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Leif Elliott
Tue, Feb 19, 2019, 1:38am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Saints of Imperfection

Hey Omicron,

You don't seem stupid. I just got lucky and beat you and everyone else to the punch..I hope you and Jammer et al liked my other lame MU jokes though..I also like Dave' in MN's 23.25% "from concentrate Section 31" only 25%...


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Sat, Feb 9, 2019, 9:15pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

Excellent post, Trent.
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Thu, Feb 7, 2019, 3:38pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Bar Association

Teaser : **.5, 5%

Worf dismisses the Defiant crew from a five day mission in the GQ, but he's being his usual fastidious and anal retentive self, noting some minor issues with the gyroscope or something. Dax thinks Worf has fallen in love with the Defiant, which is about as healthy as any of Worf's previous romances. I wonder if he's keeping in touch with Troi...

Meanwhile, we learn that Bashir has started dating Jessica Rabbit from “Facets,” and he and O'Brien have expanded their historical larping to ancient Irish/Viking battles. Welp, there it is. The writers are pushing these boys dangerously close to incel territory at this point.

That bullshit out of the way, we can begin the main plot which centres on Quark and Rom being miserable. Quark is morose over yet another Bajoran religious festival we've never heard of before (the month of cleansing). Again, I'll just briefly reiterate that this shorthand Bajorans doing religious-sounding thing is lazy and makes the serious attempts at religious allegory with these people all the more flaccid. Rom, however, is in physical pain, his lobes pounding and his head spinning. Jessica Rabbit—who is inexplicably not participating in stupid Bajoran ritual #54—tries to stand up for Rom, which is good, because he promptly passes out.

LEETA: Aren't you going to do something?
QUARK: Of course I'm going to do something. I'm going to dock his pay.

I think that was supposed to be a joke. Yeah.

Act 1 : **.5, 17%

Rom gets treated for his infection by Bashir. It turns out Rom has avoided receiving treatment for this potentially deadly condition because it would “violate his contract” with Quark. I wish I could say that this farcical scenario was heavy-handed and overwrought, but spend any amount of time reviewing the current state of the American healthcare system, and you'll find depressingly numerous examples of people not getting the care they need because of the greed of the business class. Now, this doesn't make literal sense—Rom is obviously not working every waking moment. There's no reason he couldn't have gotten treatment (for free) in his off hours, but the allegory of enduring dangerous medical risks over economic anxiety? That works for me. Rom elaborates on the further exploitative conditions of his and every other Ferengi's labour contracts, which reads like Ayn Rand's wettest dream.

BASHIR: What you people need is a union.
ROM: A what?
BASHIR: You know, a trade guild, a collective bargaining association. A union. Something to keep you from being exploited.
ROM: You don't understand. Ferengi workers don't want to stop the exploitation. We want to find a way to become the exploiters.

Again—this is supposed to be farcical, but one of the ground states of the conservative political base in West is this pernicious fantasy that all exploited workers are really just latent millionaires. We can't support strong safety nets or economic regulations that only burden the wealthy because, hey, one day *I* might be wealthy, and then I want to be as greedy as possible!

We follow this up with the really lame reveal that Rom gave himself this infection by masturbating (self-oomaxing) too much. Again, has time for dangerous over-masturbation, but not for routine health checkups. Then we get:

ROM: No female. Just me.
LEETA: I'm sorry.
ROM: Sorry enough to do something about it?

He then sticks is ears right in her face. So, the writers have made the important decision that our heroic labour rights leader this episode is a sexual misfit who essentially waves his dick around in a woman's face while begging her to touch him. Great. Jessica's only objection seems to be upsetting her doctor boyfriend—beware the incel-isation.

Quark interrupts this unpleasantness to announce that he's cutting wages by a third in light of this cleansing bullshit. Aside from directly countering Quark's characterisation in “The House of Quark,” where fears over the Dominion had similarly dried up profits, isn't this ritual supposed to happen annually? How is Quark so poor a businessman that he made absolutely no preparations for this? Anyway, whatever plot demons have infected Quark lead Rom to warn his brother that there will be consequences for this outrage.

We cut to Dax and Worf returning from yet another holosuite session to find that his quarters are being burgled. Worf drags the thief to Odo's office, seething, and demands to know how such an egregious violation of his property rights could have...oh yeah. In his rage-stupor, Worf makes the mistake of trying to invoke continuity, proclaiming that security violations like this did not occur on the Enterprise. Odo mentions two of my least favourite TNG episodes, “A Matter of Time,” and “Rascals,” to “prove” that Worf's recollection of The Next Generation is rose-tinted at best. I maintain that his references prove my point that Season 5 is when TNG started to suck.

Meanwhile, Rom rallies Quark's employees together and declares that they're going to unionise to fight back against Quark's greed. And there was much clutching of pearls.

Act 2 : **, 17%

One of the Ferengi extras objects on principle to Rom's suggestion, noting that the idea itself is a violation of Ferengi law.

ROM: All right. So we're doomed. FCA Liquidators will probably haunt us for the rest of our lives. But I say if they're going to come after us, let's give them a good reason.


So, what's difficult here—and I think part of the reason for the irritation many feel about this episode—is that the relationship between ordinary Ferengi, their government, and their culture has been poorly-realised over the the course of the franchise. In early TNG, all Ferengi wore their cultural hats, per the Trek idiom, uniformly. Capitalistic exploitation was simply de rigueur. When individual Ferengi broke in any way from the mould, as with Tog in “Ménage à Troi” or Bok in “Bloodlines,” they were immediately chastised by their peers. Most recently, we have seen Moogie Suzy engage in this kind of subversive behaviour. The problem is that these subversions are always framed as *extensions* of Ferengi philosophy that violate the rules of conduct, but not the underlying instinct for greed. Tog was enamoured with Lwaxana and violated Ferengi gender rules for her, but in the end it served his quest for more profit; Bok was a bit more subversive, seeking to avenge himself on Picard over pursuing material profit, but his motivation was still completely self-interested and myopically greedy; Suzy (Ishka) rises up against the Ferengi patriarchy, but it's only so that she, as a female, can be as horribly exploitative as her male counterparts. Rom is of course the “bad” Ferengi, lacking the lobes for capitalism. So, we can surmise that his natural instinct for greed frustrates him, since he can't realise this ambition in a Ferengi-sanctioned way.

Think about the last episode, “Sons of Mogh,” and the differences between Worf and Kurn. We have enough history with the Klingons to understand how their instincts for nobility and honour are (or aren't) served by Klingon institutions. In the mythical past (which is where Worf tends to live), a genuine honour-based society allowed every warrior to realise his potential. In the modern Empire, corruption has replaced honour with Honour®. Kurn recognises the difference, to a degree, but isn't willing to live without the latter. It's too difficult. Worf isn't willing to ignore the differences and suffers exile as a result. I think the writers are attempting something similar between the brothers Quark and Rom here—to have Rom be the Ferengi version of Worf. Because he doesn't possess the ability to succeed in the sanctioned version of Ferengi society, he is searching for a way to sublimate his instincts in another way, and is stumbling into the anti-capitalist forces that inevitably occurred on Earth.

Getting back to the realisation of Ferengi culture, Gene Roddenberry created a race meant to allegorise greed and capitalism, just as the Klingons allegorise feudalism and chivalry. But feudalism and chivalry feel more remote to *our* culture than do greed and capitalism, as much now as in the 90s. So, the Ferengi were altered to perform their culture more “realistically,” and the allegory became very muddy and weird. Again, Rom's trip to the infirmary is supposed to be an absurd exaggeration of the pitfalls of greedy employers—and the actual circumstances of his malady are silly—but the severity of his situation and the underlying forces which triggered it are not absurd at all. I mean—they *are* absurd, but they are, in terms of severity, rather realistic. Capitalistic greed does directly lead to preventable illnesses going untreated or permanent bankruptcy from medical expenses every day—right now.

It's difficult then to know how to regard Quark's employees' reactions to Rom's little revolution. Is Quark egregiously over-doing Ferengi greed? Well, no. As we will soon discover, his behaviour as an employer is sanctioned by Ferengi society. Rom already explained how his ridiculous labour contract is standard-issue (actually, universal-issue) for all Ferengi. But then, what would be the “natural” reaction for these Ferengi to have? Are they suffering from the same “latent millionaire” delusion as your average Tory or Republican voter? Klingon social woes are the result of political corruption, whereas Ferengi social woes are the result of cultural purity. Adhering to Capitalistic values inevitably sews the seeds for communist revolution (as we are beginning to see). This is difficult to contend with on screen because the Ferengi allegory has been so watered down that it is nearly identical to modern life. Trek's allegories work because they provide emotional distance from the subject at hand, but there's almost no distance between us and the Ferengi anymore.


We continue to the incel bromance with Miles insisting Bashir remove a cyst from his backside. #nohomo, bro. Rom enters the infirmary for some advice on how to proceed with his union effort, and luckily O'Brien, being Irish, is Mr Labour Day, having an ancestor who led the strikes at the anthracite fields back in the day. His advice: look forward to being a martyr.

The freshly un-cyst-ed O'Brien performs one of his usual bandaid jobs on the hybrid tech in Ops, adding to Worf's grumpiness. I think it's time for a prune juice. This conversation is designed to be a bit of fluff (and more digging at TNG from fuckhead Ira Behr), but O'Brien's remarks reveal the other problem with this episode's theme.

O'BRIEN: Have you have any idea how bored I used to get sitting in the Transporter room waiting for something to break down? Here, I've a half dozen new problems every day. This station needs me.

So Mr Labour Day is happy to have some labour value in his position on DS9. He has an honest job to keep him busy and give his life meaning. This ties in directly with the Ferengi dilemma, but, just as the Ferengi are too close to home to function properly as allegory, O'Brien's humanity is too close to home to follow the Trekkian discourse. The whole point of the Federation economy is that the model allows people to pursue their own interests:

PICARD: The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.

O'Brien could have been practising his 'cello, or learning how not to be a shitty husband to Keiko, or developing his rafting skills, or picking up a new hobby, or developing transporter innovations with Barclay—oh wait—he did all of those things on the Enterprise, didn't he? So, why was he so fucking bored? A working man today might feel unfulfilled at his job because he would have to sit there in his coal mine or transporter room or whatever in order to collect his paycheque and feed his family. That kind of soul-crushing tedium is no longer a necessity in the 24th century economic model, which is the entire point of Star Trek.

Later, Quark is confronted by the new union, the Gild of Restaurant and Casino Employees, or GRACE (nice). They present their demands to Quark, who just laughs in their faces. His mirth quickly turns to dread as the gild immediately strikes and leaves the bar en masse.

Act 3 : **, 17%

In an attempt to be more allegorical, GRACE is bribing customers away from Quark's instead of picketing or pamphleting the crowd (there's a crowd, now? What happened to the Holy Month of Bajoran Enemas?). Quark has attempted to circumvent the strike by employing holograms of himself to service the customers. Thankfully, we don't see a Quark Dabbo that thought for Season 6. Odo has been called in to respond to the bribery campaign outside his front door. Surprisingly—erm, sort of—Odo is in agreement with Quark's position.

ODO: I don't like mobs. In my opinion, if you need one to get what you want, it's not worth getting.

Mr Gestapo has been ordered not to violate GRACE's freedom of assembly rights by Sisko. For their part, the incel bros are playing voyeur to the whole endeavour, guessing on who is going cross the picket line from across the promenade. Hey Miles, WHY ARE YOU SO BORED? They are aggrieved to see Worf enter the bar and run after him to have a word.

Exterior shot, then we're in Odo's jail where the incels and Worf are being held in a cell together. Sisko arrives to berate them. Apparently, these three felt so strongly about the strike that it led to an actual brawl. Sisko's idiotic conclusion isn't to teach his officers how to behave like fucking adults while in uniform, but to try and force Quark to settle so that these adolescent man-babies aren't provoked into fighting any more. LEADERSHIP!

Quark explains to Sisko that Ferengi law and religion prohibit Quark from even talking to the union. Well, Sisko could give a fuck about any of that, so he decides his going to apply pressure by getting all capitalist on Quark and threatening to start demanding back rent and utilities from him. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it's good that the show is demonstrating how wealth isn't acquired in a vacuum. Services and infrastructure create the circumstances in which business can succeed far more than the innovative genius of any individual man (hi, Howard Schultz! Elon!). On the other hand, this raises all sorts of problems in-Universe. Isn't the station's economy Bajoran? I thought Starfleet was running DS9, not in legal possession of it. If DS9 is actually a Federation station, then Quark shouldn't be allowed to earn a profit at all, like Sisko's dad back in New Orleans. Grrrr.

Anyway, Quark attempts to settle the strike by bribing his brother.

QUARK: Rom, we shouldn't be fighting. We're brothers.
ROM: Not when it comes to business. We're nothing but employer and employee. You said so yourself.
QUARK: I was wrong.
ROM: No, you weren't.

Rom then reads him the most famous of Marxist quotes, outside of Captain Picard's of course, and Quark leaves in disgust. However, his lousy day isn't over yet. He returns to the bar to discover Blunt and a couple of Naussicans waiting for him. Blunt has been ordered to settle the dispute “by any means necessary.” Hmm.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

GRACE discusses its successes and concerns. While Jessica and Rom are optimistic, Blunt and the Naussicans break in to remind them of what their chief concern should be: imminent physical danger at the hands of the FCA. Of course, the fact that Blunt is showing “mercy” by allowing the strikers to disband before things continue down this unholy path is a sign of the union's efficacy, something I'm pleased to see Rom recognise:

GRIMP: What about our accounts on Ferenginar?
ROM: If your accounts on Ferenginar were worth anything, you wouldn't be working as a waiter.

Later on, Miles and Worf settle their score. Thankfully, Worf realises that his actions were unacceptable, but blames his odd behaviour on the building pressure he's been feeling living aboard DS9. So, his solution, almost brilliant in its simplicity, is to move aboard the Defiant. He can live on a starship again.

