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Elliott
Thu, Jan 7, 2021, 2:53pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: The Sanctuary

@Snitch

Thanks for your kind words. Getting older is not all bad.

@Peter G

"It's not reasonable to compare this to a brand new terms that is IMO predominantly used to insinuate some combination of lack of understanding and privilege. As I mentioned, it is a reference to something that needs to be referred to, so obviously this is a niche that must be filled. My point was that in my fairly broad experience of reading views on both sides, it's not a term that is typically used in a neutral fashion."

I can't argue with your experience, but I do think it's presumptuous to think that whatever you've read, however diverse, gives you a perspective so broad as to be able to arbitrate language in this way. The trans community, as an activist group, is pushing for the normalisation of the prefixes for specific sociological reasons that I support. It's reasonable to ask a trans person why they believe (again, as a group) that these options are better than what might seem like reasonable alternatives to you, but it's not okay to police the debate. This issue is extremely asymmetric, as is always the case with minority rights; you would have to demonstrate that the harm inflicted on cisgendered folks for having a new term applied to us is in any way comparable to the systemic oppression faced by trans folks. I'm nearly certain you can't.

@Dave in MN

"I didn't go through all of that struggle so a straight 'ally' can affix modifiers to my gender and orientation. Frankly, you don't have the right to redefine me or dilute my experience to make others comfortable.

I think human language already possessed all the language necessary to discuss these topics, and I don't believe it's fair to dismiss my viewpoint as ignorance because I won't adhere to some third wave talking point."

1. This isn't the identity oppression olympics. You and I are both gay men and have faced discrimination that folks of other orientations have not, but we don't get to minimise the experience of other people with our own.

2. "Cis" is not a modifier to your identity or experience, it describes the experience and identity you have in a way that is more complete. You were born male and identify as male, correct? No one has changed that or called it into question. "Cis" simply describes a truth about yourself that you don't dispute, as far as I understand what you've described.

3. "Human language," as you put it, already expanded and adapted a few different times to accommodate our sexual orientations. The words "homosexual" didn't exist until the mid 19th century, even though gay people have existed, you know, for ever. It seems pretty selfish to deny a further expansion on behalf of a community facing marginalisation that we have largely overcome over the last several decades.
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Elliott
Wed, Jan 6, 2021, 7:27pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: The Sanctuary

@Dave in MN

You and I, as Cis-males, don't face systemic persecution on the basis of our gender. It is not up to us to curate language discourse on behalf of the trans community or anyone else.

"The term "male" has a built-in assumption about biology behind it."

Yes, exactly. Until those assumptions disappear, we must work towards anti-discrimination. The thing is, trans people do not want to pretend that their transition never happened, to "fool" people into believing they were born the same gender as they currently identify as. The whole point is that "male" and "female" are insufficient terms based on our current understanding of what gender is *for everybody*, cis and trans. Cis and trans are more accurate because they tell a more complete story.

@Peter G

"because as we know many terms are frequently used in derogatory ways even while the users claim that they're merely descriptive"

Well of course, there are many spaces where labelling someone as racially white is an automatic negative. And there are reasons for that, but that has nothing to do with the necessity or accuracy of identifying someone as white. The term is neutral, regardless of how it might be used by certain people or in certain spaces.
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Elliott
Wed, Jan 6, 2021, 1:26pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: The Sanctuary

Sweet Jesus, people.

The least you could do is some basic etymology before wading into transphobic territory.

"Cis" means "on this side of," and all it means is that one's sex and birth-assigned gender match.

Let's use a Star Trek example.

Lal was born without a gender ("neuter" in the episode's terminology). Had they chosen not to assume a gender, they would be considered Cis-neuter. Since she chose to be a woman, Lal is a transgendered woman, having transitioned from neuter to female.

Being Cis or Trans is not a value judgement, whatever Shatner was ranting about, it is simply a way of making a necessary distinction and classification.

Here, please be educated: https://youtu.be/F1vW0afYATo?t=652
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Elliott
Wed, Jan 6, 2021, 12:43pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S3: Blood Fever

Happy New Year, Jammer Bots!

And now, we have to talk about Pon Farr. There is a kind of gendered essentialism in the conceit of how this biological “instinct” is constructed. I think “Alter Ego” made excellent use of the Vulcan paradox; natural Vulcan emotions, including those which undergird sexual relationships, are too extreme for the kind of enlightened society they, as a people, have chosen to embrace. A logical people don’t require an excuse to mate often enough to perpetuate the species. I’m sure they would figure it out. But Gene decided that (in the males), there exists a surge of hormones so extreme that no amount of mental discipline can contain their effect. And I’m sure this attitude had nothing to do with his own habits with women. Metaphorically, this reflects broader assumptions about human sexuality; that women in general “allow” men to fuck them in order to forge family units, while men are generally at the mercy of their penises and can’t be held accountable for sexual aggression, especially when women deny them. It’s all very socially Darwinian, heteronormative, and gross. The two prominent prior examples of the Pon Farr are of course “Amok Time” and “The Search for Spock.”

The former provides nearly all of the essential lore for the process:

SPOCK: The birds and the bees are not Vulcans, Captain. If they were, if any creature as proudly logical as us were to have their logic ripped from them as this time does to us. How do Vulcans choose their mates?...We shield it with ritual and customs shrouded in antiquity. You humans have no conception. It strips our minds from us. It brings a madness which rips away our veneer of civilisation. It is the pon farr. The time of mating...I'm a Vulcan. I'd hoped I would be spared this, but the ancient drives are too strong. Eventually, they catch up with us, and we are driven by forces we cannot control to return home and take a wife. Or die.

In fairness to TOS, there is something somewhat transgressive for the time period in openly discussing the sexual instinct in this way. Kirk initially views Spock’s discomfort in talking about sex as misguided and rather silly, implying that the human norm is to discuss such things openly and maturely, which is good. From a mythological perspective, there’s also something *right* about ascribing this fundamental flaw to a species which is otherwise so aspirational. It’s like making Superman vulnerable to Kryptonite, a substance which is relatively harmless to except to him who is most powerful in all other respects. The episode toes the line a little too closely to the licentious (which comes with the miniskirt territory), but overall the tone of the episode emphasises that Vulcan sexual practice is alien and regressive. It must, perhaps, be tolerated since the alternative is death, but unlike the other Vulcan features, it is not to be admired or aspired to.

But it’s really difficult to look past the allegory. Kirk and co. consider Spock’s needs to be urgent--and of course, they are because he’s going to die--but the conceit that not being able to get your rocks off will result in bodily harm or death is mired in a myriad of issues around consent and rape culture. There is of course a reason nearly all men and a majority of women and nonbinary folks masturbate regularly; the sexual urge is powerful. But it certainly seems like the Vulcans have constructed a regressive social fabric that makes the Catholic church look like a bacchanal. And they justify this regression with excuses about “biology.” Kirk’s consideration for his best friend’s privacy is admirable on the one hand, but risking his career rather than telling Admiral Generic White Man that his first officer needs to fuck or he’ll die is pretty ridiculous. At least when Worf does his stupid Klingon shit on the Enterprise, it’s understood that he *has* a choice. There may be cultural implications that we humans don’t understand motivating that choice (c.f. “Reunion,” “Ethics,” “The Sons of Mogh”), but it is still voluntary. “Amok Time” transposes the choice from Spock to Kirk, obscuring the implications slightly, but it boils down to choosing between observing the chain of command, performing one’s duties, and treating your fellow officers and friends with respect (hi Nurse Chapel) VS. having the sex because without the sex, I’ll die 😞.

On the other hand, the “Koon-ut-kal-if-fee” thing has mediaeval overtones to it, suggesting Vulcan mating practices are highly spiritual matters, motivated perhaps by that grotesque biological instinct, but manifested in a sublime, almost courtly ritual. Indeed, much of the second half of the episode is like watching a ballet: “Rite of Spring” in space.

All of that said, I will never tire of the look on Shatner’s face when Spock says “she is T’Pring, my wife.” Absolutely classic. Kroykah!

One unintentional implication from “The Search for Spock” comes from Saavik’s casual exposition about the Pon Farr to David. Apparently, Vulcan women aren’t nearly so uptight about the whole mess, cementing the message that Vulcan men really need to get over their boners. Indeed, her resolve to deal with this inevitable issue calmly and directly serves at quite the contrast to all the pomp we saw in the Vulcan desert. The ritual is an indulgence, a sublimation of embarrassing (male) emotions. We also see that the Vulcan sex act is as different from the ritual combat as could be imagined, barely physical, extremely quiet and intimate, like those other Vulcan things we’ve come to know. At least the pomp at the end of the film surrounds a virtually unprecedented resurrection instead of a routine marriage/death-match.

Anyway, on to “Voyager.”

Teaser : **.5, 5% 

The Voyager has entered the orbit of a planet containing yet another Very Important Mineral which they plan to mine. Paris and Torres mention all the damage the engines have taken over the last two years and welcome the repairs this mineral will offer. So just to clarify, if the Voyager can get its hands on this mineral every couple of years or so, they can rebuild their engines nearly from scratch. So why is it such a pain in everyone’s ass if they build extra shuttles and torpedoes every once in a while? Anyway, Tuvok notes that the only signs of civilisation are from a long-abandoned colony of some sort, and that’s all the motivation Janeway needs to start strip-mining. She gives Torres control of the project, emphasising that little bit from “Coda” about how Janeway is self-consciously boosting Torres’ confidence. Then she suggests that Neelix be part of her team, because no one deserves to be completely happy.

Torres goes over her excavation plan in Engineering with Vorik. She tells him they’re going to bring Tom along because he’s very experienced...at rock climbing *wink *wink. Vorik insists that he has a much bigger penis than Paris and volunteers to round out the team. Great, that means each of them will be responsible for 250 tons of magic mineral ore. Seems very logical.

VORIK: Let me take this opportunity to declare koon-ut so'lik, my desire to become your mate.
TORRES: What?
VORIK: In human terms, I am proposing marriage. Do you accept?

Considering Torres punched her first assistant chief in the face until he vanished into the aether, she handles this surprisingly well. It turns out Vorik has considered his options, realising his arranged mate on Vulcan has probably moved on and finding Torres herself to be an ideal runner up:

VORIK: Our differences would complement each other. You've often expressed frustration with your Klingon temper. My mental discipline would help you control it...Your choices for a mate are currently limited to seventy three male crew members on this ship, some of whom are already unavailable...I should also remind you that many humanoid species are unable to withstand Klingon mating practices...

When, er, diplomacy fails him, the blood fever starts to bubble up and he grabs her neck. Yikes. Well, she punches him in the face (again, this is all a part of being Torres’ number one) and we cut to credits. Dawson’s charm and timing manage to keep this scene light enough for the humour to work despite awkward subject matter. The last time “Voyager” attempted an episode centred around sex, we got “Elogium,” so...fingers crossed.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Vorik is examined by the Doctor who identifies the neurochemical imbalance in his brain, but has developed enough as a social creature to respect Vorik’s privacy implicitly, choosing not to disclose what he’s found to Torres.

EMH: I assume this is your first Pon farr? There's nothing to be embarrassed about. It's a normal biological function. I'll do what I can to help you through it, but I'll need a little more information.
VORIK: We do not discuss it.
EMH: I'm afraid you'll have to.

Reluctantly, but for the benefit of those who had not seen “Amok Time” or ST3 recently, Vorik gives a brief primer on the ritual and informs the Doctor that he doesn’t want any kind of treatment. He will instead attempt some masturb--meditation exercises in his quarters. I’d like to think that in the last 100 years, with more and more Vulcans serving in the Starfleet, the Vulcans themselves began to develop alternate means of coping with the Pon Farr. It would certainly be healthier than what we’ve seen so far. The Doctor fits him with the neck tech and confines him to his masturbatorium for the time being.

He hasn’t given up on his intent to treat the young ensign however, as the next thing we see, he’s complaining to Tuvok about the chaotic readings he’s getting from the neck tech.

TUVOK: It is inappropriate for me to involve myself in Ensign Vorik's personal situation.
EMH: For such an intellectually enlightened race, Vulcans have a remarkably Victorian attitude about sex.
TUVOK: That is a very human judgement, Doctor.
EMH: Then here's a Vulcan one. I fail to see the logic in perpetuating ignorance about a basic biological function.

There’s some snappy dialogue in this script, and Russ and Picardo make for an amusing double act. Through what you could almost call gritted teeth (for a Vulcan), Tuvok explains the possible resolutions to the Pon Farr; mating, ritual combat, or this meditation. Frustrated, the EMH dismisses Tuvok.

We catch up with the mining team--which is now three whole people...wow--in the transporter room. Torres is...chipper? Is that the word? She shows Tom “the most accessible vein” (ahem) of magic mineral and quickly lays out their plan. The trio beams down and examines the remains of the abandoned colony. Paris and Neelix note that the level of structural decay and the age of the ruin (about 60 years) do not match, but Torres is very impatient to get started on the excavation *wink *wink.

So they climb and they banter accompanied by one of those really bland Chattaway scores which, after watching ST3, feels even blander than it is. Neelix’ techno-piton fails and he plummets down a chasm, accidentally taking Torres with him. She’s fine, but Neelix has broken his leg. I say she’s fine, but the accident has pissed her off and she starts ranting about how unqualified Neelix is to be rigging safety equipment. Her words are fair but her tone is...mmm, about at “Caretaker” levels. Amid the ranting, she bites Paris’ neck and then decides to mine the kiloton of ore herself. Okay yeah, this is beyond “Caretaker.”

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

Paris reports his predicament to Janeway...

PARIS [OC]: And she seemed to be enjoying it, in a Klingon kind of way. She's really not herself.

Like I said, this script does not want for wit. Anyway, before the captain can begin Operation Klingon Snatch Block, Tuvok requests a delay to exposit a theory. We cut to Vorik’s quarters where the ensign is in the midst of trying to purge himself of sexual feelings. Tuvok interrupts him (and apologises), but one of the things that makes Tuvok such a great Vulcan is the fact that he really is logical to a fault. So despite the embarrassment, he asks Vorik to explain exactly what kind of contact he had with Torres. Vorik’s account confirms Tuvok’s suspicion that he initiated a telepathic mating bond. So, can Vulcan females become pregnant from mind melds, or how exactly does that work? Anyway, Torres may not be pregnant, but she’s definitely gotten an STI from Vorik; he has passed the Pon Farr into her. Tuvok surmises that the condition in a half Klingon could be even more extreme than it is in Vulcans. More extreme than thrown soup?! Perish the thought!

Anyway, Tuvok and Chakotay join Paris on the planet, wearing their absurd climbing gear. Neelix is hauled to the surface (what a great use of his character, huh?) and the trio pursue their horny engineer. She is crawling out of her skin, but quite intent on completing the mission to haul an entire ton of ore back to the Voyager by herself. Her search reveals something unexpected, however, as the mineral readings are emanating from a power conduit, just like in “Phage.” The trio catch up with her and explain that she needs medical treatment. To say it’s uncomfortable for three men to be telling a woman that her sexual feelings are a sign of illness and that she needs to do what they tell her is...unfortunate. What the hell is Kes doing? Couldn’t she have come along like she did in “The 37s”? That would have...helped a bit. Anyway, before this turns into “Susannah in Space,” a collection of aliens emerge from behind the rocks holding weapons and train them on the quartet.

Act 3 : ***, 17% 

While Chakotay and the head alien engage in the standard diplomatic exposition, Torres writhes about uncomfortably in the background. I should note that Dawson is actually quite good at this (something to bear in mind when we eventually get to “Bounty”). Yeah, Torres is getting horny and aggressive from a medical condition brought on by a non-consensual (albeit brief) sex act which, yikes, but at least she’s not *performing* her sexuality for the men around her the way, say, Tasha Yar did in “The Naked Now” or Troi did in “Man of the People” or every other woman in the Mirror Universe. So, feminism? Eh.

The plot gods have become bored with this scene and so there’s a minor earth quake, setting off alarms in the cave set. One of the aliens grabs Torres to try and protect her from a collapsing wall. In her state, she responds with her fists leading to the drawing of weapons on both sides. Tuvok is dismayed to discover his phaser won’t fire however. They continue to scuffle and the camera shakes until finally Torres and Paris find themselves isolated and in possession of a gun that does work. They bicker a bit, per their idiom. Torres is still on the train to crazy town, but we do get to spend a little time with their real dynamic. Her aggression has been kicked into overdrive and Tom’s snark has been notched up to match it, but he never crosses the line. He doesn’t let her off the hook for being defensive and hostile, but he’s still respectful. It’s reminiscent in a way of the chemistry between Crusher and Picard. One doesn’t let the other get away with certain behaviours which, for the majority, keep them at an emotional distance.

On the Voyager, the Doctor completes a minor procedure of Vorik and restates his concern over the seeming lack of progress in the masturbatorium.

VORIK: No. I will deal with this myself.
EMH: Ensign, your life is at risk.
VORIK: You don't understand. How well a Vulcan copes with this experience is a test of his character...I know that self-sufficiency is very important to a Vulcan, but there is nothing shameful in getting a little guidance every once in a while.

Aww, look at you dismantling toxic masculinity, “Voyager.” Good for you. Anyway, the Doctor thinks what Vorik needs is a little holo-porn to make his efforts more successful. Seems logical to me. He introduces the young ensign to T’Pera, an holographic Vulcan prostitute in the resort programme.

VORIK: She's a hologram. She isn't real.
EMH: Then I assume you have the same low regard for me.
VORIK: You're a skilled physician, Doctor, but let me point out the limitations to your own experience with physical matters.
EMH: I believe we're discussing your sexual difficulties at the moment, Ensign.

Zerp. There’s actually some substance here, floating above the wit. The Doctor infers that the resolution to the Pon Farr takes place in the mind, despite the overtly physical nature of sex. And that’s as true for humans as it is for Vulcans. “Koon-ut-kal-if-fee” : the whole allegory of the Pon Farr is designed as this overwhelming need for physical release subduing an otherwise ordered and calm (male) mind. But why then is some sort of Vulcan masturbation virtually unheard of? And why don’t Vorik’s exercises seem to be working? Because the need in question isn’t really physical at its core; it’s psychological, it’s emotional, just as it is for us. So the challenge for Vorik is to master his own feelings such that the holo-lady here provides him the emotional connection he needs. It is a wonderful paradox for a Vulcan--extreme mental discipline engendering emotional release. And Picardo describing mental discipline with the intonation of a phone sex operator is the cherry on top.

Speaking of fooling oneself, Torres doesn’t want to buy Tom’s explanation of her condition. The implications of biting him on the face finally seems to break through to her. Tom is white-knighted again as he snidely suggests that Torres can heal herself by bonding with Vorik, intentionally igniting her indignation so as to motivate her to get back to the Voyager and get treatment from the Doctor. The pair continue until they run into some rocks blocking their path. Torres points her gun at it and Paris tries to wrestle it away from her lest she get them killed. This aggression is naturally pant-moistening for the half-Klingon.

