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Peter G.
Mon, Jan 18, 2021, 7:55pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S4: Data's Day

Wow nice catch on "Devoras"!! Holy cow!
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Peter G.
Sat, Jan 16, 2021, 8:11pm (UTC -6)
Re: Star Trek: Generations

Really good concepts, Jason. And let's not even get started about the El-Aurians and their abilities. Like for instance what good is it that Soren is a "listener"? Wasted on him, and practically irrelevant. Many races died to the Borg, so why did he have to be that? Somehow his ability to hear the pain of others should have been relevant. Maybe he was so sympathetic to the plight of his own people he couldn't take it anymore and needed to get away. And Guinan, oh man. She could tell in Yesterday's Enterprise that things were "wrong", and yet we are not treated to even a short scene of how she inhabits the Nexus or what it meant to her. Or how about her so-called "imp" nature that Q refers to: all of these questions could have been interesting, but instead she's essentially just Whoopie Goldberg for the good the script makes of her.

How about this for sci-fi: the Nexus exists outside of time, and can even permit you to re-enter anytime you'd like. Did it never occur to Picard (or anyone else) to go back, I dunno, to before the entire crisis started and stop Soren during lunch some day? Or perhaps that's another temptation they could have explored. Why wouldn't Picard be tempted to go back and save his family once he could go anywhere and anywhen? And what about Kirk saving David? Kirk's lessons in ST: II-IV could have been quintessentially important here, about loss leading to new life; about how you can't grow without losing what came before.

Anyhow we could go on endlessly about all the material scattered across the oeuvre that they neglected to use, which was sitting right there. The Nexus was the perfect template to include literally anything from any series or film and have it be sensible, because it's anytime and any place. It's the core of the characters and their internal non-linear perception of their own lives. Or maybe it's just about horses and having breakfast. Either way.
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Peter G.
Sat, Jan 16, 2021, 7:29pm (UTC -6)
Re: Star Trek: Generations

" As a sci-fi premise, it's a great one, even though I find the final argument "no, because it's not real" lacking."

I don't think anyone needed a technobabble explanation of the Nexus in terms of how it was made, or natural phenomenon, or which chronoton particles blah blah blah. But we definitely needed an explanation of what it could do, or what it means that a person in it could choose one thing or another. For instance I intuit that Picard is meant to be understood to be some kind of paragon for willing himself out of eternal paradise to go back to his duty. Or at least that would be logical...but we see more or less nothing of the sort. This so-called impossible to resist magic place seems pretty easy to resist unless you just got noplace else to go. Soren wants to go there badly enough to commit genocide; is this supposed to say something about the Nexus, or about him being a looney bird? We just don't know. It would be a neat sci-fi premise if there really was a place so awesome that more or less anyone would do *anything* to get back. It would make Soren understandable if he was just a regular guy, even a good guy, and being there once did this to him, like the ultimate crack addict. But instead he's just a baddie, Picard does his usual handwave of temptation, Kirk is chilling until he decides to go, and Guinan's whole presence in it seems like an afterthought. I mean come on, this was the *prime* spot to show us that so-called closer than lovers relationship with Picard. So why not show it? That's a cool story right there, totally sci-fi, and not needing technobabble: what if two people spent an eternity together in one instant in the Nexus? Actually believe it or not the TV show Heroes did exactly this once, where Sylar and Pete are trapped in an Inception mind-trap together, and having gone in as mortal enemies they come out as brothers, all taking place in a few minutes in real time. That is cool writing - having their captor screw himself over by giving them time to unite against him in accelerated time. Generations had umpteen chances to show us cool sci-fi relationship stuff, and instead gave us a maudlin scene of Picard's family news, as well as some nostalgic Kirk stuff. I don't even mind the scenes on the grounds of being emotional; what I mind is that they end up just being a setup for reunion scenes and don't have much of a character pay-off.

On paper I love this story. But I find the script focuses on all the wrong things, and frankly just isn't that well-written. I too had a lot of fun seeing it when it came out, but it has aged poorly for me. Take away giggling at Data and being surprised that the Duras sisters are in it, and there's not much left other than the usual fun I have with the TOS crew, and of course Malcolm McDowell.
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Peter G.
Sat, Jan 16, 2021, 10:23am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S1: The Neutral Zone

@ Bob,

I did specify that it was especially in America that wealth and financial success is tied to personal worth. I still think this would be true to an extent in any place with a competitive ecosystem, but if course if the environment is (for lack of a more descriptive term) better one can value more valuable things. If I transplanted you directly into the Federation you might even find your valuing of human choice amplified, or at least fitting in even more with the majority disposition. I think Jason R is at least right that the world right now is a spectrum, with some measures at least part of the way towards "Federation" to varying degrees depending on where you are. It pretty much has to be that way, else we'd have to conclude we hadn't advanced at all since the stone age...or worse, we might have to conclude that there is no advancing.
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Peter G.
Fri, Jan 15, 2021, 2:34pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S1: The Neutral Zone