Jessica Rabbit takes a moment to compliment Rom on his bravery and lobe-tease him a bit before retiring to dinner with Julian. Quark follows in a panic and starts begging Rom to rehash the issues from “Family Business,” tying in their cultural disputes to lingering childhood trauma. What's good about this scene is that it fishes Quark out of the irredeemable pit of miserliness that he was tossed into in the earlier acts by revealing that Quark is concerned for Rom's safety. Good.

He reports his failure to Blunt while the Naussicans play fraternity games in the background. Blunt's solution reveals that on the one hand, he knows better than to pull an anthracite fields and martyr Rom in his cause. But on the other, his research into historical labour disputes hasn't provided him any actual means to fight the strike. He concludes that Quark is going to have to be roughed up to pressure Rom into backing down. Sigh...this is a big mistake, in my opinion. I get that the writers were trying to further integrate the family dynamic into the plot, but this misses a huge part of the politics behind the message they're trying to sell. After all his Gestapo posturing, would Odo really allow Blunt to assault someone on the station without reprisal? Would Sisko and the Federation really not issue diplomatic sanctions against Ferenginar after his blackmailing earlier? If the forces of Capitalism are able to suppress organised labour, it's because they have the support of the government (which they often do—hi, Scott Walker!). Without that dynamic, this feels more like disputes between rival mafias than a parable about labour rights.

Act 5 : **, 17%

Well, we find that Quark was almost killed by his off-camera beating. Bashir has allowed Rom to visit his brother and gloat. Quark says he can't press charges (that shouldn't matter to Odo; he witnessed the assault taking place). No, instead he's going to undermine the entire point of the episode:

QUARK: I mean, I mean you dissolve the union, make it look like I've won, and I'll give you everything you want.

William B nails it on the head: “Brunt's alacrity on the station is just difficult to believe, and feels largely like a desperate dramatic advice to prevent the episode from just resolving due to the fact that ordinary economic pressures (e.g. the boycott) would probably force Quark to capitulating earlier.” Precisely. This is the writers doing one of their “morally grey” white-washings on a fairly simple issue, reducing the exploitation on the workers, but allowing Quark to save face. So the union is effective, but only because it was willing to commit fraud and lie to the FCA, thus preventing or at least postponing a genuine labour uprising throughout the Ferengi Alliance. I'm not surprised Quark would suggest this, but it's disappointing to see Rom's ambitions dissolve so easily.

We take a moment to check in on Worf on the Defiant. Jadzia gives him a gift and Worf rewards her with a joke:

DAX: Sooner or later you're going to have to adapt.
WORF: Perhaps in the end it will be all of you who that have to adapt to me.

We finish with Quark's Bar opening up to the fully-cleansed Bajorans who are desperate for booze and gambling. Way to uplift a spiritual people guys; suggest that this very sacred ritual is nothing more than vapid tradition inviting an immediate palinode! Oh, and also Rom has quit the bar and joined the technical crew aboard the station. This ending at least manages to provide both Ferengi brothers a little more dignity than they're usually supplied.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

This episode is kind of a mess. But I also kind of like it. Unlike many previous Ferengi episodes, nothing is egregiously bad here. The humour isn't anything close to the greatness found in “The Nagus,” “The House of Quark,” or “Little Green Men,” but it's alright. The characterisation and message elements of the main plot are well-intentioned, but suffer from the poor realisation of the Ferengi as a people from all the preceding material. So, I'm inclined to give the writers a bit of a pass on issues they inherited. The major flaw is the resolution, which is basically identical to “Family Business”: put Pandora back in her box and pretend nothing is wrong. This issue is [SPOILER] better-resolved later this season in “Body Parts,” but it does make things feel a bit pat at the end of this tale. They managed to make both Rom and Quark sympathetic for the most part, which is a sign of the superior writing for character this season compared to S2 or S3. Worf's story is little more than an excuse for the writers to get meta about the DS9 > TNG inferiority complex which pervades many an episode, but you know, Worf isn't trying to murder elderly Klingons or erasing family members this week, so I'm feeling more positive about this development. The extraneous elements, like the braindead Bajoran juice cleanse, the baffling legal/economic structure of the station, and the inexplicable romance between Jessica and both Bashir and Rom leave me pretty cold.

Final Score : **
Set Bookmark
Sat, Feb 2, 2019, 4:01pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Point of Light

This topic is almost impossible. The problem is that—although there are certainly many people who dislike Discovery (no opinion from me) and TLJ (minsguised, IMO) for fair reasons—there ARE a large number of fans whose critiques of both franchises are in fact racist, sexist, anti-progressive, etc. It behoves those who are (correctly) frustrated in being lumped in with these toxic people to call out the behaviour of the latter. I do think sometimes producers hide behind representation to avoid issues in writing or production, but we need to clear the table of these ugly issues before we can attempt a rational conversation. Otherwise, things just fly off the rails.
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Fri, Feb 1, 2019, 1:20pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: A Happy Refrain

Going to pretend I didn’t just spend 45 minutes crying like a baby.

4 stars
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Thu, Jan 31, 2019, 2:37pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Dreadnought

Teaser : ***, 5%

Samantha Wildman is having another checkup for her very large baby bump. It seems the (mostly) self-inflicted lesson from “Tattoo” has yielded results. When the EMH and Wildman start discussing baby names, he just insults her repeatedly instead of kicking her in the uterus. A marked improvement! The Doctor is spoilt for choice when it comes to names for himself. He knows too much about the etymology of various alien languages not to find fault in possible names for himself or for Wildman's enormous baby. In a failed comedy cut, Kes mentions that she had “an uncle,” which means she's learnt to lie with ease. They grow up so fast.

Meanwhile, in the actual plot, the Voyager has discovered debris suggesting a formidable weapon; Torres and Chakotay later report something odd. The weapon was in fact Cardassian, and Torres herself is responsible for the attack. Hmmm.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

Paris interrupts Torres' briefing to the senior staff, arriving late and dishevelled. Chakotay isn't amused, but Torres presses on. It turns out that Chakotay's Maquis cell captured and reprogrammed a Cardassian self-guided missile, called Dreadnought, before it was lost in the Badlands. They speculate that the Caretaker brought it to the DQ the same as the Val-Jean and the Voyager (and, we will eventually learn like 50 other ships). It's really amazing what good direction and delivery can do for a shaky script. To begin with, the Cardassians sure have a knack for crafting plot-specific technologies. Remember in “Civil Defence,” they booby-trapped DS9 with such precision that Dukat was nearly able to reconquer it? Yet most days, their technology is run-of-the-mill. This missile is of the same specifically-advanced nature. And of course, the Cardassians designed this amazing thing to blow up a weapons depot or whatever for a scrappy band of terrorists. There's some good resource management! Oh, and of course Torres was able to reprogramme the entire computer system by herself with a wrench and chewing gum. That the Voyager would encounter it is less problematic for me. Provided it started warping away in a straight line from the array as soon as it arrived, towards the AQ, it makes sense that the Voyager would only now come across it. Anyway, my point is that this all fairly incredible (that is to say, literally non-credible) exposition, but LeVar Burton has managed to coach the cast into delivering the information with such human sincerity, letting the emotions connected to the memories overtake the minutiae of the dialogue, that the scene works despite itself. Voyager rarely goes for the kind of scientific plausibility one had on TNG, so making this about the characters is exactly the way to go. The plan is to put Torres back inside the missile and have her shut it down before it causes more damage. Chakotay has an angry word with Paris after the meeting, continuing their dynamic from “Meld.”

Paris and Torres work together in Engineering where her temper flares a bit in frustration. Chakotay fibbed to Janeway regarding the Maquis mission—it was actually just Torres, acting without authorisation, who sent the Dreadnought on its mission. This scene is great in a number of ways:

We continue the look at the Paris/Torres relationship from “Faces.” Where most people would find Torres' angry outbursts off-putting, Paris sees them as an invitation, having met the vulnerable and insecure person beneath the gruff exterior.
We revisit her growth from “Prime Factors,” where Torres confesses that having been given the responsibility of her position on the Voyager has made her mindful of gravity of her choices and the consequences of her actions.
We get a taste of her history with Chakotay, revealing that his leadership style has always been rather emotional. He loves his people and treats them like family—which is why Seska's betrayal and the redshirt death in “Alliances” hit him so hard.

TORRES: I was so glad when it disappeared into the Badlands. I remember thinking, thank god, it's over. But it's not. And if anything happens here because of Dreadnought, it's my fault. No one else's.

We also broach the topic of Paris' behaviour this season. She calls him out on it and he makes no attempt to justify himself. With Torres' help, the crew are finally able to track down the Dreadnought which has armed itself and is on course for a populated planet.

Act 2 : **.5, 17%

Jonas is still begging to be put in contact with Seska over his pirate porn channel, but the Kazon are, for whatever reason, being obstinate. He has to cut off the transmission when Janeway hails the target planet. She warns the alien about Dreadnought, but he interprets her call as a threat, following the rumour mill the Kazon have been spinning about them.

Torres inputs her access codes and beams over to the missile, where she is greeted by the computerised version of herself. Immediately, there's a HAL 9000 vibe in their interaction, with the disembodied and cold voice and voyeuristic camera angles. More on that later. Torres is able to determine that Dreadnought has mistaken this alien planet for its original Cardassian target in the AQ. Torres fixes the missile's navigational sensors. There's an odd delay in the computer's response to her inquiry, but it seems convinced now that it has been transported to the DQ, so she's able to power it down and disengage the target lock. However, while Janeway and Torres are co-ordinating salvage efforts on the Dreadnought's tech, it powers up on its own and resumes its course, but now at very high warp speed.

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

Torres is no longer able to access the missile, so Janeway decides to try out a couple photons, to no avail. The missile hails and explains that it determined Torres to be lying about the Caretaker and all that, and so tricked her into leaving so it could continuing raining fire from the heavens. Dreadnought's responses are visibly frustrating for B'Elanna:

JANEWAY: You've already identified Voyager as a Federation ship, Dreadnought. Your scanners must indicate this is not a Cardassian crew.
DREADNOUGHT: Probability assessment indicates you are operating within the parameters of the Cardassian Federation Alliance, as described in the treaty of 2367, a treaty rejected by the Maquis.

This machine has become more Maquis than Torres ever intended, having adopted, in its cold, calculated probability-assessment way, the inchoate and reactionary attitudes which make the Maquis such a nonsensical addition to the Star Trek universe. What's interesting here is how that contradiction is being exploited. In the way a parent might brainwash a child or a an institution might propagandise to its members, Torres programmed Dreadnought with directives stemming from paranoia, anger, fear, and illogic.

Finding their options dwindling, Torres suggests a technobabble weakness they might exploit, per the Starfleet Engineers' idiom. So Tuvok shoots the thing again, prompting the expected tech-tech response. Ah, but there's more tech-techy stuff going on on Dreadnought which subverts the plan and ends up incapacitating the Voyager instead.

While the Voyager conducts repairs, Janeway speaks to the alien representative over the comm in her ready room. The aliens are going to attempt to combat the missile, despite the hopeless odds. I think the goal here was to put a more personal “human” face to the soon-to-be victims of the bomb, and this is okay, I suppose. There's no depth to the portrayal and the consequences to this planet of the week don't actually feel more weighty than they would had there been no communication. A decent effort, but not super effective or necessary.

Kim and Torres are finally able to beam her back over. Kim notes that Torres shouldn't be crying over spilled milk, because Dreadnought, despite its adaptive heuristics, doesn't dwell on its own mistakes. This is meant as a little friendly pep-talk, but actually there's some irony to the statement. Torres isn't the same revenge-fuelled anger machine she was when she programmed Dreadnought precisely because she has spent time and shed tears over her mistakes.

This time, Dreadnought is being less co-operative than it was before as Torres gets shut out of system after system, even shocked at one point. But then the alien fleet arrives to provide a distraction.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

Together, the aliens and the Voyager occupy the Dreadnought, giving Torres the chance to work on the computer systems. But it's too quick for her.

TORRES (in anger): Those ships aren't your enemy. They are not Cardassian! Can't you recognise that?
DREADNOUGHT (emotionless): This vessel is programmed to respond with all necessary force to prevent any disruption to it's mission.

This is a good time to talk about HAL. One of the most fascinating choices in “2001” was to characterise the humans as disturbingly robotic, while making the artificial intelligence, HAL, extremely dynamic in its expressions of fear, paranoia, voyeurism, panic, and malice. It's possible that HAL and the astronauts are like this because humanity had evolved to sublimate its instincts within its ever developing technology. So, the idea here is that Torres has likewise sublimated her own instincts—irrational, romantic, stubborn—into the Dreadnought. But since then she has evolved somewhat, and hearing her own ugliness spouted back at her in this unfeeling version of her own voice, coupled with witnessing the alien nobodies being deleted from the sky is...disturbing.

DREADNOUGHT: Assumption entered.
TORRES: And we're heading for the wrong target.
DREADNOUGHT: Assumption entered.
TORRES: Millions of innocent people about to die when you detonate.
DREADNOUGHT: Assumption entered.

Over the comm, Torres expresses her reluctance to discuss tactics where Dreadnought can hear them, so the channel is closed and the transporter lock blocked. The computer determines that Torres is now attempting to blow up the missile before it reaches its target, which gives Torres the opportunity to pull a Kirk and question the illogic of its probability assessments. Eventually, she discovers a Cardassian backup file within the computer's memory. But then Torres' gambit backfires again, as Dreadnought determines that B'Elanna has “changed loyalties.” As she is no longer allied to the Maquis, Dreadnought is terminating life-support. Dreadnought is Maquis through and through.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

With disaster imminent, Janeway informs the alien representative that she has decided to self-destruct the Voyager in Dreadnought's path to save his people from annihilation. Good. She quietly informs her 1st and 2nd officers of her decision and orders Chakotay to evacuate the crew. It's here that we learn that the Voyager can be self-destructed by the captain alone for some reason.

