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Sun, Apr 19, 2020, 7:24am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: ENT S3: Damage

An exceptional episode, probably among the top 15 or 20 in all of Trek.

Props to Jacob (above) for forthrightly highlighting the addiction sub plot. It's interesting to note such a wide range of opinions and reactions to T’Pol’s striking turn. As for Blalock, I've not seen or read her subsequent comments in context, but I wonder if she simply liked her character, and did not enjoy what the writers put her through, like watching a friend in pain.

As for the main conflict, it’s unfortunate many seem to have been unseated by the plausibility of this or that story hinge. Archer's release, the discovery of a friendly ship swollen with critical bits, etc. None seemed especially contrived, and, as in service to a powerful narrative, should be readily diminished, except maybe for the folks who find those issues particularly validating (and more power to them, just not my lucky Pierre).

Many strong scenes here, but for me, far and away the best was actually the Phlox/Archer dialog. The lighting, blocking and framing...all look fantastic. And those long silences between lines of dialog....suggesting two people who are actually listening very intently to each other, considering what's been said, and only then providing a thoughtful reply. We see two characters who have developed an unarticulated but deep mutual respect. I really have to applaud both actors. Bakula drives me crazy sometimes, but occasionally, he really hits it out of the park. Just watch him here, after he asks Phlox if he’d ever done anything unethical. Billingsley pauses, walks closer, and says “Twice”. And then...a beautifully subtle see Bakula actually if to say “There are a mountains on my shoulders, I need someone I respect to take just a bit of that unimaginable weight, and here you are, willing, understanding, ready.” Moments later, Billingsley shines - after Archer remarks that there may be more casualties, Phlox responds quietly “I’ll be ready.” Billingsley delivers that line in very familiar Phlox intonations, but somehow adds paragraphs of connotation: understanding, consent, loyalty, strength, certainty, reassurance, resolve, duty,'s all there, in that moment, like he’s Archer's rock, he knows what needs to be done, he has Archer's back, he's absolutely ready. The actors really sell this riveting moment.

I was reminded of another scene where I felt Bakula nailed it. In “Regeneration”, he orders the decompression of a section of Enterprise, deliberately killing two Borg drones. He's just sitting in the captain’s chair, but you can see that Bakula is totally internal in that moment, subsumed into Archer - just an honest man - he's an astronaut, for god’s sake! - but he's just had to murder two people he knows aren’t in control of their own actions, to save his ship. We feel it. It's sitting there with him in that chair, like a vulture ready to beak his soul. I don't know why Bakula makes the acting choices he does in this series, but there are moments like the two above (and, actually, many others) when he cedes zero ground to any other actor.

As for the morality of Archer's decision, well, I think Sam put it beautifully above: “...justification is not absolution.” Anyone unprepared to make those kinds of decisions should not be helming a starship charged with saving the lives of every man, woman, alien visitor, animal, plant, and square millimeter of an entire planet. If Enterprise can't meet up with Degra, everyone on Earth is dead. Period. Seriously inconveniencing and victimizing some dozens of people balanced against the lives of billions? How is that even a serious debate?

Finally, it's a little bizarre to argue that “Picard would have found another way.” No. No, he would not. It could have been Picard, or Janeway, or Kirk for that matter, and they would not have “found another way” because, hello? The parameters are set by the writers, who wanted to put the characters in a very specific circumstance, to portray a very specific conflict. Is it imagined that, were Picard to somehow swap ships and times with Archer, the writers would suddenly upend the whole point of the story they created? Put George Washington in the captain's chair. Put Jesus in the captains chair. They would not find another way, because that was not the story.

Great episode, outstanding acting, editing, score, etc....four stars.
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Sat, Apr 11, 2020, 1:54pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: ENT S2: The Seventh

Just to add quickly: I really like this site. I like that there’s a place where everything isn't instantaneous, where I can read and respond to ideas written, at this point, over decades, rather than seconds. There are other opportunities like this, in classic literature, for instance, or peer reviewed journals. But online, these are few and far between. There’s actually a lot to learn here - the subtle ways paradigms change over time, the use of language, the evolution of cultures, even about our own perceptions and opinions.This is a great website, and it as the years go by, it just gets better.
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Sat, Apr 11, 2020, 1:01pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: ENT S2: The Seventh

A strong episode with probably Blalock’s best performance to that point.

