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Skeptical
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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Skeptical
Wed, Aug 7, 2019, 6:50pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Perfect Mate

Theo,

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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Skeptical
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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Skeptical
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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Skeptical
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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Skeptical
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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Skeptical
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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Skeptical
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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Skeptical
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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Skeptical
Tue, Sep 25, 2018, 6:00pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

Chrome, while I can't put words into Roros' mouth, I think I know what he/she is referring to.

I honestly don't know anything about DSC; it didn't interest me and I haven't seen it and I haven't cared about it other than noticing there are plenty of negative reviews for it. But let me use a different example. The first season of TNG was perhaps the most political era of Trek. I'm 90% sure that every episode had at least one snide remark about 1980s America, for example. It's also a season of Trek that is universally derided, and I believe that was true even when it first aired as well. Now, I think some of the problems were due to its politics (mostly in creating a worldview that made it impossible to write good stories), but it had plenty of other problems. The actors and writers didn't have a feel for the characters, the plots were often the worst aspects of TOS without the charm or nostalgia, etc., etc. I think most of us agree on that.

Thankfully, Paramount reacted appropriately. Whether due to the bad reviews or his failing health, Gene had less control over the show. The original writing crew basically disappeared and was replaced by Piller and others. The emphasis and style of the show shifted. Characters grew into the iconic status they know claim.
The worst parts of the first season were scaled back, and bold new ideas appeared. The first season may be awful, but the show grew up to become well loved among Trek fans.

Imagine, though, if Paramount didn't do that. Imagine if Gene came out and said that all the criticism of the show was due to ignorant backwater bigots who hated progress and were trying to shout him down. Imagine if, instead of getting new writers and changing the focus of characters and all that, Star Trek doubled down. The plots stayed the same, the atrocious characterization stayed the same. After all, that's not real flaws, that's just the hate-filled regressives attacking the show. So instead, we get more of the Ferengi acting like manic trolls, because that is the true vision. We get more of Wesley the Wunderkid, because complaints about him are only due to jealousy. We never get Q Who, because that conflicts with Gene's vision and we can't give any ammo to "the other side". We never get The Defector. We never get Yesterday's Enterprise. We never get The First Duty or Darmok or All Good Things. All because Gene and Paramount decided to "politicize" the show.

Yeah, maybe politics isn't the best word; it's more about partisanship. But I assume that's what Roras is referring to.

I'm a huge fan of Ghostbusters; I could probably quote the whole movie word for word. But when the remake appeared, I had zero interest in it (as an aside, I wonder why fans get so attached to franchises; trust me, it's so much more liberating when you appreciate what you like and ignore the rest). The whole thing just looked dumb. And apparently, I wasn't the only one. That seemed to be the reaction of a lot of people. It's not too surprising. There have been a lot of attempts to cash in on 80s/90s nostalgia by the intellectually bankrupt Hollywood these days, and lots of them were underwhelming. So why should this one be different?

But apparently this one was different, because it became Controversy!TM. Word spread that the reason it was getting bad word of mouth was because of misogyny! Of course, the internet is full of idiots, so you are guaranteed to find plenty of stupid opinions about everything, so I'm sure there were people like that out there. But it suddenly became a huge deal and all anyone could talk about. I'm skeptical (heh) that this was organic; I think it was designed by the producers. They presumably figured out that they didn't have a huge hit on their hands, and amplified the Controversy!TM to take advantage of it. Sure, that controversy might piss off 70% of the public, but in doing so you are attempting to make it a religious duty to the remaining 30% to support the movie. Hey feminists, come strike a blow to the patriarchy by supporting this movie! Win this week's narrative! If we rake in enough cash, you can gloat about it on Twitter!

Why not aim for that crowd, if you know your product isn't good enough to attract a crowd on its own? And that's the key, this approach is used for products that aren't good. The Controversy!TM was a lot more subdued for Wonder Woman, since the general public thought it was a good movie. Sure, there were the typical Twitter Warz and crap, but it never really broke into the mainstream like with Ghostbusters. Probably because the producers didn't want to piss off any potential moviegoers.

And while Ghostbusters is probably the most famous example, it does seem like this approach is become more and more normalized. The hyperpartisan atmosphere of today, in combination with the general fracturing of the culture and fragmentation of media, has made it a viable option for the entertainment business. Declare your product to be the champion of Justice!TM and the critics to be Haters!TM, and you can try to make a profit through virtue signaling alone. And the nice thing is, you don't have to worry about if your product is any good.

Again, I know nothing about Discovery, so I have no idea if Roras is right about this, but I'm 90% sure this is what he is referring to. Outside of TOS, Star Trek has always improved significantly from its first season. So maybe DSC can do that too. But it requires an open mind and a willingness to change. But if, as Roras is insinuating, DSC and CBS would prefer to just marginalize all of their critics and declare them to be bigots, then the show will languish in mediocrity. And presumably nobody wants that.
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Skeptical
Mon, Aug 6, 2018, 7:20am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Nth Degree

It's hard to imagine how the Star Trek universe as presente dwould be on the liberal agenda.

Liberals tend to hate the military and giving the military a huge role in their government, so why would their agenda ever lead to the formation of Starfleet?

Race and sex-based politics have been abolished in the afforementioned Federation. Hard to see liberals agitating for that either.

Forcing communities to accept gay marriage or plastic straw bans or whatever would both be gross Prime Directive violations.

And of course, the universal health care and other aspects of peace and prosperity were only created after governments nearly destroyed all of humanity, and only came about due to a single capitalist inventing something on his own without government help for the purpose of making tons of money for himself.

...

There, now that we've established that judging people for their political opinions on a Star Trek site is stupid, can we go back to just talking about Star Trek?
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Skeptical
Tue, Aug 29, 2017, 8:35pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: Tacking into the Wind

Rom, although this sounds like a cop-out, I don't think you can blame the Dominion for being such bad evil overlords as much as you can blame bad writing. As much as I think the decision to have Damar lead a rebellion was one of the better choices made in this grand finale, the way it happened was pretty transparent. You're right, the complete callousness of the Changeling and Weyoun to the Cardassians was over the top. And against everything we know about them.

