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Charles J
Tue, Feb 19, 2019, 8:17pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Saints of Imperfection

@John Harmon

"I just don't buy it. I can't believe that in the future of interstellar space travel, our history keeping would become so bad that in about one hundred years, nobody remembers what Section 31 is. If it was ever intended to actually exist as an official part of Starfleet, Bashir would have just reacted by saying "I thought they didn't exist anymore" or something like that. The only way I've ever been able to tolerate the idea of Section 31 is by assuming they were rogue extremists."

There is a difference in what is in the historical record, what is accessible, and what is taught. As such, we don't know how much of Section 31's work was ever declassified, or even entered into the official record. We don't know what areas of Star Fleet and Federation history have been focused on over the years.

We also don't know how much of the Federation and Star Fleet have changed in shape and structure. Nor do we even know how many different sections and agencies comprise them.

Take the U.S. as an example. The Sourcebook of United States Executive Agencies includes this in it's appendix:

"[T]here is no authoritative list of government agencies. For example, [maintained by the Department of Justice] lists 78 independent executive agencies and 174 components of the executive departments as units that comply with the Freedom of Information Act requirements imposed on every federal agency. This appears to be on the conservative end of the range of possible agency definitions. The United States Government Manual lists 96 independent executive units and 220 components of the executive departments. An even more inclusive listing comes from, which lists 137 independent executive agencies and 268 units in the Cabinet."

If the Federation truly existed, the number of agencies, sub-agencies, and departments would surely number in the 100s. Many of them having changed names, gone defunct, been absorbed, or moved around, several times over the course of 100 plus years.

Although, your point does stand in one respect. Bashir is someone who is interested in spies. As a doctor, he'd be much more familiar with the agencies that intersect with his work on a day to day basis. Yet, as someone who has made spying a hobby, has a relationship with someone like Garak, and has been pulled into different plots, he'd be much more likely to stumble across references to Section 31 than anyone else on the station. Especially if Discovery establishes that they were much more well known than previously established. That's a thread someone like Bashir definitely would have pulled on. Even if it was just to satisfy his curiosity. And, considering how popular spies are, there would be thousands just like him, also pulling on that thread if they came across it.
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Charles J
Mon, Feb 18, 2019, 9:57pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: Deflectors

Also, none of those Moclans have exhibited non-conforming traits. Either by our standards or theirs. What the Moclans do would be traditionally masculine. Right down to how they express their emotions.

If the Moclans were truly queer, they wouldn’t care if Lokar slept with women. We would see more Moclans that ran the gamut of sexuality and gender expression.
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Charles J
Mon, Feb 18, 2019, 9:14pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: Deflectors


I’m a straight cisgendered black man. I’ve also ran and covered LGBT film festivals for several years. People police other people, including people who are queer. I learned that lesson as a programmer and as the person trying to market these events.

But, we are also talking about what the majority of audiences see and know. While many of the folks here have a more expansive definition and personal experience, the general audience will only know the Moclans as gay. Again, lessons learned marketing LGBT events and working with LGBT filmmakers for nearly 15 years.
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Charles J
Mon, Feb 18, 2019, 2:53pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: Deflectors

@Wolfstar (and others)

"When Alara was shown as unprofessional in Command Performance and Firestorm, did anyone write "so, what might a viewer imply that this is saying about women"? No, because Alara represents Alara, not women. Bortus and Klyden do not represent human gay men, they represent Bortus and Klyden and a distinct Moclan culture."

That analogy doesn't holdup.

Two elements about Alara had been made clear by those episodes. One, that she was young and experienced. Two, that her upbringing played a large role in how she sees herself.

So far, we've only spent time with one Moclan couple. While they may not represent gay men, they are members of a society in which all the males are gay. And, as presented in multiple episodes, that society has not come off as being tolerant of any Moclan that isn't male and homosexual.

If another Moclan joins the ship, we'd expect him to be more like Klyden in his attitudes. When another Xelayan joined the ship, we didn't expect her to be like Alara.

While I agree with everyone that the INTENT is to present the Moclans as more than just a gay society, the show hasn't been well balanced in that regard.

Every episode that centers around Bortus and the Moclans has been about gender, sex, or sexuality. Even the Ja'loja is a ceremony that is about a Moclan bodily function. An entire joke was written about what the Moclans can eat, which is nearly anything. As written, what Moclans do with their bodies, and with whom, is a huge component of the show.

We have yet to get an episode in which the central conflict is rooted in other aspects of Moclus. Such as their polluted planet, their industry, their military, or their religion (if MacFarlane would allow them to have one). I'm not even sure we have learned what Moclus thinks of other worlds and cultures.

"Female desire, independence, and agency is completely suffocated."

We have not seen that on screen.

For one, Bortus and Klyden seem to have no issues with the women on The Orville. In this episode, Klyden doesn't confront Talla, he only confronts Lokar. When Klyden thanks Talla for freeing him, there doesn't appear to be any latent animosity towards her. Even in episodes like All the World is Birthday Cake, Bortus is in a coed bunkhouse, and he doesn't say a thing about it (IIRC...correct me if I'm wrong on that).

We've only met one female Moclan, and we don't even know what happens to her after About a Girl. In fact, we really don't know what happens to any females that are later discovered, that's if any have been. The gender change seems to be pervasive enough that Bortus still believes females are only born very 75 years. Even though he's married to someone who was born female, and his child was born female.


Now why I think Talla is the wrong choice of character to follow is illustrated by the elements that make The Outcast a much stronger and successful episode in comparison.

First, we see Soren struggling with her identity from the start. She's asking questions and searching for perspectives that she can't find within her society. We're with her journey from asking, to taking a huge risk and starting a relationship with Riker, through to when we see her after she's forcibly been changed.

