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Peter G.
Sat, Sep 26, 2020, 11:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: The Ship

I guess I should at least quickly bring this back to DS9, because what we're shown isn't merely a clash of cultures like Klingons loving conquest up against egalitarian humans, or even Cardassians thinking they're better than everyone in the degree of their achievements and advances. With the Founders we're dealing with a point of view about life that cannot be explained merely as a result of aggression by their neighbors, whatever they occasionally claim about having been hunted. The Dominion doesn't merely want to bring others to their knees in order to create "breathing room" or to ensure their own protection. Like Walt in Breaking Bad (SPOILERS) they do it because at bottom they just want to. It's not that the Federation is a threat to them, it's that humanoids are like bugs to them, insects to step on. Inasmuch as early Cardassians are portrayed as Nazi-esque and Orwellian, they are actually not quite the real deal in terms of that cultural superiority mentality. Oh, they're in the running, but they do know that Humans are crafty, Klingons good fighters, and all that. But the Founders really believe everyone else is just nothing, to be stamped on, and there is really no way to reason with that. Whatever may have originally caused the Dominion to become expansionist, nothing ever made them develop this idea that the life of one Founder is worth more than the entire Alpha Quadrant. That is entirely on them and (IMO) their lack of awareness. Want to blame a tense atmosphere partly on the Federation? I guess I can buy that. But blaming the Federation for the actual events that take place, which in their pre-history include planets such as we see in The Quickening, no; no one except the Founders is responsible for that.
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Peter G.
Sat, Sep 26, 2020, 11:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: The Ship

@ Trent,

I think you're misconstruing the general tenor of my argument. The point of your recent post is something along the lines of the momentum and ecology of large forces shape adaptations and behavior on a large scale, and can't be ascribed to individual will. I will in fact be a top proponent of this theory of history. I never said that you were wrong about how major powers caused aggressive changes in the Axis powers. I certainly believe that about Germany. What I think Jason R is saying, and what I am definitely saying, is that nothing the allies ever did caused them to resort to such monstrosity that it would take a skilled horror writer to come up with it. Did Versailles make the people angry and want (in so many words) to see the scapegoats hauled down the streets? Maybe so. Did it mentally arm them for a war machine that would leave the enemy dead at their feet? That is easy to accept. It's not easy to accept that the economic vise they were in, coupled with the humiliation of going from winning the Franco-Prussian war to being reduced to a vassal, should then translate into acts that Dracula would shy away from. The popped balloon of Africa may translate into a military explosion, but does not explain the wholesale attempt at a genocide of a people currently irrelevant to the war effort. Now we may say that there are other genocides on record; true enough. What seems to separate the Nazi one is the brutal efficiency - industrially planned - of the genocide, the coldness of it. And what also separates it is the experiments. Which leads us back to the Japanese, who even exceeded the excesses of the Nazis, to the point where Nazi reports back about certain Japanese activities had them saying that, uh, I know we're badass but this is really crazy. You can say all you want about how Japanese militarism was basically inevitable; but there was nothing inevitable (on the side of allied actions) about their atrocities. It's not just about deaths, it's about thinking of the victims as literally not the same species. And unlike the British and French, which may be guilty of plenty (and I am not about to defend the American war efforts of the 20th century), here we're dealing with - in both cases - Master Race mentalities that go further back than the allied interference you mention. Already by the mid-1800's the proto-Nazi movement was afoot, capped up in their victory against France (which they deemed a cultural victory), and even prior to America's actions with Japan there was the idea that all other peoples were inferior. No one made the Germans and Japanese that way, unless you want to trace all things back to, I dunno, the first molecules of the formation of the Earth. But if you're looking for proximate causes, the Americans and British did not cause those mentalities in the Japanese and Germans, and these are the requisite factors in what I'm describing. Not the militarism, which I agree is easy to explain and predictable, but in the other stuff and the excesses. I think if you read detailed accounts you'll see that this was like nothing the British or later Americans were doing.
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Peter G.
Sat, Sep 26, 2020, 3:56pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: The Ship

The comparison between GB/USA and Nazi Germany is so odious that a simple reductio ad absurdum is in order: what the Nazis did was so unbelievable to the allies that they literally did not imagine it was going on. And as Han Solo put it, they could imagine a lot. The very fact that they couldn't conceive the the barbarity and conditions the Nazis created is proof enough that they did not ever use methods like this. That should be enough for that argument.

If you are trying to create an equivalence in damage done over time, etc etc, this requires a broader view of history, a definition of what "damage" is, and a view of accepted values as they shifted between the early 1800's and the mid 1900's. Citing old British Imperialism in comparison to acts committed after the advent of TV is just crazy.

I'll address one particular in the flurry of statements. Trent said:

" The Japanese wouldn't have become techno-fascists if not for the forced market reforms of the Americans."

Don't know if you know much about Japanese society now, or how it was in the 1800's, and I am by no means highly knowledgeable in it myself, but NO ONE could have made them what they were other than themselves. They were utterly isolated and unique leading up to the opening of the technological and cultural floodgates, and what happened after that was not forced on them. No one 'caused them' to become, during WWII, a military culture that made the Nazis look gentle in comparison. That they did all on their own.
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Peter G.
Thu, Sep 24, 2020, 10:27am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: The Ship

@ Trent,

Since you already granting that diplomacy with the Dominion is futile, the only other side that remains that you mentioned is to show the Federation trying it anyhow. I guess I wouldn't have minded that, but personally showing airtime of futile negotiations with essentially Hitler would cast the Federation perpetually in the role of Chamberlain, which is not flattering. And I do disagree with this statement:

"You have to ignore the Federation working with the Cardassians and Romulans to genocide the Founder homeworld. You have to ignore Sisko constantly sending cloaked warships and runabouts into or near Dominion space. You have to ignore, in this episode, him appealing to 17th century human salvage rights to justify stealing another Empire's crashed ship."

