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Tim C
Thu, Feb 21, 2019, 1:16am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Saints of Imperfection

I'm right with you, @Gil, on the technology for recording and retrieving history being so superior to our own. But the Enterprise computer being able to spit out an answer to "Computer, did Starfleet Intelligence ever have a black ops division?" doesn't guarantee that anyone is ever going to care to *ask* it decades after it officially stopped existing. Even then, who's to say that the *only* answer would be "Section 31, circa 2135 - 2293"? Or that the answer wouldn't be "That information is classified to Level X or higher"?

I agree that there's surely specialists who know the territory and can talk about the old stories of holographically-cloaked starships and black comm badges. There'd likely have to be several higher-ups in the admiralty (ala` Ross) who are aware of it, and Starfleet Intel agents themselves would definitely have heard tales. But your average Starfleet officer is unlikely to have ever heard about it except perhaps as a passing reference, and if the S31 of the TNG era are doing their job competently then they'd have no reason to ever ask.

Final point: this is a crazy sci-fi world where Data can magically disable a super-advanced race of cybernetic beings, or weird computer viruses can transform ships into history museums, or a self-destruct program can remain unnoticed in the background of a Cardassian computer system for years. It's not particularly outlandish to grant that S31 may simply have been able to, over the course of many years, strategically erase records of their existence in all the systems that matter. Or even maybe just Memory Alpha, said the be the Federation's central repository of knowledge.
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Tim C
Wed, Feb 20, 2019, 12:21am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Saints of Imperfection

@Gil, you're right my experience doesn't scale, as was my entire point. What exactly do you think is going to be so different about the way that militaries work in the future, vs the comparatively tiny ones that exist now?

Do you contend that superior technology is going to force people to read their history books, which would be exponentially bigger and more detailed to cover such a vast interstellar organisation?

How much does the average American know about the various subdivisions of the CIA from 1947? Or let's be even more specific: how much does the average American *soldier* know about the various subdivisions of the CIA at all, as it exists today?

If you answer anything other than "very, very little" then you go home with the booby prize.

I don't cite my experience as some sort of definitive authority on the subject that cannot be disputed. What it does do, though, is give me some relevant perspective about the military life and the attitudes of soldiers in general. Outside of your unit (your ship, your starbase, etc) is generally not of much interest. Outside of your division *entirely* is shit that only junkies care about.

Feel free to take that info or leave it. It seems to me that you've already made up your mind.
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Tim C
Tue, Feb 19, 2019, 3:35pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Saints of Imperfection

I enjoy listening to people scoff that Section 31 could not possibly have been forgotten over the course of a century. The various units that I've served in over the years have undergone numerous name changes, mergers, de-mergers, decommissionings, recommissionings etc, and that's just in the relatively tiny Australian Defence Force. I could probably name a couple of these changes for you from the the units I've directly worked with, but across the entire ADF? Not a bloody chance without doing some deep research or consulting some historians.

Now consider how truly *massive* the Federation Starfleet must be to span such a huge chunk of the galaxy. How many personnel are in that, and organizations and sub-organisations, etc. The beauracracy would be mind-bogglingly huge and just like any beauracracy throughout the years, subject to the political whims of the time.

In me head canon: Section 31 was born as part of Starfleet Intelligence, and grew in stature through the ENT and TOS eras whilst still being (relatively) hush-hush. Sometime after this, something went down behind-the-scenes that saw them fall from grace. A political agreement? A feud between the "legitimate" Starfleet Intel and its black sheep? A personal grudge from someone high up in the admiralty?

Whatever it was, S31 was officially decommissioned and never mentioned again. But someone still believed in the mission. Fortunately, the politics of peace time meant that Starfleet was free to look the other way and pretend that humanity really was the morally superior species now, even as S31 continued clandestine operations.

Of course, the Dominion ruined all that and brought them out of the shadows again.
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Timo47
Sun, Feb 17, 2019, 6:22am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Saints of Imperfection

Depite being structured and paced somewhat better than previous episodes, this one just didn't work for me.
BEEF (Copyright: Jammer) was back in full swing. The voice overs at the beginning and end fell completely flat. The emo scenes at a time when the ship was in danger sucked all tension out of the episode. And the way they brought back Culber was totally unbelievable. Instead of trying to explain everything what's happening with technobabble, I think it would be much more refreshing if this show would just sometimes have the characters say that they don't know why x or y is happening. You're dealing with space and "the unknown" after all. The show should stop trying to come up with explanations for things that are ludicrous to begin with.

