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Matt
Thu, Apr 25, 2019, 6:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2

I wish I could feel like they reverted everything back to canon, but it seems like there are still so many loose ends. The spore drive may be classified as far as Starfleet goes, but Discovery presented the mycelial network as basically the fundamental, foundational structure of the universe, with properties beyond just space travel.

Even if they classified all knowledge of the network (which would mean an incredible loss to science, at least as far as the Federation is concerned) surely others will discover it. Someone would've figured out e=mc2 even if Einstein had never been born.

Plus:

Harry Mudd knows about the mycelial network and the spore drive.

I think the Klingons also know about the mycelial network and the spore drive.

The whole Mirror Universe knows about the mycelial network and the spore drive. The Terran Empire owes its reign of terror to using the network as a power source. Yet when we return to the MU it's never mentioned.

Don't Starfleet and Spock know about the MU, thanks to the misadventures of Lorca? But when the Enterprise visits the MU a few years from now, everyone treats it as a new thing. And Spock knew the mycelial network can offer a way in and out of the MU. In "Mirror, Mirror" is he playing dumb the whole time?
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Kinematic
Thu, Apr 25, 2019, 7:45am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2

@Booming

Superhero comics and films, in particular the Marvel brand, are the absolute nadir of storytelling. There are no consequences for anything in the stories and the characters may never truly die or go through any change that can't be immediately retconned, so there can be no drama. They take place in massive shared universes where every imaginable character and story concept is clown-carred into a single setting, so there can be no stakes. If you thought Discovery was bad about constantly placing the galaxy in peril, the superhero universes are threatened with destruction and saved every other week.

Then there's the constant quips, a.k.a. bathos. All the ironic humor is intended to distract and numb the audience to the persistent failure of the movies to make sense or evoke genuine feeling. Anytime there's a plot hole or an emotional moment doesn't resonate, a character chimes in with a quip to remind us that we aren't supposed to take it seriously anyway. The use of humor in superhero movies is literally as an anti-emetic, a measure to prevent the audience from vomiting up the material due to its intense illogic.

If Discovery is patterning itself after the superhero universes, it's ensuring that this generation of Star Trek will be utterly forgotten in the future. It's like a chef imitating McDonald's; the product provides some satisfaction in the moment but leaves no lasting impression.
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Kinematic
Tue, Apr 23, 2019, 9:49am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2

The bigger plot hole with the time suit: why did they have to rush to build it in this episode instead of taking some time during the last episode when they were twiddling their thumbs waiting for Control's fleet to show up?
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Kinematic
Tue, Apr 23, 2019, 6:48am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2

Culber was one of the biggest wastes of potential this season. He came back from the dead in a way which no one else has before, making him a unique being in Trek canon. He apparently felt alienated from his former life, with his body reconstructed but not the same as the original in ways he could perceive. Cruz hit it out of the park with the performance in If Memory Serves.

It could have been the start for an entire arc for the character; maybe he discovers that he has some unique form of insight that other don't because of his experience, maybe he finds he has no fear of death and feels drawn to dangerous situations. But the writers couldn't be bothered, they had their highfalutin time traveling angel story to pursue so now Culber is just Stamets' boyfriend again, and Stamets himself is also kind of a nonentity this season. "Spore drive guy" is not characterization.
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Kinematic
Mon, Apr 22, 2019, 10:34am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2

@Paul M.

I have a feeling there was originally a plan to make Control the origin of the Borg but Michelle Paradise or someone told the showrunners how much that would piss fans off. It would certainly be in keeping with their habit of gratuitous fan (dis)service.

@wolfstar

I wonder if the faith/science storyline was nixed because they thought Trek fans had no taste for religious themes, because they were worried about offending people or what. Be interesting to see if any insider stories leak out.

One more thing... Leland/Control was killed using magnetism. Another Control drone was killed in that same way. Would master strategist Control really not modify the nanites to be give them some degree of resistance to magnets after the first incident?