I don't think any of these things require ignoring. I blatantly disagree with those who call the Federation complicit in Tain's attack on the Founders. The Federation is not a Dominion ally and has *no* right or reason to intercede on their behalf when being attacked by a foreign power. It is not even a moral imperative to do something, let alone a legally mandated action. Now maybe the issue of genocide itself opens up issues, but I'm not even sure Sisko had any idea the fleet was going in to do anything other than attack. The only time I think we hear it's about wiping out the Founders was Tain saying it to Garak. I guess I could be remembering that wrong.

Other than that, all of these "incursions" into Dominion space by Sisko, the Federation, Vulcans, Bajorans, etc, were labeled *by the Dominion* as aggressions, but the show is very clear that they are nothing of the sort. The Dominion essentially claimed to have annexed the entire Gamma Quadrant, which if you realize the scale of that is utterly preposterous. And they clearly only did so because of the wormhole, making their claim mealy mouthed and dishonest. Basically their view really is that they own anything they say they own. But that's not how territory rights and borders work, which in real life must be negotiated (or won at the point of a gun). You only 'own everything' if no one can stop you, which is what the Dominion assumes by default. But their idiotic claim doesn't make the desire to explore vast space an "incursion" that by any reasonable definition shows the Federation as aggressive. The only outright aggressive action the Federation really took until later seasons was sending the Odyssey, and even they it was only for a rescue mission (to save a Starfleet Commander) and not to attack.

From that standpoint the series in no way IMO shows reciprocal provocation from both sides. There is essentially no provocation from the side of the Federation, which I think almost goes far enough by itself to count as their diplomatic effort. I might have also liked the odd episode of attempted peace-making, but we do get one conversation pre-minefield between Sisko and Weyoun that sums up nicely what all other diplomacy would have been like. This is not a Versailles/Germany situation where one side goes on the warpath but where you pushed them there. This is the real Federation as we know it, confronted with a bully. Probably not much different than early dealings with the Klingons.
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Peter G.
Thu, Sep 24, 2020, 9:14am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Melora

Not sure if someone above has addressed this, but another part of the problem with this as a portrayal of a disabled person is that part of the sci-fi premise in the window dressing (her home planet) actually makes it so that she's not simply *disabled* but rather differently abled. Unlike the euphemism used by some now, to indicate they are "abled" but not in the way of the majority (which is really a dishonest way of saying they are indeed disabled in that one aspect but have other abilities), in the case of Melora she really isn't disabled at all, just unsuited to that particular Earth-like environment, whereas in her native environment she no doubt is vastly superior to Sisko and the others. She breaks the direct parallel to disabled people and instead makes it more of an adaptation issue. Within context of this show, she's as disabled on DS9 as someone now on Earth is who has a 2 am - 10 am natural sleep cycle. They will be at a disadvantage if the majority rule is that you're at work from 9-5, but it's not so much that they're disabled sleep-wise since they would be perfectly functional if work started at 11 am, but rather just poorly adapted to the current social structure and would do better perhaps than other people if it was other than it was.

Because of this and other mixed messages I've never thought this episode worked pretty much at all. The one possibly nice premise, of someone who loves zero-G, could never work in a series that won't afford cable budgets all the time to have flying scenes. If this was shot now it would be a whole different story.
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Peter G.
Tue, Sep 22, 2020, 12:33am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Statistical Probabilities

@ Booming,

This may indeed be a translation issue, because it is not the case in English parlance that the term "science" is ever used in a rigorous sense to include fields such as law. That lawmaking involves a necessary human element, and therefore observations and conclusions, is not the scientific method any more than literally any field at all is scientific. Your definition just means that we use thinking and observing to advance, but that's not what the term means in proper English. If it did then literally all areas of thought would be science in this loose way of speaking.

There is, however, a colloquial use of the term that just means "body of knowledge" or "technique", so for example we might use a turn of phrase like "I have perfected the science of persuasion", which is actually derivative of an old usage whereby science basically just meant human art. And like the term "art" there is now a technical meaning to both terms that has obsoleted the older and more inclusive usages. We can say, for instance, "the art of cooking" colloquially but are not confused into thinking that a cook is a literal artist. Although (once again colloquially) we do sometimes call high-level masters of a discipline "true artists" in order to underline how good they are, but that measures a degree of skill rather than a type of skill in that usage. But by and large the term "art" now refers either to 'the arts' or else to technical disciplines that have 'terms of art' which is to say technical jargon; although this latter use again should not confuse anyone into thinking that a professional knowledge in their terms of art is 'an artist', any more than a person who thinks scientifically (i.e. logically) is therefore a 'scientist'.

In the technical use of 'science' it can only mean a discipline making use not only of observation and thinking (which comprises all human endeavor) but rather employs hypothesis, experiment, data, conclusion, and new hypotheses. And even more specifically, not just any tests will do. For example I could test whether particular comments will annoy my friends, form a hypothesis, test it, conclude, and retest a new hypothesis, but this is not science. The main difference is that what we call "science" is specifically designed to remove the human element from the equation so that human error, prejudice, false judgement, and bias are eliminated maximally from the equation. Any field which employs a form of thinking such as "what kind of data do you think this produced" or even "what kinds of information are really data" is not what we would call science, although again colloquially there can be 'a science' of the study of that subject (meaning we learn about it). Psychology (especially social psych) and economics are particularly good examples of fields with plentiful study and tests, which whose conclusions are always couched in the assumptions of the test-makers and observers. This is why such a large degree (I would argue the vast majority) of study in these fields amounts basically to "did we even test in a meaningful way" and even if they did, still leaves them with "but what can we draw from this that is conclusive and which we can call solid data?" Making sense out of that quagmire is where the social sciences still have to cut their teeth, because the issue of the validity of the tests is enormous and thus far not solved. You can look at almost any psych study and poke holes in anything ranging from its methodology, sample size, conclusions, premises, you name it. This is decidedly not a problem in physics, where there is no question of getting 'real data' about projectile motion or luminosity. That is because in a way physics is a simpler subject, so that makes sense. Probably in 500 years psychology may be a science in this sense, but right now it is not (not to be confused with neuroscience, which is a different story).