@ Jason R,

I agree about the supposed dystopian places. Like is Yar's home planet even part of the Federation at all? And there is another issue of colony vs member world. A human-colonized world would, I imagine, be privy to all advantages of a Federation world in terms of sharing resources, although perhaps with a small population they would only merit a single industrial replicator or something (which would affect 'build time', not resource availability). But many worlds that opt into the Federation no doubt still have a large leeway to govern their world however they want, and we don't really know anything about how much latitude that includes. Could a planet join the Federation but still prefer to operate their own local capitalistic society? I have no idea. Could a member world have a dictator, but because they're 'unified' they are eligible to join? I don't know what kind of humanitarian or moral standards the Federation has for membership, but I am guessing they have to be somewhat open-minded about that because after all many races would never join in they thought it meant being thought-policed into accepting human values.
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Peter G.
Fri, Jan 15, 2021, 12:58pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S1: The Neutral Zone

@ Bob,

I think it's made pretty clear over a few Treks that materialism is not only alleviated but is outright obsolete. Maybe Picard oversells the idea that all humans are evolved to the point he is, but I think it's almost self-evident that if you eliminate wealth you will eliminate along with it people trying to own everything they see, and also that feeling of measuring yourself based on how much stuff you have. There is nothing to brag about if you are at the same 'economic level' as your neighbor and literally cannot do anything to rise above him financially. Right now, especially in America, people define themselves by the social strata of their work and how much money it makes. Mostly it's about the money. "What do you do?" is a first question asked most of the time, and it's more or less interchangeable with "how much money do you make". The idea is that in the Federation self-worth isn't defined in these terms. I think there is a psychological truth to this: take away the mechanism and you take away the idea. Even if you didn't magically develop all kinds of virtue, if you found yourself in a place where there was simply no such thing as making more money than someone else and having a fancy house and car, you would quickly divest yourself of the idea of trying to be better than him on these grounds.

True, people might end up being competitive in other ways, and especially narcissists might try to look better than others in some way or another. Maybe you created more art than the next guy, or invented something that gave you fame. I would imagine that prestige would replace wealth as a commodity to fight for, so that respected positions (e.g. within the Federation) would be the object of desire rather than wealth accumulation for people not satisfied with a humble life. That is 'economics' in the loose sense (i.e. the study of what people want) but not in the sense of it being about physical resources.
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Peter G.
Fri, Jan 15, 2021, 12:17pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S1: The Neutral Zone

@ Jason R.,

I think part of the deal of the Federation post-scarcity society would have to be rationing. They did hint from time to time of 'replicator rations', and in TOS they did refer to receiving pay (which in later Treks was specified to be Federation credits). The credits are certainly a type of currency, but unlike our modern currencies are undoubtedly only to be used to withdraw from the common resource pool and for no other purpose. There would be no 'investing' your credits to accumulate more or anything like that. They never said this directly but I also imagine that being in Starfleet for instance gets you more credit than just being some civilian on Earth. No doubt that you have to save up your credits or pool them to get a big thing like a shuttle or small starship on a private basis.

So the only way Canada's economy would resemble this would be if everyone was not only on a UBI (which would be a starting point), but additionally if private investment and wealth generation was removed from the picture. So the UBI (or its later equivalent) would not only be a safety net but in fact would be someone's entire ration to use each pay period - I don't think there could be any other source of income for such a system to work. Nor could there be any other source of income if all credits are electronically distributed by the Federation; no one would be able to start a for-profit business, for example, to try to charge other people for their credits and have them exchange hands. If they could do that then you'd be right back to square one in a regular 2020 economy with people accumulating vast amounts of credits, being rich, etc etc. Other than they would still get their UBI, but the wealth disparity would certainly still exist. So I don't think it could work like that, and therefore even if Canada currently has done away with starvation in particular, I still don't think it resembles what a Federation economy would have to look like.
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Peter G.
Wed, Jan 13, 2021, 1:30pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

I think 12-13 episodes is plenty for a serialized storyline. I mean, people used to make 2 hour films with a complete story, I don't see why 13 hours isn't enough...
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Peter G.
Wed, Jan 13, 2021, 1:06am (UTC -6)
Re: ENT S1: Dear Doctor

@ Luke,

The question of just how far non-interference goes is a good one. I had a hunch maybe five years ago, which is slowly becoming a conviction, that Bablylon 5's preposterous race the Lumati, featured in the episode Acts of Sacrifice, is a pastiche and biting satire on Trek's Federation. It's just too close to home the things they say about refusing to lift a finger to help 'inferior races'.