Meanwhile, with the air and heat running low, Torres has managed to access the Cardassian file. This creates darkly amusing battle of wills between the two computer systems.

TORRES: Check those diagnostics, Dreadnought. You're talking to yourself. I believe you're having an identity crisis.

Pot meet kettle. This argument finally enables Torres to access the warhead or the power core or whatever, and the Voyager is able to re-establish its transporter lock and comm signal. Preparing for the worst, Janeway orders everyone else off the bridge in to the escape pods. Two lovely character moments are woven in to the action melodrama, which is quite nice. The first is Paris, who thanks Janeway “for everything.” Considering his recent behaviour, this could mean any number of things. Without knowing the future, it works as an acknowledgement of the regret he feels at squandering this new opportunity, only to lose his new mentor. Knowing the future (SPOILER), he's thanking Janeway for the trust she has shown him in his undercover mission. Additionally, Tuvok refuses to the leave the bridge, citing logic, but betraying his own Vulcan affection for his old friend.

“Hello B'Elanna.” Yeah. While Torres shoots Dreadnought in the belly, the two versions of herself, past & present, zealous & conscious, lament the mutual destruction they are attempting. The missile is destroyed, Torres beamed aboard and the self-destruct cancelled. And there was much rejoicing. Oh, except, there was a bit of an oversight.

EMH: [Torres is] here in Sickbay, Captain. Please turn to your Emergency Medical Holographic channel.
JANEWAY: Doctor, I forgot about you.
EMH: How flattering.

Yay Doctor Comedy.

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

It seems like Voyager is finding its footing. The plot is...okay. There are some head-scratching bits in the premise and the danger of the week is something we've seen many times before, but the characters and direction keep everything grounded. Little things like Paris' arc and Janeway's no-nonsense command decisions work pretty well. I think the Torres/Dreadnought interactions are standout. There are obvious similarities to “Faces,” but the identity crisis isn't so much about her disparate Klingon/human selves as it is about her past and her future. “Caretaker” Torres may not have wanted Dreadnought to bomb this whatever planet, but it's doubtful she would have felt responsible to stop it. Remember, she objected vehemently to Janeway's decision to destroy the array, for similar reasons. Now, I don't think Torres would be able to live with herself if she didn't try. Dawson puts in a good performance as a conflicted Torres, but also shows some range in her monotone portrayal as the computer. While the responses to Torres' questions seem devoid of feeling, one can sense all the resentment and aggression with which she was programmed. Take, for example, Torres' request to run new probability assessments; she has to argue with the computer to accept an hypothetical premise. “It's just a game,” she insists. But Dreadnought is somehow wary of entertaining ideas which conflict with its accepted reality. This is the classic backfire effect, revealing that this computer has a psychology. Pretty interesting.

Final Score : ***
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Elliot (not Elliott)
Sun, Jan 27, 2019, 5:38pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Tattoo

I'll quick get this out of the way now, I am not the Elliott who commented above and has apparently been a regular commentator and reviews these episodes in the comments, but I'd like to add onto something that Elliott said:

"But, thanks to Michael Piller and his weird back-to-nature bent..."

You have no idea how much that hits home for me, later TNG and most of DS9 (both of which I do generally enjoy before going too far into my rant) seem to romanticize this idea of "natural" living, of cooking one's own food as opposed to replicating food. Voyager, for whatever flaws it had, at least provided a good reason for why they needed to cook (replicator rations) even though the consistency of Voyager's energy problems were not always handled that well.

Now, it doesn't bother me that restaurants still exist, I have absolutely no problem with the premise that there are people who legitimately enjoy the art of cooking for it's own pleasure (and that there are people who would go to them to enjoy it as an art form, like seeing a painting, or something along those lines) that actually makes perfect sense to me. What bothers me is that the show constantly treats it as just being superior to replicated foods, and never ever challenges that presumption.

With this in mind, I see the Maquis more as this insane logic taken to the natural conclusion. If "natural" is superior to "replicated", then any place that the colonists have farmed the land or built stuff must be superior to some other place that isn't "theirs". Funny enough, I can very easily see a counter-culture develop within some Federation planets that just rejects typical Federation living as "unnatural", in the same way that this element exists today (the fact that people wax poetic about the past is hardly a new thing, and I can very easily see that continue into the future). What bothers me so much about how the series treats it is that it's not looked at critically at all, and if anything is treated as somehow sacred. The Maquis, as portrayed in DS9, are supposed to be looked at as sympathetic as portrayed in story, but it fails just because their whole raison d'etre is kind of lunacy in the context of the type of civilization the Federation is supposed to be. This is a post-scarcity society, they are basically saying that technology that not only eradicates hunger, but also eliminates a lot of destructive and cruel practices that are involved with "natural" food (animal farming, the need to devote huge swathes of land for the sole purpose of a single crop, and the environmental destruction required for it to be tenable widespread), and instead of celebrating this, it's actively lamented by the series at time, that literally eliminating widespread starvation among humanity is seen as making us somehow less than we were in the past.

What makes this whole thing even more absurd is how inconsistent it's treated in-universe. "Unnatural" food is treated as being inferior to "natural" food but 24th Century medicine is always treated as good unless there is some specific circumstance that it shouldn't be used (like Voyager explored in one episode). The same people who spout their nonsense about "replicated slop" like Sisko's father are also the same people who have so many different "artificial" organs and the like as to be hilarious. No one ever treats this like it could possibly be an issue (and for the record, I'm perfectly okay with artificially created organs) but the logic applies to "unnatural" medicine every bit as much as it applies to "unnatural" food and "my land", it's hypocritical, and it's never even addressed at all. Hell, DS9's episode with that crazy lady who marooned her ship on a planet to prevent technology is only treated as a problem because she marooned people, her harsh punishment methods, and the absolute rejection of technology, but even then, it's the punishment that's meant to turn us against her and the use of trickery, not necessarily the rejection of technology, if anything the episode tends to be sympathetic to the general idea of rejecting technology, just not the methods or the more puritanical punishment.
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Fri, Jan 25, 2019, 3:05pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Meld


Emotions are perfectly valid for what they are, but the point is that they are fleeting. They change, usually, and even if they don't, they are completely subjective. Determining whether or not to end someone's life based on emotions is not only illogical, it's immoral.
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Fri, Jan 25, 2019, 3:00pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Sons of Mogh

Prepping for this story required me to revisit some golden-age TNG. So let's talk about the brothers Mogh. Kurn made his entrance into Trek by being difficult, trolling the Enterprise crew and especially Worf by being as intentionally pedantic about Starfleet procedures as possible.What's interesting is that Kurn was content to serve in an adopted house for about ten years, and never bothered to try and contact his brother or acknowledge his parentage until the Duras conspiracy surfaced. When he was nearly assassinated, Worf makes an offhanded comment that Dr Crusher should have let him die rather than face the inevitable dishonour (that would be the social currency of honour which makes the Empire so corrupt) that would be cast upon them both. But then, when Worf chooses to accept discommendation, Picard tells Kurn that Worf wants him to live. It was important for Kurn to witness Worf make such a personal sacrifice for the good of his people, as he saw it at the time.

When we pick up with him in “Redemption,” he has already begun conscripting revolutionaries to the causes of remaking the Empire and excising the corruption of the Duras. Worf, Kurn and Gowron all seem to believe that the problems with the Empire and its politics stem from the bad behaviour of particular individuals, but Kurn is the closest to having a systemic critique. In what I consider to be an unfortunate change of character, Worf chooses to leverage the continuity of the establishment (the installation of Gowron over Pipsquea'Q [Duras' heir]). The Moghs will uphold the system, with all its self-cannibalising corruption, in exchange for the restoration of their Family Honour®.Interestingly, though I didn't quite make the connection it at the time, this moves Worf closer to the self-centred cynic of “The Sword of Kahless” we saw earlier this season. He is concerned about the Empire's future—in earnest—but can't see past the peak of his own ridges.

We get a glimpse of Kurn's abilities as a warrior during some of the civil war battle scenes, showcasing ingenuity and gumption bordering on recklessness that match his more radical (and younger) point of view. During the neutral ground drinking scene, we see that Kurn's attitude is more in keeping with the typical Klingon warrior. Worf has been privileged, in a way, to have been brought up in a more evolved culture; so the conflict between his experiences in Starfleet and his instincts as a Klingon have made him pragmatic. This is emphasised when we see the Duras sisters at the same party, also refusing participate, choosing instead to observe and strategise for political advantage. What's important about Kurn's presence in the story is that we see that Worf, like a good post-Vulcan contact human, has learned to objectify the same culture which gives him so much grief. He knows the rules and customs of his people as well as any other Klingon, and he yearns for the social validation that comes with that knowledge, as well as executing those traditions so well. But despite the longing, for Worf, the endeavour is abstract. He is all about parlaying and strategising—and is successful at this—but Kurn notes that it's a rather joyless activity for his older brother. Kurn embraces the chaos and internalises the values which he still believes define his people, despite evidence of its fraudulence. Kurn questions the system because he believes in the truth of the culture; Worf manipulates the system because he feels the culture is precious and vulnerable.

KURN: I did not wish to follow Gowron. You came to me and insisted we support Gowron against the Duras family. The time for debate is over. We are Klingons. He is our leader. If that is not enough for you, then perhaps you made the wrong choice when you put on that uniform.

In the end, Kurn bears witness to Worf making one more unconventional choice, to spare Pipsquea'Q and define himself as a man for whom honour is not mere social currency. But he won't be laughing it up with Guinan any time soon.

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

Worf and Jadzia are enjoying some holosuite time. Ron Moore has deliberately chosen to write the combat practice scene in a way two seasoned chess players might spar. I like this quite a bit. Chess after all is on some level a war game and a rather cynical look at political power...but it's still just a game. It also highlights what I said in the preamble (pre-ramble?) about how Worf tries to balance his two worlds by intellectualising his Klingon rituals, objectifying them like a human. It's difficult to picture many other TNG-era Klingons getting so philosophical about combat. We also establish firmly that these two want to fuck. Your mileage may vary on this story thread.

Before we start in on the “it's not the size of the Bat'leth that matters, it's how you use it” jokes, Worf is called away by Odo to meet a drunk Klingon. And we see that it's none other than Kurn. With elation, the younger son of Mogh tells his brother that he has emerged from wherever he's been hiding so that Worf kill him.

Act 1 : ***.5, 18%

The next morning, Worf welcomes Kurn to his hangover. There's a bit of re-hashing from their dynamic in “Sins of the Father” as Kurn questions the relative comfort and human-ness of Worf's quarters. Worf just has his well-varnished “they serve me” in response. We again see that Kurn is unable to distinguish between what Worf calls honour and what the Klingons call Honour®.

KURN: Oh, so in avoiding dishonour for yourself, you brought it on the rest of your family. What a noble act. How selfless.

Gowron has been quite thorough in fulfilling his promise from TWotW in stripping Worf's family of everything...again. At any rate, Kurn isn't doing so hot obviously, but luckily there's another one of those patented Klingon loopholes that will allow him to die with Honour®. If Worf commits ritual murder (again), Kurn can go to MicrowaveStovokor or whatever.

Meanwhile, O'Brien (remember him?) and Kira are returning from yet another trip to yet more Bajoran colonies being established. I'm honestly not holding this recurring point against the serious, not really, but it's a lot less plausible that a world with massive shortages and political problems is permitted to colonise planet after planet and somehow be considered for Federation membership than it is that the Voyager crew eventually figure out how to build more photon torpedoes and shuttlecraft. Some banal but reasonable dialogue is interrupted by a flash in space. They theorise that a cloaked vessel has just exploded in front of them. They move in to investigate, but a cloaked bird of prey appears and warns them away—very cordially for Klingons.

We pick up with Jadzia looking for Worf at Quark's for another holo-date. Quark has about had it with Worf's rudeness, which has been dialled up to 11 it seems. She pieces together, thanks to Curzon's knowledge of Klingon bullshit, what Worf is preparing to do. Thank the plot gods Worf wouldn't have been able to replicate Klingon incense in his quarters. I guess unlike killing the man who killed your wife, special incense and prayers are required to kill your brother and absolve him of his Dishonour®, as we see in Worf's quarters. Jadzia hauls Odo with her to prevent the stabby-stab, but arrives too late. She has Kurn beamed to the infirmary and Odo starts grumbling about murder charges. Way to spoil the moment, assholes.

Act 2 : **, 18%

Always one for unnecessary drama, Sisko has laid the bloody stabby dagger on his desk as he questions Worf and Dax about the incident. Dax reports that Kurn is going to live, thanks to Bashir's attending and that remarkable Klingon physiology (c.f. “Ethics”). Speaking of which, let's compare and contrast:

SISKO: At the moment, I don't give a damn about Klingon beliefs, rituals or custom. Now I have given you both a lot of leeway when it comes to following Klingon traditions, but in case you haven't noticed, this is not a Klingon station, and those are not Klingon uniforms you're wearing. There is a limit to how far I'll go to accommodate cultural diversity among my officers and you've just reached it. When your brother is released from the infirmary, you better find another way to settle your family problems. Is that clear?


PICARD: Beverly, he can't make the journey you're asking of him. You want him to go from contemplating suicide to accepting his condition and living with the disability, but it's too far. The road between covers a lifetime of values, beliefs. He can't do it, Beverly. But perhaps he can come part of the way. Maybe he can be persuaded to forgo the ritual in order to take the chance at regaining the kind of life he needs. A Klingon may not be good at accepting defeat, but he knows all about taking risks.