So I think this is an English/German translation issue, maybe, because undoubtedly people do tests and make hypotheses in the social sciences all the time. Much data is drawn, numbers collected, samples measures, and all that. But what out of it came from really good tests and generated what we would call "solid facts" about the world is a big question. Yes, you can obviously take a survey and count the number of yesses and nos in the survey, and report the number. But that's not "data" in the sense that it's meant in physics or chemistry. I mean, it is literal information, so in that sense it's data, but it's not data in the sense of being hard numbers about the universe that no individual can refute. There are types of probabilistic tests, as you say, that show a certain result within a certain margin of error, such as (in medicine) how many people got the flu last season, and which percent were of which demographic, and therefore what can we expect next season. That may be accurate within a margin of error, but as there are no control and experimental cases in that type of study it's still a very muddy 'science' in the sense that you can't create reproducible results.

Does all of this make sense? I think maybe it's why there's so much bickering here on the term "science". Or at least I hope it is.

On a side note:

"2) "science" is viewed as a tool of explaining phenomena (theoretical sciences) or making them more useful (practical sciences). That was - in brief - neo-Popperian paradigm of science (still popular among many philosophers of science)."

I'm not sure whether Jason R or anyone else stated the definition of the term in precisely this way, so not sure why you're trying to refute it in this way. That said, the phrase itself "Popperian paradigm of science" is itself based directly in Kuhn's philosophy of science, which to wit is still a current and regular theory of the sciences. Namely, that a given paradigm reigns so long as it can best house the data, until the point where too many cracks in it force a revolution. I mention this because this type of revolution - one in which a longstanding paradigm is finally overturned - is specifically contingent on the field being one where there is a paradigm in the first place more or less universally accepted as "correct". At least, by enough of the majority that its basic assumptions are those used as axioms in the daily workplace. In fields ranging from economics to psychology to archaeology, there are no such universally accepted paradigms that are accepted as "facts of nature", and so therefore there can be no revolutions in Kuhn's sense - and therefore they are not sciences in the way he understood it. And I remind you that Kuhn is still current and accepted as at minimum a contender for the theory of how sciences work in practice.
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Peter G.
Mon, Sep 21, 2020, 3:19pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Tribunal

@ Zanki,

"It's an okay episode I guess, my guess they sort of tried to do like ''chain of command '' maybe that explains why I wasn't surprised of the Orwellian approach to their legal system ...you sort of expect this from the Cardassian's at this point."

If you ask me, this episode is more of a satire than another dark drama like Chain of Command was. I think at the start we're meant to be outraged and horrified, but as it proceeds I can't help but feel that it devolves into comedy at times, making the proceeding look increasingly ridiculous, especially in light of the Conservator and his antics, especially at the end. I think while Chain of Command shows us to an extent the steep price Cardassians pay for their type of society, this one shows us in a way how fragile it is as well. They need this kind of theatre to keep it going, and the Conservator is probably rightly terrified of what will happen when he fails in his duties. I think the system of 'justice' we're shown here shows us cracks in the Cardassian system, which sets up stuff for later in the series.
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Peter G.
Mon, Sep 21, 2020, 12:43pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Statistical Probabilities

And that's putting aside Booming's repeated equation of the social "sciences" with science (in this case, medical research), as if there's no distinction.

You want to disagree, go ahead, but don't call another poster ignorant prior to your posting radical fringe stuff that social scientists with credibility would never actually say. I thought Dreubarik's post was quite interesting, and in fact I agree that there is a perpetual problem - even to the point of world-ending mania - of certain small classes of people thinking they are smarter and know enough to decide for everyone because they are superior. This is an incredibly important message, and I agree fully that we have seen to many times in the 20th century people purporting to have "conclusive data" to back up a complete nonsense theory. I know more about the history of economics compared to the social sciences, but in that field time and again we see "brainiacs" who don't know wtf they're talking about but couching their statements in jargon that sounds compelling. Presidents fall for it all the time, as these theories come in an out of vogue. None of it has anything to do with science, mind you. Not that all of social science is exactly like this, but...well, I'll just leave out what I think of the accuracy of statements made by that field in general. We don't know jack about human behavior yet on a truly scientific level.
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Peter G.
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 12:27pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: I, Borg

@ James G,

"Some of Picard's justification for his intention reminds me of comments made by Dubya and Rumsfeld during the laughable "War on Terror"; not a good look."

I don't think this comparison really works. With Dubya it was a case of military and moral bluster not even related to the real perpetrators of the attack. In the case of Guinan it's a mortal enemy that literally annihilated her *planet*, and in Picard's case almost that but also pillaged him as a person on every level. This is not sabre rattling hawkishness, it's a legitimate hard line against a 100% clear and present threat.

"would the Borg really care much about one missing drone? Why? It's a society with massive redundancy and resiliency built in, so why would they go looking for Third of Five if he hadn't been found at the crash site?"

In previous episodes the Borg seem to meticulously self-destruct the dead drones so that (presumably) their technology couldn't have scavenged. I assume the Borg are well aware that if another race were to duplicate their technology it would be a big problem for them. The one exception was Locutus, and my best guess is that they let Locutus stay on the Enterprise thinking he could collect data while in the meantime the Enterprise could never get anything useful out of him before Earth fell. But yeah, despite Voyager's idea that the Borg are totally fine with anyone at all reverse engineering their tech, on TNG it seems pretty clear they won't allow this.
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Peter G.
Wed, Sep 9, 2020, 3:04pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Encounter at Farpoint

@ Jason R.,

I'd actually like to revisit one point you made, that Picard passed the test by being evenhanded and treating non-humanoid life as being equal. True, Q's indictments have a moral color, but I suspect that behind this isn't a problem with humanity's ethics but rather with its self-control. I somehow doubt whether Q actually cared if the entity survived or now, but it seems the test was actually to see if Picard would bother trying to solve the puzzle - or even to realize there was a puzzle - before just blasting the creature, or worse, never figuring out it even was a creature. It strikes me as being a sort of intelligence test, but specifically one where the intelligence isn't moral but rather one of awareness. This ends up being revisited in All Good Things, where overcoming historic instincts is, to the Q, about expanding mental horizons more so than being good people.
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Peter G.
Wed, Sep 9, 2020, 1:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Encounter at Farpoint

"I also like a scene with Data where Riker asks him in a worried fashion if he thinks himself superior to humans and the answer is yes - but how he would give it all up to be human."