I wonder if Leland wasn't really trying his hardest to escape from the spore drive chamber. In their attempt to escape Control, the Discovery ended up jumping into the future with a load of Control nanites on board; are they sure that every one of them is dead? Maybe after Leland's "death" the Control ships stopped because their role was finished. Maybe Control committed the "error" of gloating to Georgiou while in a precarious position on purpose.

That's what I would expect from the intellect of a strategic AI, not so much from the intellects in the Disco writing room.
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Kinematic
Sun, Apr 21, 2019, 6:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2

@Mertov

I'm not saying actors should give away autographs for free. That stanza is a reference to the notorious photo of Jeffrey Combs and Anthony Rapp offering autographs side by side at a con. Combs, who played a side character on DS9 over 20 years ago, had a line of people for his autograph stretching out of the frame. Rapp, who plays a character on the currently-airing Trek series with the biggest budget ever, had no one lined up. I attribute this state of affairs to the possibly chemically affected decision-making of the showrunners.
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Matt B
Sun, Apr 21, 2019, 3:19pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: Samaritan Snare

Definitely a weird episode. To follow up on the other Matt’s comment: why did they have to use all the technobabble for a heard replacement? It’s like they wanted to be futuristic but there is no need for that. Just makes those scenes painful.

And the way they Paklids surrender seems weird. A better ending is having Geordi overwealm their power, taking down the shields, and just being beamed off.
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Kinematic
Sun, Apr 21, 2019, 1:36pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2

@Other Robert

In the interest of giving you your money's worth of entertainment here I present this:

Michael the red winged angel
Was on Star Trek Discovery
Spock never talks about her
Her story was a butchery
All of the Star Trek fandom
Laugh and call it STD
The actors can't give away
Their autographs or pics for free
Because one coke-fueled studio suit named Kurtzman came to say,
"Sonequa, your performance stinks,"
"But I don't care what viewers think!"
'Cause all of the market research
Said fans were desperate as dogs in heat
But Michael's so nauseating
The network writes it off their balance sheet!
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Kinematic
Sat, Apr 20, 2019, 10:37am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2

@Alan Roi

Weren't all those instances involving ships with shields up? Are there any examples of an unshielded ship surviving a torpedo explosion at close range? I recall from TNG that in Q Who, there was a point where they could no longer fire torpedos at the Borg ship because at that range the detonation would destroy the Enterprise as well. In Conundrum, the huge Lysian space station, basically a city in space, could have been destroyed by a single photon torpedo. That's the kind of destructive yield that makes sense given the level of technology.
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Kinematic
Sat, Apr 20, 2019, 9:33am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2

@James Smith

"So, what did the Star Trek universe get out of the 29 episodes of STD so far? Did anything have any lasting consequence?"

Audience: How does the story of Michael Burnham and the USS Discovery fit into the overall mythos of Star Trek?

Spock: Let us never speak of Michael Burnham or the Discovery again.

Audience: ...

It's literally the Armin Tanzarian story from the Simpsons. Way to go, Disco.

@Alan Roi

"The door is called a BLAST door. What do you imagine a BLAST door is capable of stopping. A BLAST maybe?"

Photon torpedos are like super-nukes, performing total conversion of anti-matter to energy. If one of them detonates anywhere close to an unshielded vessel it should destroy it completely. That blast door would be destroyed by any torpedo or air-dropped bomb used by modern militaries, let alone the smallest of tactical nukes. Weapons like photon torpedos must have enough power to tear through any fortified bulkhead in a ship, or else they would be useless. If that door was capable of protecting Pike from the blast then any photon torpedo detonation outside of a ship should do only superficial surface damage to the ship, so what would be the point of even using them?

When the admiral closed the blast door I thought it was going to be a prelude to launching the torpedo out into space along with her. Why wasn't that option ever explored? Couldn't they have had those little repair drones pull the thing out of the hull and toss it away into space? The entire sequence is absurd, especially with the visible timer.

