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DeanGrr
Fri, Aug 17, 2012, 11:18am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Birthright, Part II

Haven't watched this for awhile, but I remember wanting it to be more exciting, compelling as a drama: similar to 5th season's Unification. Perhaps Garak was right, everything on Romulus is grey, "... the clothes, the people ... even the Romulan heart" ;) jk.

Like Jammer, I think the themes were compelling: mortal enemies learning to live in peace, and a closed community that values harmony over freedom. I bought Ba'el's attraction to Worf, the bold outsider, and Worf rejecting her because she was part Romulan was sad, and well written.

I guess it comes down to the standalone episode having only a short time to develop its story, and that TNG episodes relied on suspense and tension for excitement. In "Birthright II" it was a lot of people standing around talking (and a lot of grey, ;), but not a lot of jeopardy, which made it dull and wooden in parts.

Also, I think you have to be willing to accept "archetypal" characters and themes, like those used in myths, and accept symbolic sets, like those used in plays, to enjoy many Star Trek episodes. TNG and VOY, like others have said, are not usually told with consequences and complex emotional threads connecting the different stories.
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DeanGrr
Wed, Mar 21, 2012, 10:19pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Sacred Ground

Science as a Perspective ...

Time, once thought a constant: now it depends on your relativistic point of view, ;). Once, Time was the purview of the gods (or God), and now something we check on our wrist, or smartphone.

I've just been watching "Inherit the Wind" about the Scopes trial for teaching about Darwin in the 1920s. Something Spencer Tracey's character says, about a price to be paid for scientific progress rings true: "you may conquer the clouds, but the birds will lose their wonder".

I think the discussions above are talking about several issues at once: that's why it's confusing. On the one hand with science can come knowledge, power and the ability to be like a god, with contempt for consequences. Captain Janeways shows an almost religious reverence for Science (i.e da Vinci hologram), but is also very controlling.

Yet, knowledge can be held with awe and humility at nature's beauty and its complexity. There's a fear here that with knowledge we will lose our sense of awe and humility, and the world will seem diminished, or be diminished because of our hubris. Absent the faith that the world may be more than we know, we become less, the world becomes lonelier.

For a moment, Janeway gave up control to others, the monks of the cave, which is probably her greatest fear. It's great that Kate Mulgrew is an artist that wears her feelings, yet her character is highly self-disciplined and analytical, hiding her sensitivity from her friends and crew.

Dean
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DeanGrr
Thu, Feb 23, 2012, 1:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Seventh Season Recap

I've been watching my Voyager collection lately, and was thinking about the critical commentary on it. Voyager definitely comes across as TOS updated for the 90s, as you mentioned earlier, Jammer. Even a 60s Western like Bonanza has a lot in common with VOY and ENT, with its character archetypes and standalone episodes.

As a ritual, I'd watch this and TNG after school, and whatever this says about me as a viewer/critic, I did watch it as Berman intended: I loved the moral and scifi concepts the show depicted, or at least aspired to, and the cast became, as corny as it sounds, a family I invited into my living room each week.

When I read critical reviews here, or a blog such as "Asking the Wrong Questions", what comes across is a desire for novelty, flash, shock or surprise, the kind of techniques Joe Menosky lamented in "The Muse". Stories, to my understanding, are there to teach as much as entertain and I've welcomed the role models shown in Star Trek.

However, as others have alluded to, Star Trek has become heavily watered down and themes recycled, especially after stopping the acceptance of unsolicited stories, with which Michael Piller probably saved Voyager. Taken on its own terms, Voyager has many entertaining stories, and some interesting ideas about adhering to principles, individuality and sentience. I'm glad they had a few bombs, such as "Threshold" and "Vis a Vis", which gave a good laugh and reminds me not to take things too seriously.

As an aside ...