Now that you mention it, this question comes back with a vengeance in Hide and Q.
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Peter G.
Wed, Sep 9, 2020, 12:37pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Encounter at Farpoint

@ Jason R,

Nice review of some key points, and I agree entirely. In fact, I think that EaF does something that TNG starts failing to do fairly soon after, which is to hold humanity's feet to the fire and to demand they hold themselves accountable for their own weaknesses. To me that is very much in the spirit of TOS, where there was no hiding our own dark side, but rather a continual overcoming of it. Too often in subsequent TNG the crew gets the easy way out by on the one hand having to overcome great technical problems, but always being right morally and just having to stick to their guns. I also like how in EaF there is no hiding behind the "but we're evolved now!" mantra, and to whitewash the darkness in human nature that can never go away. To those who criticize DS9 for sullying to perfect Trek tone, I think it keeps best with TNG's pilot where there is no pretense that humanity is all angelic even in the 24th century; just that by then we know what we need to do to be better.

Regarding Picard and Crusher, I guess I would add in that they appeared to be going for Picard as the cantankerous, non-people person, who is stiff, gruff, can't deal with kids, or with emotions, and who is a hardass on his XO. I think there's something of a Captain Bligh thing going on there, almost bordering on Captain Jellico at times when he's quite gruff with Riker. Between the actual cast breaking Stewart's will and requiring him to have fun on set, and him starting to realize that the gig wasn't an embarrassment to him and his career, Picard softens into the Captain we now know. But at this early stage I could totally see him actually being the one not to be able to handle Crusher's presence and their tension, and being sort of 'professional' (i.e. nervous) about it. Now as to the timing of when that conversation happens, haha, yeah, that's at best an editing or scripting error.

One thing I will say againt EaR, however, is that their character bibles appear to me to have been rather sparse and one-note, so that Worf is "the Klingon", and Geordi is "the blind guy" and the script doesn't offer anything at all about their personalities. Crosby at the very least interpreted her character as being spirited and feisty, which I'm not even sure the script implies so that would be something she added (albeit badly, since her delivery is poor). So good idea on her part, but terrible execution. Then again, maybe she had no clue how to perform in a sci-fi show and was genre confused about the stylistic portrayal. Picard gets soft-reconned, Crusher is sort of stunted in the series anyhow, and Troi here is maximally annoying, so really in terms of character only Riker comes out of the gate swinging with his charisma; the rest of the cast doesn't quite work for me in the pilot. In contrast, at least a few members of DS9's cast in Emissary were right on the money from the word go, such as Auberjonois, Shimmerman, and Visitor (I also think Brooks too, but I won't get into that battle here).

The main problem with EaF is that parts of it are plain boring. But then again, that's praise in hindsight considering that *all* of Broken Bow is boring.
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Peter G.
Wed, Sep 9, 2020, 11:28am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Cause and Effect

@ Jeffrey Jakucyk,

"As to not being a time loop, it's really more of a time bubble. Since they've been looping, the rest of the universe is going about its merry way. That's why they're 17.4 days behind on their chronometer after they check a time beacon. It's like the time anomalies in We'll Always Have Paris, with discrete pockets of space where time is doing odd things, but not the whole universe. So I think that's the reason for the deja vu, the echos of each iteration are coming from outside the bubble, from the rest of the universe, such as it is. That may explain the audio better than the actual deja vu, but this is a universe with telepaths and transporters and FTL travel so there's weird brainy brain technobabble as well."

Excellent explanation. I have to admit I never thought much about the mechanics in this episode before, but this seems like the most reasonable explanation - to the extent that probably Braga didn't even go this far in his reasoning. Based on his track record it was a high concept 'timey-wimey' episode more about atmosphere than science, so it's probably a small miracle that you could come up with a technical explanation of what was going on.

If we're going to think of the event as completely localized (a time bubble), then it would probably also be reasonable to assume that it was the anomaly itself tethering both ships to its location through time. If we want to be really pedantic we might ask why it should care whether they blow up or not, to reset if they do and to stop and dissipate if they avoid the collision. Maybe the collision itself provides the energy it requires to restart the sequence, or that some element in the ships (such as antimatter) interacting with it creates a weird result.

That being said there is one possible explanation similar to what you say, but the inverse: once you assert that the entire universe is not resetting, but only the local area around the anomaly, then there are two options for how data is being transmitted to continued iteration: One is that it's feedback echoing back from *outside* the anomaly, but the other is that it's feedback echoing around *inside* the anomaly. Given that I doubt Starfleet received telemetry and records of the Enterprise being destroyed 17 odd times and then of it coming out yet again unscathed, it would seem that from the universe's outside perspective what probably happened is that the Enterprise was never destroyed, and that the Bozeman came out at one moment and was there to stay. I think, narratively, this is sort of what it looks like to me. And I *think* that would mean that the echoes were localized within the anomaly, like a little private system, rather than going out beyond its boundary and then bouncing back in,
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Peter G.
Wed, Sep 9, 2020, 2:23am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

@ There Are Some Who Call You Tim-from-Tarsus 4,

"Why couldn't a multitronic type computer be integrated with a starship, with a captain in control?"

