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Peter G.
Fri, Aug 23, 2019, 3:56pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Homefront

@ Rahul,

If I were writing a sci-fi story I'd probably have to create some kind of timeline of how long it takes races to evolve into 'godhood' or whatever. Trek doesn't have a defined view on this and each writer does his/her own take on it. I don't think looking around for specific examples will tell us much about making a general rule here.

Even if it were established somehow that a million or so years is enough to become an energy being, there's (IMO) a very definite thread going through DS9 that the Founders are *extremely* stagnant, both in their worldview and in their way of life. All they want is to go into the Link and stay there. It's an aggravation for them to even have to interact with the rest of the galaxy. It's pretty much the definition of xenophobic shut-ins. Even if some other race could have developed more quickly in less time, my argument would be that the Changelings are ironically the most stuck race of them all, basically doing nothing for thousands of years at a time and sitting in their little orgy or whatever it is.

I think I once mentioned it on another thread but there's a good book called Calculating God by Sawyer, and (SPOILERS) the major premise in the book is that races tend to vanish randomly at a certain stage of development. We find out later in the book it's because as soon as a race has the technology to plug themselves into The Matrix, basically, and experience nothing but pleasure all the time they will do so. One method of doing this is to upload themselves into a computer system that will perpetuate their lives forever in paradise. To me that's basically what the Great Link is: the eternal pleasure button where you disappear and cease doing anything. It's Youtube surfing on ultra-steroids. Based on this premise (which I do think is intimated in the scripts, especially in S6) I would suggest that they have been completely stunted for an extremely long time, and that it takes losing a war and almost being wiped out by a virus to wake up and look around.
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Peter G.
Fri, Aug 23, 2019, 1:21pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: The Neutral Zone

@ Craig,

You're not wrong. There are some other times in the series where I get the distinct idea that the Enterprise crew is somewhat elistist and doesn't really like talking with people or aliens who are 'less civilized' than them.
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Peter G.
Fri, Aug 23, 2019, 12:36pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Homefront

@ Rahul,

I'm not confusing them, I outright said that in my head canon they're the same race (in other thread). However putting that aside the Changelings used to be solids and it's clear that in order to evolve from mammalian animals to metamorhps it would take millions of years. Of course evolution gets wonly once a race is sentient and we get into the whole technological singularity thing. So maybe in the Founders' equivalent of the 29th century or something they genetetically engineered themselves to be like that. I guess it's possible. But the story we're told in this series is that they naturally evolved to be like this, so that's a OLD process.

SPOILERS

We also see (and are told) that while in the link time doesn't pass normally for them like it does for solids, and they hate being out of the link because it means they have to monitor mundane day-to-day details. I can only guess about the technical details of this, but I would imagine that they might go hundres, or thousands of years at a time between noticing what's going on around them, aside from the few of them that have to remain out of the link for extended periods to TCB.

As for the narrative of why Odo's portrayed this way, it's because he's the Data-character: his role is to learn about humanity from the outside, the hard way, and it's a slow learning curve. The lack of mimicking well is a metaphorical way of us seeing that he really doesn't understand us yet. We might then ask how the Founders can do it, since clearly they don't either, but in their case we also know they are deceitful to the extreme, whereas Odo doesn't seem to be at all. So maybe the faces they put on are detailed but 'fake' in a way? Whereas Odo would only be able to do it if he really believes in what he's doing since he's too honest to lie. Just a thought.
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Peter G.
Thu, Aug 22, 2019, 9:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Homefront

@ Rahul,

It's probably because Odo's like 50 years old or whatever, and only gained consciousness maybe 10 years back, while the Founders from the Link are, I dunno, millions of years old or something. If my head canon is right, more like billions of years old.
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Peter G.
Wed, Aug 21, 2019, 12:36pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S3: Carpenter Street

@ Jason R.,

If you're going to quit, at least check out S4's Terra Prime. I can't quite guarantee it's gold, but it would suck to miss out on Peter Weller.
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Peter G.
Wed, Aug 21, 2019, 12:27pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S3: Past Tense, Part II