But I strongly agree with the comments regarding the awful treatment of Travis here. I really hate to say this, but it almost looked like a cop drama from the early 1960’s where the black characters are just there to be ordered around. I mean, Travis was the one who first brought Menos down - by himself - and not a moment of air showing how, nor a word of acknowledgement from Archer. Would it have killed Archer to say “Great Job Travis!” And when T’Pol first asked Archer to go along as backup, after it was already clear Travis would be with her, I kept noticing they seem to forgotten she already HAD backup, there already WAS someone going with her. Plus, just as Jammer mentions, the framing almost seems to deliberately minimize or altogether exclude Montgomery for much of the run time. I get's about Archer bonding with T’Pol. But treating Mayweather like, at best, a disposable employee, felt uncomfortably like somebody wanted the “help put in their place”. Ung.

As for Menos not coming across as Vulcan, remember, he asks Archer (and Mayweather - at least SOMEONE noticed he was there) if they are human. Why? Maybe he was calculating a strategy. He’d probably be aware of human resentments and suspicions regarding Vulcans, and since subterfuge was, at that point, his best chance of escape, he read the circumstances and behaved in such a way as would be most likely to elicit human sympathy. Probably the smartest play he had at that point. If so, Davison pulls it off with typical skill.

Finally, though, the comments regarding T’Pol’s guilt around apparently killing Jossen being difficult to accept seem, for me, almost bizarre.

Gary and Brian had great points, which I second. I would add, though, that whether or not T’Pol acted in self-defense, her deep sense of guilt is PERFECTLY understandable. It’s almost irrelevant that she was a “trained security officer” as many comments said. Taking a life, in war, in self-defense, by among the most abhorrent, most consequential, most grotesque acts imaginable. It’s a damn shame we can do it at all. Certainly, it has - essentially always - enormous consequences. For one thing, you've just ended someone else's entire existence. That is, or damned well should be, something that turns your world up side down. And that's to say nothing of everyone else who cared about or depended on that person, all of whose lives you've just violently forced into what can be terrible pain, loss, grief, despair....etc. I don't get people who “don't buy” her guilt. I don't understand why anyone WOULDN'T feel that way. And, as Brian said, Vulcan emotions are even stronger than was actually a great idea to show how one Vulcan tried to cope with such a powerful emotional experience.
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Wed, Nov 22, 2017, 7:42am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S7: Author, Author

For those who take issue with re-purposed EMH Mark I's working in the mine, I agree that it requires a bit of explanation. It might be, perhaps, analogous to the work of, say, a team of paleontologists digging up fossils. Sure, some of the work can be done with explosives, some with heavy equipment, but much must be done by hand. Fine, you might say, but by the 24th century, surely even the most delicate work will be done as well or better by machines. A valid point, might be the reply, and the machines are called holograms.
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Wed, Nov 22, 2017, 2:20am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S7: Workforce

Great two-parter.

I had a different impression of Janeway in that final scene. I rather thought she was trying to set a tone for the rest of the crew, as well as reassuring everyone that their captain was again 100% committed. At the same time, it seemed pretty clear from the goodbye scene with Jaffin that she left part of herself on that planet with him. So her comment, " Not for a second" or whatever, was a ruse. And I think Mulgrew makes that clear when, after she says "Resume course Mr. Paris." her expression changes from one of being resolute, almost nonchalant - what she conveyed to Chakotay, to sudden sadness and longing as she turns her face away. It's brief - blink and you might miss it - but it is very clear, or at least, it seems so to me.

I'm with the others, finally, who mentioned finding most of the "guest" characters worthwhile, intelligent, compassionate, competent, and well-acted. And I wish Jaffin had stayed on Voyager.
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Sat, May 6, 2017, 7:41am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: ENT S1: Dear Doctor

Excellent episode, although perhaps if the writers had understood the response it would engender, they might have attempted a more nuanced approach. Then again, "Dear Doctor" probably draws near the limits of how much complexity a t.v. program can shoulder without alarming the entertainment overlords (who largley see viewers as slack-jawed money sacks with trigger-happy thumbs and 15 - second attention spans).

