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Tue, Apr 20, 2021, 12:24pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

Agreed - as I said, I think it's a very weak point without further explanation. The scripts seem clear about it, though, for better or worse. The argument that is also made that parents would feel obliged to compete and where would it end seems much stronger.
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Tue, Apr 20, 2021, 6:41am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Cardassians

"It's the 24th century and in TNG 3x12 “The High Ground” @24:40 Data mentions the Irish unification of 2024 as an example of terrorism being successful. So I guess Ireland is one country by then."

LOL! I guess there is still a little more time...
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Tue, Apr 20, 2021, 6:36am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

"There is nothing in any Trek episode that seriously suggests that genetic enhancement actually makes people ambitious"

Space Seed:
KIRK: This Khan is not what I expected of a twentieth century man.
SPOCK: I note he's making considerable use of our technical library.
KIRK: Common courtesy, Mister Spock. He'll spend the rest of his days in our time. It's only decent to help him catch up. Would you estimate him to be a product of selective breeding?
SPOCK: There is that possibility, Captain. His age would be correct. In 1993, a group of these young supermen did seize power simultaneously in over forty nations.
KIRK: Well, they were hardly supermen. They were aggressive, arrogant. They began to battle among themselves.
SPOCK: Because the scientists overlooked one fact. Superior ability breeds superior ambition.
KIRK: Interesting, if true. They created a group of Alexanders, Napoleons.

Dr Bashir, I Presume:
RICHARD: I'm going to prison.
RICHARD: Two years. It's a minimum security penal colony in New Zealand.
BASHIR: You can't do this.
BENNETT: It was your father's suggestion, Doctor. He pleads guilty to illegal genetic engineering and in exchange you stay in the service.
BASHIR: Well, I want no part of it. I'm not going to just stand by while my father
RICHARD: Jules. Julian. Listen to me. This is my decision. I'm the one who took you to Adigeon Prime. I'm the one who should take responsibility for it.
AMSHA: Let him do this, Julian.
BASHIR: Two years? Isn't that a bit harsh?
BENNETT: I don't think so. Two hundred years ago we tried to improve the species through DNA resequencing, and what did we get for our trouble? The Eugenics Wars. For every Julian Bashir that can be created, there's a Khan Singh waiting in the wings. A superhuman whose ambition and thirst for power have been enhanced along with his intellect.
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Mon, Apr 19, 2021, 4:21am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

"Just keep in mind that around 2% are Psychopath/Sociopath and 15% have psychopathic tendencies. Now combine that with mega intelligence and you have khan."

That seems believable but it obviously contradicts Spock in Space Seed and the Admiral in this episode, who both say that the genetic engineering itself caused Khan's level of super ambition.
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Sun, Apr 18, 2021, 5:24am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: For the Uniform

"Let's face it, the writers goofed with this episode. It happens."

Can you explain why? Why is an error by Sisko - assuming for the sake of argument that this is what it was - an error by the writers? Why can't they write characters who goof without being judged to have themselves goofed?
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Sun, Apr 18, 2021, 4:35am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Children of Time

Nolan, the link is all about a coherent scenario in which there are no "changes" to the timeline. This episode, and Star Trek generally, don't really address that. Their model is essentially one in which someone all of a sudden changes the present by going back in time and everything is suddenly different - which makes no sense if you think about it as the changes already had centuries to bed in.
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Sun, Apr 18, 2021, 4:07am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Children of Time

Great post, Sigh2000. I think every single Star Trek time travel episode or film has made this error. It would be pretty boring if it didn't, but it is an error.

We can't know if time travel will ever be invented, but we can know that we are already living, in 2021, with the consequences of any time travel to a time prior to 2021. It's built in already. The Star Trek format seems to be that the guy in the 23rd/24th century who stumbles on the time travel device, goes back to, say, 1940, and then hundreds of years later the consequences of this actually happen all at once.
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Sat, Apr 17, 2021, 8:47pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Latent Image

@Booming said,

"The problem was that he had two patients who had the same chance of survival and he chose the one he was friends with. ... I would assume that they didn't plan for the EMH to form friendships, otherwise RNG would have decided"

Very interesting.

We humans would use RNG because we're afraid that the friendship would affect our ability to generate a probability of survival. Meaning that even if our friend has slightly less chance of survival, we might feel he has more - enough to make it equal to the other guy. And then once it is equal, we can pick our friend to save. But our incentive to subconsciously skew the prognosis is checked (somewhat) by knowing that even if the chances of survival are equal, the RNG might still pick the other guy to save. The theory being that incentives matter, even in unconscious bias.

Would the EMH's feelings skew his calculations of chances of survival? If you answer yes, I think he should probably still use RNG.

