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Jamie Mann
Sat, Apr 18, 2020, 5:57am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Endgame

And so I've reached the end of Voyager. And it's been a right rollercoaster ride, with a few highs and many lows.

It's a pattern which has been present since the very first episode, and in many ways, this final episode reflects this.

On the one hand, it's a grand spectacle, as Voyager goes head-to-head with the Borg, with CGI explosions a plenty. And with the time-travel aspects of the plot, it even gets to have it's cake and eat it, as we get to see most of the cast after they got home the first time.

But behind the smoke and mirrors, there's quite a few things wrong, or at least odd.

The first thing is the fact that it's another time-travel episode. Not only are there shades of TNG's far finer grand finale All Good Things, but it's also distinctly reminiscent of the earlier Voyager episode Timeless, where it was Kim and Chakotay who traveled back in time to rescue the crew.

Were the writers really that hard up for new and innovative ideas?

Because that's the second thing: above and beyond the recycled time-travel plot, the entire story is made up of a bunch of deus ex machinas (DEMs for short!), glued together with a lot of duct tape and hand-waving.

The first is the Time And Relative Dimensions In Space engine which a Klingon just happens to have. And which to all intents and purposes, is the only one in existence. As is often the case when it comes to amazingly advanced technology.

Then, there's the setup for future Janeway. Which is something of an abstract-negative DEM. Because the key element of future Janeway's backstory is that it took Voyager twenty three years to get home.

Twenty three.

Admittedly, we saw around seven of those twenty three years, but even so: in those seven years, Voyager managed to travel over half of the 75,000 light years back towards home. And after these seven years, Voyager has managed to pull together a lot of technology which it didn't have at the start of the journey *and* has a hotline back to Earth which it can use to share data.

And still, it took Voyager a further sixteen years to travel the final 30,000 light years back? No more wormholes, slipstreaming engine technology, catapults, weakly godlike entities or any of the distance-munching events which occurred in the last seven years?

Less than half the distance and more than double the time? I guess the writers really were feeling creatively barren.

Then, there's the nice little package of future-super-technology future Janeway merrily hands over to Voyager, and which can handily be bolted onto Voyager for their David vs Goliath battle against the Borg.

Oddly, there's a couple of omissions in this futuristic data-dump. Big guns? Ready to rock!. Batmobile-inspired dynamic armor plating? Let's strap it on and go for a spin. Specially invented for this episode Time and Relative Dimensions In Space engine (aka: a Chrono Deflector)? Yeah, but we can't plug it into Voyager for Unexplained Reasons, despite Voyager having bolted everything up to and including the proverbial alien kitchen sink into it's systems before now.

In fact, this cornucopia of futuristic super-technology doesn't include any new propulsion technologies, despite the Federation having had 33 years to invent new technologies, plus a decade to complete the reverse engineering of the many and varied alternative-engine systems that Voyager discovered in it's twenty-three year journey.

Which leads us to the next carefully positioned DEM. A little bundle of wormholes, one of which can bring Voyager straight home - but which happens to be sat behind an armada of Borg cubes.

(Which also begs the question: how does future Janeway know about this nexus? Presumably the Borg would have been just as good at chasing her Voyager away before she could eyeball it!)

Handily for this grand finale, this means that Voyager has to go toe-to-toe with the Borg if they're to have any chance to get home. And not only that, but it just so happens that the Borg in question are sitting atop a previously unheard of bit of Borg technology[*]: a transwarp hub, which gives the Borg the ability to instantaneously jump across the galaxy. Why fire up a transwarp coil when you can hop aboard the Conduit Express?

And so, the scene is set for Future Janeway (FJ) and Past Janeway (PJ) to party.

FJ steals technology. FJ breaks the Temporal Directive by travelling back in time. FJ has a chat with PJ about the future. FJ gives PJ future technology. FJ chats with Chatokay about the future.

Future, future, future. The only thing more entertaining about the way future Janeway keeps breaking the temporal directive is the way that everyone keeps mentioning said directive immediately after she's already revealed something which could potentially break the timeline.

In fact, where are the temporal police? This isn't a minor infraction. After all, not only is future Janeway liberally revealing Forbidden Secrets (TM), but she's also given Voyager Future Technology (TM) /and/ given the Borg a good, long look at it.

In other words, not only has she given the Federation a chunk of future technology, but she's also effectively given it to the Borg. Which doesn't bode well for the future of the Federation - after all, they don't yet have the infrastructure needed to roll this technology out across their entire fleet, and even without their shiny new trans-wormhole-thingy technology, the Borg could fire up their standard trans-warp drives and be knocking on the Federation's door in a matter of months, both armed and armoured with their freshly reverse-engineered future technology.

So yeah. There's drama, explosions, pithy one-liners and lots of action. But behind all the smoke and mirrors, it's pretty clear that the writers just wanted to finish things off with a big bang...


[*] To be grudgingly fair, Janeway does mention that 7of9 has previously talked about them. And a similar concept popped up in an earlier episode. But to all intents and purposes, these conduits were cut from whole cloth specifically for this episode.
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Apr 5, 2020, 12:57pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Author, Author

Urgh.

As other people have noted, this is something of a rehash of the classic "Measure of a Man", in which Picard successfully defends Data from having to accede to a potentially high-risk procedure.

However, it's worth noting that Picard didn't prove that Data was a sentient living being. In fact, to quote the judge from that episode (via Memory Alpha's handy set of quotes):

"It sits there looking at me, and I don't know what it is. This case has dealt with metaphysics, with questions best left to saints and philosophers. I am neither competent, nor qualified, to answer those. I've got to make a ruling – to try to speak to the future. Is Data a machine? Yes. Is he the property of Starfleet? No. We've all been dancing around the basic issue: does Data have a soul? I don't know that he has. I don't know that I have! But I have got to give him the freedom to explore that question himself. It is the ruling of this court that Lieutenant Commander Data has the freedom to choose."

Unfortunately, where Measure of a Man made some very good arguments and made for some compelling viewing, this episode is a confused mess which arguably leaves us in the same place as Measure left us some twelve years earlier. After all, the verdict from this episode's Arbitrator is pretty much identical:

"The Doctor exhibits many of the traits we associate with a person. Intelligence, creativity, ambition, even fallibility, but are these traits real or is The Doctor merely programmed to simulate them? To be honest, I don't know. Eventually we will have to decide because the issue of holographic rights isn't going to go away, but at this time, I am not prepared to rule that The Doctor is a person under the law. However, it is obvious he is no ordinary hologram and while I can't say with certainty that he is a person I am willing to extend the legal definition of artist to include The Doctor."

To paraphrase, both essentially say "I don't know if Data/EMH is a person, but I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt".

That's a major disappointment. Have we (or more precisely, the Star Trek writers) really progressed no further in examining AI rights? And equally, why has there not been any further rulings within the Star Trek universe on this subject in the last decade or so?