Second, we see Riker develop feelings for Soren. Then when she's put on trial, we watch as Riker tries to take the blame to protect her. After that, he struggles with his options. Ultimately, he, along with Worf, decides to risk his career to save Soren. Then he's confronted with the horrific truth, it's too late. She's undergone the procedure.

By episode's end, you feel for Soren and Riker because they both lost. Soren way more than Riker in the grand scheme. Yet, neither walks away unscathed.

Dramatically, Talla doesn't go through much. There's nothing at risk for her. It's not like if she does or doesn't solve the murder her career is over. She demonstrates time and time again that she's good at her job.

It's not like her actions will have any effect on the relations with Moclus.

Telling every Moclan she runs into that they are wrong for their beliefs won't have any meaningful effect.

She doesn't even pay much of a price for turning Lokar in. The only reason she has to turn him in is because an innocent man's life is on the line. However, it's because of Lokar that she had to make the choice she did. He framed another person, and he was the one that decided to turn himself in.

And, they didn't even have a relationship. They danced and kissed, and then he faked his death.

What is she risking?

Compare that to Bortus and Lokar. They both start the episode with things they can lose.

Bortus knows the truth about Lokar. Having that type of information, and not acting on it, could create trouble for him. If Klyden finds out, that could create a rift. Having an old flame come back into his life, secret aside, is potentially disruptive.

As for Lokar, he has a secret that he doesn't want revealed. He also doesn't even know if Bortus knows the truth. If it gets out, his career and life are over.

For Klyden, an old flame showing up could potentially introduce problems. After the events of Primal Urges, this could reignite the issues he and Bortus were having. When he learns the truth about Lokar, Lokar is even more an existential threat to Klyden. He's violating the mores, and laws, of Moclus. Something he fought hard to adhere to in About a Girl.

Unless you take the time to put in the work, the main characters rarely take on any of the same level of risks as the guest characters.

Also, as it often is, we rarely get to understand the true depths of what a guest character is experiencing once the credits roll. After the episode is over, their story is over as well. The main characters rarely ever revisit what has happened. Whatever pain they experienced is temporary. It's not like we often see characters in stories like this reapplying the lessons they learned. They don't have to. And when they do, it's easy, because they can just move on.

By extension, it's easy for the audience to learn important lessons. Yet, never have to really wrestle with how they have to apply those ideas afterwards. That's really the hard part.

I'm not asking shows to do that. That's not really my ultimate concern. But, too often there are people who simply learn the lesson of "don't be racist" or "don't be homophobic." Yet, don't realize that means more than not using the n-word or a gay slur. When a coworker really needs you, what do you do? If your boss says or does something, do you personally take a risk, or do you just put your head down and not say anything. If you adopt a kid who needs your help, how do you deal with some of these issues when they happen on a weekly basis?

Again. I'm not asking shows to impart these nuggets of wisdom.

However, when we pat a character on the back for doing the bare minimum, I'm not going to join in. Nor, am I going to think in 2019 that's anything extra special. Especially since other shows have already been saying and going the bare minimum since at least the 1960s. And now there are shows that are doing multi-episode arcs and have leads that are exploring these same issues.

Forgive me for the long posts. I pop when I can, so sometimes I'm trying to catchup on all the things have been discussed...and I'm also a long-winded asshole.
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Charles J
Sat, Feb 16, 2019, 12:18pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: Deflectors

@Dave in MN

The Xelayans don’t have an aversion to just the military. They don’t think highly of the Planetary Union AND the militarized arm of the PU.

Even if you excise the military portions, it’s been fairly clear that wouldn’t change Xelayans opinion about the PU.

They also haven’t shown much interest in affairs off world.

They are isolationist, not big on a liberal (poly sci definition) institution like the PU, and they are anti-military. Some political scientists would think they are very much conservatives.
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Charles J
Fri, Feb 15, 2019, 7:44pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: Deflectors


"Also, how can you not understand that the moclans are not coded as homosexual? Theyre literally homosexual. Monosexual. They're coded as conservative."

A large number of the cultures in The Orville exhibit some version of conservatism. The Orville taps this well so often it's what each culture is conservative about that matters.

Politically, the Xelayan stance on the Planetary Union and aversion to the military fits some schools of conservative thought. They'd be right at home debating if the U.S. should have get into WWII or not. The Krill are religiously conservative and militarized. The aliens in Mad Idolatry and If the Stars Should Appear are also uber-religious. All the World is Birthday Cake and Majority Rule are critiques of conservatively strict judicial and social structures.

In the case of the Moclans, like they Krill they are militarized. So it's their mores around gender, sexuality and bodily functions that further defines their conservatism.

Being male and homonormative are the two most important aspects of Moclan society. This entire episode centered around a male Moclan being attracted to a female. They are by definition homosexual.

Not sure why this is a point that needs to be debated. *insert shrug and a smirk*
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Charles J
Fri, Feb 15, 2019, 3:51pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: Deflectors

@Dave in MN

A) Nope. Do not care IF they use metaphors or not. Do not care WHAT metaphors they use. As long as how they use those metaphors don't contradict the message they are trying to send I'm all good.

See the criticism of Netflix's Bright. Using the discrimination against Orcs as an analogue for racism wasn't the problem. It was that the Orcs were an amalgamation of racist and gang stereotypes that was the issue. On top of that, the rest of the world has a legit reason to be concerned in Bright. The Orcs once sided with the bad guy. Reverse the analogy, and it just reaffirms the idea that maybe people have legitimate reasons to be scared of black and Latinx peoples.

B) Nope. I only criticize shows that say humans have eliminated prejudice on Earth, then never acknowledge when those characters are being prejudiced against other species and lifeforms. Or, in some cases, still exhibit some form of prejudice and bias against other humans.

