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Stephen
Sat, Nov 17, 2018, 10:28am (UTC -6)
Re: ENT S3: Anomaly

I'm surprised it took so long for an episode to be called "Anomaly", given how often these things are encountered in Star Trek.
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Skeptical
Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 7:34pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S3: Destiny

Elliott, of course I know that every little detail being an allegory is absurd, that was my point! You were the one that said that in the first place. My point was that, if some stories of Romulans can be allegories, and some can be their own stories, then why can't the same be said about the Prophets?

Also, I'm confused as to why you and Chrome seem to think elements of the Prophets correlate to Pagan religions. Is it just that they have a specific, physical residence, a la Mt Olympus? Well, Catholics believe God is physically manifest in the Eucharist, so are we pagans too?

Pagan religions believe in a pantheon, of individual gods having human-like relationships (marriages, kids, jealousies, etc). The Prophets, as far as we know, have no individual personalities.

Pagan religions often have a local protector god for a family or city or nation. Again, since there are no individual Prophets that we know of, Bajoran's don't choose an individual Prophet to claim as their own.

Pagan religions believe the gods manifest themselves through nature, through weather or disasters or whatever. I don't believe this ever showed up in DS9.

Pagan religions have a contractual element to their rituals. If I do ritual X, then gods will grant condition Y. In contrast, Christianity's rites and rituals are more about a closer relationship with God, and even prayers and petitions is more about "Thy will be done" rather than "alright, I'm doing what You want, so this is what I expect out of You now." Bajoran rites seem closer to the latter, although I admit I'm not 100% sure of that.

So what about Bajoran religion reminds you of paganism? Is it about the orbs? Well, that's unique to the show, obviously no Earthly religion has magical items that can send us back in time or whatever. Is it just that they have a physical location?

But so what?

The Prophets, as far as we know, are NOT scientifically observable. Science says that, given certain stimuli, a certain reaction will follow. And science uncovers those reactions. But there are NO known stimuli that will elicit an observable response from the Prophets.

Look, if I bounce sunlight off of you and into a camera, I can observe the results in a picture I created. There's nothing you can do to stop that stimulus from creating a response (other than breaking my camera...). But tricorders pick up nothing. Running through the wormhole creates nothing. They may be willing to talk to Sisko, but they don't talk to almost anyone else. You can't force a conversation with them. Heck, even Changeling Bashir nearly destroying the wormhole didn't elicit a response. Even this asteroid threat didn't elicit a response (at least not in linear time). So not even threatening to harm them is enough of a stimulus.

So they aren't scientifically discoverable.

Q isn't scientifically discoverable either, at least not until the execrable Q and the Grey. So we have precedence for this.

Now, maybe the orbs are. But they were also in Cardassian hands for decades (or at least some of them were), so presumably some Cardassians tried to study them. And maybe nothing discoverable was present there. Maybe, in the hands of a nonbeliever, it's just an ordinary rock. Maybe it's no more scientifically discoverable than the Eucharist.

Which again, would put it at a parallel with an Abrahamic faith.

Why do you say that the Bajorans "know" that their gods are aliens? They know that their gods reside in the Wormhole. They know that these gods are real, and manifest themselves to certain people such as Sisko. They know NOTHING about the physical nature of these gods. They know aliens exist, they know Starfleet calls them wormhole aliens, but why does that necessarily mean they should be categorized the same as Cardassians or Romulans or even Edo?

Christians know that God is real, and that He manifests Himself to certain people. Christians know nothing about the physical nature of God. Granted, Christians don't know if aliens exist or not, or even if super duper powerful aliens like Q exist. But even conceding that point, how is that different?

And again, I just want to go back to one thing I said earlier to re-emphasize it: what proof is there, in-universe, that the wormhole aliens exist? The orbs, which may have been scientifically studied and proven to be ordinary rocks. The visions that the Bajorans have had over the years, which could be madness or dreams or drugs or lies. Sisko's experience. How is ANY of that more proof than the evidence for Christianity? Yes, we the viewers saw it and can thus presume it to be fact, but why should Starfleet believe in Wormhole aliens except insofar as they trust Sisko is telling the truth? Again, it's been a while since I last saw DS9, but as far as I know, at this stage, the in-universe evidence for wormhole aliens is extremely thin. In that case, Keiko calling them wormhole aliens was not a stand-in for atheism or secularism; Keiko should have been calling Sisko nuts!

So why are you saying it's not a matter of faith? Is it not a matter of faith that the Prophets, who are completely inscutable by secular terms, ARE looking out for the Bajorans best interest? Is it not a matter of faith that the Prophets DO consider the Bajorans to be their children or whatever?

You seem to be very hostile to even admitting the possibility that the Prophets ARE gods, and declaring the definition of "alien" to exclude "god". Why not? Again, just because they exist? That's a circular argument and extremely hostile to religion in general. As I said earlier, I posit that the definition of a god should be a being that A) has ultimate power over a people, even if that being chooses not to wield that power 99% of the time, and B) has the moral authority to wield that power. "B" has to be included; otherwise we could argue that Q is a god, and that's clearly pointless to the question of religion. Nothing in the show suggests that Q has any true moral authority except possibly All Good Things.

