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Trent
Mon, Sep 28, 2020, 8:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Bar Association

I've always liked the way this episode offers little sketches of life on DS9.

And so meandering about the station like a probing eye, we catch glimpses of Bajorans as they head to their religious temples. We catch Kira waiting for ale, and find Bashir and Miles heading to the holodeck dressed as warriors. Later we find them sitting on the promenade, just chilling and relaxing and spying on Quark's Bar, where they spot Worf, who seems to be having a bad day.

Meanwhile Worf is wandering about the station, missing the Enterprise, and totally oblivious to Dax, who when you rewatch the series you realize is totally in love with him from this point onwards, and who goes out of her way to help him fit in. But nope, DS9's a pain in the ass. Worf decides to sleep on the Defiant.

And on and on we languorously prowl, the stakes pleasantly low, nobody up to much. We drift into Sisko's office, who learns that Quark's employees are striking - another stupid problem for the Federation to solve! - and then to his confusion finds his chief officers in the brig. Gah! Lock them up for the night, Odo!

More neat touches abound: Sisko does some important Trek world-building, by informing us that the Federation is so "wealthy" that it collects no rents or monies from Quark (Oh no! Quark the libertarian subsidized by Big Government!). Later Worf and Miles meet up and apologize for a scuffle, and Quark replaces his staff with hologram versions of himself, much to Odo's annoyance (one Quark was enough!).

We also get some good character development, Rom abandoning Quark for life as a station engineer. Later he falls in love with Bajoran babe Leeta, who is as alienated from Bajoran culture as Rom is from his.

All these neat touches exist on the margins of a Ferrengi plot that is interesting, but ultimately wastes most of its opportunities. In this plot, Quark so mistreats his staff, that they form a union and go on strike. Rom's their leader, who gets the idea after talking to Federation officers (Miles and Bashir). Yes, DS9 is so subversive, that it starts out subverting its own subversive take on TNG's ferrengi. Not content to only turn TNG's abrasive space capitalists into loveable trolls, DS9 now has them slowly corrupted by Gene Roddenberry himself ("It's what Gene would have wanted!" you can hear the writers say). And so here the Federation literally puts ideas of unionizing and Karl Marx slogans into Rom's head. Later on in the series Rom has his son join Starfleet, Quark increasingly grows to love the Feds, and hanging around Sisko and the gang starts the Ferrengi on the path of women's rights. The Federation just can't help corrupting every culture it touches.

Most of the comments above seem to hate the Rom vs Quark plot here. I thought it was the right mix of cute comedy and serious social message. But there's no serious critique of capitalism and its myriad contradictions here, and the episode wastes time by introducing the Ferengi Commerce Authority (FCA), who give the writers a get-out-of-jail-free card by forcing labor and capital to form an alliance in their attempts to deceive it. The episode does end with Rom winning - he gets a pay rise for the staff - but it's a victory which is too consoling, and ultimately sells a lie; the idea that issues of class, poverty, and exploitation can ever be ameliorated in aggregate by "good bosses", and that the latter can exist without negative knock-on effects elsewhere in the system.

Incidentally, I found it neat that the Bajoran Time of Cleansing, in which Bajoran's fast and renounce biochemical pleasures for a month, brings about the fall of Quarks. Quark's little economy relies on a kind of dissatisfaction. His customers are incomplete, hungry, thirsty, chasing hedonistic highs and the next new hit, so much so that religious peace, self-satisfaction and contentment, ruins his customer base and puts him out of business (under capitalism, the most radical thing you can do is be satisfied).

I also heard that Trek legend Jeffery Combs was in this episode, but couldn't spot him anywhere. I had to use Google to find out where he was hiding (in plain sight, it turns out).
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Trent
Mon, Sep 28, 2020, 4:55pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Sons of Mogh

I think this episode wastes a great idea and a good script.

You never get the sense that Worf's brother is suicidal. You never get the sense that he is alienated not only from Klingon society, but life in general. There should have been more scenes of the brother trying to hold down a "degrading", "dishonorable job". More scenes of him being belittled and disgraced by Klingons. More scenes of him absolutely disgusted with how his life turned out. It's an episode about suicide and self-hate which doesn't sell the idea of why this guy is suicidal and filled with loathing.