See the Federation's treatment of genetically engineered people. There are a lot of prejudicial assumptions embedded in their language and policies. Even though it's been hundreds of years since the Eugenic wars.

C) Nope. I have issues with how The Orville explores bigotry and bias. The writers too often rely on stereotypes, and the easiest takes on issues. That often means, as they are sending one message that's positive, they are sending another that can be problematic.

Topa is an example. Changing Topa's sex is supposed to be a big deal. Bortus and most of the crew were not happy with the results. It violated the basic principles of the Planetary Union.

Yet, why is it a big deal? Klyden was born female. He doesn't seem to be suffering. So far, Topa isn't illustrating any ill effects from having his sex changed to male. Now that their son is old enough to talk and attend school, Bortus shows no concern that their decision may still have consequences.

One of the unintended messages the show is implying, is that medically unnecessary reassignment surgeries don't create lasting psychological and physical harm. It's obvious that's not the goal. Yet, that is the message they are sending.

Am not looking for the writers to tell the story in a "traditional way". What I hope is the writers will a demonstrate a deeper understanding of the stories they are telling, and the climate they are telling those stories in.

Nor, do I need the characters or cultures to be perfect. What I want is The Orville to explore the flaws in society and cultures with more nuance than if they are misguided, then they also must be harmful. Or, the entire society and culture must be bad because of a few flaws. And, when they explore the flaws within the characters, I'd like them to do that with empathy and compassion.

"I see a proud gay culture that is reknown throughout the galaxy for technological achievement, a culture so strong the Union has made them an ally. I see a culture with an appreciation for high literature and art, where relationships are built upon love and children are raised with care, where parents (*gasp*) can even be annoyed with each other and have relationship issues like straight people."

You are reading a lot into the show.

We've seen one Moclan couple for any extended period of time, Bortus and Klyden. The majority of the time they've been on screen, they've either been at loggerheads, or it's Klyden snipping at Bortus, or Bortus being passive aggressive. The amount of time we've seen them at odds, even if it's just jokingly, greatly out weighs the times we've seen them being loving. Even Primal Urges and Deflectors establishes that healthy communication is not a large part of Moclan culture. You stab your mate if you want a divorce. If you want to breakup, you extract a tooth and give it your boyfriend.

The bitchy nature of Bortus and Klyden's relationship, and the forcing of their child to be male, just plays right into the stereotype of the aggressive, predatory gay. As presented, they literally don't express "feelings" like the rest of us.

We've seen one Moclan child. And Topa's had all of maybe five minutes of screen time. We can only infer that he's healthy because the show hasn't indicated differently. There's also no evidence of how exactly Moclan children are raised.

Do we know why the Union needs the Moclans as allies. Is it economic? Is it for strength? Is it for diplomatic reasons? Ed never says why they are allies in this episode IIRC.

And, if there's such a high regard for Moclan culture, why do so many of the characters, including the Planetary Union, seem to know so little about them?

At the end of the episode, Ed says, "You know, the more I learn about the Moclans, the more I see that our differences go right to the core of our long can an alliance with a culture like that last."

That has troubling implications when what we've been given steers into the stereotypes as often as the writers want to debunk them. The Moclans, as presented, are gay. It's an all male society. They don't reproduce asexually. They are not hermaphrodites. This episode, a male Moclan had a heterosexual attraction for a female, and it was considered unnatural.

Replace Moclan with homosexual, and what Ed says sounds too much like something a bigoted politician would say. "You know, the more I learn about the Homosexuals, the more I see that our differences go right to the core of our long can an alliance with a culture like that last."

Again. I do NOT think MacFarlane and the writers are bigots. What's happening, is that like all of us, they have blindspots. They have unconscious biases that aren't always easy to notice. And, sometimes, even as we strive to do good each and everyday, we repeat some behaviors and thought patterns that can be damaging. It takes effort, and many, many people working together to take note of them, and to challenge them.
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Charles J
Fri, Feb 15, 2019, 10:49am (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: Deflectors


"It’s 2019. You can talk directly about bigotry, sexuality and gender — you don’t need clunky metaphors."

Couldn't agree more. This episode has multiple problems. All amplified by how easy it is to enjoy this episode, without further examination, because the messages are well intended.

The first is the pov for this story. It should be Bortus, not Talla. Talla's not Moclan. She wasn't raised Moclan. As an outsider, with nothing to lose or gain, she shouldn't be the episode's center. She doesn't know what it would be like for any Moclan to be ostracized by their own people. It's not her experience.

When she outs Lokar, that's crossing a line that shouldn't have been. It was not her right to reveal that bit of information. On a personal level, that's a violation. On a macro one, she has no idea what the consequences will be. It would be like someone outing a friend at work. Even in today's world, that friend could lose their job. Or, their family could find out and that puts them in a position they were not prepared for.

While her heart is in the right place, she can't lecture Klyden. He was born female. His child was born female. As such, he understands what it's like to live a life that adheres to Moclan norms. Unlike Talla, he knows what's at risk.

Is he being a bigot? Yes. Is it moral cowardice for Klyden to act the way he does in this episode? Well, that's all dependent on your vantage point. He could be putting his family in harm's way if he doesn't admit what he knows about Lokar. Social change often requires physical risks and sacrifices. It's not an easy process that's self-evident.

And the show has yet to ask several obvious questions surrounding Klyden and Topa. Are they actually comfortable with their current gender? Have they experienced body dysmorphia? Have they been additionally altered so that they wouldn't have those feelings? What will happen if Topa says he thinks he's female? That he doesn't feel comfortable in his own body?

Which leads one to wonder if Klyden fiercely protects the status quo because he is insulating himself from criticism and questions. Or even worse fates if he and his family aren't considered to be model Moclans. Was Klyden programmed to not question Moclan beliefs so his change in sex would "stick" and he'd express himself as male?

