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Tue, Aug 3, 2021, 5:28pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: Star Trek: Nemesis

Better than the study in moral autism that was “Insurrection,” but that’s a pretty low bar.

Looking back, I think that what I liked about “Nemesis” were the few nods to continuity that it managed (especially considering how much continuity it chucked right out the window.) As poorly handled as it was, there’s a fanboy part of me that wouldn’t have been happy if Will and Deanna hadn’t ended up together, after their “imzadi” relationship was barely touched over the entire course of TNG. I liked that the Betazoid nudist weddings weren’t forgotten. And of course, Riker absolutely has to finally have his own ship.

Mind you, the reasons for these things not happening in the series aren’t addressed. We don’t hear anything about Will and Deanna reluctantly refusing to be together like that because it would be awkward while they serve on the same ship. And Riker wouldn’t take his own command because whatever ship they could offer him, “She’s not the Enterprise.” I guess all of that was left behind? But no matter, at least it got done.

I guess it says something that I’ve only spoken well of the character moments, and haven’t said anything kind about the story itself. There’s just not that much to praise. It was fun as an action-heavy popcorn movie, but that’s all it really tried to be, and I think that’s sad for the crew’s swan song. Even worse is that, again, so much continuity was sacrificed for that, along with Picard’s character and Data’s life. I guess I’m just left feeling that it wasn’t worth it.

Ah well. It was what it was. And, writing this comment in 2021, we now have further Star Trek properties, including “Picard” which continues the story for at least some of our beloved characters. So “Nemesis” wasn’t the absolute finale, as it was assumed to be at the time. Based on the reviews I’ve seen here, I imagine most of us can agree that’s, at least, a good thing.
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Wed, Jul 28, 2021, 7:22pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S7: Force of Nature

Someone already mentioned about how the characters undermine this episode’s message by almost totally ignoring the game-changing discovery made here - after “Force of Nature” we get, what, one more mention of the warp speed limit before everything is back to normal? But I think the deeper irony is that the writers didn’t bother accepting their own premise.

We all know that this story, like all of Trek’s social commentary, is meant to speak directly to the viewers. Interesting then that we are being implicitly asked to shoulder the burden of helping fight climate change - paying more for energy, driving more expensive hybrid or electric cars, etc etc - while the very people sending this message can’t even be inconvenienced to honor the limitations they just introduced on this fictional universe.

We understand why: Star Trek would be hobbled if warp drive were actually destroying space and nobody could travel at fast speeds. The show might even get boring. Heaven forbid, money could be lost!

But it’s still damning optics when the people who penned this story are happy to lecture us about how we must make sacrifices for the cause, while they sit comfortably in the executive’s chair and ignore that cause themselves (after this one episode) because taking it seriously would be too hard for them.

If it matters, I’m no climate denier. I actually take global warming very seriously, though in the spirit of Star Trek, I do prefer humanity employ a technological solution to this problem rather than a regressive one. But I don’t feel the need to sit still for barely concealed Captain Planet-style preaching from people who are total hypocrites on the subject.

Aside from that, terrible episode for all the structural reasons that have been analyzed to death. 2 stars? You’re a generous man, Jammer. 0.5 from me.
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Tue, Jul 13, 2021, 8:45am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate


You’re correct that the end of the episode changes the moral dynamic of the story. I was actually remarking upon the ethics of Kamala living her life as “intended”, if everything had gone according to plan. Opinions on her role are strong: Crusher says it’s slavery, Picard says it’s an arranged marriage, some people on this thread say it’s an unconscionable objectification of Kamala (and women generally, by extension). I say it doesn’t matter what you want to call it, so long as it’s what Kamala really, truly wants.

The ending moves this episode from, in my opinion, a simple story of a woman choosing the life that will most fulfill and satisfy her, into the realm of being a tragedy. As you say, the question becomes a utilitarian one: Is it right to “sacrifice” Kamala and her happiness if it means stopping a war between two civilizations?

Something I’m surprised not to have seen discussed in this thread is the issue of whether, at the end of the episode, Kamala could possibly have had a happy life no matter what happened. We know from the ambassador that her species can live for up to 200 years. Patrick Stewart was 52 when the episode was made; Famke Janssen was 28. Now, let’s just say Kamala had abandoned her duty and requested asylum aboard the Enterprise, and Picard had somehow allowed it so they could remain together. To be brutally frank, she’d have had…what? 50 more years out of him before he died of old age (assuming higher average life expectancy in the 24th century)? If she can only “imprint” herself with one mate for life, that leaves her with over a century to live unable to properly do the only thing that truly fulfills her, even if she remarries after Picard’s death.

Maybe it’s just as well that she ends up with her arranged husband. At least she won’t be alone that way.
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Tue, Jul 13, 2021, 12:33am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

Those calling for Kamala to discover whom she “really” is or taking moral umbrage at the nature of the arrangement featuring her are, in my view, demonstrating a staggering degree of ethical imperialism.

Yes, in our modern Western society, we tend to view personal independence as a moral ideal (for a relative rarity in the fullness of human history). But I would argue that all morality - all, mind - is ultimately reducible to the suffering and well-being of conscious creatures. Moral systems that (for example) claim to more highly emphasize the acquisition of justice, or obedience to God/gods, or any other axiomatic principle ahead of this one are really just deluding themselves. When you probe deeply enough, you find that concern for maximizing conscious well-being and minimizing conscious suffering is always the man behind Oz’s curtain.