Weyoun, at one point, was told that the Founders undoubtedly genetically engineered them to see the Founders as gods. Weyoun's response was "of course, that's exactly what gods would do." Weyoun sees the Founders, as the authors of his genetic code, as having absolute power over him and his people. And he believes that they have the moral authority to do so, and thus accepts that worshiping them is natural. We tend to believe in equality, even among alien races, and thus do not believe the Founders have that moral authority.

But that's the tricky part of that definition I posited above; "B" is going to be highly argumentative. Humans can't even agree to what extent we have moral authority over animals, so how are we going to agree on if a superior being has moral authority over us (or our hypothetical peers, the Bajorans)? So people will have their own opinions on this, and that's fine. But because of that, we should also honestly be able to look at the opposite opinion and determine if it is at least plausible.

So can you do that? Can you look at the other possibility and see if the Prophets DO have moral authority over the Bajorans? You clearly disagree, given your moral outrage over the Prophets presenting themselves as gods. But why? Again, all I see is your demand that gods must not physically exist, even though all Abrahamic religions disagree with you.

In my previous post, I presented a possibility as to why the Prophets might have moral authority over the Bajorans, given their ability to see outside time. This is the only known stable wormhole. Presumably the Prophets built it. From what I can recall, there's no habitable planet on the Gamma Quadrant side. So why did they choose Bajor to build it? Maybe they did have a purpose to it? Maybe they are guiding the Bajorans to a higher calling?

Yes, I know Emissary showed they didn't understand linear time. But Season 7 showed that they created Sisko. I'm with Janeway, time travel gives me headaches. So these nonlinear beings still understand enough to make decisions, and influence reality, even if they needed a single instance in time to learn how to do it (darn paradoxes...). So while the Prophets' cavalier attitude towards Bajor in the pilot may be an argument against it, I posit that the nonlinear time shenanigans means it doesn't count.

I think DS9 is interesting in its treatment of religion, because it can ask the question about what the nature of godhood is. Obviously it can't do that with The God, but the contrasts between the Prophets and the Founders, and the contrasts between the Vorta and the Bajorans, works reasonably well.

Finally, because I just couldn't let this go unchallenged... "Actually a lot of serious Christian thinkers do think of the biblical accounts as metaphorical. Literalists are fundamentalists, but only they would be so arrogant as to presume themselves to be the only real Christians." I'm going to be charitable and assume your statement refers to the first 11 chapters of Genesis, because otherwise... what? If one assumes the Gospel is metaphorical, you CANNOT call yourself a Christian without completely twisting the meaning of words. It's as crazy as the people who say math is sexist or racist or whatever! Look, here's the simple logic (assuming logic isn't also racist...):

1) The word "Christian" means "follower of Christ"
2) To be a follower of someone, you have to (at the bare minimum) agree with that person's central, primary tenet
3) Christ said the central, primary tenet (the greatest commandment) is to love God with every fiber of one's being
4) Christ also said that He is God
5) It is impossible to love a being with every fiber of your being if you do not think that being exists
Therefore: it is impossible to be a Christian without also believing in the existence of Jesus

And also, if you pulled rank about your mother being a theologian, as will I. I have a PhD in sci... uh, engineering, but close enough. So I state with authority that your statement "Science can prove that the biblical accounting of—well everything—is historically inaccurate." is completely false. Again, I'll be charitable and ignore Genesis 1-11 for now. But that's not how science works, at all, since science is about repeatable observations and we have none here. And even if we include archaeology, your statement is wrong. Not only is there huge swaths of the Bible that are validated in great detail in the archaeological record, but there is nothing (again, past Gen 11) in the archaeological record that "proves" it to be false about "well everything", even if there is no evidence to support it either.

But anyway, that's enough.
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Skeptical
Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 2:52pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S3: Destiny

[In case anyone is reading through these comments while watching DS9 for the first time, this post contains spoilers. Ye be warned. Also, this post is way too long. Ye be double warned]

Elliot, I kinda agree with Akira here; you're approaching religion (and this entire episode) from an abstract academic perspective rather than accepting it for what it is. To make a point about your views on the episode, you state to Peter that everything in Star Trek is allegorical. Really? So the Romulans are allegorical to the Chinese in TOS (the secretive third power) or the Soviets in TNG (cold war politics). But then, why are they a Vulcan offshoot? What is that allegorical to? So the Cardassians are allegorical to Nazis. Then what is their eventual alliance and eventual eventual rebellion against the Dominion allegorical? What does that have to do with Nazism?

Certain elements may have been introduced as allegorical, but as creative writers come onboard and the universe-building expands, they take on a life of their own to create a consistent setting for the story the writers want to create. The Romulans being Vulcan may have started as an allegory of tackling racism among allies, given the way the one officer was attacking Spock throughout Balance of Terror. But then the story moved in an entirely new direction, using this connection for a faux love story in Enterprise Incident and then creating entirely new stories for Romulans in Unification. The original allegory became pointless as the universe expanded.