And if Culber's return was really planned like this from last season, I wonder what the writers have tried to accomplish with this story line. It all strikes me as pointless. He died, now he's back. Would it have made a big difference if he had never died? If his death had impacted Stamets in a major way, I would understand it. But aside from a few mourning scenes, it's a all wasted.

Discovery also continues its trend of hitting us with "Surprise!" moments as a way of advancing its stories. This is getting really tiresome. It starts with Georgiou being in Spock's shuttle. So she was also looking for Spock but why was she still in his shuttle after it was clear he wasn't there? Just dump the shuttle and go back to your own Section 31 ship. And where was she even flying to?

Nothing on this show progresses naturally. Things happen because the writers want to move from point a to point b. Like how Cornwel all of a sudden shows up on the S31 ship. Was she always there? Was she nearby on her own ship? A theory was posted on another site that Cornwell was actually Georgiou in disguise, which would be totally in line with how Discovery as a show operates. Still, even if that's the case, it should still be believable for everybody else on Discovery and the S31 ship that she arrived via a ship or through some other fashion. Why didn't she just use the holographic communicator?

Cornwel is also a reminder of what a small universe this has become. Doesn't Starfleet have any other admirals? And the best/only available S31 representatives just happen to be Georgiou and Tyler? Really? And on top of that Leland and Pike also know each other. For me the story lines of Georgiou and Tyler ran their course last year. Shoehorning them into this year's stories just doesn't work.

Last random thought: how come Cornwell has authority over Leland and S31? Isn't S31 supposed to be independent from "regular" Starfleet?
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Tim C
Fri, Feb 15, 2019, 7:13pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Saints of Imperfection

Loud Morn, are you keeping a dossier in your drawer labelled "Bad Takes"? :P That article is right in many of its criticisms of Voyager's creative decisions (never following up on the Maquis conflict, always too afraid to alter its own status quo). But saying it's "Trump Trek" is freaking ridiculous.

Trump himself is a pathological liar, an irredeemable narcissist, openly racist, and obviously corrupt - in addition to just being plain dumb. Trumpism itself doesn't even have a cohesive philosophy, beyond "fuck you, libs" and an utter disdain for nuance.

Voyager is none of those things. Creatively timid and afraid to step outside the safe confines of "generic Star Trek", yes. But that's not a result of political philosophy; that's a creative decision that Rick Berman and Paramount executives made because they saw it as their Star Trek flagship. (For more on that, see Stephen Poe's "Vision Of The Future" book about the creation of Voyager - which the author of this piece actually quotes from, so how on Earth he arrived at this weird take defies belief.) Janeway's desire to get the crew home is born out of duty and guilt over stranding them in the first place, not conservatism.
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Tim C
Fri, Feb 15, 2019, 6:07pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: Deflectors

This may be the first episode of The Orville that I actually found to be genuinely affecting, probably due to the minimum of lame gags and a willingness to take itself completely seriously for a change. The jokes that were in there mostly landed (I couldn't help but laugh out loud at Molloy's self-satisfaction at guessing weird Moclan rituals correctly) and the performances were good across the board.

With one glaring exception: I don't usually like to make blanket judgments about actors, but geeeeeez, J. Lee's performance *sucks*. Aside from how wooden he is in almost all personal scenes, he's really really really especially bad at delivering technobabble, one of the key aspects of his character. It drags down every scene he's in and undercuts the drama.

Nitpick: how can a holographic energy weapon kill? I get how, say, holo-bullets could do damage in there, but an energy weapon doesn't operate on kinetic principles, unless some physics nerd wants to correct me. it'd probably help if the "simulator" got a few more holodeck-style ground rules and stuck to them, instead of just being 100% magic. (Not that that ever stopped Star Trek from turning the holodeck into whatever it wanted.)
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Tim C
Fri, Feb 15, 2019, 1:11am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Saints of Imperfection

2.5 stars. "Saints of Imperfection" opens, irritatingly, with another vapid monologue for Burnham that is delivered with as much portent as Sonequa Martin-Green can muster but is just too wishy-washy to actually make any impact. It's doubly irritating because the visual montage that accompanies the monologue is actually quite effective and does a much better job of conveying the gravity of the situation. Show, don't tell!

Things pick up after this: the shuttle chase, the Georgiou reveal, and the tension between Pike and Leland is all well-played. Georgiou and Burnham's conversation in the hallway was especially enjoyable; the way the Emperor just openly discusses her real identity in public whilst Burnham looks around in horror speaks perfectly to the character's supreme arrogance and self-confidence.

