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Sun, Jul 8, 2012, 4:05pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: Who Watches the Watchers

To me this is one of the best episodes of TNG. Now, I might be biased because I'm an atheist, but I do think Picard's stance against religion in this context most definitely makes sense.

When you start trying to explain that which is hard to explain by invoking gods, you've entered a dangerous place in terms of trying to understand the universe. This sort of explanation is paper thin, because it doesn't really explain anything at all. Yet, as our history shows entire organizations and complicated dogmas can arise out of the most ridiculous declarations. So I think Picard is reasonably dismayed by this and understandably concerned how this might affect the Mintakan development. And let's not pretend that various religions on Earth has not repeatedly gotten into petty fights with people simply doing basic science that harmed no one. The danger is real enough.

I think we should also bear in mind that the Mintakans aren't given to flights of fancy the way humans are. So an eye-witness account of something might well carry more weight with them. For what it is worth.

Regarding the DS9 talk (and I don't think it is fair to judge this episode by a show that came quite a bit lateR), I feel that DS9 really let us down in how it portrayed religion. Here we had the objects of the religion as beings one could actually meet (with perhaps some difficulty). At first they seem unaware of Bajor. Throughout the show it is unclear if they want worship, how much they care about Bajor (see the Occupation), and whether they respond to prayer -- though they do respond to Sisko yelling at them, but that's a bit different. These issues aren't ever looked at carefully. Heck, as best I remember they don't even look at the issue of whether the prophets DESERVE worship (or if any kind of being ever deserves worship). "Who Mourns for Adonis?" at least did that. The treatment of religion in DS9 was distinctly lacking in thought.
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Tue, Jul 3, 2012, 1:10pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S7: Chimera

I really like parts of this episode, and really dislike other parts.

Laas is an interesting and believable character. Odo and Kira's relationship is treated very well. It touches very well on Odo's desire to be with his people too. These elements compose a lot of really great scenes.

On the other hand, there are a lot of disturbing elements as well. Odo and Kira don't seem to really care that Laas kills a Klingon unnecessarily (even if the Klingon WAS reaching for a disrupting, Laas had plenty of ways to defend himself and stop the Klingon). Suddenly people are uncomfortable with Odo shapeshifting, when he's done it before and done it in public. There's a lot of forced tensions here, which might have made more sense if other episodes have built them up, but they largely come out of nowhere, even considering the war with the founders.

We also get another one of Quark's 'wonderful' speeches where he gets everything wrong. I'll grant it is perfectly in character for him to give these speeches. He's done it before talking about how Ferangi are better or the like. These talks of his never stand up to scrutiny...on the other hand, they are never scrutinized in the show.

The Federation has shapeshifters in it (I've forgotten the TNG episode, but I think they were Fed citizens). They have beings without corporeal form (Medusans). They have non-humanoids (Horta). The idea that they'd be remotely prejudiced is rather ridiculous and against one of the core elements of Trek. Maybe that wasn't meant to be one of the implications, but they don't really do much to avoid it.

I don't's an odd episode. People give up on trying to get Laas and the crew to be friends very quickly. They really only have one awkward conversation that was prematurely ended and no one tried to defend humanoid civilization (which is a shame). Does Sisko not try to help Laas because of the killing or for some other reason? It's never explained and Kira's opinion that Sisko doesn't interfere for others is laughable at best.

I guess I don't care to how largely two-dimensional the people besides Odo, Kira, and Laas were this episode. It isn't like they don't understand the importance of family, which is what Laas is to Odo. It isn't like they wouldn't be fascinated by a being that can turn into fire or fog. Or simply a being that had explored a great deal. It isn't like they aren't inclusive of non-humanoid species or care if Odo shapeshifts (yet it is implied that now the latter does bother them some). It isn't like they can't give passionate defenses of their civilization (or even point out that the changelings really aren't much better, so why quibble?)

I guess even if Laas had still ended up disliking solids at the end, I would have still liked to have a bit more of an exploration between him and the rest of the crew.
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Mon, Jul 2, 2012, 12:07am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S7: Once More Unto the Breach

I think it is far, far better to not try to show this sort of ending. Kor's feat is something that would be almost impossible to do justice to on screen. We'd be nitpicking how whatever they showed made sense. That's a far worse ending.

I really liked how they didn't show it and it was left as a mystery. That worked for me.
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Sat, Jun 23, 2012, 12:37am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S6: Far Beyond the Stars

The "only a dream" structure seemed extremely trite to me, especially at the end. This is overdone far, far too much. At times the script seem to be trying to say "look how clever and deep we are!"

Regarding the aspect of discrimination, I feel it went about this the wrong way. Trek episodes like this are best when they tackle modern problems. A black writer not being taken seriously is not really a modern problem with racism. I'd rather have seem something more relevant to the was just too heavy-handed for me in this regard. Not that the racism of the time portrayed was handled poorly, though it was somewhat clich├ęd. I just thought "why are they talking about this?" while I watched it.

I also felt like the problems in this "dream" didn't match up all that well with what was going on in the present. Certainly not as something uplifting for Sisko. It was just kind of weird in this regard and felt forced.