Perhaps it was a special model of torpedo developed by Control, an MDY (Maximum Drama Yield) weapon. It trades physical destructive power for the ability to emotionally cripple opposing forces by generating intense pathos and inducing heroic sacrifices. A frightful creation from the ultimate strategic AI.
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Kinematic
Fri, Apr 19, 2019, 7:57pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2

My thoughts on this episode:

Why do the corridors have conveniently placed glass skylights for debris to crash through and maim people?

Yeoh's lines are awful.

"Everyone hates you!" Is this high school?
"Would you like to join me in making Leland scream?"
"Not hard is boring, and I hate boring!"
"Now you will scream for me."

Did Control just have all the other people on board the ships vaporized or spaced? Why not make more humans into nanite-infested drones? They've proven to be great fighters, imagine if 10 of them had beamed onto Discovery instead of 1.

Fighter craft are used in this battle - we've never seen these before, who pilots them? I don't recall ever seeing people described as fighter pilots, or are they drones? But drones are usually called drones on this show. I don't get it.

The repair robots look nifty. Way to spend that budget.

The visual effects for time travel are actually quite cool and unique and convey the gravity of traveling through time. Too bad the underlying story is a mess.

The battle is not well thought-out, the arrival of Klingon and Kelpians should shift the balance completely in favor of the friendlies, but there is still a constant tension for the rest of the fight without any shifting of the battle lines. After the midpoint of the battle, the combat becomes just a narrative device to keep the tension high with things randomly exploding and shooting flames, there's no sense of which force is winning or how the tactics of both sides affect the battle.

Why don't Control's forces all target Discovery? They use the Enterprise as a shield at one point, but they should all be gunning for Discovery, it's the only thing that matters in the fight. Again, why not make a hundred nanite-infested human puppets and beam them all on board?

Also, why don't they target Michael? She's just sitting on that wreckage with Spock in his broken shuttle, they destroyed her escorts while she was on the way but once she's arrived they just ignore her while she talks with Spock.

Stamets and Culber's reunion is predictable and utterly boring; the fascinating development of Culber that happened in If Memory Serves is discarded. He was brilliantly developed in that episode but the writers obviously had no idea where to go with it and now he's just back to being a cardboard accessory for Stamets.

Georgiou says she's moved the sphere data onto another device. I thought the data didn't allow itself to be deleted, only copied?

Leland, despite being an AI, commits stock villain errors like explaining his reasoning to the hero while in a precarious situation (being on the threshold of the spore drive containment chamber). Feels like a Saturday morning cartoon.

So Control's consciousness resides in Leland's body? Once the nanomachines in him are destroyed all the enemy ships stop? The Control AI was supposed to be created for the purpose of strategizing and determining the optimum course of action for Section 31. Why would it choose to place its entire consciousness within one human body and then transport its embodiment onto an enemy ship? Before they described Control as existing across a network of ships and computer systems.

"Leland is dead, Control is neutralized."

At this point Discovery doesn't even need to go into the future, right? Bit of a plot hole there.

The faceless Starfleet interrogator is another instance of that strange tendency to make Starfleet authorities out to look like bad guys.

"Never speak of them again under penalty of treason."
"I have sworn to never again speak your name in the presence of others."

Haha, bravo, writers! A brilliant continuity fix!

"Mother and father are diplomatically immune from interrogation."

Within the Federation, their native polity? Immunity is for diplomats representing their countries in other countries, within the Federation they should have no special legal status.
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Kinematic
Fri, Apr 19, 2019, 9:40am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2

@axiom

"using profanity, excessive insults, and articulating double standards towards hero characters (who happen to be women and POC)"

By double standards, are you referring to the way in which Michael is targeted with much less invective than Wesley Crusher by fans despite having an even more improbable level of talent than he does, receiving an even more disproportionate degree of adulation from other characters than he does, and having a greater negative effect on her Trek series than he has on TNG?

By excessive insults and profanity, are you referring to the dialogue surrounding Wesley Crusher, who has been targeted with an astronomical deluge of fan rage while eliciting extremely little concern over said profanity and insults compared to Michael?

