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Kinematic
Fri, Feb 15, 2019, 3:15pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Saints of Imperfection

So some of you were wondering what Discovery's main theme or moral is? I figured it out.

This show's message, perhaps its overall purpose, is to justify and indeed glorify United States foreign policy.

The first season begins by contrasting a benevolent Starfleet who repeat the motto "we come in peace" to a bestial foreign culture who react murderously to the Federation's superior ideals. The Federation's failure to act decisively leads to a bloody war. This war is resolved by using a weapon of mass destruction to make hostages of the enemy nationals and install a puppet despot whose goals coincide with the Federation's.

In the second season, we've seen the Federation's secret intelligence corps assassinate high officials to preserve their puppet L'Rell, and the writers make sure we understand this is a Good Thing. In the last episode we've watched as the entire Discovery crew was saved thanks to the convenient intervention of a Section 31 vessel. Michael and Pike take issue with S31's amorality, but Georgiou reminds us that "nation-building is never easy," and Pike's disdain for Leland is corrected by Admiral Cornwell, reminding him of the usefulness of people whose path "isn't always clear." Even if that path sometimes leads to you assassinate the wrong ambassador. This stuff could've been written by Henry Kissinger.

That doesn't mean we haven't met a few characters along the way who were -too- ruthless, Lorca being the prime example. He went too far and had to be put down for the greater good. But what made him different from Empress Georgiou? Why is L'Rell now considered acceptable Klingon leader despite the fact that she was a high-ranking member of the vicious fringe Klingon sect whose action sparked the war?

The reason is that Georgiou and L'Rell are more worthy than Lorca in the eyes of the Church of the Woke. The Church of the Woke is a new religion with just two tenets: "tolerance" (of things we approve of) and "diversity" (but not diversity of opinion). According to this religion, these are the only remaining virtues and anyone who upholds and represents them is a certified Good Person regardless of any selfish or destructive acts they may have committed.

Georgiou is a powerful, competent Asian woman, so it's okay for her to have a happy ending despite the fact that we watched her commit cannibalism and mass murder onscreen. L'Rell is also a cannibal, raped a POW and was complicit in starting a war that killed millions, but she represents female empowerment so all is forgiven. If a male character on Discovery was revealed to have coerced female prisoners into sex, does anyone believe he would be portrayed as anything but a monster?

If you belong to the right marginalized groups and mouth the right platitudes, you can commit any misdeed and all is forgiven, because your motivations are inherently pure and whatever you did was just helping to pave the way toward an enlightened future. The Federation, like the United States that woke ideologues imagine, is not good because it -upholds- high ideals. It is good because it pays lip service to humanitarian ideals regardless of its actual actions. Michael's sermon delivered at the end of Season 1, where she asserts that "we are Starfleet" in the wake of some very unStarfleetish skullduggery, brings this contradiction into sharp focus.

People have remarked that despite its touted diversity, this Star Trek has been the most American of them all, with every major human character but Georgiou representing US culture. It's no wonder -- this is no longer a show about a better future or about humanity as a whole. This show is about leveraging Star Trek's reputation to paint a rosy picture of the present-day United States and its relationship with the world.

"Infinite diversity in infinite combinations" has officially given way to "my Federation, right or wrong."
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Kinematic
Fri, Feb 8, 2019, 11:01am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

@Trent

But was Saru's heightened fear something that needed to be written out? If Data was analogous to the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz who wanted a heart, Saru could have been the Cowardly Lion, a character convinced he has no courage but whose bravery is apparent to everyone but himself by the end.

A character trying to overcome instinctual fear is an interesting twist on the classic Trek character who yearns for humanity, like Spock, Data or Seven. Now that struggle is over by writer fiat.
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Kinematic
Fri, Feb 8, 2019, 10:02am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

Going to be a voice of dissent here: this was better than last week, but still not good at all.

The Saru plot is the most important part of the episode but it's forced and does more harm than good to the character. Doug Jones is a great actor and the character is one of the best on the show, but suddenly giving him a countdown to death and requiring Michael to mercy-kill him feels really forced. SMG shows a bit more emotional range than before, but she still can't sell it and it's especially annoying that Saru calls her his best friend and lavishes her with praise when there have been no signs of such a relationship before, just because Michael has to be at the center of everything. Although Michael is really the only character he could go to because his relationships to non-Michael characters have almost no development, like all character relationships not involving Michael.

