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Wed, Jun 3, 2020, 8:02pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

Ha, sorry for the late reply. Peter, yes, Data had options at the moment, but I suppose I should clarify that I have not seen any other option that would do anything but delay the inevitable. Fajo clearly doesn't believe Data will kill him, so any further threats are irrelevant. And Fajo knows that he can control Data by threatening to kill others (and he already casually mentioned that he will threaten other members of his crew), so Data cannot do nothing forever. While the only other option is to delay in hopes of the Enterprise rescuing him, but he doesn't know that we're 41 minutes into the episode and it's time to wrap things up.

So it's not that I disagree with the rest of your analysis. That is all fine IF Data had other options. I'm fine with Data perhaps recognizing that Fajo is a serial killer as well as a kidnapper (I'll take your word for it about that one scene since I haven't seen the episode in years, but I also recall an impression that even Fajo was shocked when he killed Varra). I'm fine with Data's actions being less than ideal and Data recognizing it. But I'm just not fine with the way it's presented as Data being an executioner rather than Data acting in immediate (or at least in 2 minutes when Fajo picks up a gun and points it at the next crewmember) self defense and immediate defense of others.

You say that it's only a theoretical that Fajo will kill again and not in respect to Data's immediate situation, while I'm saying that, as soon as Data refuses Fajo's command to sit back in the chair, Fajo will immediately threaten or kill someone else. That seems to be the part missing here (also seems to be what Matt is saying). Perhaps its a little ambiguous in the episode, but I think that's one part where ambiguity hurts it rather than helps.
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Wed, Jun 3, 2020, 7:45pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S5: Ethics


I think there would be a bit more of a problem then just "not enough meat" with your proposal (although I agree that what you said would probably be the best way to go). The other issue is that it just makes Crusher into a loser. Regardless of one's opinion on "right to try" medicine, in this case it HAS to work for Worf to make the series continue on, so Pulaski would have to be right and Crusher have to be wrong. And then to have Pulaski on the side of Picard (who is more often than not presented as the moral center of Trek) makes Crusher wrong again. It doesn't look good for the main character to be beat up quite so much. In the episode we do have, it's fine that Crusher is wrong about the procedure, because she was right about Russel's callous demeanor (and her arrogant dismissal of Klingon redundancy is shown to be wrong when that was the only reason her procedure worked). But in the episode as proposed, Crusher would simply be taking her lumps, and taking from a potential rival in the series. One would have to even the playing field a bit.

I think if it was to be Pulaski, they would have to drop "Ethics" as the core of the episode. Yes, the Klingon vs human view of disability could still stay largely in-tact, and the "right to try" viewpoint you bring up could be shown, but there would need to be something else. A personality conflict between Crusher and Pulaski could be a nice balance. Since Pulaski would be a "special" guest star, simply seeing those two together could have enough meat to get through the rest of the episode.

I'm not sure what it would be though. Pulaski's lack of protocol might work to some extent. It could salvage some of the USS Denver triage bit. Pulaski may be a guest, but in the heat of the moment starts acting like she's in command (perhaps bolstered by the fact that she knows some of the Enterprise medical staff), and ends up stepping on Crusher's toes or causing some other problem by doing so. It would obviously be a lesser issue than Russel (and wouldn't result in Crusher banning Pulaski), but could provide some conflict. The only problem is, Crusher isn't necessary one to stand on protocol either. She is clearly a doctor first and Starfleet second, so whatever issue Pulaski causes has to end up being a problem medically rather than procedurally, which makes it somewhat less believable.

And whatever personality conflicts that the episode does create could be resolved during the surgery scene at the end, as the two would be forced to work together on a procedure that neither is comfortable with, and both of their strengths would be required for it to be successful or something. I don't know, that's kind of trite, but with skilled authors might work. I think that would also solve some of the "Crusher is a loser" issue. Instead of Crusher being opposed to a "right to try" procedure in general, she could simply be concerned that it's risky with inexperienced doctors (and make up some medicobabble on why the procedure needs to be done soon) and thus default to the human vs Klingon ethical problem.

So basically, instead of the A and B plot both being about ethics, now one plot would be ethics and the other be a clash of personality. So significantly different, but possibly still worth watching with the right authors. And it would have been kind of nice to see Pulaski return.
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Fri, May 8, 2020, 7:43pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

Gaius' comment led to me rereading the long and circular debate here. And after thinking about it more, I blame the episode for it. It just doesn't do a good job of presenting what it's supposed to.

Forgive me for simplifying things here, but Peter's (and others) position seems to be that the theme is Data going beyond his normal ethical programming in the end. Perhaps one could say it is akin to the Asimov novels. There, the first law of robots is "don't harm humans", but eventually they evolved a zeroth law, "don't harm humanity", which can occasionally supersede the first law. Here, Data does something similar, according to this side of the comments when he shoots at Fajo. His position is not about self defense, but a greater defense of his ideals. And the evidence is the initial conversation between the two that Chrome quoted, the "I cannot allow this to continue", Data lying to Riker, and the last conversation between Fajo and Data with the "I am only an android" line being practically ironic.

Meanwhile, my position (and others) is that Data's actions in shooting Fajo do not rise to the occasion of being beyond normal procedures. Data was kidnapped and held captive against his will, and then was essentially in a hostage situation when Fajo started threatening the rest of his crew. Data shooting Fajo would be considered a legitimate act based a logical moral code.

And unfortunately, I think we're both right. Given the theme of treating Data as an object, and Fajo's outright taunting of Data at the end that he won't shoot him, it seems like this moral quandary was an important issue in the writers' minds. That they wanted it to be about what Data COULD do in such a situation. The discussion on self defense, the question about Data gloating at the end, all of it seems to be about whether or not Data could make the big decision. So I can see where Peter and Chrome are coming from (except the Data lying to Riker bit; that one is just executive meddling...).

But if that was the writers' intention, then they failed. Because in 106 comments, no one has yet come up with a plausible solution that doesn't involve either A) Data remaining kidnapped, B) Fajo killing another crewmember, or C) Data killing Fajo. So while Fajo taunting Data at that point about how he won't kill him seems to clearly point to that being the theme, it doesn't hold the emotional impact it could. After all, how is it a great leap forward for Data to decide to kill him if it was the only logical solution? If it is just self defense, what's the point?

So is the "I cannot allow this to continue" line referring to something greater than the immediate threat? The vague wording there does seem to suggest that's true. But the situation suggests it doesn't. And while the thought that Data has evolved from an innocent cherub to someone who can be judge, jury, and executioner is a sobering and serious one, worthy of an episode, does this situation really warrant it? Yes, Fajo is a sociopath. But outside of the events of THIS episode, what has he done? We know of nothing besides theft. Other than Data, he doesn't collect people, so he's not a slaver. Other than Varria, we have no knowledge of him being a murderer. Yes, Varria's odd statement about his punishments does seem to imply something worse, but we don't entirely know. All the actions that do seem execution-worthy were events surrounding Data. And thus, remain wrapped up in Data's own personal situation. So again, the "this" seems smaller in scope than what may have been intended.

So ultimately, if the writers did intend something akin to what the other side of the comments suggest, then they failed to set up the situation appropriately to allow it to have the emotional impact. Because I (and undoubtedly others) see nothing unusual about Data pulling the trigger in that situation. And if it wasn't the writers' intention, why did they focus so much on talking about Data's use of self defense?

It IS possible that there is a different theme. Exploring how Data would react to a situation that most anyone else would respond to in an emotional manner is interesting enough. And Fajo is an interesting enough foil to that plot. Ultimately, Fajo treats Data as a thing, as an object he can control. But Data patiently outsmarts him, and in the end Fajo loses his control of others. And Fajo's assumptions of who Data is, of his thing-ness, is his ultimate downfall when his assumption turns out false on Data's willingness to engage in self defense. So that theme is present too. But looking back at it, I ultimately agree that it is hidden beneath the question of Data shooting. And ultimately, I think that story ended up stumbling.

So while this episode is certainly a good one, I think it is a bit too muddled for its own good.
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Mon, Jan 6, 2020, 6:16pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S2: Unnatural Selection

Don't worry Jason, it was only a half-serious callout on my part. But it does seem like the trend recently is that everyone should love Pulaski or at least respect the character (while, of course, the trend back in the day is that everyone should hate Pulaski). The truth is in the middle. She's not an overly atrocious character, but the character is flawed, and with only one season (and a shortened one at that), there just wasn't enough time for those flaws to be smoothed over.

As an aside, I'm not as much of a fan of the Kirk-Spock-Bones dynamic as its legendary status might suggest. There were way too many times that Bones was being contrarian just for contrarian's sake, and it hurt his character. He was fine in serious scenes with Kirk, and he was fine in lighthearted back-and-forths with Spock, but in the serious scenes with Spock he often looked just dumb (I think it was Gamesters of Triskelion where it just got too annoying for me). It hurt his character there too. So trying to ape Bones leaves a double-negative impression for me; one for being unoriginal and one for Bones himself sometimes being a weak character.
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Mon, Jan 6, 2020, 5:10pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S2: Unnatural Selection

Sorry Jason and Sen-Sors, but I must disagree. Calling anyone who disagrees with your opinion as sexist isn't fair. There are plenty of other reasons to have a negative opinion on Pulaski and/or a more positive opinion on Crusher.

- It wasn't JUST her antagonism towards Data that put people off; the very first impression of her is disrespecting Picard by ignoring protocol when she came on board the ship. So she starts off antagonistic towards BOTH of the beloved Trek characters. And while the Data bit may just be an attempt at cloning McCoy, the second was just uncalled for. She's a senior professional, she should REALLY know better than to blow off the captain like that. It's not a good look.

- Likewise, there was a bit of "try-hard"ness to the way the writers tried to push her character. There seemed to be a lot of pushing her to extremes on both ends. She's a luddite who hates transporters. But she's also the only person who can save Picard's life! She's antagonistic to Data. But she loves Klingon tea ceremonies! She was never really given a shot to just naturally blend in. You can say she has a strong personality, but it was more like the creators were forcing her to the front every chance they could get. It's like Wesley Part II. A genius kid could have been a good character, and in Seasons 3-5 he is a pretty good character, but the overt Mary-Sueness of his Season 1 basically killed any chance of making him likable. It's not quite the same with Pulaski, but it's still pretty in-your-face. (I think Ezri suffered from a similar situation as well)

- To piggyback on that, she only had one season. It sometimes takes time to settle in and become a natural character. Heck, Season 1 Picard is downright unpleasant, and obviously his character improved tremendously. Yes, some characters can hit the ground running like Ro, but maybe if Pulaski had stayed on she could have mellowed more, and more people would like her. But we'll never know.

- Crusher played a unique role in all of Trek, being the only main character that was also a mother. Trek has been outright hostile to family life at times (practically every main character is at odds with their family), but TNG was, in part, supposed to show that families and Starfleet could co-exist. Having a positive family unit in the main cast is a good idea. Or do you think motherhood isn't an important attribute? NOW who's the sexist one? =)

- And not character-related, but Diane Muldaur's voice is kinda grating. Sorry, but TV is an audio and visual medium, and these things are still important, no matter how much we might like to consider ourselves intelligent critics and say it's irrelevant. How often do people say they could sit and listen to Patrick Stewart read the phone book? Well, this is the opposite of that. And yes, Stewart's voice IS a legitimately positive aspect to Picard's character, so Muldaur's voice can be a negative aspect. And no, this isn't sexist either. I would say Auberjenois' voice did give me a negative impression of Odo as well (a minor one, of course... there are many other problems I had with his character).

So no, it's not fair to just call it sexist. Besides, it's a ridiculous claim to begin with. You do realize that women like watching handsome guys too, right? Are they being sexist if a hot guy is replaced by an ugly one?
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Wed, Nov 13, 2019, 6:52pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: The Most Toys

Peter and Chrome, I know the comments have gone round and round on this issue, but I must object. Data's action to fire was NOT about preventing crimes in the long-term future, but about preventing an IMMINENT crime. Fajo told Data to return to his cell or he would kill another crew member. That was an imminent threat (backed up by the fact that he just killed a different one). Submitting under that threat would still be kidnapping, so it's a crime. If Data left, he would be guilty by omission of allowing someone else to die immediately. It's effectively a hostage situation (ie, a current situation), rather than vague threats about the future.

That's why I don't think this was a huge stretch to his ethical programming. It's SOP in a hostage situation that the hostage takers' lives are forfeit if they threaten the hostages and if the hostage takers can be killed without harming the hostages. That's the clearest analogy to Data's situation. He should have had no problem, relatively speaking, in killing Fajo. In fact, he should have even less qualms than a human, who might intellectually understand that it's the proper course of action in a crisis situation but might balk at the emotional side.
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Wed, Nov 13, 2019, 6:39pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S4: Hunters

Proteus, just because I am not a strong author does not mean I should blindly accept all stories from anyone who is marginally better at it than me. Yes, the Voyager writers are better than I am at making good stories. But so are thousands of others. So why can't I be picky?