From here, we're on to a crazy Treknobabble rescue mission, and I enjoyed this at first. The bizarre visuals, the conviction of the actors selling it, the drama of the wall of death encroaching on the crew (shades of Starship Mine there), and especially Mary Wiseman's performance of a supremely pissed-off Tilley slowly coming back down to some good ol' fashioned Starfleet helpfulness.

But it falls apart for me once they find Dr Culber. The Treknobabble escalates way too far past the point of no return and becomes incomprehensible gobbledygook that's way too close to Futurama's parodic skewering of the crazy-idea-explained-by-simple-analogy schtick. ("Like putting too much air in a balloon!") The emotion of the ending is undercut by it, and that's a shame, because better writing would have allowed Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz to put their talents to good use.

Two stray thoughts: (1) Retcons be damned, I like this recasting of Section 31, and I feel like it actually gives even greater impact to its introduction in DS9's universe, which was forever happily deconstructing the utopian fantasy of TNG. Seems like in this era, S31 is just a dark division of Starfleet Intelligence that still has to answer to the admiralty, which makes far more sense to me than a completely unaccountable and unknown division that's been around since the dawn of Starfleet. I find it interesting food for thought that the hubristic, happy-go-lucky Starfleet of Picard's time had by that point disappeared so far up its own ass that they couldn't even reconcile the *existence* of such a division with their Pollyanna views of the world, and by looking the other way ultimately surrendered their own control and accountability.

And (2): Mary Wiseman's outraged delivery of "OH THAT OLD TRICK!" to some incomprehensible babble. Shame that by about 35 minutes in I felt like she was speaking for me.
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Tim C
Tue, Feb 12, 2019, 5:26am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

Peter G, you can "highly doubt" all the things you like, but killing even a single person has very highly variable effects on different people, regardless of training, and this goes doubly so when it's accidental. (Recall Kira's horrified conversation with Dax when she's considering joining the Klingons in "Blood Oath".) Regardless, I don't cite it as the sole reason for what goes down thereafter.

Consider the sequence of events:

1) Unexpected fight for life, resulting in an accidental death.

2) Severe injury.

3) A high-stakes scenario, in which she's been given valid historical advice from her father on how to handle the Klingons: kick 'em in the teeth like junkyard dogs, as hard as you can. Amid the stress and tension of trying to figure how to make that stick in a Starfleet world, she's reminded of the reason she's adopted in the first place: Klingons murdered her parents while she listened. With justification, she fears for the life of her new Starfleet family.

4) She acts on that advice in an attempt to force the issue and prevent what she believes will be a greater tragedy. And yes, I've totally seen people make decisions on the fly in high stakes situations. Not as high stakes as *that* (because this is TV science fiction with spaceships that go pew pew and bloodthirsty warrior aliens), but I don't find it nearly as unlikely as you do.

The rest plays out as we've already discussed. You ask what would happen to someone who disobeyed orders like she did? They'd likely go to prison and get drummed out, *like she did*. But just because she acted outside the chain of command doesn't mean that her actions were unjust.

So let's boil this down. The diss on the character seems to be:

1) She killed T'Kuvma* in a moment of rage, so she can never be forgiven and never evolve into someone worthy of respect? How un-Star Trek an attitude.

*An utter dirtbag who deserved it, btw

2) She blew the mission, so she can never be forgiven and never learn from her mistake?

3) She mutinied, so she can never... ? You get my drift.

I love this idea that she's not a traditional Star Trek character because she's unethical or some shit. Let's not forget she's the one who leads the tardigrade away on the Glenn, she's the one who questions Lorca's methods and eventually liberates it, she's the one who insists on a dangerous mission to save Sarek, etc.

Burnham's a complicated character not given nearly enough credit, methinks.
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Tim C
Tue, Feb 12, 2019, 4:38am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

Yair, she's not obligated to do jack. She could indeed go back to prison rather than continually risking her life on dangerous missions with the Disco surrounded by people who have shunned her; it's a conscious choice to do so, and one that's redemptive in of itself.

As for not showing any self-examination... leaving aside the fact that she's Vulcan-raised and not exactly prone to extroversion regarding her feelings, what exactly are you expecting? She killed the person who killed her mentor - a violent religious fanatic hell bent on starting a war, at that. If she feels anything, it's probably a sense of justice done - hence my earlier Data comparison.

I'm not particularly interested in discussions about whether or not what she did was technically murder. (For the record, I reckon it totally was and absolutely justified.) I'm more interested in finding out why some people seem to feel so damn judgmental about it. I serve in the military myself; the shit that Burnham goes through in the Disco premiere would break almost anyone, and I've known people who've fallen apart over far less.