"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FX01h1P3p-s&ab_channel=Movie%2FTVClips%26Quotes"

This race is mostly played for laughs, which is telling since their philosophy is arguably the other side of the coin of the PD.
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Peter G.
Wed, Jan 13, 2021, 12:58am (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: The Empath

@ Mal,

You're putting some work into this, thanks for egging us on to write more.

For what it's worth:

"@Peter G. is a little harder to read, but if I may, I think he puts Plato at the top of the heap and Triskelion at the bottom - but only because he believes Empath is “good” for him, like “medicine”."

I don't like rating episodes because I find it hard to mix together different factors like how much I value the episode, how much I want to watch it on any given day, and how much it adds to the Trek universe. For example I'd rather watch Let He Who Is Without Sin almost any day compared with The Empath, but I will not categorically say that makes it better. It makes it...easier, maybe? More fun for sure. How that translates into a star rating I don't know. But if I had to rank between these three episodes which I'd rather watch right now, Plato's Stepchildren is actually middle of the pack. It's hard to watch, brutal at times, but awesome. But it's not for everyday. I'll take Triskelion most days over the other two. It's enjoyable, I like its message, it's cool. But Plato's Stepchildren is by far the most important and sophisticated of the three for me, and I would call it objectively the best by far. Not sure where that puts my 2nd and 3rd place. Another good example of this is TNG's The Inner Light. Obviously a top-notch piece of work, but actually I shy away from it most of the time, I'm just not up for that. As nice as the story is, that's frankly not what I'm signing up for when I want to chill out with Trek when I'm tired. So there is also the issue of what Trek is to us in a given session. Challenging and moving? A friendly place to come home to on a bad day? An exciting adventure? It's been all these to me, but some episodes are almost never on the docket. Make of that what you will :)

I did want to respond to one other point:

"For me, that’s the difference between Q Who and All Good Things. In AGT, Q sets in motion something that *can* happen, that humanity would simply cease to exist. Not at Q’s hands. But because of what a human - Picard does. Q gives Picard the knowledge of what he has done so that he might decide to do differently."

Technically, yes, it was always in Picard's hands. But I would disagree that he had the full experience of free will in creating the anti-time anomaly. In fact he was essentially destined to do it exactly as he did it until Q gave him the final clues near the end. He had just enough information to know he had to act, and he acted in the only way he knew how: get out there, take measurements, make a plan, and do something at any cost. That's very commendable, but also destructive if you don't know what you're doing. Which is sort of what Q's point was in Encounter at Farpoint. It's not enough to just want to get out there and make waves, unless you actually know *for certain* you are doing good. If you don't know you're doing good, you might be doing wrong, or destroying yourselves. So the issue at stake in AGT isn't so much that Picard had the free will to choose either way; it's that when he chose to exercise his will at first it was through limited and mostly incorrect assumptions. He wasn't concerned enough about how limited he was, he was just completely confident that by making a choice he'd get it right. It's not really that fabulous to say he had a choice, because every choice he made was made looking dimly up from a dark pit. There's not much fabulous about that, especially when it means cancelling all life in the universe. That's not a Trek to celebrate; no one will be congratulating him on his free will in achieving that goal. It's only through transcending his understanding that he even had the capability to make a meaningful choice at the end of AGT. It was the actual wisdom and understanding that made the difference between his choice being salvation or destruction. It's not enough to mean well, you have to be right. So from that standpoint I think Q knew at the start that Picard would surely fail, and this failure was a necessary teaching tool to show him just how precarious a lack of comprehension can be if you think big picture.

Q Who is funny because Q did all that in response to Picard insisting humans were ready to face what was out there, and didn't need a god's help. You could call it a cruel lesson, you could call it evil and needless, but at the same time you could argue just as well that Picard was "free" to succeed in his encounter with the Borg. After all, Q didn't make the Enterprise fail, they failed all on their own. Granted, they were guaranteed to fail due to being technologically inferior; just as Picard was intellectually inferior in AGT. So between those I don't see much of a difference personally. I do tend to accept that some lessons can't be learned without the failure, although the issue of whether instigating a bloody failure could ever be justified is an open one. I can't really pretend to judge what a god should or shouldn't do, somewhat like what Picard said about Kevin Uxbridge. Following William B's hypothesis about the Vians, if they were faced with the ridiculous dilemma of doing nothing and letting everyone involved die, or doing something and having the results be potentially catastrophic, I'm not sure I'm in the position to judge their version of solving the problem. I could be upset by it, question it, but I don't know that I have the information to denounce it outright.

