The idea of a a perfect intersection between individual and group success is precisely what I thought was incoherent. Believing in a social order which is non-zero-sum is a matter of faith, descended from Judeo-Christian moral belief in good and evil. It has never been proven to exist. That's the mirage.

If you note that success is relative (and trying to make success a 'personal' value and not a social one causes distinct alienation in people), and attention and influence over your society's value system is recognized as fundamentally scarce, this becomes very obvious. Power seeking is not a character flaw, it's completely rational when you take that into account. The reasons societies have worked in the face of this is because inequalities force adaptation from individuals that, once the adjustment has been made, come to be a source of stability and even comfort and trust, once solid expectations are established. But the tension between individual agency and big-picture control is permanent and there simply is no moral or distributive system which resolves it without inequalities.

A paradox of Star Trek is in the expression of respect for other cultures, but also a deep faith in perfectibility. It does not believe in non-interference because it sees "less advanced" societies as equally legitimate, it does it because it sees them as developing toward being more like them, and skipping steps is a process problem. See "Samaritan Snare". I find it telling that the culture which produced it has always believed in its own moral excellence but also rips on its execution, alternatively for interfering too much with other cultures and not interfering enough, issues which are reflected in the series. We do the same thing when it comes to the moral decisions made by individuals within. There is an awful lot of confusion here, and we can't seem to tell the difference between a resolution and political victory. People change the system, people are changed by the system, and none of this has changed the dynamics.

There are no foxes, Peter. We are alive and will remain so, moral self-righteousness notwithstanding.
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Tue, Oct 24, 2017, 6:53pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S3: Deja Q

@1701-Z Yeah, they did this round. I think this was the funniest episode of Trek, or at least I can't think of anything which beats it at the moment.
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Tue, Oct 24, 2017, 4:03am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: First Contact


I hate reading a bunch of people who don't know anything about economic ideology trying to talk about economic ideology. I studied it for too long: I have degrees in economics and history, historical emphasis on the economic history of the Soviet Union. I've read about state communism, industrial democracy, the New Economic Policy, and newer pro-socialist economists like Andrew Glyn; there are practically infinite ways to categorize the various proposals. It was an obsession, and still strikes nerves.

To save myself the trouble of going into detail, I'm just going to say that capitalism is about decentralizing agency, and all the dynamics that come with it are going to continue to come if you do not have centralized economic decision-making. That said, pure capitalism has never existed. It's all a continuum, and capitalism is cultural shorthand for any system which places higher priority on agency than on collective interests. It works fine for groups interests if the people or groups are unified by some other ideology and capitalism is a secondary cultural characteristic; when they aren't, it's a strategic game, just like politics.

Communism has never existed and can't exist without completely dissolving either all agency or the entirety of self-interest, which is what Marx' hypothetical future was predicated on: dictatorship of the proletariat and socialization of everything, leading to eventual disintegration of the individual as a self-interested being. Similar, but less radical, ideas permeate the political left in Western countries; they all feature moral authority or consensus over individual agency to some degree, at least if you recognize that the difference between education and propaganda is fuzzy at best.

I question the coherence of these ideas; you would have to assume a latent, perfectly systematic morality in people, one that all other forms of human group management have failed to come anywhere near, to think it can happen without severely compromising individual agency. Barring that, for socialism or communism to come about, people would have to have changed enough to be defined as automatons, and since most people don't like that idea, I'm pretty damn sure it never will. This is not a value judgment; if it comes, it comes. I know from experience that I can survive as a soldier, an entrepreneur, or a bureaucrat.

Star Trek doesn't get explicitly into its economic structure because, for once, the writers seem to know that their reach would exceed their grasp. There is at least one good discussion of post-scarcity economics that someone else on this site linked elsewhere, so happy hunting.

Oh, and if Riker were a woman, then yes, that would have been rape. But he's not, so it isn't. Cultural sex differences still exist here.
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Tue, Oct 24, 2017, 2:21am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Suddenly Human

Good Lord, this argument.

The regulars around this site will pontificate over the prime directive forever but when an actually difficult decision comes up which requires choosing between respecting a culture or damning it by your own standards, an awful lot of you damn it with self-righteous impunity.

The boy wasn't abused. Whether the boy should even be considered human after most of his formative years were spent in another culture is highly questionable at best. And yet, ultimately, the reason the boy's genetic humanity is emphasized by any of you is because it is the one link the might justify taking him from what has clearly become his culture. If this were a Tellarian boy whom the Enterprise comes across by accident and discovers 'abuse', it would be a clear prime directive matter and they would not have the slightest prerogative to take the kid.

Elliot is right. What constitutes abuse and what doesn't is a consensus matter, a standard element of culture. Imagine a socialist arguing that, because this is a capitalist patriarchy which subjects its people to intense and possibly traumatic competition for their welfare, we should not be allowed to raise children in this country. By their view, and *by the views of some political radicals here*, they are right. Is it right for them to take your children?