Worf's empathy for his brother should also be milked more. Worf's the ultimate outcast, banished from Klingon society, and ill-at-ease with humans. He should ache and bleed for his brother, and intimately know how much pain his bro is in. But you don't quite sense this brotherly love. It's there, but it's not pushed hard enough.

The episode culminates with a great idea, and what should be a powerful moment - Worf helps his brother commit suicide again, this time by wiping his memory - but the emotional climax doesn't quite come off. This should be a brutally tragic ending, supremely powerful, but it sort of goes by with a shrug.

As others have said, Bashir should also not have administered the "memory suicide". Worf should have been forced to go the black market route.

Still, it's a very good episode, and the Kira subplot is pretty great; she and Miles hunt a Klingon fleet which is busy mining Bajoran/Cardassian space. Using the Defiant, they flush the Klingon's out, leading to some neat visuals along the way.

I can't help but feel, though, that this subplot gets in the way of fleshing out the Worf story. When TNG gave Worf a suicide episode, I don't recall it getting distracted with elaborate subplots.
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Trent
Sun, Sep 27, 2020, 7:07am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Sword of Kahless

Elliot said: "I should have proofread that post. A bit rushed today, sorry. "

I think I beat you to most typos on this page. Sorry for the bad grammar above, this episode had me in a rush to get my thoughts down while the episode was fresh in my mind.
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Trent
Sun, Sep 27, 2020, 7:01am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Sword of Kahless

I think this episode's tonal shift, which begins after the sword is discovered, puts people off. This episode starts off as an expansive adventure and then abruptly turns into a claustrophobic two-man show, which can be jarring.

But think if you prepare yourself for this - watch the episode and come back to it some years later - "Sword of Kahless" plays better, and I would tend to lean toward Jammer's positive review of the episode (though I wouldn't call it great), and the user "Truth Be Told", who I think left an interesting review here in 2016.

Some complain that Worf behaves out of character, but there are TOS episodes where Kirk acts a bit out of character too. You just treat them as little standalone allegories. I think you can cut Worf some slack here too.

But I don't think you need to. Worf started becoming a jerk midway in TNG. He turns into a kind of hyper-conservative Klingon traditionalist, believing in various quasi-religious stuff and increasingly obsessed with restoring the Empire to his ideal conception. And so when faced with Kor, a man who brags, who exaggerates everything, who's always drunk, who slays lowly cave rats, who doesn't embody what Worf, a kid who spent his life outside the Empire and idealizes his People, believes A True Klingon Should Be, he naturally lashes out.

Worf doesn't just have a sword, he has the power to choose what the future of the Klingon Empire looks like. He has the power to reshape and redefine his people. And so when seeing that he may be putting a drunken oaf on the throne, I think it's natural that, in his mind - a mind perverted by Klingon superstition and myth and tales of personal honor - he becomes obsessed with putting forth himself as The Ideal Klingon. Who else knows what's best for a nation that one who resents a nation for not being what he envisions it should be?

I thought the second half of this episode had many interesting scenes. I liked the ledge scene, for example, and its ambiguity; was the ledge too small, or was Kor exaggerating yet again? Don't both Klingon's see in the ledge what they want to see?

I also liked Worf's revelation that he intends to bring the sword to the Emperor. I found that quite chilling and deliciously dark. Having always viewed Worf as a bit of a dope, I thought drawing out this twisted side of him worked well.

I thought Jax was excellent throughout. Terry's acting chops aren't the best, but the character's always fun, and I liked seeing her bash Klingon's about.

She also, in this episode, embodies the Federation's role as galactic peacekeeper. She comes across two Alien Factions threatening to kill one another, and solves the problem like some kind of Trekkian King Soloman. Stun both of them with a phaser and throw the sword away: no toys for anybody!