So allow me to plug this into The Perfect Mate. Kamala makes it clear that what she’s doing isn’t a game, or a fantasy. She’s not ignoring her own interests and desires in order to please her partner - pleasing her partner IS her only interest and desire. To that end, she will become - not pretend to be - anything, because her truest fulfillment is found in being what a specific other person wants her to be. That is to say, as a conscious being capable of experiencing positive and negative conscious states, she genuinely maximizes her positive states and minimizes her negative ones when she feels that she has accomplished this singular goal.

Is it cruel (wrong) to whip a masochist? Not if they really do enjoy it. Is it benevolent (right) to gift a Buddhist monk a fortune in money? Not if they are actually happier living an ascetic lifestyle. We can allow for people who “don’t know what they are missing”, of course, and unwittingly cling to a miserable life because it’s what they know, not realizing that they are suffering more than they would if they experienced reality in a different way. But this is a fraught and potentially arrogant case to make in any specific circumstance, running the risk of unjustifiably claiming a role of superiority over another person as you assume that you know them better than they do.

When it comes to Kamala, it’s almost certainly doomed because we are given an alien creature who is genetically predisposed to reading her mate and fulfilling herself by fulfilling him. By her own admission, she is “incomplete” when alone. Keeping her away from what we might interpret as a one-sided romantic relationship is like keeping a fish away from water. You are just needlessly hurting a conscious being. It’s immoral.

To do this because you, as a fundamentally different kind of animal, have unilaterally decreed that your way is the best way and that Kamala and the fish are both wrong for failing to thrive in exactly the same kind of environment as you do? That borders on morally deranged.
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Fri, Jul 9, 2021, 3:17pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: The Survivors

@Ben D.

You make some very interesting points. It is true that Kevin was voluntarily living a full human life as a Federation citizen, so for better or worse he should ethically submit to the Federation’s code of laws out of respect for his “host” civilization. To his credit, it appears that he was prepared to do this, though of course we’d simply be out of luck if he decided otherwise.

I agree with you that Picard was not the appropriate person to decide whether Kevin should stand trial. On that point, however, I can only remind you that Picard assuming super-authority without apparent censure is a recurrent phenomenon on TNG. The example that most readily jumps to my mind at this moment (and there are many) would be in “Silicon Avatar”, when Picard makes a supplemental log entry mid-episode stating something to the effect of, “We’ve advised Starfleet of our intention to pursue the Crystalline Entity, and in response they’ve sent us Dr. Marr.” I do find it odd that Picard apparently gets to make unilateral decisions about where he’s going to take the Federation’s flagship and what he’s going to do with it when he gets there. Shouldn’t there be an entire roomful of Admirals somewhere on Earth who would like a say in the matter? But no, it would seem that Starfleet’s attitude is, “Oh, you want to go chasing a dangerously carnivorous alien life form on a mission that could easily result in the loss of an incalculably valuable piece of hardware and over 1,000 lives, many of them children? Sure, have Dr. Marr to help out!” But, that’s just Star Trek. It would be boring if Picard spent as much time talking to Starfleet Command as he realistically should.

Your backyard nuke analogy is intriguing, but if I may, I propose that it’s inaccurate or at least incomplete. I’m imagining that if you actually had such a weapon and wanted to use it, then you would need to log in to a computer somewhere, access targeting software that we certainly hope is protected by multiple long alphanumeric passwords, provide final launch confirmation, etc etc. There’s an important difference, there. You had to take several not-insignificant steps after witnessing your family tragedy to get to the point of committing your crime, giving you precious time to come to your senses. Heck, let’s just say you didn’t bother with any of the above precautions, and you have a literal Big Red Button in your living room - you would still have to consciously walk to it and hit it. Even the proverbial husband coming home early from work to find his wife in bed with his best friend has to take a moment to reach for and draw his gun. Kevin had no such privileges.

So here, in my view, is the more accurate analogue. You were born with that nuclear missile in your back yard, and as a baby you had a computerized control chip surgically implanted into your brain. If you but think the right (wrong) thought, backed by intent, the missile will immediately launch at any destination you will. Neither the missile nor the chip can ever be taken away, even if you’d like to be rid of them; they’re part of you.

So all your life, you’ve just had to be very careful with your emotions, and have probably learned some anger management techniques that would make Bruce Banner jealous. Because you know that if you ever get mad - really, mind-breakingly enraged - there is going to be a mushroom cloud.

Oh, and by the way, you’re immortal. You’ve been around for thousands of years (Kevin’s own stated timeline), and you have every reason to believe you’re going to go on for thousands, millions more. It’s worth wondering at what point you cease to be an ordinary citizen who may or may not commit a crime at some point (and should be held accountable if you do), and become a literal ticking time bomb, who will inevitably go off in the fullness of time. When you do, do you deserve scorn, or pity?

But put that question aside, because my real point is that it was trivially quick and easy for Kevin to do what he did - a fact which very much worked against him. He saw his wife’s dead body, knowing that her murderers were still in orbit actively destroying his home and slaughtering his friends and neighbors, and it only took a moment. I imagine he would have been glad to have had to work a computer to use his doomsday weapon; then the Husnock might still be alive.

He’s not so much a “space Hitler”. Hitler laid calm, methodical plans, and took years to accomplish what he did. Kevin didn’t, and I think we can agree that he wouldn’t.