Please. It was a bad episode because it was poorly produced and written, but it was not a bad episode because the message was immoral.
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Mon, Oct 23, 2017, 11:22pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Darmok

This is such a popular episode, I think, for showing the process of coming to understand unfamiliar people, thematic Trek at its finest.

But this is also exactly why I've always thought the universal translator has always been an absurd technology. Isaiah Berlin was wrong; words and their ideas are not always translatable, especially for radically different societies immediately upon making each other's acquaintance. Teleportation is nothing but a technical problem. Translation is a cultural one, and far, far more complex.
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Mon, Oct 23, 2017, 10:53pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: Peak Performance

Watched this episode then came here to post about the several great lines, like Picard saying "I'm an hour away from this battle simulation and I have to handhold an android." to which Polaski says gives that perfectly sardonic, "The burdens of command..." No shortage here.

But then I saw the, how many, 94 COMMENTS most of which revolve around stratigema - a completely fictional game - and what constitutes a stalemate.

Also in this episode, Troi says to Data, "Wait, wait, you're overanalyzing."

Uh huh.
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Fri, Oct 20, 2017, 4:21pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S3: Booby Trap

I really liked the peril and historical enthusiasm of the battlecruiser storyline, but the Geordi/Brahms things is very cringe to me, unwatchably so. Lots of that is my issue, I'm sure, but because of it, the episode works very unevenly.

Geordi's character is the most undeveloped of the TNG senior crew by a wide margin, and I'm not saying that because he's an unrealistic character. Technology gave him sight, so his career choice makes perfect sense. And I know people a lot like him, dedicated to the tech and their work. But still, it's a dramatic series. His problems with relationships were more extreme than we might think, because of his function on a ship that desperately needs his competence, but it is also telling that his closest personal friendship is with Data.

I would like to have seen an episode where he did find a non-simulated girlfriend and there was tension due to his workaholism, his inability to compartmentalize the job. He's just a good guy throughout the series, and I think they could have done a lot more to expand on that.

And no, Picard would not have destroyed that ship. He probably would have notified Starfleet to keep everyone else out as he took apart the booby trap from outside the rock field, then towed the battlecruiser to a museum, where it belonged.
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Fri, Oct 20, 2017, 3:33pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S3: Deja Q

I don't know how this conversation has been going on so long without mentioning the second best piece of dialogue, which happens immediately after the first, Worf's simple statement, "Die."

Q's retort is just fun: "Eat any good books lately?"

Yeah, season 3 is the best in TNG history.
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Sun, Oct 1, 2017, 1:31am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

@SlackerInc re pirating the show: I didn't say I would not pay for it, as I might later through Netflix or video rental. CBS All Access simply has nothing else I'm interested in.

The majority of the people on here commenting certainly watched the show on a CBS broadcast, which also has no direct cost. The only income CBS can make from it is indirect, from Nielson ratings and eventual subscription, and I am not currently on Nielson's list (I was last year). So the substantive complaint comes from not tuning in at the time it went on the air, which was a matter of inconvenience on my part. I still watched it, and it was worth it, not as a matter of expenditure of cash but as a matter of expending the attention. I don't think your objections are proportional. Maybe you just didn't like my comments.
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Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 2:03am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

One elaboration. This statement from Jammer shows what the show can do:

"You see, the tale of the "Vulcan hello" was a logically calculated always-fire-first tactic the Vulcans adopted against the Klingons once upon a time to gain their respect through displays of strength, which eventually led to the establishment of diplomatic relations. I have my doubts that this could make sense and not simply enrage the Klingons into starting a war..."

Sorry Jammer, but this is a failure of imagination. You're seeing the Klingons through Federation eyes, which is of course the entire point of the plot. Burnham, familiar with the Vulcan policy and understanding of its logic, was trying to prevent exactly this kind of thinking from getting them into trouble.

There are borders. The Klingons tested them. The appropriate response was to defend them. The Klingons were not going to be able to identify with and respect a people that does not do this. Remember Quark's conversation with Garak on DS9 about the Federation being "insidious"? Or even better, Eddington saying "you know, in some ways, you're even worse than the Borg"? All this in the series most known for darker realpolitik, compromised ethics a la Pale Moonlight, and a war with an empire fundamentally incapable of peacefully dissolving into the individualistic slurry of the Federation.

This matters. And it needs to matter when we next decide to berate China for its lack of democracy and individual rights, or when we wonder why anyone could possibly object to making borders irrelevant as cheap labor pours into their society and gets granted legal citizenship as part of a blanket amnesty every couple of decades.

The show left open what exactly the Vulcans' "diplomatic relations" looked like. It is probably not full trade and interaction in the open borders sense. Should it be? If you're a universalist, then certainly it should, but universalism is an ethic predicated on dominance of its ideas if not its hierarchies. It brooks no opposition and functions with the same hysterical self-righteousness as the most brazen religious ideologies. There's no "but" to it: either you recognize that universalism is a culturally subjective point of view, with vulnerabilities and internal contradictions, or you deny it, and you hold to universalism based on individual welfare or some other higher value which justifies it. Trek has been wishy washy on this; if Discovery continues to have guts, we might get better answers out of it.