Seems to me the armchair critics could stand to ask themselves how they would handle a similar situation. I suspect they'd have a reaction like Data: "I cannot allow this to continue".
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Tim C
Tue, Feb 12, 2019, 2:16am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

Peter G, you must be kidding. Burnham's paying the price for killing T'Kuvma is one of the major story threads of season one. No repentance?!?! She goes to prison! She thinks she *deserves to go back*! Throughout the season, she willingly throws herself into dangerous situations in an attempt to atone for her actions, despite the fact she's technically not obligated to do a damn thing.

The story wasn't executed as well as it could have been, but it was there. No offence, but if you didn't pick that up watching the show, you need to watch it again.

Also, John Harmon wrote that she "straight up committed murder" like that was a count against her. Personally, I reckon T'Kuvma deserved what he got, and the idea that the war wouldn't have happened without its chief advocate is... problematic, at best.
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Tim C
Tue, Feb 12, 2019, 2:10am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

Murder's murder, isn't it?
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Tim C
Mon, Feb 11, 2019, 8:55pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

I'm curious how those damning Burnham forever for killing T'Kuvma feel about Data trying to murder Fajo in "The Most Toys"?
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Tim C
Mon, Feb 11, 2019, 2:46pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

Jason R, way to complete divorce a situation from its emotional context. In "The Vulcan Hello"/"Battle At The Binary Stars", Burnham's in a fraught state by the time she pulls the trigger on T'Kuvma. In a very short period of time, she's accidentally killed in self-defence, been severely injured, and then advised by her father to take a (rather logical, in my view) course of action that puts her in direct opposition to her mentor. And through all of this, she is directly confronted with some serious past childhood trauma.

She's *on edge*, and just as she seems to be making tottering steps towards amends with Captain Georgiou - whom she clearly idolises - Georgiou is killed. She's just lost not only her career but someone she loves. Taking revenge on T'Kuvma may not be justifiable, but it's sure as hell understandable.

Furthermore, Burnham is severely punished for these choices, and blamed by a majority of her colleagues for a long time thereafter for kicking off the war (even though it was very likely going to come to that point anyway). It is a slow path to redemption for her through season 1. Personally I don't think it was entirely earned by the writers, but the artistic intentions are clear and I think it was one of the more compelling ideas of the debut.
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Tim C
Sat, Feb 9, 2019, 10:19pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

How am I so sure that Trek will survive, @OmicronThetaDeltaPhi? Because that's the lesson of history, my friend! Star Trek has already survived two Dark Ages and there's no reason to think it wouldn't survive a third. Quite aside from the lucrative allure of a pre-existing franchise to the corporate bean-counting types, creatively speaking there will always be people influenced by Star Trek who want to give back to the universe. Hell, even Quentin Tarantino wants to make some new Star Trek!

I don't think it's a stretch.

Your contention that Star Trek's internal consistency is a key reason it endured over the years, and I will grant you that, even if I think you're perhaps giving it too much weight. But I will put it to you that it takes a lot more than some new Klingon makeup, or some fancy CGI holograms, or some anachronistic sound effects to break an entire canon. (Personally, I find the DSC sound effects utterly delightful, with their mix of cheesy 60's TOS and the more understated TNG.)

And what makes you so dead-set certain that Star Trek has abandoned its core principles? I saw plenty of them on display in Discovery's first season - the difference being that they were constantly interrogated by the presence of officers like Lorca and Security Chief Redshirt. The writers were not always up to the task of doing so intelligently, but I simply don't agree that the optimistic world view was abandoned. It was just being tested.

Finally, do you really find it impossible to believe that a new generation of children could be inspired by the likes of, say, Michael Burnham? I would point you to Katharine Trendacosta's excellent piece on just how much she was inspired by Voyager, and specifically Captain Janeway: https://io9.gizmodo.com/why-star-trek-voyager-meant-the-world-to-me-1679736359

As she says: "The "seeing yourself on screen" thing is a cliché, but it really is important. It's not just seeing people you can relate to, it's seeing people you can relate to *being successful*. That's the empowering part."

A woman of colour as the central character, in the science officer role, who has earned redemption for her mistakes and respect from her peers? You may not personally enjoy the show or the Burnham character, but that won't apply to everyone. I would contend that viewed with fresh eyes, someone like Burnham could be an exceptionally inspirational figure to a young person, just as James T. Kirk and Spock were for me in my formative years.