I was thinking while reading all of your comments that there is something of the Prime Directive in the decision the Vians have to make. Interfere and maybe make a terrible mistake; but leave events to their own devices and you guarantee a certain degree of disaster and loss. Many on this site have argued the immorality of the PD. Notwithstanding that I think many people misunderstanding the reasons why the PD is important, nevertheless it does bear mentioning that doing nothing in the face of need can in some cases surely be wrong. The question becomes when you are justified to intervene and take control of someone else's destiny, to own what will become of them. If an old lady is crossing the street and is falling out of her walker, helping her up feels like a no brainer. But what if an artist is crossing the street and falling out of his passion; is catching him and helping him back up saving him, or dooming him to a life of failure and misery? What if a child is falling out of his tricycle - is he best served if you prevent that too? We could come up with more and more difficult versions of that. In AGT the question of whether to act, and how to act when you do, is determined by whether you understand the situation properly and can choose an appropriate action that will provide benefit. Defining what "benefit" even means is a doctoral thesis topic. I guess I'm not convinced I understand the situation the Vians are in to judge them as harshly as Kirk does. He is probably right, since I almost invariably agree with him, but all the same playing god becomes a little less gruesome if you're given the job against your will. Maybe it would make you wish you never had the power in the first place. Maybe Riker in Hide and Q dodged a big bullet.
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Peter G.
Tue, Jan 12, 2021, 12:31pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: The Empath

To add to William's great comment, I think it's not merely that pain is an incidental evil needed for this test. Pain is in this instance *the thing* they are testing for to make sure Gem's empathy is wired properly. Sure, she might have a good reflexive or intellectual empathy with various experiences like pleasure or laughter, but it is specifically her ability to recognize, empathize with, and want to heal pain that they are interested in. There is a sort of Christian aspect to this, where it's alright to be able to join with others in various aspects of life, but it's in the ability to join in with another's pain, and ideally heal it, that the truest version of emotional connection is to be found. And obviously the only way to test Gem's ability to join with another in pain is for her to encounter someone else in great pain. For this they need to set up the condition, since it's unlikely they will be able to randomly have her encounter the very scenario she needs to experience.

If this is an allegory, I suppose we might suggest that it could be a Biblical one, even addressing issues like the problem of evil or why a God needs to suffer alongside his people in order to help them. We could suppose the Vians have no empathy at all, which would sort of be a textbook definition of psychopath (@ William, this doesn't have to be a moral condemnation, merely a description). But they might also be empathic, just not able to use their empathy to help anyone, unlike Gem. Maybe she in practice can realize what they understand but can't do. They may be more advanced at the moment, but Gem and her species can develop and may surpass them in time, even in intellect. They key is whether that intellect and that empathy is connected to anyone else, or is self-contained like a solipsism and therefore useless.

Now the one way in which the allegory doesn't track to a Judeo-Christian framework is that in the problem of evil we have God permitting pain and suffering, whereas here it would appear the Vians are deliberately creating it to produce an effect. But then again if an omnipotent being 'permits' something, is that not akin to being responsible for it? Or at least we might well see it that way, even if we can't understand it fully. The difference between setting something in motion that will happen, or setting in motion something that *can* happen, is a bit vague to me morally. Generally in everyday life I would assign more or less full responsibility to someone who does something knowing that there *can* be said consequence, even if it's only probable. Like, set of a bomb knowing there are people in the building, or set it off not knowing if anyone's in the building, I would suggest that the culpability in both cases for murder is essentially the same. So where does that leave us for an advanced being causing pain, versus one permitting pain, in both cases where the outcome is the development of a species to a new height? I like William's idea that they may also be preventing a greater evil through these experiments, which puts us in the trolley problem. Unfortunately the trolley problem requires quite a lot of axioms to answer it either way.

Personally I can say that as a kid I never liked this one. It was slow, boring, and aesthetically its tone is very different from your average TOS adventure episode. As an adult I like it more on intellectual and construction grounds, and it's the sort of ep that I appreciate a lot on the very infrequent occasions I might be in the mood to watch it. I'm basically never in the mood to watch it, because it's no fun. But on those rare occasions when I do it's good. Not sure how that translates into a rating. The Empath is like taking my medicine.
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Peter G.
Mon, Jan 11, 2021, 6:26pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

Nice review, Jammer.

"My prescriptions for season four: the same as after every season, so I won't bother repeating them. Discovery either must not want to learn, or thinks it's doing exactly what it wants to be doing."