I for one groaned when I realized just how many responses I would have to read before writing this. It's similar to listening to a long-familiar argument by your partner about something you will never see eye-to-eye on, but for the sake of the relationship, you simply.must.listen.

But then, surprise, one day he says something that maybe moves you. Perhaps because you happen to have a bit more energy at that moment, or you just remembered why you love him SO much and so you are listening the tiniest bit more carefully, or even that he unexpectedly devises a new way to explain it. In any case, he nudges you a little and you can see, a bit, from the other side.

And reading this very, very long debate has moved me, at least a little bit.

So, thank you to everyone for the reminders: That it seems like very good advice to believe that there is always at least a one percent chance that I am just plain wrong about any position I have taken; that absolute certainty is directly contrary to biological reality; and that the more loudly something is shouted, the more likely the shouter has doubts he wishes to deafen.

So, this statement, representative of several positions, is noteworthy:
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Sun, Mar 12, 2017, 8:00am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S4: Scientific Method

One more voice for the chorus of dissent...this was a 3.0 for me.

Governmental regulations around animal testing have been tightening. Primate research has become rare, and research proposals that include primates are subjected to intense, formal scrutiny and oversight, with strict laws forbidding it all together under most circumstances. Varying degrees of due care and consideration are applied to most species of research animals. Pain and suffering must be kept to a minimum, and animals must be kept in healthy, and depending on the species and the institution, even stimulating environments, at least to a reasonable standard.

This is progress. The general understanding of animal consciousness has grown to the point that there is a recognition of commonality. A growing body of research strongly endorses the position that many, many species experience a startlingly broad and deep emotional range...empathy, emotional pain, loss, grief, humor, a sense of fairness, and of course, fear. Animal testing is still necessary - anyone who suggests computer simulations could provide a comprehensive substitute is decades too optimistic - but it isn't what it used to be. The days of treating other animals (humans are animals, obviously, despite some of the bizarre statements above) as disposable property (or worse) are largely over.
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Mon, Sep 26, 2016, 4:06am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S6: Rocks and Shoals

Thought provoking review and comments all around - genuinely worth reading (for me) almost everything on this page.

It's often jarring to be confronted with disconcern and/or unexamined ruthlessness regarding the deliberate termination of life. Irrespective of, for instance, whether it would ultimately prove necessary to kill the enemy soldiers, isn't an evolution in the thinking processes of mankind a central tenent of Star Trek? Yes there is war, but this isn't set in the 21st century and Cisco isn't Patton or Rommel. He is supposed to represent hundreds of years of conscious, progressive effort to place in check our destructive instincts.

The world is gradually becoming less and less violent (no, really - I didn't believe it myself but Steve Pinker's evidence and arguments have convinced me). Certainly the Trek universe depicts humanity as having finally done most of the remaining work necessary to embody disciplined restraint and compassion at the expense of violence, whether reflexive or strategic. Attacking Cisco for trying to find a way not to kill those enemy soldiers (while understandable given the stakes) is, I would suggest, thinking in contemporary terms at the expense of incorporating some of the most defining elements of Trek into one's calculus.

In the same vein, many comments here have characterized "Paul Gordon" (Joseph Fuqua), the handsome Starfleet "redshirt" who is killed during the climax, as a victim of what they see as Cisco's - or even the writers' - misplaced attempts at diplomacy. But Gordon was Star Fleet, and more, he was a man, a human, of his time. I would like to suggest that he was not a victim, and would not have seen himself as one. Perhaps I am out on a rhetorical limb here, but supporting evidence was provided when the crew confront the morality of Keevan's ambush. Gordon himself says, with obvious revulsion at the idea, "So we just...shoot them down?"

Being killed, especially with most of your life still ahead of you, is not a choice most of us would make. But living by your convictions, especially when doing so is difficult or even dangerous, must be among lifes' most defining behaviors. Cisco did not carelessly or needlessly throw away Gordon's life. He pursued a course mandated by a philosophy of existence to which Gordon, and Star Trek, devotedly subscribe. With so much discussion here and elsewhere about "honor", what does honor have to "say" about acting in accordance to your considerd beliefs?