I mean, look at your logic here. You say that the Prophets must be allegorical to Abrahamic religions. Then you state that the fact that the Prophets have a known, quantifiable existence means it's not an allegory. And then you blame the writers for breaking the rule you imposed. Isn't it more likely that the writers didn't want the Prophets to be a 1:1 allegory to God? That they would use that allegorical construct when desired and not use it when not desired? I mean, when Kira asked the Prophets to go back in time so she can meet her mom, how was that allegorical?

But in any case, back to religion.

Again, you are looking at it in an abstract way. You state that religion concerns itself in abstract truth in the same way that art does. Except that's not true: art is subjective. Art's "truths" are personal truths, personal stories. Religion deals with the objective, actual reality of the universe. Yes, it gets into metaphysics, but religious people would not say that that makes it any less real or any less objective. It would be a poor Christian who said that it doesn't matter whether or not there was a real, historical Resurrection 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, or that there wasn't a real, historical Abraham 2000 years before that. It would be a poor Muslim who said it doesn't matter whether or not Muhammed actually talked to God or if he just made the Koran up. Truth, objective truth, about the nature of the world matters significantly to religions. Otherwise it's just more humanistic philosophy.

So to go back to your original post, you mentioned that it was "wrong" of the episode to have the Bajorans try to prove the prophecy was true. That such proof isn't needed for their religion. It's been a long time since I saw the episode, but I'm pretty sure you're interpreting that incorrectly (or I'm misinterpreting what you are saying). The Bajoran priest doesn't need to "prove" the prophecy except insofar as to get the skeptics in Starfleet to do something about it. And IIRC that's exactly what the episode was about. He didn't need to prove it to himself. And again, it sounds like you're saying religion is divorced from reality. But the Prophets are real. Their communications are real. Their knowledge of the future is real. It is just as real, just as objective as anything else in the Star Trek universe. So to the Bajorans, the events in the prophecy are going to happen. Period. It doesn't need to be proven, it doesn't need to be scientifically studied. It's something that is as absolutely certain as the sun coming up tomorrow. They just don't know when it will happen or what, exactly, will happen since the prophecy is confusing. But it will happen. And so the idea that the Bajoran priest is so gung-ho about this particular prophecy isn't because he wants to prove his religion, but because he knows the events in question are about to take place and wants to prevent the catastrophe.

As for the quality of the prophecy yourself, well, at first I agreed, but if your description of the ending is correct, then, well, what's the problem? You say a prophecy is immutable, that it will happen regardless of what anyone does. That's not necessarily true (there are plenty of conditional aspects in the Old Testament prophets, for example), but in this case it is. So what is it's purpose? The obvious one is Divine Revelation. You mock that as something cruel and spiteful, but why? Is not specific, direct Divine Revelation a reason for prophecy? And is it not possible that the Prophets would direct that Divine Revelation towards their servant, The Sisko? God doesn't do a song and dance for everyone, but Paul recieved a spectacular revelation, because Paul was needed to evangelize to the world. So if the Prophets manipulated history to bring Sisko closer to them, how is that a horribly incorrect approach to religion?

Furthermore, I think the weird, symbolic nature of this prophecy works well for the DS9 universe. God is omniscient, omnipotent, and has a clear, direct relationship with humanity. The Prophets, however, are mostly all-knowing, mostly all-powerful, and mostly have a relationship with the Bajorans. But as we see, quite clearly multiple times, their one weakness is the ability to actually communicate with linear beings. They're terrible at it! So the inscrutability of this particular prophecy may be due to the Prophet's inability to communicate clearly with whatever Bajoran wrote this prophecy down a gazillion years ago.

After all, we never see the Prophets for what they are. Every time we see them, they are communicating with someone through that person's memories. All of the visual representation of the Prophets are from the person's own experiences, not from an objective viewpoint. And the Bajoran would have no memories or experiences of space travel, of Cardassians, of Sisko or the Defiant. So trying to impart this visionon the hapless Bajoran would make things difficult, and could only use memories that he or she knew. Thus, it's vipers and sword of stars and stuff like that. The only clear, provable imagery is the river returning to whatever city, because he understands that imagery just fine. And as for why the Prophets didn't talk to someone who did have the astronomical expertise to have memories worth using, well, again, the Prophets aren't 100% all knowing; they are still very bad at linear time. So maybe they just screwed up. Or maybe it was to make the ending more spectacular, as a way to appear more miraculous to Sisko. Who knows?

Moving on, does this prophecy work within the context of the episode? There are flaws here, based on the idea that the writers are trying to make a statement (however muddled) about faith. Again, this is why stuff shouldn't be treated as exact allegories, and the writers do themselves a disservice when using them as a crutch without considering the broader universe. The "secular" explanation Kira provides is 100% obvious as soon as the prophecy is provided, it shouldn't take Sisko that long to consider that as an explanation. It's much like how Scientific Method on Voyager failed. We have to have the Starfleet person as the 100% stand-in for a non-magical world despite the fact they both know they live in a magical world (or whatever the Prophets or Q or whatever do).