Make Bortus the main character, the episode takes on a new shape. For one, the reveal that Bortus already knew about Lokar adds new shading to the events of About a Girl and Primal Urges. He was demonstrating how much he's motivated by love, and capable of accepting people as they are, long before About a Girl. It illustrates that he was always capable of defying Moclan society if it meant protecting and respecting the rights of the individual.

Bortus and Klyden could continue the conversations that should have followed About a Girl and Primal Urges. Bortus can interrogate his and Klyden's beliefs, and dismantle the contradictions and the underlining issues with Moclan culture. And, they can dissect why it's so hard for societies to acknowledge the lasting harm some of their ideas and policies can create. They can dig into issues like body autonomy, personal rights, and a child's right to health.

At one point, Bortus says that Moclan culture is the reason they survived living on a harsh planet. It implies that the Moclan's may have altered their own species. Was that intentional by the writers to hint at a future reveal? Is Bortus just parroting what he's been taught?

The Orville continues to treat sex and gender as being one in the same. They are not. It's much more nuanced and complex than a simple one to one.

As an example, it would have been an interesting wrinkle if Moclan culture expects all Moclan's to be male, but they are more forgiving of an individuals sexuality. That no one "cares" as long as you eventually mate with another Moclan male (would they care if a Moclan dates a male of another species?).

Bortus's matter-of-fact response to Topa that relationships are what happens before the egg, is funny. But, it's also problematic, as its telling Topa that relationships are only valid if it leads to kids. What kind of scene would we have gotten if Brutus had said relationships can lead to an egg, but not always. Would Klyden have agreed? Would he have blown up?

We could have seen that there is gender-fluid expression among Moclans. While they are expected to all be born male, they aren't all expected to express traditionally masculine traits.

The writers seem to have no interest in exploring any of these questions with any greater depth. Not because they are unfeeling monsters, or stupid, or lazy.

But, because they are already starting from a perspective that these issues are easy to understand. That supporting LGBTQ+ people instantly makes you more enlightened and progressive than those who don't. Yet, being progressive does not make one automatically more enlightened. Progressives and liberals can act just as inhumanly as someone who is conservative. They can hold and express the same problematic norms as others, just in ways that aren't instantly noticeable.

Two more things. Lokar's willingness to frame Klyden adds an extra level of ick. Gay and lesbians being portrayed as lacking in morals is a very old trope. By making heterosexuality an allegory for homosexuality, the writers are just reaffirming a dangerous stereotype.

Lokar could have easily just faked his death without implicating Klyden. Especially as he doesn't know if Klyden wouldn't be more likely to reveal the truth about Lokar's sexuality as a defense. If Lokar was dead, what motivation would Klyden have to out him? And, if Lokar wasn't murdered, Talla wouldn't have a reason to bring up his sexuality either. They'd be looking for a cause of death, not a motivation for murder.

When the little girl asks what's wrong with Lokar's head, she doesn't even ask Talla the same question The girl never acknowledges Talla existence. Lokar is the only one of the two that she asks "who are you". Either Lokar stood out because he's black, or Talla didn't instantly standout because she presents as white first, and alien second. The writers, director and actors seem to be unaware of the racial implications of that scene. It's a replica of 1940s New York. It's a bit disconcerting that moment goes by and isn't commented on.

And before someone suggest it. That scene being some kind of subtle comment on the themes of the episode doesn't fit. While there are intersections and they can influence each other, racism and homophobia are not interchangeable. I'm black. I can't out myself. Being black doesn't dictate who I love, or how I identify.

If there was supposed to be a connection, that connection belies a fundamental understanding of what POC and LGBTQ+ experience. Or, how and where those experiences intersect.
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Charles J
Mon, Feb 11, 2019, 11:31am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon


"Wasn't it Burnham who committed mutiny and attempted to start a war with the Klingons in "The Vulcan Hello"? When that's your introduction to a character that's supposed to be "a symbol of strong morals", then you have a problem."

Burnham was trying to save lives when she mutinied. She also wanted to avoid conflict with the Klingons when she tried to shoot first*. Those are moral acts. Moral people can, and often do, make bad choices for the right reasons.

Also, Burnham reexamines her choices and takes personal responsibility. That's a key aspect of being a moral person.

What she did was unethical. She violated her oaths, as well as the explicit and implicit codes of Star Fleet. But, making an unethical decision doesn't make one immoral. Nor, does being ethical make one moral.

It could be argued that Star Fleet sticking to its principles was ethical, yet immoral, because it did lead to the immediate deaths of thousands.

* A recommendation that she didn't come up with on her own. She went to Sarek, who is an ambassador, for advice. Advice that was based on the experience Vulcan's had dealing with the Klingons.

"Apparently, those who idolize her character are mostly "inspired" to attack every person who disagrees with them as "racists" and "misogynists". So apparently, the character isn't really that great in inspiring the best from her fans."

Yeah, I'm going to say this is a gross oversimplification. Your own points about Burnham's morality are a good example, because they weren't made in good faith.

Kirk routinely makes decisions in TOS and the movies based on his own personal morality. He violates the ethics and codes of Star Fleet just as often as he adheres to them. Wrath of Khan is in part an examination of this. It's made him a legendary Captain and Admiral, but at what cost?

Trek has had multiple episodes in which characters have had to contend with the moral and ethical choices they made. Are people tearing Riker a new one for what he did in The Pegasus? Are people dragging Worf through the mud because he didn't identify a vessel before he shot at it in Rules of Engagement (and what if that ship had been full of civilians)? When Picard decides to save the planet in Pen Pals, do people begrudge him for making a moral choice, even if it violates the Prime Directive?