“Ethics” is of course from TNG's fifth season and thus hovers between the philosophical consistency of Roddenberry's TNG (S1-4) and whosever TNG (S6-7). That story had several escape routes from its ethical dilemma, ironically. One was the ending, which allowed Worf to live thanks to mad science. The other was the complication of having Alexander be the ordained family member to kill his father according to Klingon law. But despite the wiggle-room, Picard is rather clear in his belief that Worf has the right to his traditions, and presumably has the backing of Federation law in the case of assisted suicide. So, if there hadn't been a magic surgery option, and if the Alexander-as-euthanisor had been worked through, Worf would have died and Picard would have condoned it. Now, this position is debatable. Unlike other issues, the questions of self-worth and personal autonomy do not disappear from society when you eliminate greed, money, disease, etc. The point is, Picard considered the issue from several perspectives, from Worf's, from Crusher's, from Riker's and from his own interpretation of Federation law. In the end, he determined that the opinion that mattered was Worf's.

The issue this week is slightly different, but we are still dealing with two consenting adults. Again, I am not saying definitively that Worf should be allowed to kill Kurn—had I been in Jadzia's place, I would have done the same—and Worf definitely tried to carry this out in secret from his captain, so Sisko is allowed to be pissed off about that. The problem is that Sisko doesn't bother to consider anyone else's perspective. This isn't a diplomatic issue, or a command issue, or a strategic issue, it's an ethical/cultural one. For him to unilaterally decide against Klingon tradition here is distressingly close-minded, especially for a man who usually can't shut the hell up about giving the Bajorans latitude over their idiotic traditions and beliefs. But lest we be lulled into the fiction that Sisko is acting in some sort of morally-superior way, he isn't concerned with taking Worf to task over his attempted murder (his words). Instead, he just tells Worf to fuck off and not kill his brother. It's bad enough that Sisko would deny the opportunity for moral debate because he's rigid, it's far worse that it's just because he's fucking lazy.

Anyway, Jadzia apparently knows better than to try and reason with Sisko, so she and Worf scurry away to confront Kurn. Sisko has other shit to worry about, as he receives a report from O'Brien and Kira over the Klingon explosions. To add insult to injury, the episode tries to justify Sisko's attitude with Worf with “I'm tired of tip-toeing around the Klingons,” and so orders the Defiant be sent on a trolling mission of the Bajoran border. AND he insists that Worf—whose entire purpose for being on DS9 is to deal with Klingon bullshit—be kept far away from the mission. Sisko seems to believe that Worf is just not capable of controlling himself around other Klingons. Which, to say nothing of the fact that he GAVE UP HIS ENTIRE STANDING WITH HIS PEOPLE in TWoTW, is little more than blatant, ugly racism on Sisko's part. Finally, O'Brien attempts to offer his perspective and Sisko isn't even willing to hear what he has to say. There's some fine leadership, folks.

Worf visits Kurn in the infirmary to deliver that bad news. I was expecting Julian to be rather hostile, like he was to Bitchwhore in “Life Support” (justifiably), but he's unusually sedate. Hmmm. Kurn is obviously not happy that he's waking up in this goofy trapezoid thing instead of the pearly gates or whatever Klingons envision for the afterlife. For reasons that are never even hinted at, Worf has changed his mind in the wake of his dressing-down by Sisko and now believes that the Mock-turtleneck or whatever was wrong.

KURN: Did you fight them? Did you threaten to kill them both if they interfered? And are you standing here now with the mevak dagger ready to slit my throat and bring me the death I deserve? No. For a moment in your quarters during the ritual you were Klingon. But your Federation life has claimed you again and now it is claiming me as well. I have no life. I have no death. whatever is to become of me is up to you.

Later on, Dax visits Worf to apologise, which is an unexpected and very welcome touch for her character. They decide to try and give Kurn a purpose by having him conscripting into Odo's security forces on the station. Odo is also unexpectedly gracious in agreeing to do Worf a favour in this matter.

Act 3 : ***, 13% (short)

Kira and O'Brien are conducting their trolling operation, and encounter another explosion, with a Klingon vessel suffering massive damage but refusing assistance from the Defiant...for about 20 seconds. Then, they call back and “ask” for medical assistance, agreeing in the end to be towed to DS9.

Kurn proves completely capable of doing his job excellently, but loathes every moment of it, both of which are in keeping with what we saw in “Sins of the Father.” He put up a brave front to Worf and Odo, but it turns out he's completely suicidal as he allowed himself to get shot. Needless to say, Odo's having none of it, and fires him.

Act 4 : **, 18%

The senior staff assemble in the Wardroom to discuss the damaged Klingon ship. I don't quite get why everyone is sitting about so casually, but whatever. They determine that the Klingons are setting up a minefield, an act of war, as Bashir points out. Worf decides to ask Kurn to play double-agent and steal the tactical information from the docked ship. Sigh...this shows again why Sisko is such a shitty captain. They have the ship. If Sisko thinks stealing the information is pragmatically necessary to the security of the Federation, then fine. Take the damned data. But to sneak in using Kurn so as to provide plausible deniability for himself and his people is the act of a coward. In “Redemption,” when Picard noticed Worf using his position as an officer to affect change in the Empire, he stepped in an had the data regarding Kitomer made public. He made *himself* culpable for the ramifications, when he could have just let Worf scuttle under the radar. Worf is obviously being moulded in this image, as it's his idea to use Kurn like this, but he's also being motivated by his desire to give his little brother a purpose. Sisko's asshole.

Worf presents the idea to Kurn who is immediately hostile to the notion of undermining his own people. But Worf is able to use some Sisko-ian sophistry to rationalise his plan. The only way to save the Empire is to prevent it from making stupid moves like prepping for war with the Federation. This again shows that Worf manipulates the system in order to preserve it. Ironically, he denies his Klingon brethren the opportunity to seek after real honour again by martyring himself like this and enabling their transactional politics to continue. Kurn is convinced and Bashir conscripted to fake DNA credentials for the brothers to get them aboard the Klingon vessel. But during their raid, they're confronted by a Klingon officer. Dun dun dun...

Act 5 : *, 18%

Worf thinks he's weaselled his way out of this confrontation, but Kurn recognises that the officer was going to stab Worf in the back. This effectively demonstrates that Kurn is more in touch with Klingon behaviour than Worf is is this act in any way considered “honourable”? I'm sure stabbing people in the back in order to protect secret computer files is totally sanctioned. I wonder if he had the right incense though?

Sisko is pleased and sends the Defiant out with this new data to have the mines destroyed. But Worf expresses his regrets to Dax about having lost his Klingon instincts.

WORF: For a long time I have tried to walk the line between the Empire and the Federation. I told myself I could live in either world, that it was my choice. But the truth is, I cannot go back to the Empire.

Worf claims that his thinking has fundamentally changed. I'm not sure when this happened, but I guess it did. He views the world through decidedly human eyes. This is framed as a tragedy for Worf, and I suppose on some level it is, but it's difficult to focus on this based on what follows. The idea here is that, since Worf is thinking like a human, maybe there's a human solution to Kurn's crisis: what if you could kill him without killing him? This would be erasing his identity and changing his memories, permanently. Her reasoning is absolutely appalling. This kind of self-serving cowardice is exactly the way Sisko behaves too often, sure, but I am galled by the idea that this is supposed to be typical 24th century human behaviour. Call me a Roddenberrian idealist all you want; it isn't an effective critique of the Star Trek ethos to just turn the human race into people with incredibly low ethical bars. That's just lazy. The moral implications of erasing Kurn don't disappear just because you aren't killing his body. Jadzia *knows* this! That's why she frames it as “killing him without killing him.” So, while “Ethics” copped out of its moral dilemma to an extent, by providing a magical scifi cure for Worf's broken back, here we are *doubling down* on being unethical via a magical scifi cure for Kurn's ailment, namely being related to Worf. Worse still, this solution wasn't foreshadowed at all. Remember that it was Klingon physiology which Dr Russell complained about in the opening acts of “Ethics” which ended up being the lucky break which allowed her crazy procedure to work out. That's dramatic irony and Dr Crusher called her out on it. Where did this memory-erasure idea come from? Was Dax just sitting on this the whole time to fuck with Worf? Is this flirting, what?

So, Bashir agrees to erase his memory. Sisko consents to this nonsense off-camera, naturally. Consent? What the fuck is that?

Episode as Functionary : .5, 10%

Perhaps the most egregious character casualty in this unforgivable ending is Bashir, who not only agrees to this ethically dubious task without so much as a peep, but also lies to Kurn's face in order to protect the subterfuge. Bashir's defining characteristic is being annoying because he won't shut up about his opinions. But here, he just quietly consents to madness. So yeah, I have to agree with the majority here that this story's conclusion ruins would could have been a very touching character piece for Worf, one that could have made up for his shoddy portrayal in “The Sword of Kahless.” The episode had its moments. Todd and Dorn are great together and the opening acts are excellent revisitations of the characters' history, deftly tying in the old TNG past with the current storyline. But the story is incredibly confused about its topics. The B-plot stands on its means-justifying-the-ends approach, and Sisko is all about ignoring difficult ethical questions. Yet he forbids Worf the option of ending Kurn's life according to Klingon custom, instead going for the less literal, but no less severe form of execution. Also, who is this other Klingon dude who adopts Kurn? Is he perfectly okay with this allegedly human solution? Apparently so. The story seems very proud of its “deep questions” but is lazily ambivalent about any actual ethical debate, and the result is a very confusing and contradictory approach to characterisation. Disappointing.

Final Score : **
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Tue, Jan 22, 2019, 8:50am (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes

I think most of Jammer’s criticism is valid here, but I still enjoyed this one alright. I think they’re very close to letting go of the Family Guy bro vibe that makes the series awkward. Probably 2.5 stars.
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Fri, Jan 18, 2019, 3:08pm (UTC -6)
Re: Solo: A Star Wars Story

I also just watched this on Netflix:

Maybe I'll go into depth at some point, but it was better than I expected. A low 3 stars seems about right.
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Fri, Jan 18, 2019, 2:58pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Meld

Teaser : **.5, 5%

We begin back in Chez Sandrines with Harry, fully mammalian Tom, a few scattered Voyager extras and Ricky Lake. Tom wants to put stakes on their pool game, which Ricky notes is an obvious hustle. This tired bullshit eventually leads to Tom starting an “honest” betting pool amongst the crew (they bet in rations). The only bit I find amusing is that Tom tells Harry to write down the names of the gamblers on a PADD and he dutifully complies like the good bottom bitch he is.

Meanwhile, Neelix is being his usual charming self. Pledging to Tuvok in the Mess Hall that he has chosen to make it “his duty” to get the Vulcan to smile before they reach the AQ. This is supposed to be really annoying, so I suppose we can call it successful characterisation. The scene does eventually land on an amusing note, with Neelix suggesting resurrecting an ancient Vulcan tradition on the Voyager: greased-up orgy night. I can get behind that.

Tuvok is called away to Engineering by Torres, where we learn that a bloody corpse has been left in one of the Jeffries Tubes. People really need to learn to clean up after themselves.

Act 1 : ***, 17%

The EMH reports to Tuvok the findings of his autopsy. Lt Darwin (the corpse) was murdered, most likely by Ken Ham. In the readyroom, we learn that the only person on duty when Darwin was murdered was a man called Suder. This give Chakotay the willies.

CHAKOTAY: Around us he was the quietest, most unassuming guy you'll ever meet. Typical Betazoid, Kept to himself...In combat there was something in his eyes...Sometimes I had to pull him back, stop him from going too far. And once or twice when I did he looked at me with those cold eyes and I just knew he was this far away from killing me.

It doesn't have anything to do directly with this story, but it's good to see that the Maquis-integration issues (which as I've said, are the only viable way to explore the topic without veering off into absurdity) are not yet put to rest. Oh, I'm sorry, I'm supposed to say, “Why are there holodecks? Why haven't the Maquis mutinied? Voyager sucks.”

So Tuvok calls Suder to his office to question him. Suder is of course being played by the reliably creepy-as-fuck Brad Dourif). Suder tries to turn Tuvok's suspicion around on him by accusing him of harbouring resentment towards the Maquis, but this is pretty useless with a Vulcan.

TUVOK: I assure you, I have no feelings about the Maquis.
SUDER: No, you just spied on us and were going to turn us all over to Starfleet.
TUVOK: As hard as it may be for you to understand, that did not require any feelings on my part.

Russ and Dourif have a rather unique and enjoyable chemistry. Both are playing characters who suppress their feelings but for very different reasons, and this lends an interesting subtext to their conversation. Well it turns out that, aside from establishing the creep factor, Tuvok's interview was pointless, as the EMH has used (non technobabble, amazingly) forensics to determine that Suder is the murderer.

Tuvok confronts Suder with this news and he immediately confesses, describing in detail how he performed the murder. When Tuvok demands a motive, Suder's only reply is “I didn't like the way he looked at me.” [shudder]

Act 2 : ***.5, 17%

TUVOK: Crime must have a logical purpose.
EMH: Ah yes, I see. How to close the case without understanding the logic of the crime. For a Vulcan, that would be a dilemma, wouldn't it?

We establish that most of the former Maquis have genetic markers that point towards violence and aggression, again robbing the entire premise that the Maquis themselves have any logical reason for existing, and aren't just a bunch of temperamental children.

EMH: I think you are trapped in your own Vulcan logic, Lieutenant. All of us have violent instincts. We have evolved from predators. Well, not me, of course, I've just been programmed by you predators. The question is, in a civilised world, can we suppress those instincts? Most of the time we can. Vulcans certainly can. You've got your violent feelings buried underneath centuries of control. But the rest of the humanoid races aren't always so skilled at self-discipline. Crewman Suder may have violent impulses that he just can't control.