I mean, compare the leadup to Damar's turn to the Dominion's treatment of the Bajorans. The Bajorans offer no resources, no strategic value, no value of any sort other than happening to be right by the wormhole. A truly callous evil empire would have no problem wiping the entire population and leaving the entire Bajoran system as nothing more than a JemHadar stronghold with no civilian population. And yet, they honored the nonagression pact. Weyoun bent over backwards to accommodate Kira on the station, even though he knew exactly where her loyalties lay. That is the Dominion that we had been privy to. The Vorta - and specifically Weyoun - aren't just managers, they are supposed to also be the PR guys, the pleasant face of the empire. Weyoun's sliminess is one of the reasons he was such a big hit with the fans!

Which is why it's strange that this sudden disregard for Cardassia at the end. It's why I said it was transparent. The writers clearly wanted to turn Damar, so they had to ratchet up the pressure on him. Now yes, there were other circumstances. Weyoun is obviously disgusted by Damar's alcoholism, and Peter does have a point that the Dominion was always planning to dispose of Cardassia eventually. But it was so clear that EVERY single decision was being made to anger Damar, and there's no way that Weyoun didn't recognize that. And while he ultimately takes orders from the Changeling, there's no way that a PR guy like him wouldn't try to alleviate the situation. This whole sequence is just too out of character for him. Like I said, I think it's bad writing rather than providing insights into the Dominion.

Peter, I agree that the Dominion always planned to dispose of Cardassia eventually, but I just don't see this sudden reversal to that plan while in the middle of a war. Yes, the entrance of the Breen may have shifted the tide, but the basic tenet of the Dominion is that they are extremely cautious. Even if the Prophets through them off their game, that would just make them even more cautious I would imagine. I have a hard time believing they would start killing off Cardassians early given that aspect of them.
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Skeptical
Fri, May 12, 2017, 1:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Parallax

Chrome, I think there's a separation in philosophy between TOS and the rest of Trek, hence why I was focusing on the TNG era. Besides Bread and Circuses, Balance of Terror made it clear that there was a chapel (er... besides the one in sickbay...) on the Enterprise as well.

Not to play armchair psychologist or anything, but I think Gene's ego grew a few sizes too big after TOS turned into a massive cult following. From what I understand, he was being invited onto college campuses and being considered a "visionary" of the future and all. It's hard to get all those accolades and not start to think all your personal ideas are brilliant. We know for a fact that a lot of the problems of early TNG were due to Gene's specific views of what the future was like, of what is and isn't Star Trek. He said humans must be better at everything than anyone else, hence why the 1701-D was more advanced than anything until the Borg showed up. He said there must not be any interpersonal conflicts of any kind, hence why everyone was so bland. And we know it seeped into the political. There's hardly any Season 1 episodes that DON'T have a random snide comment about how awful 20th century humanity (re: America) was.

So whatever Gene's personal view on God was, he obviously wasn't religious. And that definitely seeped into the TNG era, even if one can argue that Kirk and Bones were at least nominally Christian.

As an aside, this is the first time I've watched TOS all the way through. I like the characters in TNG better, the worldbuilding in TNG better, the plots about 1000 times better. And yet, the feel of TOS is still, in some ways, better. And it's not to do with this Christianity discussion per se, but rather because the world feels more believable. Space IS a frontier in TOS. These ARE recognizable humans. TNG can feel like an epilogue, like everything is already complete. Like running around a videogame that you've already finished. Humanity seems so stagnant and boring in the TNG era (and again, TNG is my favorite series, so I'm not trying to find ways of criticizing it). It's not surprising that every single other Trek franchise tried to go back to the feel of TOS, of being on a frontier and being a little bit rough around the edges. They didn't all succeed, but it seems that Gene pushing TNG to be his vision of utopia also lost something of what Trek should be... which is STRIVING for that utopia.

As for Joe Sisko... I didn't remember him as the pastor in FBTS, but I'll take that as part of my argument! Then again, if that was true, you'd think Worf would have been better in Take Me Out to the Holosuite... In any case, like I said, the main reason comes from the naming convention. I had noticed the interesting coincidence of Joseph, Benjamin, and Jacob all being Hebrew names. That's what got me idly thinking about it. But when looking at Memory Alpha to see if anyone else had caught this connection, I saw that one episode had named Ben's sister as Judith (again, Hebrew). Given how uncommon Judith is as a name, I'm seriously questioning if that can be a coincidence.

And the rest of his lifestyle seems to fit more closely with a traditional way of life rather than a Trek-way or even modern 21st century life. These aren't necessarily specific to Christianity, but they are part of the feel. The Siskos are easily the most positive depiction of family life* for a human or half human character in Trek (compare Ben's relationship with his parent to Picard, Riker, Troi...). It seems Ben has multiple half-siblings, compared to the typical one or two children of the Trek world (and, again, modern Western civilization). Memory Alpha puts Joseph as having 4 kids. The commitment to family life rather than casual dating seems to have rubbed off on Ben, as he married Jennifer at a relatively young age and was serious about marrying Kassidy. While not a luddite like Robert Picard, he likes working with his hands, likes traditional work, and likes being a part of a community. This all seems different than the typical view we see of Trek characters, where they are all so focused on Starfleet and advancing their careers and casual dating and so forth. Joseph just wants to raise his kids right, be there for his family, and use his talents in cooking in order to make others happy. There's no "improving oneself for the betterment of humanity" there, but he still has a strong, positive view of life.

Of course, given that the naming convention is what first set me off, it's possible he's Jewish. But I got the impression that the Siskos were long-time residents of America. And there just aren't enough black Jews (whether members of Beta Israel or otherwise) here in the 21st century to think that they would retain both of those traits throughout the centuries.