There are elements of misogyny and racism in some of the critiques of Burnham. Not because all the critiques don't have some merit, but because some of those critiques aren't applied with the same rigor to other characters. Or, at all.

They are being applied as if Burnham is either the first character in Star Trek who isn't the ideal Star Fleet officer. Or, that she's the least professional officer to ever step on the bridge of a star ship. Even though, across 700 episodes, we've seen characters make decisions similar to Burnham's. Sisko poisons an entire planet for goodness sake. He ultimately decides that assassinating a Romulan and killing a forger was worth it if it will save thousands of lives. Then he deletes his log.

Almost no character in Star Trek hasn't had some moral failing, made morally ambiguous choices, or violated the ethics of Star Fleet. Be it in their past, or in the "present" experience of the show.

There would be no drama if the characters weren't constantly wrestling with their moral and ethical choices. They'd be flat and lifeless.

Folks don't have to like Burnham. They can be put off by her personality. But, when they say she represents the worst of Star Trek, I have to question what franchise they've been watching. You either have to have not being paying attention. Or, you're actively putting up blindspots just to make this one character seem worse than she actually is.

Let's put it this way. Ask yourself this question: If it was Captain Kirk, would he have advocated for shooting first? If it was Kirk straight out of the academy? If it was Admiral Kirk?

Based on what we know of him, that answer isn't automatically yes he would, or no he wouldn't. But, is he capable of it? Yes, yes he is. Because, his moral code is one what would allow him to pull the trigger if he thought it would save lives. Does that make him a terrible character? No, it makes him Kirk.

Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if Kirk would be the contrarian, advocating for Burnham's thought process. He may not defend all her choices, but a young Kirk seems like someone who would understand what was going through Burnham's mind.
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Charles J
Fri, Feb 8, 2019, 6:15pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

I swore I remembered people complaining about the use of degrees Kelvin in Star Trek before. Lo and behold, this is from Memory Alpha:

"Technically, the measurement for Kelvin is not preceded by the qualifier "degree", however, several instances the term "degrees Kelvin" has been used throughout Star Trek. Geordi La Forge, made several claims to this combined term in both "The Child" and "Half a Life", rather than correctly stating them as simply kelvin. Data, also in "Half a Life", Gideon Seyetik in "Second Sight", Chakotay and Harry Kim in "Alter Ego", the computer voice in "Concerning Flight", Tom Paris in "Demon" and Tuvok in "The Haunting of Deck Twelve" were also guilty of adding the additional qualifier."
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Charles J
Fri, Feb 8, 2019, 6:08pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

Regarding Saru, does anyone really believe that the producers would create the Kelpiens, just so they would forever remain prey? And, by extension, never become potential members of the federation?

At some point, this transition was going to happen. It's logical it would start with someone like Saru.

Now understanding how much of his culture's core beliefs are false, Saru has new found motivation to help his people. Adding extra strength to this, is that Saru's journey has been his own. No one can say he was forced into his current position by outside influences. And, he accomplished everything he did while being a walking ball of anxiety.

What would his people accomplish if they also were able to experience what Saru has? What would have they accomplished if they had know the truth sooner?

It also raises other questions. Like is this the Kelpien version of puberty? If so, exactly how long would Kelpiens live if they weren't harvested? Is the species that preys on the Kelpiens artificially modifying, or delaying, this process? Were the Kelpiens always prey?

Regardless if they answer those questions or not, Saru's transformation gives him, and the writers, new aspects to explore. Who is he, and what does he become now that fear is no longer a primary driver in his life? How will others respond to him now? What does he do with the information he now has? What about his sister? How will he react when they encounter other people similar to his own?

Oh, and this could be the writers starting Saru on the path to be Captain.
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Charles J
Fri, Feb 8, 2019, 3:06pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

You guys do know, that in an episode in which language and the UT play major roles, the use of teleporter instead of transporter, just might be foreshadowing and not a mistake on the part of the writers.
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Charles J
Tue, Feb 5, 2019, 8:45pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: A Happy Refrain

The writers have consistently written Claire as one of the most mature, thoughtful and experienced characters on the show. As such, why she develops feelings for Isaac is in character. It's based on his ability to be responsible and attentive. She finds his AI brashness charming. How she initiates her relationship with Isaac is also in character. She acknowledges her feelings, talks it out with friends, considers the obstacles, then she still chooses to act on those feelings.

What isn't totally in character are some of the choices she makes after that. Most of which adhere to rom-com cliches.

Even if she is hurt after Isaac decides to end their relationship, it's doubtful she'd need to avoid him. She's a woman in her 40s. Who's served on other ships. She's probably been in situations like this before. Sex, or no sex, she's likely had to run into someone she's dated before.

Even if she hasn't--again, highly doubtful--she's experienced enough to know that's the risk one takes when you date someone at work. Especially in a situation like traveling on a star ship. And especially if she's in a command position.

As a character who is forthright, passive aggressively changing tutors without first going to Isaac doesn't fit her character. Isaac wouldn't have been caught off guard like that. He would have already known, because she would have told him.

And, lastly. She shouldn't have been all that surprised when he abruptly decided to end their relationship before it barely had started.

His brashness was one of the traits that she fell for. Even if that same trait backfired on her, it doesn't befit her character to be so overtly angry. As Wolfstar pointed out, she already knew that he was both asexual and aromantic.

The first he can change with some easy modifications (get your mind out of the gutter son). The second isn't something that's just going to spontaneously appear in his code.

It would be like trying to date someone you know is on the spectrum, and have known for months, and then getting pissed at them for being on the spectrum.

Same with the crew. They know what kind of being Issac is.

And even if she gets mad, Claire seems like the type of person who would be able to recognize how silly that is and deal with it head on. She'd likely be more upset with herself for being upset.