I think most of us can admit that we have shared Tuvok's frustration over this kind of explanation. Everything has to have a reason, doesn't it? So bothered by this is he that he visits Suder in the brig to try and pry some answers out of him. What's more frustrating is Suder's lack of emotion over the incident. Vulcans objectify other cultures (one of the few phrases from Enterprise I feel is worth adopting) and thus, whatever actions they take which have no logical purpose are inevitably the result of a lack of emotional discipline. If objectifiable emotions are not responsible for an otherwise illogical crime, how can Tuvok possibly accept this situation? What's great about this setup is that this premise gives Tuvok a visceral motivation for his actions well before he is actually robbed of emotional control. With Data, it was nearly always his quest to be more human that drove his experiments. Tuvok has no such aspirations, so this is quite clever. Further complicating matters is the fact that Suder has all but volunteered to be executed for his crime, something the Federation doesn't do. With few other options, Tuvok elects to meld with Suder to understand this mystery. He justifies this approach by mentioning that some of Tuvok's mental abilities would be (temporarily) transferred to Suder, which could only aid in silencing his own demons (c.f. “Sarek”).

Act 3 : ***.5, 17%

We pick up with Paris' daily sweepstakes rewarding no one, and him making off with his booking fee to enjoy a Neelix-free lunch.

Anyway, Tuvok reports his findings to Janeway, noticeably agitated after the experience. They theorise that being cooped up on the Voyager with no regular outlet to unleash his anger is what likely drove Suder to this crime. So, they decide to coop him up indefinitely. In seriousness, I'm with Jammer on this point: executing him is barbaric and eternal confinement in his decorated cage is certainly a harsh enough punishment. SFDebris in his review suggested putting Suder in stasis, which seems very strange to me as it would mean he would sleep through his sentence. Seems much less harsh than imprisonment. Tuvok however, puts capital punishment on the table, which strikes Janeway as out of character. She wonders what side-effects may be lingering within her old friend, and orders him to mind his own needs in all this.

So Tuvok heads back to the Mess Hall for more punishment from the Morale Officer. Ethan Phillips is extraordinarily talented at playing an insufferable irritant, going so far as to shove his finger in Tuvok's mouth to prompt a smile. Then he threatens to sing, which sends Tuvok into an homicidal rage and, waddaya know, Neelix is strangled to death. Of course, this is just a holodeck simulation, but as others have noted, it is incredibly macabre and darkly humorous to assign Neelix the role of one who could affect Tuvok in this way. You have to wonder in episodes like “Rise” if this memory didn't spring up.

Act 4 : ****, 17%

We again start out with the B plot, but this time Chakotay steps in to Sandrines to put the gambling act to an end. He puts Paris on report and mentions through his teeth that Janeway will be disappointed with him. There's undoubtedly some schadenfreude involved with Chakotay confirming his own long-held suspicion that Paris is a piece of shit.

Meanwhile, Suder awakens in his cell to find Tuvok staring at him from behind the force field. Creepy is as creepy does. Suder is finding himself a bit more Tuvok-like in his objectification of his own emotions, which of course means the inverse is true of Tuvok. The Vulcan lays out the prescribed punishment for Suder, which of course in the enlightened Federation is rehabilitation; he will continue to study Vulcan discipline and be allowed the chance to exorcise his violent tendencies on the holodeck. Suder mentions that holo-violence isn't really satisfying, which of course makes one think of Worf and his Skeletor programme. In Worf's case, however, I think the programme is designed to be a work-out. Klingons have killer instincts, but they aren't blood-thirsty in the same way. Even for them, violence has to have a purpose. And Tuvok already knows first hand that holo-violence doesn't it cut it when it comes to these dark thoughts they now share.

TUVOK: I have studied violence for over a hundred years.
SUDER: Studying it and knowing it are two different things, aren't they. It's attractive, isn't it.
TUVOK: Attractive?
SUDER: Violence.
TUVOK: On the contrary. I find it disturbing.

The unique chemistry between the actors is again put to excellent use here. It's a common theme in Vulcan stories to explore the idea what makes us evolved humans is really just a concerted effort to suppress our natural instincts. In the Vulcans' case, the instincts are radically more intense, and thus the discipline must be radical to match. Seeing Tuvok so vulnerable to this beady-eyed Betazoid wonderfully disturbing. Suder wants to meld again, but Tuvok recognises that this is probably a bad idea. Feeling himself slip away, Tuvok retreats to his quarters, erects a force field and deletes his security codes.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

Janeway is summed to his quarters by the computer and she arrives to find the place completely trashed by the heaping mass of quiet rage which used to be her security chief. It's a very visceral little scene that relies almost entirely on the actors' delivery and the directing, with Tuvok crouched in the darkness and Janeway haloed in angelic light from the corridor.

He's sedated and brought to the sickbay, where the EMH confirms that the meld has caused some problems (duh), due to some incompatibilities with the Betazoid telepathic centre in Suder, which is a soft touch that I like very much. There's a brief moment for Picardo to be his usual grumpy self over Vulcan arrogance, which is always welcome, but his only prescribed treatment is a kind of neural shock therapy.

Tuvok is awakened. Again, I'm reminded of “Sarek” a bit; there's no more logical reason (ironically) for Tuvok to be awake for this procedure than there was for Picard after his meld, but it's a great excuse for some impressive acting. In his state, he takes the opportunity to berate Janeway for her choice of punishment regarding Suder. What's great about this is that this makes clear that the rationalisation for capital punishment is purely emotional and thus, unjustifiable:

TUVOK: Admit it! Part of you feels as I do. Part of you wants him to die for what he did...He has killed and you know he deserves to die! On behalf of the victim's family, Captain, I beg you to reconsider. Give them the satisfaction of his execution.

After the episode, Tuvok is sedated and left alone in the surgical bay. That night, unmonitored, he manages to break himself free from the Doctor's devices AND the force field. Nifty.

And where does he go but straight to the brig to resume with Suder.

SUDER: Have you come to kill me?
TUVOK: To execute you for your crime.
SUDER: To execute me. I see. And calling it that makes it more comfortable for you... Understand one thing, Tuvok. I can promise you this will not silent your demons. If you can't control the violence, the violence controls you. Be prepared to yield your entire being to it, to sacrifice your place in civilised life for you will no longer be a part of it, and there's no return.

Tuvok attempts the meld again, which may kill them both it seems, but in the end Tuvok finds himself unable to go through with it, and collapses.

There's a brief coda, where things are put back where they belong, Tuvok and Janeway make up, the EMH gets another quip and Suder is stored away for another day. A nice touch is Janeway replicating the gesture from “Twisted” that Tuvok used to demonstrate his affection for her (one of the few good moments of that trash pile).

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

Tim Russ is finally given a story that fires on all cylinders. We've got a bit of Tuvok the investigator, which were bright spots in several Season 1 stories; we've got Tuvok unhinged, which serves to show just how hard Russ is working every week to maintain that characteristic Vulcan cool; and we've got an effective message show wrapped up in a character piece. Piller's dialogue really sings when he's dealing with complex issues (as opposed to the pedestrian ones we've have often had to endure from him), and unlike last week, the familiar Voyager sets are shot in a way to make them feel fresh and engaging despite the bottleshow limitations in place. The B-story serves its purpose, but feels relatively benign in isolation, with some amusing tension arising between Chakotay and Paris. This finally feels like the show Voyager is capable of being.

Final Score : ***.5
Set Bookmark
Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 4:54pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Alliances

Hey, thanks Jammer! The odd exception aside, this site is definitely a place one can enjoy mature discussion on a lot of interesting topics.

First I'll say that indeed, as a classical musician, I am very used to regarding works of art in which the text--if there is any--is of far less importance to the meaning of a work than other elements. Classical music, including programmatic works like operas, require one to decipher and draw connections between things because the language is metaphorical.

I think we can all agree that no work of art is perfect, let alone a cash-cow TV franchise like Star Trek. What Peter G says about the Voyager writers being tied up in many cases is true--Rick Berman had his fingers much more deeply plunged into the Voyager pie than DS9, and so the latter was granted a lot more freedom to do novel things with the storytelling. And we all have our own biases. I have a lot of affection for early TNG, despite its flaws and think (as I've said many times) that S3 of that show is the best representation of what Trek can be to date. So saying that Voyager resembles that era of Trek is kind of a compliment, however it was intended.

Peter G:

"So maybe you've hit on a more specific way of framing what I'm trying to say about Janeway: to whatever extent the episodes typically involve her having her way and then sermonizing about why she was right (like in Scorpion) it really grates on me, because that sermonizing isn't even coming from a single coherent ethos but from whatever the writer of the week felt like throwing in to justify his plot-scheme."

See, this is what I don't understand. Janeway makes her call to Chakotay in that episode and "gets away with it" for the moment sure, and of course, like any human, has rationalisations for her behaviour. But her choices come back to bite her in the ass several times over the course of the series. I don't understand how someone would see that as just stochastic fit-the-plot-of-the-week writing. It's certainly true that an arc for Janeway wasn't planned ahead in this respect, but the same is true for Battlestar Galactica, a show that makes DS9's continuity look quaint. It's just...Rick Berman definitely hindered what Voyager could have been, and deserves a lot of ire for his management of the franchise, but Ira Behr especially threw in a lot of what I consider to be highly detrimental elements into his show as well. The problems are different, but they're still problems. Yes, Sisko's guilt and private confession in ItPML is very well done, but there are actually no long-term negative consequences to his actions. He doesn't decide, after the war is over, to resign and confess his crimes. He gets to eat his cake. The same goes for his treatment of Eddington, his involvement with the Prophets, etc. etc. It feels very strange to me that his choices are lauded as bravely pragmatic, when they're just cynical, but always seem to work out, whereas Janeway's are seen as evil or mad (which they might be), when there are actual consequences. I mean look at the way she behaves in episodes like "Year of Hell," "Night," "Extreme Risk," "Timeless," "Equinox," "Workforce," and "Friendship One." This is not the way a person who thinks she has always made the best choices acts! This the behaviour of a guilty person shouldering a massive burden. Does Sisko ever seem as guilty over anything he has done?

William B:

I don't want to speak for you, but for me, the kinds of thoughts that I write about, which were characterised as critical analysis beyond what should be expected of a viewer, are exactly what go through my head when I watch television or film. The fact that Trek opens the door to so many wonderful speculations is one of the things I love about it.

Moreover, Voyager's production problems were with the higher-ups; a lot of other artists, including the writers, actors and production staff put in a lot of hard work to make the series what it is, and that's worth appreciating. Like I said, being from a classical music background, there are many, many operas whose stories are almost completely worthless, but whose music is sublime, and thus, they are performed regularly. This isn't even a matter of debate amongst the opera community in most cases; the story is garbage and nobody cares. I'm not saying television can be as loose with the text as opera, but my point is that there are other things to look at in a show and love about it besides the way in which the series was directed. Janeway has an arc because enough individual writers and Kate Mulgrew managed to forge one out of the materials granted to the show. Just because this wasn't Rick Berman approved, and thus glaringly obvious within the scripts doesn't unmake the arc.
Set Bookmark
Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 11:22am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Alliances

@Peter G

I think that's fair, although I agree that we disagree : )

I will say that there can be no argument that the writing of DS9 as a series was much more intentional than Voyager, and that's entirely down to the way the shows were produced. I think the Voyager staff was, for the most part, content to take the early TNG ethos and run with it. Janeway makes some very bad calls over the years, but the show, to my recollection, rarely seems to suggest that she's correct. With "Alliances," her choices end up getting them all stranded and many of them killed. With "Tuvix," the episode takes the time to show Janeway drowning in guilt over her decision. With "Scorpion," we see direct fall-out throughout Season 4 leading to "Hope and Fear." That episode sends her into a deep depression in Season 5, contributing to her decision in "Timeless" to gamble the lives of her crew to get them home again. This pattern continues and leads future Janeway and her totally self-centred actions in "Endgame." My point with all that is simply that, whatever the directives from the producers, there is a coherent direction to Janeway's character. Her actions do not (for the most part) feel random, at least to me.

I am much more bothered by Sisko--not explicitly for being the anti-Trek mouthpiece, but because the writers constantly contrive ways to have their cake and eat it too with him. He gets to be Starfleet directive-defying cynic half the time and receives promotion after promotion.

"If you're saying that Sisko, in a sense, accurately reflects a flawed view of Trek on the part of the writers, then your position would then be that they are effectively using their character to get across their point of view."

It's not terribly impressive to have a character stand on a soap box and proclaim a point of view. And that goes just as much for sermonising Picard or Kirk or Janeway as it does for Sisko. I don't think it's "effective" in the way you imply. The story itself has to carry the message for it to be effective. SIsko's speech to Kira in "The Maquis," for example, is a fine little sermon, but the heaping pile of contrivances in the story that were necessary to "prove" his point make the episode and the message ineffective. I'll say the same about "Time and Again"; while I don't object to the PD the way many do, that particular episode does a horrible job of selling the message because the plot is so contrived, whatever speeches Janeway wants to give on the subject.

At least Janeway wasn't accountable to Starfleet, being lost in the DQ. I actually think S6, when they started to make contact with the AQ again is where her characterisation is at its weakest. That particular season is riddled with problems.

I feel a bit like I'm rambling...

The answer to your question is yes and no. I understand where your objections are coming from, but I think you are dismissing a very interesting character journey for "behind the scenes" reasons. I get that stuff. I also hate Seven's catsuit and the reset buttons and the insane promotional materials on UPN, etc. To me, Voyager felt a lot like TNG, which is why I like it, but with darker character threads and a more specific series objective.
Set Bookmark
Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 10:46am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Alliances


"It's strange to bring up SIsko in this conversation."

I'm not; I am using an analogy to illustrate a point. The complaint about Janeway I was responding to was entirely subjective. If you're interested in my views on SIsko (you are under no obligation so to be), then by all means, feel free to read my DS9 posts for the last 80 or so episodes.

"You have this recurring tendency to accuse anyone who disagrees with you of being somehow evil or somehow intellectually inferior to you. "

Please point to an example where I have done this.
Set Bookmark
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 3:16pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Alliances

@Peter G

"Take SISKO at HIS best and HE's a charming Captain, but take HIM at HIS worst, like with 'I can live with it' and it just sounds like the writers stroking their own egos, which I think were enormous. Insofar as the character is basically the spokesperson for whatever the writers want to tell much of the time, I think they infused an enormous amount of CONTRARIANISM into the series, putting things into SISKO's mouth that don't suit STAR TREK (as RODDENBERRY saw it) but instead issue thoughts of the writers/showrunners."