And DLPB... I defended your first post because I thought it had to do with Trek. Can't we please keep focusing on Trek only and not the Left vs Right battle?

*The LaForges might also qualify, but that was a one-off episode that was never mentioned again, so I'm not counting it.
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Skeptical
Thu, May 11, 2017, 10:24pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Parallax

Actually, Robert, I do know the reason I responded; because you're one of the best contributors to these comments and thus actually worth responding to... As I said, I thought it strange that DLPB almost had a perfect point with the double standard of religion if he had brought up Chakotay instead, so I was very surprised to see it cause such furor. In any case, I don't care to discuss the politics side either (regardless of what Linda might think of my statement, she can read through the list of my comments to see how rarely I bring it up). All I will say in that respect is this: dude, you SERIOUSLY think Chakotay might not have been a politically correct creation? He (and Journey's End) was such an obvious "look at us, we're so tolerant!" move!

On the general subject at hand, I have said before that Heinlein is the only person I've ever seen pull off a blatantly political story and still have it be good. So I'd rather writers avoid it as much as possible. The single largest problem with political stories (along with online political discussions...) is lack of respect for the subject matter. To again use a Trek example, look at any Klingon-centric episode on this site, and you'll find a few commenters simply responding in disgust that they hate all things Klingon. I certainly wouldn't want them to write a Klingon story, because they have no respect for them. This doesn't mean you have to agree with the Klingon culture, just understand where it comes from. This is actually one of the few parts of Trek that was consistent throughout the entire TNG era; a fundamental respect for Klingon culture (probably due to their popularity) while still demonstrating their flaws. Even though the episodes constantly highlighted corruption or flaws in their system, culminating in Ezri's famous speech, we never lose sight of why people like Worf and Jadzia and Martok are drawn to that culture. We can still understand it. As long as writing like that exists, I'm happy.

The "straw man" version of a lack of respect for the culture you are writing is easy to see and easy to criticize. TNG Ferengi is a clear example of that. But the other side, in which you lionize something you think you should respect while fundamentally misunderstanding it (ie, Chakotay) is also annoying.

Chrome, I don't necessarily want Christianity front and center in Trek, but I do think they do a disservice by the situation at hand. We know Roddenberry was hostile to religion in his TNG years. We know that many people care about upholding the "Roddenberry vision" of the future (even though that vision is TNG Season 1...). Episodes like Who Watches the Watchers strongly suggest all humans are atheists. If that's really what the authors want to do, then so be it. But saying that ONLY whites are now atheist, but that Indians are just fine, is a bit insulting. To both sides, actually. If the authors are saying that the advanced humans of the future are atheists, then doesn't that mean Chakotay and his kind aren't advanced and should be looked down upon?

So while "Christian" stories are probably pointless to most of Trek, if the point is to seek out new life and new civilizations, why not contrast with other civilizations as well? DS9 is well known for having a wide variety of opinions, and for having those opinions clash. So why should all the human opinions be the same? Wouldn't, for example, the idea of Sisko being the Emissary of the Bajoran religion make him (or perhaps other members of his family) a mite uncomfortable if he himself (or other members of his family) was religious? Couldn't that have been an interesting storyline?

Anyway, that's all I'll say on the religion side, other than to again mention to Robert that yes, it's not declarative that there aren't Christians in Trek, but given the Roddenberry ideal that's probably why the "default" belief for Joe Sisko is atheist. And yet... the thing that set me off was when I realized that Ben's sister's name was Judith. Now Joseph, Benjamin, and Jacob are all very traditional Hebrew names, but are also all relatively common enough that I figured that might be a coincidence. But Judith as well? It just strikes me that that had to be intentional... and yet Moore and Behr and everyone else did nothing with it. I'd be curious to know if it was a coincidence or not.

As for the gender issue, yes, it's certainly possible that B'Elanna sucker-punched Carey, and it's also certainly possible that her Klingon heritage makes her much stronger than normal. The whole "woman is equal in strength to man!" trope is just so ubiquitous in TV and movies that everyone practically takes it for granted. Heck, I am reminded of Chuck from SFDebris - who prides himself on having no sacred cows - complaining that Troi and Crusher were not swordfighting alongside Riker and Worf in QPid. We're so inundated with this stuff that the one time the difference in strength is acknowledged, it's seen as weird!

Although I will acknowledge that Trek is so over the top with humans beating up Klingon and Romulans and the like that perhaps there's no point in quibbling over anything of that nature on the show... it's already a lost cause...

As for this specific topic at hand... I'm going to go out on a limb and actually say the double standard, to some extent, is not a bad thing in this particular instant. It IS worse for a guy to punch a girl than vice versa. The problem with saying that out loud is that people then assume you mean girls punching guys is ok, when in reality you just mean its different shades of bad. It's the old Spider-Man moral; since men in general have more upper body strength than women, it is more important for them to restrain that strength around others. It's also why it's a worse thing for an NFL linebacker to punch me than me punching an NFL linebacker.

So I do disagree to SOME extent with DLPB that this is a horrible double standard. But regardless of that (and again, that double standard kinda goes away if B'Elanna's Klingon heritage really does make her equal in strength to human males), it is still absurdly unprofessional of her to punch out a coworker, and the fact that this is barely acknowledged by the end of the episode is disturbing. On THAT front, there should be no difference in punishment from Janeway, even thought there probably is here.

So what COULD they have done differently? Yes, it's obvious that this situation, with the crew trapped on the other side of the galaxy, merits different approaches than what would happen in the Alpha Quadrant. And it is true that the Maquis might get restless if they are seen as constantly being put aside for the Starfleet Crew. And it is true that B'Elanna is a better engineer than Carey (or at least that's what is implied here). However, none of that necessarily merits being made the senior officer. Why couldn't Janeway have acknowledged B'Elanna's strengths, but told her that there's more to being an officer than having smarts? Why couldn't, perhaps, she be left as just another engineer (the focus of episodes, of course, since she's the smart one) until a promotion in Season 2 or so?