I'm not sure what the future holds for TV given that seasons are half what VOY was. There has definitely been a trend for more intense, gritty, realistic drama and detailed characters, which may in no small part be a result of the Internet age. As technology both connects and isolates us, people may look for dramas to show realistic, detailed characters, plots and worlds, as a kind of reaction to the anonymity of modern life. I know this may be controversial, and it may be stretching, but I've been puzzled about the desire for complex, developed characters and stories, when tv itself is art, or entertainment, and an escape from reality.
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DeanGrr
Fri, Apr 22, 2011, 3:55am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S4: Fourth Season Recap

My apologies:

Repaired link to quotes on Rick Berman interview:
(no gaps or spaces in link)
trekmovie.com/2009/08/26/rick-berman-talks-18-years-of-trek-in-extensive-oral-history/
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DeanGrr
Fri, Apr 22, 2011, 3:41am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S4: Fourth Season Recap

I've been looking over my collection of scifi shows, from Stargate to BSG to Babylon 5, and wanted to offer some thoughts about Enterprise, its potential, and what would have made it a great series:

I want to give Berman/Braga some real credit for developing such an optimistic, outward looking show: perhaps if it had been developed after 9/11 it would have been a much darker series. In Rick Berman's interview for the Academy of TV Arts and Sciences (granting the Emmy Awards), he stated to the effect that:

"... [the] greatest legacy of Trek is Roddenberry’s "uplifting vision" of the future "depicting a culture of man ,more evolved in the best of all ways" unlike other dark sci-fi"
link: trekmovie.com/2009/08/26/rick-berman-talks-18-years-of-trek-in-extensive-oral-history/

I know it's a matter of what I like personally, but the best part of Trek scifi are these crews of moral individuals exploring the universe and making it a better place to live. If I ran into trouble, these are the kind of people I'd love to back me up.

...

About Scott Bakula: I think he was a great choice to play Archer, but it did not always work. The temporal cold war diminished the Enterprise crew by shifting the focus to more powerful, 29th century players. There also seemed a strong impulse to have Archer carry the weight of Captains Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard, to be a strong, bold presence, and this doesn't fit Bakula: had they developed him more as a likeable "coach" or mentor for his crew, the way it was hinted in Season 1 episodes like "Fortunate Son" as a mentor for Mayweather, or "Vox Sola" as captain of his water polo team, Bakula would have found his niche.

....

Characterizing the Villians:

Enterprise's best run was the early episodes 1 to 13 in Season 1, starting with probably the best Star Trek pilot in "Broken Bow" and ending with "Dear Doctor": episodes that for the most part felt fresh, before space travel became routine like in Season 2. However, even after some great story arcs in Seasons 3 & 4, the antagonists in the episodes still felt "comic bookish" or "cartoony". It was "good guys vs bad guys", instead of nuanced, multi-layered people with opposing interests. A great example is V'Las, the Vulcan leader in "The Forge", who shows only lust for power and a lot of un-Vulcan emotional outbursts, while his motives for siding with the Romulans are less clear. In the end, many contests can be sifted to show "good" motives versus "evil" motives, but more 3 dimensional antagonists would have given Enterprise the depth and weight of BSG or DS9.

Regards,

Dean
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DeanGrr
Wed, Oct 20, 2010, 7:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: BSG S4: Daybreak, Part 2

I like to come back every now and then and re-read episode reviews after re-watching one, whether BSG or Star Trek, and rethinking my old comments or seeing new ones from others.

With my old comment above, I apologize, because I think I was trying to understand why I enjoy scifi so much,as compared to other genres, and despite my criticism of BSG, I enjoyed parts of it immensely. The dark tone of the series, and trying to understand BSG's hype and popularity with the media, are of interest to me because of my love for Star Trek's depiction of what humanity can become.

I'm concerned about the Environment and what we are doing to Earth, and scifi often depicts technology as a solution, as well as a maturity for the human species, in that we gain the wisdom to care for the Earth, and be more understanding, loving and tolerant of others: quite different from much in our societies and economies, our cultural and self awareness, we live in today.

Regards,

Dean
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DeanGrr
Tue, Jun 29, 2010, 6:06pm (UTC -5)
Re: BSG S4: Daybreak, Part 2

I've just re-watched much of the BSG series, and wanted to share a few thoughts:

The best parts of this series, for me, were the deep connections/relationships between characters such as Adama and his son, Lee, and Adama and Tigh, the rich character landscape in developing supporting characters like Doc Cottle, Kat and Anders (who became a regular in Season 4), and the realistic potrayal of the military on an aircraft carrier/battlestar - the atmosphere of Adama commanding the CIC is classic.

