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Mon, Jun 17, 2019, 11:37am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Conundrum

"TROI AND RIKER HAVE NOT BEEN A LIVE-IN COUPLE FOR EONS. At the time when they would up on the Enterprise they did not have a desire to return to the "lover" state. Would any one of you people go back to a relationship that ended 5 to 10 years ago?"

Isn't that the point, though? They don't have any memories of their past relationship but obviously are still attracted to each other on a physical and social level that transcends memory. I'm not sure if you're married, but I'd like to think that if my wife and I ever lost our memories we'd still make a connection with each other somehow. It's at least plausible, if not likely.
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Mon, Jun 17, 2019, 11:08am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Bread and Circuses

Well I really like it. Jammer's right, of course, this is the typical Star Trek episode. In fact, when I think of typical TOS episode, this is the story that comes to mind.

Yet I love the lampooning of the TV industry, and it brings with it some fun commentary about how a country can use entertainment to control the masses. Obviously this a direct reference to Rome, but if we look at this in the 1960s context, it was most likely a slight against propaganda videos created in the Soviet Union to keep their unhappy peasant workers in check.

The very first commenter, Strider, got it right here. This is a great episode to see Kirk act as Kirk. He's confident, he's clever, and he doesn't back down from Federation values. This is the type of Kirk we need to have. And even if this episode is thoroughly typical, show codifiers like this one reinforce the message that Gene was trying to give us.

@William B

You're in this one! Or at least your namesake is. I'm surprised you didn't mention that.

Trent wrote:

"the early Christian cults were enfolded within Rome, assimilated to it and it to them, and so functioned as a rubber-stamp for subsequent Empire building. The Church at this time was not a good, reformist thing"

Two problems with this. First, Christians weren't exclusive to the Romans. They started in the Roman province of Judaea and spread both East and West. Also, whether The Church was a good or reformist thing is a matter of perspective, but historically it curtailed a lot of social problems in Rome like polygamy, incest, as well as child and animal molestation.

Whether Christianity actually ended *violence* like this episode purports is, I agree, debatable, but that's entirely missing the point. What they were saying was planet 892-IV was starting to follow the path of Earth -- i.e. the spreading of Christianity was one step forward towards the path of eventually forming the Federation. That's why Kirk wanted to see the whole thing unfold, as he remarked in the ending.
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Fri, Jun 14, 2019, 11:44am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Who Mourns for Adonais?

The thing is, I don't have a beef with Palamas falling for him per se (hey, Andonais is an attractive guy!) it's just that the whole scene with him magically undressing her proceeding by her falling for him in minutes is extremely goofy. That may be more of a production issue than an attitude issue, though. I think we're supposed to take this episode semi-seriously but the romance is something I've seen handled better by Popeye after he knocks out Bluto.

And we could easily cut the argument both ways: is it really fair that men are considered godlike if they have chiseled mussels and speak with a booming voice? that makes me feel bad for Scotty a little. I think the episode plays both ancient gender stereotypes fairly straight.
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Fri, Jun 14, 2019, 8:28am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Who Mourns for Adonais?

I really enjoyed William B’s write up for this one; I’m not sure I could say much more. That scene with Kirk advocating the bonds of humanity was pure Trek gold.

As for the “she’s all woman” line, it seems to me that Kirk meant that she didn’t have the (for the 60s) masculine notion of being a full-time career worker and wanted a family. This can certainly be seen as sexist by modern standards where, for many, what it means to be a woman has greatly changed. Nevertheless, I don’t think the line was intended to be sexist. The intent of the scene seems to be that Lt. Palamas was a hard worker but wanted more out of life than her Starfleet career. This sets up the central dilemma of the piece where Palamas gets the opportunity to give up her Starfleet life to be the ultimate object of femininity as an “Aphrodite” - but of course *the episode itself* sees this concept as antiquated.