Obviously because the writers quickly wanted to settle into an episodic format, which is too bad. The formula would actually be used with Seven a few years later - someone obviously extremely talented but not ready to be given any serious responsibility. It could have been a nice character arc for Torres in the early seasons, and could have made Carey be an interesting character (how would he feel knowing he was basically going to be a placeholder chief and be demoted once Janeway thinks Torres is ready?). Alas, another interesting opportunity wasted...
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Skeptical
Wed, May 10, 2017, 10:33pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Parallax

Oy, I don't know why I'm doing this, but here goes...

Robert, DLPB may be acerbic, but he was absolutely (ok, 90%) right in his post. And while he may have insulted a group of people in his post, it was you who made it personal by insulting him.

Let's look at what he said. 1) This episode has a double standard, in that they would never show a man punching a woman in the face and getting away with it. 2) This is a product of the pervasive left-wing thought, 3) this pervasive attitude is even worse, as it creates a poorly thought-out idea of what a strong female presence is like rather than using reality, and 4) this double standard extends to other factors like race and religion.

Now, you seem like you may agree with him about 1 and 3, but think that adding items like 2 and especially 4 are utterly ridiculous and make him look like a lunatic. And yet... #4 is just standing there right in front of us; it's impossible to miss! DLPB simply made the mistake of using the wrong example. I mean, they may not have come out and said it, but it's very heavily implied in Trek that atheism reigns supreme among humans. The idea of a practicing Christian in the TNG era is all but absurd*. You would never see one, right? That seems perfectly natural to you, right?

So why does Chakotay exist? Christianity went extinct, but lame made-up pseudonatural bullcrap religions are fine?

See, double standard. Exactly what DLPB was talking about. It's just that in the 90s, American Indians were the cause du jour rather than Muslims. Hence, Chakotay (note that both Voyager and Pocahontas came out in the same year, for example). So, just like with B'Elanna hitting Carey, it's a double standard. The Trek writers would never think of adding a Christian to the show, but have no problem with a hokey Akusha-Moya claptrap. And I keep mocking Chakotay's religion for a good reason, because it ties in with #3. Just like "strong woman=beating up guys" nonsense that Hollywood pushes on us** even thought its completely against reality, this was a truly made up religion. In their yearning effort to be PC, they didn't even bother to actually research the culture they tried to portray, and thus what was shown was the incoherent ramblings of a scam artist (seriously, go look it up if you don't believe me). They ended up insulting the culture they tried to promote because, in actuality, their devotion to that culture was only a mm thick***.

So you see, DLPB was mostly right about #4, just picked the wrong example. And so, can you really argue that it doesn't come from leftwing thought? That these sorts of things are not due to the burning desire the writers had to want to be politically correct? You know as well as I do that the "diversity" in Trek is all there to appease the American left. There's no great desire to have an Indonesian or a Brazilian in the show, but we must have an African-American! And we must pat ourselves on the back for how tolerant we are, because we are looking to gain the approval of a white guy from Berkeley rather than a white guy from Peoria. You may be "proud" of it, but I still see it as just another form of pandering to white people. And that's fine! Star Trek's audience is white Westerners, after all! What's wrong with pandering to the people who pay your bills? It just doesn't make them moral for doing so...

But anyway, back to #2. I'm not the type of person to judge others, and I'm not going to accuse everyone who doesn't agree with me politically of being evil. But in terms of the thought leaders in the left nowadays... well, look up intersectionality if you want. If you look at what's going on in college campuses, the idea these days is that the world is divided into the powerful (straight white Christian and Jewish males) and everyone else (with varying degrees of powerlessness). And that in order to rectify this situation, it is not only ok but also DEMANDED that double standards be used. Overt discrimination of the powerful is encouraged (I should note that this is the same justification Hitler used against the Jews, but, well, what's a little fascism among friends?). Overt hatred of the powerful is encouraged. Again, this isn't my evil interpretation of it; they're pretty upfront about it.

And again, I'm not going to accuse everyone of believing this. I'm sure, when faced with that, it's only a small portion of the left that believes it. And I do think it's annoying how internet arguments usually devolve into the most baseless accusations on the part of the other person. But the problem is, the "intellectual class" of the left really do believe this! And the other problem is, most people don't think. That's not a criticism or implying people are stupid, it's just the truth. Our brains are wired to ignore anything we deem unimportant, and so we don't constantly question our assumptions. And the "educated" world - the internet, media, education, etc - is downstream of this intellectual hotbed of intersectionality. So as long as its framed in a positive way, people go along with it.

Again, let's be honest Robert. Regardless of their monetary background (IIRC DLPB is British; he may not realize that middle-class isn't necessarily a condition of the left-wing culture; the US has always been less class-based than Europe), you know as well as I do that the writers of Trek would feel more at home in San Francisco than in Texas. They're downstream of this thought process that demands double standards at every level. So even if they'd like to think of themselves as tolerant of everyone, they might live in a world where they never question their assumptions. Never question if it actually makes sense for a woman who weighs half as much as a man and has far less testosterone to build upper body strength can actually physically compete with a man. May not question that people can be capitalist and still be ethical or interested in science or anything else that is apparently anathema to the Ferengi. Never question that if you are actually serious about creating an atheist future, you have to insult other cultures besides Christianity as well. It doesn't mean they're bad people. It just means they may live in a bubble. And perhaps by criticizing them, we may get them to snap out of that bubble.

Who knows, maybe it might lead to better writing! Unless you think Chakotay is the epitome of a great character, or that Ferengi are a well thought out race...