This is Ron D. Moore and company's creation, so they ended the story as they saw fit, but there a few thoughts on why the series could not last longer, or parts that did not work for me in the end. First, BSG is famous for shocking revelations and there's only so much Shock and Awe an audience can accept before you become desensitized. The Dark tone of the series, feels at times like a "mind frak", with both Kara and Chief Tyrol descending into near madness, Kara as a result of Leoben's dollhouse in Season 3 and her search for Earth in Season 4, and Tyrol as a result of discovering he's a cylon, losing his sense of identity, then losing Cally. This dark tone is something that can only be sustained so long, then people need a positive balance: like the shock of 9/11, people want to recover from that loss, not wallow in darkness indefinitely.

Finally, Kara as a angel/supernatural being, and the fleet abandoning all technology broke my suspension of disbelief: deus ex machina by supernatural beings, especially the spiteful/amoral manipulations of Head Six on
Baltar, were a little too much.

As you can see, I am fan enough of the series to know and critique it. I suppose part of my wish fufillment in sci fi is seeing a ship like Galactica that can jump away from all the mess that we have on Earth, and imagine different possibilities.

Regards,
Dean
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DeanGrr
Sat, Jun 12, 2010, 9:31am (UTC -5)
Re: BSG S4: Sine Qua Non

I've re-watched parts of BSG, and wanted to comment on the actions of Lee and Romo in this episode. It seems out of character for Romo to go unhinged, but it seems to me that Romo, being an expert on human nature and a master at tricking others, could easily trick himself. His defense of Baltar could affirm his own cynicism towards human nature, as in he could manipulate the system to get (a partly guilty) Baltar acquitted.

However, that's not the whole story, as Lee so eloquently stated in Baltar's trial, that many in the fleet want to flush their own guilt and shame at surrendering to the Cylons by flushing Baltar out an airlock and justice is not entirely served by either Baltar's guilt or acquittal: it's a messy situation, the kind BSG revels in.

Romo felt guilty about abandoning his family on Caprica, to save himself, and doesn't feel he has much to live for, that humanity isn't worth saving. Killing Lee would be killing hope in a sense, and Romo's own cynicism would make it hard to believe Lee did not have another motive. Lee's commitment to make a difference, despite his own and his culture's past failings, re-affirms hope and the best part of human nature: Romo wants to live, but you need something to live for, a future you can live with. This is one of the best moments for me in the series.
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DeanGrr
Sat, Jun 12, 2010, 8:39am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Fifth Season Recap

Dear Jammer,

This comment is more about tv in general, using Voyager as a starting point: what is the future of tv? In your reviews of Battlestar Galactica, it seems that tv has moved from plot-driven (1st generation) to character-driven (2nd gen) to serialized, character-driven (3rd gen), and whereas soap operas have been 3rd gen from inception, scifi has only recently used this style of story telling.

Your reviews have also stressed the importance of character depth and change, realism and serialization of story, and excitement and freshness of ideas. However, what is "new" in our internet age, seems to become "old" or "derivative" very quickly. I remember when Star Wars Episode I came out and how much excitement surrounded it, after all the original Star Wars movie was famous for about 20 years before that. By the time of Episdoe III, star wars was just conventional scifi, and the excitement dissipated pretty quickly.

I think it's common wisdom that people watch tv or read or watch any kind of art form for many different reasons: primarily entertainment to relieve boredom, but also to belong to a shared experience, to heal or sooth emotions, or a sense of comfort and familiarity. I suspect that the range of tv has limits, from comdey to drama, from pap and lacking substance to deep, edgy and relevant.

I suppose as virtual environments improve we can move away from tv to immerse ourselves in the story, as seen in interactive video games or online enviromnents like Second Life. Professional writers create the story, senvironment and characters and participants will help move the plot along.

To me, part of how we use tv or participate in these entertainments reflects our own needs and how well we balance a virtual world of our imagination with the real one that can range from boring to alienating to exciting to threatening and the list goes on. At the end of the day, how we relate to tv (or virtual reality) says a lot about ourselves and our culture, something that is probably common knowledge, but I think gets lost as we immerse ourselves in alternative realities.
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DeanGrr
Tue, Mar 9, 2010, 7:14pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Once Upon a Time

I felt like reliving childhood myself at times watching this, and while as a teenager I would not have liked this episode, I do now. Ah, the wonderment of being a child, exploring a fantastical world (not that different from watching Voyager now in some ways, :)

Neelix's desire to protect Naomi, and the pain he showed at memories of his family was moving and believable, as well as Samantha's reunion with Naomi at the end. Tom's farewell, was it poor writing or was he just irritated and exhausted? I will admit Voyager did not do character driven stories nearly as well as DS9, but it still had its moments.
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DeanGrr
Wed, Mar 3, 2010, 8:37pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Alliances

Janeway's speech at the end about adhering to principles struck me as understandable, given her past dealings with the Kazon, and now the Trabe. Although, the speech came across as much for her own morale, as for the crews'.