To be sure, there are far more sexist scenes in this episode including Palamas falling in love with flexing pecs and a smile in seconds. However, there’s a great scene later where she tells Apollo off with “I’m a scientist; did you really think I had interest in you outside of being my specimen?” which, in addition to Kirk’s speech at the end, really saves the episode.
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Thu, Jun 13, 2019, 11:09am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: Balance of Terror

It's very difficult to consider, but while watching this I try to imagine a time when children were huddled into bomb shelters for drills on a routine basis. The thought that much of Earth could become dangerously radioactive and unsuitable for life was a real proposition. When a Western country deployed a missile defense system, a Soviet country opened up a new base out of that system's range. That's the world this episode was aired in.

It may seem like the metaphor is heavy-handed, and admittedly the dialogue is more on the nose than say "The Hunter for the Red October":

Romulan Commander: I regret that we meet in this way. You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend.

But I think this might be the visceral punch we need to see that at any time we as a people, we as a nation, are capable of barbarism like the Romulans. What's clever here is that the "enemy is us" story plays on two levels, with Kirk obviously juxtaposed to the Romulan commander but also Spock being juxtaposed against Stiles.

Spock is identified early as the possible traitor. His species is similar to Romulan, he understands their language, and he's obviously visually very different. But the story flips the tables on us. While Stiles constantly barrages Spock with hatred and suspicion, Spock acts humanely by shrugging off the chance to reciprocate and ultimately saving Stiles' life (for logical reasons). Thus, this isn't just a story about two military powers, but also about bigotry at home. The heat of tension between races can lead to us to stupid decisions that hurt ourselves.

I also really like how Bones was played in this one. He doesn't want any part of this conflict and reminds Kirk that he should temper his actions despite his orders because he could lose himself in the wrong decision. In the end, it seems like Kirk made the right decision militarily, but it cost him something at home.

KIRK: Since the days of the first wooden vessels, all shipmasters have had one happy privilege. That of uniting two people in the bonds of matrimony.

This happy privilege lost turns into a price Kirk pays for playing into war. Kirk manages this after finding out the groom he was to unite with his bride died due to his actions:

KIRK: It never makes any sense. We both have to know that there was a reason.

Indeed? Well maybe Kirk did the best he could with a difficult situation and I think Angela understands *that*. I kind of wish she'd followed up with more of a "Was there really a reason, sir?" which could have humbled Kirk in future Romulan encounters. Still, it was great that Bones was there to make that argument throughout the show.

Another thing that jumped out at me the while watching this is that TNG (affected by the writers' strike) accepted a fan script for "The Neural Zone" which was basically a bad copy of this episode but with funny 20th century people. So maybe it was "Balance of Terror" meets "The Way to Eden"? The missing outposts were similar as was the "We're back!" proclamation by the Romulans. The interesting twist in TNG was that the outposts were *not* destroyed by Romulans.
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Wed, Jun 12, 2019, 10:44am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: Turnabout Intruder

@Springy

Just reading through your comments now as I rewatch TOS (I had forgotten a lot of it).

I agree with you that there hasn't been a trio as iconic as Kirk-Spock-McCoy since their inception and I think that's due to many factors. Acting's definitely a part of it, but also much of it comes down to the three branching off into the three areas of debate: Logos (Spock), Pathos (McCoy), and Ethos (Kirk). Many arguments in western culture are based on these three methods, and Trek is cerebral enough that it can really get mileage out of characters discussing big topics on these levels.

Still, I think the other shows excel in other ways. Since you're thinking of watching TNG next, I want to mention that the strength of that show is having a cast that really gets along well (Data and Geordi seem like they're friends on and off screen). The guest characters are really superb too, many of them going on to leading big careers after Star Trek.
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Tue, Jun 11, 2019, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: Charlie X

@Peter G.

That's a good observation. It might be the case that modern media is more and more aiming at adolescents, or adults who are adolescent at heart. In that sense, this episode works as an indictment against people who feed on their ids. They can influence events, people and hold enormous power, but when things don't go their way or there's too much to handle (note that the solution to this episode was turning all the functions of the ship on at once giving Charlie much more than he could control at once) the whole thing falls down like a well... house of cards. :-)

But I do think that you're right, that Kirk and the others are rejecting this type of power and attention. They try to understand the boy and teach him, but they do not give into his demands when he fails to listen and grows ever more desperate. Pretty fascinating material here!
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Tue, Jun 11, 2019, 11:44am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: Charlie X

Let's talk Charlie X. So this is basically a high concept similar to the much-maligned VOY episode "Q2" with the premise being "What if an adolescent had super powers?". The similarities with Q2 stop here.