PARIS: B'Elanna, stop it! This isn't about the gun. This is about sex. But that's not gonna happen right now.
TORRES: I think it is. See, I have picked up your scent, Tom. I've tasted your blood.
PARIS: No. No. I'm your friend, and I have to watch out for you when your judgement's been impaired. If you let these instincts take over now, you'll hate yourself, and me too for taking advantage of you. I won't do that.

Okay good. I’m actually reminded a little bit of “If Wishes Were Horses,” or rather, something that abysmal episode could have used. Early Bashir and early Paris aren’t terribly dissimilar, especially when it comes to their sexual proclivities. On DS9, Bashir was presented with a version of Dax who was into him, horribly dumbed down, and flighty. The story had the opportunity to explore just why Julian would be so insecure as to have that kind of childish fantasy, to show a little depth in his character. It opted instead to make Bashir and his boner the butt of several jokes. Worse still, the real Dax is made to look petty and insecure in her own right when she *argues* with the fantasy conjuring. We saw in “Twisted” how Torres regards Paris’ own rakish nature (“He’s a pig, and so are you.”). Paris has spent the last year and a half or so (“Faces,” “Investigations,” “Basics”) proving that he has more to offer than piloting skills, sarcasm, and STIs from feather-headed aliens. And we saw in “The Swarm” that, while she may still find Tom a little piggish, B’Elanna has begun to respect him as a person and appreciate his friendship, cautiously. Anyway, Paris is being presented with a “If Wishes Were Horses” version of Torres, except it’s really her. Where Bashir leaned into his fantasy, Paris demonstrates that his relationship with Torres is more important to him than fulfilling his own desires. I don’t want to overstate things here and lionise Tom for not being a rapist. I mean...it’s very good he’s not a rapist, but let’s not give him a medal or anything. What I’m saying is that it’s not just about Tom respecting the fact that Torres is incapable of offering consent in her current condition, something he had better extend to any person, it’s that he understands B’Elanna’s feelings *specifically,* as someone who has bothered to get to know her. “You’ll hate yourself,” he says, alluding to a central feature of her character, not to mention something he can probable empathise with more than might be obvious.

Act 4 : ***, 17% 

The aliens continue to question Tuvok and Chakotay with suspicion. They are especially interested in an artificial implant in Tuvok’s arm and their medical technology generally. Hmmm. The aliens (the Zachary Quintos or whatever) are dismayed that their efforts to remain hidden from outsiders weren’t fully successful. In a diplomatic overture, Chakotay offers to help them better conceal themselves in the future.

ISHAN: My people never even knew who the invaders were or why they attacked. It was all over in less than an hour. Some of the colonists were fortunate enough to escape into the mines. We've lived here ever since, where it's safe. If the invaders ever learned of our existence here, they might return.

Hmmmmm. Anyway, there’s another plot tremor and Paris and Torres find themselves even more desperate than before, having lost their phaser in the cave-in. B’Elanna continues to struggle with her urges, taunting Tom for his obvious desire for her. In her deliberately clumsy efforts to manipulate him into fucking her, she reveals that she has been paying attention. She mocks him for his wayward glances and invitations to dinner, etc. but what goes unstated is the fact that, well, we know exactly how Torres responds to unwelcome advances (just ask Vorik and his broken jaw from the teaser). So the fact that she maintained a friendship with Tom despite being fully aware of his ulterior motivations suggests that on some level she shares them.

PARIS: Oh, believe me, I'd like to, but I know this isn't really you. You've made it clear that you're not interested, and I have to accept that's how you feel, even now.
TORRES: No. No, it isn't. I was, I was just afraid to admit it. You see, I've wanted this for so long....
PARIS: I hope someday you'll say that to me and mean it.

Their brief kiss is earned in a way Trek rarely does. “Lessons,” “Rejoined” and a few other moments come to mind but, despite a lot of kisses over the years, it’s damned uncommon for it to feel right.

Back on the holo-resort, the Doctor checks in on Vorik and finds him seeming back to normal. The EMH is thrilled (as to be expected) with his own success and starts to ponder sharing his discovery with every doctor in the AQ before Vorik’s stern look shuts him down. The Doctor reports to Janeway and assumes he’ll be able to treat Torres in the same way. The captain is pleased enough, but the episode has earned another moment of humour. Mulgrew knows how cast a funny look herself as Janeway eyes the Doctor sceptically.

In the cave, Torres’ condition is worsening. Like Spock, she is starting to forget some of her emotional outbursts connected to the Pon Farr, a bad sign. Chakotay and co. finally dig them out and the group clambers its way to the surface. When they call for a beam-out, the Voyager fails to respond, however.

TUVOK: I am concerned about the rapid progression of her symptoms. You must help her now, Mister Paris. If she does not resolve the Pon farr, she will die.

I am again asking why Kes wasn’t sent along on Chakotay’s team. It would be nice to get a medical opinion and the opinion of another woman rather than this borderline sophomoric shit. ***If*** we assume that Tuvok is right, and the alternatives are consent-free sex or death, I suppose logic dictates that rape is the better option. But that’s a big if, and it unfortunately doubles down on the more toxic elements from TOS. It’s a shame, because up until this point, the script managed to pretty skilfully move us away from that “nut or die” dynamic without breaking continuity with “Amok Time.”

Act 5 : **.5, 17%

PARIS: So this is the part where you throw heavy objects at me?
TORRES: Maybe later.

Being able to laugh at yourself during sex is actually very healthy, folks. This is good. Well, having cemented the fact that these two *do* have good chemistry, Ensign Blue Balls grabs Torres and rips her off of Paris declaring her to be HIS MATE. Okay, I think I’ve seen this movie before...I sense a threesome coming...

Instead, Vorik calls for Tuvok who is hilariously like 8 metres away from where Tom and B’Elanna were about to bone (Vulcan tradition demands that I watch you from the bushes, lieutenant). He declares “Koon-ut-kal-if-fee” which is Vulcan for “Death or Snu Snu.” So, if Vorik is declaring Kal-if-fee, then he is in the T’Pring position from “Amok Time,” right? Except he is the one going through the Pon Farr, which would put him in the Spock position. Since he’s linked with Torres, that makes her the T’Pring. And Paris is Stonn, then? It’s more than a little confusing, but I guess we’re going to go with it. Speaking of go with it, apparently Vorik shut down the communications, the scanner, the transporters AND all of the shuttles before somehow getting himself down here. Lol okay sure.

CHAKOTAY: Just hold on. Neither of you are thinking straight right now.
TUVOK: They are following their instincts, and I suggest we allow them to do so.
CHAKOTAY: You mean let them fight?
TUVOK: It is logical. Both must resolve their Pon farr before it kills them. We cannot wait to hear from Voyager.
PARIS: They'll tear each other to pieces.

Again, I’d really like to hear from a doctor...and yeah, I guess we’re also just glossing over the fact that someone is supposed to (at least appear to) die in order for the kal-if-fee to resolve the blood fever, but again, I guess we’re just supposed to go with it. Anyway, they fight and I suppose it’s vaguely and superficially feminist that Vorik doesn’t hold back in trying to beat Torres to death (including pummelling her with a branch) and she gives it right back. He passes out, which I guess we can say appears enough like death to resolve the Pon Farr in both of them. Yeah...this is not series’ finest hour.

Anyway, we the plot is also resolved back on the Voyager where Tom and B’Elanna share an awkward turbolift ride together.

TORRES: Look, Tom, I really appreciate what you did, what you were willing to do for me. But as far as I'm concerned, I was under the influence of some weird Vulcan chemical imbalance, and, and whatever I did, whatever I said, it wasn't me.
PARIS: Yeah, I know. You're afraid that your big, scary Klingon side might have been showing. Well, I saw it up close, and you know, it wasn't so terrible. In fact, I wouldn't mind seeing it again someday. Computer, resume.
TORRES: Careful what you wish for, Lieutenant.

Cute. And promising.

In the final seconds, Chakotay and Janeway reveal a corpse of one of the mysterious invaders on the surface; a Borg drone. Since I was lucky enough to have purged those awful UPN trailers from my memory, I have to say this was a pretty effective teaser to end the episode.

Episode as Functionary : ***.5, 10%

Functionally, this story is nearly perfect. The character work with Torres and Paris was pretty excellent throughout and felt completely organic to the series, supplemented by a believable chemistry between Dawson and MacNeil. The mystery with the invaders intersecting the Voyager’s continued progress through the DQ helps us feel like we’re getting somewhere in the overarching plot of the series. Vorik’s continued presence helps the ship feel more lived-in and like there’s a larger community outside our main cast. And, with the exception of the final fight, the way the story borrows and subverts the lore from “Amok Time” is smart and entertaining. Throw in some predictably strong and humorous characterisation from Picardo and Russ and you’ve got a really good episode overall.

The weakness really is to do primarily with the fact that, apparently in search of a more “exciting” conclusion, the story accidentally doubles down on that 1960s toxicity it had otherwise skilfully subverted, coupled with a less-than-convincing performance from Enberg, and another bland Chattaway score.

The fact that the EMH’s masturbation therapy failed is not something to dismiss. As I said, what works about the “Amok Time” subversion is the fact that the core of the Pon Farr is emotional and psychological. In retrospect, what we learn about Vulcans is that the hyper-Darwinistic conceit about the drive to mate breaking their discipline is more of a cover-up for a deeper need within the Vulcan soul for companionship and connection. The fact that this is a biological function in the males dovetails nicely with the episode’s delicate efforts to dismantle toxic masculinity. This is much more effective and coherent than the clumsy sexism of the Kazon.

Final Score : ***
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Sat, Nov 21, 2020, 11:36am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: For the Uniform

@Jaxon

"Earth is the indigenous, centrally located homeworld of the premier race of the Federation, not some remote frontier planet of colonists living on a disputed border with another power...colonists that knew that going in."

I don't love the class dynamics that this sets up. Being a "premiere race" has some...eugenic overtones that I actually find kind of disturbing.

"Gosheven was pretty much to Data what Eddington is to Sisko here, and in both, our series regular was driven to increasing desperation by the provocative guest star's intransigence."

I see what you mean. Goshevan's status as the colony's authority figure is threatened by Data and his overwhelming larger perspective and abilities, just as Eddington is awarded a status he "shouldn't" have by turning the Maquis insurrection into a romantic fantasy, and is threatened by, well, reality. The comparison falls apart when we examine the motivations of the regulars and the Federation, however. Data was trying to save a group of people from their own ignorance without applying the kind of force that would violate their human rights.

DATA: I admire your conviction in the face of certain defeat. Though doomed, your effort will be valiant. And when you die, you will die for land and honour. Your children will understand that they are dying for a worthy cause. Long after the battle is over, their courage will be remembered and extolled...I can reduce this pumping station to a pile of debris, but I trust my point is clear. I am one android with a single weapon. There are hundreds of Sheliak on the way and their weapons are far more powerful. They may not offer you a target. They can obliterate you from orbit. You will die never having seen the faces of your killers. The choice is yours.

Sisko has no such ambitions with Eddington or the Maquis. He just wants to beat his opponent and succeed in his mission. So while there may be some tactical similarities, Sisko isn't interested in saving lives, obviously.

@William B

"Ergo I think no one died and we have to accept this."

Like I said, I stopped viewing Sisko as a moral leader many seasons ago. He pretty much permanently lost my respect in "Through the Looking Glass." So my views on how his characterisation undermines subsequent stories (ItPML is the centrepiece, of course) doesn't necessarily depend on interpreting Sisko's actions one way or the other here. But it certainly is frustrating in isolation.

"I mean I understand what happens, I am just not clear on the meaning behind it."

To me it seems clear that the meaning behind it is that it is necessary sometimes for the Good Guys to get their hands dirty and become the villain, yadda yadda yadda. But that necessarily means that Sisko's actions against the Maquis planet were villainous. So the message seems to demand we interpret the poisoning as having killed people. Maybe the intention is that Sisko is repeating the Federation's script writ large regarding the DMZ in forcing people to once again abandon their homes, and that itself is the immoral action justified by a higher purpose. That's probably the most generous interpretation I can muster. But of course we are right back into the original flawed framework of the Maquis as a concept. The series assumes the Maquis are in the right for wanting to remain on their colonies even though this means perpetual war with Cardassia.

"It's interesting that you describe yourself as having passed the point of being as exasperated with series' negative features. I had gotten the impression you felt somewhat less coolly toward Sisko in/since season 4."

I think the characterisation of Sisko has improved over the last 2 seasons. Brooks has softened and I find many of his interpersonal relationships to be moving, even in episodes that don't fully work for me, especially with Kassidy. But the show hasn't actually corrected his character flaws or held him accountable for his actions. The show is proud of its creation and apparently sees no need to self-reflect. I just don't have the energy to sustain outrage over this unfortunate reality over so many episodes. It is what it is and I accept it, though I don't excuse it.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Thu, Nov 19, 2020, 11:16pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: For the Uniform

Teaser : ***, 5% 

Sisko’s log plays over a scene of himself, getting us up to speed on the Eddington storyline. Apparently, amidst everything else that has happened since “For the Cause,” Sisko has been tasked with ferreting out and capturing his former Security Officer and fellow bald antihero. Ben is in civilian garb on a planet full of human refugees near the Badlands. Uh huh. Just so we’re clear: these are people who renounced their Federation citizenships in order to remain in their homes in what is now disputed territory, but officially the property of Cardassia. Having found the Maquis apparently insufficient to protect them (although this is hardly consistent with what we were supposed to see as remarkably effective terrorism in previous stories), these humans are now living in squalor. Either they are too proud to crawl back to the Federation and seek asylum or the Federation is too spiteful to offer its own people the kind of grace and compassion it shows complete strangers. We get to choose which absurd and cynical option is best, lucky us.

Sisko is looking for a contact called Sink Pot or something, and he is surreptitiously gestured to a chamber. Sisko reaches for his phaser but is out-manoeuvred and captured by Eddington himself. Eddington admits to marooning Sink Pot for his betrayal.

EDDINGTON: You just don't understand the Maquis, do you, Captain? We're not killers. Mister Cing'ta's accident has marooned him on a particularly nasty planet in the Badlands, but I assure you he's very much alive.
SISKO: How merciful. You condemned him to a slow death.
EDDINGTON: It's more than he deserved. He was going to sell us out to you. He betrayed us.

Thus we establish the motif for this episode; two worms clamouring for position atop Mount Moral Superiority, neither having realised the mountain is a molehill. Sisko makes the valid point that Eddington has conveniently ignores all of the deceit and harm he has caused when casting himself as a martyr. Eddington in turn makes Sisko look at the refugees outside.

SISKO: It's not that simple and you know it. These people don't have to live here like this. We've offered them resettlement.
EDDINGTON: They don't want to be resettled. They want to go home to the lives they built. How would you feel if the Federation gave your father's home to the Cardassians?

We have actually seen that Joseph Sisko, despite holding very libertarian beliefs about his own autonomy, recognises the need for compromise when faced with existential threats (c.f. “Paradise Lost”). “They don’t *want* to be resettled!” Okay, well then I guess they *want* to be refugees. If the writers let him exercise it, Sisko can easily dismantle Eddington’s arguments and expose him (to the audience) for the petulant little renegade he is. Typically, critical points are awkwardly omitted in order to suggest ethical ambiguity where there is none. Now I get why, narratively, they would want to do this. It makes for a more compelling story if neither character is truly in the right or the wrong, but, as with pretty much everything else to do with the Maquis, contriving this ambiguity requires breaking the edicts of the universe these characters inhabit. And, while the intentionality of this damage is debatable, the effect is the same; an unearned undermining of the core tenants of Star Trek. But mercifully, Sisko is finally permitted a decent rebuttal to Eddington’s silliness.

SISKO: You know what I see out there, Mister Eddington? I see victims, but not of Cardassia or the Federation. Victims of you, the Maquis. You sold these people on the dream that one day they could go back to those farms, and schools, and homes, but you know they never can. And the longer you keep that hope alive, the longer these people will suffer.

Eddington warns Sisko not to pursue him, which he immediately ignores. Kira aboard the defiant is able to trace the transporter signal and give chase after recovering Sisko.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Sisko has assembled pretty much the entire senior staff for this little trip which...I sure hope there aren’t any Maquis spies on DS9 who might take advantage of such a power vacuum. Again. Anyway, Sisko thinks he’s devised a way to capture Eddington before he escapes into the Badlands and so uses the brand new holo-communicator to contact Captain Sanders on the Malinche. I don’t really have a strong opinion about the communicator. It makes sense from an in-Universe technology point of view, but I don’t think it really adds anything to the production. Why is Captain Sanders standing on his own bridge while Sisko sits in his chair? Pretty goofy. Also, kind of poor taste to be flaunting new toys when you just left a planet full of starving children, but so it goes. Sanders is more than happy to allow Sisko to capture Eddington personally, because we all know that military strategy is governed by the untamed egos of its leaders.

Sisko confidently prepares to execute his plan, but Eddington appears to be channelling Danar from “The Hunted,” out-witting Sisko and the overpowered Defiant. A computer virus is unleashed, some how, and shuts the Defiant down completely. Eddington taps into the holo-communicator and brags about his victory before taking a few pot shots at Sisko. He accuses the captain of making things personal, which we just saw is absolutely the truth. He then says that the Maquis’ real enemy is the Cardassians, and that if Starfleet leaves them alone, the gesture will be repaid in kind. If only we hadn’t seen numerous instances of the Maquis stealing equipment from the Federation, thus making the Federation culpable for the Maquis’ actions, he would almost have a point.

Despite the inescapable gumbified logic at play, Brooks and Marshall have some pretty scintillating chemistry which helps to hold the scenes together.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

Sisko explains in his log that the Melinche had to tow the Defiant back to DS9, delivered with unambiguous spite that, if you didn’t already know, tells you exactly what kind of man Sisko is. O’Brien explains that it will take him a couple of weeks to repair the Defiant. Odo explains that Eddington’s computer viruses could have, at any time, disabled the entire station. This is the kind of thing that strains credibility when enacted by Data or Seven of Nine, but the idea that Security Officer and Musical Theatre Enthusiast Michael Eddington has tech abilities that surpass Miles AND can outwit Odo for the better part of a year is, well, completely absurd. However, it does play into Eddington’s theme: he’s in control, but he won’t harm anyone unless Sisko forces his hand. Worf reports that the Maquis have stolen some innocuous-seeming cargo from some Bolians (I assume shaving cream and space cologne?) and then finally Sisko is left alone in his office--or rather would be if Sanders didn’t step in to deliver some more disappointing news. Sisko has been usurped on the Eddington pursuit.