So it’s just not at all clear to me that the Federation’s laws on genocide (assuming they do exist) can ethically be applied to this crime. The people who wrote those laws were thinking of Khan Singh, not Kevin Uxbridge. That’s why Picard was right to say that the Federation was unqualified to judge Kevin. No one within it really understood what he was facing. Yes, Picard should have sent a subspace message to the Federation’s Department of Justice, so the Attorney General could ask to be furnished with all relevant facts of the case and return a decision within 2 - 3 weeks. That didn’t happen, because it would have slowed down the story. But if it had, I think there’s every likelihood that the Federation would simply have “let” Kevin go.
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Thu, Jul 8, 2021, 5:54pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: The Survivors

I agree that the question of Rishon’s reality is unimportant to the plot and the drama of the story. It’s just that even when I first saw this episode, as a child, something felt vaguely wrong about Picard’s “you aren’t real” speech. Now that I’ve actually learned philosophy as an adult, I can see in detail how absurd it was, and it drives me up the wall. Rishon could have (and should have) absolutely demolished Picard for saying that to her, but of course it would have interrupted the rhythm of the scene, so I’ll just point out the existential bankruptcy of Picard’s argument and let that dog lie.

The issue of recreating the entire colony is, I think, a question without an answer, not least because it’s really a thread that - if pulled aggressively enough - threatens to unravel the entire plot. The fact that Kevin was able to wipe out a whole species with a thought means that there should have been any number of ways in which he could have non-lethally stopped the Husnock’s initial attack. He could have pulled a Thanos and turned all their weapons into bubbles. He could have messed up their computers so the “Fire” button just played Gilligan’s Island reruns on the viewscreen. Heck, entirely from what we saw him do in the episode, he could have filled the Husnock’s heads with max-volume Metallica and personally informed them that it was going to continue until they left orbit. Bottom line: The attack never should have been successful, in which case Kevin wouldn’t have been worrying about deceiving the Enterprise.

As for Kevin getting away with his crime, it’s been discussed upthread (as has the possibility of him stopping the attack, actually). Someone pointed out that if, instead of telling him to return to the surface, Picard had instructed him to go with them to a starbase or Earth or some location where he could face a criminal court and stand trial for genocide, Kevin probably would have gone. In all likelihood, he would even have willingly submitted to whatever sentence he was given, despite the fact that the court would of course have been unable to forcefully impose it upon him.

But to what end? To deter all the other super aliens who keep freaking out and erasing entire civilizations? It doesn’t seem to happen so often, and when it does I doubt most perpetrators would be so willing to bow to Federation justice. To rehabilitate Kevin? His was a total crime of passion that already went against his most deeply-held moral convictions; we may just have to accept that if we murder this guy’s wife, we’re in real trouble.

So, retribution? What good is that? It’s unclear whether the Federation has a death penalty on the books (sources are contradictory), but again, if they do I doubt it could be enforced even with Kevin’s full cooperation. That just leaves incarceration, but what’s 50, 75, 100 years in a penal colony to an immortal being?

Life sentence? The Federation’s life, you mean.

It’s pointless. Picard may have been mistaken when he said they had no law to fit Kevin’s crime (I certainly *hope* the Federation has laws against genocide…), but he was quite correct in saying that they were not qualified to be his judge. There simply was nothing more to be done.

I will say that annihilation of advanced starfaring species on an angry whim seems like the sort of thing that the Q might wish to crack down on, but that’s another matter entirely.
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Mon, Jul 5, 2021, 12:18pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: The Survivors

Would it really be an illusion, though? And why?

As a student of philosophy, my biggest complaint about this episode comes near the very end, when Picard is giving Rishon that insufferably condescending speech. “I can touch your skin, I can smell your perfume…but you are not real.” I was waiting for Rishon to indignantly respond, “Excuse me, I don’t know what point you’re trying to make, but I am indeed ‘real’, thank you! Now perhaps you can explain to me, wise sir, just how I am to be sure that YOU are real!” Of course, there’s no way to know whether she’s actually conscious - that is, having a subjective experience of reality (as opposed to being a philosophical zombie). But that’s the point - if she is, then she doesn’t know that Picard is conscious. And Picard should have the same suspicions about Riker…and Worf, and Troi, and…

But even putting solipsist concerns aside, just how real is Rishon? Was she a walking mannequin, a puppet with invisible strings whose every word and action were under Kevin’s direct control? Because if so, then I can’t imagine how the illusion was in any way satisfying for Kevin. If my wife died and I could reanimate her body, but I had to input every little thing she said and did and could never be surprised by her again, I wouldn’t feel like I had her back. Indeed, being in the presence of such a vapid facsimile would simply be painful - I would rather bury her and grieve.

Yet if Rishon had even a shred more autonomy than this - even a shred - then how is it fair to call her an illusion? I could be misremembering, as I don’t much care for the first season, but wasn’t there an episode therein in which Q murders Tasha Yar, then brings her back to life after his point is made? Was she an “illusion” for every moment between that resurrection and Skin of Evil? And didn’t Q once boast in Qpid that he had given his fantasy world a life of its own, so that even he would be surprised by his characters’ actions? Those characters disappeared once Q was finished playing that game, but I don’t see how we can regard that as anything but an atrocity: Q created living people, then slaughtered them when he was done exploiting them. Were they “illusions”?

These scenarios with Q really make the absurdity of Picard’s attitude toward Rishon stand out with the greatest starkness, to me. She “wasn’t real” because a Trek super-alien cancelled her death? Really, Picard? Why didn’t Tasha ever have to endure that speech?
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Sun, Jul 4, 2021, 2:02pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: Who Watches the Watchers

Hoooo boy, this one. I once knew a hardcore fundamentalist Christian who angrily swore off all Star Trek, for all time, when he first saw this episode and got to Picard’s “dark ages of fear and superstition” speech.