I don't have the time or energy to go through all characters, but let's just look at Kim for a moment. And for the record, I'm not a nitpicky, hate everything type of person. I did think the Seven/Kim "romantic" subplot was a pretty good idea. I don't mind that he is the straight man, as it were. But there are still severe problems with his character.

Star Trek has a long-standing tradition of having two technobabble characters. The "royal smart one" (as SFDebris puts it) is in charge of providing exposition on the weird stuff they encounter and coming up with the solution to it (Spock, Data, Dax), while the engineer is in charge of saying what's wrong with the ship and how to fix it (Scotty, LaForge, O'Brien). Torres is obviously the engineer here. But that makes Kim, the other technobabble character, the Royal Smart One. Except Spock is a superintelligent Vulcan, Data is a superintelligent android, and Dax has a dozen lifetimes of experience. Kim is fresh out of college. There's nothing wrong with being fresh out of college, but you put those people in entry-level jobs, not Chief Science Officer. Chekov had a vague bridge job that made sense as entry-level. Wesley just had to punch coordinates into SpaceGoogle Maps, which works as entry-level. Nog's role was also nebulous, so still entry-level. But Kim is given the job of Ops (nebulous, but we know that superintelligent android Data had the job before) and is seen as a Senior Staff, despite being entry-level.

This gives his character a sense of unbelievability. Sure, presumably the real ops officer died in Caretaker and Kim had to fill in, but we never got a sense of his character within that. He never felt like a n00b in his job, even though he really is. Even worse, because he is not believable as a Royal Smart One, he didn't really get that job either. If anything, Janeway (who had a background in science, and thus is believable as Royal Smart One) had that role in the first half of the show. And obviously Seven (with Borg experiences, believable as Royal Smart One) got the job after that.

Which means, well, what's the point of Kim? It's one thing to say he's the straight man, but this isn't a buddy show or a comedy. It's very much a procedural show similar to cop shows or whatever (obviously more variety though). And in procedural shows, each person has a specific role to perform. But now there's three technobabble characters, and Kim's the least believable, least valuable of the bunch. What, exactly, does he do here? He never grabbed the niche of Royal Smart One because he's not believable at it, and he never grabbed the niche of being the kid (at least in the "work" part of the show, he obviously grabbed it in the "character" part of the show) since he was given such a prestigious position. It made his character superfluous. That's why many people think he should have been the one to go during Scorpion. Seven is believable both as the Royal Smart One and as the kid, and you also would still have Kes as the kid as well. It would have made for smoother storytelling overall rather than trying to justify Kim's presence.

Or, in summary, Kim's procedural role (Royal Smart One) is at fundamental odds with his character role (the newbie), which makes him an unrealistic character. I mean, sure, there was Wesley, but they had to shill him up as a Mozart-esque genius just to get us to barely tolerate him. Kim doesn't even have that.

Next, about him being the straight man compared to the weird character traits. Yes, that's fine. You can have a character like that. But the problem is, that's not his only character trait. The other one was being the kid as I alluded to previously. And the problem was the writers were inconsistent with how well they had him grow out of being the kid. Because let's face it, being the kid is MEANT to be a transitory character trait over time. Personally, I think they (and Wang) did do a better job on this than a lot of people think, but it still was inconsistent.

In NCIS, the character of McGee was brought on to the show as a second straight man (other than being nerdy, he was basically competent, serious, decent, and "normal") in the 2nd season. He also acted as the newbie. So y'know, Kim. Except the newbieness was shrinking dramatically by Season 4 and essentially gone by Season 6. As he gained experience, he stopped being a newbie! He became more confident, more self assured, less gullible. Again, Kim did grow a little bit, but there were many times where he would snap back and be just the kid again. He never truly grew.

Also, even if Kim is the straight man, it doesn't mean the straight man can't be interesting. You described him as being the boy scout. But you know who fits that role even better? Jean-Luc Picard. He is essentially the Roddenberry Ideal made flesh. He is the ultimate straight man. And he was a billion times more interesting than Kim ever was. Sure, the odds were stacked in his favor by being captain rather than a utility man, but still... Picard made TNG what it was. Patrick Stewart made Picard who he was. Maybe it's not fair to compare Wang to Stewart, but the reality is that Kim faded into the background while Picard burst into the foreground (and considering when TNG started they were hyping up Riker as the big deal, the ascendance of Picard in TNG was not a foregone conclusion).

And regarding the promotion bit, well, I agree that it SHOULDN'T matter on a ship that has no real opportunities for advancement. The problem is that the show did seem to think it mattered. Tuvok got promoted. Paris got demoted and repromoted. And yet Kim was the perpetual ensign, DESPITE running a critical department. It made no sense.

OK, I know I said I wasn't doing everyone, but Chakotay's reaction was perfect? So, 10 minutes after finding out that his friends and colleagues all died a brutal death, he... inquires as to the availability of Janeway's pants? That's perfect??? No grief at all?
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Wed, Oct 30, 2019, 3:27pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S6: Man of the People

I don't care about how JFK will be remembered, but I do take issue with Rebecca's claim that this episode deserves to be praised just because it brought up an important issue or whatever. I've said it before, but if all you're looking for in fiction is to present issues important to you, I'd be happy to prostitute myself out to whatever position you want and write a book for you. Of course, my skills in writing fiction approach zero, so these would be terrible books, but hey, who cares? "Sure, it has its problems, but it tackles a much more interesting human problem than the usual “attacked by aliens” or “warp core breach” plot. " So 3 stars for my crappy fiction!

I mean, take Jackie for instance (as an aside, I find it humorous that Rebecca didn't choose the more recent Hillary Clinton as an example, since it's MUCH more obvious she's power-obsessed and thus doesn't really fit as a "victim"). She COULD have exposed JFK's infidelities and filed for divorce, but didn't. Oh, Rebecca might say, there was societal pressure and blah blah blah, fine, whatever. But the 24th century DOESN'T have that pressure (especially since Betazed is generally presented as at least slightly matriarchal). Troi is SUPPOSED to be a strong, independent woman. So doesn't analogizing her to other people ruin her character? Besides, this isn't even a marriage, Troi knew this guy for, like, a week; how much societal pressure can build up in that time frame?

That's the sort of reason why most of us call this a bad episode regardless of how important the message is. There's only 3 options here:

1) Troi was too weak or cowed to defend herself against Alkar's assault. This would fit the analogy Rebecca wants, but goes against her character that's been built up for 6 years. So it's inconsistent writing of character, which is a flaw in the story.

2) Troi was unable to comprehend what happened to her. This is rather incredulous, since you think you would notice aging 20 years in a day. And she is clearly in a strong enough mental state to perform her therapist duties, even if her persona has changed. Since it strains credibility that she can function semi-normally without noticing the rapid aging, this is poor plotting, ie, a flaw in the story.

3) Troi was physically powerless to stop Alkar's assault. Again, this is somewhat incredulous given her ability to do other stuff, but let's say that Alkar was basically controlling her mind. This does not gel with what we are told, meaning it too is inconsistent and a flaw in the story. But just as importantly, JFK was NOT controlling Jackie's mind, so even if this is the case then the episode fails as an analogy. As I said previously, I have no love for JFK or Clinton, and thus might be predisposed to accepting a story critical of them, but even I think mental slavery is a bridge too far in comparing their sins. So if the intent is to draw attention to real-world issues, then this becomes a flawed analogy, and thus also a flaw in the story.

Regardless of what happened, the story as presented was flawed! Hence why most of us criticize it. Heck, I agree with Rebecca that watching Troi dress down Janeway was a "highlight" of the show. But that was meant to show something was WRONG with Troi. And yet for people like me, it came off as Troi becoming a BETTER character, meaning it didn't do it's job. So it TOO was flawed!

And that's not even touching the magic de-aging at the end, which is extremely lazy. I mean, yes, character or plotting flaws are more important flaws than technobabble flaws, and you have to be willing to take stuff with a huge grain of salt in the Trek world, but they didn't even TRY to paper over how absurd that is!

Given the very real flaws of the story as presented, what good is it if it raises issues?
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Fri, Oct 25, 2019, 5:25pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: Yesterday's Enterprise

A quick and perhaps not well thought out counterpoint, Peter:

Perhaps it is actually S1 Tasha that is what her true nature should be, someone who can be prone to emotional moments (not as bad as S1 portrayed since S1 was terrible, character-wise, all around). I could see the cold, serious, "heavily on her guard" nature from YE as simply being a continuation of her life from the failed colony instead. In YE, she moved from one war zone to another. Thus, her cold demeanor is simply her being in survival mode, and she never grew out of it.

One could even argue that, combining S1 emotional Tasha to YE cold Tasha, we have an argument that the Trek utopia had a positive impact on her. In S1, she is no longer cold and weary, but rather can relax and act naturally due to her new and improved environment. Perhaps she is able to still take her skills learned on her planet and use them for security (ignoring how incompetent Starfleet security is in general...) but without the crippling fear of home can do it without repressing herself.

Enh, or it's just bad writing in S1... Hard to say what Tasha's true character would have been based off how bad it was. Remember, Picard was a grumpy old man throughout the entire season!
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Fri, Oct 25, 2019, 5:11pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S6: Sons and Daughters

I think it's even simpler than that. Not that I've done an exhaustive sampling or anything, but I think the general trend in fiction is that men have strife with their fathers and women have strife with their mothers. Men in conflict with mothers is much more rare, and women in conflict with fathers occurs, but usually with more serious conflict (ie, abandonment or physical abuse rather than "emotionally distant" or something like that). I won't try to explain why that's the case, but it does seem prevalent from my perspective. And since there's more male Star Trek characters, that means more daddy issues rather than mommy issues.

(Of course, my above assumption only works with adults and their parents. Kids can be in conflict with either parent pretty regularly I think).

In fact, this is almost universally the trend in Star Trek. Ignoring Enterprise and Discovery since I don't watch those, here are all the main characters with family problems:

Spock - Dad
Picard - Dad
Riker - Dad
Troi - Mom
Worf - Son
Quark - Mom (the exception!)
Bashir - Both for the same reason (although I think Dad was more?)
Odo - "Dad" (The scientist who studied him)
Ezri - Mom (although in fairness, her brother also had a problem with Mom, but would it still be with Mom if he was the main character?)
Paris - Dad
Torres - Both for different reasons (probably moreso Mom than Dad)

So other than Quark and the two characters that had problems with both parents, the pattern seems clear to me. Also, for being a utopia, family life seems pretty terrible in the future...
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Thu, Oct 3, 2019, 5:14pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: VOY S2: Second Season Recap

Peter, I'd actually disagree that S2 of Voyager was one of being out of ideas, or just doing a show for the sake of doing a show (S3 of Voyager, on the other hand, I think definitely fits that pattern). For what it's worth, I think they were trying to be bold or to use the conceit of the show for new ideas, but the problem was usually in the execution.

They did try their hand at a season-long arc with the Kazon and the mysterious traitor. It may not have been a good showing (the traitor part in particular felt completely awful to me), but they were experimenting there.

As William said, Meld does fit with the unique concept of being away from any other support from the Federation. Other episodes that work with the Voyager conceit include Resolutions, Alliances, 37s, the Samantha part of Elogium, and (sigh...) Threshold. And after mentioning the last one, needless to say they weren't all winners...

The writers did try some bold ideas I think, including Tuvix, Deadlock, and, ugh, again... Threshold. It wasn't just uniform blandness and making episodes via checklist, they were trying to come up with something to say! Or at least the premise of some of them seemed that way.

The writers did seem to go for one last push at setting up the characters according to the bible they were given. Chakotay got one strong push with the Indian nonsense in Tattoo. Paris being a flirt and a rogue gets brought up with his spat with Neelix. They tried to make the Ocampa more interesting than just a little pixie girl with Cold Fire. They pushed Kim's youthfulness and homesickness front and center with Non Sequitur. Of course, the main theme of all of these is that they ALL failed. And seemed to be part of why characterization essentially stalled for most people on the show afterward, since everything they started with ended up crashing and burning so spectacularly. But they were still trying here.