SANDERS: Starfleet also believes that where Eddington is concerned, you're vulnerable.

I don’t want to complain, because this is the most level-headed decision Starfleet has made in a while, but when has this kind of vulnerability/volatility in Sisko’s character kept him off important assignments before? His whole mission as DS9’s commander is a conflict of interest given his status as Emissary; his girlfriend is a convicted Maquis enabler; his first officer has disobeyed him multiple times, even recently without consequence...I think if they’re going to call Sisko out for something, having a revenge boner for Eddington should be pretty low on the list.

Benjamin Sisko is a man who punches people when he’s in a good mood, so it should come as no surprise that we cut to him on the holosuite massacring a literal punching bag while Dax briefs him on the latest news. She gently reminds him that he’s going to have to “let this one go,” which is the kind of sagacity I wish we got more of from the ancient Trill. I also like that this seems to be the advice of a fully-integrated Jadzia. Curzon would probably have stoked his friend on in his melodramatic man pain.

Right on cue, Worf and Kira report that Eddington has upped the ante by attacking a Cardassian settlement with a deadly biogenic weapon. One detail not to be missed here: the weapon is only deadly to Cardassians, which would seem to fit into Eddington’s theme, once again. However, this wasn’t a military base, it was a civilian colony. Eddington has murdered innocent people because they are of the same race as a government the Maquis has decided is their enemy. This kind of escalation is more than enough to justify more extreme measures on Starfleet’s part, and I would argue that Sisko is justified in making the call to take the Defiant to the Badlands (the Malinche is too far away). But...

KIRA: So unless they stop Eddington, the Maquis have turned the tide.

That’s what sets Sisko off, not the callous murder of civilians, but the fact that Eddington might *win.* Oh, and just to add to the absurdity here, Eddington is *also* a master alchemist as he was able to reverse-engineer those benign Bolian hair gels and pomades into the nerve agent they used, a process so obscure that Dax didn’t realise it was possible until after the fact. Sisko barks “Defiant” and the command crew assemble on the lift. Dax, presumably because she doesn’t have a punching bag to protect her face with, says nothing more about letting things go. Disappointing.

Act 3 : **, 17% 

To pad out the story, I mean, I mean...because drama, the damage to the Defiant is forcing the crew to utilise a number of “low-tech” options to get their warp-powered brass knuckle to function, including using Nog as a courier. Dax is given one more chance to follow through on her character maturity from earlier...

SISKO: [Tell me] that I have lost all perspective. That I'm turning this into a vendetta between me and Eddington, and that I'm putting the ship, the crew and my entire career at risk, and if I had any brains at all I'd go back to my office, sit down and read Odo's crime reports.

But she drops the ball.

DAX: Actually, what I was thinking is, you're becoming more like Curzon all the time..the next time I go off half-cocked on some wild-eyed adventure, think back to this moment and be a little more understanding.

Oh, are we supposed to laugh? Is it funny that she’s enabling her friend and captain to indulge his worst instincts and put them all, including teenage Cadet Nog, in mortal danger? Ha ha. What mirth.

The french horns swell in an attempt to make us think that two friends actively encouraging each other to be worse is inspirational, and we are subjected...I mean *treated* to more padding...I mean excitement, as the Defiant and her crew utilise submarine movie clichés that will make your teeth hurt with their saccharine sincerity. I’m not about to summarise any of this. I accept that this kind of bullshit is appealing to some viewers, but I feel like I’m watching a group of 12-year-olds play a video game, which I can’t say does a damned thing for me. Honestly, to me this feels like a production crew that wishes it were working on another show, maybe one with corded phones and viper jets.

Anyway, they track down Eddington and cue him up on the holo-communicator (which is working perfectly). Eddington transmits Sisko a copy of Les Misérables and warns him that he’s going to lose once again. Sisko confidently locks weapons on the Maquis ship and tells Jean ValTwerp here that “it’s over.” Sisko doesn’t seem to register that Eddington isn’t remotely concerned about having apparently been trapped. And we have seen example after example of him demonstrating subterfuge skills unbelievably above his station, so...how about some healthy scepticism? No? You’re just going to be an idiot? Okay then. Eddington cuts the signal and Kira reports that the ship they thought they found was a decoy.

Sisko starts screaming at his crew for more speed and to start piling care bears into warp core or whatever until they come across the Malinche, which has been rendered adrift by a Maquis attack. So now Sisko’s self-absorption has gotten his fellow uniformed officers injured or worse. Someone call for a slow clap.

Act 4 : **, 17% 

Sanders sheepishly makes contact on the holo-communicator. Man these things can survive anything, can’t they? He explains how the Maquis fooled him and his crew and, displaying more of that toxic attitude that should have been eradicated centuries ago, bolsters Sisko’s ambition, encouraging him to finish the mission. He is able to offer a small bit of intelligence in the hopes it will help and then logs off holo-Zoom.

They contact Odo using holo-Zoom (we really are meant to believe that internal comms are down but this thing can call DS9?) and after a few hours, he’s able to decipher the intelligence. Odo deduces that Eddington’s signal to his comrades is meant to direct them towards a Breen settlement (don’t ask). He and Sisko strengthen their far-fetched assumptions with some racial essentialism (always a standby for Odo) and so the Defiant is off once again.

Sisko makes some more wild assumptions meant to be construed as insightful and leads his people to the sight of another biogenic attack on a Cardassian colony. They’re too late to help any of the dying Cardies (apparently), but Kira does pick up space readings that lead them to two Maquis raiders. Sisko, erm, destroys one of them without a second’s thought. Maybe after this is over, they can beam Eddington’s vaporised remains into the brig. I’ll...come back to that.

The other Maquis-class ship fires on a Cardassian civilian vessel shepherding survivors off the planet and Eddington holo-Zooms and says, “Take my hand, and lead me to salva-a-ation...”
I know I’m breaking the timeline here, but when Janeway loses her shit in “Equinox,” her crew berate her for considering unethical options while here, Sisko’s crew is completely silent. Like I said, Starfleet has a lot of other shit to worry about regarding Sisko’s command besides Javertitis. Anyway, Sisko does make the sane choice, thankfully, and abandons his pursuit to rescue the Cardassian transport.

Act 5 : *.5, 17%

Dax finds Sisko moping like a 6-year-old in the mess hall and notifies him that they’ve successfully rescued the Cardassians. Sisko’s reading Les Mis and Jadzia informs him that she doesn’t much care for Victor Hugo for failing the Bechdel test or something.

SISKO: Eddington compares me to one of the characters, Inspector Javert...in the end Javert's own inflexibility destroys him. He commits suicide.
DAX: You can't believe that description fits you?

Jadzia...what happened to “you’re going to have to let this one go?” Now it’s, “just because you aren’t letting this one go doesn’t mean you’ve gone too far, buddy!” In keeping with the Star Trek tradition of drawing inspiration from works outside of copyright, they suspect that Eddington’s liberation fantasy can be exploited. I do like that this calls all the way back to his line from “The Adversary”:

EDDINGTON: People don't enter Starfleet to become commanders, or admirals for that matter. It's the captain's chair that everyone has their eye on. That's what I wanted when I joined up, but you don't get to be a Captain wearing a gold uniform.

That’s an appreciable subtlety in characterisation. And so, Sisko follows the logical thread.

SISKO: In the best melodramas the villain creates a situation where the hero is forced to sacrifice himself for the people, for the cause. One final grand gesture.
DAX: What are you getting at, Benjamin?
SISKO: I think it's time for me to become the villain.

I’m pretty sure we crossed that bridge many years ago, Captain, but I’m glad you’re finally coming to terms with it. Moving on.

SISKO: Major, what is the nearest Maquis colony.
KIRA: Solosos Three. Less than an hour away.

I’m sorry, what now? “Maquis colony”? So...so...the Maquis (a group of terrorists who have renounced their Federation citizenships and engaged in illegal theft and abuse of Federation technology and supplies in acts of aggression against a Federation ally) have *colonies* of which the Federation are completely aware. And Sisko has spent eight months failing to catch Eddington? And...and the Federation hasn’t seen it fit to, I don’t know, ARREST the people living on Solosos Three? Oh for fuck’s sake.

Well, Sisko embraces his villainy and decides to poison Solosos Three instead. But he issues an hour-warning to...an entire planet. He frames the attack as a measured response to the Maquis’ use of biogenic weapons against the Cardassians, but he plainly doesn’t believe that for a second. The crew look stunned, but otherwise don’t hesitate in their act of state terrorism. YOU HAVE OPTIONS IN BETWEEN MURDERING AN ENTIRE PLANET AND GIVING UP. Jesus Christ. Kira notes that the Maquis have not begun to evacuate, which is supposed to mean something, I guess, but Sisko isn’t budging. At the last moment, Baldie VanCanada appears on the Zoom and presumes to call Sisko’s bluff. Sisko orders Worf to fire. Worf hesitates but then acquiesces. Sisko isn’t even willing to relieve his crew of duty and fire the things himself. He insists on making his own crew accessories to his terrorism. But you can’t expect The Sisko to get up off his ass to commit mass murder, can you? What a guy.

Well, the Defiant shoots and while the poison gas starts speeding across the atmosphere at what must be close to warp speed, the Maquis on the surface begin to “scramble” to evacuate. I’m sure they’ll be fine. Anyway, Eddington and Sisko spar a bit more as Brooks crosses the line into overacting (although, even I can be a little generous and say this plays into the notion of allowing Sisko to assume control of the theme: their story has become a melodrama, and Sisko is acting accordingly). Eddington relents and turns himself in. So, the villain won!

SISKO: Captain's log, supplemental. Resettlement efforts in the DMZ are underway. The Cardassian and Maquis colonists who were forced to abandon their homes will make new lives for themselves on the planets their counterparts evacuated. The balance in the region will be restored, though the situation remains far from stable.

And all the dead people? What’s up with them? This is critical because, if there are no dead people, then all that melodrama was totally vacuous. What drove the climax was the notion that Sisko was deliberately crossing the line and becoming a true villain in order to capture his prize. If he didn’t really do anything that bad, then this was all just a bunch of bluster and Eddington is a moron. Nice try, writers. Sigh, anyway Jadzia and Sisko make jokes and once again, the crew are excused for capital crimes off screen. I’m sure next week, Sisko will have another commendation to pin on his uniform. That must be what the episode was really about all along: For the Uniform To Be Embellished.

Episode as Functionary : *.5, 10%

The good thing about this episode coming in mid season 5 is that I just don’t have enough scorn left for this series to get that worked up about it any more. There isn’t much Sisko can do to fall lower in my estimation of him, so I can’t say this did any damage to his character. The immersion-breaking notion that these people can do whatever they want without any consequences from Starfleet is now its own trope within the show. The habit of padding out episodes with military-fetish silliness doesn’t even phase me at this point. I have to say I was disappointed that Jadzia was turned to mush by the end. For a moment there, it looked like she was actually going to hold her friend and leader accountable for his actions, but instead she goes back to being the cheerleader.

All of that said, some of the characterisation was nice. Eddington and Sisko really do have good chemistry and the Les Mis motif was well-incorporated, even if the overt references (“What are you really up to, Javert?”) were pretty forced. It would be different if this were a dynamic established earlier in their relationship, like Sisko calling Dax “Old Man,” but some of this was a little corny for me.

I have remarked in the past that I don’t mind the idea of deconstructing the Star Trek ethos or even undermining it, if it’s done with some skill and grace. In order to make this line of thinking work, Sisko needs to become antagonistic with Starfleet. Starfleet needs to view Sisko and his amoral approach to leadership as a liability which would then be proved to be a mistake when any number of upcoming Dominion shenanigans take place. The argument needs to be that what Starfleet and the Federation are *as they are* is wrong, even if it’s for the best of reasons. That’s a cynical view that I don’t share, but it’s a valid one for the show to hold. Instead, Sisko is apparently one of Starfleet’s most decorated officers. Starfleet has already made the choice, off screen, to change its essential nature and become an amoral police/military protecting Federation interests in the mould of Necheyev or Maxwell. That’s not a compelling subversion, that’s cheap, lazy and easy. You don’t have to construct careful arguments when your target is stuffed with straw.

This episode actually presents a microcosm of what’s wrong with DS9. The moment when Sisko decides to poison the Maquis colony (again, if they know there are colonies, this insurrection should be deader than disco)...that moment is framed as the point at which Sisko crosses the line to antihero and puts the “good” guys in the position of doing evil things in order to survive. But this moment came AFTER Sisko blew up a ship full of human beings without even attempting to contact them, let alone disable and capture them. When Crazy Lady, a civilian, decided to destroy the Crystalline Entity which was EATING ENTIRE PLANETS, Picard had her arrested. So like I said, Sisko’s action in the series up to this point made it completely unsurprising that he would get so dark here in the same way his casual murder of those Maquis made his later escalation within the episode unsurprising. And without that twist of the knife, the emotional momentum which was carrying the episode up to then just sort of fizzles out.

“You ask me what forces me to speak? a strange thing; my conscience.”

Final Score : **
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Sun, Nov 15, 2020, 10:59am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S3: Coda

Teaser : **.5, 5% 

Janeway and Neelix are speed-walking down a corridor discussing all the fun the crew had at yesterday’s talent night. Janeway herself performed “the Dying Swan,” a choreography depicting a creature struggling against, and ultimately succumbing to death.

JANEWAY: Everyone had a lot of fun.

Okay then. Janeway and Chakotay continue the tradition of sending senior most officers together on routine shuttle missions alone where they they still can’t stop talking about talent night and Janeway’s dying swan. Despite the ludicrousness of the set-up here, I am once again won over by Mulgrew’s and Beltran’s chemistry and the lived-in humanity of their performances. This whole thing is a big load of DBI, but I’m just less annoyed by it because these feel like real people having a conversation instead of actors demonstrating to you that they are characters. Considering what we saw in “Resolutions,” I can easily imagine Janeway having arranged this absurd little mission so the two of them could get some alone time without arousing suspicion.

Anyway, they run into some space weather, naturally, and the consoles start a-sparking. After a few seconds, the cabin is filling with toxic gas and the shuttle is (unconvincingly) crash-landing on a planet. Well, this space-capable vessel is torn up badly, but the unbelted and un-airbagged Chakotay barely has a bump on his head. Captain Black Swan however appears to be seriously injured.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Beltran gets another opportunity to show his stuff, which manages to be melodramatic without descending into maudlin territory. He carries Janeway out to the planet and pleads with her to stay with him, performing the obligatory CPR. And in a final cheese-tastic flourish, Janeway miraculously awakens, calling Chakotay’s name. Yeah, these two are definitely fucking. While they make camp and prepare for “Resolutions Part Deux,” Chakotay notes phaser burns on the shuttle’s hull. Before long, they identify the weapons as Vidiian and detect some approaching lifeforms. They take cover in the ubiquitous cave set and are met by a dozen Vidiians holding weapons. Despite her (empty) threats, Captain Dying Swan, erm, dies, having been pretty gruesomely strangled by one of the Vidiians. Two for two, Captain.

And then, Janeway and Chakotay find themselves back in the shuttle talking about talent night. Unlike the clearly inspirational “Cause and Effect,” we skip over all the intrigue (although that would have been really derivative) as the pair realise after only seconds that they’re in some sort of time loop. Eh, I guess it pays to be genre-savvy.

In this iteration, our heroes detect the Vidiian vessel and try (and fail) to outrun/out-manoeuvre it. After another few seconds, the warp core explodes and we find ourselves back on Groundhog Day.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

This time, the pair detect not one but two Vidiian vessels headed their way. However, they are able to make contact with the Voyager this time and manage to get Tuvok up to speed before emitting a tachyon burst (tachyons are are like Windex for time anomalies).

Janeway’s burst of time magic erases the Vidiian vessels and so she and Chakotay make a happy return to the Voyager and step onto the bridge. After a few moments of conversation, it becomes clear that no one except Janeway has any memory of the time loop. Chakotay claims they ran into and escaped from the Vidiians.

So Janeway checks herself into sickbay where the Doctor has grim news; he’s diagnosed her with the Phage. The EMH’s explanation for how and why Janeway has become sick is extremely vague and...not entirely plausible, but this is by design. With that professional devotion we’ve come to expect, the Doctor pledges (again, echoing “Resolutions”) to work night and day until he can develop a treatment for her.

The captain is lain to rest--literally, and awakens days later covered in lesions.

JANEWAY: Have you? Is there any hope of a cure?
EMH: I regret to inform you that I have been unsuccessful.
JANEWAY: Then what's the next step?
EMH: I've given that a great deal of thought. The prospects are unpleasant, Captain. You face a lingering, painful death marked by increasing periods of dementia and eventual insanity.
JANEWAY: I see.
EMH: I've come to the conclusion that there's only one humane course of action.
JANEWAY: What's that?
EMH: Euthanasia.

Ope. Spoke too soon. The conversation escalates horrifically as the Doctor erects a force field, pumps the room full of poison gas, and we see the swan die yet again. But of course, that leads us back to the shuttle and flirtatious whispers of talent night.

If they had cut to commercial right here, it would have been an effective twist. It has been much longer since the last loop ended and the preceding murder was so engrossing and weird that we were effectively distracted from the conceit of the plot. The jarring juxtaposition of this reset was effective. But then we have to keep going with the shuttle encountering a glowing space anus. Chakotay suggests, like a lunatic, to fly into the thing for no reason. Janeway refuses and the shuttle explodes. Again.

Ah, but now things change. We return to the planet surface with Chakotay and his melodrama, trying to force Janeway back to life. But there’s also Spirit Janeway, watching herself die in his arms. I take back what I said about being genre-savvy. I have no idea what genre this is any more.

Act 3 : **, 17% 

As non-corpse Janeway realises she can’t touch anything or be heard by Chakotay, Tuvok makes contact and promises to beam them up immediately. Uh huh. So how is Ghost Janeway supposed to get back to the ship? Your guess is as good as mine because we just jump cut directly to the sickbay with corpse Janeway on the biobed and ghost Janeway in observance. Doc acts like himself again, managing to get a weak pulse, but it seems to finally be over. He notes her death in the log, Chakotay sulks off and Kes is sent off to the lab. Janeway pursues her, hoping her Ocampan mind powers might be able to sense what tricorders cannot. And indeed, when Kes walks through her, she notes Janeway’s presence.

Based on this experience, the senior staff hold a briefing where it’s decided they will put all their efforts into ghost-hunting. This is...absurd, but Janeway is pleased to see that her crew won’t let her go, so sound the happy French Horns. While Janeway monitors Torres and Kim in Engineering (they’re configuring the ship to scan for ghosts with science), the glowing space anus appears again out of which steps Admiral Every Republican Senator. Janeway identifies him as “Daddy” (good thing Chakotay didn’t hear).

