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Peter G.
Wed, Apr 8, 2020, 11:22am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

I'll throw out one more show that I do like, which is Killjoys. It's not 'great TV' but I've consistently liked it at least. It's sort of like Firefly in some ways, combining a light tone with some stark views of the future.
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Peter G.
Tue, Apr 7, 2020, 10:47pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Drumhead

@ Mal,

I do agree with you on the one point that TNG was trying to paint over humanity's weaknesses as "solved", which does ring a bell from B5's 'ministry of peace' where they had solved all problems by 're-defining' them. I could see how, in the far future in a post-scarcity society, we might arrogantly paint the elimination of physical lack as having overcome our struggle with our own nature. That type of materialistic evaluation would not surprise me *at all*, especially if the ruling power was in the business of selling its own success as a PR move which the Federation does seem like it's in the business of doing. TOS was much more clear that for all its accomplishments the Federation was still in the business of competing with its neighbors and acting as a cold war power even in times of peace. To the extent that TOS was critical of this fact the show was therefore aware of how hard it will be to get away from one type of strife or another, more so than TNG was. Gene wanted TNG to be 'the next chapter' in Earth's advances but actually in some ways it plays out as a regression from TOS - little more accomplished, but also less aware of the reality. In TOS our weakness, which is very hard to face up to, was at the core of many episodes. So that in TNG when we get a Nora Satie she strikes us in the end as a loony, whereas in TOS terms I think it would be more like, yeah, that's what you expect when one person has a lot of power and no way to channel it productively, just like Captain Garth. The question is always what to do with war heroes in times of peace (a problem also with Captain Maxwell) and crusaders in times where a crusade is not needed (Satie). Do you just put them out to pasture? And more generally the question is about where these impulses come from, and can we do something with them prior to them causing a spirited person from imploding on their own energies. TNG seemed rather to simply view these people as nutty and try to pretend that it's just a blip in paradise. I tend more to see it as a sign that peace is difficult to achieve when people want drama and garbage fires (a la B5) and especially when even though material wealth is off the table there are other powers out there for those types of people to pursue. Eternal vigilance, and all that.
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Peter G.
Tue, Apr 7, 2020, 10:36pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@ Tom.

I am very sad to have to report that as a lifelong sci-fi fan who feels he's watched lots of memorable stuff, if I made myself reflect comprehensively I would have to admit (despite my adherence to the genre) that there actually isn't that much out there that I really thought was good. And that's saying something; I must really like sci-fi if I've not loved all that much of it. Even the half-decent stuff keeps me going :)

I think horror as a genre is much the same. I can probably count the horror movies I love on one hand, even though I spent years watching the stuff (not anymore, though).

For my money I'd just list Trek (TOS/TNG/DS9), B5, The Lexx (a guilty pleasure), and...can we count Stranger Things? If so that's my list. There pretty much isn't any other show I'd even consider rewatching, sad to say.
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Peter G.
Tue, Apr 7, 2020, 10:24pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S6: Statistical Probabilities

@ Selenium,

Thanks for sharing that story, it's really nice to hear feedback about the episode that it struck you well in that way and for those reasons.
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Peter G.
Tue, Apr 7, 2020, 11:25am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Death Wish

Good review, Smith. You have my complete agreement.
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Peter G.
Mon, Apr 6, 2020, 3:04am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@ Andy's Friend,

"In 1989 Deep Thought also took on Kasparov, and lost. But it was becoming obvious that it was only a matter of time before an artificial intelligence would beat the best human minds."

Just a quibble, but I assume you're speaking casually here and meant something more like "an artificial chess player?" As far as I know there has never been an artificial intelligence so far, provided that by "intelligence" we mean something more than a very sophisticated app.
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Peter G.
Sat, Apr 4, 2020, 10:45am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Drumhead

@ Mal,

I find it dubious that you're comparing the Federation (a) being tested by Romulans, (b) being unable to compete against the Klingons in an alternate reality, (c) the presence of the odd asshole like Cdr Maddox, to the Federation losing at Wolf 359. This latter event is much more likely than anything else to explain Federation paranoia, but even then your S4 examples seem to be an example of preferring peace and justice over expedient warlike behavior; hardly questionable by their own standards. Sheridan in B5 was specifically referring to Earth turning to totalitarian fascism and assassination, and then screwing over all of their neighbors for their own power. That seems to be precisely the opposite of what you're suggesting the Federation here has done.