It also just seems odd, that after two dates, one bad, one good, and a night of sex, that everyone would see Isaac as some cad. Or to treat Claire as someone who has been greatly wounded.

Let's put it this way. Lamar has probably pulled an Isaac more than once since the show has started. He even gives Isaac the terrible advice on how to break up with Claire. He literally dated a woman with two heads at the same time, and neither head was the wiser. Yet, no one is ostracizing him.

Even as a romance, it really doesn't hold up to scrutiny after just a few days thought. There are still bits and scenes that work. And it's sincere as hell. But, it becomes more and more obvious just how much this story hinges on outdated gender stereotypes and sexual mores to drive the plot.
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Charles J
Tue, Feb 5, 2019, 10:31am (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: A Happy Refrain


"I think Data was less alien and more contemplative."

Agreed. Which makes sense if you're a being that wants to integrate into a society. In some ways, Data is no different than an immigrant. He doesn't know all the customs and social mores. Like many immigrants who want to assimilate, or at least understand how to navigate a foreign culture, he's learning from observation. Yet, observation alone may not explain why some people shake hands, while others greet each other with a hug and a kiss as an example. Are they family? Friends? Colleagues? Is it culturally specific? Context specific?

As we see with Data, while trial and error maybe one of the best ways to learn, it's also one of the fastest ways to annoy and frustrate the people you're trying to connect with.

"So as I see it, the main difference between him and Isaac is that Isaac is an OUTSIDER. He is on the bridge as part of the crew, but he's not really part of the crew. He's external to the crew, almost like a brilliant computer studying rats in a lab."

Again, very much on point.

Isaac's mission is to help the Kaylons gather enough data to decide if they should join the Union. Integration isn't an automatic desire. Nor is isolation. We don't even know what they would get out of joining and interacting with the Union, let alone the wider galaxy. Their motivations are entirely alien to us. Which makes both Isaac and the Kaylons infinitely more interesting.

For all we know, Isaac developing a personal, intimate relationship could be considered off mission by Kaylon. It could also be they don't care either way, because they don't see any inherent value (negative or positive) in organic relationships. It's just one variable of many variables. Or, it could develop into the most important part of his mission. Because it could give Kaylon some very basic tools they can use to interact with organics.
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Charles J
Mon, Feb 4, 2019, 11:19pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: A Happy Refrain


"This is how we run into problems and gets us into making assertions that giving robots amygdalas will give them emotions. The fact is we don't even know the basics about what the brain is for, but we assume we do and skip over the question, leaving us all the more ignorant."

Never said we should give robots amygdalas so they'll gain emotions. I said that an AI may need the equivalent of one to avoid being a sociopath. As well as avoid being an unintended threat. Even if the initial intention is to do no harm.

So that could be a chip that replicates all the functions of the amygdala. Or, it could be some kind of chip that functions more like an ant's brain. It could be some type of advanced ethics engine that can make decisions without the need of emotions as a motivator and regulator.
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Charles J
Mon, Feb 4, 2019, 7:18pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: A Happy Refrain


"I'm not sure how any of this really pertains either to the question of emotional AI or the episode.

Whatever source we humans have for our emotions, there's really no reason to assume a sufficiently sophisticated machine won't possess the same kind of "magic" too. "

The amygdala plays an important role in processing memories, emotions and decision-making. A larger amygdala also correlates with the ability to form more complex social networks and a greater capacity for emotional intelligence.

So far, we've seen what kind of behavior Isaac, who presumably doesn't have one, can engage in.

He'll take a prank war too far and remove an entire leg. Unprompted, and without intended malice, he'll remind others of his intellectually superiority. He'll break into Claire's quarters, with her kids just feet away, to offer her a surprise birthday cake. He'll breakup with Claire, without regard to the effect that will have on either his relationship with her, with the crew at large, or on himself. In an effort to win Claire back, he'll make it rain on the bridge. Again, without regard to the effect that will have (yes it turns out alright, it could have blown up in his formless face).

Intentional or not, this show illustrates why an AI may need the equivalent of an amygdala.

Out of context, all those behaviors could be considered disruptive and even sociopathic. They potentially make The Orville, as a functional unit and a de facto family, less cohesive. They can even create lasting damage on multiple levels (personal, shipwide, etc). Damage, even if minuscule and seemingly insignificant at the time, can still add up over time.

For the purposes of this episode, it may not really matter. Especially since it's meant to be a rom-com. As a sci-fi though, these are some really interesting issues that have real world implications.
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Charles J
Mon, Feb 4, 2019, 9:12am (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: A Happy Refrain

We have to remember how much our emotions are shaped by our senses, and vice versa. There's also the influence of memory on emotions.

As an example, how did Isaac experience sex with Claire?

A kiss is one thing. Replicating all the different processes and stimuli that makeup sex is complicated. Did the computer simulate all of that for Isaac? Or did Isaac only get a partial experience?

Claire has memories to draw on. She knows what she likes, and how she's responded in the past. She was processing and experiencing her emotions during sex, and she continued to process them afterwards.

How much of her positive experience is literally in her head, and how much of it was Isaac being attentive and responsive? How much of it was actually her being the more responsive and attentive partner? What about all the other little events that colored the evening? The dinner, the conversation, how her day went, etc?

From what we've seen, Isaac hasn't gone through the same stages of development as an organic. He has no past memories to draw on. Nor, does he have mistakes he could pull lessons from. He doesn't know what it's like to be inexplicably sad, or so happy you involuntarily cry. Not to be pedantic, but Isaac is essentially a child compared to Claire.

In comparison to characters like Data--or even Odo before he understood his true origins--Isaac doesn't have decades of experience with humanoids to draw on. Nor, was Isaac explicitly designed to experience life like an organic--they haven't even established if prior to his placement on The Orville, if Isaac was originally humanoid or not.