I'm pretty darn sure it's doing exactly what it wants to be doing. If the show is filled with-onscreen congratulations and admiration for its characters I think it's a sure bet that exactly the same is going on in the conference room. It's everyone high-fiving each other all the way home.

One thing to bear in mind regarding the science and futurism of the show - be it the interior shots of the ship (the "turbolift trainyard"), the nature of the burn, how dilithium works, what the nature of the Federation is at this point - all of these things have never mattered to the Abrahms/Kurtzman/Akiva crew. This is not always a bad thing. Some of their shows, LOST for instance, give just enough of a hint of what's going on that you might think they are science fiction, before it becomes clear that these elements are there to create window dressing for the character stories. There was a period during LOST's run when I really thought it was a sci-fi show masquerading as a survivor show, and as they began to peel back the layers I thought it was going to be more and more techno-oriented. That was, until I realized that tech was just a stand-in for [insert weird stuff so that our heroes have a mind-bending experience]. In LOST the weird stuff included the black smoke monster (which later seemed like a technological marvel, and later again just magic), Desmond's countdown timer, the scientific experiments on the island, and other devices that in the end served only to be jumping off points for character melodrama. I should note carefully as I say this that I actually liked the character melodrama on that show, for the most part, so I did not begrudge it what turned out to be soft deceptions. The showrunners themselves lied outright IMO that it was all headed somewhere, when it became clear a few seasons in they were making it all up as they went along. By the end it was pure fantastical nonsense, and if one was still watching there was no longer concern about it 'making sense'. If you liked the characters and their power struggle it was enough, plus it had that element of adventuring and discovering random stuff each week, which is fun albeit a tad childish.

Fringe turned out to be no different, at first a hardcore X-Files type show, actually migrating itself more toward straight-out sci-fi, and finally settling on being more like Narnia and idolizing its female lead and making her the center of the world (ring a bell?). Any semblance of it being actual sci-fi was made moot towards the end of the series. I wouldn't even call it science fantasy, it was more like just throwing in any crazy idea so that the story could take insane twists and turns, often involving the reversal of fortune motif taken to clownish levels. In the end it was a goofy and uneven series, fun for me, but also annoying in how the stakes became totally arbitrary. Some of the plot twists were fun, some were plain stupid. Most are almost impossible to remember. If not for a few characters that were a lot of fun (Walter, most notably) I'm not sure it would have been nearly so watchable.

Between LOST and Fringe I feel both shows banked so hard on their stars that the weight must have given them back pains. Maybe their contracts came with physical therapy as back-payment. I am mentioning all of this because DISC has been playing out in exactly the same way, and it's not so much that it's fruitless to nitpick "science ideas" like a spore drive or time crystals; it's that this was never a science fiction show and was never intended to be. Sure, the marketing would insist that it was, a pure continuation of the Trek tradition, but come on, we know these showrunners. And they were apparently not going to pick someone new For S3 who was diametrically opposite. This was always another in the LOST/Fringe tradition of scientific fantasy, more in the C.S. Lewis camp than Isaac Asimov, and its focus was always going to be the zany twists and turns of its characters. From that standpoint the show would stand or fall on whether you were in love with the characters or not. I'm willing to bet that the majority of the show's problems from this standpoint rest on two issues:

1) It is actually a big deal for a Trek fan to be told that it's science fiction, when it's really not. For LOST fans, sure, they were misled time and again, but they were ok with a new property doing its own thing and mixing genres. But when someone wants sci-fi they WANT SCI-FI. There is really zero room for negotiation there.

2) Many people don't like Michael as a character. That is pretty much the start and finish of any review they would need to write: it's the Michael show, they don't like the Michael, so they don't like the show. If every word out of her mouth is poetry to you, you will be entertained. I'm not saying this is bad, it's just what the deal is. And not every show must be damned if this is so. For instance if you found Muldur annoying on X-Files I'm not sure how you'd ever enjoy the show (admittedly even that show is a duo, not a solo act). Fringe similarly became a veritable one-woman show. The reason I think LOST fared so well was that it, shall we say, diversified its interests in a vast array of characters, leaving it open to dispose of characters they had no further use for. There was something for everyone on that show.