The Kelpien background we're given is incoherent. Fear as the basis of their psychology makes sense if they've evolved to evade predators, but now we learn that they're actually cattle who are programmed to offer themselves up to members of another species as food. Wouldn't it make sense for them to be docile and apathetic in that case? These concepts were created just to work in the moment as plot devices, which cheapens the story and character of Saru. It would be easier for him to just say "my people evolved on a planet inhabited by carnivorous megafauna so we have a heightened fear response."

And then at the end of the episode the danger is ended, Saru goes through an unexplained evolution and he says he's lost all his fear. What happened to showing instead of telling? His character is being developed via contrivance rather than organic growth within the story, and that could lead to a mess even the best actor couldn't fix. If he goes on another manic mutiny episode like what happened on Pahvo and then gets forgiven it's going to be hard to see him as a character rather than a plot device himself.

The sphere creature storyline was the best part of the episode, its hacking of the translator was an interesting spin on the classic Trekkian struggle to communicate with an alien. I think some of the inspiration from it might have come from TNG's Tin Man. Number One was also a good performance and a relief from the Michael Show.

But the engineering plot was all kinds of awful; the banter between Stamets and Reno smacks of modern Hollywood quips-as-characterization. And badly written quips at that. Also, Stamets complains of ecological damage from dilithium mining. This is a spacefaring society, aren't there plenty of lifeless asteroids they can mine for dilithium? Unless for some asinine reason it can only be found on life-bearing planets. It's a clumsy allusion to the real-life alternative energy debate.
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Kinematic
Fri, Feb 1, 2019, 6:59am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Point of Light

@Gil

Oh, right, there was so much bad in this episode I forgot all about Tilly's miraculous marathon win! And did you notice how while they were running the ship lights were all flickering as if they were in Event Horizon? Nothing like a convenient power malfunction to set the scene for your creeepy Sixth Sense plot.
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Kinematic
Fri, Feb 1, 2019, 5:52am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Point of Light

Imagine asking a fanfic writer "Does your self-insert protagonist have any regrets? Has she ever hurt anyone or broken a relationship so badly it could never be fixed?"

And they reply, "Yes, but it happened because it was the only way she could protect them and also because they couldn't stand the fact that she was better than them at everything but she still loves them and she's the only person who can save them and actually she will find a way to make them understand what she had to do and love her again it's her DESTINY!"

What would your reaction be?

...

It's like everything good about the last episode vanished in favor of a parade of Season 1's worst vices of storytelling. I could not give half a damn about the Klingon plot nor the Michael/Spock plot. Giving Spock this heavy emo backstory that TOS never alluded to is all about putting Michael on a pedestal and it's nauseating. You just know that this season's denouement will be an actor doing a bad Leonard Nimoy impersonation tearfully reconciling with Michael and confirming her sainthood for all time.

In the last episode Frakes figured out the best way to use Michael: as a foil for other characters. She's semi-tolerable when she's eliciting dialog from Pike or Saru or Tilly, but now... ugh.

Also, isn't L'Rell supposed to be holding the homeworld hostage with a bomb? Where did it go? It's like any cohesion in the plot goes out the window when the Klingons show up. Acting too.
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Kinematic
Mon, Feb 12, 2018, 1:21am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S1: Will You Take My Hand?

Thoughts on this episode:

Michael's voice-over narration makes Deckard's voice-over from Blade Runner sound like Shakespeare.

Yeoh's brief performance on the bridge was good. Michael's insubordination is the one constant in her character! Mutiny aside, she should have been drummed out of Starfleet by now.

Bringing a mentally unstable former (?) Klingon spy on a mission to the Klingon homeworld? What could possibly go wrong?

Transporting into the middle of the Orion market attracts no attention.

Were the Orion strippers there for the plot or for the ratings?

The neural parasites from the TNG episode Conspiracy appear to be one of the street foods offered. Another is the Gormugander space whale. It's an endangered species but it's also being served as a cheap street food?

A few lines between Michael and Ash and they're having second thoughts about attacking Kronos. A couple more minutes of dialog and Starfleet has seen the error of its ways. Yeah right.

SMG's acting deflates the big scenes, and what is Georgiou's motivation anyway? She just wants to destroy Kronos and face near-certain death for the hell of it?

The Klingons have no reason to break off their attack. The war is resolved in two minutes. Taking over the Federation's territory would give L'Rell even more of a mandate to rule.