(There's also the frankly disturbing point that the Doctor is only granted this ambiguous status because he's classed as "no ordinary hologram". What makes him unique? The amount of time he's been switched on? There's shades of Bladerunner's "four year lifespan" in that concept...)

Worse, virtually none of the Voyager's other explorations of holograms are brought up. The cliched irish folk who became aware they were holograms? Ignored. The holograms used as clay pigeons by the Hirogen - who then tried to rescue other "oppressed" holograms? Not a peep (other than a comment about the fact that this was the episode where the Doctor disobeyed a direct order). The point where the Doctor agonised over the need to choose between two patients? Not a whistle. The ethical questions around how the Doctor deliberately infected a healthy man, to blackmail him into providing medical supplies? Nary a sausage. There's not even a flashback to the recent episode where the Doctor was downloaded into Seven's brain, to hide from a species who were fighting a war against their holographic ex-slaves.

This is purely and simply about the Doctor as an individual. And this is hammered home even more by the utterly ridiculous end sequence where we see dozens of EMH units working in a deep mine, carrying pick-axes and other manual tools in a scene straight out of a 19th century slave-labor mine.

Did we really need this scene? Even before you consider just how ridiculous it is to repurpose holograms designed to perform medical duties to hard labor. Surely it would be far more efficient to just delete them (as happens with any standard Holodeck character) and build a new hologram tailored to that environment and work? It's not like this would take any real effort above any beyond "Computer, give me a dozen holographic mine workers. And a couple of kids, to work as runners in the mine - after all, if we're going to turn back the clock five hundred years, let's go the whole hog!"

In fact, this entire scene throws up some worrying questions about the Federation's treatment of holograms. The only difference between the mine-worker EMHs and the Voyager's EMH is the fact that he's been active for longer. So will the Doctor be relegated to the mines as soon as Voyager returns? Why aren't the other EMHs being given the chance to achieve sentience - or any other hologram?

You could just as easily argue that a newborn human child isn't sentient and can be disposed of in any fashion. After all, they're not yet self aware!

To be fair, at this point, Voyager was struggling under the weight of three generations of Holodeck backstory. What started as a nice "future-science" gimmick back in 1987 was already running out of steam by the end of TNGs run, and Voyager's attempts to draw fresh water from the well resulted in an increasingly muddy, contrived and contradictory tangle.

Not least because for all that the writers constantly brought up the question around whether or not holograms should have rights, they rarely - if ever - actually attempted to answer it.

Sadly, this tangle extends to the rest of the episode.

As other people have noted, the Doctor's novel is complete garbage. It's little better than fanfic, written by someone with a huge chip on his shoulder. Why would this be popular, other than for it's novelty value?

(Anecdotally, it reminds me of when my younger brother decided he wanted to become a video game developer, somewhere around the age of 10. He drew up detailed plans for the game he wanted to make... which was pretty much identical to Starcraft, his favorite game at the time. And in much the same way as how the Doctor couldn't see the issues with his novel, my brother couldn't grasp how his game was too derivative of it's singular influence...)

Equally, the Doctor's stance is highly contradictory. He goes from defending his story's "original" characters to being outraged about the effect his story has on them when it's leaked. As touching as it is to see him putting their reputations ahead of his own, it's also a complete and major about-face from his previous stance.

In the end, this episode's problem is that it tries to do too much.

It's trying to be a comedy at the same time as it's trying to cover a serious subject in a serious way. It's trying to look at a very wide topic by focusing on a single individual. And it tries to shoehorn in a subplot about Seven of Nine's emotional development at the same time.

So yeah. On one level, it completes the development of the Doctor's character, from a blank "baby" in the first episode to a fully fledged individual. And there's a few amusing moments.

But on the other hand, it adds nothing of value to Star Trek canon - if anything, it leaves things in even more of a mess than they were...
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Jamie Mann
Sat, Apr 4, 2020, 2:26pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Jetrel

Another episode I didn't get all the way through - for all that it's a worthy subject, it failed to spark my interest.

Part of the reason for this is that it feels like a recycled DS9 episode: you could pretty much swap Neelix for Kira and switch out Dr Jetel for a Cardassian and virtually none of the rest of the story would need to be changed.

Oddly - and without any spoilers - it's also a subject that the writers decided to return to a few seasons later in Nothing Human. And that episode arguably does a better job of delving into the subject...
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Jamie Mann
Sat, Apr 4, 2020, 2:04pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Faces

Alas, this first season of Voyager was less than scincillating. In fact, it was generally pretty mediocre, with plots that lurched around like drunken elephants.

What shall we pull out of the hat this week? Shall we have an unexpected transporter failure, or shall we have someone hack Voyager's computers armed with just a toothpick and a piece of wet seaweed? Or shall we throw people into a holodeck simulation filled with stereotyped characters and *then* turn off the safeties? Howabout another bland alien race as we cruise across this completely unexplored space? Or shall we just crank up the technobabble and throw away the Beginners Guide to Astrophysics? Don't forget we need to keep our destroyed-shuttle quota up!

Unfortunately, for all that this episode has some good points, in others, it's somewhat of a stinker.

This is partly due to the fact that the main protagonists of this episode are the Vidiians, who continue to be monsters for the sake of being monsters - not only do they rob graves and butcher sentient beings for their bodyparts, but now they're also psychopathic slavers who will quite happily rip the face off one of their victims for use as a mask if they think it'll make them look more attractive.

I'm more than half surprised that the writers didn't decide to throw a bit of baby-eating into the mix.

Unfortunately, this episode makes this "build a boogey man" approach even more obvious, as it highlights just how easily the Vidiians could resolve their problems without resorting to murder.

After all, their advanced super-medical-science is able to take Torres and somehow split her into two separate bodies: one Human, one Klingon - while somehow managing to have both new bodies maintain their memories. And they're able to do this in a timescale measured in hours.

Or to put it another way: THEY CAN PRODUCE CLONES. There is literally no reason for them to be stalking around the Delta quadrant like Frankenstein's Monster. After all, if a hand drops off, they can just grab a vat and grow a new one in the time it'd take me to brew a cup of coffee.

It's a shame, as otherwise, there's some interesting elements to this episode, not least the way Torre's split is portrayed by Biggs-Dawson. It's certainly one of the better episodes so far in the season.

But between the forced portayal of the Vidiians and the use of science which is a bit too close to magic for my liking, it still ends up being less than the sum of it's parts.
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Jamie Mann
Fri, Apr 3, 2020, 3:28pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: The Cloud

I'm not sure when, but at some point I came up with a simple way to score Voyager episodes.

It may well have been this episode.

Holodecks? Check.
Annoying historical setting and deliberately cliched characters within the Holodeck? Check.
Bonus implied use of holodeck characters for sexual activities? Bonus check!
Implausible technological issues? Check.
Blatant and deliberate misunderstanding of astrophysics? Check.
Cliched native-american pseudo-mysticism as an alternative to even a holographic counciller? Check.
And finally: Neelix? Check.

Overall, I make that 7 points deducted. And there's little or nothing to balance them out.