Thanks, Stejda.
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Peter G.
Tue, Aug 20, 2019, 10:43pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Infinite Regress

@ alcoremor,

I guess you might say that Seven's character progression forward in the series was marked by...infinite regress.
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Peter G.
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 1:58pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Coming of Age

@ Chrome,

I think you're on to something zeroing in on the angle of Wesley helping others in preference of winning. In fact I think that's almost the core of the entire episode. It's almost like they're trying to say that Wesley helping Mordock get in isn't fundamentally a loss for Wesley, but a win for everyone, including Wesley, so long as Wes doesn't look at Mordock as being a competitor. It's almost like it, but not quite, since this is really not the focus. Too bad, because that would have been a neat message.

In terms of being soft as a negative trait for a competitive academy, this brings to bear a tension in the series that persists into future seasons. How much is Starfleet an elite heirarchy trying to be the best, with the Enterprise especially being the ultra-elite, versus a representation of humanity pulling each other up and winning as a team rather than a group of individual over-achievers flying around cool ships? I don't think it's supposed to be just one or the other, but A Matter of Honor in S2 does a pretty explicity job - including direct references to Mordock and Wes' experiences here - of telling us that Starfleet *is not* about outshining everyone else on your own and rising to the top. Or at least, it's not supposed to be; maybe in practice it really is. People like Shelby (and young Riker) do make us wonder whether the "we're all a team" idea is more of an idea than a reality.

My issue here is: are we supposed to see Wes helping others as making him *more* Starfleet material, or *less* Starfleet material? We get zero on this front, which reflects my frustration earlier about the fact that we are totally left out of Starfleet's side of the admission process here. It really does seem to be a giant gag to have Wes fail just to see him finally fail at something.
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Peter G.
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 1:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Coming of Age

@ Chrome,

I guess that's the friendly way to look at it. For my part I have a tough time seeing any arc for Wesley that was actually intended and moved forwards. I *could* choose to look at this one as "Starfleet is challenging for him because it's not just about intellect", except we didn't see him failing at anything at all in this one. And we likewise don't get to see "Starfleet may not be for him", because he seems to thrive on the environment and sincerely admires the process and the instructors. The 'moral' at the end with Picard seems to be that even gifted people can fail, and they just need to try again. So on the surface the only point of having Wes fail seems to be to poke a hole in the "he's a Mary Sue who succeeds at everything" thing he had going. Basically he failed because of the Bugs Bunney phenomenon, where the write is making the character fail because the writer wants the character to fail (as Bugs does to Daffy), rather than because of any organic story reason why this makes sense.

I could see reasons why it *could* make sense, such as you suggest, or others that I suggested, but I'm sort of clear in my head now that these weren't intended here and that they were actually jerking us around with having Wes be absolutely perfect at everything and failing anyhow. But it's not even a Peak Performance lesson of 'it's possible to make no mistakes and lose', but rather us seeing Wes get whiplash just because he was due for a comeuppance from previous episodes. I'm not crazy about that, and it feels fake anyone because the script is sort of winking at Wes at the same time, basically acknowledging that he was the best candidate and that 'he'll get his due next time'.
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Peter G.
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 12:05pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Conspiracy

Just watched this one yet again. and one thing struck me that I hadn't thought about before. One issue with the script always seemed to be that the aliens acted like idiots. Why, after all, would Admiral Quinn not just act as normal as possible, get Beverly like he intended, and go back down to the planet quietly? And then after changing plans and choosing Riker instead, why taunt him, tell him about a superior life form, and then wait around for security to come, only in order to taunt Worf as well and give everyone every chance to catch him?

I guess one 'conspiracy theory' could be that Quinn retained some control over himself and wanted to let the Enterprise know what it needed to stop the aliens. But let's put that aside because no hint of that is given other than his irrational choices.