This lasted until he eventually deconverted and became an atheist, years later. He’s now embarrassed by his religious days, and in fact feels traumatized by the experience. Says he used to live in fear of burning for eternity after death. That “heaven and hell” stuff ain’t for everyone.
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Sun, Jul 4, 2021, 1:53pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S5: Silicon Avatar


Normally I would agree, but if you notice, the writers actually foreshadowed this action earlier in the episode. When Dr Marr is working on a computer in Engineering with great speed, Geordi observes, “You handle that terminal like a veteran, Doctor.” She replies, “One thing about spending your life doing research: You learn your way around computers.”

She had been studying the CE since Omicron Theta, and had been a scientist for even longer. She was probably a computer expert, likely more so than many members of the crew.

And she didn’t “take over the Enterprise”. I certainly hope that would have been beyond her power. What she did was find a way to lock the others out of a particular program - one which she had helped create. And even then Geordi STILL said he could defeat her lockout; he just needed more time than they had.
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Mon, Jun 28, 2021, 1:24am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: Allegiance

I’m going to be honest, I felt bad for the abductor aliens at the end of this episode. Picard (briefly) tortured them in retribution for their actions, though they made it clear that they were conducting sociological research and were genuinely unaware that their methods would be considered inappropriate. Philosophically, I also disagree with Picard’s assertion that imprisonment itself qualifies as an “injury”. An inconvenience, yes; a violation, perhaps. But an injury per se? I can’t get behind that.

My sympathy for the aliens was further bolstered, I think, by the fact that they immediately came clean and explained themselves as soon as Picard ruined the experiment by identifying their plant. They could have just dumped or even killed the prisoners at that point as useless lab rats, but instead took the time to engage and clarify that they were merely curious about something they didn’t understand.

Now, I’m not saying I approve of nor encourage their methods. I don’t even approve of using “lower” animals for scientific research. I just think some understanding was in order given that they seemed genuinely perplexed by Picard’s negative reaction - that is, again, they didn’t realize their actions would be upsetting. Picard could have said, “You have disrupted operations on my ship and aggrieved me personally. I have encountered many species, and I know of none who would not take offense to such treatment. Please reconsider your means of research. In fact, if you wanted knowledge, all you had to do was ask. Perhaps you would be interested in perusing our ship’s computer database on concepts of authority, while sharing information about your people with us?” Instead, he jumps straight to confrontation and bridge-burning with what seems to be a very unique new civilization. So much for the Enterprise’s “continuing mission”!

Picard’s behavior here wasn’t even consistent with his later handling of a similar situation in season 7’s “Liaisons”. In that one, an alien ambassador from a species who didn’t understand love amongst other emotional concepts actually stranded Picard on a barely-habitable planet with dangerous storm activity and pretended to be a lovestruck young woman. When Picard got the big reveal after all of that trouble, sure he was upset, but he remained reserved and diplomatic. He realized that the ambassador didn’t know how such methods would be received, and his reaction was basically, “Humans would have handled this differently,” and “Just so you know, where I’m from, what you’ve done would be considered a crime”. Only to then discover that the aliens didn’t understand the concept of “crime” either, prompting yet further patience from Picard.

It seems obvious, but you’ve got to be willing to extend a powerful heap of benefit of the doubt to aliens with fundamentally different practices. Generally Picard is pretty good about that, but not this time.
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Tue, Jun 22, 2021, 9:27pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: The Hunted

Some commenters were saying that Picard heartlessly left the Angosians in a standoff that they couldn’t possibly win, and that there would be bloodshed if they didn’t just surrender fully. But that isn’t true. Remember that the soldiers were programmed to only use violence in self-defense - Picard stayed peaceful, and they were rendered impotent.

I like to imagine the standoff stretching long into the night, with Danar and the Angosian Prime Minister staring uneasily at each other with their people behind them.

Danar: Are you going to free us from the colony and let us come home?

Prime Minister: We can’t, you’re dangerous. Are you going to kill us all?

Danar: We can’t, you aren’t threatening us.

*uneasy staring contest continues*

Danar: So…um…Monopoly?

Prime Minister: *tersely* I’ll get the board.
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Mon, Jun 21, 2021, 3:59pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S4: The Mind's Eye

“It’ll take time to rebuild your memory, Geordi. A long time. Possibly even a whole week. But no longer than that. Because you’ve got to be 100% back to normal and on-duty as Chief Engineer of the flagship, despite being homicidally hypnotized by Romulans, before the next episode. So let’s get cracking, hmm?”

I kid, I kid. I understand TNG’s episodic nature, even if it does get a little silly at times.

My only real critique of this otherwise brilliant episode is a minor one, mentioned previously by another commenter: Governor Vagh was entirely too certain of Federation collusion with the rebels, with his only evidence at first being the presence of Federation weapons in rebel hands. Ok…and there’s no way that profiteers on the black market illicitly acquired these weapons and sold them to the highest bidder? Picard even mentions this possibility, yet Vagh is unconvinced. Even in the face of findings implicating Romulans in the sort of scheme precisely they are known for! What does this guy have against the Federation?