If Michael was the target of the barest fraction of the wrath visited upon Wesley, I can only imagine the pitch and timbre of the bleating that would be heard. That's the real double standard.

@Booming

By the standards of axiom and some others, you are only allowed to criticize Michael if you hew to a set of labyrinthine guidelines for inoffensive phrasing that change like the weather, frequently self-contradict and which no self-appointed moral guardian is willing to explain in detail ("it's not my job to educate you."). To put it in simpler terms, you are not allowed to criticize Michael.
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Kinematic
Fri, Apr 5, 2019, 4:05pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Through the Valley of Shadows

@mosley

Discovery thinks so big it ends up being pointless, you can only threaten all life in the universe so many times before it gets tiresome.

If they wanted to tell a darker, more tragic Trek story set before TOS, there's an easy choice: the origin of the Prime Directive. Early Federation explorers find a civilization in dire straits, share technology with the best of intentions, then watch as their beneficiaries destroy themselves. Plenty of potential for the darkness and moral ambiguity that's popular now, along with a meditation on the ideas and values that Trek is about.
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Kinematic
Fri, Apr 5, 2019, 3:36pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Through the Valley of Shadows

If Pike has seen this future, how is it unavoidable? Just refuse to do any cadet training exercises involving equipment that produces lots of radiation.

If Pike refuses the crystal, he doesn't have long to live anyway; this episode reminds us multiple times that Control is going to wipe out all sentient life.

Why does the Control puppet praise Control and clue Michael in to its true nature? Why not stun her with a phaser and then stick her with the nanomachine injector as soon as Spock left and it was alone with her?

Wilson Cruz's performance was gripping in the Talosian episode, but Culber's newfound distinctiveness seems to have melted away. Reno is like some stereotypical romantic comedy character working to get him back together with Stamets.

So they have to blow up Discovery to get rid of the sphere data. Why can't they just jettison the computer hardware where the data is saved? If they lose Discovery they lose the spore drive and the ability to outrace any warp-capable ship. I suppose this will be the writers' justification for the lack of the spore drive in the future Trek stories.
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Kinematic
Tue, Mar 26, 2019, 4:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: The Red Angel

Booming: "I don't think they will turn this into a Borg story that would just be too stupid."

Discovery: "Hey, hold my beer. Watch this!"
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Kinematic
Tue, Mar 26, 2019, 1:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: The Red Angel

@Chrome

"I'll say at least, that I don't think Control is supposed to be The Borg. Control is supposedly responsible for destroying "all sentient life" in the future. But that's not what The Borg does. The Borg assimilates to become a "higher form" of both biological and technological life."

Maybe Control and Leland will end up being two strains of the same disease, per se. The pure AI strain wants to wipe out biological life, whereas the other strain thinks "if you can't beat 'em, merge with 'em." Splitting into two forms with two strategies would make sense for a being that wants to survive and conquer no matter what.
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Kinematic
Tue, Mar 26, 2019, 10:29am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: The Red Angel

One more thing to add - the person who came back in time to help thwart the AI threat turns out to be a parent of one of the protagonists. Chalk up another plot point copied from Terminator.
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Kinematic
Sun, Mar 24, 2019, 8:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: The Red Angel

@pemensky

"Having the story revolve around a science officer like Burnham is a unique opportunity to explore Star Trek in a new way."

The problem is that the show wants to be about massive conflicts and intrigues that threaten humanity or the universe. It would be fine to follow a science officer on smaller-scope adventures with lower stakes; then there wouldn't be a need to have the science officer always tied to plots that involve their captain and all of Starfleet. This is one of the Orville's strokes of genius - when you're no longer following the most important people in the galaxy, you can get a more personal perspective on the setting.

@Peremensoe

"why do they want to *capture* her?"