However, this does bring to mind a way to solve the problem. We, the viewers, take it as a fact that the Prophets exist, and thus not "hidden" gods, because we saw the pilot episode. But in-universe, is it a fact? All we know is that something weird happened to a Starfleet Commander in the wormhole, and that the Bajorans have some weird relics. Is that proof the Prophets exist? We've never seen them, and even Sisko can't say what they look like. We don't have tricorder readings or video recording or anything of these events. We would have to take Sisko's word for it. Is that enough to convince Starfleet that hidden, all powerful aliens are living in a wormhole? Yes, eventually there are Pah-Wraith battles on the promenade and bonafide miracles in Sacrifice of Angels, but early season 3? I don't think they are proven yet.

So we STILL could have had a question of faith, but it couldn't have been Sisko as the skeptic. Instead, it would have needed to be Starfleet Command, with Sisko caught in the middle. Even if Starfleet accepts that something weird happened to Sisko, that doesn't prove the Prophets can see the future and leave messages in the past. He would then be accused of being too religious, even if he has a scientific basis for believing it. And even if he isn't religious about it, so we can still have something of a conversion in him at the end. And since the prophecy is vague, he can still struggle with what it means and if this is truly what it is warning against.

It's not 100% the same, but it could still work. As it is, I thought it was still an ok episode, but I never really worried about it from an allegorical perspective.

Anywho, as for the question of if the Bajoran religion makes absolute sense, well, why not? And to get to the question of worship, again, why not? It is clear that the Prophets are not Elohim - the God Most High. OK, then, why worship them? Does it need to be for the purposes of a better afterlife? There's no evidence the Bajorans have a "heaven", so if that's the purpose of worship then the religion is illogical. But much of Judaism is simply about the relationship with God on Earth, not the eternal soul. It is possible for worship to be solely about the Bajorly life rather than the afterlife. Is it because the Prophets produce moral clarity? Perhaps - although I admit we don't see that much (if at all). Is it that the Prophets provide protection? One might argue the Cardassian occupation says otherwise, but the reference I had to Jeremiah earlier is relevant - Christianity accepts that God's protection is not absolute, and perhaps that was the case for the Prophets as well. Is it just about power? Certainly not; Kira would never worship Q, for example.

So what is it? Well, the largest aspect of worship, regardless of the reason, is an acceptance of humility. To accept that someone else has power AND authority over you, and to trust in them to be right. This is true even if they barely use that power, even if they grant you freedom 99% of the time. I've seen plenty of comments, questions, arguments from atheists over the years, and reading between the lines this is almost always the stumbling block. Behind the scientific arguments, or moral arguments, or historical arguments, it always seems to boil down to: "why should God think differently then I do? Why can't He be more like me?" It's the hardest thing to accept, to accept that you are not the center of your own life, and that you SHOULDN'T be at the center of your life, and thus seems to me the biggest aspect of actual worship.

So back to the Prophets. Do the Prophets have power over the Bajorans? We rarely see it, but that's ok. The Lord moves in mysterious ways and all. But eventually, we do see that they truly do: they literally created Sisko. He was always destined to be The Emissary, and thus this entire era of Bajor's history is shaped by the Prophets. To some extent, it is clearly part of their Divine Plan. For what purpose, we don't know, but they do care about Bajor and do have plans for them. And do they have the "authority" to? That's... harder to say. Obviously, Judeochristian authority is because God is the Creator. But there's no evidence the Prophets created Bajor (and TNG's "The Chase" provides evidence against it!). Is the Divine Plan in the best interests of Bajor? Again, we don't know enough, but maybe? The Q set themselves up as the judges of humanity, and say we are destined for something greater, but that doesn't mean we have to accept that they have the authority to judge us, just that they have the power to. So why do the Bajorans accept it from the Prophets?

That's the hardest question, and ultimately it is up to the Bajorans to answer it. And they seem to say that yes, the Prophets do have the authority. When the false Emissary started changing society, they went along with it. Because they trusted in the Prophets, even if this was a mistake. Again, I can't answer the question, because this doesn't have the inherent logic of the Judeochristian God the Creator. Trek simply COULDN'T do that story, because then the Prophets would have been the God of everyone. And it simply strains credulity that Bajor exists in some weird pocket where the Prophets are Most High to them, but not to anyone else.

And yet... I can still see it working. Judaism is the belief that Yahweh is the God of EVERYONE, but that there is still a special relationship with one particular family. So what if the Prophets are, for lack of a better term, angels of God, sent to be the protectors of this one particular planet. That doesn't mean God has angels for every planet; perhaps it just means that Bajor truly is special among the galaxy (or the universe). Again, God made a special relationship with Abraham and no one else. Christianity believes it was in order to prepare for the Messiah, which would be for all the world. Is there something similar here? If the Prophets exist outside of time, can they see that, and some point, Bajor will be at the center of the universe? That Bajor must be guided in order to create some event to shape the entirety of the galaxy?