See how that works?

As far as the through-line, for me it's very clearly there, but I'll reserve final judgement until I get to those episodes in my detailed reviews.
Set Bookmark
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 2:29pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Alliances


I think many fans at the time of Voyager's airing reacted negatively to the character for several reasons, some less forgivable than others--like Mulgrew's voice--that betray some underlying sexism. And then there's the controversy over Janeway's command choices, especially in stories like "Caretaker" and "Tuvix" that seem to lend credence to Janeway = bad captain. These elements came together in making many viewers actively look for examples of Janeway being bad at her job, as a justification for hating the series which subverted what many of those same fans wanted Voyager to be, by dropping the cynical Maquis angle fairly early on and by having a complicated female captain. All of the other captains at this point had made questionable decisions, but they were granted the benefit of the doubt, or called pragmatically tough or whatever, whereas Janeway was not.
Set Bookmark
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 2:17pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Alliances

@Peter G

I would point to "Hope and Fear" and the fallout in Season 5 as ample evidence of exploring Janeway's failures. She eventually starts openly trading technology ("The Killing Game," "The Void") and making military alliances ("Year of Hell"), both of which she told Hogan would happen over his dead body in this story. And in fact, Hogan does end up dying because of her stubbornness in "Basics." I will go into this more when I eventually get to reviewing those episodes, but as memory serves, the events of "Scorpion" are eventually what break Janeway away from her white feminism and the letter-of-the-law approach to captaining that she clings to here. To me, the ending of "Alliances" reads very clearly as a set up for the later fall from grace.
Set Bookmark
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 2:08pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Return to Grace

Teaser : ***, 5%

Kira is getting a series of booster shots from Bashir (insert Siddig/Visitor fourth-wall breaking joke) in preparation for a safari or whatever. She's been asked by Shakaar to share Bajoran intelligence on the Klingons with their Cardassian allies. Two things: it is once again conveniently forgotten that the Bajorans are supposed to be barely making ends meet, which is the entire reason Shakaar was elected, and secondly, sending your girlfriend on diplomatic missions is only marginally better than that rule by theocracy we narrowly avoided. The scene struggles a bit for comedy in having the vaccine-ridden Kira try and cope with symptoms while being briefed by Worf. Meh.

We then find Kira packing her bag for the trip when Dukat arrives to greet her and inform her that he is commanding her Cardassian escort vessel. The reveal is nearly cut-and-paste from “Indiscretion,” but this of course by design (in case his “I was INDESCRETE,” didn't hit you hard enough over the head). It was the fallout from that episode which has brought him to grace her doorstep once again as he has been publicly shamed for his half-Bajoran daughter. Not only shamed, but disowned, divorced and demoted. His attitude, made clear in a patented little Dukat speech, is one of contrition for his sin, but assurance that he will eventually recover his status. It's important to remember that Kira didn't ask him to account for himself, and obviously she could care less about him gaining power again. At this point, Dukat's arc can go several places. He could go back to his old ways, or he could be redeemed. This characterisation is quite plausible, showing signs of growth but without abandoning his core aspects. With Ziyal in the picture now, the dynamic between him and Kira has a divorced parents kind of vibe to it. They are past the days of open hostility, finding that they have enough mutual goals to maintain a functional relationship. For now.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

Ziyal and Kira catch up on the Cardassian freighter (which is the most sex-toy looking vessel this side of the USS Pasteur). Her assessment of her father is glowing, citing the way in which he kept her at his side, pridefully, despite the scandal this caused him on Cardassia. This flows straight out of what we saw of her previously; she has a Cardassian mind and understands that for Dukat, this act was one of the bravest things he could do. Kira doesn't see it that way, having a different perspective on his legacy. And being Kira, she doesn't exactly hide this view from the girl. Their chat is interrupted by a battle drill—yeah. Dukat is running this space-truck/taxi like a warship and forcing his crew to attempt battle-readiness against the Klingons, with pathetic results. In a surprising move, Kira doesn't take the opportunity to condescend or lecture Dukat. Rather, she has some technical advice on how his crew might shore up their performance.

She's rewarded for her kindness with a romantic dinner. Lucky her. Dukat even has some spring wine for the occasion which means, if he can get her to agree to a foot-rub, she'll have to accede to whatever perverted request he makes of her. In another example of wry one-liners we get:

KIRA: I talked to Ziyal. She's a lovely girl.
DUKAT: I'm very glad that you convinced me not to kill her.

This “good” will doesn't last too long as he decides to bring up Shakaar and Kira's history with “powerful men” (I'm not sure I'd put Driftwood in that category, but the less said on this topic, the better). Dukat actually seems to think that if he were to regain his old power, this might put him in the running, which makes Kira laugh (though mercifully, it's a much more believable version than the sand-spike bs). He has a really hard time taking a hint, as he attempts to turn her off to Shakaar by suggesting he fucked his with through his entire contingent of female resistors. This from the man who is being actively punished for not keeping his dick in his pants.

They are again interrupted by an alarm. The outpost to which they were headed has been destroyed by a Klingon Bird of Prey, which decloaks right then and there.

Act 2 : ****, 17%

As though under orders to shame Dukat by whatever means possible, the Klingon vessel decides to casually stroll away, unconcerned by his tiny ship. Well, Dukat and his totally not micro-penis aren't going to stand for that, by god, as he orders Dumbass or whatever his name is to charge weapons. Kira is unable to talk him out of this suicide attempt, but it doesn't matter as the Klingons just troll them and warp away. You can almost hear the laughter and tankards of blood wine clanking through the view screen. Very effective. Likewise, Marc Alaimo is given the chance to show us a different side of Dukat for a brief moment—his voices goes up in pitch and he seems unaware of how others in the room might be seeing him, totally deflated.

Kira seems affected by this sentiment, which is something I'll come back to, but for now, this prompts her to suggest they go after the Klingons themselves.

DUKAT: A few moments ago, you were advising caution.
KIRA: That's because a moments ago we were in no position to fight back. I have no intention of letting them get away with what they did.

So, she has them retrieve the disruptors from the outpost and have them installed, make-shift, aboard the Prostate Master 3000 or whatever this ship is called. The irony is thick as she tries to get Dukat to start thinking like a terrorist instead of an officer. Like I said, that's not a very Cardassian mode of thinking, but it's the only option the Cardassians, as a people, have to hope to win this lopsided fight (mirroring the lopsided Occupation), and the only hope Dukat has to try and claw his way back to the top, or so it seems.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

With Kira's help, they manage a more successful (albeit still far from perfect) battle drill with their new disruptors. Dukat and his penis are just thrilled with this turn of events. The dialogue continues to deliver:

DUKAT: But you must admit it is rather amusing. When we do destroy that bird of prey, it will no doubt go a long way toward restoring my reputation. And I have you to thank for it.
KIRA: I'm trying not to think about that.

Kira claims that the only reason she's willing to help here is in order to avenge the dead Bajorans from that outpost. That's *almost* believable. We have seen Kira to go some extremes for her people before. But it seems far more likely that there's something else at play here. Dukat thinks it's some latent attraction to him, of course, but that's not quite it. She is attracted to what he is doing. Despite what Dukat said over dinner, Kira is attracted, in every sense of the word, to those who snub authority. This didn't quite add up with Driftwood, as Kira was supposed to be from the same conservative sect as Bitchwhore, but the sentiment was expressed nonetheless. Then there was her brief dalliance with Riker in “Defiant,” and now of course, she's dating the man who subverted her own government's laws to assume power. On the other hand, she takes the opportunity to chastise Dukat for his single-minded narcissism. Being an intelligent man, he turns this around on her, citing the fact that he cares about his people as much as she does for hers. So if she's going to use the patriotic excuse, he gets to as well. Of course, he also continues to hit on her.

In contrast to the sexual harassment on the bridge, Kira is showing Ziyal how to use a gun. Oh, good, just what the state of Florida ordered. The comparison of different culture's weapons provides the series yet another opportunity to allegorise the differences between Trek series:

KIRA: [The Cardassian disruptor is] a good weapon, solid, simple. You can drag it through the mud and it'll still fire. Now this...this is an entirely different animal. Federation standard issue. It's a little less powerful, but it's got a more options. Sixteen beam settings. Fully autonomous recharge, multiple target acquisition, gyro stabilised, the works. It's a little more complicated, so it's not as good a field weapon. Too many things can go wrong with it.

In other words, it's the weapon of the ivory tower, impressive but lacking in practicality when one needs to get into the mud. As usual, I hate the sentiment, but the metaphor is less clumsily-executed than similar such scenes. Besides, all I can picture when I see the Federation rifle is Worf beating Borg drones to death with it. Ziyal, in her relative naïvety, wants to talk about why Kira doesn't like her father, referring to the atrocities committed during the Occupation as “bad things.” It's very interesting stuff. Imagine for a moment she isn't describing Dukat, but Marritza:

ZIYAL: It bothers him, you know...He'd never admit it to anyone else, but he thinks the occupation was a mistake...Maybe losing made him a better person.
KIRA: Then a lot of innocent people died for his education.

Dukat isn't at the point that Marritza was in “Duet,” of course, but we don't know for how long he struggled with this conscience before deciding to don the guise of Dar'heel and attempt to force his people to atone for their sins. Does the fact that Dukat's ego is far more real than the persona Marritza played make the former undeserving of redemption? Kira insists that she can never forgive Dukat, the one thing he wants from her. I'm not so sure it's forgiveness he's after, however. He hasn't actually said the Occupation was *wrong* he said there were mistakes he regrets. However, Kira seems to believe that Dukat believes the Occupation was wrong, and wants to be forgiven, which she won't do. So, what the hell? If Kira recognised the fact that Dukat wants something else entirely, I can see why her cynicism is justified, but otherwise...this seems suspect. I don't know. Maybe she just didn't want to say, “your dad just wants to bone me to prove how awesome he is to himself,” to a teenaged girl.

Dukat and Kira put their heads together and reason the next likely Klingon target, as well as devise a way to lure the Klingons to the Prostate Master. He keeps laying on the oily charm, to her (and my) irritation. The sentiment of Dukat feeling the need to hit on her is perfectly fine—dramatically, I mean; it's extremely creepy, but that's the point. The way this is conveyed is a little too Hollywood for me, though, showering Kira with compliments like some sort of Romeo and Juliette parody, or cut elevator scene from “Mad Men.”

While they wait for the Klingons, Dukat muses about his younger rival on Cardassia, comparing him to Shakaar, blah blah blah. In his mind, he's already demoting the upstart citing their success-to-be. Well, the plan seems to be working as the Klingons de-cloak and the patented tension music rises.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

The trap proves successful, as the Prostate Master manages to get in its good shot and damage the Bird of Prey. Unfortunately, the Klingons aren't out of the fight. This means that Kira and Dukat—alone—board the vessel and use the Klingon transporters to exchange the crews. Well. That's a neat trick. Don't think too hard about that little ass-pull, however, as Dukat clearly has not grown out of all his toxic tendencies, choosing to destroy the Cardassian ship and the entire Klingon crew.

Ziyal and Dumbass report to the bridge. Dukat is elated to see his daughter serving Cardassia with her big fucking gun and lovely blue dress on. Yes, it's a lot of good news as this vessel and the contents of its computer will prove to be a major boon to the Cardassian military effort.

This victory is short-lived, however. He returns from a call to the Council, which has rewarded him with news that the Cardassians are taking a very Federation approach to the war effort, looking for a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

DUKAT: They've ordered me to return to Cardassia Prime to resume my post as Military Advisor.
KIRA: I thought that's what you wanted.
DUKAT: It was. But what is the point of being a Military Advisor to a government that won't fight.

I guess being on a Klingon ship has given Dukat a taste for needless violence. It's darkly amusing that of all things, Kira and Dukat share a distaste for peaceful solutions, as she tries to convince him to egg his people into a fight. In fact, it's really sad that Kira can't see the irony of pushing the man she can't forgive for murdering people to try and kill more people on purpose. So rather than resuming his old post, Dukat resolves to go rogue and stand against the Klingons alone. Good job, Kira.

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

Realising the enormity of his task, Dukat all but begs Kira to join him on his quest. He throws everything at her; using her real skills as a terrorist/soldier instead of a bureaucrat, being the righteous underdog, and pre-emptively guarding her people against the Klingons. His arguments aren't exactly vacuous, and do seem to have an effect on her. Hell, if either this weren't Dukat, or if this were Kira from a season or two ago, she might have agreed up to a point.

DUKAT: I also know that every fibre of your being is telling you to say “no, no, no,” but somewhere I know there's a “yes.” You need to listen to that “yes.” Not for my sake, not for Cardassia's, not even for Bajor's, but for your sake.

And she doesn't have a reply.

We pick up with Ziyal trying to impress Kira by showing her a cool new move she learned from Dumbass, but Kira isn't amused, demonstrating that no amount of guerilla tactics or fun with guns is going to keep her alive the next time they get into a fight. She realises that the only way Ziyal is going to survive on this ship is to become as ruthless and broken as Kira herself is deep down, in that dark place that is tempted by Dukat's offer. And it's that realisation that prompts her next decision to bring the girl along with her back to DS9. Dukat is resistant to this idea at first, but there is one thing that convinces him to agree. Kira's sentiment that Ziyal deserves a chance to have a “normal” life aren't really going to get to a Cardassian military officer to joys in seeing his family dutifully serve the state, per his culture's idiom—an idiom that is being actively subverted at this moment by the peace-seeking government—probably means very little to Dukat. Rather, this proposal fortifies the bond between Kira and himself. If he can't have Kira at his side, having her essentially adopt his daughter can only bring them closer together. The rest of the cast have a couple of brief lines marking Kira's return and Ziyal's introduction to the station, and we're out.