What works thematically about this one is we have a crew that's in its freshman years deep in space, just getting its bearings. We have Uhura singing, Spock smiling while playing music, card games and other games that can be considered youthful vices. The smart part of this is how Charlie can dig into all these activities like your typical teenager, but we see he is totally incapable of sharing these experiences with others. He wants to be the cool one, the mature one, the one everyone laughs with - not at. When he enters a room he hopes for cheers at his importance. So while he can relate to the Enterprise crew on a surface level, he fails to see the "why" behind all their playful activities. Failing to acclimate, he quickly finds a role model in the most charismatic person on the ship, Kirk.

As Jammer notes, we see how despite everyone's earnest efforts to accept Charlie, it inevitably doesn't work. It's great how the differences start slow like Charlie just showing off a few abilities that can be dismissed as tricks or coincidence. But these parlor tricks add up and Charlie, in typical adolescent fashion, can't control his feelings well enough and has to keep compensating for more and more with flash over substance.

As many have noted, Robert Walker Jr.'s performance really seals the deal as we see his innocence, passion, anger, and fear projected loudly in every scene. Apparently Walker practiced his part by keeping his distance from the cast, never socializing and sticking to character, and it really shines on the screen. Shatner is also good as an overwhelmed father. He does his best to provide guidance and a stern hand which make for some marvelous confrontations between the metaphorical Father-and-Son.

A few things detract from the episode, however. The episode runs out of gas at some point, and it feels like the Enterprise crew is trying countermeasures like a containment field which they should know by that point is futile. He destroyed a whole ship, for Pete's sake! Also, it's diffcult to tell if something that happens on screen is Charlie's doing. For example, Uhura was singing about Charlie while Charlie hoped to put the moves on Yeoman Janice Rand. Suddenly, Uhura appeared to be violently silenced by Charlie using his powers to remove her voice. But this incident was never reported and could have tipped off Kirk to Charlie's powers before the Antares met its doom. Was that really Charlie at work or just a production error?

But all in all, these are minor things in what's surprisingly the (second?) officially aired episode of Star Trek. We have get a great story of a lost child all can relate to who cannot truly return to humanity. Was it kindness of the aliens to keep him alive artificially or cruelty because of the life he'll have to lead? That's the kind of thought-provoking question that makes for great Star Trek.

"Shirtless Kirk. Uhura singing. Rand in a night gown. I think the early shows here are highlighting the cast's talents and sexy features to grab an audience."

Tango! A little known fact about this one is that RCA owned NBC at the time. So, in order to sell color TVs, they were pushing for the show to have vivid colors against the dull gray of the Enterprise. It stands to reason they'd want vivid images of actors too. Thus, this one was meant to be enjoyable on a technical level even if you didn't like the Sci-Fi.
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Mon, Jun 10, 2019, 9:44am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: The Way to Eden

@Rahul

Yeah, unfortunately there’s too much dialogue given to the actually crazy guy about his motives so we aren’t given a lot to think about the hippie movement. There is something interesting about the protest in the med bay and the crew getting caught up the music that I think works well.

But to be clear, this is plenty silly. One funny thing was how they kept bringing up the Romulans and — they actually invaded Romulan space which, you know, should have some huge repercussions. But the episode kind of forgets about that in the ending and they’re just kinda hanging out speechifying.
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Sun, Jun 9, 2019, 1:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: The Way to Eden

@Rahul

I thought the music was pretty catchy too. One thing that's fun about this one is it's sort of a period piece (a 1960s show based on a popular movement of the 1960s), so you feel like you're seeing a little slice of history here. It's also pertinent to Trek's history as Roddenberry is known to have affection for the philosophy of free love.