Essentially, I'd say S2's fault is a lack of execution, not a lack of attempt. This seemed to lead to an aimless S3 before the show got retooled into Star Trek: Seven of Nine (guest starring Janeway and the Doctor).
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Thu, Oct 3, 2019, 4:59pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: The Enemy

Springy, I definitely agree that it was an excellent choice to have Worf stay firm. From what I understand, one of Roddenberry's rules for the show was that there would be no internal conflict among the crew, which if kept would have made for a very boring series. I know Piller tried to keep things within the Roddenberry box, but it works so much better when you flat out break it at times that it makes sense, and Worf sticking with his Klingon side in this case is one of them.

I think I'm just happy whenever an alien actually acts like an alien rather than a human with one exaggerated characteristic and some silly putty on their forehead. What's the point of a space opera if everyone acts all the same?

I was actually thinking of this situation a few days ago randomly. I know the writers probably didn't put more thought into it than "Worf hates Romulans, so he refuses to help them." But I was wondering if a plausible case could be made that it is more than that.

I've been becoming very receptive to the idea that one alien aspect of Klingons is that they are more in-tune with their animalistic bodies and instincts than we are. When we think of who we are, our self, we usually think of our minds, our personalities. But to Klingons, their Klingon-ness is a key part of who they are. I think this is most clear in Birthright [Spoilers Alert!]. The Klingon kids were curious about Klingon traditions and cultures, yes, but that wasn't what made them rebel. It was simply that one kid going on a hunt. Not honor. Not war. Not anything we normally associate with being Klingon. But an instinctual, physical, animalesque endeavor. It gave him a purely biological high, something he had never experienced before. And it made him feel more alive than he had ever felt before, awakening his sense of self to the point that he couldn't go back to the half-life he was living without his animal side. It was a purely physical response; no culture needed.

Or consider K'Ehleyr, who has absolutely zero respect for Klingon culture or civilization. And yet, IIRC, she got just as involved in Worf's calisthenics program as Worf did. Became just as in-tune with her animal side. Whereas when Riker went through it, he clearly wasn't feeling it like that. To hunt, to be hunted, it's a part of Klingon life at a more basic, fundamental level than even honor or glory. That is the trapping civilization uses to codify and redirect the Klingon's animalistic, adrenaline-seeking ways. But it is biologically ingrained into them.

(Even B'Elanna, when she started suffering from depression, self-medicated by seeking an adrenaline high).

OK, so I'm pretty convinced of that, that a pure instinctual response is part of Klingon biology and way of living. And admittedly, this next part may be a stretch. If they feel that their bodies are more important to who they are than we humans do, perhaps they also think of their precious bodily fluids as being a greater part of themselves than we do?

I'm not saying intellectually they don't understand how the body works, but simply that the body (at least while alive) is more sacred to them than it is to us, for lack of a better word. We use blood as a symbol or metaphor for life, of course, but perhaps they take it deeper?

In Sins of the Father [More Spoiler! Weird writing that when it's 30 years old...], Kurn taunts Worf by saying that his blood has been thinned, and is not true Klingon blood. It's the clearest evidence of my hypothesis here, using blood as a symbol for Worf's personality, his life. Worf's physical blood is equivalent to who he is. If he is no longer Klingon, then his blood is diluted.

I know, I know, we use the heart as a metaphor for emotional state, and have no problems with understanding that it is just a metaphor. I'm sure they understand that too, intellectually. But if their instincts and animalistic ways and adrenaline are a key part of their personhood, then they may see that being pumped through their veins as a key part as well.

(Also, I know this is about a ribosome transplant and not a blood transfusion, but the idea of a ribosome transplant is stupid so we're going with the obvious analogy).

Meanwhile, we also know that Klingon culture is very ritualistic in many respects. We've seen some of the rituals. Let's look at two important ones [La-dee-da, Spoilers Away! I hope someone who reads this hasn't actually seen the rest of TNG and thus justifies these warnings....] 1) in Redemption, Gowron returns Worf's honor by letting Worf grasp his knife, spilling his blood, and 2) When Worf and K'Ehleyr were about to take the oath on the holodeck, Worf pushed her fingernails into her own palm, spilling her blood.

See, two intense rituals, one dealing with honor and the other dealing with love, both involve the willing donation of blood. Showing your physical blood to the tribe or to your mate, showing your true personality. The blood is a part of who they are.

Basically, what I'm saying is that if you or I go down to the Red Cross and drop off a pint of blood, we don't think of it. It was our blood, now its out there, and who cares that it's going inside some random person we'll never meet? But for a Klingon, who sees themselves inside their blood, the sharing of precious bodily fluids or ribosomes is an intensely sacred and personal act. Even outside the body, it is still theirs. Their being is still present in the blood.

Thus, demanding that one's blood (or ribosomes) be placed inside a stranger could be considered a deep violation of Worf's body and personhood, and even worse if it is given to an enemy. If so, it would be no suprise that Worf refused to see the human side of the issue, even if he 100% understood it. One cannot choose to violate oneself in such a way.

Again, I know this wasn't the intent. But I'd like to think that there was a deeper meaning here than just "look at the stupid racist security chief who can't get over daddy dying, what a loser!"
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Sun, Sep 8, 2019, 6:15pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S5: Redemption, Part II

Why is TNG my favorite show? Well, for one, I honestly don't like much TV, so admittedly it doesn't have much competition... But anyway, it combines the best of one-off ideas (a la Twilight Zone, ie, TVs version of short stories) with a relatable, consistent cast and world building. It's the best of both worlds in that sense. We have a standard SF space opera world, but one that isn't wholly dependent on wars or good vs evil, so there's room for more interesting stories than just Star Wars or Flash Gordon or other space operas. Its stories could either be exploring weird scifi concepts like Cause and Effect or be scifi variants of political drama like The Defector. While the "Planet of Hats" trope was overused, it did often produce cool alien species that pushed the narrative in unique directions like the Children of Tama. Sure, much of the crew faded into the background, but Picard and Worf and Data had many, many strong moments and stories about them. And the cast was pretty darn competent too, with Patrick Stewart being absolutely phenomenal. And so the stories they told could be elevated, and when drama kicked into high gear (like, say, Reunion) it would be gripping.

I could go on and on and on, but nowhere in there is there anything about the so called enlightened, progressive future. When the person that created the show was in charge and tried to push that idea, the show was essentially a failure and barely watchable. When he got kicked upstairs and Michael Piller took over, the show's "purpose" switched to being stories about the characters, and it kicked into high gear and stayed there for years. At best, the general optimism of the future is all that's needed.

I mean, when the show really tried to push that stuff, it was practically a turnoff. Rather than looking "enlightened" or "tolerant", the cast was smug and condescending and arrogant and frankly unlikeable. Look at how they treated the frozen people in The Neutral Zone. If that's our enlightened future, sign me up for being a perpetual troglodyte, because Picard and company showed no signs of compassion or human decency at all. And that's far from the only example I can make where the crew, once they started going political, seemed more nasty than tolerant.

But hey, if that's what you see and like in the show, more power to you. But I notice you said you dismiss any concerns about bad science in Trek. Don't get me wrong, I agree. But there are a lot of Star Trek fans who are very defensive about ST being a good show *for science*. That they had science advisers on staff and were careful to keep everything realistic and even Stephen Hawking was on the show! Are those people not true Star Trek fans? When those people blow up about a silly science error and say that it destroys what Star Trek stands for, do you just say "dude, it's a mistake, get over it?" Because I do too. So why is their interpretation of Trek one that not everyone needs to follow, but yours is?

I never had the Philip J Frye sob story of how Trek was my only friend from a troubled childhood. I'm not saying my childhood was perfect (although I can't really complain), just that I didn't take any emotional solace from a TV show. And I never saw Gene Roddenberry as a Prophet or Visionary, and so don't take his thoughts to be Holy Writ. It's just a really good sci fi show in a really good universe, but naturally one with faults in it as well. And I don't find the catsuits to be a worse fault than some of the poor writing or poor science or other hokey aspects.
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Sat, Sep 7, 2019, 8:55am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S5: Redemption, Part II

If by "fan service", you mean "actually being made for fans of Star Trek", then maybe... =)

Booming and Jordy, I never said the green vest was EFFECTIVE fan service, but between that and how often Kirk manages to lose his shirt in the show, I imagine it did play a role. For what it's worth, I never saw Troi's catsuit as being attractive either.

But there's obviously some subjectivity in how "tasteful" it all is. No, Star Trek is not super over the top campiness of the 1980 Flash Gordon movie (which I love), and yes it may have been better than any other SF show up to that point save perhaps Twilight Zone, but it was still kinda campy. It was low budget, had hammy acting, and had fistfights every other episode. It had a Mary Sue alien main character who's telepathic powers were whatever the episode needed at the time. It had humans with psionic powers, young Dr. Pulaskis that could learn telepathy, a magic barrier surrounding the galaxy, inconsistent speeds of starships, alien planets that were exactly like Earth, giant glowing green hands grabbing starships out of space, and aliens stealing Spock's brain. That doesn't strike me as all bran cereal.

Yes, the TNG era was better. But it still had its silly moments. It had a superintelligent android incapable of using contractions or even escaping a Chinese finger trap. It had a ridiculously powerful starship that could blow up entire planets but didn't bother to have any basic security. It had a child prodigy who was smarter than the most elite crew in Starfleet. It had spatial anomalies that could turn people into kid versions of themselves, shrink DS9 runabouts into toy sizes, or turn Voyager into a giant maze. It had DNA introns turning you into monsters and animals, human-sized viruses flying around, entire universes appearing that were the size of breadboxes, punching holes inside an event horizon, transporting not working because of "photonic interference", wars being put on hold so that people could play baseball or perform a bank heist on the holodeck, etc etc. It wasn't really always a bunch of deep high minded shows. Charles Dickens was probably thinking of TNG when he wrote "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Voyager constantly felt like a rough draft of a good idea with all the holes plugged in with the same constant tropes and mindless action. Enterprise was a step down from even Voyager. That leaves DS9 as the only consistently well written show, but oftentimes it seemed to be the prototype of modern TV of constantly producing drama for drama's sake, rather than the TNG ethos of smart people doing smart things.

Don't get me wrong, TNG is my favorite TV show of all time and I love it despite its faults. I have a soft spot for Voyager despite being frustrated that it didn't live up to its potential. But I just can't put these shows on a pedestal and declare them to be sacred. It's still just entertainment, and the writers are still just mere mortals. And I'm not just going to pretend the silly side of Trek doesn't exist.

Yes, catsuits may look out of place in the 21st century, but it's an established fact that for some strange, bizarre reason, jumpsuits were all the rage in the 24th century, so much so that even Starfleet decided it made a great idea for a uniform (maybe Zeframe Cochrane was right and people in the 24th century didn't need to use the restroom...). It looks stupid and isn't that much better than cheesy SF futuristic outfits like from the Jetsons or something, but it's part of the show. And so if jumpsuits are such a popular fashion choice in the future, why is it so out of place if some people might like to wear their jumpsuits a little tighter?
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Sat, Sep 7, 2019, 8:26am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S2: Q Who

If I had to create a reasonable timeline of Q's character...

I assume, prior to S1, Q (only DeLancie Q will be referred to as Q here) was already on thin ice with the Q Continuum. Presumably, he's been mucking with races and shirking his Q duties (Quties?) or whatever. However, at Encounter at Farpoint, I assume he was under the direction of the QC, at least to some extent. They had become interested in humanity recently (conveniently ignoring Quinn being involved in humanity and Amanda's parents becoming human and the fact that the QC had become uber boring with nothing new under the sun, but there just ain't no way to close all the plotholes), and so sent Q to test them. Maybe they weren't THAT interested, and thus thought this was a "minor" job that they could trust the delinQuent person to do as a way of Q getting back into the QC's good graces.

But Q had a lot of freedom in this job, and I'd say he did it poorly, mainly due to his dismissive attitude toward humans (which coincides with his role as a "tormentor"). It seemed Q made up the Farpoint Station test on the spot, and even afterwards lamented that it was too easy (indeed, compared to the temporal paradox in AGT, that plot did seem kinda beneath the Q...). I think it's safe to that, at this time, Q didn't care at all about humanity.

("'At this time'? How little do you mortals understand time. Must you be so linear, Skeptical?" Shut up Q! The idea of an immortal, omnipotent, omniscient being having a story arc over 7 years is already kinda dumb, but it happened so we have to use linear time to deal with it!)

But, perhaps because he was bested, it did spark an interest. I wouldn't say he fell in love with humans at this point; perhaps he was just frustrated and wanted a second round. So Hide and Q happened, where he again tested humanity, or Riker in this case. I imagine this was NOT at the behest of the QC, and they may not have known about it at first. But he also made a bet with Picard about the outcome of his test, and he lost that one too. But when the time came, he refused to honor his side of the bargain (leave humanity alone forever), and IIRC it was the QC that forcefully removed him.