I think the point of the episode is that this computer is so sophisticated that it's simply superior and quicker than a living Captain in all situations. It's not just that it can do the same job; it's that it can do it *much* better and without risk of deaths. If the machine works then humans are obsolete, which is why by the end we need to see why it doesn't work. For the M5 to be both successful and yet be best working with a human captain is a contradiction; by definition its success is defined by its ability to succeed humanity as the ultimate thinker. Consider this to essentially be about the AI technological singularity, where at a certain point of sophistication humans are useless and can't even begin to understand what the machine calculations mean. If that were to really happen then a human captain's feedback would essentially be inferior in both efficiency and strategy. It's like saying why not put a well-trained monkey in charge of a Starship with a human advisor on-hand; having the human merely be the advisor would be a bit of a joke, no?
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Peter G.
Sun, Sep 6, 2020, 11:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: First Contact

You know, Trent, I never read fan suggested stories here, but after your intro I did read this one. Yes, that would have been a superior film. Actually the ending would almost require a sequel...but why not? II-IV were essentially a trilogy, and formed the basic core of Trek films. The disparate and random stories in the TNG films did no one any favors. Plus - best bonus of all - having the Borg become like the Federation gives Eddington lots more ammo to throw at Sisko in the eventual 2037 DS9 film featuring everyone in retirement on a beach, and Sisko drinking Prophet Colatas.

Kidding aside, the most sinister thing they could do with the Borg is to transform them in a dark way. Keeping them the same would never recapture BoBW, and changing them in the way they did was illogical and made them boring. Have them *really* assimilate something for a change, and have them become worse in some manner, more insidious. Maybe disguise themselves as you say, when resistance is no longer futile. Maybe Disguise drones as normal people and we can get NuNuBSG with Cylon Borgs. Or maybe the worst change of all would be for them to actually become friendly, and to 'evolve' enough as cybernetic organisms to make cybernetic implants look really appealing to Federation members. Maybe it starts with implants to cure injuries or birth abnormalities. Gerodi's new mechanical eyes could be a good segue into bionic improvements across the board. Soon the idea of neural interfaces become appealing, a la Barclay in The Nth Degree. Before you know it people are clamoring to be hooked into the network (into to social media horrors) and the ultimate in assimilation has happened: people are demanding to become like the Borg, voluntarily. Now that would be scary.

Agreed that the time travel plot does no one any favors, let alone the Borg resorting to time travel because they...cannot defeat the Federation in battle? I mean what the hell was Moore smoking when he wrote that? The way the film was written it's like the actual premise is a con and just a cheap way to get some action scenes and ST: IV hijinx going. There is no actual reason the Borg or Enterprise crew are there, and frankly nothing we learn from Cochrane's exploits anyhow or even about First Contact.
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Peter G.
Sun, Aug 30, 2020, 9:58am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

Of all the stupid arguments on this site, this one is the most toxic and unreadable. There is not even any content being fought about, it's just a bunch of people trying to slap each other.
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Peter G.
Tue, Aug 25, 2020, 10:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

@ Elliott,

"I have two thoughts about this. First of all, most alien worlds in Trek are united in a way that likens them more to modern nation states than planets. Klingons are all united and Romulans are all united and humans are all united in their respective belief systems, are they not?"

To an extent yes, to an extent no. In a manner of speaking, as you say, looking at each of these species as references to our planet means not so much that they've discovered the secret of unity, but more like the represent an aspect of ourselves (which by definition is one thing). But in the show's reality, I'm not quite sure they're as united as all that. The Klingons that we see do tend to be warriors, but there are hints in early TNG that although these are the Klingons you'll likely face in space, there are non-warrior types on Kronos that are kept out of our sight. That the warlike ones seem to control government and land may be a reference to the Samurai code or something. In terms of unity the 'honor' system does seem beyond reproach to them, even though in practice few seem to take it as seriously as the average Bajoran takes their religion. For Romulans it's a mixed bag because they're basically living under the KGB, so public dissent isn't allowed. That doesn't give us much insight into their philosophical unity, other than the small glimpse we got into their underground in Unification. The United Federation is actually the least united of them all; or at least the least homogenous. Despite what Eddington would have us believe, the Federation comprises many worlds with many beliefs, and the only commonality is they believe that they must accept and even embrace these differences. It's pretty much the opposite of the type of unity people today think is so great, which is not much more than everyone chanting the same slogan. In the Federation they embrace totally disagreeing about what's right, so long as the disagreement has a forum and a representative council to decide things.


"But more importantly, the real and demonstrable part of their religion didn't become apparent until Sisko made contact with the Prophets five years ago."

Yes, and this is the cool sci-fi premise that I think gets underappreciated. People like to take the piss out of religion nowadays, fair enough. But what this show does is take a 'typical' religious people who believe the 'usual' nonsense, and right in the first episode a scientific expedition sets out to find the basis of their beliefs, and bam, we get a bona fide discovery that lends a new light on their historic traditions. This is sci-fi at its best, to look at what may have originally spawned their religion, scientifically speaking. Sure, sure, their beliefs are nonsense, right? Except hold on, now we find out they actually came *from something real*. To me that's a really cool premise. What if one day we discover, using 27th century technology, a way to reproduce exactly the parting the Red Sea, and realize thatt they were using ancient alien technology? I'd read that book. Turns out the aliens weren't just alien, but so far removed from us that it's hard to even imagine what to make of them. 2001: A Space Odyssey tackles something akin to this, where we play a part in some larger schema that we could barely hope to comprehend. Now what comes after the discovery is indeed a big deal to sort out as the writing team.

"I think it would have been unrealistic and silly to have Bajor become a planet of agnostics after this, but for there to be no theological reaction to the discovery the gods are actual a collection of monotone afterimages hanging out in vanilla soft serve should have a consequence or two."

One thing to bear in mind is that no one except Sisko had firm and direct contact with the Prophets in the wormhole (until Zek did...). So any report of his is probably not much more use to the Bajorans than their old prophecies. But the shining light thing in the sky! Well they now know there's a space thing out there, but not really that their gods are in it. Sisko says they are, but then again for a the first few seasons they are a bit leery of him, other than Opaka. Also they have so many political problems, and are still reeling from the Occupation, so it's not clear that even if they did know it for a fact that the repercussions would take their effect until a few years down the road.