Work with her? Talk to her? Boooring, this is the Game of Thrones generation. Also, since the Angel's scans showed the person in the armor to unmistakably be Michael, not her mom, I'm guessing that the mom is going to pass the armor to Michael, perhaps after dying for the sake of forced drama. Then Michael will take off to do her time adventure. If they're planning to write Michael off the show, this could be a way to do it
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Kinematic
Sun, Mar 24, 2019, 3:26pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: The Red Angel

@Booming

This is literary critique, not science, so there are no objective definitions. In theory someone could argue that Michael is Discovery's antagonist, not its protagonist, since the definitions of "protagonist" and "antagonist" are subjective. The point I'm making is that Michael meets most of the criteria associated with Mary Sue characters in fiction as those criteria are subjectively interpreted by Star Trek and genre fiction audiences.

I'd be interested in your answers to these questions:

Is Wesley Crusher a Mary Sue?

Is Vic Fontaine a Mary Sue?
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Kinematic
Sun, Mar 24, 2019, 12:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: The Red Angel

@Steven

In LOTR Frodo serves the story, the story doesn't serve Frodo. Frodo is mocked by other characters for being a hobbit, he goes through grueling struggles to reach the end of his journey, and once there it turns out that even he can't resist the temptation to use the ring. If the plot and setting were twisted in unnatural, unpleasing ways to make Frodo out to be cool and heroic even when it didn't make sense, then he would be a Mary Sue. For instance, if he turned out to be a better fighter than Aragorn despite spending his life in the peaceful Shire. As is the plot is set up to make his life harder, not easier, and his judgment is far from perfect.

Indeed, LOTR is in many ways against the traditional concept of heroism; it makes clear that strong-willed people like Aragorn and Galadriel must not touch the ring because their nature makes them more, not less susceptible to its power. Frodo's only exceptional quality is that he is humble and meek, thus harder for the ring to corrupt.

@Booming

"Isn't that true for almost every character."

You cite examples of characters who have abilities above those of an average person in the setting. I'm talking about a character who has acclaim and skills that are significantly above those of the main characters in the story. Vic Fontaine qualifies because it's so unusual for the highly talented professionals in DS9's crew to gush about how much they adore a holodeck character. Same with Wesley: you wouldn't expect the Enterprise crew to fawn over a teenager like that.

"Are you saying that you know what is going on on a psychological level inside the writers heads??"

I can't say for certain but it's easy to infer in some cases. Wesley is Gene Roddenberry's middle name, it's known that Ira Behr recruited the guy who plays Vic because he likes his music. Statements from Lucasfilm and the Discovery production indicate that they place a high intrinsic value on the characters of Rey and Michael.

Many people perceive that the story is twisted around these characters to make them look cool, rather than the characters forming a natural part of their stories. I can't say that this is objectively true, as there is precious little objectivity in media criticism, but the parallels between these characters and the narrative structures around them indicates to me that there's a common problem underlying them.
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Kinematic
Sun, Mar 24, 2019, 10:29am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: The Red Angel

@Alan Roi and @Booming

Here's a clarifying question: do you think that Wesley Crusher is a Mary Sue character? He is often held up as one of the most notorious examples in a canon work outside fanfiction. Also, do you think that Vic Fontaine qualifies?

It seems that you are using a Sue definition wherewith the character cannot ever fail or have any kind of flaw. Wesley does fail and get humiliated on occasion, like during The Naked Now, but on the balance his character is shown as having talent and intelligence that eclipses the adults around him, and more importantly, the main characters treat him with a level of respect and esteem that beggars belief, allowing him to helm the ship as a cadet and throwing a party for him in the conference room when he returns from the academy. Wesley is despised by many fans because the special treatment he receives in the stories makes the setting less believable, and it feels like he's fulfilling a fantasy of the creator's rather than a character intended to entertain the audience.

Vic Fontaine is another example of an annoying author's pet. He's a fictional computer-generated person who rapidly solves the problems of the main characters, and then we hear them gush about how great he is - this from members of a quasi-military organization in the midst of a war to preserve the Federation. It appears the Vic was created to fulfill a fantasy of Ira Steven Behr, who is a big fan of lounge music, moreso than he was created for the enjoyment of the audience. Most DS9 audience members were not as interested in that type of music as Behr, and they did not tune into Star Trek to see a character like Vic get so much time in the spotlight to the detriment of other characters' storylines.