I kind of get that your general point is that a series of failures can make people like Satie scared, but I don't think you need to try to concoct an analysis of TNG where the Federation is failing repeatedly to explain why certain people in it might be paranoid: it's because some people *want a war* even in peace, and want a fight even when there's nothing to fight about. But even putting that aside, Q's main point in Q WHo was that the universe is a dangerous place; so yeah, simply existing is dangerous and could potentially stress out a paranoid person. You don't even need to cite specific stressors for this to be true, but if you wanted to then Wolf 359 would be enough by itself.
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Peter G.
Sat, Apr 4, 2020, 3:07am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@ Andy's Friend,

"Ten days ago you were arguing that a mere software change in a machine does the trick, and that ‘learning’ for a machine is most likely synonymous with upgrading or updating the software. Now, you bring us Sardeshkar, who argues, as I have always maintained, the necessity of ‘synthetic biology’, those ‘analogue computers like nature does’, and imply that you agree with him. So you may perhaps understand my bewilderment."

I believe Quincy's argument is something to do with the assumption (by the actual episodes in question) that Data's hardware is already sophisticated enough to support sentience, but that it was lacking the requisite software to activate it. The positions seems to be based on the notion that while "ones and zeroes" cannot be sentience itself, the correct software is still necessary (but not sufficient) for the hardware to function properly. In this context Quincy defines software as the correct configuration or alignment of the correct type of hardware (which can be wetware or not), which need not be binary, or at least exclusively binary.

So while I can see why you were confused, I think the confusion originates from something that confused me too originally, which was that it sounded like Quincy was arguing that simply altering Data's programming ifso facto made him alive/sentient/conscious to the satisfaction of a telepath. Actually it appears to me now that the argument was that Data's brain was already sufficient but didn't have the right programming, so the change in programming got him the rest of the way. The "his hardware was already good enough" premise wasn't clear to me at the time, but I think that's what's causing the confusion.

Incidentally I'll note, specifically about those episodes (for instance the one with Ira Graves) for what it's worth, that the only change we register in data (about Data) is that Troi couse sense Data's thoughts. But it's entirely possible that her abilities are limited to similarly constituted humanoids and that her senses can't recognize other types of thinking and feeling patterns. So it's possible that Data *already was* sentient but not in a way she could sense, and after some transformation appeared on her radar, being sentient but just thinking in a way more familiar to her.
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Peter G.
Thu, Apr 2, 2020, 1:21pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@ Jason R.,

"Like with sublight interstellar travel, I feel the media and popular entertainment have underestimated the challenges of creating general AI - so much so that this technology may be as far beyond us as warp drive."

To be fair, you're arguing this point in context of a show where warp drive *has* been invented. So it's also fair to assume they have mastered real AI programming. However I think what you mean to be arguing is that creating transferable consciousness tech (like in Altered Carbon) isn't just a question of computing power and sophistication in circuitry, where getting advanced enough will allow us to put a person's mind in a golem. I think your point (and Andy's) is that it's non-transferable regardless of our tech level because new hardware = new person. So even if some part of us could be transferred it wouldn't be "us" in any intelligible sense. I suppose the 'hard version' of your position would be that no part at all is able to be segregated from our own wetware at all.

Actually this brings us back to a philosophy issue going back to 1960's Trek, and was originally about transporter technology. Bones himself seems to have outright championed this position, that something is inherently wrong with deconstructing and reconstructing a person molecule by molecule. Even if it's 100% possible in terms of computing power, somehow it just won't be them any more. And this issue is a serious one in Trek: how can "you" be transported remotely at all? The computer buffer keeps your "pattern" intact, and reconstructs your body (3-D printing) and mind. But is that you, or a copy of you very much like you? Religious questions about whether it would have a soul are even another matter; but putting that aside I think there would be a lot of worry about that. For instance, what if I told you I would murder you outright, but not to worry, because after I did I'd active a perfect replica elsewhere that could take over your life? Would you agree, if that saved you a long commute? I doubt you would, and not just because of some superstitious mumbo jumbo. I suspect that you would see it as you dying and having your life taken over by a synth or something. And that is more or less what happens when transporters are used, studio budgets be damned.

So in the case here of a golem, is it Picard in a new body, or is Picard truly dead and this is a golem in the original sense, something resembling a living person but actually not that at all? I find the idea chilling of being told my "mind" would be moved into a robot. Something might be moved in, but I would doubt that it would be me in any sense I could care about. At best it would be a Leah Brahms type copy that *might* mimic some of my behaviors, but probably not even that.
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Peter G.
Thu, Apr 2, 2020, 10:41am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@ Omicron,

The argument being made is effectively that what you are saying is a false definition of intelligence. Or at least, a false rendering of what human intelligence is, and perhaps what Data's intelligence was. You are treating it like a series of digital processes that just happen to take place in our brain. But that is not a fact in evidence; at best we can theorize in sci-fi terms that it might be so. But it also might not. Andy's Friend has been arguing for some time that it is not so.
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Peter G.
Thu, Apr 2, 2020, 10:09am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@ Yanks,

"I think Data explained it while speaking with Picard in the final scene together.