What did occur to me, however, is that we are repeatedly shown the aliens taking incredible chances, and enjoying it. One thing very palpable when Quinn is making stupid decisions is that he's grinning like an idiot through it as if he just can't wait to wipe the floor with some fools. He barely even seems to care about his mission, compared with gloating about how strong he is. And likewise on the planet, when the senior admirals needlessly taunt Picard with worms and toy with him, even though in theory his ship in orbit could beam him out any time. They seem to think that by having a single guy with a phasor in the room they can do whatever they want.

When Riker enters and tricks them, they tell him to "relish" his new body, and that's exactly what I get when watching these parasites do anything: they do everything with relish, almost like kids trying out a new toy. I'm starting to think this portrayal was no accident, because later Remmick's alien is referred to as the mother creature. Could these other parasites have been actual children, acting like children despite being highly intelligent?

Maybe the reason the invasion failed is because a single mother alien who got to Earth kind of by happenstance was trying to do it all alone, using her little kids to do most of the work, whereas if she had gotten other alien mothers to come join maybe they'd have been able to reign in the kids a little more.

I'm not quite sure this is what they were going for, but it's sure what it looks like. All of these parasites parade around their powers, taunting people for fun every chance they can get, and basically laughing while they're doing it. It sure does make them seem evil, which I guess was the intent. But maybe it makes more sense to think of them as immature rather than evil; it would certainly explain the many unexplainable blunders they make.
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Peter G.
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 11:33am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Coming of Age

I recently rewatched this one and was surprised at one thing from the ending: Wesley feels like he failed to get into the Academy, and I guess I had always thought so too.

SPOILERS

Much discussion sprang from the fact that an average Nog could get in but the mighty Wesley Crusher failed, meaning they had retconned the difficulty level; or perhaps the war lowered the bar. But in hindsight I'm not 100% sure the reasons in this episode are so clear. The admissions officer outright tells Wesley that he lost a bit of time helping Mordock, but that it was other reasons too that he didn't get in. And we're not given those. But I can think of a few that have nothing to do with getting in being impossible:

-Wesley was just about to turn 16! He might have been deemed too young just as that moment, no matter how smart he was.
-Since he had such a fortunate situation to serve on the Enterprise already, they may have thought it was in his interest to continue with that for as long as possible, since after graduating from the academy he might be stationed anywhere.
-Meta-reason obviously being the showrunners didn't want to write him off. In a sense, 'he's too important to be at the academy, rather than not good enough.'
-The Traveller had hinted that Wesley was destined for something better, so maybe they feared the academy wasn't for him and that he needed more time to figure it out?
-Mordock was the first Benzite ever admitted to starfleet, so it also seems more than likely that this poliical consideration would be of far more importance *for the Federation* than having one more genius in Starfleet.

I definitely didn't take away this time that Wesley wasn't good enough to get in or anything like that. However, one of the weaknesses of the episode is that we get too much from the boy wonder POV and almost nothing from Starfleet's side. If they have some specific reason we're not treated to even a hint of it. And worse than that, we're supposed to have this wonder about the great wisdom of the admittance process, like they have the key to every person's mind. But if so, I never saw them administer any test or ask Wesley any questions that even hinted at the fact that it might be best if he waits a year. He seemed to just pass everything, so we're left with this false notion that he 'deserved' to get in and that he just arbitrarily had it held from him. But that doesn't make sense, so the script is missing something.
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Peter G.
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 11:21am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Amok Time

@ Chrome,

What this episode says to me is that *no one* can contain their emotions forever, not even the superior Vulcans. Even with them there comes a point of explosion where they run amok. The title sort of says it all, even though I never understood it as a kid: there is, and always will be, a time when amok becomes inevitable, and for a Vulcan every seven years is amok time (i.e. the time comes to run amok). The fact that they are hyper-logical means that they regulate and ritualize even their going out of control, so that they can sanitize and control it, so that the seven-year itch becomes a part of their culture rather than an objection to it. Whether that actually works or makes sense is up to the viewer, especially with what a conniving wife Spock was matched with.