As for questioning my list of canon inconsistencies and retcons, feel free to go ahead and blast away! Those were ones I could just name off the top of my head. I reckon I could jump on Memory Alpha or Ex Astris Scientia and find a thousand more for you to nit pick. :P
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Tim C
Sat, Feb 9, 2019, 6:48pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

(Warning: essay incoming. I have nothing to do this weekend...)

@Loud Morn

God, I thought I'd be able to stay away from the never-ending DSC arguments, but that opinion piece...

I could spend all day doing that incredibly boring Internet thing of cherry-picking select quotes from the piece and ripping them to shreds, so instead I'll attack the main thrust of the article: the tired and unprovable statement that "Discovery isn't Star Trek".

We've already discussed here on these boards the ways in which Discovery is a different beast from the Berman or Roddenberry eras of Star Trek, purely by how we're receiving it. As a show on a streaming subscription service in 2019, vs a prime time mass audience broadcast show in the 90's, there is now literally decades of distance between Discovery and the last era of TV trek. So when people say "Discovery isn't Star Trek", it usually boils down to two main points:

1) "Discovery is too dark in tone, so it isn't Star Trek!"

This one is pretty easily refuted. Some of the most popular episodes and movies in Star Trek's history have been its darkest. A short list: "The City On The Edge Of Forever". "Yesterday's Enterprise." "In The Pale Moonlight." "Equinox." "Damage." And my personal favourite entry in the entire Trek canon, "The Undiscovered Country" is an obvious stylistic departure from the previous movies. Just listening to that opening score! The more metallic, militaristic bridge of the Enterprise. The assassination scene. The gritty Rura Penthe. Kirk's quiet, personal confession of outright racism.

The obvious counter-argument is that these are individual episodes and movies in a vast universe of diverse stories, and that is true. But with Discovery embracing a more serialised narrative style, and having significantly shorter seasons (remember, the previous shows usually had 26 (!) episodes a year to broaden their scope), they have a more limited window to carve out their identity.

Remember when the Voyager writers wanted to do a literal Year Of Hell, and that idea was nixed by higher-ups? At the time, it was a creative shot in the arm that the show desperately could have used. Instead we got a (good) two-parter and four more years of business as usual, declining ratings, and rehashed stories - with the occasional flash of brilliance that reminded us of how good that cast and production team could be, and how frustrating it was for the audience for them to be stuck in a creative straitjacket.

Discovery isn't Star Trek because it's dark? Please. Star Trek does dark all the time, and when it refuses to because of some notion of "that isn't Star Trek" (i.e. Voyager) then it just results in creative mediocrity. Let Disco have its own identity, I say. It's far better than timid creative blandness.

2) "Discovery does not have an ensemble cast, so it isn't Star Trek!"

This one always strikes me as ridiculous, given where Star Trek began. TOS did *not* have an ensemble cast. Look at the opening credits: it stars William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy (and later, Kelley was added in). Every episode bar only a very select few focus exclusively on the triumverate of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. This focus continued all the way through the TV show right up until the end of the movies. The bit players would all get some good lines, but the story was almost *never* about them.

If a qualification for Star Trek is that you must have an ensemble cast, where every bit player on the bridge gets their own couple of episodes every season, then TOS isn't Star Trek, and that's obviously ridiculous. Discovery is perfectly entitled to try something new, and make a show where the Captain doesn't have the lead role, and we don't really know or care about the inner life of the helmsman.

3) "Discovery isn't Star Trek, because they changed the Klingons/because holograms/because transparent viewscreens/because sound effects!" etc

The Klingons have already undergone one major revision in the history of the franchise, when they magically grew head loaf in TMP. How was the frame of the TOS Enterprise "refit" into the movie-era Enterprise, with the obvious differences in size and interiors? Just how many years transpired between TOS, TMP, and TWOK, exactly? Why does the Enterprise-D appear to have different saucer sizes in different shots? Just how big is Deep Space Nine, exactly? Why don't slingshots around the sun ever get used for time travel in the Berman era? When Scotty is rescued in TNG, why do they use a TOS era transporter effect instead of a TWOK-TUC effect? Why doesn't young Picard have hair in Nemesis? Why are the Xindi apparently never mentioned ever again after they attack the Earth? Why does the NX-01 bridge have better displays than the NCC-1701? Why is Nick Locarno suddenly named Tom Paris? Why did we never see the Borg Queen in Best Of Both Worlds?

In other words, if your argument that Disco isn't Star Trek rests on canon inconsistencies or retcons, then that also invalidates your favourite show/movie in some small way too. Deal with it.

-------------------------

None of what I've said above is to say the Discovery is perfect, or the greatest series ever. There are several creative decisions I wouldn't have made, most of all making it a prequel.