But if, because The Doctor is a program, the answer is no - he doesn't have a "subconscious" bias making him feel his friend is more likely to survive than is actually the case - well in that case, what the EMH did - picking his friend, when the two had the same chance of survival - is perfectly acceptable.
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Sat, Apr 17, 2021, 5:31pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Doctor Bashir, I Presume

The argument that you don't want mass genetic engineering because the minute one parent enhances their kid everyone feels obliged - and where does that end? - seems strong.

But the argument that it clearly leads to some kind of ambition to be a global dictator seems very weak. After all, the argument isn't simply that they were ambitious and therefore joined their local school board and Rotary Club, worked hard and used their abilities to prove themselves to voters and get elected to political office. No one would find that a very dystopian scenario. It's that there is an inevitable threat of a coup and dictatorship - which seems a bit of a stretch without further explanation.
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Thu, Apr 15, 2021, 7:25am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: For the Uniform

I DON'T think there is any such unwritten rule, sorry.
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Thu, Apr 15, 2021, 7:25am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: For the Uniform

"It is a sad fact that there is a ready supply of humans who were, are, and will be war criminals. *No shock*."

Yes! Can you be a war criminal if no one dies? But agreed what he did was very naughty.

It's just the assumption the writers screwed up if they portray Sisko doing something unacceptable that I disagree with. Criticise fictional characters all you like, but I think there is any unwritten rule saying the writers are to be held responsible for not portraying their characters as flawless. I think the writers did a good job with this episode.
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Wed, Apr 14, 2021, 7:50pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: For the Uniform

I don't think this episode reflects poorly on the writers at all. It was a great fun show and what Sisko did, while probably wrong, was built up to on a realistic and believable way. He's human *shock*.

As with Keiko being whiney, the fact he got this one wrong (arguably) doesn't make the writers bad writers - it just means they wrote a flawed character.
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Wed, Apr 14, 2021, 12:53pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

The Perfect Mate

TNG season 5 episode 21

“I'm really quite dull.”

- Picard

3 1/2 stars (out of 4)

There are so many iconic scenes in this episode it is almost a perfect 4 stars. After Famke Janssen kisses Riker, he makes a strategic retreat, letting the bridge know, "If you need me, I'll be in holodeck four.” When Worf breaks up a flock in ten-forward, Famke Janssen gives him a klingon growl that would make your toes curl. And when Famke Janssen decides to seduce Picard, she knows exactly what to ask,

KAMALA: This ship's very important to you, isn't it?

PICARD: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, it is.

KAMALA: Are all captains' lives so solitary? Or just yours?

PICARD: Don’t.


PICARD: Don't do this, this, this you do with men.

Because men are not so complicated that there aren’t are few tried and tested ways to win them over. Try their favorite drink,

KAMALA: What are you all having, boys?

MINER 2: Aldorian Ale's our drink.

KAMALA: Then, it's mine too.

Read their favorite books,

KAMALA: One never knows when the conversation might turn to the dark woman of raven brows and mournful eyes in Shakespeare's sonnets.

Take an interest in their hobbies,

KAMALA: Have you seen the Ventanan woven art recovered from the fourth colony dig?

Get them to talk about their mother,

PICARD: I'm reminded of piano lessons when I was a child. Preparing for some dreaded recital.

KAMALA: You still play?

PICARD: No. I regret that I gave it up. It used to please my mother. But I didn't like performing in front of an audience.

Not every technique works on every man. And of course the important thing is that it not seem like you are using a technique. And a big part of not letting on that you are using a technique, is to play coy,

PICARD: Kamala, you are one day away from an arranged mating. Why would you want me to visit you in your quarters?

KAMALA: I said a visit. I didn't ask you to make love to me.

There are so many points where the episode could have stumbled. There could have been some bullshit B-story scifi jeopardy plot, the kind we’ve seen so often in season 5. Thankfully they don’t bother. There could have been some unnecessary mayhem, like a fight in ten-foward. Thankfully they don’t go there. They could have turned this into some sort of a social message episode (Beverly, "How can you simply deliver her like a courier into a life of virtual prostitution?”). They didn’t (Beverly, "I wish I knew how I could help.”). If there was a fault, it was in the Ferengi, not their stars. But all in all, they stuck with an examination of the core question in this episode: superhuman sexuality.

This is not the first time an Enterprise has had to deal with ultra-sexiness.

In “Space Seed,” Khan was irresistible. In "The Outrageous Okona,” Okana made his way into more than a few beds during his short stay on the Enterprise. But we haven’t seen women with that level of charisma. They closest we got was "Mudd's Women,” but that was induced, not innate.