There are two operative criteria here:

1. A character who displays a level of ability and esteem from other characters outside the bounds of what's considered normal in the setting.

2. A sense that the character is being written for the gratification of the author moreso than for the enjoyment of the audience.

Michael Burnham and Rey meet both of these criteria by my estimation. Michael's Sue status may be eroding a bit, as Spock recently performed a masterful teardown of her character, but for the most part it's been apparent that the showrunners see the story as something that serves Michael rather than seeing Michael as a character who should serve the best interests of the story. The creators seem to intrinsically value Michael's glorification even when it runs counter to the best interests of the story.

Rey is similar. For example, when training with Luke she is tempted by the dark side but easily shakes it off. Given her background as a solitary scavenger and her high level of Force ability, temptation by the dark side would be a believable and interesting character flaw to balance out her immense level of talent. The values of compassion and restraint would not be readily apparent to someone with such a harsh upbringing, but it's clear that the creators do not want Rey to have significant flaws: rather than using her character to tell a good story, they want to use the story to make Rey as cool as possible.
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Kinematic
Sat, Mar 23, 2019, 8:50pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: The Red Angel

@Alan Roi

When I say breaking rules, I mean the narrative rules governing the setting, not in-universe rules like Starfleet regulations. In TNG, Wesley breaks the narrative by having knowledge and skills that are out of his league as a teenager, repeatedly showing up Starfleet officers who have spent their lives training to do their jobs. Precocious high-schoolers exist in reality, but very few of them can consistently outperform adult professionals, especially when it comes to staying cool under pressure.

When Kirk breaks Starfleet protocols, he's not violating a rule of the setting. If he decides he's going to one-up Spock, goes through a few minutes' study montage and then has more scientific knowledge than Spock does, that would be breaking setting rules. Bringing in a character like Wesley or Michael makes the setting harder to take seriously, effectively depleting the "credit" built up by years of consistent storytelling.

I gave six Sue criteria before, but the only criterion you really need is to ask whether the character breaks the narrative rules and why. It encapsulates all the other criteria; what they amount to is checking whether a character is given traits that are beyond the bounds of what's normally possible within the setting in order to make the audience like them (often accomplishing the opposite).

@Booming

"Of course Data and Dax can do what Burnham can"

Data and Dax are portrayed as relying on a team of colleagues to fill in gaps in their ability; they are never shown as having enough judgment and moral authority to act on their own without any checks or support. This is the default for Michael, however. That's why it seems like she could run a ship on her own. If Data tried this he'd probably run into some problem he couldn't anticipate, then he'd need the other characters to step in and rescue him and the moral of the story would be that no matter how talented you are, you need a team to back you up.

"These characters are not portrayed as fantasy figures."

I don't mean fantasy in the sword and sorcery sense, those action heroes represent fantasies of supreme strength and competence, and achieving victory against overwhelming odds. Star Trek is traditionally about a team of characters as opposed to a singular hero, making the best of things in a complicated world where there are no absolute victories.

"Star Trek is not like the military"

It's not like the military per se but the organization of Starfleet mirrors the chain of command present in a military. In Discovery, Michael demonstrates that if you're the main character, you can be violently insubordinate over and over and suffer no consequences.

"Rey vs. Luke"

This isn't a Star Wars board, but to be brief: Luke is disrespected by other characters in Ep4 and needs to be rescued 4 times: from the sand people, the bar fight, the trash compactor, and finally from Vader by Han. He uses his innate Force talent to boost his learned shooting ability and scores a miraculous hit destroying the Death Star - definitely a heroic fantasy, but one with a movie's worth of buildup. In the following episodes he goes through many failures and tribulations and spends the climactic moment of his story helpless, being tortured and begging his father to save him. His victory is spiritual more than physical.