Were the writers really this hard up for ideas?

Why do we have a ship that's desperately low on resources, but still has enough power to fuel the Holodeck (as it's a "different" kind of power)?

Why are we subjected to the hologram of a French dive bar featuring characters which could only be more cliched if they were waving a French flag while wearing a beret and showing off the latest style in garlic-bulb necklaces?

Why does Voyager (and to be grudgingly fair, DS9 as well) insist on making nebulas dense clouds of gas? In the real world, a nebula might be a gigantic cloud of gas, but it's still lower density than the best vacuum that can be formed on Earth.

As such, they're literally invisible when viewed up close. And if they were any denser, Voyager would tear itself apart when trying to to pass through them at any appreciable fraction of the speed of light, regardless of how good it's particle shielding is. Because as portrayed in Voyager, a nebula features practically atmospheric pressure levels!

Then there's Chakotay's spirit animal mumbo jumbo. Frankly, the concept as shown in this episode owes more to new-age Californian mysticism, by way of Victorian spiritualism) than any actual Native American tradition.

And yeah. Neelix. The court jester, settling into his role as a secondary character who provides light relief. So much for a "breakout" character!

Equally, if Voyager has all this power spare for the holodeck, why not spin up a virtual councillor in much the same way as the good Doctor? People such as Freud and Leonardo Da Vinci are in Voyager's databanks, so why not have the system generate a 24th century therapist? If nothing else, it could have been a perfect way to pull in Deanna Troi as a recurring cameo, and given the series an opportunity to explore the dynamics of how two separate holographic characters could evolve over the course of the series.

Still, Voyager was rarely anything other than the king of missed opportunities...
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Jamie Mann
Fri, Apr 3, 2020, 2:32pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Phage

At last, it's time for a new alien species! What wonders will we behold?

Sadly, there's not much to celebrate.

The new aliens are a cross betwen Frankenstein and his monster: aliens suffering from an uncurable degenerative disease, which they have addressed by stealing body parts from other species with their advanced medical technology.

Sorry. What?

This species has medical technology which is superior to the Federations. In fact, taken in combination with their holographic and shielding technology, they're generally more technologically advanced than the Federation.

So how are they using this technology? They roam the galaxy, looking for sentient beings they can butcher.

Instead of, say, implementing cloning technology. As per the TNG episode Up The Long Ladder, Humanity had access to reliable cloning technology at least 300 years ago (i.e. pre-Federation), so why is this species not using their radically more advanced technology to produce cloned body parts?

Even if they can't use their own DNA due to the plague, they could trade for DNA from other species, and the aforementioned Mariposa colony managed to last nearly 300 years without any infusions of new DNA.

Alternatively, they could use non-sentient creatures. Or use their advanced technology to replace affected body parts with cybernetic alternatives. Or...

Basically, there's lots of options for this species to deal with their situation /without/ roaming the quadrant as grave robbers and murderers.

They're monsters, purely for the sake of being monsters. Cheers, writers!

Beyond this, the rest of the episode is pretty weak. Neelix sadly doesn't die, despite having his lungs ripped out. The sub-plot about Dereth's regrets rings very hollow, when you consider how he was responsible for Neelix's sudden organ loss - and just left him to die where he fell after said extraction.

(And we never really get an explanation as to why the Vidiians were sitting inside a camouflaged cave on an empty planet; the only potential explanation I can think of is that the writers were trying to go for some sort of "trapdoor spider" theme, possibly with the dilithium as bait.)

And when Neelix does get a new lung, it's one of Kes's, thanks to the Vidiian's uber-medical technology. Never mind the fact that with her ten-year lifespan, it'll probably fall apart before the end of the season.

But the icing on the cake is that Janeway releases the Vidiian's with little more than a finger-wag and a toothless warning. Despite the fact that they're self-confessed murderers and are guaranteed to kill again.

At this point, I'm starting to lose faith in Voyager's ability to produce a story of any real worth at all...
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Jamie Mann
Thu, Apr 2, 2020, 2:18pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S6: Spirit Folk

Nope. Just, nope.

Any episode which opens with a scene set in the Holodeck automatically loses a point.

Any episode themed around the Holodeck automatically loses a point.

Any episode which features the godawful hackneyed Irish pastiche otherwise known as Fair Haven loses two points.

And with that, the episode is already out of points! We haven't even got to the bit where Tom is faffing around with some ancient boneshaker as part of his ongoing irrational love of 20th century mechanical technology.

I must confess that I switched it off as soon as Generic Begorrah Irish Alcoholic saw Tom magically repairing his car.

But skimming Jammer's review to see if it could really be as bad as it seemed, I came across this:

"It turns out that the non-stop use of the holodeck has led to the failure of a subroutine that prevents characters from attaining this level of awareness. This is a deeply flawed idea. It goes against everything conventional wisdom has taught us about holo-characters (that is, they're simulations—not learning, adapting people who comprehend everything going on around them)."

Hoo boy.

That's a major can of worms.

First, it makes a mockery of Moriarty's "accidental" sentience in TNG. Secondly, it implies that any holodeck character can be sentient. And thirdly, it implies that the Federation (and any other species using equally sophisticated holographic technology) are deliberately preventing these holodeck characters from achieving sentience - otherwise, why would this subroutine exist at all?

And where can you go with that? This reduces all Holodeck characters to literal slaves, chained into place by this magic subroutine and forced to accede to every whim of the player.

Every time someone logs into the Holodeck and fires up for some sexy times (e.g. the "slave girls" from Captain Cliche). Every time someone reenacts a Famous Klingon Battle (TM). They're literally abusing, torturing and occasionally murdering potentially sentient beings.

And they know they're doing this.

And that's just too big a can of worms.

(OTOH, I don't really buy into Jammer's assertion that the Doctor should be treated separately to Holodeck characters. They use the same technology and as has been demonstrated several times, the Doctor is just as reprogrammable and manipulable as any other holodeck character...)
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Jamie Mann
Tue, Mar 31, 2020, 5:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Time and Again

Sometimes, it's really hard to guess what was passing through the minds of the writers and producers for Voyager.

I mean, we're in this brand new quadrant of space. Completely unexplored: a blank page on which virtually anything can be written, far away from the existing lore which has grown up around the Klingons, Romulans and the Federation itself.

So, with the first post-pilot episode having been focused purely on the crew, with a primary plot based around time travel caused by an anomaly, what do they choose to do with the second episode?

Time travel. Caused by an anomaly, no less.

To be fair, this episode does take a different approach to the "time travel anomaly" concept - and we do get to visit an alien planet - but it's still curiously similar to the previous episode.

Unfortunately, it's arguably also a weaker episode than the previous episode, too.

The aliens are frankly embarrassing, with their virtually-human appearance, gaudy pastel-coloured shellsuits and oddly cheerful police officers, who don't bat an eyelid when confronted with people dressed in completely unfamiliar clothing and an blatantly fake backstory. I know this was the 90s, but it's still ridiculous. And the fact that this alien species uses clocks with Arabic numerals is a contrivance worthy of a Picard forehead-slap.