Sure, It's cheesy, but I think it engages counterculture and anti-authority on an intellectual level. What's more, there's a surprisingly large amount of meat to delve into with the planet Eden analogy, although it's all a very rough idea.

Still, compare this to say, TNG's "Up the Long Ladder" which included some of the most horribly stereotypical cliches of a "primitive" race with no redeeming value, and I think you'll find this one comes out way ahead.
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Sat, Jun 8, 2019, 6:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: The Way to Eden

So, here’s another DC Fontana script about technology, except this time the episode seems to be pro-technology - or, at least against rejecting technology for the sake of ideology. While I’m on the subject of ideology, here we have the big anti-religion episode of TOS.

I think the idea is that the hippies (who Roddenberry must relate to on some level) have a pure and true vision about what paradise should be, but they’re taken in by Dr. Sevrin, the local preacher/cult leader/kool-aid drinker. The episode spends enough time emphasizing the strengths of the philosophy of the non-Sevrin hippies that we get a sense that the hippies might be onto something. At the very least, I agree with William B that Spock’s character was used well to help us try to understand the benefit of hippie beliefs.

At first I was a bit surprised at the rating by Jammer, but having read about all the technical glitches of the episode and mischaracterizations (Walter Koenig called this the low point of his career as Chekov) I can understand why we reach zero. Personally, I thought it was nice that Chekov got something else to besides be the naive kid, yet the episode still played that card as needed.

One thing that screamed at me, though. DS9 missed a golden opportunity for the Maquis to be people still searching for Eden. That would’ve given them a righteous enough cause in the same vein as the Native Americans, instead of just making them petulant children.

Peter G. wrote:

“I think I finally get what "Herbert" means, after all these years! I just realized it must be a reference to Frank Herbert, whose book "Dune" had come out just a few years prior.”

Weird, yeah, Memory Alpha says that the slur is a dig at one of the original executive producers, Herbert Solow, who was replaced by the third season. I don’t know, your idea is probably better. But the episode itself leaves the audience in the dark about this and many other things.
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Sat, Jun 8, 2019, 3:14pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

Fair enough! I don’t know exactly he means about exploration not being satisfying. Nor do I think machines can replace human curiosity to explore, which I think Kirk would passionately argue so I’m with you there.
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Sat, Jun 8, 2019, 2:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

I don’t really have a horse in this race, but instead of labeling Thomas’ position pejoratively as “being high”, there’s something to be said for seeking happiness in ways outside of manual labor. A machine can drive my car, but can it make me enjoy the trip? It’s an interesting question.

Jason, those things you mention all sound like very important achievements that machines aren’t capable of - well maybe the presentation - though I think people are more convinced by an advocate in the flesh.
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Fri, Jun 7, 2019, 10:53am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

Not to be pedantic, Peter, but a proactive government can be an agent of automation. In example, the airport near my home now uses KIOSKs to look at someone's passport, check their criminal and other background, get their fingerprints, and find out their purchases abroad. This was not done because airlines demanded it, but rather it saves the government money and passengers find it less intrusive than speaking with a uniformed customers officer.
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Fri, Jun 7, 2019, 9:07am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

It’s funny because the U.S. Congress was having this same discussion when the Cotton Gin displaced slave labor 150 years ago. How little things change. :-)
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Thu, Jun 6, 2019, 11:47am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

@Jason R.

"The balance depicted in a show like TNG isn't just utopian, it's impossible. They can manufacture sentient holograms that can act as surgeons or lecture you on astrophysics or dance ballet with the knowledge and processing power of a scifi uber computer behind them but somehow only a person can pilot a ship?"