Famke Janssen is to sexiness what the Zakdorn are to strategy. The only way to deal with that, is Data :-) I’ve written before (see my comment on “The Offspring”) that Data is often a stand in for the autistic asexual man. Seldom is that more obvious than here,

DATA: Your empathic powers do not perceive anything because as an android, I have no emotions.

KAMALA: I can understand why Captain Picard chose you to be my chaperone.

But why Picard didn’t give the job to Troi is not clear. She was probably too busy eating chocolate and brushing her hair (see my comments in “The Masterpiece Society”).

There is one really fun line - fun, that is, because we know how Famke Janssen’s career will pan out,

PICARD: A metamorph?

KAMALA: A mutant. A biological curiosity, if you will.

Professor X is clearly intrigued.

But the core conflict is all in Picard’s heads. In a way, Picard makes exactly the same mistake here that Troi made back in “The Masterpiece Society”. There, Troi slept with the leader of a genetically enhanced colony which, you could say, really complicated the diplomatic situation. Exactly the kind of mistake Riker would never make,

RIKER: Listen, this has been educational but I make it a policy never to open another man's gift.

Here Picard, despite his best efforts, makes the mistake Troi did before,

PICARD: Have I not done everything possible to discourage this?

But Picard is famous deficient when it comes to women, as we learned in “In Theory,"

DATA: Captain, I am seeking advice in how -

PICARD: Yes, I've heard, Data, and I would be delighted to offer any advice I can on understanding women. When as I have some, I'll let you know.

Famke Janssen, on the other hand, was schooled in all the important subjects,

KAMALA: I had servants and tutors at my side constantly. You once asked me what I'm like when I'm alone. I've never been. There was always somebody there to educate me in literature, history, art, sex.

Suffice it to say that our great captain is in the end only human. Famke Janssen bonds with him. Picard must to live with the knowledge that there really is a perfect woman for him, out there, somewhere. Married to another man.

The story of course is as old as time. But it is told here in “The Perfect Mate" so much better than in TOS ("Elaan of Troyius”), or Andromeda ("The Honey Offering”). The closest we got was probably Babylon 5, and the compromise Delenn’s clan makes in allowing her to marry Captain Sheridan,

"It was our tradition, long ago, when we still warred amongst ourselves after the war was over, each side would give one of its own to the other in marriage. The victorious side gave a female of its clan to the one that lost that suffered the most deaths, as a symbol of life and hope.”

Famke Janssen plays a perfect symbol of life and hope.
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Tue, Apr 13, 2021, 11:32pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

@Maq, very interesting comments. Especially the difference between Riker and Troi’s attitude towards sex. I wonder if that difference in attitude is a reason that they weren’t able to make it work? That is until they had both reached their mid-fourties (ST:Insurrection), at which point in life, presumably, there a few things other than sex that start to matter more?

Troi was not only unusually reticent about sex compared to other people on the ship, but also compared to other women on the ship.

In “Justice”, for example, Tasha jumps right into sex with the natives. But Troi keeps her distance and never lets go enough to enjoy the planet. In “The Host”, Beverly has a fling with the Trill, and all goes swimmingly - they even have a threesome with Riker (!), and it only falls apart when the Trill transitions to a woman. Beverly, bless her heart, just isn’t into that kind of thing.

Troi seems to be quite aware that she reacts differently towards sex than the other women on the ship, and even sometimes uses that to trick her crewmates,

TROI: But it was a thrill. Lutan is such, such a basic male image and having him say he wants you.

TASHA: Yes, of course it made me feel good when he - Troi, I'm your friend and you tricked me.

And it goes without saying that Deanna's attitude is very different from her mom’s. Lwaxana loves to visit the mud baths of Parallax Colony, surrounded by scantily clad (or downright naked) women. Riker loves Risa. What about Troi? I honestly couldn’t tell you anything about what she does with her free time - hobbies, vacation spots? The only thing I know is that she likes to eat chocolate and brush her hair during her off time. Is “brushing her hair” code for getting herself off?

And so, you find this woman, Deanna, who by all accounts, far prefers deep relationships to casual flings. And she often finds herself in lots of trouble when she does go all in. In “The Price,” she’s sleeping with the competition. In "Man of the People” she is used and abused. And so “The Masterpiece Society” is really a natural continuation for Troi, and completely within her character.

I don’t know how many shrinks you know socially, but it is weird how many of them tend to have fucked up personal lives. Troi was written better than we sometimes give the writers credit for.
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Mon, Apr 12, 2021, 11:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Cost of Living

Cost of Living

TNG season 5 episode 20

"I'll bet you've never been to a colony of free spirits.”