I don't have a transcript though."

What Data said was essentially that dying was the ultimate way to experience humanity; that mortality is relevant to the human experience. Data did not, however, say that he was beyond saving in terms of giving his consciousness to a new body. Once we assume this could be done with a human then surely it could be done with an AI. The "body = self" argument would apply to a human even more than to an android, so if it can be done for a human then it can for an android. Since Data could be saved, the argument they are making is that he simply wanted to die to experience death; suicide as a means of experiencing being human.

Tonally it did feel a bit like Data was implying that he didn't want to be suspended like this forever and that it was kind of like pulling the plug. And this is where the show proves that its own premises mattered to it practically not at all, and that it was all a joyride: if they really wanted to say something about what the self is, or consciousness, they would have had to explain why Data's consciousness needed to have its plug pulled, while Picard's could happily go to a new body. Maybe Data's neural net wasn't entirely captured in B4, and this is only partly-Data. Or maybe it experienced degradation over time. Or maybe these golems can actually only work on humans, and not on androids at all. Basically we don't know because they didn't say, because cybernetics technology and consciousness transfer is not what this show cared about. And so we get a critical plot point - that Data must die or else remain in limbo forever - offered to us without explanation so that for emotional reasons we need to accept Data's plea to die. But if Data had asked the same thing on the Enterprise one day, that he wanted to die just to die, then I believe he would have been treated as malfunctioning rather than taken seriously in this request.
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Peter G.
Thu, Apr 2, 2020, 9:27am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@ Omicron,

I think you're missing Jason R.'s point. He is saying that an analogous copy is not actually a copy but rather something different. A super-resolved *photo* of a dog cannot ever be a dog, not matter how 'realistic' it looks. You've bypassed the premise by claiming it's not actually a photo but just a 3-D print exact copy of a dog.

The point being made is that a virtual copy of a human intelligence will *never* be a human intelligence. It may be some kind of intelligence, but never a human one. The reason being, if the brain and body aren't involved it literally isn't human; and moreover, the thoughts and individuality may exist in the physical structure, not the "thought engrams" or whatever sci-fi concept you want to use. Remove the hardware and you remove the person. For any sci-fi wanting to get into consciousness transfer (like Ira Graves did) obviously you're introducing the premise that somehow you can *completely* capture an intelligence virtually and restore it to a new body. Andy's Friend and Jason R. are simply claiming that this sci-fi premise will in fact prove to be incorrect, scientifically speaking, when we get far enough in our research.
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Peter G.
Tue, Mar 31, 2020, 11:56pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

I've been avoiding posting on this episode because I didn't really know what to make of it. It's like a Frankenstein's monster of seemingly unrelated parts all linked together, and crowned with a totally out-of-tone ending (jn a good way). Reading Jammer's review heartened me a bit to post something, because having read how he framed it the episode is actually not as difficult as I thought to summarize. Basically it's 40 minutes or so of typical ST: PIC, fragmented, perfunctory, large-seeming arc threads and characters brushed aside in an instant, with some of it being frankly - in Jammer's words - dumb as rocks. But then the ending brings it back to a real storyline that gets us back to something I could care about. So basically I agree with Jammer's review, but with one significant proviso.

While I did like the Picard/Data scene much more than all the scenes preceding it combined, and while I do think this was a worthy thematic topic to explore, there are two things that I feel stopped me getting swept up in enthusiasm:

1) The convoluted and mostly irrelevant plot hurtling us, or somethings sluggishly dragging us, through 10 episodes seems not to logically conclude with this scene with Data. Oh, sure, it's most welcome, but it does not in any way feel like the inevitable conclusion that follows from the rest. Rather, it feels like another random emotionally charged excursion into one of countless threads that had been opened - this one in the pilot. It's not that it was illogical or out of nowhere, but likewise it wasn't quite out of somewhere either. They could have done maybe 20 different ending scenes, each of which would have made us go "oh, *that's* what it was all about." And that's the thing about the mystery box: unless it's masterfully crafted it's really little more than a shaggy dog story; one which can end in literally any way and seem like it might as well have been that as anything else. This was a *good* choice for that ending, but not a necessary one, and that's a problem. I'm not saying I needed to be able to guess the ending in advance, but even looking back in hindsight I really can't see how *this* is what we were building towards during all of these side-stints into conspiracy theories, ancient prophecies, and impending doom. So I got no sense of finality from the scene, since it wasn't really the 'finish' to most of what we'd been watching. I should reiterate that this isn't an armchair analysis; I really didn't feel that connection to our main plotlines.