I can't speak for DLPB, but I still believe in outdated, hate-filled, intolerant ideas like "all men are created equal" and "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Given that, I can be rather sensitive to areas where the opposite belief - that one should explicitly be judged by their skin or their sex - end up sneaking its way into mainstream culture. Perhaps DLPB is as well. And while I can't be certain that intersectionality itself goes back 20 or so years to when Voyager was created, I know the roots of this concept do go back quite a long ways, so maybe it was there as well.

Oh, and Robert? Of course a Star Trek site is no place to rant about right-wing politics. Star Trek is so steeped in leftwing thought that it's completely off topic! =)

So while I generally do agree with you that we should leave politics out of these discussions (I try to as much as possible), there are plenty of people who do inject politics into it... on both sides of the aisle. Mostly, I tend to ignore them, because I don't like dealing with it. Frankly, I don't like it that DLPB tends to bring it up in places, just as I don't like all the older posters who brought up junk from a leftwing perspective. But was the fact that DLPB brought it up here so far beyond the pale that you had to insult him (and thus cause the topic to devolve even further)? Do you also call out the people on the left who inject it in? Perhaps, to prevent such flame wars from breaking out... if we are truly committed to having discussions on Trek only with only the bare minimum of politics as related to the episode only... perhaps we should all only call out the people "on our side". Less chance of things rolling out of hand that way, eh?

* As a complete and random aside, if there is a character in Trek that is a closet Christian (or possibly Jew), I'm going with Joseph Sisko. I have my reasons for believing that, but I'm sure it was never intentional on the writers part. Actually, some of it may be intentional...

** Also as a random aside, I think Kira IS a strong portrayal of a woman even without the utterly absurd idea that she can beat up Cardassians while 8 months pregnant. She has a deep sense of morality and a strong sense of self, and is confident, assertive, and utterly true to herself (other than dating Odo, but that's another pet peeve of mine...). It's why I find it silly that people call her a Ro clone. Ro was a WEAK woman (that's not a criticism, she was a very interesting character because of it), and very much the opposite of Kira. But because they could both be sarcastic, we should find them identical? Sounds kinda stupid to me.

*** As an even more random aside, a NYTimes reporter recently complained because the new film version of Murder on the Orient Express didn't include Asian cast members. So she didn't know either the historical train OR the famous novel! That's what I mean about being 1 mm thick in culture but deep into identity politics...
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Skeptical
Wed, Mar 15, 2017, 8:30pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: Day of the Dove

Sorry, I'm gonna gave to go against the grain here. I felt the episode was a wasted opportunity, and I think it comes down to one problem: the mind control. It's a tricky thing to work with, trying to work with characters when they aren't really themselves. Take Conundrum, for instance. Whatever you think of the plot, the mind control aspect was well done, leaving it at nothing but amnesia. Thus, there was real tension on whether their true character would break through in time. The Mind's Eye had a deeper mind control, but it was only one character so we could still see the rest of the characters work. And watching a mind controlled LaForge was a nice change of pace. But here? The power of the mind control was completely arbitrary. And thus, it wasn't a satisfying conclusion. Or even a satisfying journey.

I mean, look at Spock and Scotty and Kirk. They would flare up and get emotional, and then calm down. So, ok, fine, maybe it just amplifies the latent feelings you have, keep you off your game. Like Naked Time or something. Except, wait, they can also completely alter your memories. Chekov remembered an entire freaking brother that he doesn't actually have! Kirk remembered an entire colony that didn't exist. If this alien being can do that, surely it can do more to manipulate the emotions of the crews. It's implied that Mara gained false memories of Federation personnel torturing and killing others. Couldn't the alien have implanted more memories of atrocities in everyone's mind, make them both think that they are at a state of war with each other rather than a truce? Do something similar to what was done to Chakotay in Nemesis? The episode strongly implies that it has that power, creating Piotr out of nothing, but it doesn't seem to bother. Instead, it apparently had no hold on Kirk for nearly the entire episode.

Hmm, well, maybe it depends on the willpower of the person. Hey, it makes sense that maybe a hothead like Chekov would be more amenable to the mind control than a cool character like Kirk. I could buy that, except why is Bones so affected? Yes, he's emotional, but he also has shown no real animosity toward the Klingons before, and certainly isn't a warmonger. I'd think Scotty would be going off the bend before Bones, but the episode said otherwise. And even Spock got more into it than Kirk did. So maybe the aliens could impact anyone. Then why didn't it focus more on Kirk? Why was Kirk allowed to be cool-headed there at the end?

And more importantly, if the alien isn't influencing everyone that much, how much of what happened really comes from our characters and how much from mind control? Hopefully a fan favorite like Chekov isn't really a rapist, but, well, how can we be sure?

In the end, we aren't really watching our favorite characters. We're watching puppets. Sometimes. And our characters sometimes. And it's not clear which is which, and why they are only puppets sometimes. That's a sign of bad plotting.

Meanwhile, of course, the episode was trying as hard as possible to be a message show, but naturally it failed miserably. How can you be an anti-war episode when everyone is being brainwashed? It reminds me a lot of Nemesis (again, the Voyager episode, not the movie), where a complicated situation is ignored in favor of a silly message. I mean, did you listen to Kang? "Nobody tells ME when I get to kill humans!" Is that really a message of peace? Ah, whatever...

But like I said, this was a wasted opportunity. The idea of a game of wits and game of strength against Kirk and a worthy Klingon opponent is certainly exciting. We never had a true evenly matched episode with the Klingons, so it would have been interesting. And keep the alien influence, but no mind control. Have the alien setup the conflict by framing each side, much like the start of the episode, but for real this time. And keep trying to keep the conflict going. And Kirk and Spock could realize the problem halfway through, and try to get through to the Klingons that they have a common enemy. In the end, Kirk's bravado at trying to get a truce would be enough to convince Kang, as it is here. We could have a very similar story, but without the mind control. Instead of arbitrarily hoping that the alien emphasis would be forgotten for long enough to get the fighting to stop, we could wonder about the true character of both sides. Instead of being contrived, it would be real. Instead of stupid tricks from the alien to keep the battlefield even, the threats could be suspenseful. This episode should have been a classic, should have been better than Balance of Terror. What a shame.
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Skeptical
Tue, Mar 14, 2017, 8:30pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: Spectre of the Gun

WRITER 1: We need a new idea for a Star Trek episode. Anyone got any ideas?