I imagine, at some point around here, the QC started coming down in judgement against Q. Like I said, he was on thin ice beforehand, but the ice is now cracking. Maybe it was botching the first trial of humanity, maybe it was intervening with humanity a second time in unauthorized ways despite humanity still being "on trial" (particularly with a bet that the Q would avoid humanity forever, which the QC had no intention of holding up), or perhaps it had nothing to do with humanity at all. Either way, Q was kicked out of the QC, and perhaps it wasn't the first time. He was presumably a troublemaker for quite a while. So I don't think it's a mistake in the script here. Guinan correctly noted that Q was in trouble again.

But in any case, Q is starting to show his interest in humanity now. But enough to help them? I don't think so. He's bored, listless, and decides to go hang out with the strange people that bested him twice and he's not sure why. Perhaps, at this point, he's now curious about them. But Picard outright rejects him. And rejects him by saying they don't need him.

"In your own paltry, limited way, you have no idea how far you still have to go."

That quote from AGT was even more true in S2 of TNG. And maybe now Q is just frustrated. Humans obviously have some potential, they outsmarted him twice. But Picard was just so overly arrogant and smug. Q knew the QC was interested in seeing just where humanity would go, but thanks to their arrogance at this point they weren't going to go anywhere. You can't learn something if you already think you know everything. And while Q is not an agent of the QC anymore, he can't help but be annoyed at the smugness going on here and wanted to push Picard down a peg or so.

So no, I DON'T think that QWho is part of the grand scheme of Q, or that it was his subtle way of pushing humanity along. I do think it worked out in that way, that Picard and company did learn their lesson. And I do think Q was happy they learned their lesson, but not necessarily to prepare them for AGT or whatever, or even to prepare them for BoBW. He was just happy that HIS point, that humanity was still kinda dumb, was proven for once.

It's not until later, perhaps after the events of Deja Q, that Q actually becomes humanity's advocate. He treated Picard with kid gloves during True Q when humanity was tangentially in the way of QC business (being willing to take Picard's advice on how to approach Amanda, etc), and he helped Picard out in Tapestry (my personal theory is that it was less about Picard learning his lesson regarding the stabbing, and more about subtly expanding Picard's understanding of cause and effect in preparation for AGT, and of course he acted as Picard's aide in AGT. It wasn't there from the beginning, but Q sort of grew attached to humanity throughout the course of TNG, rather than just having different ways of showing it.

Or, in TLDR format:
EF: Q completely dismissive of humanity, but on QC business
HQ: Q wounded and angry at humanity for beating him, not on QC business
QW: Q curious about yet frustrated at humanity, not on QC business
DQ: Q coming to acceptance of humanity, gaining empathy with humanity
TQ: Q chummy with humanity while on QC business
Tapestry: Q secretly prepping humanity for the upcoming QC trial
AGT: Q secretly aiding humanity while on QC business
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Thu, Sep 5, 2019, 3:19pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S5: Redemption, Part II

Chrome, well, I'm happy I'm NOT watching Discovery. Does that count?

Meanwhile, I am endlessly bemused by the fact that this whole thing started because two female villains in Trek have tiny little boob windows in their armor. Meanwhile, the most famous villain in all of Trekdom, starring in the most critically and fan- acclaimed film of all of Star Trek, ran around in a low-cut shirt showing off his pecs for the entire galaxy to see. I say, in the interest of feminism and gender equality, that Lursa and B'Etor should be allowed to have just as much cleavage as Khan did! =P

OK, but seriously everyone, these sort of hand-wringings are kinda bizarre to me. Seven and Troi wearing specialized outfits is sexist and demeaning, but Kirk's green vest is perfectly acceptable. Marvel seems hell bent on refusing to allow any female superhero to be seen as sexy while clearly having no qualms in making Captain America and Thor into sex objects. We are constantly told that the Amazon warrior fighting in a chainmail bikini is completely ridiculous while ignoring the big chested, oiled up muscular he-man in a loincloth right next to her. What's the difference?

So let's do a thought experiment: why is Seven's catsuit exploitative while Kirk's vest is not?
- Is it because of the level of sexiness? I'd say no. Obviously, men and women's outfits and what the opposite sex perceives as attractive is different. A hot girl in a minskirt is undoubtedly a turn-on for guys; I'm going to presume a hot guy in a miniskirt is a turn-off for most women. Sleeveless vest is probably the most "sexy" you could get a male guy to look without him looking ridiculous (or just looking like a stripper). And let's face it, a catsuit is far from dressing a woman as a stripper as well. One could presumably have given her a sexier outfit without being too out of place. After all, this one doesn't even show any skin!
- Is it the practicality or "out of place"-ness of the outfit? Again, I'd disagree. How often do you see guys wearing something like Kirk's vest walking around on the street or whatever? Of course, you don't see too many catsuits around either. But then again, Trek (or at least the TNG era) for some reason had an obsession with assuming everyone in the future will wear jumpsuits. So maybe her outfit is more normal! A bit silly, I know, but I'll call this one a wash... I would say neither outfit seems particularly "normal", but neither is too outlandish to be considered a costume (with a small caveat on Seven: see the next point).
- Is it the comfortableness of the outfit? That... I could grant you. Supposedly the Season 4 shiny silver catsuit was ludicrously uncomfortable. Given that, I could see how it wouldn't be something one would choose to wear themselves, and thus only worn for the desire of the opposite sex, and thus "exploitative". However, that was changed fairly quickly IIRC. So for both this point and the previous one (since shiny silver is also kinda "costume-y"), I will grant that S4 Seven might lose, and so instead will move the goalpost and say this comparison applies only to later Seven and her more comfortable-looking catsuits. Yeah, it's goalpost moving, but then again I've never heard anyone specifically talk about S4 Seven when discussing their concern about how exploitative this is. Also, I'm just going on the assumption that they were more comfortable; obviously I don't know that for sure. And as an aside, I imagine wearing a skirt is perfectly comfy. So if a female Starfleet captain decides to show up in the Captain's chair wearing a skirt a la Kirk's relaxed dress code, would that be exploitative?

So again I ask, is there anything more exploitative in Seven's (later season) outfit compared to Kirk's vest? I'm having a hard time coming up with anything.

About the only thing I can think of is going back to that first point, that "sexiness" in men and women are generally seen as different. And yeah, maybe, in general, male sexiness tends to be more subtle. After all, just how many women out there think that guys are extremely sexy when wearing a finely-tailored suit? And yet, such a suit shows off none of the man's body or accentuates the man's physical features. In contrast, the flip side - a guy finding a woman in an elegant dress sexy - generally happens because the dress itself is highlighting her physical features. In general, it's a lot easier to get away with eye candy for women. So Captain America can walk around in a tight T-shirt, with the clear purpose to make the women drool. But it's seen as just natural. Sure, the equivalent might be Black Widow walking around in tight yoga pants and a sports bra, but that's seen as being more blatant since, I don't know, women's sexuality is more obvious or something.

So on the one hand, since pandering to the male taste is often more obvious, it can be seen as more exploitative. But on the flip side, it seems that society is more accepting of pandering to the female taste if only because it isn't as obviously visual. Heck, it wasn't that long ago that the best selling book in America that was mainstream and perfectly acceptable to be seen and discussed in public was BDSM erotica aimed squarely at women. Imagine if it was culturally acceptable for men to consume porn in public? But, of course, most men don't want to READ their erotic entertainment, they want to SEE their erotic entertainment. And presumably that makes all the difference. And it's not just 50 Shades of Gray. IIRC, the romance genre is the best selling genre of fiction, and needless to say it's not exactly providing a realistic representation of men!

So is it just the visual factor that is exploitative? That pandering to men's tastes require an actual women to dress provocatively, while pandering to women's tastes requires a man to only be well-dressed, or in the case of literature not need an actual man at all? And yet, there's a huge push to change video games and comics and cartoons and whatnot to make sure all women are dressed prudishly there so as not to "exploit" women, despite the fact that no real-life woman is required for that pandering at all...

Is it the "demeaning-ness" of it all? But, if so, how is pandering to men's taste more demeaning than pandering to women's taste? My wife likes watching TV, and so I've unfortunately been exposed to many TV shows aimed at women. And there are plenty of catty, sexist, demeaning comments made by the women about or towards the men in many of these shows, as the women show their sexual desire for the various men. Isn't that the sort of demeaning to men? If Seven is a respected member of the crew, working professionally with everyone, and an interesting character who also happens to wear a sexy catsuit, is that more or less demeaning than an entire novel in which the male character is there to fulfill a woman's fantasy?

I fail to see how one is worse than the other. They're just different. And Trek has, on occasion, aimed their appeal at both sexes, albeit to different degrees. Has it focused more on titillating men than women? Certainly, but that's not surprising given the perceived demographics of Trek watchers. But other popular entertainment has gone the opposite route. Even Marvel movies as I said, which one might expect to be aimed more toward men than women, tossed in obvious sex appeal to women rather than men.

If entertainment is going to use sex appeal as part of its appeal, which it so obviously does, I have a hard time getting worked up about how they go about doing it. Men and women perceive sex differently, and so the appeal is going to be different for men and women. So as long as it fits the tone the overall story is going for, who cares? So in that sense, Seven's catsuit never bothered me, since it really wasn't out of place in a world where those awful TNG S1 uniforms existed. Same with TOS' over the top alien outfits. Honestly, TOS was more "pulp" than "serious SF", even if it was more serious than most scifi shows at the time. So the outlandish costumes generally fit the tone of TOS pretty well. Peter mentioned that TOS felt more tasteful than Enterprise, but I think it's just that exotic female costumes just fit in with the over-the-top ness of TOS. The TNG era definitely tried to be more serious (at least post S1), so they probably would feel more out of place there even if a catsuit seems fine. I guess I can't speak for Enterprise since I couldn't make it past the first season though, but I guess the decontamination rubdowns were a bit too... obvious for a supposedly serious and *snark* intellectual show.

Also, Jordy, while Kira's high heels may have no practical use to a military officer, Nana Visitor's high heels definitely did have a practical use for filming a TV series: it made her closer in height to her male co-stars. Sure, you can hide it with proper framing and such, but the heels just make things easier, so I can't complain about that. At least, no more than how improper it is for a military officer like Riker to be constantly hunched over and leaning on everything...

And circling allll the way back to the original question, I'm not even sure how erotic the Duras sisters' boob windows was supposed to be. To be honest, if they really wanted it to be sexy, I think they should have given it only to B'Etor, since she was the one constantly pawing at everyone. On Lursa, who is always so serious, looks ugly (no offense to the actress, it's just the whole Klingon thing), and is otherwise dressed completely conservatively, it's just... there. Maybe they wanted to give it to B'Etor to accentuate her animalistic sexy side, but then thought it would look out of place and unnatural if it was just her? I don't know. It's a weird design decision overall, but honestly one I never gave much though to. I suppose the same could be said for the Borg Queen in First Contact, given a "low cut" outfit and being overly sexual toward Data despite, of course, being an absolute horror. It's obviously not titillating, so is it just meant to be confusing? Is it just to give a shortcut that the Borg Queen is a "temptress", and thus make it more likely that Data might be tempted, even if she wasn't actually tempting in that manner? If so, could the same be said for Lursa and B'Etor, especially B'Etor with her pawing approach?
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Sat, Aug 10, 2019, 12:38pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

Booming, you have completely and totally misrepresented practically everything I said, made absurd and frankly vicious and mean-spirited assumptions about my beliefs (I'm suddenly an imperialist trying to bomb everyone else into submission? Where the bleep did that come from???), seem to believe that your view of the world is the only possible correct one, and have essentially proved my point far better than I could. But rather than get into some stupid tit-for-tat war, let me try again...

Point #1: should we get life lessons from Star Trek? Well, let's assume that we should, that Star Trek writers are soooo much smarter than us and can impart great wisdom to us lowly, stupid peons. So let us learn from these great folks, starting from the beginning of TOS. Actually, let's skip ahead to near the end of Season 1 and start listing are important lessons:

Errand of Mercy: Pacifism, even in the face of evil and oppression, is good!
The Alrernative Factor: Don't make a Star Trek episode when you're on drugs...
City on the Edge of Forever: Pacifism may sound good, but in the face of evil and oppression is bad!

Um... what? So, if I'm getting life lessons from Star Trek, how am I supposed to know what is good and just when they are providing contradictory lessons literally TWO EPISODES APART! And that's not the only time either. Using the power of the Q to save people from disaster is bad in Hide and Q, but good in Deja Q. The Prime Directive is the upmost good (ie, prime), except all the times when it's not. Using technology from a sadist is bad in Nothing Human, but stealing Borg technology is A-OK in Dark Frontier. And, as the piece de resistance and breaking TOS' record for whiplash, our hero Sisko says that an organization in the Federation that does shady things to protect the Federation is totally 100% evil literally THE WEEK BEFORE he does a bunch of shady things to protect the Federation.