I thought this episode missed a big trick by discussing who might actually be worthy of the sword, leading the Empire, and worthy of the political backing this entails. Who would the Federation as a political body want to install? Who would the Federation give the sword too? If Sisko was on that runabout, he'd probably secretly beam that sword back aboard and then give it to Starfleet Intelligence or Section 31. But the sword is never treated as useful political capital in this episode, it's never discussed tactically by the Feds as something that might be used for the galactic good, or peace.

Part of this is because a very specific type of tale is being told (a parable about the corruption influence of power; "Lord of the Rings" on a microbudget, or a retelling of the John Houston classic, "Treasure of the Sierra Madre"), which is fine, but a more interesting angle would have included the Federation's opinions on the matter. And is it right for the Federation to meddle in this way for the greater good?

That's a future Trek script for you right there; a Federation ship finds the floating sword and debates about how to use it to install a pro-Federation Klingon regime.
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Trent
Sat, Sep 26, 2020, 11:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: The Ship

Jason R said: "I think I will take the British Empire over the Nazis particularly speaking as a Jew but we will have to agree to disagree buddy."

That's like saying you'd take the French killing 15 million in the Congo, or the Brits killing hundreds of millions elsewhere, over 6 million slaughtered Jews.

Regardless, my point was that you can't make that choice. The Empire's were inextricably bound, and the entrenchment of the successful Empires over long periods of time (the British Empire controlled a quarter of all land on Earth at this point) influenced the logic and brutality of Imperial Germany in a condensed period of time. Each influenced the behaviors of the other. Protracted violence breeds explosive counter violence. In this regard the historian Adam Tooze once described Imperial Germany as a balloon trying to expand into Africa. It gets barred from expanding, gets squeezed back upwards and explodes against its neighbors.

Peter said: "what the Nazis did was so unbelievable to the allies that they literally did not imagine it was going on"

Why would you expect the Allies, who couldn't imagine the crimes committed in their own colonies, in their own names, whose citizens had no idea of the blood spilled to produce their sugar, coffee and silk, to conceive of Hitler's crimes?

History teaches us a big lesson about human psychology. Cycles of violence don't happen because people fail to learn from history, rather, people repress history because they perpetuate cycles of violence. Behavior tends to precede belief, belief tends to be a post hoc rationalization of what you already do, and both limit what you allow yourself to know.

Peter said: "and a view of accepted values as they shifted between the early 1800's and the mid 1900's."

You seem to be arguing that "Germany's Imperialism is worse" because it "occurred at a time when everyone knew Imperialism was bad". I was arguing, however, that it is hypocritical to condemn Germany's Imperialism and not the Imperialism which preceded it, and which it was reacting against, and it is dangerous to offer "more Imperialism" as the solution to the Imperialists we don't like.

Regardless, the Allies did not really "shift their values". In the mid 1950s in Kenya, for example, well after Hitler's camps were exposed, the Brits put the entire civilian population in "work camps"; one and a half million people locked up and surrounded by troops. Meanwhile, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the French were massacring one and a half million in Algeria, and displacing about 2 million. And of course then there's America's record.

So the idea that the Allies were "bad in the 1800s", but "changed their ways", "became forces of good", "defeated the nasty Hitler" and "continued being good" is silly. They seemed good 'cos they had nothing more to conquer. They reverted to type when those they conquered tried to break free.

Peter said: "but NO ONE could have made them what they were other than themselves."

IMO like James you're ascribing a kind of autonomy and free-will to people and nations that doesn't exist in the real world.

Japan was highly cloistered and isolationist from about the 1600s to the 1850s. They minded their own business. The Americans rolled up with gunboats and soldiers and forcibly opened it up for trade. They installed a central bank, debt based currencies, a bureaucratic class, signed trade treaties, opened up ports and kick-started severe reforms. Only then did Japan have its industrial revolution, and in the space of a generation become super Westernized. Feudal workers turned into wage laborers.