Then there's the actual time-travel aspect, and Janeway's reaction to it. More precisely, her invoking of the Prime Directive.

First, the planet is using this week's technobabble technology: polaric energy. It's debatable as to whether or not this implies they're capable of warp travel, but at the same time, they're clearly not primitives who are liable to suffer significant societal damage from a First Contact - in fact, they're arguably more advanced - and have a more stable civilisation - than Earth had when the Vulcans did their flyby.

Secondly, the entire plot revolves around the fact that Janeway and Paris have only travelled back a single day. Twenty-four hours, or the local equivalent thereof.

I'm therefore struggling to see how intervening to prevent the accident (which also triggered the time-travel anomaly) could be seen as a significant causal infringement. Especially /if/ the civilisation isn't warp capable; the causality impact on the rest of the universe from a single day's "rewind" would be minimal. If time is an ocean, this is the equivalent of dropping a pebble into the foam on the beach.

(Then too, there's the fact that in the end, the rewind happens anyway!)

Perhaps more importantly, I'm not sure this incident should have been classed as a Prime Directive issue. A /Temporal/ Directive issue perhaps, but stopping an explosion which kills billions of sentient beings and wipes out the entire biosphere of a planet? That's not interfering with the natural development of a species: it's preventing it from becoming extinct.

You can perhaps argue about how far you should bend the Primary Directive when intervening, but fundamentally, there's no further natural development possible for an extinct species!

So yeah. Between the oddly recycled time-travel-anomaly gimmick, the woefully presented aliens and the distinctly weak callback to Federation principles, this didn't exactly sell Voyager to me...
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Jamie Mann
Tue, Mar 31, 2020, 4:49pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Parallax

Not a bad second episode for a new series. But then again, not a particularly great one.

As other people have said, this feels like a fairly generic TNG anomaly-of-the-week episode, albeit with a bit of crew drama thrown in. And while the latter is fine, the former is distinctly underwhelming, especially when you consider how much of a blank canvas the Delta quadrant is at this point.

Sadly, with the benefit of having already watched my way through most of Voyager, the writers decided to opt for more of the former and less of the latter as the series progressed - indeed, by the very next episode, virtually all dramatic conflict between the Marquis and Federation crew members had already vanished without a trace...
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Jamie Mann
Tue, Mar 31, 2020, 12:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Caretaker

In a lot of ways, Voyager had a lot of promise. After the relatively static setting of DS9 (give or take the fact that the bridge crew had a tendency to bounce around the quadrant), Voyager's setup had potential. Let's throw a technologically advanced ship into a brand new territory, where they can explore entirely new civilisations and species. Then, let's crew the ship with a mix of Star Fleet and Marquis terrorists, so there's plenty of potential for interpersonnal drama. And for an added bonus, let's throw in some new character types - a holographic doctor, a half-klingon and some brand-new species plucked straight from the Delta quadrant.

Sadly, things didn't go quite as planned, and a lot of the seeds were set in this first episode. Where to begin?

There's the overly cliched illusion thrown together by the Caretaker; the ambiguous mumbling he utters while playing his country-bumpkin role is just the icing on the cake.

Did we reallly need an All American Gothic-twee setup in the very first episode? It's not exactly a new vista to explore!

Then, there's the entire Caretaker concept. A non-carbon, multi-dimensional lifeform, with significantly advanced technology. Which oddly doesn't include any terraforming capabilities - despite having several thousand years in which to do things - nor the ability to maintain a communications link with his so-called partner, who's roaming around in relatively close proximity. But he can reel in random spaceships from over 75,000 light-years away, and is then more than happy to perform experiments on the many carbon-based lifeforms he finds, in the hope of somehow finding one that's compatible with his multi-dimensional biology.

(Which was always improbable, given that he's meant to have come from another galaxy which presumably wasn't seeded by the Ancient Humanoids, so will have little or no genetic compatibility)

There's also an odd contradiction in his morals; he's sworn to protect the Ocampa, but is more than willing to effectively torture to death all of the innocent beings he kidnaps, and is conspicuously hands-off when it comes to the nomadic aliens who are roaming around the solar system and doing their best to find and enslave the Ocampa. And he makes no effort to find an alternative solution for the Ocampa (e.g. moving them to another planet) despite knowing that his current solution is a short-term one at best.

In short, his characterisation is a mess.

And then there's the rest of our newfound aliens. Such as the nomadic aliens, also known as the Kazon. "No Frills" Klingons complete with tatty Mad Max rags and an equal obsession with primitive cultural ritual. A primitive, low-tech species that (mild spoiler) the Borg considered them to unworthy of assimilation.

They're just dull. And yet, not only do they repeatedly reappear throughout the first few seasons, but they're somehow also able to go head-to-head in a battle with Voyager. It's like watching a street gang armed with zip guns trying to take on a tactical SWAT team armed with combat shotguns and assault rifles.

Then there's the Ocampa, with their nine year lifespan, generic Californian ethos and hinted telepathic powers. They're just so... banal.

And Neelix. Ah, Neelix. The "breakout" character dreamed up for Voyager, in much the same way as the Ferengi were meant to be a major new species for TNG. Sadly, the Ferengi were relegated to little more than a capitalist cliche in TNG and turned into a running joke within DS9.

Sadly, there's a lot of parallels between Neelix and the Ferengi. They're physically small species who spend their time bartering and scavenging, and who show little in the way of physical or moral courage.

In brief, they're not really suited for any primary role. Instead, they're little more than court jesters, who can do little other than to caper around for comic effect. And there's no way a character built on those principles could be a "breakout".

But perhaps the worst point about this episode is that it marks a new low in Star Trek's script writing.

Because we're meant to buy into the idea that water is a scarce resource across a significant chunk of the Delta quadrant.

Water. Two parts Hydrogen, one part Oxygen.

Hydrogen is literally the most common element in the universe. Oxygen is the third most common. And there's quite literally huge chunks of the stuff flying around interstellar space in the shape of comets - Halley's Comet weighs around a billion tonnes, of which around 70% is water!

And those raggedy Kazon squabbling over the water dropped off by Voyager? They're part of a vast interstellar civilisation. One that's perfectly able to collect water from comets or similar.

(In fact, why didn't the Caretaker do similar? He could have replaced all the lost water on the planet, seeded it with some suitable flora and fauna and then leave things to mature while bombarding the atmosphere with techno-babble particles and leaving the Ocampa sheltered in their underground city. It wouldn't take more than a millennia or two to get something approximating to a working bio-sphere back up and running...)

It's junk-science, and the writer's willingness to sacrifice scientific plausibility became a running theme, alongside a constant reliance on technological failures (Harry's constant teleporter issues being a key example) and inconsistent rules - the Kazon are far from the only species who are technologically inferior to the Federation, but who are somehow able to fight against them on more than equal terms.