Is that worth worshiping? I think that's getting pretty darn close to it. So yes, I can easily see the logic in a Bajoran, knowledgeable about space, other species, and all else, worshiping the Prophets. I think it can fit.

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Skeptical
Sun, Oct 7, 2018, 4:46pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S5: Conundrum

Jamie, while you can argue that the execution was not done well, I think the fact that they WERE their usual selves was the point. It's easy to make a "what you are in the shadows" storyline where people, stripped of the pressures of society or whatever, become completely different than their public persona. Normal upstanding members of society becoming depraved sadists or hedonists, socially demanding moral pillars showing their hypocrisy, whatever. It may be entertaining to see the devil inside, the dual personalities, but it's a cynical view of humanity. And if there's one thing TNG was against, it's a cynical view of humanity.

I think the "message" of this episode was that, what these cast members are in the shadows is exactly what they are in the light. The memory erasure bit is a scifi approach to removing societal pressures that allows it to fit into this show. But it's the same thing. Picard, Riker, et al aren't in Starfleet to make money, or to satisfy their parents, or to gain power over others, or whatever. They are there because they believe in the principles of the Federation. And they don't believe in the principles of the Federation because it's convenient or because everyone else does, they do because they firmly feel they are right deep within their souls.

The amnesia ray didn't remove their skills, and it didn't remove their core personalities. And their core personalities are to use those skills "for the betterment of mankind", or at least the ship in this case. So Crusher realizes she's a doctor, realizes she still has plenty of medical knowledge, and so goes to work finding a cure. LaForge uses his engineering skill to make the ship go, Worf uses his tactical knowledge to man his post, etc. If they still have their deep commitment to duty, and still have their skills, why wouldn't they?

But in order to show this "message", the show had to devote most of the runtime (other than the perfunctory mystery elements) to the conundrum at hand. Because Picard et al believe so strongly in the principles of the Federation, they would not obey an order contrary to those principles. So the show had to set that up, that - as far as they could tell - everything about their organization said they needed to destroy this space station. But everything about themselves said that that was wrong. The show HAD to make the destruction of the space station as the easy, obvious answer. That way, the decision to not destroy it would show true courage, not only on Picard's part but also for the rest of the crew to not go along with MacDuff's mutiny.

Now, I realize that what you wrote isn't necessarily the same as what I'm talking. I know you're not necessarily talking about the crew getting completely different, cynical personalities and all, but still. Like I said, they needed to focuses on the similarities and place the conundrum front and center in order to get to the theme of the episode across. And that just didn't leave enough time for focusing on shifting personalities on minor manners, which seems to be what you wanted. My guess is that the writers/director/producers decided that the fluff during the amnesia section of the show - Worf assuming command, Data as a bartender - would be more amusing and entertaining to the viewers than other personality changes during the conundrum section of the show, and so focused on that instead.

Thus, the only personality change was Ro/Riker. Because that one made sense. Ro's aloofness is due primarily to the accident/court martial in her past, probably more so than her life as a refugee (although that helps). There's hints elsewhere (Rascals, Preemptive Strike) that she wants to belong, wants to be part of a community, and so it makes sense that she would be more outgoing here. And Riker's animosity toward her is 100% due to her past. With neither one knowing about it, it's not too surprising that he might be attracted to her. So it was a good "B" plot, and a good use of Ro's character. Since her personality is the one most heavily defined by a single event in her past (Tapestry notwithstanding...), and a relatively recent event in her past (so one that hasn't had time to become, for lack of a better phrase, ingrained into her soul), she was a good choice to have the most obvious personality change. And since Riker was the one most notably negative toward her early on, it makes sense to have him be the one to change his view of her.

Would the episode have been better if there were more subtle personality changes after the computer told them who they were? Perhaps. Like I said, the execution of the idea is certainly arguable (although I think it is a good but not great episode). But all changes would need to still serve the central theme that these are still the same people deep down. And it may be that the writers felt that subtle personality changes would detract from the theme.
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Skeptical
Thu, Sep 27, 2018, 8:00am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S1: The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

Well, "political" can mean different things to different people. You mentioned Defector as a political episode, which it obviously is, but it's not meant as a "persuasive" political episode, to show one side as better than the other, just that it uses the Cold War as a way to tell an awesome story.

Season 1 may not have necessarily been a partisan season, using the stories to take sides on a current issue or anything like that. But it was "political" in the sense that it was the most control Gene ever had around the series, and thus was using it to push his vision, and seemed to consider that a priority over the actual quality of the show. I think Shatner's documentary touched on this, and I know SFDebris has. Piller talked about it in a magnanimous way, referring to it as Gene's "box" and pretending that it enhanced creativity to stay in the box.