If you're relying on Star Trek to find good life lessons, you're gonna have problems, because it's all over the place. There is no hope of having an actual cohesive moral code when you have dozens of writers wanting to tell dozens of stories.

Ah, you say, but there's subtle differences. Pacifism was bad in COTEOF but good in EOM because the situations were different. Oh really? What is the nice dividing line between the two situations? What makes it ok in one situation and not the other? That's not to say that there CAN be subtle differences, that different situations can call on different actions, but is that what Star Trek taught? Is the difference clear and easily understandable based on these episodes alone? Of course not.

Because, in both instances, the writers were trying to tell a story. And getting into all the details on a life lesson would turn it into a lecture instead.

And this is even ignoring the fact that the TRUE message in EOM is completely effed up: pacifism is good, and if other don't agree you should use your own violence to impose it on them!

But actually, that brings it to Point #2: people can take different messages from a story because, again, the story is prevalent and you can't just stand up there and lecture. So, what does that mean? If we SHOULD take messages from Star Trek, but people take DIFFERENT messages from the same episode, what then? Are they both right? Is one wrong?

And if one is wrong, why? Why are they a miserable failure at interpreting a TV show while the other person is a super genius? Who is to say which one is right? If a story can be interpreted as an analogy for one situation, can it be interpreted as an analogy for a much different one? And again, who says one is right and the other is wrong?

I suppose the author can say so. But if the author wasn't smart enough to realize how his or her moral message can be logically applied to unapproved wrongthink, why should we listen to the author?

Since Booming appears to be a pretty clear liberal, let's do something crazy here. Measure of a Man is about the Civl Rights movement, right? Of course it is. Guinan's statement makes it pretty clear. And yet, and yet... The final judgement of the judge lady was, quite clearly, that she does not know if Data counts as a "person" and does not feel qualified to judge on that particular matter, but instead chooses to err on the side of caution and give Data the right to choose in this interest, given the particular downside of judging incorrectly. So if this is an analogy of the Civil Rights movement, is that the right message? "Who knows if them black folk are really human, but I suppose we ought to give them rights just in case" Is that the lesson we should learn, that there's a legitimate reason that we can't be sure people of a different color than us are really human?

Of course not. The author clearly didn't intend that to be the case. But it made sense to make that ruling in our analogy to fit the story of Data. And yet, and yet... That judgement - when we aren't sure about personhood, we should err on the side of caution - DOES show up in a modern political debate. But it shows up in the Pro-Life movement, where all the good liberals who think Star Trek is on their said is 100% against. So of course, all the good liberals will shriek and holler and say that this is twisting the true intent of the episode and HOW DARE THEY! But why? Like I said, the analogy of the actual judgement fits the Pro-Life movement far better than the Civil Rights movement, even though I'm sure that wasn't the author's intention. But if we are to take moral lessons from Star Trek, we have to apply those lessons to areas outside the limited scope of the episode. So who's to say that this application is 100% false?

I've said it before in a tongue-in-cheek manner, and I'll say it again in a tongue-in-cheek manner, just to prove that different interpretations are possible, but... Star Trek is actually a right-wing utopia fantasy, not a left-wing utopia fantasy. The utopia was created by an act of pure capitalism and due to a singular private citizen's will and drive rather than a government program, the military is highly respected and full of good people rather than uneducated morons who want to kill stuff, the prime directive is a way to stop moral liberal busybodies from imposing their nanny-state isms on other people and let them have their freedoms, and the single greatest threat to the galaxy is the clearly communist Borg. See, 100% right wing! Why should that not be the message we get out of it?

But Booming thinks only Booming's interpretation is correct. That was my point with the alternate interpretation of this episode. Fact #1: Both men AND women can have unrealistic expectations that their partners should act and behave exactly like they want them to. Fact #2: for both men AND women, these unrealistic expectations can produce seriously unhealthy relationships. Does anyone actually disagree with either of those two facts (and, if so, perhaps you ought to look in the mirror to find the real sexist...)? So, given that, why can't the "moral message", if you want to find one in this episode, be applied to both men AND women? And yet, when I suggested that women could get a moral message out of this episode, Booming started ranting about presidential elections and a bunch of other crap. Why isn't this interpretation of the message a valid one? Apparently Booming thinks it's impossible, but I have no idea why.

The reason these alternative messages exist, of course, is because the authors are trying to tell a story. In order to ensure no other possible message except the intended one gets through, the author would have to constantly push away from the actual plot and keep manipulating the story to make sure the one true message gets across. And when that happens, the story suffers. And that makes for bad fiction. We call it "Season 1 of TNG."

But in any case, back to this idea that "only one true message" exists, as it segues nicely into Point #3: More often than not, the people who claim lessons can be learned from Star Trek aren't actually learning lessons themselves, but rather think that OTHER people should be learning the lessons that THEY want them to. Pretty convenient that the one true message of Perfect Mate is a Perfect Match for Booming's worldview, and that all other interpretations and all other worldviews are self evidently false, right?

Here's a fun little game for everyone: go read the comments for The Drumhead. Look for all the comments that say something like "this is such an important episode, and is so relevant for today!" Got it? There's plenty of them. Now, notice that EVERY SINGLE ONE of them thinks its relevant because they believe that THEIR POLITICAL OPPONENTS are the ones that are crazy, conspiracy spouting unhinged maniacs like Satie while THEIR POLITICAL ALLIES are the calm, rational Picard. Every. Single. One. Even those on polar opposite sides of the political aisle.

There may be a supposed message of the Drumhead, but the TRUE message that everyone looking for a message got out of it was "You are so much better than those stupid evil people you despise."

Does anyone who wants messages in their fiction actually want to learn from those messages, or do they just want to use them to feel morally superior?

I mean, I've been on this website for a LONG time, and have seen a TON of these dustups and stupid arguments appear. I guess the takeaway is that Star Trek fans have never learned the main message of Star Trek, that of tolerance and respect for other people. So if Star Trek fans who claim to care SOOO much about moral messages in shows can't even learn the most basic one, why should we have them at all?

And, finally, we get to Point #4: there is a difference between thematic fiction and message fiction. By no means am I arguing for the Tom Paris route of just make a silly, zany show with twists and turns and no weight behind it. But themes don't need to be life lessons. Themes don't need to create us vs them attitudes. Themes are naturally interwoven into the story and arise naturally from the story rather than exist in a tug of war with the story. That's good fiction.

Let's look at what could probably be considered a consensus pick for best Star Trek, namely Wrath of Khan. There are two very clear themes in the movie: Pride goeth before a fall, and getting old is a part of life. Are those "messages" we need to "learn"? We probably knew them already, and certainly didn't learn them from this moview. And it's not like the authors are constantly shouting them from the rooftops either. For one, the fact that there are two of them makes the movie more organic rather than feeling like a morality play. For two, they both come up in different ways. Obviously Khan's arrogance takes center stage, but we also have undercurrents with Kirk arrogantly ignoring Saavik's request to raise shields despite protocol and the Marcus' arrogance of not realizing or not caring that they were also developing a WMD. Kirk coming to accept life took several twists and turns, from the start complaining about his age and feeling useless, to the middle-end talking about Kirk refusing to face death but now being forced to, and of course the more subtle bit of Kirk reconnecting with his son as a reminder that growing old also means passing things down to the next generation and the joy of watching that generation grow.

All of that is GOOD writing. All of that is THEMATIC writing. Much, much better than message writing.

So to sum up:
1) Star Trek's messaging is poor and all over the place anyway, so it's hardly a moral authority.
2) People can interpret Star Trek episodes in different ways, so there's no moral authority.
3) People inevitably interpret Star Trek to fit their preconceived worldview anyway, so that hardly counts as a moral authority.

Ergo, when it comes to fiction, it's better to have good themes and a good story than to try to tell a message.
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Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 6:50pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate


Fair enough if the subtext of Picard and Kamala's time together was clearly sexual. Like I said, I'm going by memory here. Obviously her request that he stay the night can easily be seen that way, but I didn't remember the rest of it being obviously of one nature or another.

But as for the notion that there is no way of knowing if Kamala lied? Let's look at it further. There appears to be two forms of her emotional morphing: a temporary, immediate morph like with the miners(?) and Riker, or the permanent imprinting that the story revolves around. So suppose she lies about being permanently imprinted on Picard in order to make herself look more appealing to him. Thus, that act of lying means that she is in the midst of her temporary imprint. (Admittedly, there could be more than just 2 forms, ie, a short term, mid term, and permanent imprint, but let's just keep things simple). So that means that she is picking up on Picard's desire to see her change in order to become someone he could be attracted to. Are we in agreement?

But Picard's surface level, conscious desire is specifically that she NOT imprint on him, since his surface level desire is to fulfill his duty with minimal problems. So she must be picking up on his deeper, more subconscious desires. Again, seems reasonable.

But let's put that to the test with Riker. IIRC, her imprint on him involved no personality, no intellectual or emotional attachment, just pure physical attraction by making out with him. That's less personality than even the show she put on for the catcalling miners. So does that mean that Riker's idea of the perfect mate is nothing more than a hot body that's ready to go? Yet, we already saw an artificial perfect mate for Riker: Minuet. She was hot, sure, but also sultry and seductive. And what did Riker do when he was alone with his perfect mate? Spend a lot of time, perhaps even hours, flirting with her. He didn't go straight to bed then. And we see multiple instances of Riker flirting throughout the show. It seems reasonable to assume he enjoys the chase as much as the prize, if you know what I mean. He wants to flirt with his mate and enjoy a little back and forth as well.

But Kamala didn't pick up on that. Why not? Meanwhile, what was Riker's conscious state while being with her? Like Picard, he undoubtedly didn't see her as a potential suitable mate due to his duty. But unlike Picard, I could imagine that Riker, as a fan of the female form, did have idle thoughts about how hot she was and perhaps some curiosity about what she would be like in bed. Not a real fantasy, not dwelling on it, but still. And since it was just idle fantasy and not dwelling on it, it wasn't connected to any specific personality, just the physical curiosity. And so that's what she picked up and morphed into, a purely physical mate.

In other words, her transient imprint picks up on his conscious desires, even if her permanent imprint would pick up on his subconscious desires. I suppose there's a certain amount of logic to it, that it would take time for her own subconscious or whatever to understand the subject's true desires and thus time for her own brain to be rewired. But either way, we seem to have evidence that the transient imprint acts on surface-level desires. And if so, her transient imprint would also act on Picard's conscious desires. But the "lie" would be for the benefit of Picard's subconscious desire. Ergo, it is not a lie at all, but a truth.

Again, it's not an ironclad proof. Maybe there is a midterm imprint as well, or maybe my split between conscious, current desire and subconscious, true perfect mate isn't exactly how it works. But whatever, it's more evidence in its favor. I think the evidence is definitely weighted towards it being the truth.

Whew, this is getting long... Anyway, next topic: on whether Kamala imprinting on Picard is a tragedy for her or not:

Yes, there is a clear tragedy if someone is a perfect match for person A but must be with Person B, even if her Person A personality is a better ideal than a Person B personality. If she imprinted on a stuffed shirt like Picard and then married someone who loved adventure and excitement and wanted a partner to share those loves, that could be a tragedy. But that's not really what happened here. IIRC, it was pretty explicitly laid out that her husband-to-be didn't really care about obtaining her as a person or as a wife, but rather just saw this ceremony as a means to an end. She was nothing more than a tool for his political position and power.

If that's the case, what would she be like if she imprinted on him? If he sees her as a mere tool, will that be how she sees herself? Will she just sit passively in a chair for the rest of her life waiting for the few moments when she will be useful either in the bedroom or in state functions? Is that even much of a life?

But back to Picard. In a way, Picard and the king are similar: they both have some strong desire for independence and solitude. Presumably, for both of them, the idea of a perfect mate is someone who is not around them all the time. The difference, though, is that the king doesn't care about her one way or another outside of when she is pleasing him, while Picard presumably wants her to live a rich and fulfilling life when they are not together. So her new Picard-centric personality is one where she wants to fulfill her duties, wants to make her partner happy, but also is perfectly fine with her partner being alone for long periods of time and will happily find fulfillment by herself in those time periods. Her king-centric personality would have been wanting to fulfill her duties, wanting to make her partner happy, but would be a passive blob during the long periods of time when she is left by herself. Nothing of the Picard imprint would contradict what the king would want, and perhaps there's some tragedy that she would rather make Picard happy than the king, but at least the 80% of her life where she would be alone is much better for the Picard imprint.