The rapid social and cultural changes caused by this - a rapid transition from feudalism to capitalism, subsistence crops to export goods, traditional roles and customs obliterated by a new economy - caused a big backlash. This directly led to the "Showa Restoration" of the 1890s, a kind of hyper-conservative, hyper-nationalist movement which stressed Tradition (Trump in a kimono). All social ills were blamed on the West. Americans were deemed a corrupting parasite. Then a major Great Depression hit, Japan's debts piled up (mass banking collapses in the 20s), and it had no markets to expand into (the big Empires placed trade strictures, barred it from trade deals with China etc). Because its market had been transformed - once self sufficient, now reliant on imports of raw materials that now never came - it started to suffer. Then in the mid 1920s the US made it sign treaties limiting its military power - which the Japanese viewed as an insult and attack, like the Germans and Versailles - and American expansion began to ramp up in the Asia-Pacific, coinciding with increasingly stricter sanctions.

So like Germany you had a country feeling surrounded, feeling dictated to, feeling torn from its past, impoverished, locked into a grow-or-die economy that struggled to access even its nearest markets, and turning to a hyper-nationalistic leader or ideology. The Japanese didn't choose these conditions.

Now you can say Germany and Japan "choose militarism" instead of shrinking back down and kowtowing to the bigger fish. Sure. But the point of this discussion is that nobody ever asks the bigger fish to do the same; to act more like the Federation. And in DS9, even the Federation doesn't first act like the Federation.
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Trent
Sat, Sep 26, 2020, 8:14pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: The Assignment

I thought "The Assignment" was an excellent episode, and the most fun and briskly paced episode since the season's premiere.

I think it helps if you view the episode as a trashy 1980s Brian De Palma psycho-thriller, or one of those cheesy early 90s Hollywood potboilers about crazy wives. It's pure bombastic schlock and knows it.

And so Keiko arrives on DS9 and IMMEDIATELY REVEALS SHE IS AN ALIEN DEMON!!! Any other Trek episode would slowly drop hints and draw this out, but no, "The Assignment" leaps straight into absolutely over-the-top mayhem, the possessed Keiko falling to the deck and foaming at the mouth.

She then quickly gives Miles an ultimatum - "Do as I say or I kill myself and so your wife!" - and we're off. The episode spends the next 40 minutes watching as poor Miles is tortured yet again. The alien threatens him, threatens his wife and even their innocent little daughter. It's so devilishly twisted, so proudly ridiculous. And I enjoyed reading on Memory Alpha that the writers dubbed this another "Miles Must Suffer!" episode; DS9 created it's own Trek subgenre dedicated to abusing poor Miles.

The direction is taut and tight by DS9 standards, and Miles is given one very good scene after the other. Rosalind Chao's acting as Keiko's is a revelation, and this episode arguably contains her best acting in the franchise.

As a bonus, the episode contains a touching subplot involving Rom. One of DS9's more interesting arcs continues here, Rom revealed to be a gifted engineer and promising Starfleet officer. Of all DS9's subversive jabs at TNG, its handling of the Ferrengi probably worked out best; DS9 sympathizes with the big-earred aliens and turns most of its key Ferrengi into characters loyal to Starfleet. In this regard, I thought the parallels between Miles devotion to Keiko, and Rom's devotion to Miles, were touching.

I would say the episode has three flaws. Firstly, a brief but goofy scene where Miles knocks out Odo, and secondly, the resolution in which the villain is hastily dispatched by lightning. Luckily the episode is so brisk, these silly bits fly past fast. The more lingering problem is the nature of the episode's villain: she's a Pah-Wraith from the Firecaves of Bajor. That's a can of worms that should have never been unlocked, and it's unlocked here.
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Trent
Sat, Sep 26, 2020, 8:49am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: The Ship

Jason said: "Frankly I am a little surprised at you agreeing with Trent's borderline equivalence between Nazis and allies - you always seem more hardcover anti fascist in these situations."

German Imperialism of the early 20th century - barred by the other Empires from pillaging Africa, and expanding at home - was but the Imperialism of the Allies squeezed into a shorter, more violent time-frame.