Worth the watch.
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Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 1:41am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

Decided to watch this tonight after seeing a good review, and pirated it like Blackbeard. Glad I did.

Did I love it? Not all of it. It's Abrams universe in aesthetics, the characters were as thin as a series premier can get away with, and no respect for canon outside of winks and nods.

Otherwise, I'm good with it. Setups with actual sophistication and even-handed understanding of differences are hard to come by now, and they are what Trek has always offered that I appreciated. It's here, and depending on how they treat it, it could stay and interesting questions can be asked while different points of view can be investigated. Some of these calls took guts, including the purposeful remaking of Klingons as more alien (they always should have been, budget notwithstanding) and the willingness to question the universality of Federation/Western value systems.

Politically, it must be hell trying to make shows which take seriously the concept of cultural identity without stepping on landmines. The temptation to Flanderize the Klingons will probably be extreme as the show progresses; I would not be surprised by a lot of viewers being turned off in distaste if the show takes Klingon culture seriously. Most people seem to prefer a straight good versus evil plot. But the Klingons here mostly made sense as an honor culture. It is not unheard of in human societies to test outsiders with a challenge and consider those who shy away and try to placate or talk their way out of it to be weak and ripe for conquest. Their actions, within the logic of conflict-oriented people maintaining borders and differences down to the individual level, work well as a stand in for real issues and test the modern moral and ethical system Trek represents. They could be stand-ins for fundamentalist Muslims or Trump voters, neither comparison perfect (both Muslims and Trump voters get their ethic from Abrahamic faiths blended with extant honor culture) but both serviceable.

They skimmed the idea that interaction softens borders and values with constant compromise and eventual assimilation, but the potential is there for a bigger investigation. You could easily call it a legitimate issue at this point.

I'll watch it again, and I might keep watching it so long as they don't dumb it down and someone posts pirated episodes, because I'm just not buying this All Access crap. And I still like the Orville better, mostly for the humor.
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Thu, Sep 21, 2017, 5:56pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S7: Genesis

Re-watched yesterday, and while I knew it was bad, it still had fun parts. Barclay and Troi's transformations were weirdly interesting, I wish I could have seen more of the Enterprise as an atmospherically dark biological preserve with odd creatures huddled into corners of shuttlebays and laboratories, and a lot of the setup really was funny.

Scientifically absurd? Oh yeah, definitely. But so are rubber forehead aliens that can feel Westernized notions of romantic love and morality, then crossbreed. The premise of the show is scientifically absurd. We accept it because it is dramatically useful as metaphor. In this episode in particular, I would wish for a better technobabble explanation, which should not have been that difficult, but either you can get into the sequence of events or you can't, and I could.

The two worst scenes are the first and last. The first, in sick bay, is obnoxious, cutesy, Starship Pleasantville slice-of-life that established very little that would become plot and left no tension to be resolved, which that opening scene before the title really should do. For some reason, this annoyed me more than anything else. And the last scene, with that acknowledged too-pat wrap up... I can't help but to think that if the first part of the show had been accelerated, we could have had time for something, anything, to give the episode a hint of harrowing shock that such chaos would have created. I love that TNG is so cerebral, but it shouldn't ignore trauma, just acknowledge and overcome it.

I'd give it 1.5, maybe 2, could have been 2.5 with a few minor changes.
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Thu, Sep 7, 2017, 4:29am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Past Tense, Part I

@John Harmon:

I grew up on the newer Treks and I'm on the far right. Short answer is, there is appeal in watching a group working as a hierarchy, respecting rank, sacrificing where need be, putting their emotions to the side when the situation requires it, and (occasionally) making tough choices between their empathy, their duty, and their sense of what is right. The head gets priority over the heart from time to time. Individuals die but the ship and crew moves on.

Although there are obvious exceptions, it portrays a social group operating harmoniously, and even when it doesn't (DS9 is loaded with legitimate conflict, warfare, and realpolitik), it's very rare that one side or the other is treated as completely unrelatable. Concerns over race and culture are even taken seriously, shown as maybe something other than pure delinquency, which never happens anymore, as nice guy consumerist individualism is basically the only position you can now take. Compared to the overdramatic good-versus-evil moralism that so many other TV shows have to offer, this is a cool, Apollonian breath of fresh air, even 20 years on. Frankly, it's about the only thing I ever watch anymore.

I am well aware of how the franchise has its roots in a type of utopian leftism, but it is also ultimately the creation of one guy, Roddenberry, who's understanding of utopia was so quirky and in some cases contradictory that it stands as a creative act.

I think Star Trek usually gets human nature wrong, although there are times it gets it very right. This episode isn't one of them. I liked it when I first watched it, but I wasn't old enough to drive a car then. Now I have degrees in history and economics, and I think the message stands on a laughable soapbox with a severely screwed up sense of what social dysfunction looks like. My $.02.
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