What I definitely would agree with, though, is trying something new. And in the eyes of many - like the author of this opinion piece - that seems to be the greatest crime of all.

Much like the producers at Paramount back in the day, shackling Voyager's creative reins to the ghost of TNG in the hopes that residual popularity would last forever and sustain their doomed new TV network, the people who charge that "Discovery isn't Star Trek" would seem to prefer the universe to remain creatively frozen in amber, an Orville-style rehash of a storytelling style we've already had over 700 episodes of, in the fear that somehow, attempting something new will invalidate the things they already love.

Personally, I think that's bollocks. Discovery could crash and burn and turn out to be the worst thing ever, and my beloved TOS ain't going anywhere. A season or two of boring Klingon dreck isn't suddenly going to erase "Darmok" from existence. A badly-told war story can remind us of the ways that Deep Space Nine did it well. Outrage over (and eventual sympathy for) a tortured tardigrade brings to mind Janeway's cold fury in "Equinox".

Discovery is Star Trek, because Star Trek isn't just one thing. It's a wide, flexible, endless universe with plenty of room for new approaches. And after over fifty years of endurance, it's safe to say that if it goes away, it's never going to be for long.

--------------------------------------

All of the above aside: that entire article is wrong because it says Shatner is a terrible actor. Fuck you, Current Affairs!
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Tim C
Sat, Feb 9, 2019, 5:26pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S7: Badda-Bing, Badda-Bang

@ Cody B

'I’m talking about a fictional television show that takes place in the future. I’m talking about Sisko, not Avery brooks."

You're forgetting that Sisko has recently had two profound quasi-religious experiences, where he was inhabiting (or being inhabited by?) Benny Russell. It's not a long bow to draw to conclude that if Sisko didn't have strong feelings about ancient oppression before these events, then he sure as shit would have them now. In a sense, Ben Sisko has *lived* that racism.

Seems to me like he's perfectly entitled to be angered by the glossing-over of what, to him, was a very personal and fresh sense of injustice.
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Tim C
Fri, Feb 8, 2019, 7:02pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S2: Q Who

^^ Brian S, that's also one of my all-time favourite Trek quotes and one I often think about in modern contexts, whenever there's a demand for government to "do something" about accidents, natural disasters, etc.

There's also an old TOS novel called "The Disinherited" that was one of my favourites as a kid. There's a scene where Kirk gives a similar speech to some colonists who've just been brutally attacked:

---

"We should move somplace safer!"

"There is no safe place."

The last statement came not from any of the colonists but from Kirk. "Nowhere is safe," he said again, more quietly but with no less conviction.

One of the colonists - a short, belligerent-looking man - stepped forward. "Starfleet is supposed to make it safe!" he said.

"Starfleet makes it safer," said Kirk. "But to live is to face hazards every day. If you want utter safety, climb into a sensory deprivation capsule and live your life cut off from humanity - and even then, a building could fall on you or a groundquake could open up under you and swallow you. Or an undetected blood clot could cause you to drop dead on the spot, with no warning, at any time. The only safety in life is death."

---

Trek taught me a lot of life lessons as a kid. This kind of message was one of them. The future is unknown, life is uncertain, and all you can do is put your best foot forward, keep your chin up and roll with the punches.
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Tim C
Fri, Feb 8, 2019, 6:36pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

@Trish

"If one factors in DVR viewing, more people are watching The Orville than Discovery"

Citation needed (and don't take that as a comment about the merits or politics of either show). As far as I'm aware there are no hard audience metrics available for DSC. What we do have (and if anyone can add to this list, it'd be great):

*Parrot Analytics places DSC as one of the most in-demand "digital originals". (This was shortly before season 2 premiered: https://www.parrotanalytics.com/insights/streaming-demand-the-most-wanted-television-in-the-united-states-30-december-2018-05-january-2019)

*In August last year, CBS All Access reported 2.5 million subscribers and say they've had 50% growth since: https://variety.com/2019/biz/news/cbs-all-access-growth-star-trek-super-bowl-1203124097/

*In 2017, Netflix said DSC was it's #4 "family show": https://media.netflix.com/en/press-releases/2017-on-netflix-a-year-in-bingeing

With Netflix as notoriously opaque as they are with their viewing data, I think it may well prove impossible to *ever* do an apples-to-apples comparison of DSC's viewing figures internationally against free-to-air shows. Even in the USA, the CBSAA subscriber figures don't tell the whole story: they don't count people watching the blu rays, people watching on a Netflix VPN, illegal downloaders etc.
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Tim C
Fri, Feb 8, 2019, 5:16am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

Points taken, MadManMUC. (FWIW, I wasn't even born when TMP came out. My introduction to Trek was watching Dad's recorded-from-TV VHS tapes of TOS. I actually still remember the first time I saw TNG when I was (five? I think) and I almost word-for-word quoted Bashir from Trials and Tribble-ations: "Those are *Klingons*?!")