And so while there are obvious differences between Naziism and the Allies, their capacity for evil was the same. The British Empire killed over a billion in India during the Raj. The French and Brits were raping Africa and the West Indies (and even after WW2, these Empires fought long and bloody campaigns to avoid relinquishing these colonial holdings to subjects they once treated as Hitler treated the Jews). Everyone was raping Indonesia. The Americans were wreaking havoc in Latin America and China (later they'd drop more bombs on Vietnam than Hitler ever constructed), the latter carved up along with the French and Brits. The Japanese wouldn't have become techno-fascists if not for the forced market reforms of the Americans. The Aussies were raping the Aborigines, the Kiwi the Maoris, and the Allies of course had marriages of convenience with psychos like Stalin, and various Middle Eastern puppet monarchs, the latter of which would lead to a further century of inconvenient problems. And as late as the dawn of the 20th century, places like Canada were still massacring native Indians.

There are countless other examples (and counter-examples: the Imperialism of the Axis and Allies in some places "positively" introduced practices with overthrew barbaric customs of indigenous peoples, either directly - the white man banning the practice of sati [widow burning] in India or the caste system in Nigeria, or indirectly, like Hitler's Naziism "leading" to emancipation movements which toppled British/French colonies).

Anyway, my point was simply that the idea that Imperialistic Fascism is beat with the arms, resources and power won through violence, murder, plunder and exploitation, is the wrong lesson to draw from WW2. If Imperialism is largely caused by economic factors, and how these factors intersect with ethnocentric, political and religious factors, then you stop it by more, not less, "Federation values". More sharing, more caring and more understanding. And you keep an a-bomb in your back pocket just in case as a last resort ("But if you have an a-bomb? Why share and care? Why not Take!").

I always thought a more interesting DS9 would have contrasted how citizens under the Federation live to that of the Dominion. Imagine a Changeling envoy being granted asses to Federation worlds ("See, we don't hate or persecute! We even have many non solid members: here, meet Ambassador H20 of Aquawet IV!). That would be pretty cool.

You can still have your traditional war story afterwards. But take the time to first show how the Feds differ from historical Empires. Otherwise, what's the lesson?
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Trent
Sat, Sep 26, 2020, 7:11am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Nor the Battle to the Strong

Surprised Jammer gave this one 4 stars.

I like the core idea of this episode. I like the idea of Jake as a Norman Mailer/Hemmingway/James Jones type, immersing himself in combat for a story, and coming out irrevocably changed.

I like the low-key exaltation of Bashir and the other medics, who put themselves at risk and through hell to save lives.

I liked the last scene, where Jake exposes himself and so his cowardice through his writing, and receives praise from his father; good art, and emotional honesty, are their own kind of bravery.

There's also a great scene with Bashir, who immediately takes control of the situation when he sees an unhinged Jake snapping at some joking doctors. Once he takes Jake aside, Bashir then immediately softens, and attempts to help the troubled kid.

(I feel the episode missed a trick by not having a little scene between Bashir and Sisko. It would be interesting to see how Sisko reacts to Bashir appologising for endangering his son.)

But while this episode might play well on paper, or as a radio play, and while it has some really powerful scenes, I think the direction and production design let it down tremendously.

The underground sets look hokey, almost all of the secondary cast act poorly (a few nurses aside), and the director's attempts at "gritty medical turmoil" feel like a cheap knock-off of a 1990s ER episode. The attempts at combat are similarly hokey, with exploding puffs of smoke/powder, Jake and Bashir's comical falling, dopey falling rocks, and clownish Klingons.

There's also an odd WW1 or WW2 vibe to the episode, characters not quite behaving like far-future medics and soldiers. And most of the episode's scenes are the kind of generic fare war movie buffs know inside out.

This material can look better - the famous director Sam Fuller specialized in making low budget war films and morality plays like this, all effective on a shoestring budget, largely thanks to tough, spare scripts - and should have been tightened up.

The danger, though, is that in dressing episodes like this up, you lose a very special aspect of Trek. You want the theatricality of an episode like this, the stageyness, the stiltedness, the heightened power that a certain abstractness engenders in the audience. But this abstractness is add odds with realistic, gritty, literal portrayals of combat. The styles don't mesh. So how should you film a script like this?

Kurtzman Trek would gloss an episode like this up with bombastic music, camera work, slicks effects and action, and IMO this would lead to something much worse.