2) Although this is a 'classic' TNG-type scene where two people speak intelligently about something important to them, where I disagree with Jammer is that I don't exactly feel that this is a top-notch one. It's quite good, and I did have some feelings of pain and warmth during it, but at the same time it had a bit of that PIC feel of overstating things that in TNG were oft implied or let to sit more subtly. I do like that this had the chance to be Data's final act of trying to be human; for that I'm grateful at least.

But here's an example of what I mean about brevity sometimes having more power than a long conversation: In Deja Q, an otherwise fun romp, Data does the selfless act of saving Q from the Calamarain. Still damaged in sickbay, Data has the experience of being unable to speak while Q tells him that while he's 'missing nothing' by lacking human emotions, Data is still a better human than he is. Data's only possible response to this is silence, and to look over (presumably at Crusher) to share his powerlessness to answer. This is so strong, it gets me every time! Here we have a machine knowing he did the right thing but truly not understanding the gravity of having nearly sacrificed himself for a galactic troublemaker, and having no answer to the charge of being the better human even while having no feelings. It's a most curious scenario, and one that's uplifting at the same time as very sad, and it goes by so quickly. It's the *situation between them* that makes the contrast between them so striking: Q can be anything, and Data cannot be except what he is, and yet Data somehow has the ability for the more expansive human experience. Another episode that kills me is the end of The Offspring, when we see that Data is incapable of emotion at the death of his daughter - or is he? If he can grieve, it's in no way we know of. Maybe a tiny "save file" somewhere has her memory, which seems so tiny that it feels like not enough for her - and yet maybe for Data it's everything. Maybe it's a sad thing to have so much memory capacity.

Anyhow these are situations where a moment in a scene can create immense emotional content using such simple exchanges, few words, and sometimes just looks, and they come out of the episode's context and the lead-up, but also to knowing that less can be more. So while this Picard/Data exchance is just what we had been hoping for - something intelligent finally - it's not just that it's too late, but it's also too coming out of nowhere. I don't have strong feelings about Soji, I don't have strong feelings about Picard being made immortal, I don't have strong feelings about android suicide exactly; so when the stakes become about a friend fulfilling another friend's request for death, in order to experience the final human condition (something already brought up, I believe, in Time's Arrow), these are interesting questions, but not ones I'd been primed to care about in any kind of context. If this scene had been filmed and shown as a 5 minute short, not part of the season, it would have had just as much relevance and impact on me. In a way that's good, because it was a good scene, but in a way bad, because it should have been great and instead lacked any lead-up to contextualize that punch. So yes, euthanasia: difficult topic. But in this case one that existed for us to care about only as long as this scene lasted, so structurally speaking it was another out-of-left-field thing charged with emotion (like the killing of Maddox, like Icheb's torture, like Juranti breaking down, like Raffi told by her son to leave) that is thrown at us for the sake of emotion rather than narrative drive. And personally where I differ from Jammer is that it's not the one good scene that justifies the plot leading up to it: it's the good plot that can justify the scene. Otherwise the scene just floats there and serves no real purpose in terms of story. And I do think everything should come down to the cohesion of the story.

So basically I agree completely with Jammer that the Picard/Data scene would have to make the episode all on its own for this to be any better than a dumb-as-rocks episode. I just don't really feel it could or did rise to that level. It rose enough to make me care, but not enough to make me accept what had come before. This episode is pretty bad.

PS - both space fleets looked only marginally better than the packed-in alien fleet in Space Invaders. They were copy-paste copies of a single crappy-looking model, arranged preposterously, that warped in just to sit there and basically not move, just so that we could get Riker leading the fleet of a lifetime. In fact I believe the writers outright knew they were cheaping out on the FX because they actually put into Riker's mouth that it was an entire fleet of one exact model of battleship. Let's please ignore the logic of why Starfleet would mass-produce exactly one ship, or having nothing but that model to send to DS12, or why they are producing warships in the first place; but it's just the sheer horrible lack of concern with the details that bothers me, because I think that image right there, of that cheap-looking fleet, speaks volumes about the care in general for the details on this show. "There's a fleet, yeah, yeah, you get it, anyhow RIKER RULEZ!!!" That's how all the episodes feel to me; blah blah details and plot, and BIG PAYOFF EMOTIONAL SCENE!