But again, not a huge point. And a very compelling story otherwise.
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Sun, Jun 20, 2021, 2:05pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S4: First Contact

Maybe we don’t need to use the word “rape” to describe what happened to Riker. I do feel the word gets overused, marginalizing the experiences of people who have lived through truly horrific things. But if we acknowledge the fact that we would be appalled if Lanel had been male, and it had been Troi or Crusher in Riker’s place, then I really don’t think we get to see comedy gold in the hospital sex scene.

Really, what is the argument here? That “men and women are different”? Agreed - but are they so different that it’s a bona fide knee-slapper when one of them is sexually coerced, while we turn into righteously outraged paladins the moment that the Same Exact Thing happens to the other?

Don’t get me wrong. If we’re prepared to laugh just as hard at a clearly uncomfortable woman reluctantly agreeing to surrender her body because it’s been presented to her as her only hope of escaping imprisonment, then we’re fine. I won’t even judge if we do that - I’m the guy who cracks Holocaust jokes at parties, and I’m Jewish! I’m just saying that maintaining such a stark double standard on sexual coercion doesn’t give us a philosophically consistent leg to stand on.
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Thu, Nov 16, 2017, 9:44am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: The Price

It's extremely edifying to witness the evolution of our own culture, right here on this message board, over just the past 10 years. The earliest comments here, dating back to 2007 (though I believe there's only one from that far back), focus their criticisms of "The Price" on the cheesiness of the Troi/Ral romance, the annoying musical score, and the lack of chemistry between the characters. As the years roll on, some reviewers begin to comment that Ral feels like a stalker or even guilty of sexual harassment, especially for the way he first comes on to Troi. By 2017, he is being tarred and feathered as a "creep". The episode itself was made in 1989, a time I'm too young to remember clearly - though presumably there was nothing objectionable about his behavior in those days at all. Today, of course, you simply couldn't make a story like this, with a male character like Ral (you probably could do it with a female character, scoring men like this). Your entire show would be decried as misogynistic, and might even get bullied off the air.

A literary detail of interest to me is the fact that Ral possibly even explains his initial heavy-handed approach to Troi when he remarks to her (and I'm paraphrasing here), "You didn't mind when I used my empathic abilities on you." To me, this is saying that Troi was immediately attracted to him the first time she saw him, and he sensed that. This softens the sting of his behavior, because he knew for a fact she was going to enjoy it and respond to it. It's not clear this is what he means by that quote, but even if he had been more explicit, today's viewers don't have the attention span to wait for this defense - much less accept it. That first scene in Troi's office is all most would need to shut off the TV, pick up their smartphones, and start writing angry Facebook posts.

I can't help but feel a certain sadness at this. Don't get me wrong, the romance in "The Price" IS cheesy and overdone. But in a larger sense, watching it makes me mourn the loss in fiction of the suave, debonair ladies' man who confidently and assertively courts the women that catch his eye. I don't mind seeing these advances occasionally rebuffed, or watching one of these characters try it on the kind of woman who (unlike Troi) wouldn't like it and would proceed to give him a piece of her mind over it. And I'm downright intrigued to see the female version trying her luck with a meek male target.

But these days, that's all we get, isn't it? In 2017, "women's empowerment" means that male characters like Devonani Ral are sexist, not smooth, and including one in your story (along with a female character who would do anything other than put her knee in the amorous fellow's reproductive organs in response) makes YOU sexist. This may make modern feminists happy, but it's easy to miss a certain variety in fiction as a result, walled off at least for a time by the stony ramparts of political correctness.
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Sat, Nov 26, 2016, 8:45pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S1: The Galileo Seven

@ Peter G.,

I'm afraid you're misstating the facts of my advocated course of action. All murder may be killing, but not all killing is murder. If we are having a civilized conversation, and you pull out a gun and shoot me in the head for no reason, you have murdered me. That is an indefensible crime and you will likely face a lengthy prison sentence (or worse) for committing it. If, on the other hand, upon laying eyes on you I immediately begin throwing pointy spears at you in an obvious attempt to kill you, and you then pull out your gun and shoot me in a desperate bid to make me stop, the situation is different. As in, First Degree Murder vs. Justifiable Homicide different. Now you have done nothing but defend yourself from a spear-wielding maniac, and self-defense is not a crime - legally or, in my opinion, morally. Further, if anyone should later take to an online message board to defend my case and argue that I was murdered because an advanced 21st century firearm was used to meet the threat of primitive stone-age spears, the ready counter is to humbly point out that if I didn't want hot bullets penetrating my brain, I at all times leading up to that had the option to, you know - NOT throw deadly weapons at you.

As for the Prime Directive, I barely consider that point worth raising, considering how frequently and flagrantly the Directive is abused, especially on TOS. Regardless, however, as you pointed out, the doctrine had already been offended by the crew's even landing there. The damage to Giant Apean cultural development was done. I don't see that defending themselves from needlessly violent creatures who couldn't even be bothered to attempt communication would have made things appreciably worse. Either way, thousands of years from now, Giant Ape Giorgio Tsoukalos is going to remark "I'm not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens" when discussing ancient stories about a metal box falling from the sky and people shooting light coming out of it. Sorry.
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Sat, Nov 26, 2016, 2:53am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S1: The Galileo Seven

In the discussion section of the review for TNG's "Silicon Avatar", one commenter (and I sadly forget the person's screen name, else I would credit him/her) very correctly criticized Star Trek's recurrent conclusion that, quote, "self-defense is somehow morally suspect." Here, all the way back in first season TOS, we see that this strange attitude has been with the franchise from the beginning.