WRITER 2: How about an all-powerful alien makes Kirk fight to the death to teach a lesson about pacifism?

WRITER 1: Bleh, we already did that. I want original ideas people. Original!

WRITER 3: OK, ummm... Kirk comes across a planet that looks exactly like some CBS backlot and so re-enacts a portion of Western history?

WRITER 1: I said original, dagnabbit! That was like half of the last 10 episodes!

WRITER 4: Hmmm... I'm just spitballing here, but what if... what if we had an all powerful alien make Kirk fight to the death to teach a lesson about pacifism... within a planet that looks exactly like some CBS backlot in order to re-enact a portion of Western history?

WRITER 1: Brilliant! That's the sort of original thinking I like to see here!

OK, snark aside, it really was that hard for me to get past the premise of the episode. I mean, the execution was pretty well done. Like others said, the mystery of what was going on built up well, and I think the reveal, that this was all in their heads, worked reasonably well given the clues we were given beforehand. Even the very first reveal of the aliens - when they spoke to everyone in their own languages - hinted that nothing they did was necessarily physical. And the clue of the knockout bomb not working was a big one. It was maybe a bit silly that Spock had to meld with everyone in order to save them (yet another example of Spock's magical Vulcan-ness saving the day), but the scene of the crew standing calmly while the Earps shot them was effective I thought.

It's just that the idea is so hokey... Maybe I was just in a snarky mood when I watched it or something, but some of the decisions just seemed weird. What was with Chekov being more obsessed with getting it on with the girl than the fact that he was scheduled to be executed in a few hours? How is Spock so absurdly well-versed in everything that he is fully aware of one single even that happened on Earth 400 years ago? Why is the Federation mission to establish contact "at all costs"; what if these people just want to be left alone? Why is it that the answer to everything in the Star Trek universe is a quick battle to the death rather than any sort of communication?

I guess it was just too much of a pill to swallow for me.
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Skeptical
Tue, Mar 14, 2017, 8:27pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: Is There In Truth No Beauty?

Perhaps not, but the obsession over the Medusans being too ugly to look at (as opposed to simply being too incomprehensible to look at or having mild telepathic ability or something), as well as to a lesser extent the emphasis on Dr Jones' beauty, makes it seem like they did mean to say something about beauty. Sure, the second interpretation of the title is equally possible, but it's not exactly groundbreaking theme that not all truths are pleasant, and of course its not true that all truths are pleasant. Like I said, it works as an interesting experience of an episode, but hardly an important message or theme.
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Sun, Mar 12, 2017, 10:15pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: Is There In Truth No Beauty?

Yeah, this was a weird one. There were so many plots going on, and even though the episode seemed to claim the theme revolved around beauty, it didn't really. It was more geared toward unrequited love, or longing for something that you can't have, the dangers of letting your emotions rule you, or something like that. You had Garvick in love with Miranda, but she rejected him and it drove him mad. Bones seemed to have at least a little crush on her. Jones had a love for Kallos and was intensely jealous of Spock. Kirk felt sorry for Jones being isolated and away from the rest of humanity. Once Kallos merged with Spock, he wanted to stay that way so he could interact with the crew. Even Jones' blindness works for it, as its part of her isolation and inability to connect with others. All of these stories running through the episode. And how many have to do with beauty? Not much. Not really sure why they tried to shoe-horn that theme in.

But other than that, it was a nice, pleasant episode. You usually don't have this many plot elements, so it was a nice change of pace episode. There really isn't another episode like it I think. I don't think any one plot element could have carried the story, but by smashing so many possible ideas in there it kind of feels like a slice of life tale. There's a feeling of wistfulness, of roads not taken, of sorrow in almost everyone's character (both regular and guest star). Yet, in the end, it was willing to move past any resentment of those roads not taken or the isolation that saved the day. Jones had to accept that Spock was the right one to meld with Kallos, and then she had to do what she could to keep him from going insane. A fairly low key episode, despite the rather silly ship-in-danger plot and the "they're so ugly you go mad if you look at them!" concept of the Medusans. But a pleasant low-key episode.
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Tue, Mar 7, 2017, 8:43pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: And the Children Shall Lead

Where's the kids from Miri and their bonk-bonk when you need it?

Where do you start with an episode like this? I guess with the premise itself. I suppose there could have been some promise here, but it's hard to see. Kids that seem brainwashed by an all powerful entity? Kids unable to come to terms with their parents death and their own guilt? Kirk having to protect his ship from people who are as much victims as they are aggressors? Those ideas COULD work, but it's not a slam dunk idea to begin with. So you better make sure the execution makes the relatively weak idea worthwhile. And needless to say, this episode did not do that.

When your all powerful entity that has to carry the episode is an old fat guy in a grandma dress whose voice makes Ben Stein sound animated, it's hard to take the episode seriously.

When four little kids and one annoying teenager manage to take over the Enterprise that easily, even with magic powers, it's hard to keep the willing suspension of disbelief going. Almost as bad as the Ferengi taking over in Rascals.

When that teenager has the worst fashion sense ever, it starts becoming impossible not to laugh at them.