Act 4 : **.5, 17% 

After mulling it over during the commercials, Janeway has become sceptical of Admiral Daddy (who is also invisible and intangible to the crew). He claims that she, like he many years before, has died and that this is the afterlife.

ADMIRAL: I went back to you, and your mother, and your sister after I died for a long time, until I realised it was futile. That's what happens when dead is unexpected. One's consciousness isn't prepared to let go.

Blegh. A lot of times in fiction, a writer will attempt to circumvent the impossible (that the incomprehensibility of the numinous cannot be explained in material terms) in order to make the audience *feel* the numinous. Great art manages this feat, to transport the observer or listener in a way which can be felt as transcendent. This scene seems intent on making death and heaven and hell seem incredibly boring. Jery Taylor can’t come up with anything more than “it’s full of joy and indescribable wonder.” What insight! And my what tension! See, Admiral Ghost Dad wants Janeway to enter the space anus with him, claiming that it’s the portal to heaven, and this is the best he can do. In the same vein, he describes a bout of depression Janeway suffered as a child when he died:

ADMIRAL: You spent months in bed, sleeping away your days rather than confronting your feelings. I'm not sure what would have happened if your sister hadn't forced you into the real world again.

This is just so vague and lazy that it utterly fails to connect us to the characters. This kind of flyby backstory is anaemic compared to the simple scene between Janeway and Chakotay in the shuttle. What a waste.

But I would also be remiss not to point out that he casually mentions that people in the 24th century apparently still believe in ghost stories. I can tolerate that silliness coming from Ro in “The Next Phase” because, well, she’s a Bajoran, and their sadistic wormhole overlords have programmed them to be credulous for many centuries. But the idea that humans haven’t evolved beyond that numb-skullery is some bullshit. DS9-level immersion-breaking bullshit.

Sigh...anyway, the Swan’s next step is Tuvok’s quarters where he is attempting to guide Kes into having another vision or whatever. But this time, Janeway’s presence is completely unheard. Frustrated, Kes breaks the meld and Tuvok concedes that they must accept the Captain’s death.

To the accompaniment of a lovely viola solo, Tuvok makes a private entry in his log, lamenting the loss of his dear friend. It’s nicely done, but it fails to dig down. Obviously, Tuvok isn’t going to get emotional, but we saw in “Alter Ego” how powerful his sublimated feelings can be if properly written and explored. I believe in his and Janeway’s deep friendship, but I need something more than just stating that it exists to be moved or enlightened, some admission by Tuvok of what exactly he has lost. Otherwise, it’s just a little cheap.

We then transition to Janeway’s memorial the next day. Torres is speaking. Where Chakotay’s teeth-gnashing was a bit over the top and Tuvok’s log was a little thin, I think this scene hits most of the right notes.

TORRES: In the beginning, I fought her...I kept looking for a hidden agenda. I actually believed that she'd set me up to fail. Well, I couldn't have been more wrong...She saw a worthwhile person, where I saw a lost and hostile misfit. And because she had faith in me I began to have faith in myself. And when she died, the first thing I thought was that I couldn't do this without her. That I needed her too badly. Her strength and her compassion. But then I realised that the gift that she gave me, and gave a lot of us here, was the knowledge that we are better and stronger than we think. I wish I had said these things to her.

I’m going to spoil the ending (because it sucks) and explain why I think this scene works. Janeway is not quite dead but is being fed images as she lay dying in order to convince her to give up on recovering. Some have interpreted the fact that what is supposed to placate Janeway is the crew falling over itself to sing her praises and inflate her ego, but I don’t think that’s it at all. The early iterations of her “death” were meant to shock her into believing she had died, had fucked up in some way to lead to her own demise. But that didn’t work. So this ghost story portion of the script is about giving her closure. She needs to know that Chakotay loved her, that Tuvok values their friendship, that Torres appreciates what she did for her and so forth so that she doesn’t feel like a failure. In the larger arc of Janeway’s character, I actually think this is an important piece.

I also just find the execution quite good. Dawson, Mulgrew, Beltran and even Wang are convincing in their measured grief. Harry, it should be noted, tells a story about picking space blueberries that I wish had been part of an episode we had actually seen, like we had with Torres’ story, but it’s still nicely conceived. So Janeway’s body is launched into space and Chakotay instructs the crew to honour her memory and move on. Admiral Daddy makes another plea for his daughter to join him in the paradise of the vague and her gaze continues to follow the path of her own corpse.

Act 5 : *, 17%

ADMIRAL: The only thing that keeps you is your refusal to leave...You always made it hard for yourself. If there was a rocky path and a smooth one, you chose the rocky one every time.. .I was hoping you wouldn't have to go through that. It's a horrible existence, Kathryn. As time wears on you begin to see how potent, how destructive, loneliness is.

I’m about to rip into this episode as it gracelessly tumbles off its mediocre perch, but it’s difficult to imagine a more succinct and prescient snapshot of Kathryn Janeway’s character than the dialogue above.

All right, on to the tumble. So Captain Swan refuses to abandon her crew, even it means haunting their journey as ghost for the next seven decades. Because Plot, Admiral Ghost Dad starts to get dyspeptic at her refusal to enter the space anus with him. When she flatly tells him “no,” we see a POV of the Doctor treating the Captain back on New New Earth or whatever, along with Tuvok and Chakotay looking concerned. The following exchange is as bad as the worst parts of “Heroes and Demons,” where the crew had to act lobotomised in order to pad out the episode and painfully explain details of the plot to each other that the audience had already figured out. Here again, Janeway makes the “Resolutions” monkey look like Guenther as she pieces together what’s actually going on.

JANEWAY: I was right. I heard Tuvok and Chakotay and the Doctor. You're an alien. You've created all these hallucinations, haven't you?

I mean, if Clunky were a fragrance, they could have gassed the Norman trenches with that fucking line. Anyway, Daddy outs himself as a vague evil soul-eater. We are meant to believe that Janeway’s refusal to accept her own death is exceptionally rare which...I like Captain Janeway, too, Jery, but this is trying way too hard. Janeway tells the Admiral to go to hell, because this so-called climax required a comedy scene. He retreats into the anus and Janeway finally awakens fully. It’s amazing how much nuance Mulgrew is able to give the drivel she tasked with delivering here. Thanks for trying, Kate.

There’s a coda...sorry...in which Janeway and Chakotay try to convince us that there was some sort of point to the last 45 minutes before absconding to the holodeck. Oh just get back to the fucking, you two. It’ll make the fans happier that way.

“Twist” makes sense it just sucks. Very good score. Very good acting. A lot of good pieces, horribly assembled.

Episode as Functionary : *.5, 10%

Voyager is undeniably more episodic than its sister series ended up becoming, but the irony of episodes like “Coda,” is that 90% of the value of such stories is in their contribution to the series as a whole, whereas the experience of watching the episode itself is not great. There as several good moments sprinkled about this story, a lot of good pieces...some great acting, a well-above-average musical score, and some very important character insights for our protagonist. But as a self-contained unit, it seems like there was absolutely no direction here. The “twist” does more or less make sense--the universe isn’t broken by this information and revisiting the meandering plot of the preceding 4 acts doesn’t reveal many holes. But it doesn’t carry any deeper meaning, inspire any interesting questions or utilise thoughtful metaphor or imagery. Except for the final act, none of this is awful to sit through, really...which is damning with faint praise, and there are threads to pull out which will factor into later stories in interesting ways. On the whole, it is on the low end of mediocre for Star Trek. Not impressive.

Final Score : **
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Elliott
Fri, Oct 16, 2020, 2:26pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: Playing God

@Trent

Hey now--this episode was holding at a solid 3.5 stars for me until the final act. I think the ending is a complete failure, but it's a very good episode for 85-90% of the run.
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Elliott
Wed, Oct 14, 2020, 7:46am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S3: The Adversary

@Trent

Just wanted to point out there is a discussion of the seasons overall on the "recap" pages. Makes it a little less crowded on the episode pages.

Enjoying your takes!
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Elliott
Wed, Oct 14, 2020, 7:45am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Begotten

@Peter G

Thanks as always for the thoughtful reply. I guess I should clarify that I don't object to the B story in concept, but in execution. Unlike in, say, "Shakaar," I agree that as the A story gets heavier and heavier, you need something to buoy it up. I'll go one step further and say that the specific idea of bringing a child into the world at the same time a child dies is smart writing (I alluded to this in the review). I'll go even further and say that it was damned clever for them to forge an episode which "corrects" two ongoing character facets (Kira's pregnancy and Odo's solid status) at the same time. On paper, all of this makes sense. In execution...this is supposed to be funny, right? I know comedy is more subjective than drama, but this kind of content actually makes me angry. It's based entirely on broad assumptions about the sexes which is regressive, lazy as hell, and completely lacking in insight. You can do comedy without turning your characters into sitcom sideshows.

The bit at the end with Kira feeling the loss of the baby was great. And it built up from absolutely nothing because she spent the entire episode rolling her eyes at those big dumb men.
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Elliott
Tue, Oct 13, 2020, 10:21pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Begotten

@William B

I hope you're well, my friend. We finally secured a contract for the next year, so I'm easing back into my routine, such as it can be.
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Elliott
Tue, Oct 13, 2020, 1:07pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Begotten

Teaser : ***.5, 5% 

Odo pays Bashir a visit, having once again injured his fleshy body. In the vein of Reg Barclay (c.f. “Realm of Fear”), he has WebMDed himself into believing he has an incurable parasite in his back. But actually, it’s just a pinched nerve arising from an overly rigid posture. Bashir reminds him that he’s not a Changeling any more and to pay attention to the damned continuity of the series before administering the magic hypo. Quark makes an appearance to make yet another a joke about holo-whores and then establish this week’s inciting incident. He has obtained a vial of goo from an Uridian which Odo identifies as a sick baby Changeling. Bashir wants to take charge of it and put it in a security field (file that one away), but mommy Odo knows best.

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

Odo reminds us a bit of his backstory from “The Alternate” while Ben does his “I need to see this baby’s face” thing. Hey remember when Jake denied him the chance to touch the Universe a couple weeks ago? Are we going to talk about that? Anybody? While Bashir treats the baby of the radiation poisoning it’s been exposed to, Odo explains that, based on his own experience, he has no reason to believe it poses any direct threat to the station.

SISKO: Why would the Founders send such helpless creatures out into space?
ODO: To find out if the species they encountered posed any threat. What better way to gauge another race than to see how it treats the weak and vulnerable?

Ah. That explains why the Founders are so discriminating when they subjugate other species. Those races which have least mistreated their weak and vulnerable are spared the Changelings’ wrath, right? Obviously, the Federation would receive the least amount of ire while, say, the Cardassians would be given the harshest punishment by such fair-minded judges, right? Anyway, Sisko apparently wants to mend fences with Starfleet and gather as much data about Changeling physiology as it can and Odo wants to be the one to teach it how to shape-shift. Ben suggests contacting Dr Mora but Odo, expectedly, demurs.

Bashir claims to have all but purged the infant of the offending radiation and sets up our B plot this week; Kira is finally having the O’Brien baby, which is great. “The Darkness and the Light” is the only tale so far to make use of the pregnancy in a way that wasn’t clichéd to death and, problematic though her character can be, I’m ready for a return to form from her. Anyway, as the gentle woodwind music starts to play, Odo monologues to the infant goo which is...a little obvious in its narrative function, but well-performed nonetheless.

ODO: You see, I was once like you. I spent months in a lab being prodded and poked by a scientist who didn't recognise I was a lifeform. He thought I was a specimen, a mystery that needed to be unravelled. He never talked to me. It didn't occur to him. I didn't know what I was, or what I was supposed to do. I was lost, alone, but it's not going to be that way with you. No, I'm not going to make the same mistakes that were made with me.

We then mosey over to the B plot where Keiko, Miles and a Bajoran woman are playing with kindergarten percussion instruments and burning incense. Whenever there’s a scene in Star Trek where one character is repeatedly hitting a gong, prepare to be annoyed. Of course every god-damned fucking thing about Bajoran culture has to have a veneer of vague mysticism to it because **they’re a very spiritual people**, you know. I want to read the prophecy that explains how rattles and gongs help to grease the holy birth canal. I really do. Sigh...anyway Miles is a big doofus because he’s got a penis and we’re watching a sitcom and men have to be complete morons whenever basic biological processes take place. Bashir has to leave because Kira is taking too long with the giving birth, that inconsiderate shrew, and Shakaar finally shows up wearing a stole to match Miles’ because Deeply Religious People, QED.

Odo has inexplicably poured the baby into a clear mug and brought it to the replimat. Just sounds like a good idea, doesn’t it? Oh...the explanation is that we needed to give Worf a comedy line (“why are you talking to your beverage?”). Wow.

Well, we move on from being a beverage to being a puddle on the table. Auberjonois continues to make the awkward monologuing work despite itself as he describes, with palpable whiffs of regret and nostalgia, the gift it is to be a Changeling.

ODO: You can be anything. A Tarkalean hawk soaring through the sky, or a Filian python burrowing deep beneath the ground. It's all yours for the taking. I was never a very good shape-shifter.

I’m pretty sure Tarkalea is nothing but hawks and tea leaves. Anyway, Odo makes it abundantly clear (one could even say clumsily, obviously clear from a narrative perspective) that he isn’t going to repeat Mora’s “mistakes.” He promises the goo to be a better father to it than Mora was to him. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the irony plot gods have called Mora himself back to DS9 and to this very room to interrupt the monologue. He’s come to help. Cue sitcom stinger.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

The pair immediately butt heads about how to approach this parenting thing, both, it should be mentioned, with seemingly the best of intentions. There’s also a throw-away line about Starfleet trying to ferret out additional Changeling spies, which is appreciated. Mora inserts himself into Odo’s story, employing his very specific method of disarming his would-be son. While the pair are definitely playing some old tapes, when Mora begins subjecting the infant to some sort of technical doodad, Odo screams at him to stop; his determination to make good on his promise to the baby...to himself overrides the various complexes which still haunt his relationship to Dr Dad here.

ODO: Doctor Mora, I understand that you want to help, but I'm going to do this alone.
MORA: Alone? Odo, you don't know the first thing about teaching a changeling how to shape-shift.
ODO: Well then I'll just muddle through somehow. You did.

This is the basic paradox of the story...and perhaps so obvious in its human dimensions as to be dismissed as trite, but I think it rings very true. Whether Odo wants it to be true or not, his own upbringing will shape his ability to “parent” this baby Changeling. Odo intends to diametrically oppose his perception of Mora’s methods, but that still means the shape of his actions is being determined by his past. Because of course it is. Many times the effort to be original, to cast off our demons entirely, instead of letting them sit quietly at the table beside us, leads to unproductive and often self-destructive behaviour. That’s why I’ve always been fond of Picard’s retort to Q in “Hide and Q”; “What he said with irony, I say with conviction; what a piece of work is man!” But I digress.

Mora immediately demonstrates how invaluable he and the knowledge it took him years to piece together are to Odo’s efforts. But for the moment, Odo is still more concerned about stopping the succession of trauma than he is about actually helping this lifeform to grow and reach its potential. But to be fair, Mora comes across as having learnt nothing beyond the raw data he can cite from memory. He seems just as callous regarding the discomfort his suggested methods would cause in the infant as Odo remembers him being about his own growing pains. It’s quite the sight to see Odo fall prey to reverse psychology, but before you know it, he’s “insisting” Mora stick around and observe Odo’s progress.

Meanwhile, Shakaar has added a whirly dirly gizmo to the birthing chamber, just in case we needed more reasons to hate this subplot. Because of someone’s mistaken belief that they were in possession of a very clever idea, it turns out Bajoran physiology requires that the mother be fully relaxed as to produce toxic levels of *endorphins* in her system to allow the baby to be born. Uh huh. Well, I’m sure if we ever get to see a flashback to the Occupation, we will learn that Kira’s mother was the picture of tranquillity and joy when her children were born. Yeah...

I also...I can understand why Kira is irritated that this baby is cramping her style, but she’s the one who wants to do this the traditional way (in a warm baby pool in the living room)...and don’t misunderstand, that’s her right. But why is Miles so damned impatient all of a sudden? The only explanation I can think of is that he’s worried if Kira doesn’t give birth now, she’ll take his son along on another madcap assassination. Huh. Okay, I retract my statement. The midwife sends Kira back to her quarters to rest and chastises the men for being big dumb idiots because...vaginas are icky I guess.

Enough of that bullshit. Odo is making an attempt to coax the infant to shape itself into a sphere. I wish I could say the illusion of watching a bottle of motor oil being sloshed about a glass ball was convincing but...at least the acting is!

ODO: I understand that you prefer to remain shapeless. Believe me, I remember how relaxing it could be. But you have to learn to take other forms. That's what Changelings do. It can be immensely rewarding. I remember the first time Doctor Mora here coerced me into taking the shape of a cube with one of his electrostatic gadgets. Once I did it, and he turned the infernal thing off, I was perfectly content to stay a cube for hours. It was fascinating, all those right angles.

Again, the paradox undergirds the speech. Part of what’s motivating Odo to say this is an attempt to shame Dr Mora (who’s observing disapprovingly from the corner) or at least spit some venom his way over the resentment he feels about his own experience. But of course, in the same breath he’s admitting that Mora’s methods succeeded where Odo’s still haven’t.

What follows is a short montage of Odo trying and failing to teach the goo to do...anything. But he doesn’t seem to be having any success over what we learn has been a week. Dr Mora makes note that the creature isn’t growing in volume nearly quickly enough because of its lack of shape-shifting. He also does some gentle ret-conning of “Broken Link,” suggesting that Odo’s limited abilities may have allowed the Founders to lock him into his humanoid shape in the first place. This certainly tracks with the idea that the Founders wanted the One Hundred to be as helpless and vulnerable as possible.

Mora introduces another wrinkle into their rocky history, one which is, ironically, very similar to Jetrel’s. The Cardassians were putting enormous pressure on Mora to produce results with Odo and this impelled him to utilise methods that were perhaps harsher than absolutely necessary in order to speed along the process. I like this for several reasons, but most prominently because it serves as a reminder that behaviours do not arise in vacuums; we are subject to the systems around us and individual will and personal responsibility are often pretty minor factors in determining those behaviours. Odo was being probed and prodded by Dr Mora’s instruments, while Mora was being probed and prodded by the threat of an occupying army. There are even echoes of things Dukat has said to Kira:

MORA: If it wasn't for me, you'd still be sitting on a shelf somewhere, in a beaker labelled “unknown sample.”