In reality though, Piller et al. were working to stretch the box as much as possible. One example I remember clearly is "The Bonding." So a fan, Ron Moore, submitted a story idea about a kid struggling to cope with the loss of his redshirt mother. And Gene HATED the idea. Why? Because 24th century kids had "evolved" beyond the need for grief and would just accept their mom's death. In other words, if Gene was still completely in charge, we never would have got Ron Moore. Piller rewrote the story to give it more of the alien angle and to fit it in as much as possible with Gene's vision (probably why the Jeremy character was so wooden throughout the episode, maybe he wasn't allowed to cry!).

But in any case, back to Season 1. Gene's box was that this is a utopia. Humanity is perfect. That meant no internal conflicts (unless aliens were behind it, of course). No conflicts means less drama, which can hurt a show. Gene's box said that the Enterprise had to be superior to all other technology. That meant no possibility of the Borg until Gene's control lessened. Humanity's ideals must be shown to be better than anyone else. That meant that Q had to be a Trelane-like child (particularly in Hide and Q), rather than the real foil he became for Picard in True Q, Tapestry, and All Good Things.

But perhaps the most obvious area where Gene's vision got in the way of good storytelling is the Ferengi. We start with the idea of a mysterious new villain. That's cool! But what do we get? An exaggerated caricature. For whatever reason, Gene crushed their possibility under the weight of coming up with all sorts of flaws for them so that we would know the enlightened socialist utopia is sooo much better than these Yankee capitalists. Despite being all about greed (and thus likely amoral), they were interested only in theft and deceit rather than enterprise. Despite the obvious economic incentives of mobilizing 50% of your population, they treated women like cattle. Despite being traders and thus naturally being surrounded by other species, they were made to be overly annoying and intolerable. Despite greed supposedly being their primary motivation, they were made to be sexual perverts. And despite supposedly being the cool new villain, they were made to be tiny trolls that jump around like manic idiots just to show how regal and majestic Riker is compared to them.

If you were coming up with a villain to create an interesting tension with the main cast, you would never come up with this. You would come up with the TOS Klingons, or the Borg or TNG Romulans, or the Cardassians or the Dominion. But if you were coming up with a contrast to your utopia, then you would want to show a bunch of negative traits. I can't say for certain that I ever heard explicitly that the Ferengi were made for "political" purposes, but I do know that Gene was heavily involved in these decisions.

And while not necessarily "political", the Wesley the Wonderkid bit in Season 1 really feels like self-insertion fanfic, especially given Wesley is Gene's middle name...

And yes, I do agree that Season 1 sucked for many, many more reasons than just that, of course.
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Skeptical
Tue, Sep 25, 2018, 6:00pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S1: The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

Chrome, while I can't put words into Roros' mouth, I think I know what he/she is referring to.

I honestly don't know anything about DSC; it didn't interest me and I haven't seen it and I haven't cared about it other than noticing there are plenty of negative reviews for it. But let me use a different example. The first season of TNG was perhaps the most political era of Trek. I'm 90% sure that every episode had at least one snide remark about 1980s America, for example. It's also a season of Trek that is universally derided, and I believe that was true even when it first aired as well. Now, I think some of the problems were due to its politics (mostly in creating a worldview that made it impossible to write good stories), but it had plenty of other problems. The actors and writers didn't have a feel for the characters, the plots were often the worst aspects of TOS without the charm or nostalgia, etc., etc. I think most of us agree on that.

Thankfully, Paramount reacted appropriately. Whether due to the bad reviews or his failing health, Gene had less control over the show. The original writing crew basically disappeared and was replaced by Piller and others. The emphasis and style of the show shifted. Characters grew into the iconic status they know claim.
The worst parts of the first season were scaled back, and bold new ideas appeared. The first season may be awful, but the show grew up to become well loved among Trek fans.

Imagine, though, if Paramount didn't do that. Imagine if Gene came out and said that all the criticism of the show was due to ignorant backwater bigots who hated progress and were trying to shout him down. Imagine if, instead of getting new writers and changing the focus of characters and all that, Star Trek doubled down. The plots stayed the same, the atrocious characterization stayed the same. After all, that's not real flaws, that's just the hate-filled regressives attacking the show. So instead, we get more of the Ferengi acting like manic trolls, because that is the true vision. We get more of Wesley the Wunderkid, because complaints about him are only due to jealousy. We never get Q Who, because that conflicts with Gene's vision and we can't give any ammo to "the other side". We never get The Defector. We never get Yesterday's Enterprise. We never get The First Duty or Darmok or All Good Things. All because Gene and Paramount decided to "politicize" the show.

Yeah, maybe politics isn't the best word; it's more about partisanship. But I assume that's what Roras is referring to.

I'm a huge fan of Ghostbusters; I could probably quote the whole movie word for word. But when the remake appeared, I had zero interest in it (as an aside, I wonder why fans get so attached to franchises; trust me, it's so much more liberating when you appreciate what you like and ignore the rest). The whole thing just looked dumb. And apparently, I wasn't the only one. That seemed to be the reaction of a lot of people. It's not too surprising. There have been a lot of attempts to cash in on 80s/90s nostalgia by the intellectually bankrupt Hollywood these days, and lots of them were underwhelming. So why should this one be different?