It's a case where she can stand by her principles, but many of her crew will judge her based on the ends and not the means. Her decision could have led to a geniune mutiny (as shown for fun in the 3rd season "Worst Case Scenario").

The ending to this arc, Investigations, was not very sophisticated, but I definitely enjoyed Michael Piller's "Basics", where Seska's machiavellian plans reach fruition.
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DeanGrr
Wed, Mar 3, 2010, 4:35pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Sacred Ground

As I have been exploring meditation, Buddhism and have also a scientific background, I really enjoyed this episode. Captain Janeway wanted to heal Kes by understanding the cause of her illness, but had to take a leap of faith in the 3 elder priests because she had no other alternative: this challenged her lifetime of "faith" in the ability of science (I agree with Chris' comment above).

The final scene in sickbay showed how revealing the magic behind a phenomena, takes away the sense of awe and mystery. I suspect there will always be some sense of mystery, because my (limited) understanding of quantum physics suggests at some level we cannot measure phenomena, they will be too small or too large, or the act of measuring will affect the result. Just like Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy, we can only use probabilities for certain sciences.

Although, one thing rational measurement cannot provide is the sense of meaning, of emotion that we attach to parts of our lives. Some things you can't put a price tag on, or evaluate only on the basis of an objective measurement. Science is just one perspective on the universe, not the only one, which seemed to be what the priests were saying.
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DeanGrr
Tue, Mar 2, 2010, 11:20pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Unimatrix Zero, Part II

I agree with Jammer's reviews, that the Borg have been watered down: they seemed most frightening as a cold, relentless, ruthless collective mind (i.e. Seven's threat to transport 500 drones to Voyager in Scorpion Part 2).

Introducing the Borg Queen made the Borg personal rather than a ruthless Artificial Intelligence. Allowing characters to be assimilated willingly and easily undo that experience made the Borg too easy to defeat.

In any case, this is only a TV show, and it was still fun to watch the action/adventure. The virtual reality element was really neat, and seemed a legitimate way to rebel against Borg assimilation.
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DeanGrr
Tue, Mar 2, 2010, 11:08pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Repentance

This episode also raised the issue of what makes us who we are: how much of the way are brains are physically formed affects who we are, and how much is based on what we learn as we grow.

I thought the actor's performance of Iko was believable, in that the portion of his brain that enables conscience and guilt was damaged. I am not a neurologist, but my understanding is much of who I am, my emotions and my conscience, are directly linked to my genes and brain formation before birth: I can be born with some degree of conscience, or with so little as to be psychopathic.

This episode asks: if a person's brain could be re-formed to have a conscience, could we treat this as the same person, or a different sentient being in the same physical body? I disagreed with the victim's family that had Iko put to death: they saw the same face, not the evidence of a different mind.

As for Seven of Nine, it makes sense to me that we can revisit the same emotional issue (Seven's guilt at being a Borg) over the course of time, especially when a situation reminds us of the past.
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DeanGrr
Thu, Feb 25, 2010, 6:35pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S4: Fourth Season Recap

Thoughts about Voyager as a series ...

My understanding is that Rick Berman wanted to keep standalone episodes where there were
charming characters that people would come back week after week to see: a kind of family you would invite into your living room. Here is a link to his quote on BBC:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/st/interviews/berman/page25.shtml

Star Trek by the time of Voyager was a huge success, and did not need to take risks to prove itself. Newer shows like Xena, Firefly, or Battlestar Galactica needed to take risks to get attention.

Personally, I like having both series that are standalone and create a sense of family and series that push the envelope in looking at the dark side of human nature or taboos in our culture.

Thoughts about Voyager characters ...

The Doctor and Seven of Nine were terrific in scenes and episodes examining the human condition, the evolution of individuality and what morality is. Favorites include Lifesigns(S2) and Life Line(S6) for the Doctor, and The Gift (S4) and Survival Instinct(S6) for Seven.