This sounds a great deal like Dukat’s non-apology to Kira in “Indiscretion” and even a bit like Garak’s recent musings in “Things Past.” Very interesting. Sloyan and Auberjonois get a real theatrical momentum going when Sisko appears in the doorway to the lab. He’s there to inform Odo that Starfleet is licking its chops over this Changeling and (as others have noted) in a story beat very much like “The Offspring” is going to take over the project if he doesn’t start producing results. I don’t love that we are repeating one of the few unpleasant contrivances from that story...I mean, why can’t Starfleet send a specialist or two to help Odo and keep notes instead of either letting him go rogue or taking over completely? Why are middle grounds so hard? However, this does set up an additional parallel between Odo and Mora during the Occupation; now Odo is under the gun from a government that seems indifferent to the nuances of the child’s emotional needs. So it sucks, but, you know, it builds character.

Act 3 : ***, 17% 

Reluctantly, Odo consents to start using some of Dr Mora’s techniques on the Changeling. He tries to mitigate his discomfort by offering effusive apologies to the infant as he proceeds.

I see you. I hear you. I’m going to torture you.

So, Mora uses a human aphorism that originates in the Christian bible (“spare the rod...”). This clumsy writing broadcasts to us exactly what Echevarria imagined his theme to be here. It’s very useful to put Odo, the tough-on-crime hardass, into the position of being the hyper lefty P.C. baby who would, presumably, call child protective services at the suggestion of spanking. If Odo of all people considers these techniques to be abusive, based on his first-hand experience, then we are far more likely to sympathise with that position. But it’s difficult to argue with Mora:

MORA: Spare the rod, spoil the child. Odo, without discomfort the changeling will be perfectly comfortable to remain in its gelatinous state. It'll just lie there, never realising it has the ability to mimic other forms, never living up to its potential.

And, in a roundabout way, this touches on the Star Trek ethos. The drive to better oneself does require some sort of challenge or discomfort to overcome. Grandpa Sisko may not face financial ruin if his restaurant fails, but he still struggles to be the best chef and restaurateur he can be. Anyway, Odo subjects the infant to a mild shock which coaxes it into the centre of a testing platform, and Odo is elated to have elicited a responses from his ward.

MORA: I smiled the first time you did that. Little did I realise you'd end up hating me for it.

Well enough of the compelling character work, we’re back to the damned B plot. Miles is rubbing Kira’s swollen feet because I guess Keiko is too busy not having a job and that scene would rob us the opportunity to grind this sitcom bullshit into the ground. Shakaar and Miles start arguing over how best to touch Kira as she screams at them about how she’s ready to give birth. Uh huh. Clearly the sight of these two nimrods sparring over the territory that her body has become releases a toxic level of endorphins into her system. Right.

As we cut back to the A plot, Odo and Mora have accelerated their progress with the infant to the point where it’s out-performing Odo at that stage. Odo admits that the hostility he felt for Mora actually led him to underperform out of spite for his would-be father.

MORA: Well someday, if you're very lucky, this changeling will give you the satisfaction of saying, “thank you very much, you did so much for me.” Then again, it may leave the way you did. It will announce that it's striking out on its own and you will never hear from it again.

Ouch. But just then, the infant reaches out to Odo, attempting to mimic his face. It really is incredible how a small bit of CGI animation, a distinct roman nose and the performance of two actors can cause such a well of emotion. What a splendid moment.

Act 4 : ***.5, 17% 

The two men temporarily forget their animosity and trip over each other in the excitement of their progress with the Changeling. It’s an odd combination of the estranged father/son pair bonding over shared success in a scientific task they’re both invested in (which is a well-trodden trope) and the excitement of seeing the child grow and demonstrate a connection to its parent, almost like saying its first word (yet another trope). Somehow, squashing them together like this yields a sum greater than its parts. Mora congratulates Odo on his approach; having established a rapport with the infant (what we had earlier dismissed as a complete waste of time) is what is allowing the Changeling to develop so rapidly. AND it means that the relationship between it and its father/teacher is founded upon curiosity and affection instead of resentment and animosity. Odo is even able to express gratitude to Mora, and Mora is almost mowed over by a profound joy at this expression. It’s really not fair how much the sight of these two gruff assholes showing each other love and appreciation after years of intractable pain is so deeply moving.

How can we possibly ruin it all? Why, with the return of rattles, gongs and aggravating clichés, that’s how! Sigh...we’re back to the birthing chamber and it seems like it’s really going to happen this time. But of course Shakaar doesn’t want Miles to see Kira’s magical Bajoran vagina because, you know, MEN! So, they start to spar again and Kira kicks them out. Miles has to miss another one of his children being born. And Keiko backs her up. I hate all of you so very much. All of you. All of this.

All right enough of that. Odo is poking about behind Quark’s bar after hours. He’s already proved to be partial to the sauce in his human form, but at least now he’s drinking to celebrate rather than mourn his own existence. Quark is amusingly suspicious of Odo’s good mood.

QUARK: No. It doesn't fit. If you're happy, something's very wrong in the world. The centre cannot not hold.

Quark’s presence in the scene provides Auberjonois the perfect sounding board for another Odo monologue; it really makes all the difference.

ODO: It's strange. Over the past few months, I came to accept the fact that I'd never have any contact with my people again. They rejected me, they turned me into a humanoid. A part of me was lost forever. But that little ball of goo back in the lab changed everything. I feel as if I'm experiencing what it is to be a changeling again. And somehow, being a solid doesn't seem so bad anymore.

Damn it if I didn’t tear up just a little bit here. The way René’s voice breaks ever so slightly during this reveal is truly masterful. Manipulative as hell, but masterful. Of course, that means it’s time for the crisis. The computer makes contact to inform him that the Changeling is displaying strange symptoms, and in the lab, Mora confirms that the infant is dying.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

While Bashir and Mora attempt to save its life, we finally end the insipid B plot as Kira has Bajoran birth gasms and allows the buffoons to enter and “behave.” They bump into each other on they’re way back in to the room in an attempt to get me to break my television.

Outside the infirmary, Bashir emerges to inform Odo that there’s nothing more they can do. Odo is left to grieve with his goo. He pours the infant out into his hands and pleads with it not to die which is...the perfect whiff of irony to add to this lovely scene; Odo has returned to a state of childlike innocence.

And then, suddenly, it integrates itself into Odo’s body. Odo steps out of the infirmary, sheds his uniform and shape-shifts into that Tarkalean hawk which soars about the promenade. A well-earned bittersweet moment. I’ll come back to the implications of this at the end.

Kira says goodbye to Shakaar and Mora says goodbye to Odo. The two friends then meet and share a brief conversation about joy and loss, about that inescapable beautiful tragedy that is the cycle of life and death, about unexpected connections and missed opportunities. And they walk away together.

Episode as Functionary : ***.5, 10%

If they had managed to write the birth of Kirayoshi without all that soul-crushing sitcom drivel, we’d be looking at something close to a four-star outing here. While the early monologues are on the slow side and some of the writing is a tad sloppy and obvious, the character beats are all very well earned and take advantage of established relationships and minor plot details beautifully. The last few scenes between Odo and Mora, Odo and Quark, and Odo and Kira are all quite superb, and the episode managed to extract some tears from me.

Jammer asks, “Some of the qualms I have involve the ‘big picture’ of Odo becoming human in the first place. What exactly were the creators trying to say?” To which I reply: Odo used his experiences and his trauma to bridge the gap between solids and Changelings so that this infant, which would have died on its own anyway or likely been subjected to a similar trauma as Odo himself was, could have a profoundly meaningful impact on its Universe. Odo being restored to his shape-shifting status is *SPOILER* important to the resolution of the entire series, and it is intentional that he should recover those abilities through an act of kindness towards an unsocialised member of his race rather than somehow gain forgiveness from the Founders. Odo acted in the best spirit of Star Trek humanism and has been given the ability to extend that spirit, eventually, to resolve the coming conflict. But we’ll get there when we get there.

The A plot overcame the limitations of some unconvincing props, and bottle-show confines to tell a story with a truly dynamic range of emotional peaks and valleys. Auberjonois and Sloyan give gripping performances and I think the final twist is completely earned. The B plot is a blight against fiction and makes me want to put the entire cast into an electrostatic chamber set on full power. So all in all, this is the most consistent sequel to “The Alternate” you could imagine.

Final Score : ***
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Sun, Oct 11, 2020, 3:34pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S1: In the Hands of the Prophets

@Jason R

The Bajorans (or rather the writers) feel the need to justify their religion in material terms. This forces the stories to contrive ways around ever examining the Prophets in material terms. My personal stance is that the Bajorans absolutely should and could have a genuine religion which would create interesting, compelling stories for the series, but the show pre-occupies itself with "proving" the Prophets are divine creatures because they have magic powers, as opposed to examining the nature of divinity and belief in the context of a post-occupation society.
Set Bookmark
Elliott
Sun, Oct 11, 2020, 3:11pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S3: Alter Ego

Teaser : ***, 5% 

The Voyager has encountered another unique space phenomenon. Immediately, the difference in tone between the way Janeway and co. approach this “inversion nebula” and the super novae from “The Q and the Grey” is stark. Where one was gratingly boisterous and syrupy, the other is invitingly sober. This scene seems to strike the right balance between genuine, optimistic scientific curiosity and emotional restraint that personifies the Star Trek ethos regarding space exploration. It may seem like a triviality, but to me it makes a tremendous difference in the episode’s tonal appeal.

Speaking of emotional restraint, Harry is uncharacteristically distracted at his post when Janeway orders him to tech the tech. They continue the thematic place-setting:

“JANEWAY: Astro-theory never predicted this would be so lovely. Beauty and mystery, a tantalising combination.
PARIS: No argument here. Right, Tuvok?
TUVOK: I am fully capable of appreciating this phenomenon without the extraneous sentimentality humans find so necessary.
CHAKOTAY: Being moved by an emotion isn't always extraneous. Sometimes it's the whole point.

I wonder where this is going...well for now, our next stop is Tuvok’s quarters. Ensign Distracted Face visits the unsentimental Vulcan while he plays with a ball of paper clips. He explains to Kim that these paper clips are actually a Very Smart Vulcan version of chess and Kim reveals something actually kind of startling; he wants Tuvok to teach him to purge his emotions.

KIM: I also know that Vulcans use certain techniques...
TUVOK: The t'san s'at, the intellectual deconstruction of emotional patterns.
KIM: I'm willing to learn.

It turns out Harry is in love with a hologram called Marayna. Hoo boy. There’s a lot to talk about here. First, let’s discuss Harry. His few featured scenes in Season 2 did manage to contextualise his social awkwardness and reveal that he tends to gravitate towards relationships with damaged people, like Paris and Torres. His ersatz romance with Libby in “Non Sequitur” was so tepid compared to the infinitely more compelling hurt-comfort homo-eroticism in “The Chute,” that these seem almost comical in juxtaposition. And of course, there’s his fear of infantilisation memorably portrayed in “The Thaw.” While the idea of purging all emotion because you’re in love with a hologram may seem like an extreme response, there’s something familiar in Harry’s desire to re-invent himself like this. As far as he knows, falling “in love with a computer subroutine,” as Tuvok bluntly puts it, is another symptom of his own immaturity, that thing that he’s so afraid makes the captain and the rest of the crew baby him. So he takes this as a sign that his own emotional problems run deeper than developing a misplaced crush. His desire to try on Vulcan spiritual philosophy is quite a bit like folks trying out fad religions like Kabbalah, or western Buddhism, or even Scientology. It’s a quick fix for a profound spiritual crisis.

On the other hand, the word choices around Tuvok’s description of Vulcan philosophy hearkens back to the more interesting parts of “Innocence.” Whether it’s fear of the Morrock or desire for holo-love, Vulcans learn to objectify their emotions and thus prevent them from affecting their decision-making or general sense of well-being. This is a double-edged sword, as we saw in the first scene. Any degree of emotional control means limiting your own potential to enjoy life in particular moments. Pure Dionysiac excess is a like the inversion nebula, quick to burn itself out. And Vulcan emotion is similarly potent stuff; so Tuvok’s choice to live so far down the spectrum of emotional control may be excessive by our standards, but it still relevant to us. The Vulcan version of humanity (remember, all races in Star Trek are aspects of the human condition) is a useful tool to have in the box, assuming we aren’t ready to flame out entirely.

And we have to mention that the “character falls for a hologram” thread is something that takes us all the way back to “11001001.” Riker, per his idiom, wasn’t going to let any social stigma around fucking a subroutine get in the way of Number One, but he ended up being let off the hook by the revelation that Minuet’s remarkable personality stemmed from the Binars’ interference. Still, although her programme was more advanced than what the Federation should have been able to conjure, she wasn’t any less an artificial being who stole Riker’s heart. But as the years went on, we saw the Enterprise create Moriarty, a remarkable facsimile of Leah Brahms, and eventually a new emergent species of artificial life in, um, “Emergence.” It was the Doctor’s feelings that were given attention in “Lifesigns;” Pel’s were addressed by Kes, but as an especially compassionate and open-minded alien, her perspective can’t be taken as typical. Our best gauge for contemporary social standards regarding developing feelings for holograms is probably the problematic story between Geordi and Brahms in “Booby Trap” and “Galaxy’s Child.” The only thing which seems to justify Geordi’s feelings is the conceit that holo-Brahms’ personality is based on a “real” person. I think it’s pretty fair to assume that the nonplussed look Picard gives him when he interrupts the brainstorming session in the holodeck is a typical response one could expect. Given that, Tuvok’s incredulity and Kim’s embarrassment seem to fit right in here.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Tuvok begins by cataloguing Harry’s feelings, objectifying each emotional facet of Harry’s response to Marayna. The poetic nuances of attraction and romance are to Vulcans like the life-cycle of a fruit fly: small, simplistic, and readily comprehensible.

TUVOK: Does your daily routine seem somehow empty, perhaps even ludicrous?
KIM: Yes!
TUVOK: You are experiencing shon-ha'lock, the engulfment. It is the most intense and psychologically perilous form of eros. I believe humans call it love at first sight.

Interesting, amusing and insightful all at once. When Tuvok is given this kind of sharp dialogue, it really shows off the appeal of the character. The pair enter the holodeck, where of course the resort programme is already running, with Neelix doing his thing. I don’t know if it’s Picardo’s direction (this is likely given the tone established in the teaser) or a reflection of the character’s new-found security within the Voyager family after “Fair Trade,” but his effusiveness doesn’t have nearly the same grating insistence that is typical for him. He’s still exuberant and all that, but there’s something more human and less performative about Phillips’ delivery. I’ll take it. It turns he’s planning a “Polynesian style” lu’au for this evening. Uh huh. I don’t know why they couldn’t just go with “Hawaiian”--it seems like in their attempts to be more inclusive with this stuff, the writers just trip over their own low-key racist dicks.

Anyway, Marayna finally appears, returning from giving Kes a hydrosailing lesson. Hydrosailing is one of those realworld things that sounds like a Trek writer trying to make a normal activity sound more futuristic than it is. Tuvok declines her offer to join a volleyball game and instead invites the hologram to join them for a chat. Marayna demonstrates that she can manipulate Harry’s hormones and feelings with nary any effort as a single feel of her knotted leg muscle is enough for Harry to give Tuvok a pleading look to rescue him from his own erection. The dialogue continues to be amusing, with an almost Laurel and Hardy charm.

MARAYNA: So Vulcans don't hydrosail, and they don't have friends?
TUVOK: We have fellowships and associations, but without the emotional dimension humans experience.

They’re called away to the bridge and on the way, Tuvok tells Harry that his emotions are “as formulaic as a mathematical equation.” Harsh, but fair.

KIM: It's all so predictable.
TUVOK: That's just what I've been trying to get you to perceive. To the trained Vulcan intellect, intense romantic love is nothing more than a set of stereotypical behaviours. Not having our discipline, typically, humans are swept along by the process until it ends.

It’s hard to argue with this. You don’t have to have a strict Darwinian take on sociology to appreciate the fact our experiences have a cyclical, patterned, almost inevitable quality to them. That’s why we can be moved by the lives of strangers or fictional characters. Reconciling this truth with what Chakotay said earlier, how the emotional responses to stimuli, no matter how formulaic, are entirely the point, we can really appreciate the value of the Tuvok character in this series. TOS had Spock of course, but Spock’s story was about the struggle between his Vulcan and Human selves. Data on TNG aspired to experience the emotions Vulcans deny themselves on purpose; another tortured soul of sorts. Tuvok by contrast seems perfectly content with himself. Tuvok is aspirational, in much the way Picard was (c.f. Data’s and Spock’s conversation in “Unification’). His discipline and stoicism afford him peace and purpose. We by contrast subject ourselves to these repeating patterns of behaviour. Some days, this can be a Kafkaesque nightmare of pure nihilism. Other days, it’s like reliving treasured memories. We can’t become Vulcans, but we can certainly emulate them.

The pair walk onto the bridge and enter the related B-plot. Janeway has pulled the Voyager close to the inversion nebula to see whatever special process keeps it from burning itself out first hand.

Act 2 : ***.5, 17%

Seeing the phenomenon up close convinces Janeway that it’s worth a more thorough investigation. If they’re very lucky they may discover how to design their consoles not to explode when their shields graze a meteorite. In the meantime she passively suggests to Tuvok that she expects him to attend Neelix’ culturally-disrespectful lu’au this evening.

We get an interlude where Tom and B’Elanna run into each other on the way to said lu’au, initiating their “I’m a big white nerd” and “I’m too hot for you, gringo, but I’ll probably settle anyway” flavour of flirtation. It turns out Harry has decided to skip the occasion, so their chaperone is going to be Vorik instead. Tom won’t be kept from his true love, however, so he bids Torres farewell with a knowing wink (after sizing up her bathing suit) and leaves her to fetch him.

Harry is in his quarters keeping himself distracted with Vulcan meditations. So, I think the Bashir/O’Brien relationship is well-utilised most of the time and I enjoy their friendship. But I often have to roll my eyes with their dated and toxic inability to express unveiled affection for each other (“Hard Time” excepted). While Paris has a little snicker at Kim’s odd behaviour here, his next instinct is to ask his friend about his feelings, diagnosing immediately that Harry is in pain and wanting to help him through it. Tom also knows Harry so well that he’s already determined the cause of Harry’s problem. And he’s a little hurt that Harry chose to seek Tuvok’s counsel instead of his best friend’s. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but the only other regular male-male relationship that demonstrates this level of open intimacy I can think of is Data’s and Geordi’s friendship. I don’t discount that, but Data’s android nature gives the writers a bit of a pass; his anatomical gender is a product of his creator’s ego more than anything endemic to himself. Harry and Tom seem to be able to be open and caring about each other’s feeling without any gay panic. I know I make jokes about it because, damn it, Star Trek needed a gay couple before it became fashionable, but I do think the dynamic that exists is under-appreciated.

Anyway, Tom has a more human solution to Harry’s dilemma.

PARIS: We have all fallen for a holodeck character. It happens. You deal with it by staying with your normal routine, not by hiding out in your quarters.