I think a better approach would have been to strip this script down further. Don't let anyone go outside the caves. Don't show any outside combat. Set everything underground, black the lights out in the caves and tunnels and have the action unfold in the feeble pockets of light afforded by little candles and lamps. Have injured folk constantly beaming into the underground outpost - a never-ending march of the dead and dying, which troubles Jake - and film the medical action in silence, with more Jake voice-overs.

For excitement, have the Klingon's constantly advancing through the tunnels and being met with technobabble armored doors. The Feds hold a door, fail, and fall back to hold another, the Klingons slowly closing on the last door and so the medical outpost.

Unless you're a Sam Fuller or a Kubrick (think Paths of Glory), you ain't gonna shoot impressive ground combat on a shoe-string TV budget. So why try? To this episode's credit, it knows this, and wisely to focus on psychology, and the effects of combat, but it needs to be tighter. And you can't constantly be breaking up the narrative momentum with scenes on DS9 of guys talking about decaffeinated coffee.
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Trent
Fri, Sep 25, 2020, 3:36am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Looking for Par'mach in All the Wrong Places

This episode seems pretty popular with everyone. My feelings were more in line with William's big review above: I thought Quark's little story was fine, but generally unimpressed with the other three. Kira and Miles are out of character, like giggling schoolkids, and while there's no chance of a 90s trek show portraying this, I thought their tale would have worked better as a straight tale about swinging and polyamorous relationships.

Dax is one is my favorite characters, but I never bought her relationship with Worf, which begins here (I'm interested in seeing if my opinions of them change during this rewatch).

Yes, in a way, they make sense as a couple. Worf's never as traditional as he likes to think he is, and she likes being transgressive and has a fondness for the exotic. Worf's dopey, offensive, stick-in-the-mud traits might also be deemed hot to a scientist who sees beyond them to their root causes. Still, I never got the sense that there was chemistry between them.

Julian and Odo seem just a bit out of character here as well. Odo's oddly judgemental, and Julian seems to revert to his season 1 horniness.

As others have said, the Quark-arc is the best thing about this episode. I also like the episode's willingness - and DS9's willingness in general - to be extremely low-key. Ds9 was proud of its "nothing much is happening today on the quadrant's most immobile station" stabs at banality.

More than any Trek show, it favors the slow burn, the long sentence, and gives carte blanche to a certain type of writerly indulgence. Where TOS and TNG strip things down and refine their writing to a point, DS9 finds a comfy couch and sprawls itself out, languishing and languid.
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Trent
Thu, Sep 24, 2020, 6:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: The Ship

Peter said: "I guess I wouldn't have minded that, but personally showing airtime of futile negotiations with essentially Hitler would cast the Federation perpetually in the role of Chamberlain, which is not flattering."

But the lesson of WW2 is not "Be more like Churchill and less like Chamberlain". It's that Churchillian thinking throughout the 1800s led to two World Wars. To solve the problems caused by Churchillian thinking, everyone then doubled down on Churchillian thinking, leading to an even worse quagmire and even more deaths. Similar logic would stretch the wars in Indochina and on terrorism.

If DS9's Dominion serves as a stand in for 20th century Axis powers (Japan/Italy/Germany etc), what exactly is the lesson to be had here? That they can only be stopped with equal and opposite military might? But how did the Allies acquire this military might? By the very same exploitation and Imperialism that fomented the hyper-Imperialism of their enemies.

DS9 had three options when transposing a WW2 allegory to space. One that whitewashes the historical realities and complexities of the period to give a consoling cartoon (Good Allies vs Bad Axis, which DS9 does), one that critiques the Federation - and by extension contemporary audiences - by showing the Federation making mistakes which trigger or make the war worse, or one which goes to lengths to show Why and How the Federation is not like Us, even when forced into a war.

For the latter two, all the show needed was a few episodes which took the time to show the Federation making smart attempts to avoid war, negotiate, and learn about the Dominion, or a few episodes that make it clear that Federation actions are stoking Dominion hate and paranoia, before relationships break down.