This episode is repleat with subtlety, depth, thematicism, and depictional excellence. Brooks and especially Visitor knocked it out of the park, as did the writers and director. Moreover, the guest actors were outstanding. Phil Morris was riveting, and Lily Chauvin was excellent - yes, IMHO, excellent, as Vedek Yassim. She depicted Yassim as poised, profoundly serious, appropriately proclative, and, above all, crystal clear as to her purpose: to open the eyes of someone in whom she had placed her faith for the salvation of her people. In.Frakking.Credible.

That this site persists despite the antiquity (in terms of the digital world) of the bulk of its content, obligates my sincere and evergreen gratitude. I began visiting here shortly after taking my first job out of college. Now closing in on two decades later, I find my occasional vintageTrek streaming greatly enhanced by re-reading Jammer's take, and catching up with opinions of other ST devotees. I love it when someone out there elucidates a point, whether or not I immediately or ultimately agree with it, that simply had not occurred. So thank you fellow commentators, and above all, thank you Jammer.
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Sun, Mar 6, 2016, 8:43pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S5: Conundrum

This 3-star episode was good fun, with its "reveal shots" (Data pops up from behind the bar like that girl on Hee Haw ["Empty Arms Hotel!] and Picard spins around in his chair at the helm - suprise!) , the uninhibited Riker hooking up with the un-restrained Ro culminating in the 10-Forward three-way, Worf taking command, etc.

Incidentally, Jammer's comment on that last point highlights Picards' flawless handling of Worf's embarrassment - acknowledge it, put the issue in context, normalize, show respect/understanding, and move on (Bravo Patrick Stewart, yet again - I wonder if there was another actor on American television at the time who could have pulled that off so convincingly or with such skill and grace? )

The concerns about plausibility and plot holes are, I'd like to suggest, are (1) greatly overblown (2) readily addressed and (3) beside the point. For instance, kudos to GregT for the observation that McDuff perhaps eschewed making himself captain so that he could subvert medical interventions. Others' explanations above about his technical ability or knowledge of command codes are at least plausible. And I would add that if he had been captain, his ability to monitor and manipulate would have been severely curtailed. The "mission" would have been top-down; misgivings might have become mutiny if the main voice in favor of slaughtering the "enemy" was also at the top of the power structure...I can easily imagine the crew coming together conspiratorily to question the surety of a genocidal captian; not so if the push comes sideways as it is portrayed.

But I agree with Julian, broadly speaking at least, who pointed out above that there is greater substance to be found here in addressing the huge, evergreen, nuanced and important issue of following immoral orders, or even more broadly, the morality of killing in general.

Actually, writing this has just prompted me to wonder if a larger problem with the episode was tone, not plausibility or plot holes. Maybe it should have more directly and forcefully explored the immoral orders topic; maybe it was too cute and distracted to give proper weight to such a weighty issue...was it a romp, a cautionary tale, an exploration of (as several above suggest) the nature of personality? Maybe the problem was trying to be all of the above?

Luke, props for pointing out the double standard...I'm not absolutely sure whether you're right that if Ro had been a guy, many opinions would be different....but it is defintely plausible. Thanks for raising the point.

Lastly, and I hate to agree, Troi beating Data at "wedding cake chess" was insipid. I'm actually a Troi fan and feel compelled, usually, to defend her (and Sirtis, given the thankless job of being buxom and emotionally vulnerable while at the same time the second most powerful member of the crew), on this occasion, frakking way. Chess grandmasters (if we are proceeding - as the episode encourages us - to think of the game, essentially, as chess) are not possessed of some vastly superior OR especially intuitive mind. They do not "think 6 moves ahead", or use emotional intelligence to intuit a winning strategy. They instead hold tens of thousands of experientially-memorized "position maps" of the board, and subconsciously overlay those configurtions onto their current game. Data's capacity for this would be so far beyond Troi as to make any such contest, I think, an utter farce.

I love that this site still exists; thank you Jammer!
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Fri, Apr 10, 2015, 12:47pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: The Survivors

An exceptional episode of TNG, and stands up with the best of Trek, sci if in general or, for me, any genre. John Anderson and Anne Haney were fantastic, as was the seamless, careful directing and, generally speaking, the work of the regular cast.

