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Descent
Sat, Aug 8, 2020, 4:57pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Silicon Avatar

The big problem with the episode isn't the dilemma itself ("shoot on sight" and "let's try to talk to it first, but with our weapons trained on it" are both justifiable given the threat the CE poses). The problem is the script is so firmly on Picard's side and doesn't really care about the alternate view - the scientist is written as a lunatic and the only other proponent of her view is Riker, who brings it up for five seconds and immediately drops it.

Plus Picard just comes across as completely up his own ass. Especially when he deals with Riker. Riker's whole job as a First Officer is to raise alternative viewpoints to the Captain, and when he actually bothers to do that here (a rare occurrence since Riker is usually useless), Picard immediately shuts him down with "oh, well I think you're just mad that your girlfriend blew up". Pretty nasty when you think about it, but Riker just takes it.

The ending scene is farcical. Data, who has no emotions of his own, manages to be absolutely "certain" in his extrapolation of how a dead person he's read the writing of would react. Not only is the end scene dumb, it also makes it completely clear that the script has chosen a side and is going to talk down to the opposite side. I think Picard is right, but at the same time, the script seeming to invite the viewer to be more angry with Marr for taking one life* than the CE for taking millions if not billions.

*and potentially not even a sapient life. You'd assume a creature of any intelligence might notice that the things it's vaporising look suspiciously like settlements full of people, or complicated manmade starships.
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Descent
Fri, Feb 28, 2020, 5:03pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

@Quincy
I'm possibly being uncharitable to the writers, but I think you and I have probably put more thought into the scene with the guards than the writing staff did. It seems to me like it was transparently there to be "cool" and as a very awkward way to get Elnor onto the Cube. The viewer isn't invited to consider the moral ramifications of stabbing the guards to death in any way, because we're not even meant to care. The characters themselves don't care at all. For me, seeing Picard completely fail to react to his friend killing three people really pushes me away from the show and makes it a lot more difficult to connect with the characters. Even if we accept what the writers probably intended, that they were "forced" to use lethal violence immediately to save themselves, surely it wouldn't hurt just to have someone comment on how regrettable it was and look sad for about 10 seconds. It also doesn't help that the writers seem to want us to see Elnor as funny and endearing, rather than unpredictable and dangerous (which is what he clearly is...).

I criticized The Vengeance Factor because I agree it's crap, both in its general quality and in the behavior of Riker (and the behavior of Picard in not tearing into Riker afterwards). I acknowledge why you gave it as an example - it absolutely is an instance of pointless, glossed-over murder in Star Trek, which is why I criticize it in the same way I'm criticizing the scene from Picard. If anyone really does defend Riker in that one, I'm just as bewildered as you are.

As for BoBW, the Borg are actively attacking en-masse and the Federation don't even know at that point that Borg can be deassimilated, as far as I remember. They're basically space zombies as far as anyone knows. When the situation is less straightforward in "I, Borg", Picard - rightly or wrongly - refuses the opportunity to stop the Borg once and for all on moral grounds.

I always just really liked that the heroes would go to sometimes pretty stupid lengths to avoid lethal violence in a lot of TOS/TNG/VOY episodes. It made it feel distinct from most everything else on television and was a crucial part of Star Trek's character and identity to me. I always think of the end of "The High Ground" when Riker and Worf rush a compound of armed terrorists, and put themselves at incredible risk of being shot by insisting on using knockout syringes and hand-to-hand on everyone. It's slightly absurd to the point of being funny, but for me it's so much more preferable to having a samurai elf ninja behead three people. Elnor knocking the guards out would still have let the show have its mandatory quota of cool ninja mid-air twirling and shots of people getting thrown around like ragdolls that seemingly has to happen once an episode, but wouldn't have made the heroes look oddly sociopathic.
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Descent
Fri, Feb 28, 2020, 12:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

@Quincy

I don't agree that killing them was "clearly justified". The guards appeared on screen for literally about one second before being killed. They held Picard at gunpoint but there's nothing to suggest they were ordered to shoot, or were intending to do so. Their one single action was to ask Picard and pals to surrender. This entire scene only happened because the writers wanted more violence and killing that added nothing to the episode. I think literally every episode so far has had at least one death, usually more.