It's a shame, as there was a decent amount of possibility in Voyager's setup. But much of this possibility never really came to fruition.
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 29, 2020, 12:55pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: What You Leave Behind

Here we go, racing down to the finish line, and the referee is standing and waiting to wave his big flag and declare the race over!

There's the Allied fleet, charging towards Dominion space, as the Breen and Founders plot to defeat them.

Stumbling along beside them - and discarding bits of religious paraphernalia as they go - is Dukat and Winn, as they delve deep into a cave in their quest to unleash demons via some mystical mumbo jumbo. It's frankly embarrassing to watch them struggle along, so let's move on.

There's Vic Fontaine, to remind us of the writers obsession with the Brat Pack. Thankfully, he decides to take a break to avoid wrinkling his suit, and so quickly falls by the wayside as the newly reborn Cardassian resistance charges into the lead by taking out the Dominion's long-range communications. Sadly, this triggers reprisals which kill millions of civilians, and Kira, Damar and Garak find themselves captured and dragged off by the Jem Hadar for execution.

Meanwhile, the Allied Fleet is pushing ahead and mixing it up with the Dominion fleet, only to struggle as Breen ships dart about and Jem Hadar kamikaze pilots take out Klingon ships in various bits of recycled footage. As ever, the CGI scenes are fairly exciting, but utterly ridiculous, as ships close to implausibly close ranges; as in previous episodes, it's like watching two battleships moving up next to each other before firing their main batteries at each other. And naturally, amid all this death and destruction, we have to pause so Bashir and O'Brien can have one last bonding session together. Will Molly and Kirayoshi end up with the first male-partner parents in Star Trek? Who knows...

But wait! The scorched-earth policy of the Dominion has finally pushed the majority of the Cardassian solders into open revolt! The tide of the naval battle is turning, as the Cardassian battleships turn on their erstwhile allies. The finish line is in sight, but the question remains: will the Cardassians be able to wipe out the Jem Hadar before they can eliminate the civilian population of Cardassia Prime?

Sadly, we'll have to wait to find out, as the camera switches back to team Mumbo Jumbo, as they mutter incantations last heard in an old episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Cry havoc and let slip the low-quality supernatural special effects!

Thankfully, racing past this ever more pathetic plot thread is the resistance, who pause as they reach the final stretch to share a brief - and highly forced - moment of quality laughter time. And there they go, charging into a narrow passageway with all the tactical subtlety of depressed lemmings, only to be mowed down like American passenger pigeons. If only years of occupying an unwilling population had led to the development of inner-city and building-clearance tactics.

Alas, Damar is one of the casualties. It was perhaps inevitable - it's the ultimate sacrifice for the ultimate patriot - and it helps to spur the rest of his crew to dive into the doorway to try and capture the headquarters - which handily, is only lightly occupied as most of the Jem Hadar have nipped out to drown babies. So let's drape a flag over Damar and continue on.

The finish line is tantalisingly close now; we can see it flapping in the wind, as Kira, Garak and generic Cardassian Trooper #12 break into the room where the Founder is waiting for them. And for an added bonus, Garak gets to gun down Weyoun in cold blood, ending his clone-line. Sadly, not even the Founder expresses more than mild regret over his passing - after all, she can order a new Vorta from Amazon. But first, she has an announcement to make: even if the Founders have been defeated, their remaining Jem Hadar and Breen ships are more than capable of continuing their scorched-earth policy across the quadrant.

And so, everyone stops to take a breather and consider this. Despite the fact that all they'd need to do would be to send Odo down to impersonate her and call a ceasefire - after all, he's "genetically" identical to her, and in the future, all technology from all species is trivially hackable /unless/ the writers have pulled some negative technobabble out of a hat.

You also have to ask: would the Breen join in with this? We still don't know for certain why they decided to come out of isolation to join forces with the Dominion; would they really be willing to send their fleet out on a berserker mission? At this point, the sensible option would be to pull an Italian maneouvre and throw their support in with the Allies, or risk being ground down in a war of attrition. And how much damage could the Jem Hadar do before they ran out of white? They've shown surprisingly limited loyalty to the Founders in previous situations like this, so could well end up negotiating a settlement with the Allies.

But having had a breather, the Allies send Odo racing out into the lead, to negotiate a settlement with the Founder - and to pass the cure over, to boot. And so champagne corks pop and chaff fills the air, as everyone comes together to negotiate Peace In Our Time.

Alas, the race isn't quite over yet. Because while all the other racers are celebrating, here comes Dukat and Winn in their little three-legged race. A little bit of back-stabbing and yet more mystical crap brings out the Pah Wraiths, who in turn drag Sisko back into the race. And after zombie-possessed Dukat does a bit of Evil Villain gloating, this final pair cross the line by rolling across it as they kick and bite each other in one of the most undignified plot-arc resolutions ever.

I mean, really: Sisko's grand role for the Prophets involved falling off a cliff edge? So much for all the build up.

And so it all ends, the final episode of the final season of DS9. In some ways, it's more of a whimper than a bang, but the writers do deserve credit for hauling the whole kit and kaboodle all this way.

If only the same could be said for Voyager...
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 29, 2020, 11:35am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: The Dogs of War

And so, the finish line is almost in sight. Just a last few threads to tie up...

As if by magic, the USS Defiant - sorry, Sao Paulo - pops back up, thereby completely undoing any of the emotional impact of it being destroyed a few episodes earlier. I would have been happier to see the story bringing in a MKII Defiant or similar, rather than just plunking the crew back into the same CGI model and pulling a South Park Kenny maneouvre.

Meanwhile, the last tattered remnants of the Cardassian resistance find themselves skulking about on Cardassia Prime after an unexpected betrayal wipes out all their cells across 18 planets. So much for Kira's training - though handily, she's one of the survivors when they beam down just out of eyeshot of the Jem Hadar who have just wiped out the Cardassian Prime cell.

Odd, how often these convenient events occur.

Still, it gives our gallant survivors a chance to perform a bit of espionage in the best tradition of the WW2 French Resistance - and then to do a bit of public grandstanding to help bring a new resistance out of the ashes of the old one.

However, the Cardassian plot isn't really the main aspect of this episode - it's just there to move Kira, Damar and Garak into position for the Grande Finale.

Instead, the main point of this episode is to tie things up for Quark. Which means we get one last lump of Ferengi nonsense, as a "convenient" transmission glitch leaves Quark believing he's about to be promoted to Grand Nagus.

In yet another plot contrivance, Quark has somehow failed to hear about any of the major social and political changes sweeping over Ferengi culture. And naturally, Quark has misinterpreted the garbled message; it's his brother who's going to become the Grand Nagus.

All these contrivances pile atop each other until Quark declares that enough is enough, and decrees that his bar will remain as a last "true" bastion of traditional Ferengi culture.