I guess I will never again see fleet combat looking as clean and exciting as in DS9's 5th-7th seasons. I haven't seen anything in either TV or film to match it, and I guess maybe I never will...
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Peter G.
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

@ Jammer,

With regards to LOST and its episodic structure, one thing to keep in mind isn't just format but simply craft. While I definitely agree that PIC isn't 'just like LOST' in terms of the viewing experience, what I think they have in common is specifically the issue of the writers flying off the seat of their pants ad hoc, saying that it's all leading somewhere pre-planned but where the audience increasingly doesn't buy it. When LOST was first on the air there was a huge fandom at first, but many became disenchanted when they felt they were being jerked around week-to-week and that the writers were painting themselves into a corner repeatedly without really knowing how to resolve it. As one of the fans who stuck with it despite these complaints, I have to say that what kept me involved was (a) that each episode did have a beginning, middle, and end, and (b) the characters were compelling enough that I *really* wanted to know what would happen to many of them (not all). So what would make or break LOST for me was (a) and (b), both of which come down to the writing being good, and them knowing how to structure an episode. The mystery-box 'lure' of teasing us about how a mystery will be answered was there, but it wasn't a plus or a minus. What happened with some shows that followed was they seemed to assume that it was the "to be continued" format itself that was the draw, but it wasn't; it was the quality of the writing and the storytelling. It's a big mistake for shows (and films like The Force Awakens) to think that merely by presenting us with a pile of mysteries that something good is happening.

PIC is much more like Fringe than like LOST insofar as the "dun dun dun" new mysteries unveiled come across as completely random and our of left field, and where enormous switcheroos of character loyalties and secrets appear out of nowhere just to keep us in suspense. Now Fringe was a fun show; fun but dumb. It had nothing to say, but it said it in a very entertaining way and with lots of imagination. It didn't take its own premises that seriously, but it did explore them like it was a playground. For positive attitude and zip, I'll give that show an A. It gets an F in certain other categories if we wanted to treat it like the X-Files, which it briefly was but then moved away from that.

I agree with you that the binge-watching Netflix technology does lend itself more to a 10 hour film rather than a serialized but episodic structure, if we're assuming that someone will watch them all in a row. However even this format is no better or worse than how the writers structure the segments. Even in a regular two or three act play the playwrights needs to understand writing elements such as how each part connects to what came before and what came after, how each scene plays by itself but *also* how the entire piece comes off when it's done, and of course basic things like the characters being real and motivated, and so forth. No writer worth his salt in *any* format would let one scene be lousy and claim it's ok because you'll appreciate the last scene. Nothing retroactively fixes an audience being bored, befuddled, or irritated at any part of it; the beginning, middle, and end need to be there, and each needs to be solid in its own right and with its own internal structure.

So to the extent that I personally sometimes compared PIC (or DISC) to Fringe or maybe LOST, it's because the writers seem to think that the mystery box "ah-hah!" surprise feature is the main event. But really it's more like glitter; the product rides on what it always does - good writing. When something's happening on screen to make you go "huh?" we know we're in trouble. "It will all be answered next week" isn't just a lame response to people thinking the material makes no sense, it's basically admitting that all there is to offer is the mystery, and anything we're seeing at the moment is just a vehicle to get us there. But the funny thing is we don't watch stories to wonder what's coming next, we watch to see what's happening right now. If it's not solid 'right now' then anything else that may come later doesn't matter, it needs a rewrite.
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Peter G.
Wed, Mar 25, 2020, 10:48am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

It's interesting to discuss the two different issues, the first being the choices being made, the second being the effectiveness of their execution. Specifically in regard to Stewart's acting, this is going to become a matter of taste I suspect. Take Avery Brooks, probably our poster boy for disagreements on whether his acting style is "bad" or whether it's stylized in a way many people don't like, or whether it's so good that it looks unusual from a normal standard. YMMV on these types of questions.

I've personally *always* thought that Stewart was a pure British actor in his technique, excelling at certain acting things and being stereotypically weak at others. He has superb charisma, an enormous sense of fun and humor when he wants it, the biggest smile ever, and a commanding demeanor when he wants it. And of course the use of his voice and specifically the strength of his reason coming through it. But what I feel he's always been bad at (and this is especially because British actors' training doesn't emphasize it like American schools do) is being vulnerable, showing harsh emotions (fear, anger, etc), being carried by his feelings rather than his head in general. He is masterly at playing actions, but IMO has never been good at all at being emotionally open. His Macbeth, for example, was more intellectual than anything else.

So for him to appear on a Kurtzman/Akiva show is really weird for him on a technical level. LOST and Fringe were the shows par excellence that portrayed broken people with emotions spilling all over the place. I don't think an episode of LOST went by without crying and a nervous breakdown by someone (often excellently acted), and on Fringe the plot often hinged on the emotional performances of the characters (such as Walter, for example, who was an emotional basket case, also excellently acted). These were shows where they really wanted the human blood and guts on display and nothing tidy or sanitized. And that's a funny world for Stewart to come into, who basically made his career doing outstanding sanitized performances. Even TNG has oft been accused of being highly sanitized and not portraying humanity's underbelly the way TOS (or sometimes DS9) did.