Beyond that it was good, save for completing ignoring how Visitor's character also was generally getting screwed because she was female.
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Wed, Jun 20, 2012, 11:55pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S6: Statistical Probabilities

This is a weird episode for me. It's full of a lot of trite anti-intellectualism. Those "smarties" and their math? Well, they're just wrong, HAH! You shouldn't think, just DO STUFF! That's definitely one of the main themes with them getting rid of the smart people and Bashir playing dabo towards the end of the episode.

And it is such a ridiculous strawman they setup with the predictions of the future. Why did the predictions change overnight? Why couldn't they change just as much if they spent another day at it? If Earth gets destroyed by the Dominion (ironically as Weyoun suggested to Dukat in an earlier episode), doesn't the entire prediction fall apart? With elements like that in play and battle tactics, does it really make any sense that you could have confidence in those predictions? What if the Prophets destroy a couple thousand enemy ships again? What if another power shows up? What if the Borg attack the Dominion? What if some actual peace treaty is worked out? What if Starfleet poisons the planet needed to make white so the Jem'Hadar die? There are dozens and dozens of ways their predictions couldn't be so ironclad -- you simply can't have things "cancel" out like that, as their own overnight change shows.

What makes this episode about attacking a strawman intellectual is that no one attacks their predictions on these grounds. Sisko doesn't point out any of these extremely obvious flaws. Nor does O'Brian. And no saying "It's just statistics" isn't a cogent argument, because statistics can be extremely useful. Instead they make purely emotional arguments, as if that should be the basis of wartime strategy.

So instead we have obviously flawed thinking treated as good logic for the critical moments of the episode. As though what Jack did made some sort of reasonable sense. Heck, his whole plan is an example of how their thinking is flawed. If the Dominion getting those plans changes the outcome, then clearly there are massive things their models don't include. This is especially glaring since the founders are certainly some of the best intelligence operatives you could ask for. The Dominion could STEAL those plans, certainly that's something worth considering...well, apparently not according to the intellectuals in this show.

In the end, Bashir does touch on this lightly. Instead of using that as a way of shifting the work and focus of what they are doing (and instead of doing it far, far earlier), he uses it to dismiss their intellectualism. Their thinking is worthless because they didn't predict the actions of one person. But we earlier saw that their thinking WASN'T worthless with how they analyzed video...but that doesn't matter now. Intellectuals are wrong, and we certainly aren't going to use their fantastic mental capabilities. Go away intellectuals, we'll just trust in random chance to win this war! There's certainly nothing your dirty THINKING can do to help. If you make one mistake (that any idiot, including Bashir, should have been able to point out far earlier), then you'll only make mistakes. Chance though...chance never makes mistakes, or at least there's no one you can blame if it screws you over. That's better....right?....right?

Ugh, I like the characters well enough, but the episode was horrible, imho. It does not seriously consider what is going on and whether it makes sense.

In response to Nic, if they based this on the Foundation by Asimov, they did a crappy job at it. First, the whole plan in Foundation was to use that predictive ability to steer a course through history. This is profoundly pro-intellectual, and makes sense. If you have this capability, you can use it to make things better. Instead in this episode, "nothing" produces any change of any kind....except the changes that would change things (like the plans). Bizarre. Secondly, in the Foundation, predictions got more accurate with more people, but less accurate over time. A huge point of the books is that there has to be a secret force at work to make sure the plan stays on track, because it WILL diverge from what was predicted over time. The intellectuals in the books fully acknowledge you can't predict things completely and that you have to plan for the unexpected. This episode though treats such considerations as some sort of proof that analysis and thinking are just a bad and senseless thing to do.

Again, I hate this episode.
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Sun, Jun 3, 2012, 5:31pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Soldiers of the Empire

I'd give this episode 3/4 stars. I liked it a fair bit. While it isn't new that Worf goes for an honorable yet unconventional solution to a Klingon problem, I liked how the knife fight played out. Worf risking his life and losing to Martok on purpose was pretty nice.

While Jammer didn't think that made sense, to me it does make sense for Klingons (and perhaps even some humans). Worf's gambit was to get Martok's blood racing in a victorious fight so that the same thirst for battle would carry over to the mission and clear away Martok's irrational fears. That seems sensible from what we've seen of Klingon psychology before.

This is kind of an on-going theme for Worf, where he is a redeemer of the Klingon people. He kills the bad Klingons and enables the nobles ones (like the Kahless clone and general Martok).
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Thu, May 31, 2012, 2:03pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S2: Threshold

This episode is a bit hilarious on a number of levels. Star Trek always flirts with the idea of "evolutionary levels" (e.g. that evolution has a direction and things always getter objectively better from it). We see and hear of other races becoming energy beings. Humans though? We become stupid amphibians. It's hard not to laugh at least a little at that.

Of course, this episode is one of many that drives home that Star Trek at this point had moved well away from consulting with experts, which is probably why the series has a ton of technobabble. TNG largely succeeded at avoiding technobabble outside of the technologies that were required for the premise of the show. The idea in this episode that evolution has levels, that one being can evolve on its own (how Lamarckian!), or that you'd evolve to not be able to survive in the fixed environment you are living in are all absurd.