That being said, I do wish they had put more time into the issue of the Bajorans understanding that their religion is now accessible to non-Bajorans, who *are not religious*. In other words, someone from Romulus might well want to hear what the beings who can tell the future have to say, and not care a whit about religion. Does that make them 'believers', or just opportunists? Is there a difference? These types of questions would have been neat. The biggest failure of the series is that the Federation never took the wormhole aliens seriously *as aliens*, forget about what powers they have. Sure, they told us that "all contact efforts failed" but that's a cop-out. We should have seen those efforts with our own eyes, even watched the Fed scientists concoct crazy ways to try to get in touch with them. That would have made for some neat B-stories at least. And by Season 7 when Admiral Ross - after knowing that the WA's saved the Federation by banishing the Dominion Fleet!!! - still wants Sisko to tell the WA's to bug off, notwithstanding that Sisko is basically the Federation ambassador to them (which btw he should have officially been). This is just stoopid, so by this point in the series they had lost the chance to go there, and ended up having to write some boneheaded stuff to perpetuate the fake tension between "Federation officer" and "religious figure". After 7 years this should not have been a major issue, or at least not one where the Federation was still scratching their heads. Are they supposed to look like skeptical idiots?

So yeah, that's a problem. But the premise itself to me is great: turn the "stupid religion" thing on its head by giving it a scientific basis.
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Peter G.
Tue, Aug 25, 2020, 3:07pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

Elliott wrote:
"In Abrahamic religions (including the way they tried to write the Bajorans), there is one absolute moral authority. There may be many Prophets, but they don't diverge from each other in terms of their plans for Bajor."

I'm not sure, in any case, why your argument needs to rest on this being true while the Greek gods are not moral authorities. So what? Your overall point is that Abrahamic religion is not about physical reality (which is incidentally not true) while pagan religion was and is therefore made obsolete by science; and therefore the Bajorans' view is both Abrahamic and yet apparently made obsolete by science, and therefore doesn't fit into this schema. But you are the only one trying to make it fit into the schema. The writers took a premise, riffed on it a bit, threw in a bit of Western belief system, and came out with a new recipe. It has similarities to but IS NOT Christianity or Judaism. That should be easy enough to see based on the Buddhistic influences we can see in other elements of their art and culture. Sure, it borrows from Earth stuff but it's no one religion, nor should it be shoehorned into one to try to show it somehow is doing it wrong. Don't like how they told stories - hey that's your business. But objectively saying they're misrepresenting Christianity or something just seems way off base to me.

As far as the Prophets and their moral authority I'm not sure what's so convoluted here. Yes, they are called divine; no, that does not have to mean divine in the way Christianity means it because it is NOT Christianity. Yes, they tell the Bajorans what to do; and no, not because they'll get angry and smite them otherwise, and also not because of any other reason we can fathom other than they have goals. The Bajorans have largely decided to follow those goals, and it's no surprise that the entire planet is practically unified in belief in them, which also pretty much invalidates direct comparison to Earth religion. They are united for obvious reasons, because their religion is based on a real, demonstrable thing. So their situation is not ours. Maybe the show is suggesting that perhaps this *is* our situation and we just don't know it yet; maybe we're 10,000 years behind Bajor, and we'll be occupied by Cardassians in 9,960 years. This is where the show lets us speculate in sci-fi mode.

Either way I can't help but feel that all of these objections are really just objections to religion, and that the only tolerable presence religion could have in media (for you, I guess) would be where it 'knows it place' and admits that it's basically nonsense for making people feel good.
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Peter G.
Tue, Aug 25, 2020, 2:01pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

@ Elliott,

"This is absolutely not true. The Greeks did not view the gods as especially virtuous, let alone arbiters of virtue. The gods were capricious and mortals felt the need to appease them in order to be successful in life. The gods took sides in human affairs for their own petty reasons all the time. They were jealous and vindictive."

At best this is a contentious assertion not backed up by classics studies. I can't say it's wrong, but you're basically claiming that what Ancient Greeks claimed to believe was really BS that they *knew* was BS. That is theoretically possible but certainly not demonstrated anywhere I've heard of. The clearer view of the Ancient Greeks is that they totally did hold up Zeus' law as the ultimate standard of virtue, whether that was in the xenia of welcoming guests, or in the justice of following what we would call hierarchies of value. Certain other gods possessed their own realms, all of which more or less are subsumed as Zeus' in the end; Apollo for art, medicine and music; Athena for war strategy and in the case of the Athenians for the justice of their court systems. They in no overt way made claims other than the fact that their gods were great and should be followed. It's a modern interpretation of those myths which reflects on how their gods seemed to be, shall we say, a little morally suspect. That says more about us than about the Ancient Greeks. Socrates could literally not even come out and say that the gods in the myths might not be all they're cracked up to be; he had to speak in terms couched in metaphor and insinuation, letting you come to your own conclusions (which if you were very wise, would of course be his!). That he instructed the youth at all to think for themselves got him judged and convicted of corrupting the youth, and executed. So no, the Ancients didn't believe their own gods were immoral.
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Peter G.
Tue, Aug 25, 2020, 1:54pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

Jason R said:
"None of your criticisms are correct unless one assumes that the only possible archetype for divinity and faith is a judeo Christian invisible unprovable God wholly separate from human existence."

Not only that, but even this premise would be a strawman since that is literally not what Christians and Jews believe. In fact that assertion is more or less *the opposite* of the Christian view.

Elliott said:
"YES! That's the point I've made a hundred times now; when you lack a scientific understanding of the world, gods fill that void; they provide creation myths and explanations for weather, etc. Barring that lack of knowledge (or wilful ignorance), in the real world, the purpose of god(s) is about something else, it's about the numinous, which is to say, a part of the universe isn't measurable or appreciable by science, no matter how advanced."