Personally, I think a little of column a and column b is in order, but Harry is frustrated with his lack of progress and would rather spend some time with his friends and so agrees to replicate himself his own hideous Hawaiian shirt and attend the lu’au.

At Disney’s Moana Experience or whatever, we find most of our regulars enjoying themselves--the EMH is kissing holo-ladies (thank you Mr Director), Janeway is on Chakotay’s arm--while Tuvok meanders about unimpressed. He refuses Neelix’ offer to wear a lei. Again, Neelix is himself, but he isn’t pushy or self-important about it. He respects Tuvok’s refusal, even though it disappoints him, and then moves on to something else. Tuvok prepares himself for an evening of testing his Vulcan patience but is surprised to see Marayna in a corner playing with the Vulcan paper clips. Hmm.

He approaches her and Vulcan-splains her error in trying to play the game like a human.

TUVOK: Kal-toh is not about striving for balance. It is about finding the seeds of order, even in the midst of profound chaos.

She decided to teach herself to play specifically to provide Tuvok an opponent. This is “perceptive” as Tuvok admits, but not outside the bounds of a well-programmed hologram designed to entertain guests of the resort, is it? But her perceptiveness cuts much deeper.

MARAYNA: I think you're tying to isolate yourself and make a public protest at the same time...You didn't want to be here in the first place. Being the only one without a lei sets you apart from the others, allowing you to symbolically maintain your solitude. And since everybody can see that you're the only one without a lei, you're letting them know that you'd rather be somewhere else.
TUVOK: Your logic is impeccable.

...which is Vulcan for “dat ass.” Marayna then removes her lei, a symbol her of solidarity. She too would rather be somewhere else, it seems.

Meanwhile, Vorik has taken the liberty of booking a table for himself and Torres, to both her and Paris’ surprise. I’m sure this is a love triangle we will never revisit. Anyway, this leaves Tom free to dine with Harry, but the latter is too distracted by the sight of Marayna to enjoy himself and, sensing he’s hit the line, Tom backs off and lets him retreat back to his quarters.

After the party, Tuvok and Marayna are still deep in conversation on the holodeck. She demonstrates a keen insight on the foundational principles of Vulcan emotional suppression, citing the “illusion of control” over such phenomena as the tides and the currents of the sea. It’s simultaneously intellectual, probing, and poetic, a classically Vulcan combination of attributes while still delivered with a certain degree of personality that allows Marayna to be her own unique character outside of the Vulcan paradigm. The episode quite efficiently shows us why both Harry and Tuvok would be attracted to this person. Marayna escalates to the point where she’s pawing at Tuvok in a way we would expect to end with a passionate kiss. Tuvok returns this gesture with a promise to “perhaps” return the next day. For a Vulcan, this downright sensual behaviour.

Act 3 : ***, 17% 

The Voyager’s investigations have confirmed the existence of a dampening field of some sort keeping the nebula from blowing itself up. It seems as though there’s a “feedback loop” by which the chain reactions trigger the creation of the dampening effect, finding, you might say, “the seeds of order, even in the midst of profound chaos.” A still-distracted Harry is assigned to work out and replicate the mechanics of this phenomenon with the deflector dish which, remember, can do anything. Having acquired the necessary data, Janeway orders Tom to resume their course home, but he encounters a problem.

Assuming the nebula is affecting their systems somehow (genre-savvy, aren’t they?), the la’au gang work to track down the issue in Engineering. Harry demonstrates feminism by repeating back Torres’ diagnosis to her as though he hasn’t heard a word she said, which, he hasn’t. Under Picardo’s restrained direction, Dawson really excels at channelling Torres’ acerbic nature into an EMH-esque dry humour that helps carry the scene. We feel sorry for Harry, but avoid an emotional pile-on because Torres isn’t angry or disappointed with him, she teases him because she cares about him, echoing the Harry/Tom scene from before. It’s a subtle bit of characterisation, but this whole script is about those subtle moments.

KIM: What did Tom say to you?
TORRES: Not a single word. I saw the way you were looking at Marayna yesterday.
KIM: Hi. My name's Harry read-me-like-a-book Kim.

She tells him to sort himself out before he accidentally ejects the warp core. He decides the best place to start is to confront Marayna on the holodeck. When he arrives, he discovers that she’s already running and mid-paper clips with Tuvok, who has apparently made good on his promise from the previous evening. Upon discovering the two of them together, Harry is incensed bordering on enraged that Tuvok would betray his trust like this. What I like about this is that it hearkens back to Janeway’s infamous line from “Prime Factors”; “You can use logic to justify almost anything.” In a rules-lawyer-y way, Tuvok is *justified* here; Marayna isn’t a real person; Vulcans don’t engage in sexual relationships with real people the way humans do anyway; the only thing Tuvok has done with this non-person is play some paper clips and chat; ergo, Tuvok has done nothing wrong. However, Tuvok has shown that he understands human emotions to the extent that he’s able to catalogue them like species of insects. Maybe he shouldn’t *have* to care about Harry’s feelings here, but to assume he wouldn’t have expected them is dishonest. No, Tuvok has put his own interests ahead of Harry’s emotional needs. And that is by no means a crime, but it is, to a degree, selfish. But Harry and Tuvok aren’t really friends, are they? So it’s okay not to consider the feelings of a non-friend? Well apparently not, as Tuvok is so desperate to salvage their relationship that he deletes Marayna without a second’s pause to prove just how much he doesn’t care about her to Harry. This fails to appease Harry for now, but it excellently unfolds the complexity of this situation. We are able to see the layers of Tuvok’s character, the loneliness William B expounded upon in his comment and the fragility of his ego, without violating the Vulcan-ness of his characterisation the way, say, “Meld” did. In most Vulcan stories, we have to un-Vulcan our character(s) in order to get a the juicy bits underneath (“Amok Time,” “Sarek,” “Meld,” etc.). The fact that we don’t go there in this story is a testament to Joe Menosky’s skill as a writer. Very often the spectacle in his stories overshadows the subtlety of his characterisations. I’m glad he’s given a chance to shine here.

Meanwhile, the Voyager is still stuck inside the magic nebula and Torres is more convinced than ever that a computer malfunction is to blame. She’s able to get the aft thrusters working well enough to push the ship clear by tomorrow, which appeases Janeway. It turns out this computer malfunction has a name as Tuvok returns to his quarters to discover Marayna playing paper clips. She has avoided deletion, downloaded herself into the Doctor’s mobile emitter, and cheerfully parked herself here. Well that’s a bit of a yikes.

Act 4 : **.5, 17% 

TUVOK: I deleted you from the holodeck.
MARAYNA: But you only did that for Harry's benefit. I know you wanted to keep seeing me. I like Harry, but you're different. You're not like anyone else...You're like a new world to me, Tuvok. I want to know everything about you. I didn't realise how lonely my existence was, and I can't go back to the way things were, not without you.

Again, the script clings tightly to its characterisation. Tuvok is intrigued by Marayna, and by her apparent sentience, but doesn’t hesitate to call for security at this violation of the established order. The chaos has been exposed and, however tempting it may be to ride the wave, it’s time to close this particular door. Marayna, however, becomes a bit unhinged at this betrayal and shuts off the intruder alert by an apparent act of will, revealing a troubling degree of autonomy for this sentient hologram. Marayna’s schizophrenia is a disappointing and rushed element to this otherwise subtle story. It’s not exactly out of bounds, but it is out of step with what we saw of her and Tuvok on the holodeck. Then again, all we’ve seen of her so far is getting exactly what she wanted, first from Harry and then from Tuvok; all the attention she desired was pretty much immediately rewarded. So, yes I find it too broad for my tastes, but it by no means breaks the story either.

In the conference room, the crew discuss this issue. Chakotay brings up Moriarty and Harry admits that this now eight-year-old event from “Elementary, Dear Data” is something they teach at the academy. Tuvok admits to the crew that her motivation is likely her feelings for himself, while the crew respond, Harry buries his head in his hands and Janeway sizes her old friend up, somewhat amazed at this news. Again, it’s all about the subtlety, this time in the direction. Harry’s story hasn’t been forgotten and neither has Janeway’s and Tuvok’s friendship, it’s just not being delivered to the audience on a silver platter. Anyway, their working theory is that instead of Marayna having been conjured by a slip of the tongue from an overzealous chief Engineer, the (presumably now-corrected) holodeck has given rise to a new intelligence by virtue of some mysterious property of the magic nebula. Janeway looks Tuvok straight in the eye and tells him to resolve this situation “one way or another.” In other words, she lets her friend know that he has shown her his cards; if this issue is being perpetuated by a, shall we say, untoward relationship between himself and this person, then he had better handle it better than he has handled his non-friendship with Harry.

The gang goes to the holodeck to confront her and are met by the gentle Hawaiian music of the resort programme. As they mill about the flowers and ocean air with phasers out, the discontinuity of the tone creates a creepy atmosphere, as Paris directly points out. Torres accesses a control panel and discovers that the holodeck is actually being tapped by a signal from outside the ship. Immediately upon making this discovery, one of the hula girls begins strangling her with a lei, all while wearing her Disney Resort smile. The other holodeck characters keep Paris and Tuvok busy, too, creating a macabre tone that reminds me of the horrific heights of “The Thaw.” Eventually, they’re able to break free of the holodeck, but the nebula scornfully responds by lighting up around the Voyager, causing damage. Marayna makes contact with the bridge and demands that Tuvok return to the holodeck she’ll, you know, destroy the Voyager. This is...too much. Too TV trope-y for what had been such a nuanced character story.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

Tuvok enters the resort and examines a discarded mask. Does this mean anything? Nah. Marayna greets him, convinced that, having removed any prying eyes and outside expectations of behaviour, the two of them can consummate their relationship and discard the masks, if you will. While they chat, the crew is able to relay a transporter beam along the alien signal and beam Tuvok to her location. In response, the plasma streams start to really burn up, lady-rage metaphors that they are. Chakotay notes that the shields are down to 47 [duh] per cent. Thank you, sir.

Tuvok materialises aboard an space station and discovers the real Marayna, a heavily prosthetic-ed alien about to destroy the Voyager from her control panel. She has begun an ignition sequence, her passions having boiled over into a homicidal fit of pique. Tuvok is forced to rely on his understanding of their relationship and her emotions (which he failed to do with Harry) to try and talk her down. We learn that, for some insane reason, Marayna’s people have allowed her to live alone in this station for who knows how long, containing the inversion nebula so that they can enjoy its beauty. While this is a little contrived from a , world-building perspective, it does make for a nifty metaphor about emotional labour, the hidden cost of seemingly effortless beauty. And this ties in nicely with the earlier discussion about loneliness and emotional control, that is an illusion, but a compelling, thrilling, beautiful, purpose-defining illusion nonetheless. We learn that part of what made Marayna so perceptive about Tuvok’s unspoken motivations for self-isolation at the lu’au was recognising a similar motivation in herself.

MARAYNA: I watch the ships when they pass by. They don't even know I'm here...I prefer to be here, alone...I never expected to find something as diverting as your holodeck. I never expected to find you. You are like nothing else I've ever encountered.

She is, in essence, letting us in on part of what’s going on under the surface with Tuvok; he watches the crew evolve, things like Tom’s and B’Ellana’s flirtation or Harry’s infatuation and makes a point of letting everyone around him know how much he doesn’t give a fuck. But when something “diverting” comes along, such as an insightful hologram who sees through his defences, those deep currents of Vulcan emotion are nigh impossible to contain. In retrospect, Tuvok’s seemingly innocent interactions with Marayna on the holodeck reveal a well of pain. For a Vulcan to engage in any behaviour due to something like loneliness is actually remarkable. Again in retrospect, if we examine Marayna’s change of tone in Act 4 from the perspective of someone who’s been living in complete solitude for god knows how long, it’s far more understandable.

Marayna casually admits to examining all the little details of the lives of passing aliens. That’s...creepy, but it’s not too dissimilar from Tuvok’s taxonomical evaluation of Harry’s feelings. Much like how the Ferengi have dozens of words for “rain” because their world is inundated by it, Vulcans have all these detailed words describing emotional experiences because they are inundated by emotions. You might call them neurotic by necessity.

More immediately, what Marayna expresses here when she tells Tuvok that she can’t be without him is, to me at least, a very special feeling of having found a person who truly understands you. When I think back on all the one-off Trek romances we’ve seen, this is believable for that reason. It’s not unlike Commander Darren and Picard from “Lessons.” When someone “gets” you, it’s difficult let it go.

TUVOK: I must admit, I have found our conversations stimulating. Your insight and intelligence, fresh and unexpected. In other circumstances, I would be willing to spend time in your company, to continue to share knowledge and ideas...I do not have a complete understanding of emotions, but I believe that if you truly care for me, you will not pursue this course of action.

And so let him go she does, but not before a final reckoning. As he beams away, she asks, “will you always be alone?” And all he can do is scrutinise her wordlessly as he dematerialises.

The brief epilogue sees Tuvok begin to answer this question. He decides to reconcile with Harry, promising to teach him how to play paper clips. Much like how the game itself is described, this strikes an unexpected balance in the story’s approach to emotions and relationships. Instead of dismissing Harry’s distress as pathetic, Tuvok is willing to be a little vulnerable with him and invite him into his frame of mind more intimately. Maybe there’s still some room for Harry to adopt Vulcan objectivity, but there’s also room for Tuvok to develop meaningful relationships outside of the isolation he’s restricted himself to thus far.

Episode as Functionary : ***.25, 10%

The fourth act was a bit disappointing as I watched as it seemed like the subtlety in characterisation had been chucked for broader strokes. The ship-in-danger angle still is less than stellar to be certain, but the final conversations recontextualise those moments in such a way as to make some of the contrivance more understandable. It’s tough from a rating perspective because I can’t un-feel my irritation with those scenes just because I understand them better, hence the odd score. As a Tuvok story and as a Vulcan story, this is top shelf. We get a pretty thorough insight into an often inscrutable character without introducing a gimmick into the plot. The B story is of course a metaphor for issue under examination within the A story, which keys us in to how to read between the lines. I like how the crew assumes the nebula is naturally keeping itself from burning out, but in reality, that process is intentional and artificial, just like Vulcan discipline.

Tuvok is somehow able to be a dynamic character without at any point violating his Vulcan nature, and Russ delivers as usual. There’s only one scene in the whole show that can be seen as superfluous, the brief interaction between Tom and Torres in the corridor. But this conversation is useful to the series at large, serves as a contrast for the way more conventionally emotional people interact regarding a budding romance, and segues effectively into the following scene with Harry.

The test is going to be whether Tuvok is truly impelled to develop meaningful relationships with the rest of the crew. What is to become of his loneliness? His invitation to Kim at the episode’s close suggests the beginnings of something here. We shall see.

Final Score : ***
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Elliott
Wed, Sep 9, 2020, 9:33am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S3: Destiny

@Trish

Well, there are two ways to watch any show, I suppose; either the narrative is attempting to say something about our Universe, using its own as an allegorical framework, or it isn't. If we watch Star Trek with the lens you recommend, then every timeKira or Sisko or whoever makes a comment about religious belief, we are meant to take no lesson with us to the real world. 1. I don't think that's what the writers intended, 2. but even setting that aside, why would I bother paying attention to such moralising if it's not meant to correlate with actual religion in some way?

There are narratives in which fictional religions work like actual religions, and thus allegorise them properly, like the Church of All Worlds. And of course there are lots of pseudo-spiritual supernatural elements in fantasy and science fiction, like the Jedi/Sith. And there are fictions in which supernatural elements exist to drive the narrative but have no spiritual or religious significance in-universe, like in The Lord of the Rings. DS9 tries to do all three of these at once and, in my view, fails for precisely that reason. They aren't compatible. But the attempt to do all of these means that it is natural we would focus upon whichever dimension of the "super natural" element speaks to us in a particular moment. You say that this story is an integral part of Sisko's arc over the series, in a LotR sort of way. This is true. But that doesn't mean the show isn't interested in the other dimensions. The writing draws attention to these other facets and it's more than fair to scrutinise the show on those terms.
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Elliott
Sun, Sep 6, 2020, 1:17pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: For the Cause

@Dreubarik

"Of course, DS9 ultimately sides with the Federation: Warmongering is indeed a step too far for the defense of those values. But highlighting the imperialist tension that comes with an imposition of "modernity," even when that modernity is an idealized roddenberrian paradise, is a great thing for Star Trek to do.

The episode (and generally the maquis plot) should make the point about economic needs having already been met more explictly. But I think this is more a case of Star Trek writers in the 1990s assuming that it was already very implicit in how the Federation is presented than a result of them not having it in mind."

These issues are connected, though. In order for the Maquis to be seen sympathetically, there has to be *cause* for which their escalation of violence can be justified. Material disenfranchisement is, at least, a debatable justification, but this disenfranchisement is at odds with the "implicit assumptions" you grant to the writers here.

If the Maquis are being materially disenfranchised, then the entire underlying economic structure of the Federation is suspect. That is one argument that can be made, although this requires some explanation as to how we got here. If they are not, then the libertarian social values you mention impel them to insurrection do not, at least to my way of thinking, justify their actions. Remember, the Maquis didn't "want to be left alone," as Eddington claimed. That may have been what the Indians in "Journey's End" agreed to, but the Maquis thought the Federation should end their peace treaty with Cardassia in order to allow the folks in the DMZ to live the way they wanted. In other words, their personal lifestyle choices not being impinged upon at all should require the Federation to continue a war which costs lives on both sides. That is a petulant and selfish attitude.
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Elliott
Sat, Sep 5, 2020, 9:09pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S5: The Outcast

@James G

"If this episode had been made in the present day it would probably be interpreted by some as being about attitudes to trans or non-binary people. But it isn't, so let's not go there."

Interesting perspective. What's interesting about this episode is that the intended allegory fails pretty miserably. There's a quote floating somewhere around the internet where this episode is described something like "one woman's struggle for cock against lesbian tyranny."

But, if viewed as an allegory for non-binary or transgender identity, it actually works much better. True, the writers fell into it by accident, but...we are watching these episodes in 2020. We can certainly make some allowances for idiosyncrasies of the time the shows were produced, but I don't see a problem in redeeming a pretty lame episode by applying a more contemporary social framework.
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Elliott
Thu, Sep 3, 2020, 1:47pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

"So congratulations! Booming, Trent, Elliott... you've managed to prove that Cody is a fallible human being. A person who (oh, the horror!!!!) is not aware of their own blind spots, and (oh, the double horror!!!!) gets defensive when being attacked."