Janeway/Chakotay had powerful scenes in Scorpion and Equinox, where their personalities clashed over command decisions, and I thought Chakotay made searing moral arguments and Janeway crossed the line.

Neelix, an eternal optimisit, could be annoying at times, or endearing, and I mostly chose the latter. If I could have more friends like Neelix in his discussion with Belanna in Day of Honor(S4), or his caring for Tuvok in Riddles(S6), I would be truely blessed. Neelix actually had some of the most intense and mulit-layered character dramas with episodes like Jetrel (S1) where he faces the man who designed the weapons that destroyed his world, and Mortal Coil(S4) where his indentity and purpose in life are nearly destroyed after a near-death experience.

Harry Kim has been considered the eternal chump, as well as the eternal ensign, on Voyager, but I suspect, that along with Neelix, he is disliked because he is not as strong or charismatic as characters like Chakotay or Tuvok. Harry is attached to his parents, and often gullible, and while these are not heroic character traits, they are certainly believable. While character growth was slow over 7 seasons, I would not say it was non-existent, with his relationships in The Disease(S5) and Ashes to Ashes (S6), and then his command of an alien ship in Nightingale(S7) and finally in the future, a captain in Endgame.
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DeanGrr
Wed, Feb 24, 2010, 11:24pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Seventh Season Recap

In thinking about Jammer's assertions that Star Trek Voyager, and Star Trek Enterprise were not well developed as serial shows, with indepth characters and an overall story arc viewers would care about, I offer the following thoughts:

Even though Star Trek DS9 is often considered the best written and crafted series, with complexity, character flaws and conflict, politics and religion, even failings of the Federation explored, when I come home from a hard day, I want to imagine a better world, and I find I watch Star Trek: Next Generation and Star Trek Voyager far more than DS9, or a story like Battlestar Galactica: Reimagined.

I have sat down and watched Bonanza, a Western from the 60's, and the single episode stories, where characters are archetypes, the good guys win and there are happy endings, is a formula that I can still see in Star Trek Enterprise in 2005. Is this a bad thing? It is a throwback to an earlier era of television, whereas we live in more complex times, and it can be argued viewers expect more complex, serialized and realistic storylines and characters. My parents grew up in the 50s and 60s, a time when jobs like that of a policeman or politician were seen more as archetypes, and where books and magazines were less common, nevermind the information provided by cable television or the Internet. People generally knew their neighbours, had closer connections to family, and traditions and authority in general were just beginning to be challenged.

Even now as I watch Enterprise, the use of allegory and (sometimes) corny alien masks seem somehow out of place when realistic drama and even sitcoms can discuss social issues like gender, abortion or the environment. The writing for Voyager and Enterprise was not always as crisp or witty as that for say, Stargate Atlantis or Joss Whedon's Firefly, but the main differences were the threads of tolerance, compassion, high principles and respect for life in all its forms.

Branon Braga has mentioned a "Mythology of Star Trek", and my interpretation of this is that the themes of universal love, tolerance and sacrifice for higher principles helps give Star Trek meaning beyond just being an entertaining TV show. I have heard an appeal by a producer of another Scifi show to allow people to take what they want and need from an artistic creation; that if a story helps people to learn, to love, to heal, to build friendships then what matters most is that the story lived and not who is right or wrong. If Star Trek is about tolerance, then it's great that we have Star Trek Voyager, as well as a darker version, DS9, and other creations like Battlestar or Firefly. IDIC.

Regards, Dean
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DeanGrr
Sun, Feb 21, 2010, 11:36am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Nothing Human

With Voyager (and Scifi in general) I try to be generous in my suspension of disbelief, and focus on enjoying the ethical debates and emotional interactions of the characters. My enjoyment of this episode came from 2 sources:
1. Krell Moset's character was charismatic and chemistry with the Doctor was great. The Doctor really wanted to overlook/deny any faults in Krell. I enjoyed how Krell could be likeable and yet his actions detestable, which rings true to real life at times.
2. Krell's argument at the end about throwing ethics out the window when the need is great enough rang true, despite the Doctor's determination to wipe Krell's program. It seems fair to use this research if the victims (or their families) were willing to give meaning to their deaths and save future lives, but Krell should not be rewarded. The knowledge can do good, just like Seven's knowledge from the Borg, but how it was obtained was by harming others against their will.
Peronal rating: 3 stars
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