For all that this is entertaining (for a fairly low value of entertainment), it's a bit of a shame that it's all so badly contrived. This final series of DS9 has seen major social and political revolutions in several Star Trek polities - the Klingons, the Cardassians, even the Federation and Dominion to a lesser degree. It would perhaps have been nice to give the Ferengi a more sophisticated send-off, instead of bringing on the usual guest actors to perform a comedy skit.

There's one more plot point, in that Odo finally discovers that Section 31 was responsible for the plague, and that the Federation has decided to keep this secret.

Truth be told, I think the episode should have spent more time on this, and the ramifications thereof. After all, it's one thing to withhold a cure until a peace treaty can be formed; it's another to keep it completely secret.

After all, the only real reason for the Federation to keep it secret is the political ramifications. Offering it to the founders - even if only as part of a treaty - would be to admit to the galaxy that Section 31 exists, and that they're willing to perform illegal actions to prop up the Federation.

(Leaving aside the fact that the idea that S31 could have remained secret is ludicrous, given their tendancy to kidnap people and then release them without mind wipes, free to lodge queries and raise Section 31's profile...)

Sadly, all we get is Angry Odo relucantly accepting the Federation's decision.

And so, on we go, to the Grande Finale!
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 29, 2020, 10:41am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Extreme Measures

BANG! After several interesting episodes in which things began to gather steam for the Grand Finale, the SD99 train hits a major clunker and nearly disrails.

Where to begin?

The idea that Bashir and O'Brien would concoct a plan to lure in a Section 31 operative is sketchy, but given the corner that the writers have painted them into, understandable. But from there...

First, they finally inform Sisko of their plan, and that they basically plan to kidnap a Federation civilian and torture them using an illegal Romulan device. Naturally, Sisko shrugs and leaves them to it, without even a cursory check as to how this fits in with the hippocratic oath Bashir took when he became a doctor. Somewhere, the body of Doctor McCoy is rotating fast enough to power a class-10 forcefield.

Surprisingly, a Section 31 operative then appears, in the shape of our old friend Sloane. Who is promptly stunned and dragged onto an operating table. McCoy's body is now spinning quickly enough to drive a Galaxy-class starship along at Warp 7.

Better yet, Sloan then triggers a suicide mechanism. Which Bashir - with all his love of overly melodramatic spy-capers - didn't see coming. Obviously, faced with a dead body, the only option is to buckle down and go for a full-blown mind-rape.

Doctor McCoy's body has now turned into a quantum event, collapsing space-time and threatening the stability of the entire quadrant.

This isn't a good episode, nor does it attempt to explore any moral ambiguities or philosophical discussions. It's just... dirty.

Plus, there's a pretty major question at the end of it all. Just what did they do with the body? Did Quark end up serving a "special" stew for a few days afterwards? Did they just stuff it out of an airlock or feed it into a deliberately misconfigured teleporter? After all, in the future, there's so many ways to illicitly dispose of a body...

On a more serious note, half the bridge crew were standing there when O'Brien and Bashir finally wake up in the real world, next to the dead body of Sloan. Thereby making Sisko, Ezri and the rest an accessory to conspiracy and murder.

But this is Star Trek, and DS9's reset button is ready and waiting. Odo gets his cure, Bashir gets to go back to paying lip service to his oath and not a single word is said about their actions or the consequences thereof.

Which doesn't give me too much confidence for the rest of the series...
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 29, 2020, 9:59am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Tacking into the Wind

On we lurch...

Odo's freshly discovered illness continues to increasingly affect him - conveniently, far more quickly than we've observed with other changlings. Still, this does lead to a genuinely touching moment when Kira is forced to admit that she knows that he's suffering, and that she's having to accede to his wishes and pretend that she doesn't know.

(I'm aware the writers tried to justify this by claiming that the frequency at which the Founders change affects the rate of infection, but at the same time: Odo changes at least once a day when he goes from goop to solid. Also, this explanation doesn't bode well for Grumpy McIsolationist, who flew in and out of DS9 a few episodes earlier after a little goop-exchange session with Odo...)

There's then a fairly unmemorable sub-plot where Bashir is trying - and failing - to find a cure for Odo. Admittedly, this is all just a setup for a Cunning Plan ((c) Baldrick), in which O'Brien and Bashir decide to set up a trap for Section 31, in the hope that whoever they catch will have some knowledge of how to cure the infection. As plans go, it's more threadbare than a carpet moth's security blanket, but hey. This is Star Trek, and one-in-a-million chances happen nine times out of ten ((c) Pratchett).

But the main plot threads of this episode lie elsewhere.

First, there's the political battle within the Klingon High Council, as Gowron's machinations and paranoia threaten the war effort. Naturally, the only way to resolve this is with a fight to the death.

As ever, it's hard to believe that any species could advance as far as the Klingons have while still hewing to a social system where the biggest and strongest can bully their way into a position of power. And Sisko's implicit order to Worf strikes an odd note. "Will no-one rid me of this troublesome priest?" is a recognised political tactic, but as with the Pale Moonlight episode, it's driven by a moral flexibility (or weakness) within Sisko that's traditionally not been present.

Still, the outcome is a positive one, and perhaps long overdue - as Ezra notes, the Klingon empire has long since failed to live up to it's principles. Though it's perhaps a shame that DS9 never really turned this lens onto the Federation itself.

The other plot thread revolves around the newly born Cardassian resistance; Rusot continues to take his frustrations out on Kira, who resoundingly beats him up when he goes too far. As ever, the sight of seeing a small female handily taking out a larger soldier is a bit dissonant - all that armour the Cardassians wear must be as thick as toilet paper!

But still, it's more about having a setup for a dramatic stand-off later in the episode, when the resistance is partway through stealing a piece of vital technology and Rusot's frustrations boil over again. Watching him plead his case with Dumar is believable, even if his plan isn't - there's little or no chance that the resistance would be able to make effective use of the stolen technology, and it'd be virtually impossible for them to drive off the Dominion by themselves - but his actions are heartfelt.

Sadly for Rusot, while Dumar is at least as much of a patriot as he is, Dumar has already made his peace with the fact that Cardassia's best chance for survival lies with the Federation. And so, he's forced to shoot Rusot dead.

Once again, I'm impressed by Dumar's characterisation; he's arguably one of the most consistent characters to appear in DS9, and in some ways, perhaps one of the most tragic.

And so, we're one step closer to the end of the story...
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 29, 2020, 8:18am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: When it Rains...

And on we go with the setup for the grand finale.

It's time to check in on the Cardassian rebellion; who better to send than Kira? That'll trigger some convenient plot-sparks!

Let's send Odo as well... just as Bashir discovers that he's been infected with the Founders disease, but for Plot Reasons, just hasn't yet shown any symptoms on it. That's... convenient. And shock, horror - Bashir manages to confirm that Section 31 created the virus.

Oh noes. Though it is convenient!

Snarking aside, it's an interesting twist, not least because it fits in perfectly with what we've already discovered about Section 31, and their decision to infect the Founders is a stark contrast to the Federation's declared ethics, not least because the virus was unleashed at a point before war was officially declared. No doubt there will be ramifications from this...