There's a lot of interesting questions and implications The Orville could explore. I don't know if MacFarlane has the werewithal to do so. This episode leans into the romance and relationships, and less into the sci-fi and the metaphysics.
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Charles J
Sun, Feb 3, 2019, 8:00pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: A Happy Refrain

Reading the comments just reinforces where the issues for this episode lay for me. It's mostly in that it doesn't fully explore how empathy is a key component of relationships. Not only does Isaac not demonstrate that he can empathize, it's not clear how Finn could ever fully intuit what Isaac needs.

And while Isaac demonstrates he can anticipate and respond to Finn's physical needs, what happens when Finn needs him for emotional support? Especially when Finn herself may not be able to articulate that something is wrong. Finn could be investing a lot of time and energy, only to be disappointed.

As it's been pointed out, it doesn't make logical, or emotional sense for the crew to use shame to change Isaac's behavior. They know he has no feelings. He also hasn't shown that he has interest in prioritizing or nurturing any social relationships. Being shamed and excluded from the group doesn't lose him anything.

I really enjoyed this episode. So much so, I'd personally put it in the top three. MacFarlane's comedic timing and beats are doesn't the highlights. Malloy and Lamar running down the hall and excitedly spilling the beans. Mercer's "no need to brag" line, and his perfectly timed eyebrow. The piston engine like rhythm of Mercer and Grayson's "cake" dialogue.

Overall, it's a very sweet episode that has a lot of fun bits, and executes the rom-com playbook pretty well. But ultimately, it's not a very deep story.

It will be interesting to see how they develop this relationship, and Isaac, specifically.
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Charles J
Wed, Jan 30, 2019, 6:35pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: All the World Is Birthday Cake

@Dave in MN

"I just feel like The Orville (and Mr. McFarlane) are being held to a higher standard than our beloved franchise, and that's not intellectually fair."

I don't think it's being treated any less harshly than Voyager and Enterprise were their first times around. Even Deep Space Nine and TNG would be ripped to shreds whenever they had a clunker of an episode.

Just like Voy and Ent, The Orville is directly built on the back of previous Trek. And like those two shows, it's much more difficult to give The Orville a pass when it's replicating the well-worn tropes, and weaker elements of Trek (and sci-fi in general), without commenting on, subverting, or mining those elements for new ground.

I'll say this. Time will tell if some of us are judging the show too harshly.

At this point, at least for me, the show is still watchable. Its issues aren't enough to turn me off (yet). And there's enough good, that I'm rooting for the show to grow its own Riker's Beard.
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Charles J
Wed, Jan 30, 2019, 12:46pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: All the World Is Birthday Cake

@Dave in MN

"I wouldn't criticize Mercer too much for his decision .... at least he didn't stand on the bridge idly watching a world die because their space engines didn't have 8 cylinders.

It's amazing how bad ethical decisions in Trek that should prompt revulsion in Trek get a pass from so many, but The Orville is raked over the coals for much less."

Symbiosis from TNG and Voyager's Retrospect are two prime examples of episodes that have been repeatedly torn apart. Fans are still debating if Janeway and Archer were good captains because of some of the calls they made.

Making questionable, contradictory, and unethical decisions is what drives (good) drama.

What makes for poor, shallow, and problematic allegory, is when an episode doesn't interrogate those decisions in good faith. Or, when an episode skips right past obvious solutions, questions and issues, just so it can make its points.

Mercer has no time to weigh the ethics of his choice, only because MacFarlane as the writer made it so.

Then, at the episodes end, Mercer only barely (re)considers the ramifications. Nor, does he even acknowledge how distasteful having to make that decision might have been for him personally.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter what Mercer decided. MacFarlane was never that interested in exploring how Mercer got there, or the possible effects that would have on Mercer, his crew or an entire planet. The plot and one dimensional antagonists were going to force Mercer's hand regardless.

Which is exactly what has happened in Star Trek many a time.

Picard is going to let an entire planet suffer through with drug withdrawal, obscure the truth from them, and allow another planet to possibly continue exploiting them because reasons. The Voyager writers ignored the trauma Seven endured throughout the episode, just so they can land a message about remorse.

So no. Star Trek is not immune from criticism.
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Charles J
Wed, Jan 30, 2019, 10:05am (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: All the World Is Birthday Cake


"To tite it back into the show, it’s interesting that Dave and I liked this and the previous episode so much, but the naysayers seem to be more in the theistic or “woo” camp. I think we can all agree that Seth’s views line up most closely with the three of us, so I do think it explains a lot."

Actually, my views closely align with Seth's. I grew up in a very christian family, and even as a child I had my doubts about the existence of god and the veracity/efficacy of the beliefs I was being taught. By the time I was an adult, I was agnostic. And now most days I'm atheist, with a tinge of the agnostic that I can quite shake, even as the rational part of my brain thinks it's silly that I can't.

Science was also a major part of my childhood. Knowing that there was an order to the world was comforting and fascinating.

The problem I have is how Seth expresses his views in a fictional world.

As the writer and creator, Seth can make up any rules he wants to. There are already elements within the show's universe that don't confirm to reality (and physics) as we understand it. The biggest being the ability to travel faster than light. Without that, the show is radically different in construction.

Written differently, astrology could be a legitimate branch of science. Much like teleportation, telepathy and telekinesis are treated as a scientifically possible phenomenon in Star Trek.

Mercer and his crew never entertain the idea, that on Regor, the stars may actually have, or had, some type of influence on the people.

In TNG, one of the points the show always stressed was that there was a rational explanation for the unexplained. It only took a bit of research, skepticism and patience to find those answers. And regardless of the answer, it wasn't the job of the Enterprise crew to change anyone's beliefs. It also wasn't their job to uphold those beliefs either. It was only their job to reduce or eliminate the harm those beliefs created.