When the solution to the crisis is just Spock and Kirk, well, coming out of it for some reason, it just makes you go "huh"? So nobody else had the willpower as these two? Nobody that evil green guy ever met before? Or is this just more of the magic Swiss Army Knife powers that Spock gets whenever the writers find themselves stuck in a corner? And frankly, seeing them with strained faces for 10 seconds and then suddenly all better is hardly an effective means of showing their inner struggle. Then again, Shatner's acting was so over the top this episode that

When the solution to the kids' lack of emotion over the death of their parents is nothing more than showing them pictures of everyone playing, it completely ruins any depth that this theme might have. By the way, what's with McCoy constantly saying that recognizing their parents' death would traumatize the kids, and then look pleased once they actually do recognize it?

In other words, a weak idea, and now terrible execution. So yeah, it's definitely among the worst.
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Skeptical
Sun, Mar 5, 2017, 10:11pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S3: The Enterprise Incident

Finally, a truly great TOS episode. It's been a while. I shouldn't be surprised that it's a Romulan one; it just seems that they have a way of elevating any episode they're in. Unlike the Klingons, they're smart, and tend to always be portrayed as smart. It usually means the plot is more complex than usual and our characters need to be more clever than usual.

Not that the plot didn't have its problems. After all, it seems that Starfleet planned out its operation with all the skill of the Underpants Gnomes. Step 1: head into Romulan territory. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Profit! I mean seriously, how did that plan actually work? Talk about luck! But I think we're able to suspend our disbelief, because the suspense was high and the characters interesting.

Like others, I do think this was partly what impacted Unification in Spock's mind. It did seem pretty clear that he did actually care for the Romulan, and did wish that there was some alternative other than betraying her. Likewise, I think he recognized that the Romulan did care for him too. There must have been some respect for each other deep down, which would translate, at least to some extent, to a respect for each other's culture. That must have given Spock some inkling that a reunification could be successful, even if he would have known that the odds were microscopic. I think the scene with them touching each other with their fingers extended (reminiscent of Sarek and Amanda) was probably the best scene to reinforce this. It may be alien to us, but it was perfectly natural to BOTH of them. It really reinforced the idea that this was, at one time, a single culture, and that they could relate to each other better than perhaps either of them could relate to humans. Perhaps it was that memory that kept Spock's hopes alive?

Of course, there was also the betrayal. Spock said, clearly, that he was a Starfleet officer, and that he had to do his duty. One questions whether he agreed with the theft and agreed with the deception, given that it seems a bit out of the norm for Starfleet operations and given the whole "Vulcans don't lie!" thing. We know in Unification that he stated he wanted to keep Starfleet out of the loop on this one, in part due to the mixup that happened in ST6. Now, obviously Spock chose a lengthy career in Starfleet even after this episode; even after dying. So it's not like this event made him resign in a huff or anything like that, but it does make it clear that Spock doesn't want to be put in that position again with the Romulans. He knows that, with Starfleet, the political angle will always be there. He knows that working directly through official Romulan channels means the political angle is definitely going to be there from that side. That's why he worked the way he did, away from the official channels. Just going directly to the people. Seeking that connection that he would have had with the Commander if their duty (on both sides) didn't get in the way.

But anyway, back to the episode. Like I said, the pacing, suspense, and character stuff just worked, and worked well. The fact that you couldn't really tell the moment that either the Commander started legitimately caring for Spock or vice versa, rather than just using the other for their own gain, is what made it work. That and the poignancy at the end, when both of their plans were laid clear. Neither of them regretted their choices that kept them apart, but neither of them were really happy about it either. And given the emotionless state of Spock and the reservedness of the Commander, the fact that they were able to show it in their words and actions was really quite impressive. Definitely a true classic.
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Sat, Mar 4, 2017, 9:55pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: Bread and Circuses

And we are back, once again, to a magical parallel Earth. You know, I hate to admit it, but maybe the network executives were right to try to cancel TOS after the second season. It really seems like they ran out of ideas in the end. I mean, look at the latter half of the season, starting after Tribbles (yes, I know, technically in second half, shut up):

Four period pieces from random parts of Earth's past.
Two "aliens take over the Enterprise to use it for their own objectives."
One "Kirk outwits a computer", which was cliche by the end of the first season
One "giant thingy in space!" episode, which was overused in the first half of the season
One backdoor pilot.

That leaves Private Little War and Gamesters of Triskelion as the only really unique ideas in the second half, and both of those were just as bad. Other than Piece of the Action, none of the other episodes really jumped out as really strong episodes, although admittedly some were watchable. Compare that to the first half of the season. We had absolute classics like Journey to Babel, Mirror Mirror, Doomsday Machine, Trouble with Tribbles. And, of course, Season 1 had plenty of great episodes too. It just seemed like they ran out of steam in the end. I know people like to say that Gene leaving and the slashed budget was the reason Season 3 was not as beloved as the first two, but honestly, it seems like they ran out of steam here. Maybe Season 3 wouldn't have been any better than what we had. Maybe this was the extent of the stories the original crew could tell.

As for the episode itself, whatever. Both the potential onset of Christianity as a revolutionary concept and Merrick's cowardice and the Romans disgust of it, even as it worked to their advantage, were the only two interesting part of the episode. The rest of it just seemed by the book, as Saavik might say.
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Fri, Feb 24, 2017, 7:47pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

Well, I still stand by my statement, that the implementation of the episode to complement the theme was not done well at all.

William, you seem to state that the theme shows by comparing Daystrom erraticness to the M-5's going cuckoo. And yes, perhaps that is the reason the M-5 did poorly, since it was his brainwaves that he used to create the M-5. And therefore, you say, the theme is that the people who want to supplant humans have their own problems that preclude them from being the best judge of humans. Well, ok. But still... well, it's obvious the theme the episode wanted to show was that humans are not going to be obsolete by this computer, what with the whole "dunsel" bit. And if William's interpretation is true, then I, like Garak and the Boy Who Cried Wolf, see a different moral. If the importance is to show the connectivity between Dyson and the M-5, then the moral of the story isn't that computers are inferior, but rather that better humans should be used as the template for computers.