Enough irony in that statement to plug all the plotholes in "Threshold."
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Elliott
Wed, Sep 2, 2020, 7:23pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

@Cody

It doesn't matter what your intention was. Nobody intends to be homophobic or racist. I'm not here to chastise you or offer you life advice; I'm just telling you what happened.
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Elliott
Sun, Aug 30, 2020, 2:23pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Darkness and the Light

@Omicron

Congratulations on intentionally missing the point.

"This is absolutely nothing like the current situation in the US, where minority members have many other ways to voice their concern and be heard. "

And how has their "being heard" curbed the violence against them?

"Where, indeed, there are millions of people who are so sympathetic to their cause that they are willing to give them a carte-blanche permit to do whatever crimes they want in the alleged name of racial justice."

The Federation also gave the Bajoran Resistance "carte-blanche permission" to do whatever they wanted during the Occupation, but they weren't the ones in control of the situation, were they?

Is systemic racism in the US exactly the same as the Bajoran Occupation?

No, but there are important similarities.

Are BLM protests, including those that involve looting and violence, exactly the same as Bajoran terrorism?

Also no, but there are important similarities.

If you deny this, all you're doing is making excuses for systemic oppression.
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Elliott
Sun, Aug 30, 2020, 12:38pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: The Darkness and the Light

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

We begin with another round of DS9 Religious Action Madlibs.

“I am Vedek [so and so]...and I welcome you to the [made up place] retreat. Today we begin [things religious people do all the time] prayer and meditation as preparation for our Days of [vaguely Christ-y word] Atonement.”

The Vedeks all do their thing and appeal to the gods, but they are apparently in a vengeful mood as So and So is blasted by the Arc of the Wormhole or whatever.

Over on DS9, Kira is looking for pregnancy remedies from Bashir when Odo interrupts to deliver the news of the of sacercide. It turns out So and So was an old Shakaar Cell friend of Kira's. She returns to the O'Brien's quarters and her own (very little) room to say a prayer for the dead Vedek, but is interrupted by news of a short message. She plays it back, a Jigsaw-esque “That's one!” and an image of So and So on her screen. Creepy!

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Kira, Sisko and Odo deduce that Shakaar (the cell, not the guy) is the general target of this Jigsaw Person. Odo wants to up the fascist ante on incoming ships, of course, and Sisko agrees...of course.

SISKO: I'm sorry about your friend.
KIRA: He died serving the Prophets. They'll take care of him.
SISKO: I'm sure they will.

Oh? Are you having visions again, or are you just being polite, Captain?

The next morning, Miles finds Kira on the Replimat to let her vent. She's frustrated that her unexpected pregnancy is keeping her from tracking Jigsaw Guy down and defending her friends from potential assassination. Thank the Prophets for that. Kira has been way too nonchalant about this baby she didn't ask for cramping her style. I mean, I think Kira's insane half the time, but ever since Ziyal moved onto the station she's been kind of, well, boring. Miles reminds her that her job is to be a womb, apparently, but Odo interrupts this low-key sexist remark with news of another message for her.

She arrives in Ops to receive the message and Sisko tells her to keep the messenger talking for a bit so they can trace the call, you know like in the movies. The messenger is a woman called Fala (la la la, fa la la la...'tis the season to be jo--). Kira assures the command crew that she's harmless but has a good reason to try and keep her location a secret. You never know when Jack Skellington might show up and steal your mojo. Kira continues the conversation in relative privacy. Jingle Bell Rock here is certain that she's going to be the next person on Jigsaw Guy's kill list, and begs Kira to help her out. She promises to reroute Dax and Worf to Bajor, pick her up and bring her to safety on DS9.

Well, in case you didn't get enough of Worf's and Jadzia's toxic relationship in “Let He Who Is Without Sin,” we pick up with them bickering on a runabout. Jadzia lost a bunch of latinum gambling. Awesome. The woman in the relationship isn't good with her money, how original. Ugh...won't something end this hackneyed misery? Oh good, another murder! This one is actually murder-by-transporter (don't tell Reg Barclay). They try to beam Deck the Halls aboard but some sort of interference causes the transporter to cook her body to a crisp. Gruesome.

Act 2 : ***.5, 17%

Bashir confirms that the pile of ashes on the transporter pad is indeed dead (thank you, doctor) and Odo confirms that this was not a boat accident. Jigsaw Guy has a sophisticated understanding of Starfleet security, as well as an intimate knowledge of the Shakaar Cell. Strike the Harp here was not officially a member, but she fed the cell information for years from her position as a janitor for the Cardassians without being caught.

KIRA: But she was always so afraid. Afraid that she'd be caught and executed. But she never stopped. I once told her that I thought she was braver than all of us, because she had to live with her fear every day. Even after the occupation was over, she didn't want anyone to know that she was secretly helping us. She was worried that someone would come looking for her for revenge.
SISKO: Looks like her fears were well founded.

Sisko...did you really need to have the last word in this scene? Jesus...

Jigsaw Man leaves Kira another recording in a case of brandy. But Quark got his hands on it first and so the message is playing right out on the promenade. Classy.

Kira and Odo continue the investigation into Jigsaw Man's identity, likely a victim of a Shakaar attack in which Kira played a prominent role. And while they're talking, a third message (and third murder victim) comes in on Odo's monitors playing “that's three.”

KIRA: No, I'm not all right! I haven't slept in three days, someone is killing my friends, and my back...!

Well, Kira now has a security detail in and around the Chief's quarters. She goes to her room to lie down but hears a scuffle in the living room. One of the few possessions she's kept with her in her tiny room is naturally a gun, so she takes it out and prepares to ambush the phantom behind the door.

Act 3 : ***.5, 17%

For...drama's sake I guess, Kira turns off all the lights and then enters the living area as stealthily as a pregnant woman can. Finally, we learn that the intruders are Nick Fury and Leukocyte from “Shakaar.” They reprise their whole 1990s rogues with hearts of gold shtick and explain how they bypassed all the new security measures. That's reassuring. Regardless, Kira's happy to see them. They're confident that as soon as Odo comes up with a name, they'll be able to take care of the rest. Hubris, you say?

KIRA: The occupation is over. We can't go around fighting private wars. Times have changed. We have got to change with it. Leave this for the authorities.

LUPAZA: Maybe you feel that way now, but trust me, when you find out who killed Latha and Fala, and maybe now Mobara, you're not going to want to leave it to someone else. You're going to want him dead and you're going to want us to do it.
KIRA: Maybe so.

The re-appearance of these two makes this an obvious sequel to “Shakaar,” but for Kira, this is a thread that goes all the way back to stories like “Progress,” “Necessary Evil” and “Collaborators.” For the first time, Kira really seems to have internalised the lesson she kept failing to learn. The fact that her instinct is to scold her friends over this issue testifies to this change. Of course, the question remains, if pushed hard enough, will Kira revert to her old ways?

FUREL: We'll sleep out here. The couch is a little short, but it's probably as comfortable as our bed.
KIRA: Well, since Keiko's visiting her parents with Molly, I guess there's room.

Thank you Exposition Fairy! Anyway, after a gag where Nick Fury and Leukocyte nearly shoot Miles in the face, Odo confirms to Sisko that the third victim is indeed dead. Not just dead, but exploded. As in his head exploded. Yikes. While they speculate on Kira's fate at the hands of this wacko, she, Dax and...I guess Nog is back home...are analysing the audio recordings.

NOG: It's a female. And it's not Cardassian.

I uh...no. I'm just going to sweep this one into the “it was the 90s” bin. There will be more appropriate times to tackle this subject. Together, they discover that the voice being used to record the messages is Kira's own. This means that the seemingly practical step of disguising the voice was just a red herring, an intentionally sadistic and “unnecessary” step in all of this. Unnecessary to the efficacy of the murders, but not necessarily to their larger purpose.

Did I say sadistic? Well, a bomb has gone off in the O'Brien's quarters which means, of course, that Nick Fury and Leukocyte are dead as disco. In the commotion, Kira has stormed her way down to the habitat ring, driven purely by rage and anguish. She punches her way past Starfleet security (I don't know if this says more about Kira's badass-ness or Starfleet security's infamous ineptitude). Before she can expose the station, herself and the O'Brien's baby to space (the explosion caused a hull breach), the baby seems to object and causes her to collapse with pregnancy pains.

Act 4 : ****, 17%

When Bashir awakens her in the infirmary, Kira immediately cries out for the baby, clearly horrified that she may have hurt it. It turns out that everything is okay. Bashir leaves and Odo enters the scene. The lighting, set-dressing and deliberate symmetry of the camera all cast a spotlight on Kira and her dilemma; the stage has been set for a soliloquy and Visitor delivers.

KIRA:...And when that hatch opened and that first Cardassian stepped out, I just started firing. And I didn't stop till I'd discharged the entire power cell. When it was all over, I was so relieved that I didn't let anyone down that I was almost giddy. Furel kept telling me to stop grinning, that it made me look younger, but I couldn't help it. I was one of them. I was in the Resistance.

I'm reminded of Bitchwhore's line from “Rapture” about how Kira and the Resistance “had their guns” while she “had only [her] faith” to protect her. What becomes clear here is that the violence with which Kira was raised, which brought her through adolescence into adulthood, was inexorably linked to the adopted family which kept her alive and gave her purpose. The darkness and the light of her past can't be separated. The darkness IS the light. The suffering IS the hope. The anger IS the love.

Odo explains how the latest execution took place and admits that he's narrowed down the list of 25 suspects to a few Cardassians with the skills, motive and opportunity to carry out the attacks. Kira asks to see the list, but Odo is worried Kira would take it and go right for the counter-revenge vendetta. She asks to be kept informed, but the moment Odo leaves the room, she hauls her sore, pregnant body to the control panel and beams herself into his office. She steals the list and beams herself away (a pre-programmed protocol, it should be noted) just before he strolls in through the door and issues a knowing “harrumph.”

We see that Kira has stolen a runabout and that she erased the names on Odo's list to prevent her friends from tracking her.

SISKO: Prepare the Defiant. I want to leave in ten minutes. See if we can pick up her ion trail.
WORF: It will be difficult. Our sensor logs show that Major Kira masked her engine emissions with a polaron field. The runabout's particle—
SISKO: I know what the difficulties are. You have your orders. Dismissed.

I did enjoy that little bit of self-aware technobabble-dismissal.

Kira logs her progress and we learn that she's “eliminated” three of the suspects already...and thankfully clarifies that she means “from suspicion,” because at this point, I could believe her plan was just to kill all 25 people on the list. The fourth name leads her to Jigsaw's lair where a holographic decoy allows Jigsaw himself to stun her. He's cast in shadow, almost identically to the informant from back in “Improbable Cause” (and it turns out for similar reasons). He throws her onto another biobed under moody lighting, mirroring the scene of her soliloquy, and places a restraining field around her. She awakens to the sound of Jigsaw objectifying her situation in overwrought prose (“...like a needle to its heart”). However, his rambling leaves no ambiguity in his certainty that Kira will die.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

After a little mutual repartee, Kira is able to get Jigsaw to break his objectifying prose and address her directly.

SILARAN: No, Kira! I didn't murder anyone. You did! You killed them all.
KIRA: There. That wasn't so hard, was it? Now we can talk.
...
SILARAN: I thought you might have changed, might have found a path out of the darkness.
KIRA: What am I supposed to be repentant for? What're you talking about?
SILARAN: That is part of your guilt. You did this to me...
[Jigsaw reveals his horribly mutilated face]
SILARAN: ...and you don't even know who I am.

Kira doesn't budge. She's confronted this issue before, she thinks. In “Collaborators,” and in “Indiscretion” both, she made it clear that she isn't going to be compromised by moral subtleties. They were at war with oppressors, fighting for their lives and their freedom. Buuut...

KIRA: None of us liked killing.

That's not exactly true, is it. “Liked” may be an insufficient word to capture it, but Kira certainly *liked* the feeling of discharging her phaser on her first night as a soldier with the Shakaar. And her friends certainly *liked* the prospect of killing Jigsaw here in retaliation for his murders. This hearkens all the way back to “Duet” and Marritza's chilling lines about feeling “clean” while covered in blood. This was revealed to be an intentionally hollow sentiment. One does not feel clean with blood on his hands. Kira has had the opportunity over the last four years to redeem herself, to find new meaning and shed herself of the stains of the Occupation. This poor bastard may not have had that opportunity.

Jigsaw justifies his actions by noting that his murders have been discreet. He took extreme care to target only those whom he has deemed guilty and sparing entirely any bystanders, the other monks, O'Brien and his family...and he's going to be equally discreet with Kira. He won't kill the baby, only her. Of course, Jigsaw's discretion is purchased by the luxury of his position. His only goal is retribution against the people who maimed him, while the Resistance was trying to overthrow an occupying force.

I sidestepped a different timely issue with Nog, but I have to draw the connection between this story and the current hot topic of protests and looting. Like Jigsaw, many claim that the indiscriminate destruction of property condemns the actions of such protesters. The reaction against this of some others is to separate the light from the darkness and note that only *some* of the protestors are destroying property or behaving violently. And, like Jigsaw, this betrays a luxury of purpose in such thinking. It suggests that protests aren't something anyone *needs* to do, that there isn't a Cardassian-Occupation-level systemic issue looming over a particular class of people. When the people are looting and rioting, or when they're committing terrorism like the Shakaar, it is a symptom of systemic rot, not an individual behaviour to police. There are complexities and ironies to Kira's motivations and justifications that she needs to consider (see before when she “eliminated” some of the suspects on Odo's list, culling the light from the dark), but in the end, she's still right. In the face of systemic oppression, the casualty of innocents is ultimately the fault of the oppressors, not the resistors. This is the same reason why, even though Dukat may have been right that Bajor came into its own because of its resistance to Cardassia, he's still wrong. This is why, even though the Prophets may have a plan for Bajor enduring the Occupation, it's still sadistic of them to let it happen. And this is why, even though it may be true that innocent bystanders may have their property destroyed or even be injured in the chaos of mass protests, it is wrong to condemn the protests on that basis. You can't separate the darkness from the light. Muddying this truth only serves to justify and prolong the oppression itself.

But as I said, Kira does need to face up to the ironies and complexities of her position. Politically, it's fairly clear-cut, but personally...well, now she's begging Jigsaw not to induce the birth of the baby, which has complicated medical needs, not to mention belongs to other people to whom she swore to be its protector. She manages only to convince him to give her a sedative...which is perhaps a little too easy, but the rest of this is so compelling, I can overlook it. Yes, even when Jigsaw releases the restraining field for absolutely no reason just because he thinks Kira's been sedated. And so she escapes and shoots Jigsaw, putting an end to his misery.

Sisko and co. eventually arrive so that Bashir can explain how he Herbs she's been taking all episode prevented the sedative from working. I think Linda has the correct interpretation (from her comment in 2017) of the final line: Kira recognises that she has real guilt, despite the existential needs that drove her and the rest of the Resistance. It wasn't all a matter of fulfilling those needs, she took some measure of pleasure and joy in her actions. I don't think this is wrong or inexcusable—I think it's very human. But it is complicated. What still doesn't hold up for me is that, exactly like in “Shakaar,” Sisko is going to take zero actions to hold Kira accountable for what she did here. Like, I get that Kira has been through a lot, but she's your first officer and she went completely rogue, stole files, stole a ship, put her life at risk and killed a man without a trial. Yes, it was self-defence, but she shouldn't have been there in the first place. Given how easy it was for Kira to track him down, Odo would have before long. This was not a matter of existential need. This was personal.

Episode as Functionary : ***.5, 10%

William B correct that Jigsaw Man is a dark mirror for Kira herself. He was innocent of the crimes of his people, insofar as one can be innocent (did he have an obligation to fight back, to resist his own evil government?), just as Kira was an innocent. But the Occupational violence against her people turned her into a killer, and in turn, her actions turned Jigsaw Man into a deformed murderer. I appreciate the complexity of the issues here, the subtlety of the messaging and focus on character. This really does feel like a throwback to Season 2, but in a good way. Most of the issues that dragged that season's episodes down for me have been ironed out, and the production is excellent, with striking visuals and engrossing performances. Sisko is still...Sisko, but that isn't a huge deal here.

One detail in the story that I think is under-appreciated is how well the side characters are integrated into the narrative. Kira's journey is being established by her relationships with a foetus, a couple of characters we've only seen once before, and a couple of new characters that get killed minutes after they are introduced. It may have been even more effective to have all the characters Jigsaw kills be people we've met before and care about (like Shakaar himself?), but I think the writers strike just the right balance between drawing upon continuity and asking the audience to use its imagination to fill in the gaps with the new characters.

The main negative to the story is that it does chicken out from having Miles confront Kira. I thought his early comments to her were on the unfortunately misogynistic side, but even I think he deserves to have some words with her over her choices here. They've all decided this baby is going to come to term—and we see that Kira is sincerely concerned about it—so methinks there has to be some sort of reckoning over this.

Final Score : ***.5
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Elliott
Sun, Aug 30, 2020, 8:29am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

@Jason R

That's the most obtuse argument I've seen in a while on this site, and that is saying something. Plenty of men and women consent to all sorts of sex acts, all of which (including the most vanilla) could be dangerous depending on the situation. I'm not continuing this debate as it is so far out to sea at this point, Davy Jones would ignore us. I'm telling you, as a gay man, that there was some low-key homophobia in Cody's reaction to Booming's intentionally provocative escalation. That's the last thing I want to say on the subject.

"it isn't really the act that matters but who the perpetrator and who the victim was."

All of these things matter, actually.
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Elliott
Sun, Aug 30, 2020, 7:51am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

@Cody

For something to be rape, it has to be non-consensual. There's no reason to infer anyone's comments about Tal or Chakotay were meant to be non-consensual. If the only distinguishing feature between the two sex acts is the gender of the participants, then this is homophobic.

@Jason R

15 year old with a medical degree, huh? Poor taste makes for bad jokes.
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Elliott
Sat, Aug 29, 2020, 9:12pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

Wow, is this still going on?

1. Yes, Cody, it was a bit homophobic.
2. No, Trent, I don't think rape was implied; it was just an unnecessary and juvenile comment.
3. DS9 generally sucks at talking about religion.
4. As Janeway said, William B, "We didn't ask to be involved, but we are."
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Elliott
Fri, Aug 28, 2020, 12:59pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S3: Fair Trade

Teaser : **, 5%

Neelix is playing an old tape with Tuvok, insisting he's ready to be a full-fledged security officer and complaining that he wasn't invited (again) to a training session.

TUVOK: If you recall, Mister Neelix, I did not guarantee you a position.
...
NEELIX: I've been working hard at this. I really do feel I have a great deal to contribute to the Voyager beyond my current role.