Here I'd take very strong issue with those who denigrated Sirtis' performance. One comment in particular struck me as pointedly I'll-informed - that she behaved like a child. Intense pain Is experienced in the self-same areas of the brain as conscious thought, executive decision making, sensory experience and emotional control. It crowds out, sometimes partially, but sometimes largely, the ability to reason, act normally. or even speak clearly. That's why, for example, a strong headache often makes people very irritable, sensitive to light or sound, etc. Sirtis turned in a great performance here; anyone who may attack her interpretation simply hasn't experienced - or had to care for someone who experienced - pain of a sort and intensity that it debilitates, disorients, and, indeed, causes temporary regression to a child-like state.

Next, Kevin did try to fight with non-lethal means. Recall that he said it just made the Hues-Noch (sp?) angrier, that it didn't "fool them." Therefore, the somewhat transparent tactics he employed against the Enterprise were consistent, insofar as being generally ineffective. Probably just a narrative requirement, but an argument could be made that for someone so powerful, exercising non-lethal means of dissuasion against mere mortals would be like you or I trying to push an egg yolk down a street witn a bulldozer....same thing with overwhelming Troi's tempathic sense.

Great review Jammer!
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Sat, Jul 5, 2014, 3:49pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: BSG S2: Downloaded

The Baltar reveal, complete with brilliant lighting, camerawork, and a perfect musical cue, left me thunderstruck, although for some reason my immediate take wasn't "whoa...Baltar's a cylon?!" it was "Wow! Six has a Baltar chorus just like Baltar has a Six chorus! WTF?" Awesome moment, second only to the final four (of five) reveal/Kara back from the dead episode. If felt like a loop closing with some weird, perfect logic back in on itself. And regardless of how one might feel about where this plot thread was taken afterwards, this was a brilliant hour, and Tricia Hefler was amazing, and very well supported here by Park and Lawless. Almost every moment Lawless was onscreen, I felt an undercurrent of danger, even malice and hatred. Her performance, unlike Hefler, isn't at all subtle, but is nevertheless nuanced, paced, and very effective; she suggests a capacity for immediate, unconcerned lethality that forces one always to stay on one's guard.
Park, meanwhile, has a hell of a job here. To Jammer's point about what a mess all these multiple versions of various digits could be, and yet are so well executed as to be perfectly clear, I had to remind myself that Park was of course Sharon on Galactica, giving birth (well, a c-section anyway) and losing a child (well, or so she thought) AND Sharon on Caprica, caught in a mind game with Lawlwess and buried under a building. Hell of a day at the office, but she manages to inhabit both characters so well as to effectively dispell the very fact of it.

Michael, you seem to think that torture is permissable under some circumstances, and even that it is effective. Please forgive me if I have misinterpreted you. The "ticking bomb" scenario does, for me, change the moral equation, except that the scenario is a hypothetical. It is akin to, and onky slightly more likely to occur than, the "would you throw the switch that diverts the train and kills one person if it will save five people" schtik.

Yes, pop culture and Mr. Rumsfeld would have us believe It, but reallly, it's preposterous; if it has ever happened, or ever does, it must be vanishingly rare. It is just a rhetorical device to take us, manipulate us really, into following a logic that immediately and of necessity deviates from reality. I think, for what it's worth, that we should beware always these quick calls for violence from people who have never seen war. Underneath there is, at least it seems to me, a pornagraphic distance from all consequnce at best, and too often a history of rage and helplessness via discredited discipline twisted by decades into gleeful, smug, eager nihilism and cruelty. Torture is morally wrong. Killing is morally wrong, although because so many seem not to realize or believe that, it is sometimes necessary.

But if you must, torture also does not work. It does not work, except, that is, for those who have been trained to expect it, and who can so easily manipulate their captors. The facts are now largely public record, and all the claims for tortures' effectiveness in revealing important terrorist-fighting "intel" have been proven false. The truth is unequivocal.