But apparently this one was different, because it became Controversy!TM. Word spread that the reason it was getting bad word of mouth was because of misogyny! Of course, the internet is full of idiots, so you are guaranteed to find plenty of stupid opinions about everything, so I'm sure there were people like that out there. But it suddenly became a huge deal and all anyone could talk about. I'm skeptical (heh) that this was organic; I think it was designed by the producers. They presumably figured out that they didn't have a huge hit on their hands, and amplified the Controversy!TM to take advantage of it. Sure, that controversy might piss off 70% of the public, but in doing so you are attempting to make it a religious duty to the remaining 30% to support the movie. Hey feminists, come strike a blow to the patriarchy by supporting this movie! Win this week's narrative! If we rake in enough cash, you can gloat about it on Twitter!

Why not aim for that crowd, if you know your product isn't good enough to attract a crowd on its own? And that's the key, this approach is used for products that aren't good. The Controversy!TM was a lot more subdued for Wonder Woman, since the general public thought it was a good movie. Sure, there were the typical Twitter Warz and crap, but it never really broke into the mainstream like with Ghostbusters. Probably because the producers didn't want to piss off any potential moviegoers.

And while Ghostbusters is probably the most famous example, it does seem like this approach is become more and more normalized. The hyperpartisan atmosphere of today, in combination with the general fracturing of the culture and fragmentation of media, has made it a viable option for the entertainment business. Declare your product to be the champion of Justice!TM and the critics to be Haters!TM, and you can try to make a profit through virtue signaling alone. And the nice thing is, you don't have to worry about if your product is any good.

Again, I know nothing about Discovery, so I have no idea if Roras is right about this, but I'm 90% sure this is what he is referring to. Outside of TOS, Star Trek has always improved significantly from its first season. So maybe DSC can do that too. But it requires an open mind and a willingness to change. But if, as Roras is insinuating, DSC and CBS would prefer to just marginalize all of their critics and declare them to be bigots, then the show will languish in mediocrity. And presumably nobody wants that.
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Stephen
Sat, Sep 22, 2018, 6:45am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S3: The Search, Part I

Sisko might have just been playing Quark and the Nagus staff was just something he pulled out of a replicator.
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mephyve
Thu, Aug 30, 2018, 1:38pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: Booby Trap

lol
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Skeptical
Mon, Aug 6, 2018, 7:20am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S4: The Nth Degree

It's hard to imagine how the Star Trek universe as presente dwould be on the liberal agenda.

Liberals tend to hate the military and giving the military a huge role in their government, so why would their agenda ever lead to the formation of Starfleet?

Race and sex-based politics have been abolished in the afforementioned Federation. Hard to see liberals agitating for that either.

Forcing communities to accept gay marriage or plastic straw bans or whatever would both be gross Prime Directive violations.

And of course, the universal health care and other aspects of peace and prosperity were only created after governments nearly destroyed all of humanity, and only came about due to a single capitalist inventing something on his own without government help for the purpose of making tons of money for himself.

...

There, now that we've established that judging people for their political opinions on a Star Trek site is stupid, can we go back to just talking about Star Trek?
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john don't even reply
Tue, Jul 17, 2018, 6:35pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S5: Thirty Days

Awful episode dawg. Bipolar janeway cracking the whip on tom because he took the delta flyer out late when akoosha mooya and toobok have disobeyed direct orders and got a pat on the back. kes goes and gets killed because she's dumb? better waste a whole episode saving that disobedient ocampan. Seven of nine disobeys? oh well what I am gonna do restrict her to cargo bay 2 ? lul forget about it.

Get real man, he was doing it to save the planet but janeway condemmed them with no fucks given. But when it's janeway interfering with other cultures she goes "lol captain prerogative" can do whatever the fuck she wants. Krenim? Force her way through them. Borg? Help them create a new weapon to fight a war. Smuggling telepaths. The swarm? shoot them into submission. Trabe? ally with them to help them lure the kazon.
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PreppieYeti
Fri, Jul 13, 2018, 5:02pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: The Apple

It's a Viet Nam allegory.
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Joseph B
Sat, Jul 7, 2018, 3:10am (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S1: Mad Idolatry

Wow! I just looked at the Fox schedule for Season 2 and it suddenly hit me that there will be only one new episode released for the entire calendar year of 2018! How messed up is that?!!