"Michael, your capacity to love literally saved my life." More absurd fluffing of the main character.

Michael tells her adoptive mother "Thank you for coming" like her mom's a subordinate who's come into work late. Check her body language in that scene too!

A horribly clunky speech, even more fluffing of Michael, and then the showrunners decide to drop their 100-megaton thermonuclear nostalgia bomb: the Enterprise! You sorry fans will paying for another year of CBSAA, won't you?


I have a feeling the producers locked the writers in a room and told them: "No one leaves or sleeps until you tie up this season!" After a year of darkness and amorality they're trying to page homage to Starfleet ideals but they're doing it in the cheapest, most hollow way possible. Ash actually got something of a real payoff for his character arc but now he's gone and no one else has believably progressed. Saru should stay captain; he's the best of the lot.
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Kinematic
Thu, Feb 8, 2018, 5:27pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S1: The War Without, The War Within

I think one of the biggest problems SMG is having is that Michael is a very complicated character for her to inhabit. She has to contend with dual Vulcan and human natures, dead parents, a connection to the most important family of Vulcans in Star Trek, a fall from grace, a dead mentor, distrust from her peers, uncanny natural talent, atonement for past sins and a blossoming romance in the midst of a war. Her Walking Dead character was simple, but Michael is like every dramatic cliche rolled into one character. And to top it off the writers treat Michael more as a plot device than a character, giving her whatever motivations are most useful in moving the plot forward.

Mary Sue is a much bandied-about term but she really does take after bad fanfic characters. Like the new student who shows up at Hogwarts with shimmering aquamarine eyes who's actually the last of the True Fae on a mission to save the world from an evil worse than Voldemort and win the heart of her brooding werewolf crush. Even if Michael were well-characterized from episode to episode, the complexity of her background would be an albatross about the neck of even an actor like Stewart. The best way to create an exotic character on a show like Star Trek is to start with a few broad concepts and let the actor fill in the rest. That's how Leonard Nimoy defined the Vulcan species through Spock. Now SMG has to echo his portrayal of Vulcan culture and mix in a conflicting human side and a tragic backstory. It feels like an invitation to failure.
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Kinematic
Wed, Feb 7, 2018, 7:02am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S1: The War Without, The War Within

Featured in this episode:

- Dark, brooding shots
- Starfleet officers forcibly boarding a ship and pointing weapons at other Starfleet officers
- A dubiously-consensual mind meld
- Cornwall looking shell-shocked as she details the atrocities committed by the Klingons
- Characters dour, depressed
- Evil space emperor discusses with Saru her recent cannibalism of a member of his species
- L'Rell expounds on Klingons' insatiable bloodlust
- Ash describes the gruesome procedure by which he was changed into a human
- A Federation installation has been taken over, 80,000 lives lost
- Federation authority figures make deal with genocidal tyrant

And this is after the characters' return from the evil universe.

The negativity in this series is palpable, isn't it? There were bright spots, like Tilly sitting next to Ash and the spore cultivation on the planet, but both of those events felt like improbable plot contrivance. The focus on dialog and character over action in this episode is definitely a change for the better, but why so relentlessly negative? The media now seems to be all about subverting expectations, and what could be more subversive right now than a genuinely optimistic, aspirational story?
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Kinematic
Thu, Feb 1, 2018, 11:27am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S1: What's Past Is Prologue

Philip K. Dick? Comparing PKD's storytelling to Discovery is like comparing an M.C. Escher drawing to a teenager's scrawled imitation. The foundation of PKD's work was the distinctiveness of his characters and ideas, which he then threw into funhouse plots to make readers look at their own reality from a new perspective. Nothing in Discovery so far has been worth the effort.

Mirror Lorca may be a bold statement about the seductive power of evil, or he may just be a sloppily developed character whose potential was wasted in the service of a hamfisted narrative. You could say the same for Ash or the tardigrade or any number of other concepts. The fact it's called Star Trek may convince people that "This bad plot was actually designed to subvert viewers' expectations! Genius!", but the more times you apply that excuse the thinner it becomes. In Discovery, the Star Trek name doesn't raise cheap storytelling to the level of high art, rather Star Trek is being dragged down to a low place that other contemporary media are happy to occupy.
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Kinematic
Mon, Jan 29, 2018, 5:44am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S1: What's Past Is Prologue

@Andy

Landry got vaporized when the Charon's evil spore globe blew up. Maybe Detmer will take over with the Shenzhou as the new Imperial flagship?
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Kinematic
Mon, Jan 29, 2018, 3:26am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S1: What's Past Is Prologue

I just thought of something else. You know how they're saying this show is supposed to have a progressive message? That Klingons are stand-ins for Trump supporters?