I believed it, for a time, because they said it so often, over and over and over and over, that it "yielded actionable information we couldn't have gotten any other way." But all that was so much bull****.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I accepted it. I could blame the Wolfowitz and Cheney crowd, or the spineless, corporate-controlled media, but that would be a cop out. The truth was written into history for all, and certainly for me, to see; It seems as though we are condemned to learn this stuff over and over. Well, I had to anyway :-(.
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Mon, Apr 14, 2014, 6:19am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S3: Scorpion, Part I

Futile, pedantic crusade alert: PLEASE do not abuse the word "literally". I know, I know, even the OED has (inexcusably) warped the definition to allow it in the context Jammer has employed above ("...literally make a deal with the devil."). But, to borrow a phrase, the line MUST be drawn HERE! The Borg are not some mystical incarnation of the famous cloven crowd-control device; Alice Krige is not Satan (although she clearly qualifies as godlike.) No other single word in the English language conveys the concept, and being squishy on this is just going too far! Great review, classic episode. Gotta run, I've literally got a hundred more of these to write!
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Thu, Dec 19, 2013, 7:39am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S4: The Mind's Eye

I agree with Ian, this is probably a four-star outing. The only weakness I can spot being the intransigence and shortsightedness of Governor Vagh, who seems just this side a medication holiday with his crazy-glue quick conviction of Federation munitions mischief. That is easily set aside, however; this is a taute, focussed and self-assured effort without a moment of padding, dropped threads or fanciful physics.

Even the technology elements never stray, appearing only in logical support of the greater narritive. As Jammer mentioned, the Romulans' exploitation of Geordi's imbedded visor components was trully inspired. Even more impressive, regular viewers will be able actually keep up with Data during his investigation and recognize at the same moment as Data that he has found a critical piece of the puzzle. Knowing how Geordi's visor is actually supposed to work is suddenly an emotionally rewarding circumstance, and I cheered when the Enterprise conputer gave Data what he needed to connect the dots....a great moment.

Still the story does not let up on us. As we follow Data's brilliant, dogged and methodical investigation, we know what he does not: time is short. This is Trek, I knew when watching Geordi wasn't going to kill anyone...hell, that drink he spilled on O'Brian wasn't even hot! But I was nevertheless on the edge of my seat urging Data to hurry. This is great stuff!

The closing scene with Geordi and Troi was for me the best moment for Troi in the entire series. Say what you will of Marina Sirtis, but she pulls this scene off with subtlty and skill. She is first and foremost being a counselor and projects the professional demeaner-skilled, pattient, caring, but at a necessary remove-that her job would absolutely demand. Yet Sirtis somehow lets us feel the undercurrent of sadness, deep concern, and even a hint of anger at what has been done to a dear friend.

Even the way the show characterizes memory here, much more tentatively then its usual certain jibberjabber about "memory engrams" being erased, or not, etc. stands up surprisingly well in 2013, research having shown how human memory is SO not like a computer, and how we seem not to "retrieve" memories but rather seem to "reconstruct" them, with varying degrees of accuracy and considerable latitude, every time we "remember". It's pretty cool this 20+ year old dialog keeps many doors open, intentionally or not, so as to forestall groans of chagrin from future viewers. "Dark Matter" anyone? How about "spacetime"?

The score too is excellent, operating unannounced with the narritive; together inducing a deepening dread appropriate to the gravity of the harms done and those as yet intended. This is a story about a act of extreme violence perpetrated on a beloved character; the Romulans to me thereafter seemed the more real, more threatening, and the show the more serious.
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Tue, Nov 26, 2013, 10:26pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

I've long felt this episode easily fall within the top 20 TNG episodes. The rather sloppy details of Fajo's manufactured "crisis" struck me as implausibe, as anyone so skilled at theft and so ruthless in behavior likely would have marshalled a less transparent ruse. That said, I did enjoy how quickly the crew "put it all together" on hearing that Fajo was a collector of the rare and unique - these are highly intelligent and capable individuals and the episode remembers this and depicts them accordingly. I also valued Geordi's single-minded and grief-fueled urgency to understand what had apparently claimed the life of someone he loved (gasp, yes, obviously Geordi loves Data, who is, after all, his best friend).