It is very difficult to make a character with Neelix' role work on Star Trek. Guinan was typically great, but she was a secondary character, not a main cast member; they brought her in when they needed her. Quark has the advantage here because his job connects him to various facets of the DS9 universe; he has history with the Bajorans and the Cardassians, he has an ongoing subplot related to his own people, he has under-the-table dealings with various space mafiosi, AND he's the bar tender for DS9's Starfleet personnel. He can put on various hats as the story demands, and he can even be the hero of the small Ferengi stories like “Looking for Parmach...” without watering down the main thrust of the series. Ever since his introduction in “Caretaker,” Voyager has been casting about for ways to make Neelix seem useful, from “Parturition” and “Investigations” to “Warlord” and “Macrocosm.” But in pretty much every instance, this effort only serves to highlight how useless he is. The smartest thing about the set up in this episode is that Neelix seems to be conscious of this dynamic. A lot of the time, you really want to strangle Neelix (hi Tuvok) and tell him to shut up and be grateful that he gets to take a daily bath. But we know from “Jetrel” especially that Neelix has a massive inferiority complex. That's a very real facet of human nature to explore, but it isn't heroic. Voyager finally seems to be accepting this fact and looking for ways to continue his arc without pissing off the audience.

I also want to briefly mention the complaints about the Kes breakup here. If the breakup happened in “Warlord” (and it did), then we barely saw either him or Kes in “The Q and the Grey” (just that paycheque-collecting scene in the beginning), and then we saw a bit of Neelix in “Macrocosm.” Given what happened in “Warlord,” there is absolutely no chance that a Neelix still in a relationship with Kes would have arrived at a ship with a missing crew and not gone on and on about needing to rescue his “sweetie.” There would have been an exchange where Janeway reassures him, yadda yadda. We know this. On the contrary, his new ambassadorial role and pestering of Tuvok all suggest that he's looking for ways to fill the void left by the breakup. Do we really need to have a scene where he gives a personal log explicitly stating that he's feeling lonely now, or can we read some context clues?

Anyway, Tuvok isn't the only victim of Neelix' ennui, as his next stop is to pester Torres over a similar gambit to become a grease monkey. As we might recall from “Threshold,” this is probably a bad idea. The scene also introduces us to Ensign Vorik who decided to change his name after “Lower Decks” so they wouldn't blow the budget paying Rene Echevarria every time he shows up. With Hogan and Jonas dead, and Joe Carey trapped in a pocket dimension or whatever, Torres needs a new number 2. I do like the idea of having more than one Vulcan around. It can feel a little pat sometimes when Spock, Worf, Data, Troi, Guinan, Odo and Dax are the only members of their kind to interact with.

Janeway calls Neelix to the bridge before Torres sends him to the sickbay with a bloody nose. The Voyager has encountered some lightning-filled purple dust in space which Neelix identifies as the Naked Expanse or something. Sounds fun.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

JANEWAY: Looks like we'll be counting on your knowledge of the Delta quadrant even more than usual, Neelix.

Just a little twist of the knife. Neelix does know of a small trading depot on the outskirts of the expanse, but its exact coordinates elude him. The first time I travelled to Europe, it was alone and to countries where I barely spoke the language, and it was in the days before smart phones. I spent hours memorising maps and street names so that I would be able to get around and avoid getting conscripted into a sexually confusing music video or whatever else happens to lost teens in Berlin. Now, I don't think I could find my way to the nearest hardware store without google maps. The actual point of the exchange is that Chakotay finds the station with sensors and everyone is happy to proceed, but Neelix feels like a bit of a failure.

The Voyager makes contact with Baccarat or whatever, the station administrator, and make plans to board and trade for provisions. Paris does his job of post-conversation one-liner and then is assigned to the away team with Janeway, Chakotay, and of course Neelix. Janeway herself meets Baccarat in his office, which is essentially the nightmare scenario you imagine when you're in a public bathroom. He has cameras fixed on seemingly every corner of the station and sentinels the activities of every visitor and inhabitant all by himself. If not for the fact that this eats up so much of his time and attention that he can barely make eye contact with Janeway, you'd be forgiven for assuming this to be his masturbatorium.

While she puts up her spatterguard, Chakotay and Paris apparently look like they're in the market for some space LSD. They reject the dealer's offer in a way that would make Tasha Yar very proud and Tom makes yet *another* post-conversation quip.

Neelix meanwhile is scouring the station for a map of the Naked Expanse but also receives something he didn't bargain for, an old friend called Wix. I think about this episode every time I have to update my website. Too bad Echevarria didn't think to copyright that name instead of Taurik. The two Talaxians get caught up over space beers and Wix finds himself impressed with Neelix' lot on the Voyager. Impressed and a little jealous. See, Wix hasn't had an easy time of it, coincidentally, ever since he and Neelix last saw each other.

NEELIX: I don't think I ever told you how much I valued what you did.
WIXIBAN: You'd have done the same for me.
NEELIX: Yes, I would have. But you were the one who got caught. I owe you a great deal. If there's anything I can do to help...

Like I said, this is a brave thing to do. The implication here is that Neelix most definitely would not have “done the same” for his friend. Our introduction to Neelix in “Caretaker” saw him lying to the Voyager crew to save his girlfriend and showing little remorse for it. And he admitted to hiding from the draft on Talax not for the sake of pacifist convictions, but simple cowardice. That doesn't mean he lacks convictions but he isn't heroic. This is substantially different from the “grey” characters over on DS9 who may choose to do awful things for potentially good reasons. No one accuses Sisko, Garak, Eddington or Sloan of being cowards (well, except for me). Depending on what side of the ethical/moral debates you land on, all of them are aspirational in some way. It is remarkable that the writers chose to make a non-aspirational character like Neelix a protagonist in the show. For the most part it backfired, but I think what makes Neelix appealing in a limited way is the fact that he represents the selves we are ashamed to admit to.

After putting his good fortune to words, Neelix' shame surfaces as he tells Wix he suspects his time on the Voyager is about to end. Remember what Q said in “The Q and the Grey”:

Q: I understand that you acquire things for [Janeway], create little interesting diversions, prepare little tasty treats. After all, why else would she be so fond of your fur-lined face?

Neelix rebuffed him, but, yeah, I think this struck very close to home, which is why he tells Wix:

NEELIX: The main reason Captain Janeway needed me was as a guide, to give her information about this quadrant. But I've never been beyond the Nekrit Expanse. I can't tell her anything about what's ahead...They don't really need a cook, and I don't think our Captain really requires an Ambassador. I've tried to find some other area where I might be useful, but, the truth is, I'm not needed.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

While Vorik makes some repairs to Neelix' replicator in the Mess Hall (I'm guessing the All Leola Root Buffet wasn't popular), Chakotay shows up with Wix in tow. Neelix' old friend managed to find the actual gadgets Paris and Chakotay were looking for when they were offered drugs AND he takes the time to talk up Neelix' “varied” talents. Philips makes the most of the uncomfortable set-up here managing to induce genuine feelings of anxiety while still being funny.

He dismisses Vorik and confronts Wix over what he assumes was stolen goods acquired for his ship.

WIXIBAN: Of course not. I wouldn't do that to you. Neelix, I need the work. I don't live on a comfortable starship. No one looks out for me except me. Maybe you've forgotten what that feels like...I've been stuck on that trash heap of a space station for three years. My ship's been impounded. I can't afford to give Bahrat what he wants to get it back. Do you begrudge me an opportunity to make a *fair trade?*

Ooo ooo he said it, he said the name of the thing! Wix is actually bursting with good news, having located some perineum or whatever it was Janeway was looking for and even a map for Neelix. Getting the map will require Neelix to help his old friend with another trade. He's going to help some dying orphans with a lung disease by trading in medical supplies. Aww. And as luck would have it, this beneficent trade will make Wix juuuust enough money to get his ship back from Baccarat. Gee willickers. Neelix is so myopic about his own needs (as he is wont to be) that he misses the obvious truth-massaging going on here. Wix needs Neelix to help him procure a shuttle to acquire the “medicine” AND he needs Neelix not to tell anybody what's actually happening here...er, because Baccarat will keep 20% of the profit, darn him! Neelix clearly knows that he's being lied to, but feigning ignorance is the only way he's going to get his hands on the map. And at this point, while he wouldn't *want* to screw Baccarat out of his commission necessarily, he owes Wix a big favour and this is about as severe a crime as fudging write-offs on your tax return. Again, Neelix isn't aspirational, but he's relatable.

Next thing we see, Neelix and Wix have already picked up their goods and are shuttling back to the station. Neelix is irritable. At first it seems like this is because Janeway's supply of perineum is less than half what he promised, but...

NEELIX: I don't like keeping the whole truth from Commander Chakotay. It's not honest.
WIXIBAN: I don't remember you ever being so squeamish about twisting the truth.
NEELIX: Wix, I'm not what I used to be.
WIXIBAN: Neither am I. We've both tried to change our lives. You've done it. Now I have the same chance.

I really like this juxtaposition. Neelix has “made” a better life for himself in that his material conditions are better than they were. But his methods aren't really any different from Wix'; he's lied, padded his own experience and abilities (remember his alleged survivor skills from “Basics”?), and manipulated Captain Janeway into keeping him around, just like Q said. I'm reminded of Sisko's line from “The Maquis”: “It's easy to be a saint in paradise.” The solution, then, is to make more paradise. More paradise, more saints. Neelix didn't actually earn his place on the Voyager, and that doesn't matter. He's become a better person by proximity. But old habits die hard, and at this point, Neelix' reform only manifests as guilt, not action.

Wix grabs a phaser before the pair beam to the station (“just a precaution,” don't you know?). The cargo bay they find themselves in is lit in Nouveau Ominous Noir, but Neelix' consternation over this obviously bad idea is interrupted by the arrival of the contact, who just so happens to be LSD man. Well it turns out Wix may be slimier than Neelix, but hardly any brighter as LSD man shoots at the pair instead of paying them. In the end, the phaser fire sets off an alarm, LSD man is shot by Wix, the drugs they were smuggling are stolen, and the Talaxian pair are forced to beam away empty-handed.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

Neelix is angry (with himself) and insists they come clean to Janeway immediately.

WIXIBAN: Do you really want to do that? How is it going to look to your shipmates when they find out you were once a contraband smuggler, and that you were involved in this ugly business tonight? You think your position on the Voyager is precarious now? Wait till they discover the whole truth about you.

Twist the knife.

WIXIBAN: So you'd let Bahrat put me in cryostatic suspension? I guess you would. You did let me spend a year in that Ubean prison...I never told you what it was like in there, did I? About eating worms to stay alive. Sleeping in a cell where the vermin chew on you all night. Being punished in ways you couldn't imagine.

Twist again. Neelix agrees to keep the incident a secret but considers his debt paid and their relationship at an end.

Oh did I say twist? Well when Neelix returns to the Voyager, Baccarat is there along with a livid Janeway informing the senior staff that LSD man was actually murdered. They don't know by whom, but they've identified the energy signature of Wix' phaser. Whoopsie.

Tuvok is assigned to investigate and the next thing we see, Neelix is entering his office for an interview. He's obviously extremely nervous, but Tuvok is only suspicious of Wix. He wants Neelix' help questioning his friend, er, “acquaintance.” And so, we see the trio aboard the station. Tuvok is his usually inscrutable self, Neelix is dripping with guilt and fear, and Wix seems to be a skilled liar.

TUVOK: Where were you at the time of the shooting?
WIXIBAN: In bed, asleep.
TUVOK: Can anyone corroborate that?
WIXIBAN: Alas, Mister Tuvok, I sleep alone.

Alas, Wix' quarters don't seem to interest Baccarat and his creepy voyeurism. Anyway, Tuvok leaves for now and Wix has even worse news to share; the people supplying the drugs (“mean as fire snakes!”) aren't happy and are demanding something in payment, a sample of the Voyager's warp plasma. Wix has promised them that Neelix can acquire it. Despite their conflicts, Wix is so confident that Neelix will look out for Number One in the end, that he doesn't even wait for him to answer. He just tells him when and where to meet him for the trade.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

Paris is looking for a containment unit for bio-memedic gels they're going to collect tomorrow. File that one away. Of course, the specific unit can't be replicated and is instead somewhere in this disorganised room full of empty containers because...Anyway, Neelix arrives to give him a hand and provide a little character follow-up to “Investigations.” He asks Tom what it was that landed him in prison.

PARIS: I've thought a lot about that, and it comes down to one simple fact. I didn't tell the truth. I made a mistake, which happens to people, but if I'd admitted that mistake it would have been a lot better. But I lied about it, and it nearly ruined my life.

I like the sentiment here, but this is contrived as hell. I think a scene with Harry, Torres, Tom and Neelix in the Mess Hall or at the resort would have worked much better.

-Torres makes a biting but still flirtatious remark about Tom's time in prison.
-Neelix over-politely asks Tom if he wouldn't mind explaining just what got him there, pulled out of the reverie of his own predicament.
-Tom tells a somewhat smoothed-over version of events.
-Harry shakes his head and bluntly reminds his friend that it wouldn't have been so bad if he hadn't lied about it.
-Paris admits that this is true.
-Torres, Kim and Tom take a drink in quiet unison.
-The camera lingers on Neelix, who's left his cup untouched.

There was an opportunity here for a more fleshed out scene that felt natural and conveyed the message without feeling like an after-school special.

Under the pretence of logging some time near the engine, Neelix gets Vorik to grant him access to the warp core. We see him crawl his way to a port and prepare to steal three grams of plasma. The camera lingers on Neelix' face, a look of pained resignation washes over him and he slumps, defeated.

Then we see Neelix meet Wixiban on the station. He tells his friend that he couldn't go through with it. One touch I like is how Philips is playing this with something like joy. He's in big trouble, but Neelix is happy that his ethics have outgrown his self-interest. And that is how you take an unlikeable protagonist with non-aspirational characteristics and make him an effective hero in a Star Trek story. Well done.

Ah, but we have one more knife-twist before the final act. Baccarat and his guards arrive and order “you two” to be still and prepare for arrest. But the “two” in question aren't the Talaxians, it's actually Tom and Chakotay who are hauled off. Baccarat presents his circumstantial evidence to Janeway, footage of her men having that anti-drug PSA in Act 1. One interesting touch here is Baccarat's admission that he has to charge *somebody* with a crime or risk anarchy on the station. This reminds me a bit of “Tribunal,” where the carceral system was shown to be more about servicing political ends than actually delivering justice, which, you know, it is. Defund the damned police.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

Given the increased stakes, Neelix and Wix confess their crime to Baccarat, but Neelix proposes a Fair Trade for letting them off the hook for it. The pair convince the administrator that his threats of imprisonment and mass surveillance masturbatorium aren't particularly effective in deterring crime. It's far more likely that minor offenders like Wix end up paying for the unpunished crimes of the big players like LSD man and his ilk. Boy this sounds familiar...Anyway, if Neelix and Wix can turn the king pin over to Baccarat by pretending to deliver the warp plasma, the charges against them will be dropped. Baccarat will also provide a sample of plasma to use instead of the Voyager's. The details of Neelix' plan are left intentionally vague. Once again, it's self interest (Wix' only option other than death and imprisonment is to go along with this, and the likely outcome is that the pair will die and Baccart won't have to deal with them anymore) facilitate this slight of hand.

So, the Talaxian duo find themselves in a dark alley once again while Baccarat observes his cameras being tampered with and prepares to move in and make the arrest. When the drug kings arrive, Neelix presses a button on the plasma storage unit. The dealers immediately discover that the sample isn't pure, but Neelix informs them they're under arrest...oh and that he opened up the unit to leak plasma into the air, meaning any weapons discharge or transporter beam would kill them all.

TOSIN: Then you will die with me, little man.
NEELIX: No problem at all, if it means getting rid of an Orillian lung maggot like you. Go ahead. You'd be doing me a favour. I have nothing to lose. Fire away!
WIXIBAN: Neelix!
NEELIX: Shoot. What are you waiting for? Fire!

Between the cinematography, the music, and Philips' chilling nihilistic performance, this is a substantially dark turn for this episode. While the leap to suicide is more abrupt than in “Hard Time,” I do think the story manages to earn this moment; Neelix isn't being motivated solely by his guilt and his fear like O'Brien was, but there is a degree of positive emotion in the mix. He found that his conscience was stronger than his ego and if Neelix were to die right now, he could actually live with himself. Additionally, there's the looming prospect that even if his plan works perfectly and he and Wix aren't killed, Neelix will be left behind as Janeway not only will have no more use for him, but she'll be motivated to put someone who lied and nearly stole from her off her ship. Well, Baccarat shows up, someone panics and there's a great big explosion that vaporises at least one person while the Talaxians duck for cover. (Yes it's that same big dumb green explosion from “Macrocosm”)

Jump cut and Neelix is awakening in the sick bay. The EMH and Kes get a couple of cameo lines and Tuvok informs him that all the loose ends have been tied up; Chakotay and Tom are free, the drug dealers are in custody, and Wix has departed. We are left to wonder what kind of choices he might make now that he's had a brush with paradise.

Janeway arrives, seething in that oh-so-JaneWay of hers and the rest of the cast disperse. She demands an explanation.

NEELIX: I just took one step. A step that seemed perfectly reasonable. And that step lead to another and another, and before I knew what I was involved in something I didn't know how to handle.
JANEWAY: What was it? What was so important that you were willing to throw away your principles?

File that one away, too. Anyway, Neelix explains about his inadequacy and his fears of being put off the ship. Janeway quotes “The First Duty,” which is amusing on several levels given the re-named Taurik and Paris play peripheral roles in this story. It's also a way to acknowledge Neelix' efforts to find a job with Tuvok or Torres—if Neelix is going to take on Starfleet duties at some point, he's got to get the basics first.

NEELIX: But, I can't guide you. I can't advise you. I don't know what's coming.
JANEWAY: Well, that's not the point, is it? None of us knows what's coming. That's what Starfleet is all about. We are all in this together, Neelix, and we have to be able to count on each other no matter how hard it gets.

A little schmaltzy and on the nose? Yeah. But Neelix' effervescent gratitude at being assigned the “Learning Curve” toothbrush-scrubbing of shame punishment made me crack a smile.

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

I don't have too much to say here. I think the writers had a specific task of rescuing the Neelix character from the lows of Season 2 and setting him back on the path we saw in “Jetrel.” They pulled it off without ignoring what transpired in between, showing us the way his relationships with Tom, Tuvok, Janeway and Kes have changed. Wixiban made a good foil, the plot was sensible, the production was smart, and Philips delivered the goods. The Naked Expanse begins the Voyager tradition of temporarily introducing unique areas of space for the ship to pass through and communicate progress on its journey back to the Alpha Quadrant to the audience. For the first two seasons, it felt like the Voyager was spinning its wheels in space given how they kept running into Caligula and Seska. There were a couple of things that could have been better here; the conversation with Paris was way on the nose, and there's maybe one too many clichéd elements, but I'd say the writers succeeded in their task and created an enjoyable episode in the process.

Final Score : ***
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