I wrote a while back how the Klingons seem to parallel ISIS more than the western right wing. Their background is a homogenous, traditionalist culture that's politically disunited, and T'Kuvma wanted to unite them against a foreign influence he sees as encroaching on their culture. Their battle against the Federation closely parallels the struggle of Islamic extremists against the West.

In this episode, Lorca is a clear stand-in for the right wing or even for Trump himself. So what has Discovery's message been so far?

"Our liberal society is under attack from brutish foreigners who hate our way of life. Our ethics of peace and tolerance mean nothing to them and they wish to destroy us. The only person who can stand against them and save us is a right-wing revolutionary leader who isn't afraid to break any rule that holds him back from victory."

And sure enough, without Lorca leading the fight the Federation has been collapsing against the Klingons. Up until this episode, Lorca's methods have been consisently successful, regardless of any character's milquetoast criticism. Michael was even helped along in this episode by Lorca's advice from the last.

Is this what the writers of Discovery wanted to convey?
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Kinematic
Mon, Jan 29, 2018, 12:55am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S1: What's Past Is Prologue

I'd say this was the most emotionally moving episode yet. Seeing Lorca's character reduced from a dark, mysterious figure who rides the edge of Federation ethics to a cartoon villian was just sad. Isaacs's acting took a nosedive to match. Long, cringeworthy speeches with a shoehorned Trump reference. And he's going to make the Empire glorious again compared to what? He says the current Emperor is welcoming to aliens? She welcomes them at the dinner table I guess. So the genocidal Empire that kills aliens on sight needs to be even more violent and genocidal. Are they going to have daily Kelpian barbecues in every Terran kindergarten? Great characterization, very believable.

That aside it was a bog-standard action movie plot with nearly no surprises at all, from the strategic surrender to the bad guy to brilliant solution to the no-win scenario to the captured good guys elbowing guards in the stomach, grabbing their guns and starting a fight in the throne room. Why wasn't Georgiou restrained? Oh, and in case we thought the stakes weren't high enough, for some reason the decay of the mycelial network will actually kill off all life in every universe!

Saru's speech was a bright point, well-acted if not well-written and it looks like they've decided to give some lines to the bridge crew members so they don't just come off as living furniture.

And I can't get over what a trite, paint-by-numbers bad guy Lorca turned into. The one interesting thing they could have done for him would be to play up his lust for Michael, bringing the subtext from before into sharp relief, but that's a place they weren't bold enough to go. That was the one part of his character that could have disturbed in an interesting way, but all that happens is Michael saying "you have my mind only" and Lorca reacts with the same brusqueness he affords everything else.
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Kinematic
Mon, Jan 15, 2018, 4:04pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S1: The Wolf Inside

I just realized something.

Michael Burnham.

Ash Tyler.

Burnham.

Ash.

Burn'em to ash.

An intentional pun?
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Kinematic
Mon, Jan 15, 2018, 6:31am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S1: The Wolf Inside

The hero-worship of Michael is laid on -thick- here. And as the adulation goes up, SMG's acting skills take a nose-dive.

The opening monologue about "burying your decency" is cringeworthy, and then we get Sarek describing her as a "boundless well of human compassion." And then the horrible clunky line about how "he cannot understand your need for aggressive emotional expression." There was some more awful line delivery in the second half, particularly in the conversation with Ash following the away mission, and I'm starting to notice that in every tense scene, SMG just holds the same expression. A tight-lipped, wide-eyed stare with her face pointed about 30 degrees above horizontal.

The two series mainstays are that facial expression and plot twists you see coming a mile away. The only surprising thing about Tyler's reveal is how much twisted logic is required for it to work. How can a Klingon be "reduced to human" and trick Federation medical scans? How can he be taught enough human culture within - three weeks was it? - to speak perfect English and convince Lorca he's an American from near Seattle?

Come to think of it, how did Burnham signal to Discovery when to beam Ash aboard and how could it happen without the Shenzhou crew noticing? Are they paranoids with a super-firewall or not?