That's another thing I liked about this one, that subsequent Treks seemed to want to scrub: "logical" doesn't have to mean nice; it means efficient. In this sense they may indeed have something in common with the Romulans. So we have on display both that Vulcans do go out of control, in carefully prescribed ways (which reminds me of Festival in Return of the Archons) and also that their logic also serves as a shield for good old duplicity.

The closest we come to an analogy to this veneer vs reality thing is in DS9 with Odo , who's the Spock-character for that show (each show has one). In that one we get a more vivid look at the difference between an outward virtue and the inward forces that drive it.

I guess I don't see the Vulcans as retconned later on so much as the focus being on how logical they are. They ended up being more of a caricature of themselves later on, for the most part being 'the logic guys' rather than 'the guys who put up a front of logic.' Episodes like Sarek and even Take Me Out to the Holosuite do bring back this notion of the interior thing being far different from the exterior.
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Peter G.
Sat, Aug 17, 2019, 5:08pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: In the Pale Moonlight

@ Strejda,

Most of Jellico's actions were preparatory, and maneuvering with the Cardassians bought them room. But the only action that ended the invasion and saved Picard was committing a preemptive act of war by entering the nebula to mine the Cardassian ships. Deployment of mines is already an act of war, no less *on Cardassians ships* with whom they had a treaty.

Picard would never have done that, and therefore it took a bulldog like Jellico to get this done. Captain Maxwell would have been up to it as well.
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Peter G.
Tue, Aug 13, 2019, 7:06pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S3: Impulse

@ Jason R.,

AFAIK it was pretty well-understood, even while the series was still on the air, that the cast just had no chemistry with each other. I don't know how much of an explanation this can really be for the various problems ENT has, which in my opinion also includes the scripting and even the general [lack of] direction of the series. Personally I think the actual show concept is deeply flawed, and the casting of the Captain exemplifies it. How can a show rise above being mediocre when its entire premise is that average Joe American is as good as any other Captain and can win the day through honest-to-goodness simple values and common sense rather than book lernin'. I mean the dog really says it all. It sells the Captaincy the way George W Bush sold the Presidency - the guy next door who might just as soon be on a ranch as in the command seat. I guess this is like Cdr. Eddington's manifesto taken seriously by the showrunners.

As it happens I sympathize with the notion that being 'book-smart' isn't all there is to it, but I don't think portraying the Captain as a sort of bumpkin is the way to go about that kind of story. I may be going a bit far attributing this as the core of the show's lack of greatness, but it's my first instinct to think it is.
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Peter G.
Tue, Aug 13, 2019, 2:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Wounded

@ Chrome,

Good points. One difference I see in the case of the Cardassians is that we have no reason to believe good faith on their part, whereas in the case of the modern world I think we need to be cautious about the motives of other nations. Like, there is no Federation on Earth right now, and all actors involved are provoking each other. But in Maxwell's case I really do believe his assessment is correct, that negotitation with Cardassia is just used by them as a stall tactic to regroup, and that there are literally immune to being persuaded by treaties or overtures.

Now some of our 'certainty' of this comes as a result of being a viewer and seeing things most people don't or can't see in real life. And this also goes across two Trek series. So we have 'cheat' info that doesn't exist in real life, and that has to be taken into account. I too am deeply disturbed by war hawks, but for some reason in this particular case I find myself unwilling to believe that Maxwell is actually doing anything that provokes them. What it does is give them room to complain and make demands, which for them is a strategic consideration, but I don't think they are actually aggrieved in the sense of being pushed into violence when they otherwise would have avoided it. For the most part I think the Federation was not just fair to them but in fact seemed to go overboard to satisfy them according to DMZ colonist. Picard's position in this one seems less to me like JFK in the Cuban Missile Crisis and more like Neville Chamberlain when making a treaty with Nazi Germany. Or at least, Picard *risks* being seen in that light if things go pear-shaped and the treaty ends up being blamed for Cardassia being able to regroup and re-arm. It's his "we'll be watching" that at least shows he's got teeth and isn't just in it for appeasement.
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Peter G.
Tue, Aug 13, 2019, 1:32pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Wounded

Good points, HackFarlane. I definitely also get the sense that the crew of the Rutledge is loyal to him for a reason.