- Lwaxana

1 1/2 stars (out of 4)

It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that a man whose favorite drink is prune juice, is not exactly a fan of the Parallax Colony of Shiralea VI. The moral of this episode is that constipated and stuck up is no way to go through life. Sadly the execution is piss poor.

There are a few great moments here and there, and as several people have already mentioned, Lwaxana’s conversation with Alexander on old folks remarrying after they’ve been widowed, is heartfelt and genuine,

LWAXANA: People get married because they want to spend their lives with someone.

ALEXANDER: Their whole life? They must have to like that person a lot.

LWAXANA: Well, if you're young and lucky, it'll be someone you like a lot, yes. And if you're older -

ALEXANDER: Are you very old?

LWAXANA: I'm alone, Alexander. And when you do get older and can no longer pick and choose from whatever may come your way, then you do what we call compromise. It keeps you from being afraid.

In “Half a Life,” we saw Lwaxana fall in love with a man very much like herself. A man of stature, and man deeply devoted to the traditions of his society. When those traditions said he had to kill himself because he was turning 60, Lwaxana went ballistic. But in the end, she agreed to an armistice, and even went with the man she loved to attend his Resolution.

Naturally devastated by such heartbreak, Lwaxana turns once again to the traditions of her people. In this case, the matchmaker we first learned about in “Haven”

Matchmaker, Matchmaker,
Make me a match,
Find me a find,
catch me a catch

Night after night in the dark I'm alone
So find me match,
Of my own.

Matchmakers of course are widely used across the world for the old families of prestige. It hardly is surprising, then, that a woman like Lwaxana, with aristocratic bent would turn to it. When Deanna questions it, Lwaxana lets her have it,

LWAXANA: My poor, plodding, little Deanna, with her questions, questions, questions. Wherever did you inherit such pedestrian genes?

TROI: Mother, if you're happy, then I'm happy for you. I only asked who he is, and where you met him. Those are not unusual questions.

LWAXANA: He's such a wonderful man, and he has such good breeding, I tell you, he's absolute perfection.

TROI: Who is he?

LWAXANA: He's Campio, Third Minister to the Conference Of Judges on the planet Kostolain. Royalty, my little one, naturally.

Enter Alexander, who is still suffering the mediocre parenting provided by Worf.

Lwaxana and Alexander strike up an instant connection.

For anyone who has had that awesome aunt or been that awesome uncle, no doubt this is the most pleasurable part of the episode. I once knew an old man with lots of grandchildren who use to love to say that grandparents and grandchildren were such good friends because they share a common enemy ;)

Lwaxana has been pestering Deanna to have kids for years, so if Deanna is the closest thing Alexander has to a mother right now, then gosh darn it, it is time for some spoiling from the closest thing this kid has to a grandmother on the ship :-) I am saddened to realize that some people on this comment-thread don’t seem to have any knowledge of what it is like to enjoy the doting love and attention of the elderly. To folks like "It really makes no sense” @Rahul, I can only say that spoiling a child is its own reward. Hopefully some day you’ll experience that.

So Lwaxana takes the boy to the mud baths at Parallax Colony, and along the way, he gets to meet a few free spirits.

All this talk about nudity strikes me as ridiculous. As @Outsider65 correctly points out, "in Japan sitting naked in a hot spring with your family and a bunch of strangers is the norm.” And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually wonder where our resident German expert is when we need her?

Do yourselves a favor, and go spend some time with free spirits. They are annoying, you’ll be glad to be rid of them, but you’ll learn a little bit about how there can be very different ways of being. 1991 was the year that Burning Man really made waves. This episode aired about 7 months later. I see what they were going for. They just didn’t do a very good job.
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Mon, Apr 12, 2021, 7:37am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: The Galileo Seven

@dave, you're right, and it is hard for me to wrap my head around. I can only imagine that the U.S. was just really retrograde on female leaders compared to the rest of the world, back when "The Galileo Seven" first aired.

By 1969 most people in the world had experienced a female leader of their government. Just off the top of my head, the two largest countries - India and China - both had female leaders when "The Galileo Seven" first aired.

In addition, Israel had the famous female leader Golda Meir, and Sri Lanka had the world's first democratically elected female leader.

I guess America is just not that into it's women ;)

It's a shame, cause Number One might have been a nice foil for Kirk and Bones. And Spock could have still been science officer! Maybe we'll get a little more of that in the upcoming Strange New Worlds?
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Sun, Apr 11, 2021, 9:55am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: We'll Always Have Paris

They really dropped the ball on this one. Which is a shame, because as @Sarjenka's Little Brother’s says, Mrs. Manheim was very pretty.

Plus, seeing the cafe in Paris was a real treat! This marks our first view of "contemporary" (read:future) Earth in a Star Trek episode! We only got to see 20th century Earth in TOS.