Yet, for me, it was Saul Rubinek and Brent Spiner who define the episode. Spiner had by this episode created a fully nuanced Data; the episode fully, and brilliantly exploits this as we walk with the character as he is confronted by circumstances utterly novel to him, and by an opponent we gradually learn to be as vile as they come. Yet even as Spiner (almost) never cheats in the entire episode in his careful portrayal of a mechanical existence, he nevertheless memorably conveys the growing weight Data "feels" as the stakes are driven ever higher.

Certainly, though, none of this would have worked without the singular performance of Rubinek. It would have been so easy, it seems to me, to miss the mark with this character, to make him too much a clown or reveal his actual level of menace too soon. Rubinek allow the blood to drain from us slowly; he takes us for a bit of a ride with his first act. We are met with this unimpressive, fopish man full of enthusiasm and child-like delight at his latest acquisition. Yet like Spiner, Rubinek never cheats, and Fajo, a reprehensible psychopath, is "all there" from the first moment. I would go as far as to say that Rubinek creates what could have been among the greatest Trek villians, if only Fajo's ambitions had reached above the petty. Yet of course this level of unmittigated selfishness is what makes his so familiar, so convincing, and ultimatley, so chilling.
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Tue, Nov 26, 2013, 1:11pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S4: The Wounded

Just an opinion, but this episode is a four-star affair. A good deal of rich - and beautifully delivered - dialog (may I add to those actors already mentioned in previous comments that guest Bob Gunton here adds his name to that long list of standout Trek guest performances ) skillfully employed to construct a fine tapestry of nuance and complexity in a very short space of time, and enabling two separate, engrossing payoff scenes...a laudible acheivement in just 45 minutes. I might add, here attempting to provide something I've not yet seen mentioned (and apologize if I'm repeating anyone) that a critical element of the episode seems to have been the conversation between Picard and the Starfleet Admiral. Specifically, it was unambiguously stated to Picard that Starfleet was unprepared, presumably as a consequence of their losses to the Borg (as depicted, of course, in the final episode of the previous season) to undertake a "sustained" conflct, and Picard was explicitly constrained to maintain the peace with Cardassia irrespective of any other considerations. This surely informed Picards' subsequent actions; we probably see this most plainly when he orders the Cardassians be provided the prefix codes of the Phoenix. Yet while in any reasonable scenario we would see one of Picards' actions, reigning in Maxwell, as an absolute certainty, we might wonder just whether, when and how Picard might have made different choices at other points along the story, or attenuated those portrayed, had the Federation been possesed of a stronger hand (ship-to-ship dominance not withstanding.)
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Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 12:49am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S7: Thine Own Self

This episode deserves a 3-star rating. While I recognize the validity of Jammer's specific criticisms, I'd like to suggest that "Thine Own Self" is best considered as an all-too-rare demonstration and defense of the scientific method. It effectively advoctes for reason and sequentialism in the face of supernatural hysteria. It invites us to enlist on the side, as sides there so clearly are today even more than when it first aired in 1994, of rationality and evidence-based opinion.

Oh and the actress who plays the village teacher/healer is cool.
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Sun, Aug 19, 2012, 8:04am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S5: In the Cards

What a discussion, to second the previous post, indeed.

I confess to having skipped this episode every time I've watched the series. I'd inexcusably assumed it to be, based solely on the title, another Ferengi comdey hour, which, for whatever reason, elude me. Half asleep, however, I did, rarher accidentally, begin watching and it slowly dawned on me to pay attention. I started laughing, getting into into it, and realizing It was something special. Fully awake, enthusiastic and even emotional, I dropped in to read what I (again inexcusably) expected to be a sour review by Jammer. So often wrong, you'd think I stop making assumptions.

At this point I'd like to pay a compliment to Elliott, specifically his first post with which I, in the main, strongly disagree but nevertheless find very well written, weighty, and above all deliciously funny. I laughed out loud at several of his biting, clever attacks on the show even while I couldn't agree with almost any of them. Contrary opinions must always be allowed that we might evermore leverage them to challenge our own assumptions, and these being so well enunciated, are for me all the more welcome. Keep writing Elliot, and I will definately keep reading.