And in my view it's clear as crystal that Maxwell is 100% correct about the Cardassians. The only difference between him and Picard is that Picard believes in honoring treaties for their own sake, and for the sake of the ideal of peace, whereas Maxwell won't pretend to honor a treaty that the other side isn't honoring anyhow. Especially not when he believes they're planning an invasion.

SPOILERS

And he is right about that too, since one season later we find out that's exactly what they're doing. If not for Jellico discovering their hidden fleet and neutralizing it I have to believe that they'd have successfully invaded a Federation system and begun a new war.

So the only question in this episode is whether it's morally right to play the bad cop and get the information proving their activities, or to be like Picard and sue for peace almost at any cost. I don't want to call Picard naive in this case, but I've said before that if Picard had been in charge during Chain of Command things would have turned out poorly for the Federation. We should be thankful for men like Picard to reign in bullies and pragmatists, but at the same time we should be thankful for Jellicos and Maxwells who have the guts to go in and get the job done. I do like in this episode that Maxwell isn't shown to be a disgraceful Captain gone off the rails, but rather just one who's seen too much to let the Cardassians get away with it again. When O'Brien talks him down at the end the turning point into their conversation isn't that Maxwell is a loose cannon who needs to be taken in, but rather than he's tactically out of options. That's why it was important for it to be O'Brien, who could size up any tactical situation instantly, who had to be the one to tell him. Maxwell wasn't a bad Captain, just out of options in this particular circumstance. He wanted to be able to do something about it, sort of in heroic fashio, but there was just no feasible way to do it within Federation law.

"The Wounded" is therefore not just the war-weary veterans who would say "never again" when seeing the Cardassians ramping up for war again, but also perhaps the voices of the dead crying out for something to be done when the enemy is on the move again. This balance between "don't act just because you've been injured" and "act because the wounded need you to act for them" seems to be central to this episode. Likewise, the Cardassians being described as pack wolves (at some point, can't remember if it's here) plays to this theme because their M.O. is to prey on the wounded, which is exactly the last thing a benevolent society should tolerate.
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Peter G.
Mon, Aug 12, 2019, 10:03pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: Elementary, Dear Data

@ Springy,

I thought a bit just now about this matter of the dangling plot thread of whether Data was capable of coming up with something truly original. But your take on it seems to be that this thread gets dropped when Moriarty becomes sentient. But wait a minute! Does that not actually continue the thread but in an unexpected way? After all, what is Moriarty but an original creation somehow concocted by the ship's computer when Geordi gives an arbitrarily vague instruction. That is certainly pretty creative on the computer's part to follow the instruction in this precise way and to somehow imbue the character not only with the technical tools needed to beat Data, but also with a personality that goes beyond a lame story cliche.

So when the story gets Shanghaied by Moriarty, it seems that the computer itself has answered Pulaski's challenge about whether an artificial intelligence can be creative. And we know that the computer has proven its case by the very fact that this detail is ignore! Pulaski, you may note, is perfectly happy to accept that Moriarty is a person, due the full extent of courtesy and conversation that she never even thought to offer Data. He passes her intellectual Turing test so well that she doesn't even think for a moment that she needs him to try to pass it. And I doubt it's just because he's more human-looking than Data, because I doubt she'd have offered that same courtesy to some other fictional character in the story. Somehow he actively commanded her respect and she gave it without realizing she had done it.