I cannot abide Spock's observation that he "is frequently appalled by the low regard Earth men have for life." I cannot abide it morally, and I cannot abide it logically. As a matter of fact, Mr. Spock, this "Earth man" - and to varying degrees, every other "Earth man" he has ever personally known - has very high regard for life. So high, in fact, that he is not inclined to tolerate those imminently determined to needlessly, frivolously snuff it out. Would it be better, then, to leave the violent to practice their violence unmolested, rather than engage in a measured and rational application of force that is carefully engineered to silence thoughtless savagery? Are not the needs of the peaceful and rational many better served by the latter course, and for that matter, are we to be so unthinkingly devoted to your brand of Christian-style (in the New Testament biblical sense) total pacifism even in the face of deadly assault that we should permit the murder of ourselves and our comrades?

It occurs to me that Mr. Spock would likely base his argument on the supposition that all sentient life is of equal value, and hence it is illogical from a cost-benefit standpoint to sacrifice one even to protect another. But this reasoning is fallacious in that it fails to account for any culpability in the actions freely taken by those lives. If a thinking creature chooses to use violence against another, why is it morally questionable at all for the offended creature to use any means to protect itself, let alone to remove the capacity of a deadly life form to be needlessly deadly to anyone else? Frankly, I have more sympathy for a predatory animal, which perhaps cannot control its own overpowering instincts to attack and to kill. And though I would regret it, I still would use force if necessary to protect myself or others from a dumb but violent animal that may have realistically had no choice in its actions. Should I behave any differently toward an intelligent animal that knew full well it could choose to attack me or let me be, and consciously selected door #1?

I am also baffled here by Spock's belief that a mere display of phaser technology should be sufficient to frighten the aggressors into docility. These beings have no earthly (if you'll pardon the term) idea what a phaser is. By firing one non-lethally in front of them, all you're likely to do is lead them to the conclusion that "these sky people have invaded our territory, and after we killed one of them, all they can do about it is flash pretty lights around. Let's finish them off!" Much better, I submit, to vaporize a few of them, and leave the survivors to mull "these sky people can shoot lightning at will that makes our friends disappear forever. Maybe we should leave them alone."

Very little of Spock's behavior here is morally defensible, and I dare say even less of it is logical. Very disappointed in a character I normally relate to highly, and in Star Trek for persistently suggesting that I should hang myself for the first savage aggressor that might wish me harm.
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Wed, Nov 16, 2016, 11:51am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S7: Lower Decks

I don't mean to nitpick a fantastic story - I really have nothing bad to say about Lower Decks, except maybe that it's a shame we didn't get Guinan here, but that's not really anybody's fault. I just have to ask, because it's bothering the hell out of me.

Is it not utterly pointless for Deanna Troi (or any Betazoid, really) to play poker? Her empathic sense would allow her to perceive deception, confidence, uncertainty, etc (especially from someone like Riker, whom she knows intimately). Essentially, it should be impossible to bluff her. And poker is a game of skill entirely because you have to determine whether your opponent actually has a strong hand or just wants you to believe he does. Without that element, it would seem to be a pure game of chance. Except, of course, that it makes the game unfair for one player to know her opponents' intentions while the others do not.

Maybe they should all play Space Monopoly.
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Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 1:29am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S4: Night Terrors

Good episode for the performances of the cast, the skillful unfolding of the mystery, and the general creepiness that is so unlike TNG yet so well-done. Very entertaining and engaging; as a child, when I first saw the series, this was always one of my favorites.

However, I have to agree with those who have criticized the aliens' attempt at dream communication. "Eyes in the dark - one moon circles" is a terrible, unforgivable way to describe hydrogen. First of all, it's not even an accurate metaphor. Real electrons do not "circle" atomic nuclei; they exist as clouds of probability surrounding the nucleons. We arbitrarily (and incorrectly) choose to refer to the various shapes of electron motion probability as "orbitals"; aliens would probably not do this, nor would they have any way of knowing that we do.

Secondly, there is simply no need for them to be so circumspect with all this dream imagery. Even if they have a radically different, non-vocal means of communication (something I do wish TNG had explored more often, though that's a separate point), as a spacefaring race, they must understand mathematics and chemistry. Instead of showing Troi an ominously imprecise image of what might be a (again, wrong) depiction of a hydrogen atom, it would have been a lot easier to show her the periodic table - the basic shape and form of which is a universal fact - and simply call her attention to the first element. One way to do this would be to show her the table while simultaneously communicating "1": the atomic number of hydrogen. So the floating eyes in the dark become an image of the periodic table, and rather than yammering on about moons circling, the voice just repeats "one" over and over again. Troi doesn't win any awards for genius in this episode, but assuming she didn't sleep through high school chemistry, even she couldn't miss that message.

A minor point: if I recall correctly, every "element" named in this episode, other than hydrogen, is fictitious. And finally, an even more minor point: the text written under the ship's archived image of hydrogen begins with the sentence "stored as deuterium". Yet, the actual picture depicts protium.

Yes, I am a nerd.
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Sun, Oct 16, 2016, 2:04am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S4: Brothers

Episodes like this one (the other primary offender being the otherwise phenomenal "Remember Me", in which Beverly runs the entire ship by giving orders to the computer) really make me wonder why Starfleet puts over a thousand people - including families! - aboard a dangerous ship that comes perilously close to getting blown up once a week. The Enterprise obviously doesn't need them. "Brothers" is proof that one officer can not only manage the ship's affairs by himself, but he can do it while simultaneously fending off active resistance by an annoyed legitimate bridge crew. And if it's only Data who's so competent (at least Beverly didn't have a hostile onboard presence with which to contend), shouldn't at least he just be given his own ship? As in, a spacecraft whose entire "crew" consists of only him? He has no need of life support systems, he doesn't suffer from loneliness, and he can obviously captain a ship so well by himself that an entire trained Starfleet crew is powerless to unseat him. Making him work with others seems like a waste of his talents after seeing this.