While it is likely true that historically people have created mythical systems to try to explain natural phenomena, this is not a working definition of religion, nor is it a complete summary of why religion exists or what it deals with. You are limiting your definition artificially to something like paganism, seemingly because that makes it maximally dismissable nowadays. But while it's not particularly useful to try to explain rainfall through myth, at the same time not even then was it true that this was *all* they were doing, just part of it; and actually most likely the least part. To whatever extent historic religions have tried to made strong statements about what we'd call science I would be first to agree that this was not a productive activity. The part of what you said which is a bit more grounded to me is that religion deals with numinous stuff, but even then that is not quite accurate in terms of how religions define their own beliefs. It's not that these things are *outside* of the realm of science, but rather the issue they are trying to grapple with isn't the mechanics of that reality but rather the meaning of it. And as any philosopher of science will tell you, science provides mechanics but not meanings. That is in the realms of philosophy and religion.

Trent said:
"I agree with you that the allegory is fundamentally dishonest though. I find most of DS9's allegories dishonest in the ways they pretend to map onto the world. A contemporary, real-world believer does not have testable wormhole Gods, recorded contacts with super-beings, magic orbs and verifiable prophecies."

I think part of your objection here mirrors to an extent what Elliott is saying, namely that introducing the actual mechanic of a wormhole with aliens in it more or less invalidates the religion angle as being relevant to our real world's religious people. But I would like to point out that this objection may be missing the point, or shall I say the storytelling premise the DS9 team seem to have been going for. The possible ways to see DS9's reality is that:

(a) It's just an analogy for modern Judeo-Christian mythos, and that Trek is mushed together improperly with this;
(b) It's pure science fiction, using a technological premise (the wormhole) and examining how certain people could develop a religion around this.

Answer (a) doesn't seem quite right because too much doesn't fit, as you point out. There is a physical wormhole present, not analogous to real life, and the also the Bajorans seem to have access to more direct hard evidence than we do, such as orbs, which invalidates the idea of believing IN the gods as being relevant.

Answer (b) doesn't seem quite right either because there's too much content in the show about faith, and with Judeo-Christian imagery, for it to be merely a science fiction setting. Clearly they are trying to say something about religion as well.

My conclusion is that we should actually conclude:

(c) That they are introducing a hard sci-fi premise, and examining what this means in terms of dealing with extra-temporal beings, which at the same time riding the fence and checking out the other side of it, and seeing things from the 'believers' perspective. But at no time is the message purely religious, nor does it ever cease to be the sci-fi premise no matter how much POV we get from the people of faith. But at the same time enough room is given for the people of faith, and especially for Sisko's eventual 'conversion', that we can see the real-life impact of dealing with a force greater than yourself. In this case the force is actual beings in an actual physical place, but that place is so mysterious and difficult to understand that it might as well be magic, like the Q. That doesn't make it supernatural, but it does mean that in real time the people who are alive at present can't just throw their hands up and say "hey, we'll probably understand the science of it in a million years or so, so let's just hang out." They need to decide in the here and now whether to listen to these aliens or not. So once again, to whatever extent the series speaks of faith, it's pretty clearly a question of whether to do what the aliens say or not. The few occasions where it does sort of sound like it's about whether they exist is IMO a writing error. I'll also say that I don't think the series went further enough with the sci-fi premise of non-linear entities. Elliott chastises the series for not bothering about the religious stuff enough because that was too hard for them, but I think the problem is exactly the opposite: it didn't bother enough with the hard sci-fi because *that* was too hard for them. For all the respect I have for many of the writers on this show, I don't think they had great science writers among them giving us thought-provoking science.
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Peter G.
Mon, Aug 24, 2020, 1:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

@ William B,

'Did they deliberately want the Bajorans to have d'jarras or was that just Bajorans being Bajorans? Do they care about Bajorans, and, if so, why? Do they want Opaka to stay with the Battle Lines people?"

I highlighted a few of your points, just to point back to what I wrote in my last point. I don't think it gains us much to ask questions like this, because it's treating them like people like you and me who might like or not like certain details. You'd do better, I think, to treat them like Annorax from Year of Hell, insofar as when a timeline is resolved for them they will inspect whether the result is their goal or not. If that is the extent of what we know about them, that they are choosing future universal timelines and guiding events towards them, then the issue of whether they "like" the caste system or anything else is beside the point. The issue is which current conditions lead to the final destination; value judgement wouldn't enter into it. You get another example of this in the Avengers franchise, where SPOILER Dr. Strange intentionally allows the villain to win in a particular way at a particular time because it's literally the only possible future where the annihilation is stopped. Being cross with him because you "don't like" what his choice allowed would be silly; if it's the only way to get there it's the only way to get there.

@ Elliott,

"The Prophets claim a mantle of taking personal responsibility for Bajor, so it is completely fair to ask what gives them the right to make that determination. If the only answer is "because they can," then that is not a sign of being good stewards, it's a sign of monstrosity."

No one ever gave that as their answer, so not sure why it's on the table. The only explanation we get is that they have concern for Bajor and are guiding them somewhere. You could choose not to trust that destination, or to hate them because you don't want to be controlled, but choosing to disbelieve they can control the future path on the grounds that you're uncomfortable on the way doesn't make any sense. By that same logic when a young child is forced to take a booster shot or vaccine we should slam the parents for "allowing" the pain to happen. The only missing data is whether the vaccine actually works or the child is in pain for no reason; and in the show whether the future path is worth fighting for, or whether the pain is for no reason. That's where the faith comes in. And by the way, "faith" is only a bad word to religion-haters because IRL people employ faith *all the time* in all sorts of ways to take things for granted. In some cases, it's because they actually must do so to get by. In the case of the Prophets, the faith doesn't even have to be 'hocus pocus' faith, as in, 'I expect magic to happen.' Faith can also mean "they've done right by me before and now I choose to trust them."
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Peter G.
Mon, Aug 24, 2020, 11:19am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

I guess I'm the only poster on this site who loves this episode. That's ok, I'll just lock myself in a room with Rapture and bottle of whisky. No, just kidding, I hate whisky.