Beyond the sci-fi issue and the Michael issue there is more fundamental technical stuff, like bad plotting, at times incompetent editing, story red herrings, lines that are so derivative you wonder if it's some kind of postmodern statement, and character beats that are awkward and forced. All of these quality control issues matter and will affect how professional it all looks, but even so I feel like these will qualitatively affect how well the story plays for you. More visible flaws and the more you have to work to suspend disbelief. A plot point lurches ahead suddenly, you go "huh?", and it takes some pains to get back into it. But individually these are not gamebreaking problems, even though cumulatively they add up. But the sci-fi and Burnham issues are really a point of no return if you're on the wrong side of them. Nothing else could really salvage a scientific fantasy show about one person you dislike, when what they want is a scientific ensemble show. It's just game over.
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Peter G.
Mon, Jan 11, 2021, 1:17pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S4: The Drumhead

@ Booming, you are going really far off the deep-end with the "government installations belong to the public so I should be allowed to walk there" argument. Are you just trolling at this point?
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Peter G.
Mon, Jan 11, 2021, 11:03am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S4: The Drumhead

@ Booming,

I'm not sure it's really complicated to understand the different between "You can't enter places that are not yours" (i.e. private property, military bases, etc) and between "you can't go anywhere, we are locking you up." Those really seem similar to you, that you need to ask me what the difference is? If so, you're not really asking me about freedom in the normal sense it's used, but rather you'd be asking something like what authority anyone has to tell anyone else anything at all, like "don't kill me" would be an abridgement of 'freedom' under that definition. Doesn't sound like a useful way to use the word, and it's certainly not the way I suspect the episode writer meant it.
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Peter G.
Mon, Jan 11, 2021, 10:13am (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S4: The Drumhead

@ Booming,

That's a very American reading of the word "freedom", which many Americans now equate with "I can do anything I want! No one tells me what to do!" That's not what the word ever meant before. Being allowed to do a particular action is a 'license' to do that thing. Freedom in the classic American sense is to be free of the tyranny of a monarch and of being treated as a vassal of the state. It doesn't mean have at it and do anything you like. Incidentally, among your examples is prison, which is probably the one relevant issue that is not so easily answered in a discussion about freedom. The other issues are simple a question of how to regulate the society and create rules, they don't really have anything to do with freedom.
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Peter G.
Mon, Jan 11, 2021, 10:07am (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: Plato's Stepchildren

@ Mal,

Sadly no, it's been difficult for the past couple of years to have any quiet time to continue the reading of The Republic. We're still in book 7 or something. However I will say by this point in the book I'm quite confident that Plato is not advocating for the society they are describing in the book. The reason I think this strange society is being depicted is because Socrates is asked what a society would look like that fills certain criteria, and he paints a picture to answer the question. Neither he, nor especially Plato (who speaks only through his dialogues) ever say that there's anything good about this place, only that it is an attempt to answer a question asked in a philosophical conversation about justice.

Aside from The Republican, Mal, why would you suggest that any of Plato's dialogues are "ghastly"? They are like the most polite and amusing examples of how to ask the right questions about important topics. None of them claims to answer anything (i.e. they are not dogmatic), and are generally understood to be thinking manuals.
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Peter G.
Sun, Jan 10, 2021, 12:04pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: Is There In Truth No Beauty?

Nice write-up, Mal.

What I personally like about this episode is the ambiguity in some of the scenes that could come off as regressive. In the dinner scene, for instance, there's this backward chauvinistic behavior - or is it telepathy and the guys are actually the ones under attack? You have this jealous would-be boyfriend who is out of line - or is he? And you have the Medusan, who when you get to know him is really a terrific guy - or is he? I'm not even sure how much the writing implies there's an answer to these questions. In an episode about whether there is (or should be) any correlation between truth and beauty, it's funny that they should obscure from us the answer to these things. In assessing whether Miranda is beautiful or horrible, for instance, it might help to know the actual truth, but we don't get that. So we will have to decide on our own whether to like her or not, and perhaps that's the point of the exercise?

The episode's title may be a reference to the question about whether true things may be beautiful by nature without having to rhapsodize them; or maybe it asks whether truth itself is beautiful regardless of what that truth is. Could we bring ourselves to call Miranda beautiful even while knowing that she definitely is using mental powers to entrance the men into wanting her more? Or does that idea make her despicable? Or are we able to make our ideas align with what we find beautiful and not? Maybe we want to find it despicable but are tempted to give her a pass because she's good looking. Or maybe it would be unbearable to think that all the nice looking things in the world may be horrible, so that we prefer to shield our eyes from seeing it.
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Peter G.
Sun, Jan 10, 2021, 11:57am (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: Spectre of the Gun