Rey needs very little if any help from others and displays abilities far outstripping any other character's. She pilots the Falcon, a ship that normally requires 2 to fly and is in poor repair, well enough to defeat TIE fighter pilots trained since early childhood. She is able to maneuver the ship so precisely as to point its jammed gun turret straight at a smaller, nimbler enemy fighter so Finn can shoot it. Star Wars is a hero's journey story, which means that it's about a character who grows through sustained struggle. The disparity between Rey's power and rate of growth and those of all other characters cheapens the setting. There's no way that Ep9 will climax with Rey helpless and begging for Kylo to save her as Ep6 did for Luke.
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Kinematic
Sat, Mar 23, 2019, 6:13pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: The Red Angel

@Alan Roi

You could also say that a Mary Sue is defined by the degree to which they can break the rules of their setting. Michael can do lots of things you'd never expect other characters to be capable of, because she's just that cool. Same with Rey from Star Wars.

You've brought up Michael's punishment for mutiny as a contradiction in my argument, and this is indeed the biggest setback she suffers, but she moves beyond it and - this is key - her character does not change significantly in the process of atonement. The only character growth she's gone through that I can think of is that she seems to no longer categorically hate Klingons over the deaths of her parents, but this is explored very little on the show.

Imagine if Tom Paris had been Locarno from The First Duty, as was initially envisioned. His redemption story starts with him disgraced and scorned by other Starfleet officers. Then he finds himself transported across the galaxy with a crew who have only each other to depend on.

At the outset, he admits his wrongdoing on the surface but subconsciously denies it, telling himself the dead cadet knew the risks. After seeing crewmates die performing hazardous tasks, the gravity of what he did finally hits him and he falls into a deep depression, understanding that his friend died because of his desire for glory. Another crisis drives him into action to protect the ship and he pushes through his pain and regret, understanding that the best redemption he can achieve is as a member of a crew who look out for each other instead of their self-image. And despite his change of heart, other characters may have longstanding enmity for him, and moving past this would form part of their own character growth.

That would be a good character arc. Michael is still her same insubordinate self, though. Even in the first season, her misdeeds were forgotten relatively fast owing to the war effort. Instead of character growth, she has characters who used to have problems with her, like Spock, realizing that she was acting for the greater good all along. Her plotlines with Sarek have been about how Sarek did poorly by her, not about how she still had more to learn from him. Spock's disputes with Sarek, as explored in TNG's Unification, are painted as equal parts his fault and Sarek's.

If anyone can point out other Trek characters who fulfill the criteria I've laid out, I'm all ears. Except, of course, for Wesley Crusher.
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Kinematic
Sat, Mar 23, 2019, 4:52pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: The Red Angel

@Alan Roi

Can you point to any other Star Trek characters who have the same combination of traits I outlined? Other than, of course, the notorious Wesley Crusher, who is probably the best-known "canon Sue."

Other Trek series have characters with high abilities, but not the sheer range of Michael's skills. It's easy to believe that she could run a starship all by herself, something I couldn't see Data or Dax or Kirk doing. The circumstances around Michael combined with her backstory put her on a pedestal squarely above other characters.

As to your comment about other protagonists never truly being in the wrong, there were distinct moments where Kirk, Picard, Sisko and Janeway had to be corrected by their crews. Picard needed a lot of help to see Hugh as a person rather than a weapon. Sisko resents Picard for his actions as Locutus in a situation where Picard was a victim and ended up playing a pivotal role in saving the Earth. Fans still express disgust with Janeway over Tuvix.

One of the qualifiers of a Mary Sue is the setting in which the character exists. James Bond, Dirty Harry, Steven Seagal and Chuck Norris characters, etc. don't qualify because they exist in stories that are structured entirely around them as fantasy figures. On the female side, Milla Jovovich's characters from the Resident Evil and Ultraviolet movies are similar. There's not much concern for character growth or drama, just an idealized badass saving the day.