Actually, Data can pilot the ship (and Captain it too!). I'm not saying I have the answers to all your questions, but I don't think we should give up a laudable goal like balancing machine-work and human-work because there are potential pitfalls. Actually, recognizing the pitfalls like this episode does is a significant step towards making the utopia possible, in my opinion.
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Thu, Jun 6, 2019, 10:48am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

I think the one Trek series that gets the sweet spot for computers is TNG, like Jason mentioned above. There, Computers (and Data of course) are doing lots of important things like running the ship's routine functions. Yet the crew still uses its time well to either work on art, exercise, take martial arts, or play dangerous games in the holodeck. TNG doesn't purport that computers are perfect either, as the everyday computer glitch can often be deadly for the ship (see "Elementary, My Dear Data", "Contagion" and "Booby Trap"). I think striving for that right mix of human judgment and computer processing power is the one would should be aiming to achieve any sense a true utopia.
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Wed, Jun 5, 2019, 2:12pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

@Peter G.

Thank you for your reply. I'd like be clear that my point wasn't that this episode can't be applied to computers, but rather I think DC Fontana was aiming broader than that. I agree that, there might be legitimate apprehension that Amazon, for example, might create a smart drone that would make human mail carriers obsolete and maybe that's something lifers at UPS should be thinking about. But it also applies more broadly - to machines. Imagine that prior to the 1930s, much farming had to be done by hand, and you'd need skilled workers who trained there whole live farming just to get it right. At some point, however, tractors, auto-tillers, crop-dusters and like made much that skilled workers use redundant - and less important.

"I don't think the connotation of "Captain Dunsel" is just that Kirk will have to get used to the idea of a career change. I think the crux of it is something like humans being obsolete across the board. "

Daystrom was certainly licking his chops at the prospect of who he could replace with his inventions. But, I don't think Daystrom was going as far as to say humans would have no use. After all, he himself would certainly have job security if his computer was successful. To elaborate, I was thinking of this line as I typed my earlier comment:

KIRK: There are certain things men must do to remain men. Your computer would take that away.
DAYSTROM: There are other things a man like you might do. Or perhaps you object to the possible loss of prestige and ceremony accorded a starship captain. A computer can do your job and without all that.

I take this to mean that Kirk would still have a use in an M5-driven world, but it might not be as glamorous as being the captain of a starship. Maybe he would be at an office looking over reports from the M5 ships, or seeing over and approving command routines for upcoming models. That's still work, maybe even important work, but we the viewer can see how that wouldn't be as great of work as being captain -- especially if you worked your whole life for that specific job!

"1) if work is still required to have an income then how will most people have an income? and 2) If people have nothing left to strive for other than killing time how will society change"

Those are some great questions, and I think you, Jason, and William addressed them very well so I didn't want to get too much into it. I suppose my two cents would be that computers are great at following instructions but terrible at judgment (this episode even goes to far as saying the computer needs to utilize Daystrom's judgment in order to function and even that's still pretty buggy). So my thinking is the human brain's power to make the "right" decision is still unparalleled.
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Tue, Jun 4, 2019, 11:15am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

Great comments in this section, though I don't think this episode was trying to make a statement about AI specifically.

According to the production history, there was a time in the 1960s where Americans were actually losing jobs due to mechanization, so there was a legitimate fear that machines would become man's enemy, in a sense. The crux of the story is written to illustrate the conflict that Kirk had with Daystrom's vision - i.e. that it was possible for a machine to do a better job than Kirk and Kirk would need to consider a huge career shift that would get him out of the chair -- and possibly behind a desk! That Kirk would feel animosity towards such a change seems like a good issue to tackle.

Moving forward to the contemporary era, we saw that during Trump's election campaign, the fear of losing your job to some sort of outside force was still a compelling force. But there's always two sides to it. One might lose their job to an outsider and that could lead to a really unstable time in one's life. However, such changes aren't necessarily bad on the whole. As we've seen from our progress together with machines we feared in the 1960s, the economy isn't a zero-sum game and these outside forces can feed off each other and make a larger job pool - just with different specializations.

Though I wouldn't blame people at all for being, like Kirk, upset at the prospect of sudden and uncomfortable change, especially when it comes to something personal like a career.
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Mon, Jun 3, 2019, 2:12pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: Space Seed

I rewatched this for the first time in 15 years and it's still an absolute knockout. Montalban performs the perfect mixture of smart, charming, and dangerous. I loved the little references he threw out like "Milton" that Kirk got right away.