I can't be 100% sure the writers intended this to exactly be 'the answer' to her question but it certainly is one. The thing she wanted to have proven for her is exactly what she got, and the result was totally off the rails compared to what she wanted. She thought it would be a cute and controlled experiment, where she'd probably be proven right but even if not she could observe it from her cushy vantage point as observer. The fact that she was in fact dragged into danger and over her head is what *actually* happens when you do an experiment of this sort, seeing what computers are really capable of. Picard had to come in and negotiate precisely because the entity they created had a mind of its own and couldn't be controlled in a careful environment - just like real computer AI will be one day.
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Peter G.
Sun, Aug 11, 2019, 10:29am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

I don't see any value for anyone in trying to answer a hateful diatribe. My last post was a request that we stop trying to flash credentials in attempts to shut down discussion, and that we not treat each other condescendingly. And this got pushback! That's really all I can say about that.
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Peter G.
Sat, Aug 10, 2019, 3:37am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

@ Booming,

I don't want to push this line of the argument any further, but just consider that not being a sociologist doesn't actually disqualify people to make commentary about human society. If it did - which you're making it sound like - then others could play the same game but with different specialties. Like, how about someone who's studied logic: "you have no business arguing points of logic with me, you don't even have a degree in logic!" or how about philosophy (so much broader): "don't presume to debate symbolic meaning with me when you don't know squat." We could play these games forever. And since we're talking about Jordan Peterson (though heaven knows why): "how ignorant to criticize a clinical psychologist when you haven't read the literature." Or the best maybe would be "how can you analyze fictional TV when you aren't even a qualified art critic or dramaturge?"

But of course all of these lines are utterly ridiculous. Anyone is capable of speaking on matters that are common to our experience. We all live in societies, use our brains, and consume lots of media, so are qualified in our own ways to speak about these, although perhaps not as 'experts' per se. Shutting down good discussion from some kind of "you haven't done the math, begone" perspective doesn't particularly help anyone at best, and at worst actually shines a bad light on the discipline that's apparently trained people to discourse like this (in this case, sociology).

I'd like to suggest we stick to the episode rather than to flash credentials around. The ideas we put forward will speak for themselves, and more often than not good discussions come from people of differing backgrounds without anyone having to prove they're an expert.
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Peter G.
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 12:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

@ Jason R,

"It's not like I called him"

'Her', just for the record.
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Peter G.
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 11:22am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

@ Chrome,

It's not that butt-slapping is portrayed as good. When Bulldog does that to someone (like Roz) the show intends you to chuckle and say "haha what a jerk" and find him lovable, which absolutely clashes with a modern view of such an action, which would be "he is a sex criminal and that is a fireable offence." Now because the show is so good he actually does come off as lovable, but my point is more that it's not in vogue nowadays to even try to pass an action like that as funny rather than as sexual assault. It's just a dated thing, because it's still clear that in context of the show we're meant to condemn the action itself. So I didn't mean to say the show is regressive in terms of women's roles. If anything Roz and Daphne are the only characters that have their heads screwed on, while the men are nuts. I just meant to say that some things that could be taken in stride in the 90's wouldn't pass muster now, and that observing such things is ok, so long as we don't start saying it's a "fact" that Frasier is a sexist show.
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Peter G.
Thu, Aug 8, 2019, 10:35am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

@ Jason R & Booming,

Jason, I assume in this context the word "feminist" is being taken as a dig because of the "feminism 101" moniker.

Booming, despite the fact that the use of "feminist" in regards to your comments may not have sounded like a compliment, I see no reason to deny it anyhow; your arguments are plainly of a strongly feminist perspective. I mean, that's ok, I presented a feminist argument regarding this episode too. But let's face it - I don't think it's even possible to use a term like "masculinist" without it being a feminist argument. I just want to say for my own part I think that's totally ok, and absolutely great to present feminist arguments regarding 90's tv and how those portrayals play now.

As it happens, I'm doing a watch-through of Frasier now with my wife, and we're occasionally dumbstruck as the casual sexism that passed for 'comedy' in the early 90's. Like guys in an office slapping a lady's butt, which is supposed to be taken as "oh, that guy!" or the casual sexual harassment of people in the office constantly referencing her sex life in pejorative terms. So yeah, I'm down with re-evaluating 90's stuff from a modern perspective to see how it's aged.