The problem comes when an unbelievably perfect character is placed in a setting that has been the backdrop of more grounded stories. Wesley Crusher was so offensive because characters who the audience were supposed to respect were being made fools of in order to fluff up a teenage supergenius. In Discovery, Michael has no regard for rules or authority and gets away with it because she's just that cool. In this episode she beats a captain bloody! She should have been dragged to the brig the very next scene, instead she has a heart-to-heart with Spock. Star Trek has traditionally emphasized values of teamwork and cooperation, reflecting real military structures, whereas Discovery is more oriented around the reverence of a fantasy hero.

This is the same problem with Harry Potter fanfic characters who show up with massively more power and beauty than existing characters, or Evangelion self-inserts who are genius pilots that crush Angels like bugs. Evangelion is about damaged people confronting their inner demons, when you add an invincible ace pilot into the mix it destroys the theme.

Rey from Star Wars is a Mary Sue for the same reason: she has a level of ability that is completely unprecedented in the story (learns mind trick in 1 day not 4 years), she is instantly loved by existing characters (Leia hugs her instead of Chewie), and she upstages them in their own niches (pilots and fixes Falcon better than Han or Chewie).
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Sat, Mar 23, 2019, 2:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: The Red Angel

Michael is certainly a Mary Sue, and the term does not only apply to female characters. Being as this is a Star Trek community, I'd guess that some folks here might be familiar with one of the most notorious Mary Sue characters of all time, a male, who appeared on TNG.

Here are Michael's qualifications:

1. She shows uncanny natural talent for all or most plot-relevant skills. Piloting, biology, math, computer programming, combat - there's not much she can't do that isn't a narrow speciality like advanced medicine that requires a doctor or spore drive mechanics that only Stamets can do.

2. She's introduced as a hitherto-unknown family member of a major beloved character. This is a major Mary Sue trait, seen in many bad fanfics. It's a cheap way to endear a character to the audience. Furthermore, her abilities are so advanced as to show up the established character, as when we discover that she actually did better academically than Spock but Sarek could only have one of them admitted to the Vulcan expeditionary corps.

3. She rapidly gains the approval of other characters. She does face opposition within Starfleet, as the writers know it would be ridiculous otherwise, but she's lavished with praise by many characters. Mirror Sarek called her "a boundless well of human compassion," although compassion isn't a trait he would likely associate with humans. After hating her following the Shenzhou incident, Saru came to see her as his closest friend on the ship and trusted her to do his assisted suicide. She was a favorite of Lorca and the Empress in the MU, and her final scene in Season 1 has her getting applauded by all the Starfleet brass. Bonus points for characters who disrespect her, like the Enterprise science officer, being quickly and ignobly killed.

4. She has an overly complex, exotic backstory. The first Vulcan-educated human who's actually even smarter than the Vulcans, handpicked as first officer by one of Starfleet's best captains. See all the Harry Potter fanfics where the main character is the last of the druids descended from Irish sidhe and has a dragon ancestor and has some kind of special familiar and wand that no other character has. Another lazy way to create interest in a character.

5. She has uniquely tragic personal circumstances. She was the cause of the entire Klingon war that brought the Federation to the brink of destruction so it became her personal mission to end it. She's tormented by what she did to Spock as a child even though it was for his own good. Plenty of characters have tragedy in their past, but hers is presented in such a way as to frame her as the most noble and put-upon character in the series.

6. She's almost never truly in the wrong. Really bad writers create Sue characters who are infallible; those with a bit more sophistication create characters who do face setbacks and take flack, but when they do it's because they're so virtuous that others target them or because they're courageously shouldering on a burden in place of someone else. "Starfleet's first mutineer" is an interesting premise and a major burden for a protagonist to carry, but at no point in the story does Michael step back and say "I was wrong" and work to change her way of thinking. Michael's mutiny is framed in such a way as to make Starfleet look like the bad guys; recall the ominous tribunal in the darkened room. Nearly all of Michael's irresponsible and insubordinate actions end up being for the greater good.
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