So it doesn't surprise me that some people think Stewart is struggling here. I personally think his acting here has at times been outright bad, as he "indicates" emotions (i.e. trying to make himself *look* emotional, rather than just having emotions and letting them naturally be), pushes at times to work himself up, and generally has this air of trying to work, which in a masterly actor you generally never see. But I see it here, because he's out of his element in an American TV idiom and wheelhouse that's making demands of him that he's never delivered before. Actually I applaud him trying to do it; I think it's a great turn for him to try to get into the emotive side of things. But as a trial run (and especially in the twilight of his career) it's really difficult to just achieve that effortlessly and have it look like the character rather than an actor trying to act. I suspect this is behind certain posters thinking that his characterization is vacillating. I'm not sure that it is; I think what's happening is that sometimes he's pushing to try to act in a certain way that's foreign to him, seeming perhaps weird to us, and at other times he falls into his natural training, which is to speak from his intellect and be eloquent, in which case he comes off much more as Picard. But I think this is a technical issue for him, not one of altering his characterization ever show. When he's trying to be emotional and open he's working too hard, and it comes off as very awkward and inauthentic to me.
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Peter G.
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 4:20pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: The Menagerie

@ Booming,

Regarding the specific issue of women's attire (and cleavage), I think there is a huge disconnect if we're talking about (for argument's sake) liberal views on this issue. Basically there are various POV's one can take that are all liberal/leftist and they contradict each other. So even from an anti-establishment POV there is no solid ground to stand on without someone being able to point a finger at it.

In this case I personally tend to agree that I don't care for physical exploitation, however the context of showing off women on Trek involved not just a 'patriarchal' society on the one hand, but a hippy/free spirit movement on the other which was far more hell-bent than the conservative faction was on exposing the female body. Roddenberry comes into it with (IMO) a foot in each department: on the one hand, he seemed to believe in the free-spirit orgy free love concepts of society (very much reflected in TNG S1-2, even more so than on TOS which was by and large a more conservative show), while on the other hand he was a male show exec who clearly was in a position to exercise power over women he worked with. So while I don't have a position on how 'good' or 'bad' it was that this was his POV, it's pretty clear to me that the exposure of women's bodies could just as soon be called exploitative as it could be called liberation, depending on which school of thought on the left you subscribe to. One person's "selling sex" is another person's "the female body is nothing to be ashamed of or to hide."

I see both sides of this issue as having some kind of sense of it, and I find it difficult to parse whether showing cleave on Trek should be described as "a little sad" rather than "celebrating the female form." This whole topic is a quagmire as far as I'm concerned. What I do know is that while I didn't have any harsh feelings for anything depicted on TOS or TNG I was squeemish about VOY's depiction of Seven, and outright hostile to ENT's depiction of T'Pol. Wherever the line is I feel they crossed it eventually, so I suppose I don't blame someone who may feel that they crossed it already in TNG. Of all the shows DS9 is probably the most prudish :)
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Peter G.
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 3:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: The Menagerie

@ Booming,

I believe most of those plot questions get answered in part 2, in case you haven't watched that far yet.

"On thing is somewhat disheartening and it highlights a little dark truth about Star Trek. It played to certain feelings of the male audience. In this rejected pilot women wear the same outfits as men. 4 years later in TOS they wear the miniest of skirts.

The first officer , a woman, is in command for most of the episode. That is pushing boundaries. That in the later serialized show the main female character is demoted to fifth or sixth officer is sad. I guess because Uhura is black that is another way of pushing boundaries but still."

What dark truth about Trek are you referring to here? Roddenberry wanted women to have a more prominent role and the network literally vetoed it. All things considered, I think it was lucky he got through what he did on the show and made three seasons of it.
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Peter G.
Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 9:56pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

@ James White,

"The real question is whether Stewart is playing him this way or whether the actor himself is no longer able to "summon" the Picard we remember. I tend toward the former but who really knows."