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

Jammer said that Dukat “finds that Cardassia's defeat by the Klingons [] has turned them into an effete people too paralysed [sic] to fight for themselves.” I would argue that we don't have much evidence to suggest the Cardassians were any other way. They've always been portrayed as rather effete, mewling sadists. They inflict cruelty upon others, but only when they have an infrastructure which allows them this option without risk to themselves. We saw this in “Chain of Command,” in “Emissary,” and in “Tribunal.”

I like seeing Kira struggle between the seasoned officer she has become and the terrorist like which her instincts have honed her to think. This struggle is what was missing in “Shakaar,” when Kira just decided to rejoin her old cell without a second thought (and which would have been helped by expanding that story into a multi-parter). Kira's role in this story is mostly to play against Dukat, but the writers manage to take the opportunity to explore her character a bit, giving her a crossroads that is surprisingly believable considering the outlandish life-choice Dukat ends up making in the end. It's not flawless, however, as her stated reason for withholding absolution from him runs counter to the lessons she's already learned on this series (most notably in “Duet”), while the actual reason she should definitely not go along with his proposal seems to elude her. This would seem to reenforce the idea that on one level, she *is* attracted to Dukat, despite herself, which is a problematic and rather gendered take on the character (see problems related to her appraisal of Odo in “Crossfire”).

All of that aside, this is an excellent Dukat story, probably the best of the series so far, with “Cardassians” falling in just behind it. Pairing him up with Kira does really good things for him and fleshes him out more effectively than with Sisko, I think. As I said, his growth here feels entirely plausible and sets him up to be transformed into a kind of anti-hero without abandoning those traits which make him an interesting villain. I'm not saying that's the direction the series *had* to go in (spoiler: it doesn't), but the foundation for that story is rock-solid, and Alaimo's performance is superb.

Final Score : ***.5
Set Bookmark
Tue, Jan 15, 2019, 3:04pm (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Threshold


Teaser : ***, 5%

Okay. Tom Paris is in a shuttle, and engaging the “transwarp.” He's being attacked by jargon, with the lights flashing and hull buckling or whatever. Torres' and Kim's voices are on the comm, giving him techno-instructions. And the shuttle explodes. Tom's not dead—yet—because the three of them on are on the holodeck, with the nerds looking dour and Tom amusingly left on the floor.

I hope I've made it clear in my Voyager reviews up till now that, despite a reputation for loving this show and hating DS9 (both of which are only half true), I have not treated the series with kids' gloves. I have rated most episodes of BOTH series lower than Jammer has, and only in some cases higher (again, on both series). I am fully prepared to hate everything about this episode, as its reputation suggests I should. In 1.5 seasons of Voyager, I have given terrible to horrendous scores to 6 episodes so far (“Tattoo,” “Learning Curve,” “Time and Again,” “Elogium,” “Cathexis,” and the worst so far, “Twisted”). In 3.5 seasons of DS9, I have given terrible scores to 7 episodes so far (“Sanctuary,” “Destiny,” “Through the Looking Glass,” “Meridian,” “If Wishes Were Horses,” “Move Along Home” and “Fascination”). I hope I've demonstrated that after doing full write-ups for 112 episodes and one film, I am not a fawning fanboy.

All of that out of the way...this teaser is pretty good. There's a genuine mystery, a decent fake-out and some amusing delivery. There have been many episodes of every Trek series that started out worse than this.

Act 1 : *.5, 17%

The trio discuss their holo-failure in the mess hall with Neelix circling about with his coffee pot and desire to be loved. There's a lot of impenetrable technobabble thrown about. “Multi-spectral subspace engine design” is probably my favourite, suggesting the warp drive is powered by unicorn ghosts. Neelix offers his “expertise” and is going to offer it whether anyone wants it or not. So they fill him in. They are trying to break the warp barrier, which is warp 10. Now, some might say, “hey, didn't they go warp 13 on 'All Good Things', which Braga also wrote?” while others might say, “hey, didn't the Excelsior use transwarp like 100 years ago?” while still others would say, “oh, see those were different warp speed calculations. If you check my multi-spectral chart...” I, on the other hand, say, “who the actual fuck cares?” What substantive difference in terms of what Star Trek is and means does it make for this techno-nonsense speed barrier to suddenly exist? Is it an ass-pull? Absolutely. But unlike several other changes to continuity on other series, this change doesn't *say* anything. It's just jargon. It's just a plot device. Is it stupid? Yes. Very stupid. But it's not meaningful. And those kinds of stupid don't bother me terribly much. Anyway, Kim describes warp 10—beyond the warp “threshold” (take a drink)—as “infinite velocity.”

PARIS: It means that you would occupy every point in the universe simultaneously. In theory, you could go any place in the wink of an eye. Time and distance would have no meaning.

Basically, this new form of dilithium they found enables them to defy physics and achieve this marvel, but the bolts on the shuttle's (and the Voyager's) nacelles aren't quite strong enough to survive the jump. Or something. I mean...I've seen people get so bent out of shape over this nonsense, going on endless nerd rampages over the bullshit science and maths being described here. (and of course, there's more to come) You won't get any quibbling for me over whether it makes any sense in that regard but, this is Star Trek. It's a big fancy engine that can do marvellous things, hardly different from the soliton wave from “New Ground.” Now, soliton waves are real (theoretical) physics, true, but the way in which they were used in the show has almost nothing to do with the real-life science involved. The same goes for the Dyson Sphere/shell from “Relics,” or the proto-Universe from “Playing God.” These are just plot devices. Is any of this jargon impressive? No. Is it the worst thing put out by the Trek writers? Please.

Anyway, Neelix makes a stray observation, which leads to an analogy and just like that, we're right back in “Parallax,” with the idiot inspiring a clichéd bit, and the boys have hit on a solution to their tech problems. Badda-bing!

Next thing you know, the team is presenting their successful simulation to the remaining senior staff at a briefing. Again, it's important not to get too bogged down by the jargon. Braga wants a big engine that might get the Voyager home, represents an achievement in engineering and theoretical physics, and provides a trippy means for people to travel, in order to enable the sci-fi weirdness later. So, Janeway wants to know their flight-plan for the little trip at infinite velocity. I say this because her sentiment,

JANEWAY: In the last couple of centuries, we've always managed to use new technologies wisely. I'm confident this time won't be any different. Besides, there's no way to put the genie back in the bottle. All we can do now is keep moving forward, carefully. a good one for the show, expressing exactly the kind of optimism Trek is all about. Then she lists a group of elite pilots (all dead white dudes) whom ace white dude, Tom Paris, is about to join in the history books, highlighting one area where Trek has not always been so great. I guess Amelia Earhart's new life as a farmer/religious leader takes her off the list.

Later on, Janeway pops by Tom's quarters to deliver some news. The EMH has recommended that Harry make the flight instead of Paris. I guess Tom has a minor medical condition that makes defying physics slightly dangerous for him. Either that or they simply realise that Harry is better at dying than the rest of the crew. Paris is incensed. Per the backstory we explored a little bit in “Caretaker,” and more recently, “Non Sequitur,” he feels that after a childhood full a promise and a young adulthood full of disappointment, this flight offers him the opportunity to redeem himself to a degree. Janeway thinks personal redemption is a piss poor reason to risk his life.

PARIS: Captain, this is the first time in ten years I feel I have a life to risk.

This is a fine sentiment, but the change of heart is WAY too easy for Janeway who, after 20 seconds of conversation is wishing him luck. I don't think so.

What follows is a very dramatic (or dramatic-lite) launch of the shuttle and initiation of the magic engines. After a few seconds of being at ludicrous speed, his signal is lost, surprising the bridge crew for some reason. Well. This was a little reckless, no? Maybe we should have stopped at warp 9.9995? Gotten home in like 2 weeks or whatever instead of trying to break spacetime?

Act 2 : *.5, 17%

Since they can't scan the entire universe, Janeway orders a “multi-spectral” sweep. Maybe they angered the space unicorns. But after a few seconds, the shuttle re-appears and an unconscious Paris is sent to the sickbay. This gives us another couple of patented Robert Picardo moments, which are always worth the price of admission. Paris describes his latest acid trip, I mean the “flight,” which enabled him to see and be everywhere at once. Or something. Apparently, once Paris shut the engines down—which he could somehow do despite being everywhere at once—the shuttle went right back to where it crossed the threshold. Ah well. Again, I'm not trying to be an apologist here. The whole business with the shuttle flight is dumb as hell, but the character stuff is...not bad. The EMH is funny, Paris shows a genuine sense of wonder about his experience. I think back to “Cathexis,” and, while the premise was just as absurd and pointless, the character work was nearly non-existent. This is a lot less painful.

Anyway, Janeway and Torres discuss the implications of their breakthrough.

TORRES: It's just a matter of navigation. If we could figure out how to come out of transwarp at a specific point, this could get us home.
JANEWAY: It could do more than that. It could change the very nature of our existence. Think of it. There would be nothing beyond our reach.

Oh, cool. Kind of a short-lived series, but this tech is going to be really useful back in the AQ. Jonas is hanging out in the background again, eavesdropping so he can let Seska know she had better turn herself in to Janeway before they go back home tomorrow.

We jump to the mess hall where patented genius Neelix has concocted a new coffee blend in Paris' honour. Ah, but the beverage doesn't sit too well with him as he starts gurgling and wincing, and eventually collapses. I hate Mondays.

Act 3 : **, 17%

The EMH does his scans and discovers that Paris' biochemistry is changing rapidly, causing an allergy to water, and inability to breathe oxygen, and lots of sweating and engorged veins. Kes is brought in to frantically push buttons while the EMH tries to keep Tom from dying. While the medical staff jargon at one another, Paris has a bit of a Mrs Maisel-style breakdown, lamenting the sorry state of his life as he prepares to leave it behind.

PARIS: Big funeral with lots of pretty girls all crying. Except Torres. Torres doesn't cry. Did you ever notice that? I don't trust people who don't cry. Of course, my father, he'd say crying is a sign of weakness. I never believed that. Do you cry?
EMH: It's not in my programme.
PARIS: Shame. You know, it's funny. What I remember most about being a kid are the times I spent in my room crying. I liked my room, though. It was quiet in there. People would leave me alone. I'd keep the door locked, read, play games. I lost my virginity in that room. Seventeen. Parents were away for the weekend.
EMH: I'll note that in your medical file.

This adequately ties into the material from Act 1. Tom's reputation as a hound and criminal are the result of his acting out. He feels the need to impress people with his piloting and his womanising because, as we saw briefly in “Persistence of Vision,” his father never saw fit to validate Tom's feelings. None of this is riveting in the least, but MacNeal does a good job of making it feel sincere, and Picardo is utilised for his particular skill in carrying the comedy. At one point, Tom begs Kes to kiss him (not before we get a #nohomo joke in of course), and then, just like that, he's Tasha Yar-ed.

That night, the Doctor is in his office—it's “nighttime” so the lights are off of course. He hears a crinkling sound and it looks like Tom was only mostly dead or whatever as he is happily scratching away at his body-bag. Awkward.

Act 4 : .5 stars, 17%

We get our standard-issue Michael Jonas insert as he contacts his Kazon handler to inform him about the breakthrough. For some reason, he seems to think that sharing this information will entitle him to speak to Seska. forced.

Whatever. The EMH explains to Janeway about how Tom's DNA is rewriting his body into the lovely mutant thing on his biobed. You know. Science.

EMH: The mutations are unlike anything in Starfleet medical records.

I'm guessing Beverly had the incidents of “Genesis” purged from the record for revealing how terrible she was at her job in that episode. Anyway, the Doctor warns Janeway that Paris' behaviour is rather unpredictable at the moment. Her exchange with Paris is...interesting. The makeup is really impressive at making him look completely disgusting and there are moments that touch on the character material that sort of work but...what the actual hell is Janeway trying to accomplish right now? “Hmm. Lt Paris is turing into a monster and we can't stop it. He was briefly dead and has become somewhat deranged. You know what should help? Fucking with his head for no reason!” This stochastic scene culminates with Tom pulling his own tongue out of his mouth. Voyager definitely has the body horror down.

So then, we cut to “later” and Tom is huddled on the floor trying to explain the nature of the universe and the Great Pumpkin—with no tongue. I have a hard time believing this wasn't conceived intentionally to be hilarious. LISHEN TO ME! PLEEESHHH!

So then we cut to the briefing room where the Doctor, over the comm, reports to Janeway and co. about a treatment he's devised. Ah, drama. So, they're going to irradiate Paris with the warp core or whatever. At least we can get out of the god damned sickbay for a moment. Well, you've done it now guys. I guess Tom has super powers, because he breaks out of his restraint and incapacitates the entire engineering staff. I guess—we just see phaser beams hit the EMH's monitor and hear Tuvok call a security alert.

Act 5 : .5 stars, 17%

Mutant Tom has also shut down the internal sensors or whatever. I don't know why as it was already established his magic DNA was impervious to them. But it's okay, Janeway finds him, or rather he assaults her and drags her to their magical shuttlecraft. He rests her head directly on the warp 10 gizmos. That's probably healthy. He has no trouble stealing the shuttle and engaging the transwarp. My favourite in all this has to be Chakotay, whose “WHAT?!!??” belies an attempt from Beltran to take this bullshit seriously. More comedy!

So, it took three days to find the shuttle, and...huh? Doesn't the transwarp bring you right back to where you started when you turn it off? Did Tom's magic brain give him the ability to navigate the drive properly or something. Before they beam down to retrieve the pair, the EMH drops the bombshell, that Tom is “evolving” due to his acid trip. I don't need to repeat all of the idiocy in this scene. It's completely insane, makes the “science” in the first acts seem plausible by comparison and for good measure, reveals that the Doctor can undo the changes without a problem. Just needs a stronger dosage. Sure. then Chakotay and co. beam down and discover Paris and Janeway, who have “evolved” into catfish-newt-gekko things, AND given birth to CGI babies, who merrily swim away. Yeah. Tuvok's one-liners certainly help with brazenness of this crap, but there can be no debate—this is truly the apex of stupid.