Regardless, even if a situation was manufactured in which the random guards convincingly "had" to be killed, the reaction of the team could have been far better written. Picard seems glad they're dead (compare with his reaction to the deaths of the terrorists in Starship Mine, for example). Soji and Hugh have been working alongside these people for however long and neither of them care what happened. As it stands, it's just yet another item to add to the list of things that are alienating me from this series.

Also, who defends the Vengeance Factor? It's terrible - not just for the hilariously poor ending, the whole episode is weak. One of the mercies of episodic television is that nonsense like that is gone in 45 minutes and you're onto something better.
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Descent
Fri, Feb 28, 2020, 9:04am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

@Booming
Fair point, of course, but at least up until now its been either antagonists committing the murders, or the heroes justifiably defending themselves against assassins who were opening fire on them. Aside from that, we've had the beheading which was called out by Picard, and Seven murdering the gang leader which I really, REALLY hope will be acknowledged and reflected upon in a decent way later in the series.

This one was weird because it was three random people who weren't even antagonistic, were just doing their jobs of responding to the situation with Soji, were trying to peacefully apprehend the heroes, and yet were brutally and violently killed - from behind, no less - by a character I'm pretty sure we're meant to be on-side with. Picard even thanked him for it. It's the first example of the heroes just straightforwardly murdering people in a way that I think the writers intend the audience to be completely uncritical of, and it's really bothering me for that reason.
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Descent
Fri, Feb 28, 2020, 8:31am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

Surprised that only a couple of people have mentioned Elnor murdering three people near the end. Seemed like a really bizarre and pointless thing to put in that cheapens the characters and the episode for absolutely no gain.

If they really had to have five seconds of combat, why couldn't he just disarm or knock out the guards with some ridiculous ninja twirling?
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Descent
Sat, Feb 22, 2020, 6:45pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

@Guiding Light

It is a very American-centric show, as all Star Trek series including Picard are, but I think you're selling TNG's diversity short:
- Geordi is a prominent black human character, born in Somalia
- Recurring characters include Keiko, with acknowledgements to her Japanese cultural heritage given several times
- Though their characterisation obviously reflects American culture, several white characters are said to be non-American - Picard is French and played by an English actor, O'Brien is Irish and played by an Irish actor, and so on.
- Guinan and Worf are both prominent characters played by black actors
- Many extras seen serving aboard the ship are not white, including some prominently-seen named recurring characters such as Ensign Gates
- Ships have names such as USS Yamato, USS Al-Batani, etc.

I think many of the extras being white (when in reality, based purely on Earth's current demographics, we'd expect them to be in a minority) is due to the production realities of making the show in America. As for the principal cast being overwhelmingly white, you're right and I agree, though I don't think it's enough to scupper the show or accuse it of "close-minded whiteness". We're in a much better position today, where a show like Discovery can offer a fantastic level of representation among its bridge crew - I just wish the scripts were any good...

The classical music thing sucks, not just because it's Western-centric but because it's so boring. I've heard that it was chosen because it's royalty-free and therefore much easier for the producers to include than something they'd have to pay a license for, maybe that goes some way to explain it. I think the cultural references being mostly Western is another fairly understandable product of the show being an American production - we get James Bond and Shakespeare references because they're what the writers know, and they're also widely known enough worldwide, at least in passing, that most viewers can be relied upon to be familiar enough with them to understand the reference.

On the topic of non-Western references, for whatever it's worth, there's a bunch of anime references in early TNG, mostly just in easter egg form. They wanted Wesley to have a Dirty Pair poster in his room, which still makes me laugh thinking about it.

"And there is also the way problems are solved: Picard shows up, gives a big speech and then people agree and we move on. But that is not how these things work. This is how you present it from a priviliged position that assumes that everyone always has to listen to you. In reality, it's activism, hard work and a constant struggle to move a society into a better future. Not just a few well-chosen words. But TNG postulated easy activism."

I don't think that's a fair reading of the show. The Federation explicitly doesn't start from the position of assuming everyone has to listen to them - half the time, Picard has to deal with wanting to help but being explicitly forbidden to do so as a result of the Federation's strict non-interference policies. You also seem to imply that TNG consists of Picard showing up, telling people how to behave, people overhauling their societies to match his demands, and then him jetting off to his next neo-colonialist adventure (sorry if this is an unfair misrepresentation of your argument). That really undersells how complicated TNG could get.