So I disagree with your analogy. Instead, she may not be able to, say, pursue being a Shakespearean actress, and she may be forced to go to Miley Cyrus concerts once a week, but she is now perfectly able to read and listen and watch Shakespeare in her downtime when she wouldn't have been able to before. Thus, introducing Shakespeare into her life is making it better, even if it isn't the perfect life. It's not that she imprinted on a good person like Picard that makes her life better, it's that she imprinted on a good person AND a loner.


Peter and Booming, I'm not saying that there should never be any deeper meaning or anything, but that it is WAY too easy for that to distract from the story itself. Dune is the story of an extremely valuable commodity critical for transportation being found only in a desert region populated by individuals who have a suspiciously large number of Arabic words in their dialogue. It is sooo easy to say that this is an allegory, or that the message of the book is about Middle Eastern politics and oil and such. But it really isn't. There are so many other plot points and messages that have absolutely nothing to do with oil, and the main resolution of the "oil" conflict relies on a solution that is absolutely impossible in the real world. Frank Herbert may have taken inspiration from the real world here, but uses it only as a springboard to create a richer, better story. Same here. Even if the origin of the story was the fantasy of the perfect girlfriend, allowing the alien story to progress without worrying about the "messenging" of an imaginary perfect girlfriend wish fulfillment story.

I mean, Booming, it seems pretty clear that you are looking at this from a feminist perspective. But why? Yes, guys can have fantasies of having a perfect girlfriend designed for their happiness. But do you really think that girls don't have fantasies of having a perfect boyfriend designed for their happiness? Seriously? So is it misogynistic for a man to have this fantasy, but perfectly natural for a woman to have the fantasy? If the roles were reversed, and this was a male metamorph, would we be complaining about the societal problems of expecting a man to change on a woman's whims?

If both men AND women can have this fantasy, what is the point of looking at this from a feminist perspective just because this one happens to be from the male fantasy point of view? If it's a problematic viewpoint, shouldn't it be an equal opportunity problematic viewpoint? And even if you say that the male fantasy has a more prominent problematic history due to political marriages, well, why should I care that deeply about what a few nobles did hundreds of years ago? Shouldn't the female fantasy be more socially relevant in MODERN society given the general societal pressure of telling men that the women are ALWAYS right when it comes to relationship issues, and that a man who marries should get used to losing every argument?

So in order to properly talk about this social concept, we need to bring in male metamorphs. We need to bring in the emotional impact this has on these metamorphs, even though as Theo pointed out they are aliens and human-centric emotional values are kinda dumb for them. We need to bring up what it means to be in a relationship and the values of independence vs submission and blah blah blah blah blah. And most importantly, we need to do ALL of this in ONLY 43 minutes while STILL fitting a good, engaging story in.

Is that possible? I don't think so. Even if the time restriction is out, it's still nearly impossible to weave an engaging story in with trying to present a full, fair moral argument. 9 times out of 10, it comes off as terrible preaching. Since there is no dialogue with the viewer, there is no possibility of the writer changing his/her viewpoint. Thus, the dialogue/preaching is all one-sided. Which means that, in order to accept it, one must accept that the writer knows what he or she is talking about.

And as I said previously, I simply do not accept Hollywood as my superior. Booming brought up Code of Honor. Yes, I can see that it was a jumbled, screwed up attempt to talk about racism. But you know what? Strip away ALL of the African subtext (or text, as the case may be) from the episode. And what do you have? A message about how we should bend over backwards to appease people who kidnap our family (and implied to rape them) when we invite them over as guests. What the bleeping bleep??? What kind of a message is that? Now yes, the writer did try to paper that over by saying these people had a critical vaccine or cure or whatever that was needed. In that case, the story COULD be how far would we go to humiliate ourselves or even support evil actions in the face of the "greater good", but based off the rest of the episode, the rest of Season 1, and Gene's philosophy in general, I reckon that the vaccine bit is just an attempt to hide the true message that I said earlier. A message that is very clearly morally repugnant to me. So again, why should I listen to them? One could argue that MAYBE I'm wrong, MAYBE they might have a point, but that would require extensive dialogue to convince me, not a pat 43 minute show where I have no input.

So frankly, stop trying to teach me something and just entertain me instead. I have no problem with real world inspirations or examining real world truths, but I'd much, MUCH rather they be twisted to improve the quality of the story rather than the story be twisted to put more emphasis on the inspiration.

And it doesn't help that the messages are all so simple. Peter, the "message" you provided, about the fantasy girlfriend and how it really isn't fair to either her or you to indulge in it, is certainly true. But do you really need this story to tell you that? I'm sure you knew that already, even if you don't think about it constantly. And yes, this is only 43 minutes long so you can't expect complex messages. But that just means the "message" can stay way in the background and tell a good story instead.
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Tue, Aug 6, 2019, 10:43pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

Why does everything have to be an allegory? Why does everything have to be a moral story about the human condition? Why does everything have to be teaching us a lesson?

So, so many of the worst Trek episodes were allegories or trying to give a moral message. I am absolutely, 100% with JRR Tolkein. Screw allegory. Just give me a good story. I have no proof that Gene Roddenberry or Michael Pillar or Rene Echevarria are smarter than me or more moral than me or in any other way have some sort of authority over me. The only thing I know is that they were far more talented in coming up with an interesting sci fi universe and producing interesting stories in that universe than I am. So that's what I want out of them. Just good stories. And that's what this one is. By coming up with a truly alien alien rather than someone with silly putty on their nose and one human trait exaggerated to the extreme, that's what they did. Trying to fit an allegorical message to it just screws it up. Which I think is what Theo is saying.

It occurs to me that many of my favorite Trek episodes are the ones where the aliens really are different. Latent Image is my favorite Doctor episode because it is the one where he is most clearly an AI. I like the Worf stuff in Birthright better than most because it really stands up for the Klingon-ness of Klingons, even if it's different than Hollywood morality. Rocks and Shoals is so great because it shows what the Jem-Hadar are truly like, regardless of what Sisko wants them to be like. If any of these stories decided to be twisted in favor of a Sunday School lesson, they would be far worse for it.

But I digress, back to the episode.

Theo, do you think Kamala actually did lie to Picard at the end, and she is only claiming to have imprinted on him because that's what he really wants? I mean, I can see how that could be possible logically, but I don't see anything in the episode to hint at that as the conclusion. The whole reason she was in a cocoon was because she was so easily imprintable and thus had to be isolated. My impression was that the attempts to keep her away from all the men on the ship was as much for her sake as it was for the men. So if Picard did spend that much time with her, given everything we know about her genes it seems reasonable to conclude she did indeed imprint on him. And, given his strong sense of duty and self sacrifice, that she would imprint on that aspect of him and mirror that works as well.

But here's something else to ponder. We are assuming that she imprints solely for mating purposes, that it is the only imprinting she can do. Certainly, that's all they talk about and all the show is about. And I suppose that makes sense for most men (and here is definitely a place where interactions with women would make sense). But Picard, based on his own morality, does not see her as a potential mate. Not only because his own sense of duty makes him realize such a pairing is impossible, but also because he is attracted to independent women with their own interests outside of him (Crusher, Vash, the judge in Measure of a Man...). So of course, the Kamala imprints on that and becomes independent, and one who cares about duty, etc...

But there's a third point, as seen in his conversation with Crusher. Despite Picard's speech on respecting other cultures, he undoubtedly agrees with Crusher in many respects. He undoubtedly does add his human value system to it and sees it as unfair to Kamala, and thus sees any relationship with her as being taken advantage of her. He, undoubtedly, wishes that she had a better life, wishes that she could be her own person.

Regardless of Picard's hormones at the time, I think his brain would still override them (even Riker's brain won out against his urges). I think, for most of the time with her, he is not seeing her as a potential mate at all. He is seeing, essentially, a child. Maybe she was imprinting on that? Maybe, rather than the typical sexual attraction, Picard was seeing her more as a daughter?

It turns the ending, rather than a tragedy, into something a bit more heartwarming. If Picard was simply accidentally turning her into his perfect woman and then they had to leave, that would be sad. But what if, instead, he gave her the gift of independence, gave her the gift of a new rewired, better brain? What if he accidentally molded her into the perfect daughter rather than the perfect mate? One might think that it's still a tragedy that Kamala can't do whatever she wants or whatever, but who's to say that she doesn't still want to marry this dude? She's still a metamorph or whatever, she still is attuned to pleasing others. But she now has the gifts that Picard passed along to her with it.

We are led to believe that this other guy is kinda scummy, and that imprinting on him would be a miserable experience for her (at least from our value set). Thus, we end up with the best of both worlds: Kamala still is able to perform her duties and peace between the two worlds is achieved, but she is also able to imprint on someone that is actually good for her, and thus will live a better life for it. It's not a smarmingly happy ending, but there is some good that came out of it.

Of course, this all hinges on my theory that the imprinting could be in a non-sexual way, but even if it wasn't, it's still at worst bittersweet. Like I said, some exploration of that would have been nice. But as much as everyone brings up that they should have had male metamorphs in the show or whatever, well, there's only 43 minutes available. What would you cut?

And as a final aside, Theo, I'm generally in agreement with you that Picard was probably too arrogant to assume he could spend all that time and not imprint on her. But did he have much of a choice? It's been years, but I was under the assumption that Kamala insisted on teaching him the role that Old Dude was supposed to have. He may have just been trying to make the best of a bad situation.
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Wed, Apr 24, 2019, 5:03pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S4: To the Death

Of course, if Starfleet isn't military, that opens up a whole new can of worms. It means the Federation has authorized a non-military group to carry around weapons of mass destruction and use them as it sees fit. It means the Federation has authorized a non-military group to kill people in territories beyond the Federation's control whenever they deem it necessary with no clear Rules of Engagement. It means the Federation has authorized a non-military group to engage in military endeavors, including attacking the military of other sovereign peoples during times of war. It means the Federation has authorized non-military personnel such as Jean-Luc Picard to risk the lives of up to 1000 people at a time to take actions with virtually no oversight. It means the Federation has authorized non-military people to incarcerate other non-military people if the other non-military people refuse to listen to some of the non-military people.

Really, is that a better outcome than a world where Starfleet is also a military organization but performs other duties as well? I mean, seriously, do people really think the US military does nothing but kill people? They have other duties, including humanitarian missions. So why the downright aversion to the use of that term? And would you really want a non-military organization to have as much power and control as Starfleet?
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Wed, Apr 17, 2019, 6:39am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S5: Disaster

While it's certainly true that Worf has had medical training and that modesty, therefore, should not be a problem, this episode still has the unfortunate flaw that the main characters are doing everything (except the bridge officer at the very beginning who got a console exploded in her face). Fine, Worf has medical training. But don't the rest of the Starfleet officers have it as well? Yes, there's civilians on board, but how many? I'd imagine at least 25% of everyone on board is Starfleet. And yet no one else could provide medical assistance? In fact, before her labor started, Keiko (a botanist outside of Starfleet who probably did NOT have medical training) was the one assisting with medical help!

It's understandable given how Hollywood works, but it was a bit weird. More egregious was Riker and Data attempting to get to an empty Engineering. So not ONE of Geordi's engineering crew realized that the situation was dire and tried to get there? Every main character was uninjured, but ALL of the goldshirts were and couldn't help? A bit silly. But ignoring that, it's a good episode.
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Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 7:34pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S3: Destiny

Elliott, of course I know that every little detail being an allegory is absurd, that was my point! You were the one that said that in the first place. My point was that, if some stories of Romulans can be allegories, and some can be their own stories, then why can't the same be said about the Prophets?

Also, I'm confused as to why you and Chrome seem to think elements of the Prophets correlate to Pagan religions. Is it just that they have a specific, physical residence, a la Mt Olympus? Well, Catholics believe God is physically manifest in the Eucharist, so are we pagans too?

Pagan religions believe in a pantheon, of individual gods having human-like relationships (marriages, kids, jealousies, etc). The Prophets, as far as we know, have no individual personalities.

Pagan religions often have a local protector god for a family or city or nation. Again, since there are no individual Prophets that we know of, Bajoran's don't choose an individual Prophet to claim as their own.

Pagan religions believe the gods manifest themselves through nature, through weather or disasters or whatever. I don't believe this ever showed up in DS9.

Pagan religions have a contractual element to their rituals. If I do ritual X, then gods will grant condition Y. In contrast, Christianity's rites and rituals are more about a closer relationship with God, and even prayers and petitions is more about "Thy will be done" rather than "alright, I'm doing what You want, so this is what I expect out of You now." Bajoran rites seem closer to the latter, although I admit I'm not 100% sure of that.