I'm not sure if it's that Stewart *can't* act like the old Picard anymore, but rather than now that he has executive power he doesn't want to. I think he's excised all the things about Picard he didn't care for - being insular, reserved, private, quietly dignified, and added all the parts of his own personality he prefers - boisterous, loving to smile, a bit of a goof. Watch him in interviews and watch him here, this is Stewart's persona more than Picard's. But I don't think it's due to laziness, so much as Stewart wanting the show to be a vehicle for his own personal political and social views, and wanting those views to come from *him* rather than from some character he's playing. I sort of see it as him looking right at the camera as he says these things, as Stewart, doing a docu-drama. I think that's behind the character change, personally.
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Peter G.
Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 12:38pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Trials and Tribble-ations

@ Chrome,

It's not so much the issue that there is fighting in Arena and Sisko being interested in that, it's Elliott's connecting that to what he sees as a character flaw in Benjamin in being a violent, unprincipled person. So it's the nuance and interpretation I'm contesting, not the fact alone that Ben may have indeed been interested in the fact of the combat itself. My point is that I don't think it's fair to assume that Ben was interested in it *only* because it was a cool prize fight, but that retaining its proper context, I would assume Ben liked the combo of the fight followed by the peaceful and humane resolution. If Sisko had primarily been excited to hear about a kick-ass fight then he could just as soon have asked about fighting Khan hand to hand and winning, as opposed to the Gorn, whom he beat with a shotgun.

To me the Arena incident is less about Kirk getting into fisticuffs and more about his resourcefulness. If we're looking for an apples-to-apples comparison, what Kirk did in Arena is much closer to O'Brien in "Empok Nor", using his wits over he brawn. I sort of feel like this is getting into the weeds, as my main point was that I think it's unfair to hear a line like this in passing and use it as fuel to support a "Sisko as barbarian" message without retaining the full context of what the Arena incident was like and meant in the end.

I agree with you that Sisko's interest in this, as opposed to hearing about some diplomatic mission, certainly suggests he thought he Kirk as the action hero and wanted to hear stories about that sort of thing. I just don't think it helps prove that Sisko is just a brute.
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Peter G.
Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 10:59am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

@ Gerontius,

"I don't think that parallel fully stands up - the Zhat Vash were the ones who deliberately engineered the situation that caused the Romulan rescue mission to be abandoned, rather than arising as a consequence of that. There's no sense that they are a reaction to the failing of the Federation to maintain its ethical status."

You're talking about the root causes of the refugee situation. What I'm talking about is the aftermath - the attitude the Federation finally adopted with regard to both Romulan refugees and synths, namely "No room for them here in the Federation. Not Our Problem." It's two versions of the same mindset, which is to banish the refugee/mid-Eastern/Muslim person because they pose a threat to America (sorry, to the Federation). I think it's actually crystal clear that they are delivering this particular message, although as you say the plot points of how they got there are particular to this show's story.

Anyhow my general point is that if the synth 'rebellion' is a natural result of this scenario, I don't see how Sudra as a mind-controlling villain would fit into it, even though that seems to be the only explanation I can conjure as to why the synths went along with her EVIL plan without discussion.
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Peter G.
Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 10:32am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Trials and Tribble-ations

@ Elliott,

You may call Arena "testosterone-addled silliness" by way of getting in another dig at Sisko (in his interest in a pugilistic story), but the fundamental point of that episode is that even when faced with a scary monster Kirk will spare its life because killing just to kill is wrong. Sure, he outsmarted it and wounded it, but the point of the episode is that even in the I Am Legend scenario of being the only human, no one else to talk to, no support or real technology to speak of, he will still exercise mercy despite being *able* to kill. I think it's probably called "Arena" because the box of 'kill or be killed' he was put in turned out to be a box he could step out of and refuse to participate in. This is by no means a novel TOS story, as this sort of theme frequently arose, but it hardly illustrates bad taste in any sense on Sisko's part to admire it, as it has both parts of Starfleet in it: strength, and compassion.
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Peter G.
Sun, Mar 22, 2020, 9:41pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

@ Gerontius,

"I can't see why androids having telepathic abilities is any more hard to swallow than androids existing in the first place. Or for that matter, than anyone having telepathic abilities."

I think you've nailed down the main issue here that I was arguing: you want to compare android telepathy with the existence of androids - both are amazing, right? Well I agree. And TNG certainly thought that the mere fact of Data existing was worth major attention, repeatedly. Datalore was all about 'where did he come from' and all that. TNG S1 certainly did not take for granted that he was a spectacular marvel. And likewise with the holodeck, a new tech introduced that they took every chance to show off. This isn't just about us seeing new gadgets on display; we really do want to know how novel new technologies will change the future. That's pretty much literally what Trek is about.

So yeah, some of these other techs are amazing, as you say. So why isn't android telepathy treated as if it's amazing in this episode? Why isn't Picard reacting to it the same way he did after his first holo-experience in The Big Goodbye, or after meeting Minuet? It's because the writers of this don't seem to care about the 'sense of wonder', they care about plot progression. But ironically (IMO) the plot actually becomes illogical if the sense of wonder isn't respected. If people who had never seen a holodeck saw one for the first time and didn't bat an eyelash, the story would actually cease to make sense; so much so that we would question whether the holodeck really was what we thought it was.