BTW, that one new episode is scheduled for 12/30/2018 so they just barely squeaked it in!
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mephyve
Fri, Jun 29, 2018, 9:26pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Best of Both Worlds, Part I

@mitty I agree with you about "Blink". After watching that I couldn't sleep for a couple of nights.
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mephyve
Fri, Jun 29, 2018, 8:53pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Best of Both Worlds, Part I

There are some moments that, no matter how many times you experience them, never lose their impact. "I am Locutus of Borg. Resistance is futile."
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mephyve
Fri, Jun 29, 2018, 7:20pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: Transfigurations

A run of the mill mystery that the audience has no chance of solving. Not bad, not great.
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dkeppens
Fri, Jun 22, 2018, 2:28am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S7: Natural Law

Except for all the back-and-forth Chakotay's doing over exposing the Ventu to technology, I kind of like this one but I can't review it since it could never have happened. So they use the phasers to punch a hole in the energy barrier and crash the shuttle on the barrier, but while the shuttle blows up into a thousand pieces, it's still transporting them to the surface safely ? Give me a break. This episode ended with the intro. Time for Janeway to accept her losses, grieve over Chakotay and Seven and resume course to the Alpha quadrant. The end.
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dkeppens
Mon, Jun 18, 2018, 1:00pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S7: Nightingale

Right, by now, one has to wonder if someone from casting or writing or both had a serious real-life score to settle with Wang. So, after over six years of displaying Kim as a whiny, incompetent mama's boy who also wouldn't be able to "get a lock" if his life depended on it, we now get this. He spent six years on the bridge and he still hasn't heard what the prime directive is ? Not even a hint of doubt about his decision to jump into the middle of this conflict until he actually gets back to Voyager so we can have another one of those scenes where holier-than-thou Janeway can slap it in his face, cause you know, we need more of those. And make it quick ! No matter though, cause as a reward for his incompetence, he can now get his first real taste of command. Great going Janeway.
Then we need to wade through about half an hour or so more of Harry being the most incapable officer ever to have graced the bridge of a starship, interspersed, of course, with a sprinkling of that intelligent Kim-dialogue about his intense desire to crawl back into his mother's spacious womb, that by the end, when he does ultimately resolve the situation, who still cares anymore ?
That is why this episode does not work, or MOST Voyager episodes for that matter and why this show was the start of the steep decline of quality in Trek, lazy writing around unrealistic characters nobody can empathize with.
Let's be honest for a minute. Even if they did do a turn-around at this point and actually gave him an episode to shine in, it STILL wouldn't work since we all know by know he's some sort of genetically engineered lab construct that escaped from a lab where real people were researching a cure to attachment disorder. And what is this garbage B-story about Icheb and Torres ? Every time this lingering remnant of one of Voyager's worst outings concerning the Borg gets screen time my heart crumples, since it's just more proof that getting the other three "Borg children" of the ship was NOT the realization they committed a horrible mistake and trying to make up for it, but rather just a stroke of luck. Beam that thing out into space already.
To sum up, trash, as usual.

Note : I wrote this before reading Jammer's review. Seems we share a lot of common points on this one
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mephyve
Sat, Jun 16, 2018, 10:14am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: Menage a Troi

Hilarious episode! Lwaxana gets Lwaxana'd by a Ferengi who eventually kidnaps her, Riker and Troi. Very funny hijinks ensue culminating with Picard performing love poetry (comically badly) to rescue her from the Ferengi clutches.
Fun, comic relief after the morose boredom of Sarek.
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mephyve
Sat, Jun 16, 2018, 9:10am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: Sarek

If you are ever having trouble sleeping, turn this one on, you'll be snoozing before the concert is over.
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mephyve
Sat, Jun 16, 2018, 8:36am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

If Data had killed Faja, at the worst it would have been justifiable homicide. Too bad the Enterprise didn't come 5 seconds later.
Data delights in gloating and then mockingly says, "I do not feel pleasure. I am only an android." Riiiight Data. (wink wink)
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mephyve
Fri, Jun 15, 2018, 9:55pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: Hollow Pursuits

REG _ GIE! REG -GIE! REG- GIE! REG- GIE!
Social outcast who is mercilessly picked on by the crew exacts his revenge holodeck style.
Oh, and he saves the ship too.
5 stars
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mephyve
Fri, Jun 15, 2018, 5:36pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: Tin Man

Both Tin man and tam just wanted to be left alone. My advice is that you just leave them alone. A boring episode that ends with us knowing nothing more than what we learned in the first five minutes.
@Peter Swinkels In order to die, Tinman put itself in the path of an exploding star. I don't know hat the Romulans had the firepower to kill it but might have wounded it enough to cause it to suffer. Also, now that Tam was near, maybe gave Tin man hope. Joining with a kindred spirit would alleviate it's loneliness.
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mephyve
Fri, Jun 15, 2018, 4:27pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S2: Pen Pals

Chrome Of course I watched it. Picard made an exception after the little girl gave him an excuse. If Picard did not hear her say, "Data where are you" , the Enterprise would have left them to die.
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mephyve
Fri, Jun 15, 2018, 3:02pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S2: Pen Pals

@PeterG & Chrome
"There are times sir, when men of good conscience cannot blindly follow orders." Jean Luc Picard
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mephyve
Fri, Jun 15, 2018, 2:27pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S3: Captain's Holiday

Very good episode. Picard punches out a Ferengi on during his time of rest and relaxation on Riza. A fun time was held by all and of course, we meet Vash, a fun girl however you spell her.
3 stars
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