So what about Bajoran religion reminds you of paganism? Is it about the orbs? Well, that's unique to the show, obviously no Earthly religion has magical items that can send us back in time or whatever. Is it just that they have a physical location?

But so what?

The Prophets, as far as we know, are NOT scientifically observable. Science says that, given certain stimuli, a certain reaction will follow. And science uncovers those reactions. But there are NO known stimuli that will elicit an observable response from the Prophets.

Look, if I bounce sunlight off of you and into a camera, I can observe the results in a picture I created. There's nothing you can do to stop that stimulus from creating a response (other than breaking my camera...). But tricorders pick up nothing. Running through the wormhole creates nothing. They may be willing to talk to Sisko, but they don't talk to almost anyone else. You can't force a conversation with them. Heck, even Changeling Bashir nearly destroying the wormhole didn't elicit a response. Even this asteroid threat didn't elicit a response (at least not in linear time). So not even threatening to harm them is enough of a stimulus.

So they aren't scientifically discoverable.

Q isn't scientifically discoverable either, at least not until the execrable Q and the Grey. So we have precedence for this.

Now, maybe the orbs are. But they were also in Cardassian hands for decades (or at least some of them were), so presumably some Cardassians tried to study them. And maybe nothing discoverable was present there. Maybe, in the hands of a nonbeliever, it's just an ordinary rock. Maybe it's no more scientifically discoverable than the Eucharist.

Which again, would put it at a parallel with an Abrahamic faith.

Why do you say that the Bajorans "know" that their gods are aliens? They know that their gods reside in the Wormhole. They know that these gods are real, and manifest themselves to certain people such as Sisko. They know NOTHING about the physical nature of these gods. They know aliens exist, they know Starfleet calls them wormhole aliens, but why does that necessarily mean they should be categorized the same as Cardassians or Romulans or even Edo?

Christians know that God is real, and that He manifests Himself to certain people. Christians know nothing about the physical nature of God. Granted, Christians don't know if aliens exist or not, or even if super duper powerful aliens like Q exist. But even conceding that point, how is that different?

And again, I just want to go back to one thing I said earlier to re-emphasize it: what proof is there, in-universe, that the wormhole aliens exist? The orbs, which may have been scientifically studied and proven to be ordinary rocks. The visions that the Bajorans have had over the years, which could be madness or dreams or drugs or lies. Sisko's experience. How is ANY of that more proof than the evidence for Christianity? Yes, we the viewers saw it and can thus presume it to be fact, but why should Starfleet believe in Wormhole aliens except insofar as they trust Sisko is telling the truth? Again, it's been a while since I last saw DS9, but as far as I know, at this stage, the in-universe evidence for wormhole aliens is extremely thin. In that case, Keiko calling them wormhole aliens was not a stand-in for atheism or secularism; Keiko should have been calling Sisko nuts!

So why are you saying it's not a matter of faith? Is it not a matter of faith that the Prophets, who are completely inscutable by secular terms, ARE looking out for the Bajorans best interest? Is it not a matter of faith that the Prophets DO consider the Bajorans to be their children or whatever?

You seem to be very hostile to even admitting the possibility that the Prophets ARE gods, and declaring the definition of "alien" to exclude "god". Why not? Again, just because they exist? That's a circular argument and extremely hostile to religion in general. As I said earlier, I posit that the definition of a god should be a being that A) has ultimate power over a people, even if that being chooses not to wield that power 99% of the time, and B) has the moral authority to wield that power. "B" has to be included; otherwise we could argue that Q is a god, and that's clearly pointless to the question of religion. Nothing in the show suggests that Q has any true moral authority except possibly All Good Things.

Weyoun, at one point, was told that the Founders undoubtedly genetically engineered them to see the Founders as gods. Weyoun's response was "of course, that's exactly what gods would do." Weyoun sees the Founders, as the authors of his genetic code, as having absolute power over him and his people. And he believes that they have the moral authority to do so, and thus accepts that worshiping them is natural. We tend to believe in equality, even among alien races, and thus do not believe the Founders have that moral authority.

But that's the tricky part of that definition I posited above; "B" is going to be highly argumentative. Humans can't even agree to what extent we have moral authority over animals, so how are we going to agree on if a superior being has moral authority over us (or our hypothetical peers, the Bajorans)? So people will have their own opinions on this, and that's fine. But because of that, we should also honestly be able to look at the opposite opinion and determine if it is at least plausible.

So can you do that? Can you look at the other possibility and see if the Prophets DO have moral authority over the Bajorans? You clearly disagree, given your moral outrage over the Prophets presenting themselves as gods. But why? Again, all I see is your demand that gods must not physically exist, even though all Abrahamic religions disagree with you.

In my previous post, I presented a possibility as to why the Prophets might have moral authority over the Bajorans, given their ability to see outside time. This is the only known stable wormhole. Presumably the Prophets built it. From what I can recall, there's no habitable planet on the Gamma Quadrant side. So why did they choose Bajor to build it? Maybe they did have a purpose to it? Maybe they are guiding the Bajorans to a higher calling?

Yes, I know Emissary showed they didn't understand linear time. But Season 7 showed that they created Sisko. I'm with Janeway, time travel gives me headaches. So these nonlinear beings still understand enough to make decisions, and influence reality, even if they needed a single instance in time to learn how to do it (darn paradoxes...). So while the Prophets' cavalier attitude towards Bajor in the pilot may be an argument against it, I posit that the nonlinear time shenanigans means it doesn't count.

I think DS9 is interesting in its treatment of religion, because it can ask the question about what the nature of godhood is. Obviously it can't do that with The God, but the contrasts between the Prophets and the Founders, and the contrasts between the Vorta and the Bajorans, works reasonably well.

Finally, because I just couldn't let this go unchallenged... "Actually a lot of serious Christian thinkers do think of the biblical accounts as metaphorical. Literalists are fundamentalists, but only they would be so arrogant as to presume themselves to be the only real Christians." I'm going to be charitable and assume your statement refers to the first 11 chapters of Genesis, because otherwise... what? If one assumes the Gospel is metaphorical, you CANNOT call yourself a Christian without completely twisting the meaning of words. It's as crazy as the people who say math is sexist or racist or whatever! Look, here's the simple logic (assuming logic isn't also racist...):

1) The word "Christian" means "follower of Christ"
2) To be a follower of someone, you have to (at the bare minimum) agree with that person's central, primary tenet
3) Christ said the central, primary tenet (the greatest commandment) is to love God with every fiber of one's being
4) Christ also said that He is God
5) It is impossible to love a being with every fiber of your being if you do not think that being exists
Therefore: it is impossible to be a Christian without also believing in the existence of Jesus

And also, if you pulled rank about your mother being a theologian, as will I. I have a PhD in sci... uh, engineering, but close enough. So I state with authority that your statement "Science can prove that the biblical accounting of—well everything—is historically inaccurate." is completely false. Again, I'll be charitable and ignore Genesis 1-11 for now. But that's not how science works, at all, since science is about repeatable observations and we have none here. And even if we include archaeology, your statement is wrong. Not only is there huge swaths of the Bible that are validated in great detail in the archaeological record, but there is nothing (again, past Gen 11) in the archaeological record that "proves" it to be false about "well everything", even if there is no evidence to support it either.

But anyway, that's enough.
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Thu, Oct 11, 2018, 2:52pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DS9 S3: Destiny

[In case anyone is reading through these comments while watching DS9 for the first time, this post contains spoilers. Ye be warned. Also, this post is way too long. Ye be double warned]

Elliot, I kinda agree with Akira here; you're approaching religion (and this entire episode) from an abstract academic perspective rather than accepting it for what it is. To make a point about your views on the episode, you state to Peter that everything in Star Trek is allegorical. Really? So the Romulans are allegorical to the Chinese in TOS (the secretive third power) or the Soviets in TNG (cold war politics). But then, why are they a Vulcan offshoot? What is that allegorical to? So the Cardassians are allegorical to Nazis. Then what is their eventual alliance and eventual eventual rebellion against the Dominion allegorical? What does that have to do with Nazism?

Certain elements may have been introduced as allegorical, but as creative writers come onboard and the universe-building expands, they take on a life of their own to create a consistent setting for the story the writers want to create. The Romulans being Vulcan may have started as an allegory of tackling racism among allies, given the way the one officer was attacking Spock throughout Balance of Terror. But then the story moved in an entirely new direction, using this connection for a faux love story in Enterprise Incident and then creating entirely new stories for Romulans in Unification. The original allegory became pointless as the universe expanded.

I mean, look at your logic here. You say that the Prophets must be allegorical to Abrahamic religions. Then you state that the fact that the Prophets have a known, quantifiable existence means it's not an allegory. And then you blame the writers for breaking the rule you imposed. Isn't it more likely that the writers didn't want the Prophets to be a 1:1 allegory to God? That they would use that allegorical construct when desired and not use it when not desired? I mean, when Kira asked the Prophets to go back in time so she can meet her mom, how was that allegorical?

But in any case, back to religion.

Again, you are looking at it in an abstract way. You state that religion concerns itself in abstract truth in the same way that art does. Except that's not true: art is subjective. Art's "truths" are personal truths, personal stories. Religion deals with the objective, actual reality of the universe. Yes, it gets into metaphysics, but religious people would not say that that makes it any less real or any less objective. It would be a poor Christian who said that it doesn't matter whether or not there was a real, historical Resurrection 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, or that there wasn't a real, historical Abraham 2000 years before that. It would be a poor Muslim who said it doesn't matter whether or not Muhammed actually talked to God or if he just made the Koran up. Truth, objective truth, about the nature of the world matters significantly to religions. Otherwise it's just more humanistic philosophy.

So to go back to your original post, you mentioned that it was "wrong" of the episode to have the Bajorans try to prove the prophecy was true. That such proof isn't needed for their religion. It's been a long time since I saw the episode, but I'm pretty sure you're interpreting that incorrectly (or I'm misinterpreting what you are saying). The Bajoran priest doesn't need to "prove" the prophecy except insofar as to get the skeptics in Starfleet to do something about it. And IIRC that's exactly what the episode was about. He didn't need to prove it to himself. And again, it sounds like you're saying religion is divorced from reality. But the Prophets are real. Their communications are real. Their knowledge of the future is real. It is just as real, just as objective as anything else in the Star Trek universe. So to the Bajorans, the events in the prophecy are going to happen. Period. It doesn't need to be proven, it doesn't need to be scientifically studied. It's something that is as absolutely certain as the sun coming up tomorrow. They just don't know when it will happen or what, exactly, will happen since the prophecy is confusing. But it will happen. And so the idea that the Bajoran priest is so gung-ho about this particular prophecy isn't because he wants to prove his religion, but because he knows the events in question are about to take place and wants to prevent the catastrophe.

As for the quality of the prophecy yourself, well, at first I agreed, but if your description of the ending is correct, then, well, what's the problem? You say a prophecy is immutable, that it will happen regardless of what anyone does. That's not necessarily true (there are plenty of conditional aspects in the Old Testament prophets, for example), but in this case it is. So what is it's purpose? The obvious one is Divine Revelation. You mock that as something cruel and spiteful, but why? Is not specific, direct Divine Revelation a reason for prophecy? And is it not possible that the Prophets would direct that Divine Revelation towards their servant, The Sisko? God doesn't do a song and dance for everyone, but Paul recieved a spectacular revelation, because Paul was needed to evangelize to the world. So if the Prophets manipulated history to bring Sisko closer to them, how is that a horribly incorrect approach to religion?

Furthermore, I think the weird, symbolic nature of this prophecy works well for the DS9 universe. God is omniscient, omnipotent, and has a clear, direct relationship with humanity. The Prophets, however, are mostly all-knowing, mostly all-powerful, and mostly have a relationship with the Bajorans. But as we see, quite clearly multiple times, their one weakness is the ability to actually communicate with linear beings. They're terrible at it! So the inscrutability of this particular prophecy may be due to the Prophet's inability to communicate clearly with whatever Bajoran wrote this prophecy down a gazillion years ago.

After all, we never see the Prophets for what they are. Every time we see them, they are communicating with someone through that person's memories. All of the visual representation of the Prophets are from the person's own experiences, not from an objective viewpoint. And the Bajoran would have no memories or experiences of space travel, of Cardassians, of Sisko or the Defiant. So trying to impart this visionon the hapless Bajoran would make things difficult, and could only use memories that he or she knew. Thus, it's vipers and sword of stars and stuff like that. The only clear, provable imagery is the river returning to whatever city, because he understands that imagery just fine. And as for why the Prophets didn't talk to someone who did have the astronomical expertise to have memories worth using, well, again, the Prophets aren't 100% all knowing; they are still very bad at linear time. So maybe they just screwed up. Or maybe it was to make the ending more spectacular, as a way to appear more miraculous to Sisko. Who knows?