The only detracting thing is McGiver, who comes off as little too easily persuadable. It's interesting she's into 20th century (and pre-20th century) figures, but that she seemed to be working her whole life to get caught up by this stranger is little tough to swallow. But I can't be too hard on it; product of its time and all.

I also love how McCoy handled the encounter with Khan. It was a wonderful little moment where the doctor neither submitted to Kahn or tried to piss him off. I would label this the perfect handling of a hostage negotiation. Boy, you gotta respect the gall of Bones.
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Mon, Jun 3, 2019, 12:13pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Galaxy's Child

One thing I'll say in Geordi's favor about not admitting right away what happened in the holodeck in "Booby Trap", is that it's not really easy to explain that - and someone might get offended no matter how well you explained it. It was such an unlikely serendipitous occurrence that it's practically unbelievable.

Which isn't to say that I think he should have covered it up so much either. I think the episode is trying to make it clear that was wrong of him and got him in trouble. It's a fair argument that the writers didn't get that across well enough.
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Sun, Jun 2, 2019, 10:49am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Galaxy's Child

@William B

We’ve discussed this one a lot and I’m with you here. Geordi does a bunch of creepy stuff, but we know Geordi and “Booby Trap” so we’re sort of in on the joke.

I think that, by design, this plays as cringeworthy blind dating and we’re supposed to laugh and cry at Geordi’s problems. I don’t know if many remember 90s dating shows, but many of them were guilty pleasures like this episode where we’d just watch dates go bad and occasionally there would be a “winner”.

I really like FutureQ’s thoughts on seeing this from Leah’s perspective. And although I enjoy this one, I think the lack of info on her end and the apology scene as depicted blocks this from getting much higher than 3 stars in my book.

The one place where I might depart from others is holodeck recreation which is private time as far as I’m concerned. Sure, what Barkley did was overboard - but a little fantasy life, even about people you know, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Knowing how to set limits and walk away, which was a great message from “Hollow Pursuits” is, I think, the key to enjoying that type of recreation respectfully.
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Fri, May 31, 2019, 10:48am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Starship Mine

"blowing up the shuttle was just cold-hearted man."

Cold-hearted? I don't know about that. It would be like if a burglar broke into your house and you were doing chemical experiments and you warned the burglar not to take them or shake them around because it would be deadly but they go ahead and do it anyway. Plus, it's not clear if Picard took the control rod intentionally (he may have just been trying to grab/disarm the device but only got a piece of it), but it was a matter of deciding whether it worth killing a few people on a ship or letting the explosive kill countless others on a planet or station.
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Wed, May 29, 2019, 9:36am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Take Me Out to the Holosuite

No sport takes fewer than 5 minutes to pick up the basic rules. These things are consumed by masses for a reason. How do you folks think people understand the Olympic Games?
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Tue, May 28, 2019, 11:02am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

@Theo

Yes, I think what this episode has going for it over other types of male "wish fulfillment" stories is that it analyzes the material seriously. That is to say, this episode doesn't seem to be interested in titillating the audience as much as carefully examining what it means to be born for a specific purpose and the negative and positive connotations of that machination. The concept is similar to European and Asian monarchical systems, many of which remain to this day, where a person is raised and bred into a family and expected to be used for a specific public - and noble - purpose.

This is not to say that there isn't some ugly business to this episode. And, I think we see that depicted well in the Ferengi who act to strip away the "noble purpose" of the system and expose how, in terms of human rights, it's all sort of a VIP-as-commodity exchange akin to slavery.

It is notable that Kamala's story is intended to be tragic, yet she maintains a sort of stoic poise through the whole episode that is admirable. Likewise, Picard's story too is tragic as he falls for a woman he knows he can never be with. That the system makes the immediate individuals involved miserable on some level is an indictment the episode itself serves. Though, we are left with a few difficult questions; is the sacrifice of a few people's personal freedoms worth the exchange for peace to the whole society? Is such a society even worth preserving or is the sheer existence of the system proof that the society is already in trouble?
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