As Jason R. mentioned, I wouldn't object at all to a new sci-fi development that Maddox had cracked the secret of telepathy. Actually that would be really cool. But as it was just thrown in here in passing in order to get us right to Sudra seeing the vision, we not only have to swallow an enormous pill without water, but also move along to The Big Bad so quickly that there's no time to even deal with that pill still stuck in our throat. With no gasps or awe at an android mind-meld it begins to actually beggar belief that it's happening, no less that no one mentions it afterward.

I suppose if we take seriously that she is totally telepathic and that writers just didn't care to include 60 seconds of reaction to that (in an already quite short episode), it *might* go a ways towards explaining why the other synths so mindlessly go along with Sudra. Maybe she's outright controlling them using robotic mind control. Lore did have remote access to Data's emotion chip, which although not at all like telepathy, was maybe an aesthetic precursor to Sudra having remote control over the others. But again, when it first happened to Data in Descent we got a big sign (his anger) that something was wrong. Here I noticed no signs in Soji that something was wrong, and she was nodding her head along with the others.

At this time I am firm in my belief that this is a refugee/scorned people narrative, and that the show message is about when you treat refugees and people who look different as non-persons it will (a) come back to bite you in the ass, and (b) prove that you're more of a threat than they are. It fits neatly into this paradigm that the synths aren't going to take it anyone from the bigoted organics, and now that they have a cosmic big brother they're done with asking for permission. It doesn't fit at all that Sudra is an evil mind-controller and that the synths are just drones for her to order around. And that also certainly undermines the argument that they aren't dangerous. I don't see this as being consistent with the undercurrent we have so far, but I'm also aware that this production crew likes to take the rug out from under us *just for the sake of undermining expectations*, so defying their own narrative is certainly not out of the question for next week.
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Peter G.
Sat, Mar 21, 2020, 4:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

@ Quincy,

As I mentioned I agree with you that the notion of telepathic circuitry doesn't contradict what we see in the episode, so it's a *possible* interpretation of what we see. The thing is just that we do not have any reason to say it *is* that, because the show hasn't said so. And again, I would think that something as big as robotic telepathy would be a "must know" fact about our world if the writers are deliberately introducing it. You could be correct that they did have it in mind, but in that case I believe they made a big mistake throwing it in as an afterthought when it would be more groundbreaking IMO than flesh-and-blood synths are.

This is why it's my opinion that the writers have inadvertently introduced a new big thing without realizing it. I really do think that when they showed Sudra doing a mindmeld they had in mind that it was a mechanical tactile skill that could be learned, like the neck pinch. Hey, I'll be happy to be proved wrong next ep if they retroactively explain it, but that would seem to me to be inferior than just explaining it from the get-go. I mean, is there a reason to keep us in the dark wondering what's going on in real time? And it's also super-contrived to me for none of the humans present to gasp at the idea that a synth could perform a mind-meld. They really took that one in stride!

Regarding Sudra's mention of knowing about lying, I also took it for granted this has to do with superior scanning technology to real bio-signs. Putting aside the issue of the writing and what makes more sense, don't you agree though that if there were telepathic androids around that would present a massive potential threat to organic life? It would certainly change the entire calculus for me about how safe it is to mass-produce synths.
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Peter G.
Sat, Mar 21, 2020, 2:44pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

@ Quincy,

What I suggested above was a theory about why they thought there was precedent, whereas in fact there is none. But if you want to get into creating head-canon to justify something we see that has no explanation, have at it. I do that all the time. In a case like this I would think it absolutely mandatory for a writer to state outright that the cybernetics tech advanced to the point where they could create telepathy circuitry. In fact if that were the case I would switch positions to "android ban" faster than you can say Picard. Androids running around that can read your mind? No thanks. That alone would be a plot point as significant as anything else we've heard so far, so no, that can't be omitted just like that. The reason it *was* omitted is because they came up with no such premise. You are certainly free to dream about how the writing can be reconciled with logic, but that doesn't make the writing itself logical. It just means you're taking on the task of being another writer.
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Peter G.
Sat, Mar 21, 2020, 3:08am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

For what it's worth, regarding mind melds, Spock could meld with various types of intelligent beings, apparently including Nomad. However he could do this because Vulcans are telepaths, not for any other reason. The idea that a machine or non-telepath could 'learn' a mind meld is equivalent to saying that these AI can acquire telepathy. If that's true then their abilities are bonkers. However I suspect the writers actually got confused when writing this into the episode, and I suspect they were recollecting Data learning the neck pinch in Unification and impressing Spock. They likely thought to borrow a page from that, except for one error: the neck pinch is a purely tactile maneuver involving compressing nerves, whereas the mind meld requires telepathy *as well as* the skill to learn how to link minds. Whoopsie.
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