Seth as the writer ensures the Regorians appear dogmatic and irrational by not connecting the star's original disappearance to any historical events. Nor does he illustrate how the Regorians faith has remained intact after thousands of years. It just is.

As the writer, he chose a solution that reaffirmed the Regorians' faith. And made their change of policy appear arbitrary. The star returns, the Regorians immediately free all the Gilliacs. There's no discussion. There is no debate amongst the Regorians.

Lastly, that solution is problematic because Mercer's actions demonstrate that he'll unquestionably prioritize pragmatism over integrity and ethics. Which wouldn't be a problem if Seth was interested in exploring or acknowledging that conflict, and where that choice could lead.

Freeing the Gilliacs is a good.

Yet, even if the Gilliacs have been freed, that doesn't mean the Regorians will stop imprisoning people based on their signs. Nor, does it mean they won't continue to give preferential treatment to some portion of their population. The Regorians aren't going to enthusiastically jump at giving the Gilliacs jobs, training or robust support to transition them back into society-at-large. It's going to be a rough number of decades as the entire world readjusts and learns to humanely treat the Gilliacs. The caste system will just remain in place in another form. Just as Jim Crow replaced slavery as both a legal and de facto system of oppression in the United States.

Disrupting an entire society's belief system overnight tends to never lead to positive outcomes. Knowing how people express and explore their faith, it's likely Mercer has just created a schism--if not several schisms--within Regorian society. For all he knows, he could have planted the seed for a civil war, or even sects that are even worse than what they encountered.

Mercer spends little time debating the use of deception to reinforce a faith that neither he or the Planetary Union believes in. I believe most ethicists would argue that going in guns blazing to get your people back, is less problematic than erecting an elaborate lie on a global scale.

Seth wants to replicate a lot of the elements that made Star Trek, Star Trek. Yet, he'll opt for the shortest routes to make his points. He rarely takes the time to be more rigorous interrogating the show's ideas, and the character's actions.

It's just supposed to be self-evident that X is true, and Y is not. And if Y is not true, upholding it almost always leads to a more violent, oppressive, and narratively obvious outcome in The Orville Universe. There are no surprises. There is a distinct lack of nuance.

Personally, I rarely find shows that just parrot my own beliefs back to me, to be very rewarding as a viewing experience. They're kind of dull, as it makes the character's flat and uninteresting.

It's when the writers stress test the ideas I/They/We hold, it's much more engaging.
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Charles J
Sun, Jan 27, 2019, 8:42am (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: All the World Is Birthday Cake

One scene I would like to highlight is Mercer and Grayson walking up to meet the Regorian leadership.

It was hilarious, and arguably demonstrates some of the most confident writing and directing of the entire series.

While the crew's cheers that they were making first was a bit hokey, the entire walk-up by Mercer and Grayson was grounded and layered. We got a better sense of what those moments must be like for a captain and crew. It's heightened, exciting, slightly floundering, and mixed with just a bit of the mundane.

MacFarlane and McNeil allow the beats to just build and build, and it's glorious to behold. It's taking the type of risk the show normally avoids.

If the episode had built on that moment, leaning into the absurd to mine first contact for satire and comedy, my feelings would be radically different.
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Charles J
Sat, Jan 26, 2019, 7:38am (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: All the World Is Birthday Cake


"I think you guys are getting this all wrong. This ain't about astrology. They use astrology.. but it is really about placing judgement without knowing people."

If that was the point, Mercer and Kelly would have found different solutions. At the end of the episode, the Rigorians are still using astrology to judge people and make predictions.

If this was an episode about racism, all Mercer did was to get the Rigorians to stop oppressing black people. He didn't get them to see that racism as whole is a problem.
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Charles J
Fri, Jan 25, 2019, 7:22pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: All the World Is Birthday Cake

@Dave in MN

"I think you are looking at this backwards: Mercer, the Doc and Talla were lucky that their ages didn't coincide with Jelliac on the Rigonian calendar."

That would have made more sense. The Rigorians would have an objective measurement for their ages. Which would have made it difficult for Mercer to change the Rigorian's minds. He can't deny that their birthdates would have coincided with Jelliac, no matter where in the galaxy they were.

Honestly, that would have been a stronger story beat.

As part of the celebration, Mercer grants the Rigorians permission to figure out when they would have all been born on Rigor. It's a benign request. They just take a tiny bit of a tooth (or was it bone?). What could go wrong? They're just birthdates and astrological signs.

Everyone is cheering as they say Mercer's signs confirms that he was destined to be a leader. Talla's signs indicate that being a protector was part of her path. Then boom, they find out about Bortus and Grayson and the Rigorians freak the f out.
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Charles J
Fri, Jan 25, 2019, 6:45pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: All the World Is Birthday Cake

Also, the original omen occurred over 3000 years ago.

Again, unless the orbits of all the planets are exactly the same, and all celestial bodies remained stationary, the differences in calendar dates would be measured in years, possibly even decades. As an example: without leap year to compensate, the current month would be something like April/May 2023, not January 2019.

The Rigorians also ritualistically study the stars. They should have a rudimentary understanding that orbits aren't universal and celestial bodies shift over time.

Many ancient cultures were incredibly accurate at calculating how long it took the Earth to orbit the sun, the moon's own lunar orbit, and where stars would eventually be in the night sky.

Somehow, the Rigorians are supposed to be advanced enough to launch satellites to study the heavens. Yet, so dogmatic, they ignore principles that civilizations, without the aid of telescopes or advanced math, were able to recognize and measure.

If anything, the prefect should be explaining basic astronomy to Mercer, not vice versa.

It's dumbing down a culture just to make the story work.
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