Moving on, does this prophecy work within the context of the episode? There are flaws here, based on the idea that the writers are trying to make a statement (however muddled) about faith. Again, this is why stuff shouldn't be treated as exact allegories, and the writers do themselves a disservice when using them as a crutch without considering the broader universe. The "secular" explanation Kira provides is 100% obvious as soon as the prophecy is provided, it shouldn't take Sisko that long to consider that as an explanation. It's much like how Scientific Method on Voyager failed. We have to have the Starfleet person as the 100% stand-in for a non-magical world despite the fact they both know they live in a magical world (or whatever the Prophets or Q or whatever do).

However, this does bring to mind a way to solve the problem. We, the viewers, take it as a fact that the Prophets exist, and thus not "hidden" gods, because we saw the pilot episode. But in-universe, is it a fact? All we know is that something weird happened to a Starfleet Commander in the wormhole, and that the Bajorans have some weird relics. Is that proof the Prophets exist? We've never seen them, and even Sisko can't say what they look like. We don't have tricorder readings or video recording or anything of these events. We would have to take Sisko's word for it. Is that enough to convince Starfleet that hidden, all powerful aliens are living in a wormhole? Yes, eventually there are Pah-Wraith battles on the promenade and bonafide miracles in Sacrifice of Angels, but early season 3? I don't think they are proven yet.

So we STILL could have had a question of faith, but it couldn't have been Sisko as the skeptic. Instead, it would have needed to be Starfleet Command, with Sisko caught in the middle. Even if Starfleet accepts that something weird happened to Sisko, that doesn't prove the Prophets can see the future and leave messages in the past. He would then be accused of being too religious, even if he has a scientific basis for believing it. And even if he isn't religious about it, so we can still have something of a conversion in him at the end. And since the prophecy is vague, he can still struggle with what it means and if this is truly what it is warning against.

It's not 100% the same, but it could still work. As it is, I thought it was still an ok episode, but I never really worried about it from an allegorical perspective.

Anywho, as for the question of if the Bajoran religion makes absolute sense, well, why not? And to get to the question of worship, again, why not? It is clear that the Prophets are not Elohim - the God Most High. OK, then, why worship them? Does it need to be for the purposes of a better afterlife? There's no evidence the Bajorans have a "heaven", so if that's the purpose of worship then the religion is illogical. But much of Judaism is simply about the relationship with God on Earth, not the eternal soul. It is possible for worship to be solely about the Bajorly life rather than the afterlife. Is it because the Prophets produce moral clarity? Perhaps - although I admit we don't see that much (if at all). Is it that the Prophets provide protection? One might argue the Cardassian occupation says otherwise, but the reference I had to Jeremiah earlier is relevant - Christianity accepts that God's protection is not absolute, and perhaps that was the case for the Prophets as well. Is it just about power? Certainly not; Kira would never worship Q, for example.

So what is it? Well, the largest aspect of worship, regardless of the reason, is an acceptance of humility. To accept that someone else has power AND authority over you, and to trust in them to be right. This is true even if they barely use that power, even if they grant you freedom 99% of the time. I've seen plenty of comments, questions, arguments from atheists over the years, and reading between the lines this is almost always the stumbling block. Behind the scientific arguments, or moral arguments, or historical arguments, it always seems to boil down to: "why should God think differently then I do? Why can't He be more like me?" It's the hardest thing to accept, to accept that you are not the center of your own life, and that you SHOULDN'T be at the center of your life, and thus seems to me the biggest aspect of actual worship.

So back to the Prophets. Do the Prophets have power over the Bajorans? We rarely see it, but that's ok. The Lord moves in mysterious ways and all. But eventually, we do see that they truly do: they literally created Sisko. He was always destined to be The Emissary, and thus this entire era of Bajor's history is shaped by the Prophets. To some extent, it is clearly part of their Divine Plan. For what purpose, we don't know, but they do care about Bajor and do have plans for them. And do they have the "authority" to? That's... harder to say. Obviously, Judeochristian authority is because God is the Creator. But there's no evidence the Prophets created Bajor (and TNG's "The Chase" provides evidence against it!). Is the Divine Plan in the best interests of Bajor? Again, we don't know enough, but maybe? The Q set themselves up as the judges of humanity, and say we are destined for something greater, but that doesn't mean we have to accept that they have the authority to judge us, just that they have the power to. So why do the Bajorans accept it from the Prophets?

That's the hardest question, and ultimately it is up to the Bajorans to answer it. And they seem to say that yes, the Prophets do have the authority. When the false Emissary started changing society, they went along with it. Because they trusted in the Prophets, even if this was a mistake. Again, I can't answer the question, because this doesn't have the inherent logic of the Judeochristian God the Creator. Trek simply COULDN'T do that story, because then the Prophets would have been the God of everyone. And it simply strains credulity that Bajor exists in some weird pocket where the Prophets are Most High to them, but not to anyone else.

And yet... I can still see it working. Judaism is the belief that Yahweh is the God of EVERYONE, but that there is still a special relationship with one particular family. So what if the Prophets are, for lack of a better term, angels of God, sent to be the protectors of this one particular planet. That doesn't mean God has angels for every planet; perhaps it just means that Bajor truly is special among the galaxy (or the universe). Again, God made a special relationship with Abraham and no one else. Christianity believes it was in order to prepare for the Messiah, which would be for all the world. Is there something similar here? If the Prophets exist outside of time, can they see that, and some point, Bajor will be at the center of the universe? That Bajor must be guided in order to create some event to shape the entirety of the galaxy?

Is that worth worshiping? I think that's getting pretty darn close to it. So yes, I can easily see the logic in a Bajoran, knowledgeable about space, other species, and all else, worshiping the Prophets. I think it can fit.
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Sun, Oct 7, 2018, 4:46pm (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S5: Conundrum

Jamie, while you can argue that the execution was not done well, I think the fact that they WERE their usual selves was the point. It's easy to make a "what you are in the shadows" storyline where people, stripped of the pressures of society or whatever, become completely different than their public persona. Normal upstanding members of society becoming depraved sadists or hedonists, socially demanding moral pillars showing their hypocrisy, whatever. It may be entertaining to see the devil inside, the dual personalities, but it's a cynical view of humanity. And if there's one thing TNG was against, it's a cynical view of humanity.

I think the "message" of this episode was that, what these cast members are in the shadows is exactly what they are in the light. The memory erasure bit is a scifi approach to removing societal pressures that allows it to fit into this show. But it's the same thing. Picard, Riker, et al aren't in Starfleet to make money, or to satisfy their parents, or to gain power over others, or whatever. They are there because they believe in the principles of the Federation. And they don't believe in the principles of the Federation because it's convenient or because everyone else does, they do because they firmly feel they are right deep within their souls.

The amnesia ray didn't remove their skills, and it didn't remove their core personalities. And their core personalities are to use those skills "for the betterment of mankind", or at least the ship in this case. So Crusher realizes she's a doctor, realizes she still has plenty of medical knowledge, and so goes to work finding a cure. LaForge uses his engineering skill to make the ship go, Worf uses his tactical knowledge to man his post, etc. If they still have their deep commitment to duty, and still have their skills, why wouldn't they?

But in order to show this "message", the show had to devote most of the runtime (other than the perfunctory mystery elements) to the conundrum at hand. Because Picard et al believe so strongly in the principles of the Federation, they would not obey an order contrary to those principles. So the show had to set that up, that - as far as they could tell - everything about their organization said they needed to destroy this space station. But everything about themselves said that that was wrong. The show HAD to make the destruction of the space station as the easy, obvious answer. That way, the decision to not destroy it would show true courage, not only on Picard's part but also for the rest of the crew to not go along with MacDuff's mutiny.

Now, I realize that what you wrote isn't necessarily the same as what I'm talking. I know you're not necessarily talking about the crew getting completely different, cynical personalities and all, but still. Like I said, they needed to focuses on the similarities and place the conundrum front and center in order to get to the theme of the episode across. And that just didn't leave enough time for focusing on shifting personalities on minor manners, which seems to be what you wanted. My guess is that the writers/director/producers decided that the fluff during the amnesia section of the show - Worf assuming command, Data as a bartender - would be more amusing and entertaining to the viewers than other personality changes during the conundrum section of the show, and so focused on that instead.

Thus, the only personality change was Ro/Riker. Because that one made sense. Ro's aloofness is due primarily to the accident/court martial in her past, probably more so than her life as a refugee (although that helps). There's hints elsewhere (Rascals, Preemptive Strike) that she wants to belong, wants to be part of a community, and so it makes sense that she would be more outgoing here. And Riker's animosity toward her is 100% due to her past. With neither one knowing about it, it's not too surprising that he might be attracted to her. So it was a good "B" plot, and a good use of Ro's character. Since her personality is the one most heavily defined by a single event in her past (Tapestry notwithstanding...), and a relatively recent event in her past (so one that hasn't had time to become, for lack of a better phrase, ingrained into her soul), she was a good choice to have the most obvious personality change. And since Riker was the one most notably negative toward her early on, it makes sense to have him be the one to change his view of her.

Would the episode have been better if there were more subtle personality changes after the computer told them who they were? Perhaps. Like I said, the execution of the idea is certainly arguable (although I think it is a good but not great episode). But all changes would need to still serve the central theme that these are still the same people deep down. And it may be that the writers felt that subtle personality changes would detract from the theme.
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Thu, Sep 27, 2018, 8:00am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: DSC S1: The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

Well, "political" can mean different things to different people. You mentioned Defector as a political episode, which it obviously is, but it's not meant as a "persuasive" political episode, to show one side as better than the other, just that it uses the Cold War as a way to tell an awesome story.

Season 1 may not have necessarily been a partisan season, using the stories to take sides on a current issue or anything like that. But it was "political" in the sense that it was the most control Gene ever had around the series, and thus was using it to push his vision, and seemed to consider that a priority over the actual quality of the show. I think Shatner's documentary touched on this, and I know SFDebris has. Piller talked about it in a magnanimous way, referring to it as Gene's "box" and pretending that it enhanced creativity to stay in the box.

In reality though, Piller et al. were working to stretch the box as much as possible. One example I remember clearly is "The Bonding." So a fan, Ron Moore, submitted a story idea about a kid struggling to cope with the loss of his redshirt mother. And Gene HATED the idea. Why? Because 24th century kids had "evolved" beyond the need for grief and would just accept their mom's death. In other words, if Gene was still completely in charge, we never would have got Ron Moore. Piller rewrote the story to give it more of the alien angle and to fit it in as much as possible with Gene's vision (probably why the Jeremy character was so wooden throughout the episode, maybe he wasn't allowed to cry!).

But in any case, back to Season 1. Gene's box was that this is a utopia. Humanity is perfect. That meant no internal conflicts (unless aliens were behind it, of course). No conflicts means less drama, which can hurt a show. Gene's box said that the Enterprise had to be superior to all other technology. That meant no possibility of the Borg until Gene's control lessened. Humanity's ideals must be shown to be better than anyone else. That meant that Q had to be a Trelane-like child (particularly in Hide and Q), rather than the real foil he became for Picard in True Q, Tapestry, and All Good Things.

But perhaps the most obvious area where Gene's vision got in the way of good storytelling is the Ferengi. We start with the idea of a mysterious new villain. That's cool! But what do we get? An exaggerated caricature. For whatever reason, Gene crushed their possibility under the weight of coming up with all sorts of flaws for them so that we would know the enlightened socialist utopia is sooo much better than these Yankee capitalists. Despite being all about greed (and thus likely amoral), they were interested only in theft and deceit rather than enterprise. Despite the obvious economic incentives of mobilizing 50% of your population, they treated women like cattle. Despite being traders and thus naturally being surrounded by other species, they were made to be overly annoying and intolerable. Despite greed supposedly being their primary motivation, they were made to be sexual perverts. And despite supposedly being the cool new villain, they were made to be tiny trolls that jump around like manic idiots just to show how regal and majestic Riker is compared to them.

If you were coming up with a villain to create an interesting tension with the main cast, you would never come up with this. You would come up with the TOS Klingons, or the Borg or TNG Romulans, or the Cardassians or the Dominion. But if you were coming up with a contrast to your utopia, then you would want to show a bunch of negative traits. I can't say for certain that I ever heard explicitly that the Ferengi were made for "political" purposes, but I do know that Gene was heavily involved in these decisions.

And while not necessarily "political", the Wesley the Wonderkid bit in Season 1 really feels like self-insertion fanfic, especially given Wesley is Gene's middle name...

And yes, I do agree that Season 1 sucked for many, many more reasons than just that, of course.
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