But I don't want to appear negative on the episode. Fantastic story (save for the painfully contrived "sick little boy" subplot), and positively godly acting from Brent Spiner. It's a shame this is the only time in the series we get to see Dr. Soong outside of holograms and dream sequences. Top notch!
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Thu, Apr 28, 2016, 5:11pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S7: Inheritance

@William: That's an interesting interpretation that I can honestly say never once occurred to me over the years. And looking back, it's probably right.

Part of the fault lies with my memory, as I always recalled Soong using the word "terminate" (rather than "shut down"), which leaves a great deal less room for ambiguity. In my own defense, however, later in that scene (unless I am misinterpreting or misremembering once again), Soong tells Data that he programmed Julianna to "die" after living a long life, and he urged him, "don't rob her of that." We can still assume under your interpretation that Soong meant Julianna wouldn't be able to enjoy whatever time he programmed her to have left if she knew the truth - though it has to be admitted that this seems an odd and even slightly cruel thing to say to Data. But taken with the "shut down" remark, it bolstered my understanding that Julianna would permanently power down if she were exposed to that information.

Still, the episode's final act makes little sense if that is indeed what Soong was saying (especially since the officers didn't even comment on the abortive ethical dilemma I mentioned), so I'm going to go with you on this. It's easy for me to feel that the script should have been a little clearer, but for all I know I'm the only one who misunderstood.

Thanks for the clarification.
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Thu, Apr 28, 2016, 12:05am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S7: Inheritance

Strange how this episode short-circuits its own ethical dilemma (and equally strange that no one yet seems to have pointed out that it does so): Holo-Soong clearly states that he programmed Julianna to terminate in the event that she ever learned she was an android. Well, that certainly makes the decision of whether to tell her an easy one! After all, filling her in is equivalent to killing her - killing her, exactly the same as if you had put a knife through any ordinary human's chest. How can her "right" to know something absolve you of such an enormous, unaccountable responsibility? If you met a biological human whom you knew had a truly bizarre medical condition that would cause them to suffer a fatal stroke if they heard a particular sequence of words, and you willfully spoke that sequence to them with full knowledge of the consequences, how are you not a murderer?

Do you genuinely and earnestly believe that it is wrong to withhold from someone the fact that they are an artificial life form, making it morally correct to tell them and morally inexcusable not to? Well sir, then I guess Dr Soong is a contemptible monster. But whether he is or he isn't, he has made it so that you cannot fulfill this person's right to know without immediately and equivalently depriving them of another of their rights - the right to live. Soong has done a terrible thing, then, but your decision is made. You can't murder someone because you have something to tell them. "Dilemma" over.

I'm more than a little surprised that no one - Data, Picard, Crusher, Troi - even mentioned this while they were discussing the matter.
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Mon, Jun 16, 2014, 12:45pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S5: Bliss

Much of the relevant points about this episode have already been covered. It's a fun and engrossing story, blending Moby Dick, Jonah and the Whale, Jaws, and a number of other tales and cliches. Interesting that "Captain Ahab" Qatai survived the ending; usually characters of that archetype die or are ruined by the final act as an allegory on the futility of pursuing obsession. I was expecting him to sacrifice himself to get Voyager out, dying happily in the knowledge that he had given his life to deny his hated nemesis a meal.

There are, however, two major plot holes here:

1) Like Jammer, I can't sign on to the notion that this creature isn't sentient. Reading the minds of an entire crew of intelligent life forms and crafting pleasing fantasies based on the information you find there isn't something you can do without complex, reasoned thought. I understand that the writers had to address the issue of the creature's intelligence, and I get that they didn't want it to be smart. It would elevate Qatai's Ahab-style obsession to the more dignified level of a genuine rivalry, and of course it would raise the thorny issue of the creature's moral awareness, rather than keeping it a dumb beast that doesn't even understand that a survivor of one of its feeding attacks harbors personal hatred for it. In short, it would rip the soul out of the show's primary guest character and introduce complications that don't work to the story's benefit. But at least poor Moby Dick was just swimming around randomly, looking to eat; an unintelligent creature's ability to intelligently mess with people's heads severely strains credulity.

2) Ok, so I can accept that Seven of Nine is immune to the creature's influence. She's a former Borg drone who isn't even 100% sure she doesn't want to rejoin the Collective, and while there she literally had no individual wants at all. So it's believable that none of the wants which may have developed since she left are strong enough to fall prey to Moby Mindreader. I like how the beast even gave it the old college try by throwing the letter from her aunt at her, and failed, only then seeking to KO her when it became clear she wasn't going to play ball. The message being that even if you had the power to root around inside Seven's head and read her emotions directly, the one thing you'd find that she longs for more than any other is to have a family, and even that ranks under "meh" for her. But none of this should apply to the little subunit. Naomi is a child, and children are both gullible and possessed of intense, simplistic desires. The creature probably could have gotten her on-board by telling her the alpha quadrant was full of puppies and candy. Instead, so far as we're shown, it didn't even try. And unlike with #1, I'm not sure why. The Seven/Naomi interaction was certainly cute, but hardly essential to the story. Naomi's role could have been entirely filled by the Doctor with no ill effect. Totally glaring and unnecessary plot hole.