That being said, I think you need to try to balance that approach to analyzing material with not jumping to conclusions about other people being "part of the patriarchy" when they don't agree with you. You seem to have insinuated, for instance, that this episode is just a pervy ritual and that those of us who discuss it in any terms other than condemning it are just part of the problem. But the actual tenor of the conversation has been precisely about whether Kamala is presented as having agency, about whether the episode portrays all of this as being good or bad, and about whether Picard did right or wrongly by her. I think so far zero people have said how great it is that there's a perfect mate on the scene, and at any rate Skeptical and I have both agreed with each other that it's destructive for both sides to view women as objects. So this remark -

"Have fun with your more nuanced debate about a creepy fantasy. :D"

- seems out of place to me and not really on point, even though I get the idea that it was sort of snarky on purpose.
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Peter G.
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 12:41pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: Samaritan Snare

Thanks, William. I'm not really saying that Tapestry messed up or anything, especially as it's one of my favorite episodes. Just that the extraneous 'other best friends' doesn't really add anything to my understanding of Picard, and since the Jack/Beverly friendship goes *so* unspoken of in the series I Iike to imagine that his whole 'heart-trauma' stemmed from that triangle.

I like your points about Wesley perhaps taking the wrong lesson from Picard's career-minded attitude, and it also brings into relief why Riker *does* need it so much. Riker is filled with other great qualities that are good for him, but if anything his 'weakness' is that he doesn't seem able to get over choosing Starfleet over Troi. Maybe we're supposed to understand that Picard didn't 'really' get over his choices either, but in Riker's case the question seems open about whether the Captaincy is really for him, or whether he'd rather seek more of a compromise between career and family.

As far as you rewatching the episode goes, it has a lot more in it that's interesting than I ever rememebered. Back in S1-2 they were very concerned about character development in a way that was perhaps more clunky and random than in S3-7, but also often more illuminating. The themes in S3-7 tend to be very cleanly written but also super-focused into the plot, like Worf in Ethics or Data in The Most Toys. In these earlier episodes we see 'Picard stuff' littered around the episode without spelling out for us exactly why it's in the story, which at least gives us something to watch other than the main plot. I wouldn't say the shuttle scenes are riveting, but I enjoyed this one more than I thought I would this time around.
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Peter G.
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 1:54am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

@ Theo,

(1) I don't agree that Kamala would have been perfectly happy if Picard hadn't interfered. She would have been perfectly *suited* to Aldrik, but his ideal mate may very well have been someone who would suffer while he was happy. Just because it's her nature to imprint on a guy doesn't mean any result at all will make her happy. It will fulfill her biological need to imprint, just like eating fulfills my biological need for food. But if the food I eat is poisonous I'm both following my nature and harming myself. As far as I can tell she was basically being forced to sacrifice herself. The only difference between what would have happened and what did happen is that imprinted with Picard's values she knowingly accepted the sacrifice and was happy to do her duty. That is worlds away from the other ending, where she follows her nature and is sacrificed without really understanding that being unhappy isn't 'good'.

(2) I really don't recall anyone insisting she's just an empty shell. Are you sure that was actually said? I can barely even see how that's possible anyhow. What if she's in a room with just a computer - what, she becomes an iPhone?

(3) "Persecution of any social class is not primarily a result of the victim not understanding their own humanity. Nor is the way out for the oppressor to teach the victim how to be free."

Not what I said. I said that a step towards freedom/equality is the oppressor *wanting* the oppressed to be free. I didn't say that is literally the only way it can come about. Especially in systems where both the oppressors and oppressed would fight to maintain the system, as we see in certain societies right now, it takes *someone* in a position of power to say that it's not right for things to begin to change. But even this is more specific than what I intended. My main point was that in the case where you have a literal slave, they're not going to go free unless (a) they overpower you (usually they won't be able to) or else (b) if you want to free them. There is nothing dehumanizing about suggesting that slavers actually have to agree to free slaves for them to be freed. This can basically be classified under 'duh'. The point isn't that Kamala needs Picard to teach her what freedom is. I'm sure her education is fine. What she needs is for someone like him to *value* her freedom, so that she in turn can copy that value by wanting what he wants. Think about it in terms of someone you actually care for. If they'll tend to do what you ask of them, then consider that it may be a kindness to ask them to do something you feel is good for them. That's actually a good motivator sometimes!