And then the Emperor turns out to be who everyone guessed.

On the plus side, following the break the show's pacing has been less "modern" (tailored for ADD children), but this is a big step down from the last episode, which was a serviceable adventure story if not very deep.

Tilly's portrayal has also fallen a few notches, she had some grating lines here. "Mushrooms are the only organism that can link life and death!" That's DISCO-certified science.
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Kinematic
Thu, Nov 16, 2017, 1:13am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S1: Into the Forest I Go

@Marcus

The Klingons seem less like Trump supporters and more like ISIS or Al Qaeda members. They are motivated by opposition to what they see as a foreign encroaching force that wants to subjugate them and erase their culture. Their people's political status quo is a collection of feuding fiefdoms that they hope to unite under the banner of shared faith to strike against the foreign enemy. Among them, greedy leaders cynically use martyred fighters (T'Kuvma) as bait to convince the masses to follow them and grow their fortunes.

The Vulcan 'logic extremists' seem like a more apt parallel to the Western right wing. Their society has formed attachments to other political bodies which they see as corrupting their culture. They especially object to the integration of foreigners into their society (Burnham, Sarek's marriage to a human). Their people have historically been politically united and they believe their culture is being subverted from the top down.

In short, Klingons/ISIS come from political disunity and seek unity to fight an outside threat. Vulcan extremists/Western right come from political unity and want to turn their people against a threat they perceive within their own political establishment.
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Kinematic
Mon, Nov 13, 2017, 12:45am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S1: Into the Forest I Go

The best episode so far. Did an excellent job of building up tension with Stamets's jumps and Ash's PTSD attack. Burnham's duel with Kol was cathartic and well justified as a means to stall for time, much better than the Vulcan-fu mind meld fight. Even the post-battle scene with Ash and Burnham worked well, much better than the previous attempts to develop their relationship.

Not much marring it, aside from a couple clunky lines like Saru's reference to Pahvo early on as a "peace-loving planet." The biggest plot hole, though, is that the writers seem to have forgotten that the spore drive doesn't need a living navigator for short jumps.

The tardigrade saved the day when they needed to jump 3 or 4 times their normal range IIRC. Since that ep it seems like they've lost the ability to jump with no navigator, even though the strain on Stamets has been a recurring theme. Maybe a navigator is also needed for many jumps in rapid succession, however small? But they also needed Stamets in the last episode to escape from the Klingons after the initial battle, even though a shorter-range jump would have been sufficient to lose them.
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Kinematic
Mon, Nov 6, 2017, 11:05pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S1: Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum

Here's my complete list of questions about the Klingon plot:

1. Why does L'Rell growl, glower and generally make every effort to appear untrustworthy when trying to convince the admiral she wants to defect? She's obviously familiar with human language and culture.

2. Why did the guards allow L'Rell to remove the admiral from her cell?

3. Did the guards just leave the newbie interrogator completely alone with a highly valuable prisoner, not even watching the cell door?

4. Why does L'Rell lead the admiral on foot through the ship to make their escape? She was appropriately concerned with stealth before.

5. If L'Rell's intent was to betray the admiral, why didn't the admiral react to such a careless escape plan?

6. Why does L'Rell kill (?) Kor's prized prisoner by ramming her into a conveniently placed high-voltage power conduit while Kor was watching? The admiral could have easily been incapacitated and taken back to her cell.

7. Why does Kor nonchalantly accept this? Doesn't he wonder why the admiral was out of her cell in the first place?

8. Why does Kor take up L'Rell's offer to dispose of the body? Does he not feel the least bit suspicious about what she's doing?

9. L'Rell told Kor that the admiral was dead, so why does she say the prisoner 'escaped' during their subsequent meeting? If the admiral did survive and L'Rell facilitated her escape (maybe in a modified space coffin?), she just confessed. If not, she sounds crazy.

10. Does L'Rell not expect Kor to be furious with her after having killed the admiral without extracting any useful information? She should be taking off in the first available escape pod after such a debacle.

11. Why does Kor play the bizarre game of "I'm taking you captive, never mind I want you to join me, just kidding I know you're a traitor" with L'Rell? It could be read as trying to suss out her motivation, but given the rest of the plot it's like a cherry on top of a schizophrenic sundae.

If the writers are attempting to portray a truly alien way of thinking by the Klingons, kudos to them because I can't square their actions with any human logic. This show is swiss cheese.
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