Yes, as @Kat S says, 22 years ago, Picard would have been in his late 30’s. For Picard to stand a woman up at 37 is a real dick move. Now if the writers had instead made it 32 years ago, then standing her up would have been understandable (not great, mind you, but at 27, still something you can forgive). Seems the writers were confused about… time ;) Which I suppose was the whole theme.

And speaking of the theme, here's where they really dropped the ball.

The three time periods - the 3 Datas - should have been clearly reflected in Picard’s romantic interests over the three stages in his lift:

- The Past - the memory (“ghost”) Picard had of her in his mind.
- The Present - the still-beautiful but now married Mrs. Manheim; and
- The Future - which for Picard, should have been … Beverly! How did they not lock that down?

No wonder Gates McFadden left in season 2. If they couldn’t even get something this simple done right, what was the point of her staying.

Oh yeah, and they show Troi bringing Mrs. Manheim to spend some quality alone time with Picard on the holodeck. Like wtf? As a reward, I suppose Picard will have a little fun drinking with Troi - far more fun than Kirk had drinking with Spock,

PICARD: It's called the Blue Parrot Cafe, and you're buying.
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Fri, Apr 9, 2021, 6:36pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Outcast

@Trish said, "Soren sure seems a lot happier with that whole conflict out of her system.”

It is so interesting that the TNG writers decided to show Soren as pretty much well adjusted after she is “cured". That is certainly a very different take than earlier versions of conforming therapy in Star Trek. Back in TOS’ “Dagger of the Mind,” Kirk is absolutely sold on the technology used to make people “normal” again,

KIRK: Bones, are you aware that in the last twenty years Doctor Adams has done more to revolutionise, to humanise prisons and the treatment of prisoners than all the rest of humanity had done in forty centuries? I've been to those penal colonies since they've begun following his methods, and they're not cages anymore. They're clean, decent hospitals for sick minds.

But Kirk is dealing with a very skeptical Bones. So instead of Bones, Kirk brings down to the planet the far less skeptical - and far prettier - Dr. Noel,

NOEL: Beam neutralising has been experimented with on Earth, Captain. I'm not acquainted with this particular style of equipment, but I can assure you that Doctor Adams has not created a chamber of horrors here.

And more importantly, the audience sees the highly questionable results of the therapy. Patients seem ok after they are “cured", but are are bland, almost automatons,

NOEL: I thought they were happy, well-adjusted.

KIRK: But a bit blank.

Eventually Kirk and crew uncover the chambers of horrors that is the therapy in “Dagger of the Mind,” and end the whole thing.

The writers in “The Outcast”, as @Trish points out, decided to go in a very different direction.

After Soren has undergone her therapy, they choose to show her as “a lot happier.” And unlike the beam neutralizer in “Dagger of the Mind,” they don’t show the actual process of “curing” Soren in “The Outcast.” I get why they did it that way - they wanted the audience to experience the shock along with Riker of finding out Soren had already undergone the “cure". But as a result, they removed another powerful way to argue against these types of invasive interventions.

Star Trek, like all art, is a product of its time. In the 1960’s, when TOS was on air, the horror of the day was using electro-shock therapy to make people “normal” again.

If you were a young writer in 1960's Hollywood fighting to end electro-shock therapy, one way to do that, is to show the audience what it looks like when it is being used. That’s why the scene in “Dagger” of the machine being used on Kirk was key.

By the time TNG aired, the practice of electro-shock therapy had fallen out of fashion. But people will always be looking for new and improved ways to make people “normal” again. As another famous ship’s captain, from another incredibly amazing show once said,

"Somebody has to speak for these people…. Sure as I know anything, I know this: they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people ... better. And I do not hold to that.”

In Serenity, it was "The G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate that we added to the air processors. It was supposed to calm the population, weed out aggression.” But the result was disaster on a global scale, "The people here stopped fighting. And then they stopped everything else. They stopped going to work, they stopped breeding, talking, eating. There's 30 million people here, and they all just let themselves die.”

In “Dagger” it was electro-shock therapy. Tomorrow it will be god only knows what. Maybe some form of speech code or Social Credit system?

“The Orville” had a great episode called “Majority Rule” on using a Social Credit system to keep people acting “normal."

“The Outcast” is TNG, not bold TOS. It is ambiguous enough, that as society changes, our interpretation of this type of art-with-a-message changes also. As @Trish says, "I have always thought that this episode could very easily, with no distortion to either the script or the performance, be interpreted to carry a "message" that I am guessing is not at ALL what the writers were trying to say.”

Yes @Trish, I agree completely. Please invite me to your next TED talk :)
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Fri, Apr 9, 2021, 11:23am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Brothers

@Bok R'Mor said, "That entire process ... is the very best part of the episode and one of the most impressive ... action scenes in TNG as a whole."