I guess what I'm driving at is, we probably wouldn't care as much if DSC's Klingon plot from season 1 had been the awesome, engaging viewing that the writers were clearly hoping for and fell so far short of. There were some elements of it that I felt could have been compelling, if we'd been given a single likeable Klingon protagonist amongst all of it.

Trek has a long history of ignoring or fudging previously established canon when it wanted to. The DSC Klingons are probably the most egregious example (although the massive size and design differences between DSC ships and TOS/ENT ships are a close second in my mind), but I think that when it's production choices like that that are breaking the show for you, then the real problem is that the stories aren't doing well enough to make you roll your eyes and accept it.

TLDR, I don't think there's much to be gained by harping on about the more superficial differences, even if they do vaguely irritate me as a lifelong fan.

Having said my piece I'll leave it there for my comments on this episode I think. I can wait till next week to have another nerd fight.
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Tim C
Fri, Feb 8, 2019, 4:32am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

@MadManMUC

"It didn't wash with the Kling-orcs and their hair (or lack thereof, and we're *still* waiting for an explanation why they were unnecessarily re-designed in the first instance)"

Did you feel this strongly when the Klingons were first redesigned in The Motion Picture? How 'bout the Romulans suddenly growing forehead loaf out of nowhere in TNG? The Tellarites from TOS through the movies through to ENT? The Andorians? etc

I mean, not every change in production style needs an in-universe explanation. TBH I still think it was a mistake for ENT to do it for the Klingons. DS9 already gave that as much on-screen explanation as it needed, which is to say none at all, because most reasonable people will just accept that trivial things like makeup are going to change over the years.

Mind you, I think it's a lot easier to accept such changes when they're accompanied by good storytelling, and most of the Klingon material in DSC has sucked so far.
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Tim C
Fri, Feb 8, 2019, 12:03am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

Time for a classic Internet Trekkie pop quiz, John Harmon: what other episode has had the UT go haywire like that? You mention Babel, but that was a different concept: a virus rewiring people's brains.

Offhand, the only times I can genuinely think of the UT being treated as a real piece of tech that could go on the fritz, rather than just being assumed to be 100% perfect in all situations (even the Delta Quadrant!), is the early struggles in Enterprise.
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Tim C
Thu, Feb 7, 2019, 11:49pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: An Obol for Charon

Hot damn, Disco! That's how you do it!

Four stars. This one had me right from the start: Rebecca Romijn's Number One is a great casting choice, and the hand-wavey dismissal of why the Enterprise doesn't have fancy holo-communicators (Pike hates them and had them completely ripped out!) brought to mind DS9's similar dismissal of the Klingon makeup change.

A bottle episode, a ticking clock, and a technobabble mystery is as vintage Star Trek as you can get, but "An Obol For Charon" juices it with some excellent character work for both Saru and Burnham, who both have honest-to-god complete arcs through the episode and finally get their relationship properly explored and defined. And I dunno about you, but I was really, genuinely moved by the scene in Saru's quarters, and that's a first for this show.

Then on top of *that* extremely solid spine, we get the return of Jet Reno! Fighting with Stamets, who is also kind of a jerk! Fun, hilarious B-story material that also looks like it's setting up the next episode's plotline, and potentially also helping resolve the question of why Starfleet retired the spore drive.

This is exactly what I've been wanting from this show: stand alone Star Trek stories with good character work that doesn't forget what happened last week. I am as pleased as punch with this episode.

Two stray thoughts: (1) The malfunctioning universal translator is such a fun concept I can't believe it's taken Star Trek several hundred episodes to get to it, and (2) Jet Reno says the chief engineer sent her down to the sporehouse. Are we ever going to meet the chief?!
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Timo47
Sun, Feb 3, 2019, 3:32pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Point of Light

I had a lot of problems with this episode. My overall problem with this show is that it's written like a soap opera. It simply jumps from one revelation to the next 'chocking' moment: Amanda stoles files, Pike decrypts classified information, Spock allegedly killed people, Tilly drops out of her training program, Voq and L’Rell have a baby, L'Rell has to give up her baby, Section 31 is interfering with Klingon affairs, and on on it goes.