@ Skeptical,

I don't disagree with some of your points, and I actually like the "child imprint" idea. I don't think this was intended, but it's a neat head-canon to go with for fun. That said, I don't really see your point about meta-narrative being superfluous. Sure, it's *secondary*, since nothing can replace great story writing. However plenty of stellar episodes like BOBW have oodles of meta-narrative and they work just fine, never bogging us down in metaphor. Having a multi-layered story only hampers the experience for us if the main plot is a thinly veiled morality piece strung over little content. And I agree that this is a very bad approach to fiction writing. But I think The Perfect Mate works fine as both a literal story as well as a meta-narrative about treating others as objects. I mean it's pretty plain, isn't it, that in this episode we at least briefly imagine how awesome it would be to have someone like that to ourselves; that is, before we realize how unfair it is to that person and in a way unfair to ourselves as well. If you view Kamala as nothing more than an alien alien that we can't relate to then I actually care much less about her. The fact is, I do care about her in the show and therefore I must conclude that this interpretation doesn't fit - at least not for me.
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Peter G.
Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 11:48am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

If we're going to look at the meta-narrative here, rather than just called Kamala a sci-fi alien of the week, it's not really tenable to argue that her nature is the way it is because she's totally alien and that we shouldn't judge that. It's pretty clear that these kinds of episodes are written to portray some aspect of humanity using the sci-fi setting. In this case I think we should be obliged to conclude that Kamala is a portrayal of the patriarchal ideal of days yore of a woman being a thing to satisfy a man. The episode seems to explore what effect this has on *both parties* in that kind of sexist scenario. It's bad for her, since her 'real desires' become something so obscured that it's difficult to tell if she even has them; and it's bad for the men because they're constantly up against some weird reflection of their own desires that can shift depending on which man is doing the looking. It not only objectifies the woman, but in a strange way also trivializes the man's desire for love. If both parties are focused on the man's desires then that's not a love-situation, and is destructive for both parties. The men on the Enterprise end up going crazy when around her, and I don't think it's just because she's just so damn awesome. Rather, it's actually destabilizing and harmful when you are granted more ownership over someone else than you have any right to. So from this perspective I have to assess the scenario as being about the harms caused by a culture objectifying women. I tend to agree with others who have mentioned that it's 'convenient' that the writers neglected to include an example of a male metamorph.

But actually let's discuss that for a moment. What if the mention of male metamorphs being very common shouldn't be thrown away just yet. Could it imply that in a culture of objectifying women the men will be prone to do anything it takes to get their prize, including changing their behavior to fit whatever will help them score points? Maybe I'm reading too much into this and presuming the sexist angle. But I wonder whether the fact that there are many more male metamorphs than female is supposed to be a balancing thing or not for the viewer.

In the case of Kamala's interactions with Picard, it's true that we could view her statements to him with just as much suspicion as with her interactions with others; that she's just saying it to get to him. However in his case maybe we should be assuming that since he'd be averse to someone flattering him and lying (unlike Riker who probably enjoys a bit of coy games) that her statements would be coming from a place of integrity when with him. As I mentioned much earlier in the thread this would still make it objectification within a patriarchy, that she should adopt his values, even if they are good values. However maybe what the episode is trying to say here is that in a culture where women just adapt to be whatever men want, the way out of this is for some men to begin wanting them to be independent. The compliance of the women might still be influenced by their reliance and weighing what the men want, but on the other hand being molded into that particular image could well act as a 'last stop' of their objectification. It's kind of like if we were playing Simon Says and I gave the command "Simon Says to never obey what I say again". The game would then effectively end if they were following the rules, and maybe we're supposed to take Kamala locking into Picard-mode as being analogous to this: that once a woman adopts those particular values (dignity, integrity, duty) that the game of objectification would naturally come to an end and she would cease feeling the need to change for every man that comes along.

Would this reading not make it a rather feminist episode?
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