@ Mal,

For some reason this episode was one I really liked as a kid. Maybe it was the playing dress-up theme of the episode but where our heroes decline. Other TOS episodes sort of do this, but in Piece of the Action for example they finally do get dressed up. But this is like a bizarre Halloween party where you didn't know it was supposed to be in costume and everyone around you is dressed funny. Or is it *you* (in your Starfleet uniform) who is dressed funny. That, along with the backdrops and the matte painting, make the whole episode strange and eerie, and probably much more effective than they have any right to be. I also like the fan-fic type thing where our heroes get to meet some other literary (or historic) heroes and hash it out. Another episode could be Spock meets Socrates, or Kirk goes to a party with William Shatner...ok maybe that's too meta. But the ending is one of my favorites, when Vulcan logic is the answer and yet the humans essentially can't handle it and so need help. This is one of those times when Spock's approach is unambiguously the only way out alive. Fascinating.
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Peter G.
Sun, Jan 10, 2021, 11:52am (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S1: Errand of Mercy

@ Jason R.,

The ep is undoubtedly about the Cold War, but I'm not quite sure it's implying that Kirk is barely better than the Klingons. He does, after all, believe his intention is to bring about peace, whereas Kor outright wants glorious battle. So the sides are not exactly symmetrical. I think where the cynicism gets into it is that once the Federation is drawn into that conflict they sort of inevitably always have a conflict of interest with contested planets. There is simply no way for them to be entirely altruistic *even if they wanted to be*. So once can almost conclude that it's the war itself that soils the ability for Kirk and the Federation to keep their ethics. I do think it's important that in the episode Kirk deplores killing (for instance the executions, and the assault in the first place) but his outrage at the injustice hurls him into bravado and violence. His better instincts are turned into worse actions by the circumstances, and in a way he does need someone to save him from that. Unlike maybe Captain Garth, Kirk would not be at his best in wartime and could well descend into being too good at killing for his own good.
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Peter G.
Fri, Jan 8, 2021, 1:02pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

(at the risk of ceasing to pretend I'm talking about Trek anymore)

@ Jason R,

"it is noteworthy that several main cast members on Angel (including of course the titular character) were transplanted from Buffy so calling it poor casting can't really be right entirely. It didn't help that the two initial transplants (Angel and Cordelia) were always secondary recurring characters on Buffy who served niche roles on that series."

Yes, although I think the casting of Angel was problematic from the start. They clearly wanted someone with a model look but he couldn't carry his scenes at all, maybe until he (SPOILERS) became Angelis, and even then he was pushing. To his credit his 5 years on Angel gave him room to improve, and even my wife noted how much better he was in Angel S5 (which we actually did watch, because I consider it to be the show's best season) than he was in Buffy S1-3. Why they would pick him to lead his own show is beyond me. Charisma Carpenter, on the other hand, was excellently cast, but like Willow was particularly apt at playing a particular character in a particular niche. I don't really know how much range Hannigan has, for instance, but was perfect as Willow, which is more than I can say for Doyle who is a totally forgettable character (case in point: I forgot him until now). Also as a side point I think Sarah Michelle Gellar is really talented, but did fall into pitfalls in falling into vocal rhythms and other tricks to get through scenes. But she was also incredibly fun and bounced off the others really well.

More to the point, I'm not really critiquing the actors themselves per se, although I do think in ENT Bakula was unsalvageable. He's just not really that charismatic or exciting. No twinkle in his eye like Mulgrew or Shatner had, no command authority like Stewart or Brooks. It's more the casting process insofar as they need to know what will make the show exciting and create sparks, which can include a limited actor but who is perfect for a role. No one on ENT sparks off each other significantly, although there is ironically the occasional T'Pol scene where 'something' happens. On VOY they seemed to deliberately avoid letting the cast energy run away with itself, instead confining each person to their own little role or grouping (Tom with Harry, Tuvok with Neelix, Chakotay with Janeway, etc). It would have been neat for Tuvok to have an actual relationship with Chakotay - you know, the guy he was previously betraying, or with B'Elanna, who likewise I would imagine wanted to kick his ass but where nothing comes of that. And of Tom the renegade Starfleet member he's not very renegadish (renegedey?). It's hard for scenes to write themselves when you don't have (a) the fun talent that inspires you and (b) the will to let them breathe rather than making them pawns in some overarching "plot" (if I could put more quotation marks on that I would).
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Peter G.
Fri, Jan 8, 2021, 11:30am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

@ Chrome et al,

"Right, but that's ultimately your opinion. I'm not sure how many 2 - 1.5 star episodes of Voyager I put up with before I quit the show. Maybe if on average the show were higher quality, I would've stuck with it."