There's a coda where Janeway and Paris muse about their forced-evolution mating and make no mention of trying to use the transwarp again. The scrip even makes the mistake of having Paris list the ludicrous sequence of events for us in case we forgot. We get a rather clichéd conclusion to Paris' little character arc that I can't bring myself to repeat. It's over.

Episode as Functionary : .5 stars, 10%

Let's be perfectly clear: Braga threw a lot of crap into this script without thinking it through, which accounts for 90% of the WTF “science” for which this episode is infamous. It's bad. Really bad. But it's not the worst thing Trek or Voyager has or had produced. There are some decent character moments early on, some memorable comedy, intentional or otherwise, and a good performance from MacNeal, who hasn't been featured much this season. While the arc for Paris isn't all that great, it does fit in with what has come before and certainly doesn't detract from the character. Ignoring the context, it works alright. I don't know...part of me actually respects the ending to this episode, which doubles down on its own absurdities. It's like...there was no way to end such an implausible mess with the Apollo-13 stuff and the Seska subplot and the Neelix is a genius and the tongueless monologue...and yet, they managed to close with something so outlandish that it actually feels like a climax, somehow. I was entertained.

Final Score : *
Set Bookmark
Mon, Jan 14, 2019, 10:43am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Crossfire

@Peter G

I'm going to reserve judgement a bit on Kira for now. I don't recall her feelings for Shakaar ever being explored like Odo's are here, nor do I remember her finally falling for Odo working for me (except maybe in "Chimera"), but I could be forgetting something.

That said, with the exception of some really painful Troi moments and maybe "Drive" on Voyager, there aren't examples in Trek of female anxiety over relationships. It's always the men who are insecure and whose feelings need to be validated or tragically unrequited.
Set Bookmark
Mon, Jan 14, 2019, 9:34am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S3: Destiny

@Peter G

"What I think DS9 succeeds at doing is showing religion in a more everyday sort of way without needing to also make a statement about it, pro or con. It's just there, and Kira and others say their piece."

Well...except that the Bajoran gods actively make life and death decisions for the entire quadrant, both through direct intervention like deleting the Dominion fleet or through their emissary, who is supposed to be a secular humanist Starfleet human. Klingon religion--though still problematic--is more the type of "this is my business and my custom" religious portrayal. Bajoran religion is definitely written with an agenda.
Set Bookmark
Mon, Jan 14, 2019, 9:29am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Alliances

@William B

Thank you. Anti-Janeway bias creeps in prevalently in a lot of Voyager reviews. Given that all of her attempts at forming alliances here end in failure, whether the ones she found unsavoury (Cullah) or the ones that she actively endorsed (Mabus), I don't see how one can miss that the failure is an intentional choice to shape the character.
Set Bookmark
Mon, Jan 14, 2019, 9:20am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Crossfire

@Peter G.

I mean, we are always free to hand-wave things like this away, but Kira is written very male-gaze-y here (and in subsequent episodes on this storyline). Everything about the way Odo's attraction is portrayed is conveyed in very conventional, human (read: American) terms. This is a shorthand that Star Trek uses often, and I don't really have a problem with it in that respect, but I can't write Kira's obliviousness off in the same breath.

I think the deeper problem is that Kira is being used entirely as a prop. Not only are her (friendly) feelings for Odo being shown exclusively from his perspective, but her feelings for Shakaar are barely touched upon. We only see the result. She's kind of a cipher in this story.
Set Bookmark
Fri, Jan 11, 2019, 10:29pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S4: Crossfire

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

Odo is being fastidious—try not to be surprised. But in this case, he's actually readying his office for his morning briefing with Kira. Everything's in its place, her coffee is just the way she likes it, and Odo is especially interested in watching Kira enjoy it. The scene manages to transcend the DBI nature of the teaser in “Heart of Stone” by actually having an amusing backstory to carry it. Turns out there's a rather kinky couple who enjoy beating each other and fucking in public. I'll take this over the sitcom crap any day. We also get some exposition regarding political resistance to Bajor joining the Federation. It's good to see this story point, which has been pretty dormant this season, brought back to the fore. Eventually, Quark barges in to complain about Odo's noisy shapeshifting, which we learn is the result of Odo deliberately giving himself quarters right above Quark's. Well, Odo, you've mastered the art of creeping on girls you like, gossiping about other people's sex lives and trolling your frenemies. I think you've got this humanoid thing down, buddy.

So, Shakaar [when the walls fell] arrives for his diplomatic meeting with Sisko to continue the Bajor plot and give Bashir the opportunity to give Miles shit. Ah, friendship. He and his aide, Cyrus Gold or whatever, are led to a massive crowd of Bajoran—well, if you don't agree with Shakaar, you'd call them “fans,” but if you do, you call them “supporters.” Oh, and Dax has to comment to Kira that she thinks Shakaar is hot because, you know, Dax. In the midst of all the hubbub, Odo has grave news of a possible assassination attempt on the FM. It's a very breezy teaser with an eclectic but harmonious set of pieces to play with. Shakaar is still mostly a blank slate, but already they've established his lack of political charisma. The Odo-Kira-Shakaar love triangle is obvious several kilometres away, but it feels more or less reasonable. And there's a political plot brewing. Good stuff.

Act 1 : **.5, 18%

Odo and Cyrus debate the security issues in Sisko's office. It turns out the threat is coming from the True Way (c.f. “Our Man Bashir”), and Odo wants Shakaar's appearances cancelled for the moment, but Cyrus and Kira both know that this isn't going to happen.

KIRA: Shakaar knows better than anyone you can't capitulate to terrorists. He used to be one, and the day the Cardassians started to negotiate with him was the day he knew they'd been beaten. He'll stay.

I'm a tad confused by this—so are anti-Federation sentiments being generated by Russian bots, I mean Cardassian terrorists, or are there genuinely anti-Federation Bajorans within their society? Sisko concludes that Worf will cover Odo's normal duties so he can play bodyguard. Eddington is off doing something else at the moment. I'm sure it's not important.

We pickup with Odo briefing Worf on security arrangements, leading to another one of those “DS9 is just more *complicated* than TNG” subtext thingies. One interesting retcon is that apparently, the station is now home to thousands of people, despite the fact that it was firmly established in Season 2 that only 300 or so people occupied the habitat ring. This number was essential to several plots making sense in light of the number of times the station had to be evacuated. So, to be clear: when DS9 retcons in order to grandstand about how deep and dark it is; “totally badass!”; when Voyager retcons about torpedoes and shuttles to make its own plots work; “ugh! Bad writing. The Last Jedi is objectively bad...” Where the hell was I going with this? Oh yeah. Worf is on this show.

WORF: I prefer a more orderly environment.
ODO: We have that in common. My people have an innate need for order.
WORF: How do you tolerate living here?
ODO: I make order where I can.

Auberjonois is expectedly amusing at giving sage advice about how to be an unwelcoming tight-ass to a man famous for drinking prune juice. Based on what we've seen so far this season, I guess we are to conclude that “Generations” was so depressing for Worf, that he's lost all interest in friendship and comradeship. Can't say I blame him.

Odo reports to Shakaar to escort him to his meeting, but Shakaar wants to pray at the temple first. Odo is equally annoyed and concerned over this deviation from his orderly arrangements, but so things are destined to go for the Changeling. Shakaar definitely has that rockstar, populist appeal that puts Odo on edge. Then again, I think he likes it that way:

KIRA: Do you have to stare like that? I think it's making people nervous.
ODO: Good.

Here begins the phase of DS9 wherein Kira is written to intentionally troll Odo's feelings for her. She's made to be friendly in a way that hovers around cock-teasing (goo-teasing?) flirtation while remaining completely oblivious to his rather obvious infatuation with her. This isn't exactly awful to watch or anything, but it's sitcom tedium the likes of which I thought we had left behind. He starts “wearing” his belt again to please her, but she and Shakaar clearly have eyes for each other. Odo is made—or perhaps makes himself—escort the pair on a romantic stroll about the station. Quark is on hand to see exactly where this is going.

Act 2 : **.5, 18%

ODO: I've been working with the Federation for a number of years. They claim to be open and understanding, but somehow they're always convinced that they're right. It can be exasperating at times.

Would anybody care to point out an instance where the Federation makes grandiose claims about being “understanding?” As far as I can recall, the Federation strives to be right all the time, and is interested in debating the issues that concern its positions—well, except on this show. Whatever. Odo observes that Bajor is a bit handicapped by its history with the Cardassians. I'm sure Iceman would agree with me here that it's really frustrating to be teased with interesting political discourse when the episode is far more interested in the love-triangle stuff. What is clear here is that Echevarria is not particularly interested in the Star Trek-y substance that makes for interesting analogies and conversations regarding politics. Rather, there are a number of throw away lines about time-tables and bureaucracy that could apply equally to just about any political body as it could to the Federation or Bajor. It's generic, and thus it is boring.

Well, Shakaar drops the bombshell and asks Odo about Kira:

SHAKAAR: What I mean is, has she ever said anything to you that might indicate that she thought of me as more than a friend?
ODO: Ah. Well, let me think. No.

Auberjonois' delivery here was so perfect that I spat out my coffee. Now I need to change my shirt. Brilliant. Odo clumsily tries to dissuade Shakaar from pursuing his feelings for her. The conversation is fine, but by making Odo's feelings the focus, we've been denied the chance to observe *why* Shakaar might be falling in love with Kira. So it's less a relationship than a plot device.

Later on, Quark is preparing some jungle juice and planting eaves-dropping devices in the wardroom in order to pull off one of his typical schemes, stealing intelligence on the negotiations between Bajor and the Federation. Hey Quark, how much latinum for that device? I would LOVE some more details on these meetings. Well Quark doesn't beat around the bush too long, laying bare the fact that he knows Odo's in love with Kira and terrified of losing her to Shakaar. As expected, this is met with angry dismissals from the constable.

Act 3 : ***, 13% (short)

We pick up in Odo's office, mirroring the teaser. Kira shows up late to ruin Odo's sense of order and fuck with his emotions—again. She's not drinking her coffee, she's late, she's distracted...oh, and she's all of these things because she spent the morning—and maybe the night?—with Shakaar. Awkward. This is followed by Odo continuing to play chaperone on the pair's romantic tour of the station, “inadvertently” preventing a kiss at one point. And then, Odo is distracted during a conversation with Worf by the pair making dinner plans and ends up allowing a saboteur to...erm, sabotage the turbolift they're on. Dun dun dun...

Act 4 : ***.5, 18%

And so, Odo is forced to use his changeling powers to stop the lift mid-fall and save the trio from death. I'm not sure it was intentional, but I was reminded of the lift scene with Lwaxana way back in “The Forsaken.” There, Odo was forced to make his Changeling nature plain and expose himself as vulnerable. Here, Odo's abilities clearly make him powerful, but they also serve to remind him of how different he is from the humanoid after whom he pines.

Sisko is pretty annoyed with Odo's lapse in attention, but refrains from reading him the riot act. After all, this is a situation where getting angry and belligerent would be somewhat justified, whereas shaking Nog nearly to death for wanting to join Starfleet made no sense whatsoever. That's how you keep the voices in your head off balance, keep them guessing. You go, captain.

Eventually, Odo resolves to speak to Kira, but finds security posted around her quarters—Shakaar is inside. Odo decides to torture himself by standing watch personally while they “talk politics” until well into the morning. Let's hope he can morph himself some ear-plugs. After Shakaar leaves, Kira is very giggly and “you're such a good FRIEND, Odo,” gutting the poor sap completely.

Odo returns to his office to find that Worf has already apprehended the True Way saboteur. Having been robbed of the last vestige of his personal dignity—the chance to at least be the best god-damned policeman in the quadrant, even if he can't have the girl—Odo goes on a rampage in his quarters, an ironically humanoid response to grief. René is quite potent here, almost frightening.

Act 5 : ***.5, 18%

Well of course, Quark is on hand to make another noise complaint, letting himself into Odo's quarters.

QUARK: I knew it would come to this. You take the form of an animal, you're going to end up behaving like one.

Quark spins a yarn—possibly—about Odo's mismanaged feelings interfering with his man-hunt betting pool (speaking of Lwaxana...). It's a very sensible conversation that utilises the subsurface friendship between them. Quark reminds him of that always-reliable *semblance* of which I went on at length in the review to “Necessary Evil.”

Odo sheds his belt, passes off his bodyguard duties and cancels his morning meetings with Kira henceforth. And so things are back to normal, with Odo getting back to his routine, as it were. And even sound-proofing his floor for Quark's benefit. Hang in there, tough guy.

Episode as Functionary : **.5, 10%

I don't want to bend the timeline too much here, but I can't help but note the similarity between the Odo/Kira dynamic and the EMH/7of9 story over on Voyager that will appear in a few seasons. What doesn't work for me about the former is the fact that Kira is so fucking dense about Odo's feelings for her. She is very experienced with romantic relationships, very intelligent and very forthright about her opinions and observations, whereas Seven has/had the emotional maturity of a seven-year-old. Her blind spot regarding Odo is never adequately explained and it feels very scripted and forced to have her behave the way she does, just so the writers can torture Odo. In the same vein, the Kira/Shakaar relationship is more or less ignited and developed off screen, so there's very little to invest us in their feelings for each other.

That being said, the opportunity afforded to Odo and his growth is very good. Seeing him realise he's lost his opportunity is pretty heart-breaking, and the scenes between him and Quark are easily four-star material. In the end, the choice to use the episode's three plots (Kira/Shakaar getting together, the assassination attempt, and Bajor's negotiations with the Federation) as background for Odo's tale of personal tragedy is a double-edged sword. The character material for him is excellent, but the lack of insight into the other plots, which the series at least pretends to care about, is frustrating.

Final Score : ***
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