After all, if the fault of the M-5 is just that Dyson was erratic, why not try the M-6 with Kirk's brain? Will that computer be perfect enough to replace human captains? I don't think the episode answered that. Which is why it's a bit of a straw man story - it's not really Kirk vs The Ultimate Computer. It's Kirk vs the Insane Computer. And that's not a fair comparison.

Peter, I don't really disagree with what you say. But I just feel a bit more strongly on the fact that it's weak than you. Yes, computers will follow their logic to the bitter end, which can seem horrifying. And yes, it does mean that there should be some human oversight. Which honestly should have been obvious, but of course they didn't show it. Naturally our superintelligent future means people will test a complex new computer by giving it complete control of a freaking battleship that has enough firepower to exterminate a planet, and make the only kill switch an electronic one that the computer can hack.Perhaps it should be Starfleet command that should be seen as insane...

But I digress. My problem is that I, Robot came out in 1950. The Three Laws were first introduced in 1942. While Trek may have been blazing a trail for television sci-fi, this episode feels 25 years behind the times when it comes to sci-fi in general. There should have been safeguards put in place on that computer. There should have been better logic programmed into it. But apparently, Dyson didn't think of it. And apparently, Starfleet didn't demand it before thinking about putting it in one of their ships. It just wasn't very intelligent plotting, and so it's tough for me to care about the theme when it relies on dumb plotting.

(With that said, I will point out that this episode came out about a month or so before 2001, so it's not the only visual medium showering murderous AI. But HAL is a lot more memorable, so I'll let that one slide...)
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Thu, Feb 23, 2017, 9:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Ultimate Computer

Sigh, Kirk outwitting a computer... again.

I mean, I get what they were trying to do with this episode, and I understand the uncertainty of how these newfangled computers would fit into society back in the 60s and all, and I realize it was a hot topic in sci-fi, both profound and silly, but man, there's nothing that makes an episode look more dated. All these old shows and stories assumed you would feed a few pieces of information to a computer, and it would make surprising connections and leaps of logic that would shock and amaze people. Hey, maybe that will still happen in the future, who knows? But our modern computers seem to be on par with the normal Enterprise computer these days, and this idea is still well beyond our comprehension. So it just seems bizarre that all these SF shows completely missed all the ways computers would actually impact our lives and jumped straight into these superbrain stories. And, just like all those other SF stories, the ultimate computer ends up being evil.

And that's what really bugs me, makes me think this episode is not a true classic. The computer just goes straight to evil. The character arc or struggle or theme of the episode was Kirk worrying about being replaced, being obsolete. That's a fair story to consider, so the antagonist of the plot (the computer) should be one that complements and reinforces this struggle. But instead, it just acts as a straw man. The resolution should be that Kirk isn't obsolete because he has some unique quality that the computer doesn't have. Think about, for example, the Corbomite Maneuver, where only a bluff would work to save the ship. Or all the old Kirk speeches to get the antagonists to change their mind. A proper resolution would show that Kirk had something above the computer, like the battle of wits between him and Khan. Instead, he doesn't have to show why he deserves to be a captain when it became clear that the computer is crazy evil. Just shut off the computer, abandon the project, and fly off into the sunset, and no more self examination of Kirk. Is that really what we wanted?

Thus, a potentially interesting idea went to waste. Too bad.
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Mon, Feb 20, 2017, 8:37pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Omega Glory

The absurdity of the parallel Earth aside, this episode had some serious promise, and then just tossed it all away in favor of silliness. Just look at all the possibly interesting plotlines that were thrown at us in the first act or so. The Enterprise discovers a mysterious virus that killed an entire starship crew, save for the captain. They learn they too may be infected, and their only hope is to go to the planet. There, they get caught in a war between two sides by the natives, only to discover the captain is assisting one of the sides in clear violation of the Prime Directive. But the captain says it is for a noble cause, that these people have the Fountain of Youth. So Kirk must resist the temptation to join him and to fix the damage he has done, all while McCoy races to find a cure. That's good stuff. Needs of the many (Fountain of Youth) vs the needs of the few (Prime Directive) vs the needs of the very few (the danger to our heroes) vs the needs of the one (Captain's desire to survive on a planet he is exiled to). Honestly, the setup is better than Insurrection, which had a similar premise. If they could have focused on that instead, we might have had a dramatic, tense, engaging episode. Instead, they dropped the ball on every single one of those possible storylines.

McCoy searching for the cure or the Fountain of Youth? Just one or two scenes of him working. I know, it's hard to make that dramatic or interesting, but they managed to do it before. McCoy actually has something to do for once on the away team rather than being irascible and insulting Spock, and they don't let him do it!

The potential danger to the away team? Bones doesn't even have to work to find a cure, it's already there! Actually, that could have been a nice twist, perhaps adding to the guilt of the captain knowing that he could have saved his entire crew and left at any time. But we barely see his reaction to the news. The twist has no dramatic impact. We hear about it, and that's it. No angst at all.

A villain with a reason to do what he does, who can argue for a position besides the prime directive? A villain, perhaps, trapped in a scenario in which there are no good choices? Ha, forget that! He just went into full evil mode, fighting Kirk for no reason even after learning that his dreams of eternal life were just dreams.

Weighing the values of the Prime Directive? Kirk declares he must do everything to stop him, then just up and interferes himself. They even lampshaded it with Spock! After all the posturing Kirk does about the seriousness of the PD, he just up and reinterprets the Constitution for the Yangs. And after waxing poetic about the sacredness of the PD, his response to Spock at the end was just flippant. I know, lighthearted endings were the style at the time, but if you're going to claim the PD is a serious topic, you need to treat it seriously!

So even ignoring the absurdity of the ending, the episode managed to fail. Good riddance.

OK, I can't ignore the absurdity entirely... Wasn't it just two episodes ago that Spock was claiming the odds of another planet creating Nazis was completely astronomical? What about the odds of not only creating America, but also having the exact same handwriting for the Constitution?
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