It is just so cool! I've seen it literally a dozen or more times, and it sends chills down my spine each time.

I mean, is there anything in any Star Trek episode as exciting as Data taking control of the ship? It's like Mission Impossible or something!

@Stevensa128 said, "but no special characters or mixed case"

LOL! As against to,

Peekaboo :-)
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Fri, Apr 9, 2021, 12:45am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Brothers

Yes, @microfish & @Jeffrey Jakucyk, the password is absolutely epic!

If you watch it again, you'll realize that both Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart had to say exactly the same thing at exactly the same speed - total coordination.

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Thu, Apr 8, 2021, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

@Peter G. said, "I see a lot more Brave New World here, where people are genetically engineered to love their niche in the society."

If you research Dor Yeshorim, I think you'll find "The Masterpiece Society" has more similarities with the use of matchmaking to combat Tay–Sachs disease. The writer of the episode - James Kahn - came from that community, and was also a trained doctor.
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Thu, Apr 8, 2021, 1:03pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Outcast

The Outcast

TNG season 5 episode 17

"You are male. Tell me about males. What is it that makes you different from females?"

"Physically, men are bigger, stronger in the upper body. We have different sexual organs. Men can't bear young.”

"And what about feelings, or emotional attitudes? Are they different?"

"Most people think so.”

- Riker & Soren, sitting in a tree, discussing the birds & the bees

3 stars (out of 4)

We often hear that Star Trek is ahead of its time. But to think that “The Outcast” aired almost 30 years ago (30!) is damn near incomprehensible.

The aliens of the week, the J’naii, are an androgynous species. No he’s, no she’s. They are the third such species in TNG - the first was all the way back in “11001001” in which the binars were described this way: "They're not gentlemen, or ladies, Commander. They are a unified pair.” The second was the Borg, described by Q this way: "Interesting, isn't it? Not a he, not a she. Not like anything you've ever seen."

"The Outcast" takes on the same pattern we’ve seen in other episodes this season such as “New Ground” and “Hero Worship,” where the scifi B story doesn’t matter at all. All the action is in the character study. That said, its not that null space is bad. It just doesn’t matter (pun intended!).

The action revolves around what it means to be a man and to be a woman.

Just as the non-human Data is often used to explore what it means to be human, so here, the non-gendered is used to explore what it means to be male and female. Star Trek is usually pretty straightforward with its didacticism.

In an exchange that will no doubt trigger trekkies born after this episode first aired, Riker and the alien Soren discuss the use of personal pronouns,

RIKER: Okay. For two days I've been trying to construct sentences without personal pronouns. Now I give up. What should I use? It? To us, that's rude.

SOREN: We use a pronoun which is neutral. I do not think there is really a translation.

Next we get Riker and Soren in ten-forward discussing the difference between males and females. Of course this is the Enterprise, a ship of science and exploration. And we are centuries in the future. So the answer is blissfully straightforward and grounded in science. Riker says plainly of men,

RIKER: Physically, men are bigger, stronger in the upper body. We have different sexual organs. Men can't bear young.

For women, Soren conveniently finds herself in sick-bay, where she gets to ask Beverly what it means to be female,

SOREN: I've noticed you tend to have longer hair, and you arrange it more elaborately. And you apply color to your bodies. You put color on your mouths, and your eyes, your cheeks, your fingernails. The men don’t.

CRUSHER: That's true.

Of course this is where we get the inevitable conflict. You see, Soren is not like other J’naii. She feels like a woman. And she likes to kiss boys.

It turns out, the J’naii are some weird subculture in which, any identification of gender is immediately suppressed through something called "psychotectic treatments”. (N.B., I highly recommend @ReaperX’s post above for background on this episode).

It is taboo to say that there are real biological differences between men and woman. Everyone must be exactly the same (WORF: "They bother me. They're all alike. No males, no females.”).

Riker of course wants to help poor Soren before her people are able to “cure” her. Picard warns him that to do so risks violating the Prime Directive. I love Riker’s solution. He testifies that it was all his fault,

RIKER: I want you to know what really happened. It's all my fault. I was attracted to Soren. I pursued. I insisted. I didn't understand your ways until she explained them to me and rejected me. Nothing happened between us. I ask your forgiveness. I behaved inappropriately.

What a perfect gentleman.

And it would have worked too. Except that Soren is Sick. And. Fucking. Tired. of this shit. Faced with her confession, sentence is carried out, and all traces of Soren’s womanhood are removed. The next time she meets Riker,

"She gazed up at his face. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of her nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. She had won the victory over herself. She did not love him any more.”