I'm not sure how fruitful it would be to debate the point-by-point on whether X or Y religious idea are half-baked, full chocolate chip, or just empty calories, but I guess there is a general complaint about DS9's portrayal of the prophets that I'll address quickly:

" The question is whether one believes the Prophets will kill Sisko to achieve their ends. That's an open question, but we've seen that they allowed millions of Bajorans to die in the Occupation for what Sisko now claims is a larger purpose, and they brought Cardamom back to life for the same illusive reasons."

The complaint goes something like 'since they're not gods, why does anyone worship or even listen to them? what moral authority do they have?'

This point is not trivial but at the same time we're essentially told that the Bajorans have a very long history of trusting them and getting good results. And it should be pointed out that Bajoran history is much longer, apparently, than human history, and that they are deceptively advanced both technologically and intellectually despite the fact that they occasionally seem like a backwater. But some episodes do go out of their way to show that the Bajorans *could have had* a spacefaring fleet long ago if not for the fact that they preferred art and philosophy instead of technological expansion. So while we're prone to compare them to, say, our dark ages, this really isn't warranted. If the Bajorans say they believe in the Prophets for good reason, maybe it really is for a good reason. The only catch is that the way they talk about it is couched in religious jargon so it makes it sound like superstitious hocus pocus. But that doesn't mean we have to take their language game at face value and throw the baby out with the bathwater. They probably really do have thousands of years of trusting obscure prophecy and realizing "wow, it really worked to listen to it!" After all, we're not talking about some old lady reading tea leaves, we're talking about future-seeing aliens telephoning them information about the future. Anyone who wouldn't listen to that is a dolt. Whether you'd *worship* the caller is another matter and one more worthy of discussion.

Regarding the Prophets' so-called moral authority, the question isn't whether they are good or bad as many posters seem to be concerned about. The fact that they might "let" Bajorans die in an Occupation is no more a statement against their morality than is the Holocaust on Earth a statement against a God granting humans the free will to screw each other over. Bad things can happen even though a good future course is charted. In fact this is a prototypical Trek message, that horrible, horrible things will happen leading up to the birth of the Federation, and that we should rejoice that it will happen. Objecting to the Prophets' 'allowing' the Occupation to happen is sort of like objecting to Roddenberry's idea that Eugenics Wars and WWIII lead to the Federation. How can Roddenberry allow bad things to happen to future humanity if his vision is so cheery? So you see my point.

I guess we could get into a Voltaire/Candide debate about whether "the best possible path" should really include all manner of silliness and horrors. I guess my answer is - why not? Why said the best path has to be one without pain and suffering? So that gets us to the real question about the Prophets' motives: asking whether they are 'good' seems sort of like asking if they're nice and would be good to have as a nanny for your toddler. It's basically irrelevant to ask and nonsensical to try to answer. What we can ask, though, is what is this special future they're planning for Bajor, and why is it so important it go precisely one way and not any other way? Are they trying to avoid some ultimate horror? Trying to establish their own energy-being ascension by temporal paradox? I find this an interesting head canon game to play, and much more profitable then asking why anyone should care what they say. I think it would be silly not to care. Where *faith* comes into it is not faith THAT they exist (which admittedly is a writing error some writers on this show have made), but rather faith that their path is worthy suffering for.
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Peter G.
Sat, Aug 22, 2020, 1:52pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Drumhead

@ Booming,

"But wouldn't that already be discrimination?? That Starfleet vets you more carefully because of one romulan grandfather?!"

It's not discrimination to do background checks on people, and if the issue here is 'racial profiling' then it needs to be mentioned that although we may think of the Federation members as being analogues for the different peoples of Earth, within the show they are literally different species with different biologies that come from different worlds that really do pose a threat. That Starfleet should be informed and take due measures doesn't mean that they are anti-Romulan as a race. A better analogy in our times would be if a Russian industrialist wanted to apply to a job in American government, I'd assume they'd run special checks on that person to make sure there are no connections to Russian government. Not because he's a white person, but because of the political structure of the place he's from. Now Simon isn't actually 'from' Romulus, but maybe their family structure is such that one could expect values to pass between generations more systematically than on some other planet.

The point is that the episode paints a witch-hunt that takes a small misdeed and tries to balloon it into treason. The analogue in The Crucible is John Proctor's infidelity to his wife, and how that guilt is used against him to finally condemn him as a 'conspirator' on a ridiculous scale. For that story to work he really does have to be guilty of the lesser offense, and likewise here if we don't understand that Simon really has done something wrong then the accusations against him would ring far more hollow. I don't see it as all that relevant to nitpick on exactly what precisely it is Starfleet would have been so concerned about.
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Peter G.
Sat, Aug 22, 2020, 10:09am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Drumhead

@ Elliott,

The fact is that Simon lied about being part Romulan on his application, and I think the episode implies that it wasn't for no reason. However it also doesn't imply that if he hadn't lied Starfleet would have outright discriminated against him on this basis. It could be that due to Romulan spy tactics Starfleet security would have had to vet Tarses carefully before admitting him, and maybe he didn't want that kind of embarrassment or scrutiny precisely because he's a quiet guy. It's sort of clear he did have a reason to lie, but not clear what the result of not lying would have been.
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Peter G.
Fri, Aug 21, 2020, 12:52am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Macrocosm

Damn, that is a positively flattering review. A whole star? This one went down in the record books for me as so dumb it sucks the brains out of surrounding episodes like a vacuum. I know you're comparing this to other episodes that assassinate characters, but this one assassinates the entire series. Unlike Profit and Lace, which is despicable and yet was *trying* to do something progressive, this one had no such noble motives. The fact that P&L could make it into production must have involved a series of misunderstandings about how the 'feminist' message would read after editing was done; that is, if you actually watch the episode in sequence. Also, the director (Siddig, I believe) should have known better. But in this one there is literally no step in the process where I can understand how the script got to the next stage, not in the elevator pitch, not in the outline, the first draft, certainly not when it got to the director. If anything the director here is least to blame - what could he do at that point?

Along with Profit and Lace, and all of ST: Discovery, this is the worst episode in all of Trek for me.
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