I have a good example of this on two related shows not from Trek: I'm a big Buffy fan, and just watched the entire series with my wife. We avoided Angel, the spinoff, because I mostly think it's not very good. But it's not just because Buffy happened to have more really good episodes; in fact the chief difference between the shows is that the cast of Buffy is just light years better. Every main cast member on Buffy is better than any cast member on Angel, IMO, and no matter how good or bad the scripts, there is no getting past the fact that I enjoy any Buffy scene more than any Angel scene. And note it's the same showrunner, with both shows running at the same time. The shows do also have a slight tonal difference, with Angel also being less quirky and fun, and darker, but that didn't have to damn it out of the gate. Firefly, for instance, has dark moments but it's a lot more fun than Angel pretty much on a constant basis. Somehow the ensemble on the Angel show never quite gels for me, and in the writer's process the characters just don't write themselves they way they do on a show where the writing is really driven by the performers and their great energy.

In Trek terms it is very easy for me to say that average rating is not quite the whole story, because I easily prefer a 2.5 star TNG episode to a 3 star ENT episode, because I simply like the cast and show's general feel a lot better. In fact there are almost no TNG episode I dislike watching, even in S1, because I just like everything about it. There is almost no way for me to care about Mayweather or Hoshi in any scene, or Archer for that matter, doesn't matter how it's written. It just so happens to spiral downward because boring actors breed boring by-the-numbers writing, that's just inevitable. I think some of the writing problems in VOY and ENT stem from the audition process. If everyone on VOY was as engaging as Janeway and Doc we'd have had a different show, and on ENT...well I like Dr. Phlox a lot, let's just leave it at that. In DSC S1, from start to finish I liked precisely no one, was actively aggravated by a few characters, and generally did not imagine wanting to know any of them personally. I would not walk up to Stamets IRL and ask to shake his hand, whereas it would be super-cool to meet Worf and have him tell me to begone :)
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Peter G.
Thu, Jan 7, 2021, 12:19pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

Hm, that's funny Mal, I wasn't really aware this episode was considered that iconic in general. I think the episodes that rate iconic status usually include Doomsday Machine, City on the Edge of Forever, Space Seed, Trouble with Tribbles, as well as Journey to Babel and Amok time for their world-building (plus I think they are both kick-ass episodes anyhow). I think Ultimate Computer is especially noteworthy for being almost a purely sci-fi topic that it covers, but other than that one rarely hears comment about Daystrom himself, or about the M5 as being an iconic antagonist.
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Peter G.
Wed, Jan 6, 2021, 9:32pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: The Sanctuary

@ Elliott,

"Well of course, there are many spaces where labelling someone as racially white is an automatic negative. And there are reasons for that, but that has nothing to do with the necessity or accuracy of identifying someone as white. The term is neutral, regardless of how it might be used by certain people or in certain spaces."

The analogy doesn't hold, because "white" has a long history of not being an insult - in fact one of the premiere issues in the activism movement is the very fact of whiteness and related terms having being establishment controls. It's not reasonable to compare this to a brand new terms that is IMO predominantly used to insinuate some combination of lack of understanding and privilege. As I mentioned, it is a reference to something that needs to be referred to, so obviously this is a niche that must be filled. My point was that in my fairly broad experience of reading views on both sides, it's not a term that is typically used in a neutral fashion. As a new term its common usage will in fact define its meaning. What it should mean or could have meant is not really relevant, unfortunately. It's been widely used in a similar way to "normals", which is a sort of derisive term that's been alternatively used by geek movements, or other subcultures to designate the subculture as being superior and normal people as being boring, or sheep, or whatever. It didn't have to be like that, but it seems to be. So this is not a neutral term, and therefore again no one should be surprised at pushback against it. That this is also the chief way of describing a thing that needs describing is unfortunate. Spoil the well, and no one can drink...
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Peter G.
Wed, Jan 6, 2021, 2:24pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: The Sanctuary

@ Elliott,

"Being Cis or Trans is not a value judgement,"

I think it would be more accurate to say that it's not *necessarily* a value judgement, and *can* be merely descriptive, because as we know many terms are frequently used in derogatory ways even while the users claim that they're merely descriptive. It's a motte and bailey cover for passive aggression. In the case of "cis" you are surely right that some term or other is needed to make this type of distinction, however in practice when I have seen it in use the context almost universally makes it clear that there's a derogatory connotation. I suspect a similar thing happened way back when referring to black people in America, where the common terms of use, which were obviously meant as insults, nevertheless filled the niche of there having to be a term of some sort to distinguish between white people and black people at the time. That the terms in use tended to also be used to carry insult probably made it difficult for people at the time to refer to black people and be clear that there was no insult intended. Not that I'm a history scholar, so I'm only supposing about the linguistic landscape in America in 1850, but in our current landscape let's just say people don't tend to be too concerned about being insulting in certain cases. When people pick up on that it's no surprise that there's backlash against, as you say, there simply being terms to refer to things that need referring to.
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Peter G.
Sun, Jan 3, 2021, 11:24am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S2: Tuvix

His combadge! Hahaha!!!!
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