But, I don't mean to hate. As I said, it was a good episode, and deserves its 3 stars.
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Fri, Jun 13, 2014, 9:19am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S5: Relativity

This episode is hilarious. More than once, I just shut my eyes and shook with laughter while I was watching it. I nearly busted a gut during the scene in which Braxton is arrested on his own bridge for crimes he "is going to commit", by his first officer (who had a facial expression that looked like he'd just found out Braxton was sleeping with his wife), to a furtive plea of "I haven't done anything!" Comedy gold.

The plot, of course, is utter nonsense. We all know that. Viewed from outside the story, it's simply a chaotic mess that can't hope to fit together, while even the "logic" of the narrative itself often relies on the absurd notion that the past is somehow happening right now, just because you've got a man (or a woman) on the ground there. But we know better than to expect plots involving time travel to stand up to scrutiny. This one doesn't even try, which is to its benefit. It's just a ton of fun and that's all it strives to be.

A quick thought on Janeway: Something that has always been consistent about her character is her impatience with "temporal paradox", usually right down to her specifically claiming that it gives her a headache. It's as if the character is intelligent enough to realize how loony the concept of time travel is, and is exasperated by the fact that she has to live in a universe where it happens regularly. I see the hand of the writers in that, pointing out the insanity of their own cherished plot device (just as Jammer remarks on this episode being a self-criticism concerning how often the idea is used). It's good to know the writers are aware of these things.

Something else that's interesting to note, as Horan indicated, is that this story raises a morally challenging science fiction question, sometimes seen (and usually treated more seriously) elsewhere in the genre: If you could know for certain, based on scientifically provable methodology, that someone was going to commit a crime in the future, would it be right to preemptively arrest that person? It's a difficult dilemma that can tie you in knots, but the context in which it's brought up here is so hysterical that I didn't waste time grappling with it.

3.5 stars for being so funny.
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Mon, Jun 9, 2014, 1:28pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S5: Counterpoint

Come on, now. A race of over-the-top xenophobes that performs random warrantless searches and goes out of its way at every turn to show the rigidity of its authoritarian command hierarchy, all while hunting a powerless minority of innocent people who have committed no crime other than being born a certain way, doesn't scream "Nazi" to you? If they hadn't been this way, I find it hard to believe that Janeway would so readily have thrown the prime directive out the airlock. I can practically hear her voice saying "I'd like to get the Devore's side of this" before agreeing to smuggle people she knows nothing about. For all she knew, these telepaths were criminals fleeing justice, or political insurgents flying around planting bombs. But their enemies were bullying strangers with invasive police state tactics and trying to root out space Jews; that's all she (and we) needed.

Of course there have been similar regimes and persecutions elsewhere in history, but it is an established American literary device to make the bad guys - especially when they are cardboard bad guys not designed to have moral ambiguity or elicit any sympathy from the audience whatsoever - noticeably reminiscent of Nazis. The Empire from Star Wars is probably the most well-known example in science fiction. Voyager itself has done this before, again symbolically, in "Remember", and of course literally in "The Killing Game". It's an effective technique. Decades of social conditioning have already trained most people to (rightly) regard the Nazis as evil, so bringing them to mind in a group of bad guys sends a clear message to the audience in a short time: Don't worry about understanding or sympathizing with these characters; just hate them and root for the good guys to triumph over them. In terms of storytelling, it's one step deeper than making your antagonist an animated skeleton who laughs maniacally and sits on a throne of bones. And it works.

Finally, it's interesting that you should bring up "Prime Factors". I actually never thought Gath was as creepy as most others seemed to, probably because I found his accent amusing. I also thought it was plausible that Janeway was developing feelings for him during that episode. Ultimately, Gath never did anything but show her kindness; even when he did deceive her about the transporter technology (he was never going to give it to her or anyone else), it was only in an effort to get her to prolong her stay so she and her crew would decide for themselves that they didn't want to leave. That doesn't excuse lying, of course, but it's a far cry from a man who practically spent half of "Counterpoint" slapping Janeway with his generative organs. Besides, if I remember correctly, "Prime Factors" included a "kissus interruptus" scene (Gath and Janeway were about to kiss, but somebody walked in or something happened to distract them and ruin the moment). That's another American literary device, used by writers to signal that nothing happened. These characters like each other, they might be interested in taking it to another level, but it hasn't happened yet because their kiss got aborted. I can believe that; it doesn't move so fast (or give the viewer whiplash) as the Janeway/Kashyk thing did.
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Sun, Jun 8, 2014, 10:13pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S5: Counterpoint

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the symbolism here of protecting a caste of innocent people just trying to live their lives from a ruthless, authoritarian regime seeking to exterminate them for no good reason. This is an allegory for hiding Jews from the Nazis.

My biggest problem with this episode was the romantic tension between Janeway and Kashyk. It just doesn't work. I know Janeway is lonely and Starfleet is forgiving, but I don't buy for a second that she could go from resenting this man for subverting her authority to passionately kissing him like an old lover so quickly. In time, perhaps, but this episode didn't have enough of that and it makes the whole thing feel forced.

Other than that, an intriguing and interesting story. Not for the first time, Kate Mulgrew's performance carries the day. Sometimes I feel like this lady can say more with subtle facial expressions than with Janeway's entire not-unsophisticated vocabulary. A brilliant actress. On this show, only Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo can compare. Bravo.
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