The word totalitarian is used to refer to a form of government that permits no individual freedom - it exerts total control. The quote above borrows from the ending of 1984, the ur text for totalitarianism in our time. “The Outcast” posits a planet where a person is not free to live and love as a man or as a woman. The totalitarian state wants everyone to be exactly the same. That thought disgusts Worf. What is the point of being exactly the same as everyone else?

When a government bans people from referring to themselves and he or she, and instead adopts a neutral pronoun; when failure to use that neutral pronoun is a crime; when the government can force you to undergo psychotectic treatments that remove all traces of your sex, and leave you sexlessly androgynous - well 30 years ago on Star Trek, such a world was a ghastly abomination.
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Wed, Apr 7, 2021, 12:03am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

@Dave in MN said, "China is probably the closest modern parallel we have to the societal paradigm portrayed in this episode. The lack of freedom and choice, the pre-selection of careers, the control of who gets to reproduce and when.”

Fascinating. In my comments for the “Balance of Terror” thread, I proposed that if the writers meant for the Vulcans to stand in for the Japanese, the Klingons the Russians, then the Romulans stand in for the Chinese.

Here is what I wrote, riffing off a line from Dr. McCoy ("Now I know why they were conquered.”),

“If anyone is the equal of the US, economically, militarily, it is the Chinese. You can feel it when you drive on their roads, visit their cities, ride on their trains. So while the Vulcans were cool and logical, they were conquered like the Japanese. And while the Romulans might be far more emotional, they are at least are their own people.”

So, @Dave in MN, how would one deal with the Romulans/Chinese?

The posture towards the Romulans has, for decades in Star Trek, been a neutral zone - both in TOS and in TNG.

In DS9, Sisko abandons decades of Federation policy and drags the Romulans into the Dominion War by facilitating the murder of a Romulan senator and pinning the blame for that murder on the Dominion (yeah, DS9 was fucking dark that way!). But even during the Dominion War, the Federation and the Romulans were already preparing for their mutual hostility as soon as the war is over ("Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges”).

And even when the Federation and the Romulans were aligned during the war, the Federation did nothing about the slave-like treatment of the Remans (“ST: Nemesis”),

DATA: As you can see one side of Remus always faces the sun. Due to the extreme temperatures on that half of their world, the Remans live on the dark side of the planet. Almost nothing is known about the Reman homeworld, although intelligence scans have proven the existence of dilithium mining and heavy weapons construction. The Remans themselves are considered an undesirable caste in the hierarchy of the Empire.

RIKER: But they also have the reputation of being formidable warriors. In the Dominion War, Reman troops were used as assault forces in the most violent encounters.

PICARD: Cannon fodder.

If that’s the situation with the Remans, @Dave in MN, why do we think things would be any different for the Uyghurs?

The only lasting solution to the Romulan problem we see in Star Trek is the one proposed by Spock in “Unification”. But that took centuries to fulfill - we finally see what Unification looks like in the 32nd century in the latest season of Discovery. I don’t doubt that in 900 years, the Chinese relationship with its offshoots - whether that is Hong Kong or Japan or Taiwan - will be very different from what it is today. But short of Unification in a few centuries, what option does Star Trek present for us today, other than a strong Neutral Zone, and a strong show of force if they ever venture out of their territory?

There is very little to be done by those of us on the outside, about what is happening inside. And that is the heart of the Prime Directive.
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Tue, Apr 6, 2021, 9:43pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

Thank you @Rahul and @Peter G. for your conversation above.

@Rahul is absolutely correct - no one is perfect, but you can’t let that stop you from trying. There is a great scene in the Babylon 5 episode “And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place” where Sheridan asks some visitors why they risked helping him, since the news media has been reporting for months that he is a traitor. One responds,

"I didn't think so, but if I was wrong, I was wrong. I'd rather do something, and make a mistake than be frightened and be doing nothing. That's the problem back home. Folks have been conned to thinking they can't change the world, have to accept what is. I'll tell you something my friends, the world is changing every day. The only question is who's doing it.”

And @Peter G. is absolutely correct - to make the biggest difference (and to some extent maintain your sanity) it is important to focus on the things right in front of you. Worrying about things on the other side of the world is crazy-making, and probably just a sad excuse to ignore the problems right in front of you. The same episode of Babylon 5 has a beautiful scene on this point as well,

And so @Rahul and @Peter G. seem to be converging on a solution - individuals focus and fix local issues where they can make a difference, and nation-states do what nation-states were invented to do - focus on issues half way around the world.

That division fits really well with our discussion on the Prime Directive. After all, the Prime Directive only binds Starfleet officers. Civilians are free to ignore it. Why is that? Because the Prime Directive is Federation policy, and when Starfleet officers act, it is the Federation acting. We saw the difference between civilians acting and officers acting quite clearly in TNG’s “Angel One.”