This is also another "they could have gotten home here" episode. Even avoiding traveling at Warp 10, they could have gone just below it to have gotten home in seconds or minutes.

Anyhow, it is sadly not in the territory of So Bad It's Good. It's just bad.
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Thu, May 31, 2012, 11:22am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: The Darkness and the Light

I didn't care much for this episode. As others have said, the "all Cardassians on Bajor deserved to be killed" is a ghastly and immoral message. Kira still seems to believe this at the end, and the episode leaves no time to examine the implications of such a philosophy. It doesn't have Kira or anyone save the antagonist think about the ethics of the rather indiscriminate killings her resistance group did. After all, they certainly could have used smaller explosions.

Consider the implication that the attack Kira is stated to have performed killed an entire family along with many servants. That very likely includes children. To say nothing of the fact the servants are going to be there likely because they were brought along with the family, being in their employ. I don't see how that warrants their death through an indiscriminate assassination.

Of course, there is collateral damage in wars, which would be the counter-point. But Kira doesn't seem to care about the collateral damage, and if anything she views Cardassian kids and civilians as entirely appropriate targets. It's odd that the episode seems to paint Kira with such an unexamined streak of villainy while seeming to imply she was in the light.

There's also the problem of how this episode implies these acts are relatively easy. There are TWENTY people with the means, opportunity, and motive. That's crazy. How many more with just the capability of doing that? This essentially is the ability to kill anyone on DS9 or almost anywhere else that they desire. It implies a horribly level of security that just doesn't withstand any scrutiny.

On many levels the plot just wasn't thought out or examined as it should have been.
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Wed, May 30, 2012, 10:10pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

I have to agree with those that say Bajoran Faith is really not examined that well in this episode. The Orbs of the Prophets actually have powers that can be verified. They have prophecies that are pretty straightforward and come true. Their "gods" are beings that actually exist and seem to show concern for Bajor (though that's perhaps a bit of a retcon compared to how they were at first). They also seem to have taken a liking to Sisko as numerous witnesses can confirm.

What episodes like this never really think about is whether Bajoran Faith is always the same as the faiths of other religions. Bajoran Faith CAN be more like trusting a friend than other religions that have no evidence for the existence of their deities.

Starfleet is often forced to act in a rather bizarre way here. Starfleet officers have met beings with power far beyond the Prophets like Q. Yet somehow Starfleet's official stance is to act like the Wormhole Aliens have no relationship to Bajor or Sisko, despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary. Indeed, we see Dax and O'Brian have apparent shock that people believe in the Prophets, we they know dang well they exist and do interfere.

I find Worf's comments to be a little bit out of character here, though perhaps that's just part of how he uses "faith", which isn't a very clear word. Worf seems like the sort of person who'd talk about strength of will or character, and might see what Sisko was going through as a some sort of test. Afterall, Klingon culture is replete with these sorts of painful and sometimes near-fatal tests. On the other hand, Klingon beliefs hold that they killed their gods and he's seen a number of fake gods while serving on the Enterprise. I could see him being against listening to the visions.

This of course gets to a very significant question that is undiscussed by anyone in this episode. Does it make sense to trust the Wormhole Aliens/Prophets? Given the nature of the visions, it seems pretty clear they are involved. Why doesn't the Admiral or anyone else question whether they should trust the source of these visions? Surely the Wormhole Aliens [WAs] have their own agenda? Does it necessarily line up with Bajor? The WAs claim it does, but that doesn't mean they aren't lying about that and other things. Perhaps the WAs are a force working against the Federation -- they don't seem to have a problem (at this point in the show), letting the Dominion come through the wormhole and muck up the Alpha Quadrant. If you claim the WAs aren't connected enough to the normal flow of time to be judged this way, then that casts doubt on the validity of following those visions as well.

An interesting fact about the show that people often don't consider is this. When you look at the series as a whole, it certainly doesn't seem like the Prophets consider themselves divine and they seem rather oblivious to worship. The implications of this on Bajoran society is never carefully considered.

Elliott brings up a good point here as well. Why didn't the Federation ever consider having the Prophets join? The Federation certainly has a lot of strange and bizarre races that are part of it. The Medusans from the original show are energy beings that drive people insane who view them -- they are members. There are other beings from the original show and TNG with other strange powers equally as bizarre. The WAs wouldn't really be out of place, and there's no particular reason why they couldn't join. Heck, it might have been interesting to explore the idea that they already consider themselves members (and how Starfleet deals with that), given their temporal troubles.

A really thorough examining of the WAs would also have made a great counter-point to the Dominion, where the Changelings are likewise considered divine. The WAs are benevolent, but out of touch, whereas the Changelings are domineering and favor micromanagement. Both have people that worship them (whether these "gods" are really aware of it or care is another matter).

That said, I think this episode is very entertaining. I'd still give it 3/4 Stars. It would have been better if they didn't dumb down the situation into a simple blind faith vs. non-belief when the actual situation is much more complex.
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