While there are a few quiet scenes here and there, not a single story or character is given the time to develop. Which is ironic since this is supposed to be a more serialized series. But the error Discovery makes is that it tries to introduce and resolve some subplots like the Klingon story in a single 45 min episode. If Discovery were written more like GoT, this opposition against L'Rell is something
that would have grown slightly episode after episode until it reaches a boiling point and where it has to be resolved in an episode where it can be given the main focus. But here the problem was introduces and solved in 1 subplot out of 4 in a single episode.

It also misses opportunities by going for the "cool" factor such as with Section 31. If this had been a TOS or TNG episode, it would have been our heroes who have had to make the decision on whether to intervene in Klingon affairs or not. This could have given our characters an interesting moral dilemma: do we or don't we. If we don't, we risk the empire falling apart and a return of the war. And if they do (we are pre-TOS after all), their decision might backfire on them later in the season. It would give an opportunity to shape our characters, even let them make mistakes. It could provide debate over what is also a current hot topic of debate with the withdrawal of the US forces out of Afghanistan.
But no, all we get is Section 31 sweeping in with a mirror universe character, no questions asked.

L’Rell has to give up her baby. And this is not given a single moment of time. How are supposed to care for these characters if such pivotal moments are omitted in favor of showing decapitated heads which (again: surprise!) were not real.

There's a lot of potential in Discovery, but this show appears to be missing a show runner to guide the show and scripts in a proper direction, not unlike how Michael Piller had to come in during TNG's 3rd season to give that show its own voice.
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Tim C
Sat, Feb 2, 2019, 8:39pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Point of Light

@William D Wehrs

"Wait are you saying that Voyager and DS9 felt like the same show? I have to respectfully disagree there. DS9 was had vastly different characters than Voyagers, and vastly different plots as well."

To us fans who watched both shows and talked about them on the Internet, they were obviously hugely different. But to a more casual Trek fan, who didn't watch religiously? There was a huge sameness between them. They shared costumes, makeup, directors, producers, even background music that was remarkably consistent between the two.

We fans know that DS9's key advantage over Voyager was consistently better writing. But that's not something that as immediately obvious on the screen.

I'm just saying that the homogeneous production style of 90's Trek was surely a contributor to audiences gradually getting bored and tuning out. Even DS9, with the better writing, suffered declines. We can't blame Voyagers creative malaise entirely for the drop off in viewer interest.
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Tim C
Sat, Feb 2, 2019, 6:03am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Point of Light

@William D Wehrs

"Ultimately, however, I think the biggest problem isn't the violence, it's the feeling by many that the violence is symptomatic of a much bigger problem, that being Discovery is so concerned with flash and noise, or in this case gore, that it is losing interest in characters."

Now, there's a discussion that's actually worth having! And it's a point of view that I'm on board with. This show thus far has been leaning far harder in the action-adventure direction than some its predecessors. It is doing a much better job of it, though, in my opinion: remember what Jammer used to call the Voyager Action Insert™, where they would insert sixty seconds of pointless phaser firing into an otherwise unrelated episode, seemingly just so UPN marketers would have something to put in their promos?

How much of Discovery being such an action and plot-oriented show is a symptom of (1) executive direction, (2) creative decision-making, and (3) just the modern blockbuster-TV bandwagon, is up for debate.

But one lesson that we have definitely learned from the past, I think, is that people will get bored with Trek if it doesn't continually refresh itself: witness the declining ratings of DS9, Voyager, and finally poor unloved Enterprise. All produced largely by the same production teams in very similar styles. Berman and Braga tried very hard to course correct with Enterprise: by season 3 we were seeing the music let off the leash, more dynamic filming styles, "edgier" plots etc. But by then it was too little too late and people had moved on.

It is smart for Discovery to distinguish itself from the last era of TV Trek. Bold stylistic choices, some controversial canon meddling and modern approaches to storytelling weren't just to be expected from this show, they're practically essential if we want to have another successful run of our favourite universe.

Let's not forget, we have the new Picard show on the way soon too, and by all reports it's going to be very different in style to Discovery. Which is perfect: who knows how Voyager and DS9 would have done airing side-by-side if they hadn't felt in so many ways like the same show?

Voyager's biggest problem was trying to be TNG-lite, and then Enterprise fatally wounded itself by becoming Voyager-lite for awhile. That "copy of a copy of a copy" approach is not long-term sustainable. This new approach might be: Discovery can be our action show. Picard can be our philosophy show. Lower Decks can be our comedy. Etc. With modern shows frequently having short seasons of ten episodes or less, the old enemble-cast approach where every character gets a couple of episodes a season is not particularly viable anyway.

But they'll all be Star Trek.
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