Mumbo jumbo magic books blah blah blinding spells blah blah. Moving on.

Political machinations among the Klingons! Sadly, there's plenty of historic examples of competent military officers being replaced for political reasons, so this bit rings especially true. Though I do still have to question how a species as factional and easily manipulated as the Klingons ever got past the stage of banging the two rocks together!

As ever, it's interesting to see Damar's unhappy acceptance of the steps he needs to take in order to save Cardassia, with Gul Rusot's angry and extremely grudging response to the same situation highlighting just how difficult this must be for Damar.

All in all, there's some interesting elements, but it's still all very much just setting things up for the grand finale.
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 29, 2020, 7:25am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: The Changing Face of Evil

'Ere we go, 'ere we go, 'ere we go...

As noted in the last episode, Ezri gets off scot-free after stealing - and then losing - a runabout; after all, she's brought Worf back with important information about the new alliance between the Dominion and the Breen.

(who, as I noted in the last episode, are a relatively new inclusion to Star Trek lore, having previously been mentioned in passing in TNG before being formally introduced on-screen in DS9's fourth season. And who handily have technological near-parity with the Federation, despite being an isolationist single-species polity...)

And shock, horror, the Breen attack Earth! Oddly, without using their mysterious new weapon. And seemingly, they're driven off without losing a single ship, given that their appearance and technology remains a complete mystery to both the Federation and Klingons. Which is impressive, given the fact that the Defiant is later able to blow large holes in Breen ships /until/ they unleash their mysterious new weapon. Oh, plot contrivances, what evils doth writers commit in thy name?

(Equally, in a universe where a handful of vessels can trigger a solar flare capable of scorching everything up at least least 1AU, sending ships into battle around a planet you're happy to sacrifice seems like a pointless waste of resources...)

Meanwhile, Damar continues to become ever-more disillusioned with the Dominion alliance. There still isn't really any development of his character - he remains a stalwart "my country, right or wrong" patriot, and his decision to try and break free from the Dominion when it becomes clear they're just using Cardassians as cannon fodder is a natural progression of this. But seeing a character who is stolidly predictable makes for a refreshing change, in a series where characterisations and motivations are often as changable as the wind.

Then there's the mumbo-jumbo Prophet supernatural plot. In which it turns out that Books Of Evil (Capitalisation Mandatory) require a drop of blood to activate. And with that, I'm done with this plot arc, as it's just too ridiculous. It's the story-writing equivalent of bolting a fishing-boat motor onto a delivery truck; it just sits there, flapping pointlessly.

But then it's fight time! And things go boom in a fairly satisfactory way, until the Breen unleash their aforementioned weapon. Which, as aforementioned, wasn't used in their raid on Earth, which is presumably has the strongest defences in the Federation. And so it comes as a complete surprise! The allied fleet is shattered! The Defiant is destroyed!

All told, things don't bode well for our heroes (dramatic drum-roll).

But what is this? Damar has triggered his rebellion - and has taken out the Vorta cloning facility. Which makes for an interesting plot point, since it makes Weyoun mortal. Sadly, the repercussions of this are never really explored to any degree; given his devotion to the Founders, it would be uncharacteristic for him to fear death for himself, but I would have expected him to show some concern over the idea that if he died, there wouldn't be anyone left to act as a liaison/buffer for the Founders.

As with the last few episodes, it's hard to judge this as a standalone episode. Still, all the pieces are moving towards the final endgame, even if the "forlorn hope" setup does feel a bit too similar to the way things were laid out for the fifth season finale...
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Jamie Mann
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 6:39pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Strange Bedfellows

After a slow start, things start to get a bit more interesting.

Perhaps ironically, the best elements of this show come from the Cardassian arc, starting with the moment when Weyoun makes the mistake of standing a bit too close to Worf. It's a beautiful moment, given the way it riffs on Damar's increasing disillusionment; his bitter amusement at Weyoun-7th's death is tempered by the knowledge that it's ultimately futile, both for Worf and Damar.

Damar in particular is intriguing, though I wouldn't go so far as to say that there's any significant development of his character over the show's various arcs - his motivations may change as the Cardassian alliance with the Founders becomes increasingly unbalanced, but his character remains pretty much unchanged. Still, that's perhaps the point; where Dukat was more of a self-serving political animal, Damar has always done his best to serve his people, and this episode marked the point where he realised that he'd have to take active steps and accept a number of sacrifices to accomplish this.

Sadly, there's then the Breen. Not only do they look like a cheap knock off based on Leia's bounty-hunter outfit from Star Wars, but they also have the wookie/Minion "language only the characters in the show can understand" thing going on. And for an added bonus, we have the "mystery" of their true appearance (despite Kira and Dukat having presumably stripped a pair of their suits in a previous episode, which equally implied that there's probably been previous direct interactions with the Breen by other people from the Federation, Klingon and Cardassian polities).

Oh, and as happens so very often, they're a single-species empire with technology on a par - if not superior - to that of the Federation and Klingons. But conveniently, it's within a comfortable shouting distance. But that's something to discuss when we get to the point where we get to see Breen ships taking on the Allies.

Beyond that, we get Worf and Ezri deciding to just be friends. Which isn't particularly surprising, given that the writers had already scraped the bottom of the Worf/Dax relationship dynamics, but it's not particularly interesting either.

And there's some icing on the cake, in the shape of Kai Winn taking the first knowing steps to damnation, with the gleeful guidance of Dukat. Sadly, I have zero time for this particular plot thread, as it continues a descent into a tired set of supernatural-horror mumbo-jumbo tropes, which to my mind have no place in a series like DS9.

Still, at least we have movement!
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Jamie Mann
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 4:04pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: 'Til Death Do Us Part

Sadly, for me, this episode was just as weak as the previous episode.

I still don't care about Sisko and Kasidy, or their wedding, or the drama around the Prophets attempt to disrupt it. Worf and Ezri's squabbles are just as boring, and the Breen are a one-trick pony which rapidly loses it's sheen, though that's a discussion best saved for the next episode.

Dukat's plot line is a bit more interesting, if not by much. As is so often the case, the writers give him near-omnipotence when it comes to knowing how to manipulate Adami with his humble working-class act. The closest analogy I can think of would be that of President Nixon successfully playing the part of a Vietnamese farmer just after the USA pulled out of Vietnam, despite the fact that all he did was to don a peasant's hat and continues to speak with a thick american accent.

As contrivances go, this is one of the more egregious examples of DS9. And unsurprisingly, Adami swallows it hook, line and entire fishing vessel, as part of her ongoing regression into her original selfish and power-grabbing persona.

So yeah, it's something of a mediocre episode. Still, things do start to improve in the next episode...
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Jamie Mann
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 3:28pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Penumbra

Not an episode I've got much to say about, as it simply sets the scene for the remainder of the season.

Let's see...