How important is direction to the success of a given episoode? I'm not well informed on this issues but it seems to me that very experienced, highly specific direction could explain how Loften and Eisenberg were so spot on here. The comic timing, the facial expressions, and the line delivery were often utterly brilliant, building one upon another, constructing in tandem with the drama-rich subordinate plot an exquisitly satisfying conclusion. Surely the director, working of course with a great script, must have been key to enabling the actors' specific, critical moments of success.

As for the actors themselves, for me this episode, somewhat sadly, validates Loften altogether and suggests a nearly totally wasted character. Jammer has elsewhere commented on the otherwise weak development of Jake. I had breezily agreed. But I confess my acquiescence had been more from infatuation with adult Loften's utterly radiant, occasionally suggestive smile. So too I have always found the wonderful, uninhibitedly physical and forthrightly positive portrayal of the Jake/Benjamin father/son bond deeply moving and, as I have come to increasingly realize, sociologically important.

Consequently I agreed that Jake was underdeveloped, but for dubious reasons, not any regret about untapped acting potential. Loften's commitment to acting as a profession, to learning and practicing what it takes to bring to the screen a real, memorable character, I had unexaminedly dismissed. But here, with an exceptional script and what I suspect was a very skilled director both on hand, Loften displayed great ability and deftness, and made me wish he'd had the same writing/directing support throughout the series. He really could have been quite something to watch.

Eisenberg, meanwhile, already had my respect, most significantly, if unsurprisingly, from "Paper Moon". I agree with Scootergirl's comment above that Nog's "love for his friend" delightfully compells his committment to the evermore questionable baseball card quest, and Eisenberg is fun to watch as the straight man here. A highlight for me, in fact, near the episode's conclusion, was Eisenberg's pitch-perfect delivery, and accompanying facial expression, of "can we go now?" We're told that in comedy, timing is crucail, and his was flawless here.

I'd lastly like to respond to the "communism/socialism" theme. As I understand it, there is broad agreement that what we call "human nature" manifests a powerful acquisitive drive, and greed, profligacy, and competition are among the inevitable expressions of any species having evolved in a resource-constrained environment. The "units of value" described above as "inevitable", however, represent far more than a mere tool of exchange. The centrality of money as the guiding, albeit usually unconscious, arbitor of the life station into which we place our "fellow man", as well as ourselves, was also perhaps inevitable. Which is, along with its astonishing responsibility for the corruption and distortion of political power, why money, at least as we know it, is an unsustainable construct rightly abolished and superceded on Trek's future paradise Earth. Money is part of a suite of phenomena we must commit ourselves to overcoming, similar to dogmatism, credulity, nationalism, and other inevitabilities of human nature.

I once read of a question regarding Picard's dearth of hair. Apparently, the question was something like "Wouldn't humanity have cured baldness by the 24th century?" The layered response, as I recall, approximated "By the 24th century, no one will care!" Exactly right, but only if "human nature" has been fully and correctly elucidated, compensational disciplines have been perfected or nearly so, and the universal (among humanity) dissemination and implementation of the resulting body of knowledge has been fully realized. In that world, Jake Cisco will have been counseled since the death of his mother to expect feelings of resentment towards his busy father and taught how to cope, money will have been replaced, and the better angels of our nature will in general be in charge, albeit on constant, habitual guard against the contervailing drives we will by then have in check.

At least, that's my take on it.
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Sat, Oct 29, 2011, 1:45am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S7: When it Rains...

Although I've been reading Jammer for what seems about 10 years now, this is my first time posting, so please accept my apologies if I stumble in execution. I would like to spotlight the Ezri/Worf dialog, which I, perhaps undeservedly, found to be exceptional. Although Ezri is not usually my cup of tea, I felt her cutting to the chase with Worf (to paraphrase, '...when was the last time there was a Klingon chancellor you could respect? Has there been even one? ... If a man like you can tolerate a corrupt government, what hope is there for the empire?') I recognize the validity in Jammer's critique that this all seemed rather forced. I would say, rather, that it seemed a bit hurried. Yet nonetheless, given a history of hypocritical political ambition stretching all the way back to TNG season 2, I for one found Ezri's comments in particular, and the subplot in general, elegant and surprisingly satisfying. Probably, on reflection, this is because I feel our own government is reaching a critical turning point, but then the best of Trek is often, as we all know, to be experienced in our own clouded mirrors.
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