There are relatively few episodes that actually just consist of Picard showing up, giving a speech which fixes everything, and leaving. Much more common are episodes where Picard has to mediate between two groups, episodes where un-ideal (albeit still optimistic) solutions are found, episodes where Picard's/the Federation's starting position was wrong and it's them who end up learning a lesson, episodes where nobody is really in the wrong and it's all about dealing with cultural relativism, episodes where cultural change is effected but it's acknowledged to be the start of a lengthy and difficult process, etc.

"And it presented characters spewing platitudes about inclusion and working together while I.) never showing the reality of that and II.) never showing that 'uplifting others' often means 'taking a step back yourself'."

How might the show have depicted these? If I'm reading your second point right, I think the show depicted this fairly often - the crew adhering to diplomatic protocol and the Prime Directive, acknowledging that their own personal ideals had to take a backseat to cultures they interacted with, because they knew they didn't necessarily have all the answers, nor the right to impose themselves or their values on independent peoples.
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Descent
Sat, Feb 22, 2020, 3:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

@Guiding Light

I don't remember the direction in Voyager being sexist for the most part - at least not with most of the recurring directors and cast member directors.

If you're not trolling, what did you mean by TNG ignoring the voices of minority communities and contributing to the rise in 2010s right-wing populism? Genuinely interested to discuss this, because your evaluation of the show jars so heavily against my own to the point where I honestly don't know what you're talking about.

As for being "morally myopic" and "naive", yes I do want them to make a series in which most problems encountered can be solved via dialogue and peaceful negotiation, where the protagonists strive to understand their enemies, and where antagonists can be talked down or shown the error of their ways. Regardless of whether or not you think that's naive and inapplicable to the real world, it was Star Trek's identity and what made it stand out from other science fiction, and people are completely within their rights to lament that the current owners of the franchise are more interested in shootouts, irredeemable and thinly-written villains, and recycled conspiracy plots. Even if you prefer the new shows, you can't be that surprised when fans of the existing 50 years of work comment on the major change in direction the franchise has taken.

I agree that it's no good when people argue that the new shows are "not Star Trek" since they of course literally are, but if people instead say that it's no longer the Star Trek they want to see, then I'd agree with them.
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Descent
Sat, Feb 22, 2020, 12:00pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

Echoing those who say this is the worst episode yet. It's not "my Star Trek" and I don't have any shame in saying that - if Star Trek isn't overall a show about reasonable people trying to find positive, moral and constructive solutions to nuanced problems, it's not for me anymore. The last five episodes are going to have to be really impressive to turn things around at this point.

Of course, not being what I wish it was isn't what makes it a poor show. That's down to the scripts. As others have said, it's a muddled and weak amalgamation of scenes and ideas that other shows over the past two decades have done repeatedly, and done far better.

@Guiding Light

I have the feeling you're trolling because of the extent of the misrepresentation going on here, but this is where you really overplayed your hand:

"The writers have taken a character that was always objectified, that was nothing more than eye candy to satisfy the male gaze of its audience and they've turned her into a feminist icon: A woman who decides how she looks, what she is called and who will not let evil people trample over the lives of others any longer."

Seven was easily the most complex and engaging character in Voyager, and received most of the best plots. The writers used Ryan's outstanding acting range for all kinds of stories - comedy, drama, action, even psychological horror, and she got far better development than any other character on the series, including the EMH.

The catsuit sucked and I'm sure most of us here today would have preferred something else (I always wished she'd stayed looking like a Borg drone, but having to apply that level of makeup and prosthetics everyday would be a nightmare), but if you can't see past a purely cosmetic thing like that and appreciate Seven as one of the best Star Trek characters, that says more about you as a viewer than it does about the writers.

The rest of your post is just odd. I fall under the "minority communities" you speak of and I don't feel like TNG's vision of utopia is exclusionary towards me or anyone else, other than the occasional tedious 80s/90s sexism that creeps into some episodes. On the contrary, the crew's determination to reason their way through conflict made it seem like a world I'd want to live in.
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