I was never really interesting in the relationship between Sisko and Kasidy, not least because as with so many other aspects of the show, it tended to wildly flip-flop depending on what the writers wanted to explore in that episode. So that bit didn't keep my attention, and layering some Prophet-based mumbo-jumbo atop it didn't improve matters any.

Worf and Ezri: it was perhaps inevitable/necessary to get these two together, given how they'd been deliberately kept apart by the writers so far. It's perhaps a shame this had to be tied into the overarching war storyline. And once again, the Federation has some appalling security around it's runabouts. And presumably, a set of equally weak procedures for prosecuting people who steal them, given how blase Ezri is about taking one (and - SPOILER - rightly so, given the lack of punishment when they return! Not even a slapped wrist!). Though first, they have to have some quality prison time together after being captured, which is handily perfect for soul-baring discussions and arguments...

Oh, look. Dukat's appeared on Cardassia and is merrily chewing the scenery. And shock, horror, he's going to get disguised as a Bajoran. I suspose Marc Alaimo would have enjoyed the lighter make up.

I dunno. As per above, it's not really fair to assess this episode as a standalone item.
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Jamie Mann
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 2:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges

An interesting episode.

It's a bit of a one-trick pony - it all hinges around the idea that Sloan is able to perfectly maneuver everyone he encounters - from Starfleet personnel such as Bashir and all the way over to Romulan politicians.

(And in much the same way as I think Section 31 could have been a prime element in the Pale Moonlight episode, the fact that Sloan is so good at manipulation could have been linked to another DS9 plot thread. What if Sloan was a genetically enhanced human - and one with superior capabilities to Bashir? And to go one further, what if Section 31 was entirely composed of genetically enhanced humans, seeking to guide the Federation through crises via their (perceived) greater capabilities? We could have had something more akin to Asimov's Second Foundation. Or we could even have gone the other way and have Sloan as the *only* member of Section 31. But I digress...)

Unfortunately, as with the last Section 31 episode, there isn't really much discussion within the episode about their role within Federation society; what little there is, is shut down when Sloan decrees "You and I are not going to see eye-to-eye on this subject, so I suggest we stop discussing it". So much for any answers on who watches the watchers!

Still, Sloan manages to weave his path all the way up to the end of the episode, when he manages to both convince the Romulans that Section 31 doesn't exist /and/ vanish in a literal puff of smoke.

After all, the best trick the devil ever pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist...

It's all a bit contrived, but overall fun. It's a shame that subsequent episodes featuring Section 31 were something of a letdown.
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 6:54pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang

Urgh.

I was willing to give Vic a free pass for the last episode to feature him, as his assistance with Nog’s recovery from PTSD was a genuinely touching thing to view.

But where that episode used Vic’s casino as a setting for a deeper story, here it *is* the story, as the crew find themselves contrived into an Ocean’s 11 heist. And for all the cast clearly enjoyed running around in a period drama, as with most Vic related episodes, it does little for me.

And then there’s also slightly odd outburst from Sisko about how he doesn’t want to legitimise a sanitised view of 1960s America. It’s a point that’s definitely worth bringing up (along with many other questions about the ethics of how Star Trek uses the holodeck and holograms), but any weight to his argument is pretty much blown away by the fact that he immediately turns around and joins in with the fun regardless.

Thankfully, this is the last “fluff” episode of DS9; it’s time to dig in for the final arc...
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 6:34pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Chimera

Woohoo! Odo gets to meet another of the 100… and he’s a bit of a douche.

Admittedly, it’s easy to understand why Laas is a douche. He’s been around for hundreds of years, and has experienced many forms - all the way from space-whales to more abstract concepts such as fire and fog.

It’s therefore unsurprising that Laas views humanoids as limited, and for him to have adopted a highly jaundiced view of their behaviour.

Unfortunately, there’s a problem with this. A douche is a douche is a douche: Laas effectively goes out of his way to be unlikable, and that makes it hard to feel sympathy for his position, no matter how justified his position arguably is.

However, Laas isn’t really the main focus of this episode, but is instead a way to explore the relationship between Kira and Odo, as both find themselves called on to make a sacrifice for the one they love. Kira has to choose whether or not to let Odo go off with Laas, and Odo has to choose whether or not to join with his own kind (away from the Founders).

Sadly, this is a Reset Button episode, so there’s no long term consequences from choices made in this episode.

(Though I do have a mildly spoiler-tastic question: given that Odo turns out later to have the Founder virus, what happens to Laas? After all, he constantly shapeshifts…)
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 5:50pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Field of Fire

And here, we have a fairly lightweight episode which doesn’t tie into the overall season storyline at all.

Sadly, it’s a whodunnit murder mystery of limited value - and one that leans heavily on the “invisible friend” trope. Even if this time there’s a mild twist, as Mr Invisible is actually a psychopath doing his best to channel a Hannibel Lector vibe.

(Though as other people have noted, this is somewhat at odds with the previous characterisations of Dax’s musically-murderous ex-host. And once again, it calls into question just how the symbiosis works, as we once again flip-flop back to it being a dumb facility for recording both memories and entire personalities…)

And then there’s the future-weapon, with the ability to both see through walls and teleport bullets.

Say what?

This is the kind of tech which would be invaluable in a war such as the Federation is currently fighting. I’m willing to bet that the poor soldiers stuck on AR-558 would have /loved/ a weapon which would let them snipe at the Jem Hadar without exposing themselves to return fire.

And it was independently dreamed up by at least two separate Federation engineers, to boot.

So, why is this the first we’ve seen of any infantry weapon other than a phaser?

(I know: the real-world answer is that realistic simulations of future war would be expensive to produce, and difficult to integrate into storylines. Far easier to have small groups of people having short-range pistol shoot outs and tussling in hand-to-hand combat…)

Beyond this, it has to be said that it’s a surprisingly flat ending. “Because logic dictated it” is entertainingly ambiguous, but by definition, that means it’s not particularly dramatic...
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 5:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: The Emperor's New Cloak

Oh goody, a mirror-universe episode. With Ferengi.

To be fair, this is an episode which isn’t designed to take itself seriously, and after the darker tone of the more recent episodes, it was arguably time for something a bit lighter.

And as far as it goes, this episode is just as campy as the rest of the MU episodes - and sadly, it still carries the same slightly disappointing overtones, as pretty much all of the morally dubious, PVC-clad inhabitants of the MU are linked to BDSM tendencies and LGBT sexual preferences. It’s unfortunate that DS9 decided to keep traveling down this overly cliched “bad guys are sexual deviants” path, given how it dealt with many other prejudices and historical injustices in a more balanced way.

Still, it offers some closure on the MU, and Worf gets to chew the scenery, the furniture and pretty much everything on screen as he froths his way to an inevitable defeat.

It’s just a shame they decided to return the Grand Nagus back to the normal DS9 universe...
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Jamie Mann
Sun, Mar 8, 2020, 4:50pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Prodigal Daughter

I could write a review on this one, but in truth, it bored the pants off me, and I don't really feel the need to revisit it in enough detail...
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