In “Angel One,” first civilians, and then the Enterprise crew find themselves on a planet run by women. Both the civilians and the crew - well at least Riker - sleep with these very unique women.

@Trish, Sex with Riker seems to be considered within the bounds of the Prime Directive (see also “Justice” and maybe also “First Contact"). Maybe not Troi ;)

But then the question comes up later in “Angel One" on equal rights for men. Obviously the crew of the Enterprise is forbidden from interfering under the Prime Directive. But not the civilians. There was nothing stopping them from putting down roots and agitating for change. And there was nothing the Enterprise crew to do to stop them.

Because, at least for the writers who have crafted Star Trek, and who fleshed out the rules of the Prime Directive over the decades, there really is a big difference between action on the part of the Federation (i.e., the nation-state), and action on the part of the individual.

And trust @Rahul & @Peter G., a few of the best TOS commentators (along with @William B.) to help me see this new side to the Prime Directive after all these years! Thank you.

There is also another division in the application of the Prime Directive that might go more towards @Luke’s legitimate concerns with Picard’s final scene in “The Masterpiece Society". And that is the difference between how the PD is applied to pre-warp civilizations versus how it is applied to space-faring civilizations. @Peter G. puts it this way above,

"I'm pretty sure @Luke is talking about the pre-warp cases, where letting younger races die is what's at stake. I don't think @Luke is talking about standing back and letting the Klingon civil war play out by itself.”

Completely agree.

The rule seems to be that if a space-faring civilization requests help, the Federation gives it. We see that in “The Hunted” where James Cromwell asks Picard for help in capturing the escaped veteran Daynar. But if a space-faring civilization is divided, then the Federation keeps out of the internal affairs.

That is the issue in so many episodes, including as @Peter G. points out, TNG’s “Redemption” with the Klingon civil war, but also at the end of “The Hunted” itself. In “The Hunted,” once it appears the legitimate government is no longer in control, Picard withdraws and leaves James Cromwell to sort things out for himself,

PICARD: I have all the information I need for our report. Your prisoner has been returned to you and you have a decision to make. Whether to try to force them back or welcome them home. In your own words, this is not our affair. We cannot interfere in the natural course of your society's development, and I'd say it's likely to develop significantly in the next several minutes. It's been an interesting visit. When you're ready for membership, the Federation will be pleased to reconsider your application. Mister Riker, four to beam up.

God, Picard really loves the Prime Directive, doesn’t he!

The rule for pre-warp (i.e., developing) civilizations is the one that @Luke seems to detest. And I can see why. It seems to create a double standard. If the pre-warp civilization is united and reaches out for help, the Federation will still not help them. Why is that? Why one rule for space-faring civilizations, and a different rule for the technologically backward civilizations?

I’m not sure we get a explicit "Picard gives a Speech” type answer to this one. But various TNG episodes, including “Who Watches the Watchers," makes it clear that Picard at least thinks along the lines of the late great scifi writer Arthur C. Clarke.

Clarke said that, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

It appears that Picard feels that pre-warp cultures will just think he is God (The Picard) and that the Enterprise is magic, and that that they will feel compelled to do whatever these “gods” are telling them to do. There is no good way to help them without completely changing who they are.

To pick up on the important thread @Trish adds to our discussion: if sex is our metaphor, then think of pre-warp civilizations as being below the age of consent.

But the crucial point here @Luke, is that while Picard believes this - he is just one man, and it is not the only viewpoint in starfleet. Data disagreed in “Pen Pals” and was able to help his young friend even though her civilization was below the age of consent. Kirk disagreed in “Private Little War” and was able to help his friend’s people. Sometimes we forget that Picard is not the Federation. He’s just one Captain on one ship in the fleet. An amazing man, worthy of being a role model,

But just a man.

Which brings us back to Prime Directive question in “The Masterpiece Society”.

Since these were space-faring humans, the Prime Directive said that if they unified and asked for help through officials channels, the Federation would help them. And they did, and the Enterprise helped them. But usually space-faring races have already had their interstellar cherries popped, long before anyone from the Enterprise ever shows up.

These folks were very different.

“The Masterpiece Society” was like a non-space-faring race, isolated from the galaxy, and their society was too rigid to adapt to outside influence or change. Yes they were above the age of consent. But that didn’t mean they were mature enough to handle the interference. Helping “The Masterpiece Society” was allowed under the PD, but it would probably in the end only postpone the inevitable.
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Mon, Apr 5, 2021, 9:45pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Masterpiece Society

Amen @Nic, well said!
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