Peter said: "I blatantly disagree with those who call the Federation complicit in Tain's attack on the Founders."

The Federation proved the Dominion right. They provide intel to Romulans, who they have a treaty with, who then use this intel to attack the Founder homeworld, whilst the Federation admiral, who hopes the attack succeeds, orders Sisko to not pursue the Romulan fleet.

Imagine the same situation in TNG. The Federation discover the Klingons, a hyper militaristic race. The Galaxy class ship the Federation send into Klingon space gets shot down. The Klingons say don't go there again. The Federation go there again repeatedly. The Federation give their intel on the Klingon homeworld to the Romulans and the Cardassians. Picard learns that the Romulans and Cardassians are gonna attack the planet. Picard, realizing that this is wrong, informs the Klingons, or urges the attackers not to do it, or tells Starfleet about it. At the very least, Picard doesn't act surprised when the Klingons then decide the Federation are an enemy.

Peter said: "The Federation is not a Dominion ally and has *no* right or reason to intercede on their behalf when being attacked by a foreign power."

Imagine the CIA learning that rogue intelligence committees in France and Germany, using CIA data, are planning to detonate an atomic bomb in Moscow with enough power to wipe out the entire nation. America isn't at war with Moscow, and Russia has not attacked France or Germany and has not declared war on them. What's the moral thing to do? According to DS9, it's sit back and hope Moscow burns.

The Federation have hundreds of years worth of data on wars, fascists and militarism. They know the Founders are racist, paranoid a-holes. They should be aggressively doing four things from season 3 onwards: teching up at the wormhole, arming themselves to the teeth, avoiding the gamma quadrant like a plague, bending over backwards to be friendly with the Founders, making all kinds of concessions, and working double-time on a defense alliance with the Cardassians. The Federation should be pursuing Cold War tactics (contain, out-spend, out-build, and dont engage), not their wackily cavalier attitude.

Peter said: "Other than that, all of these "incursions" into Dominion space by Sisko, the Federation, Vulcans, Bajorans, etc, were labeled *by the Dominion* as aggressions, but the show is very clear that they are nothing of the sort. The Dominion essentially claimed to have annexed the entire Gamma Quadrant, which if you realize the scale of that is utterly preposterous."

The Federation honors similar claims by the Klingons and Romulans, and the Dominion is roughly the same size as the Romulan Empire, which the Federation gives a similar wide berth. The Federation has plenty of other space to go exploring. When a giant Space Empire tells you to stay away, you stay away until you're fleet, intel and defenses are ready to back up your incursions.

Ignoring all these details, turns the show into what exactly? A condemnation of Baddies who go out looking for Space Lebensraum? DS9 want's its contemporary western audience to denounce land grabs? But a western audience brought up on Manifest Destiny and Good War mythology watches DS9 and doesn't get a lesson in the dangers of colonialism, it gets a lesson in the evils of colonialists who don't look like us. It's wrong when the Other does it. Not us.


Peter said: "But that's not how territory rights and borders work, which in real life must be negotiated (or won at the point of a gun). You only 'own everything' if no one can stop you."

In a way, this goes to show how twisted DS9 can be. Star Trek, a utopian show about a Federation that evolved beyond contemporary property rights and norms (you'd think they'd be all about sharing and relinquishing material and territorial possessions), devolves into a pissing match between an alien's property claims and the Federation's desire to have more stuff?

Yes, property rights are arbitrary and largely enforced by force. Knowing this, the Federation should back off until armed to the teeth. They are only at the wormhole to protect Bajor. By stoking the Dominion, they're risking the Dominion retaliating, traveling through the wormhole and attacking the first Federation protectorate they can find. The Federation are jeopardizing their chief reason for being by the wormhole.

Peter said: "From that standpoint the series in no way IMO shows reciprocal provocation from both sides."

You don't get to define what constitutes provocation, though. This is an alien race, with alien baggage, alien laws, alien mores, alien feelings, alien history, and an alien fear of being eradicated by alien solids. Your Federation laws, mores and opinions are irrelevant. If they tell you you're being provocative, you're being provocative. You're then faced with a choice: is exploring the Gamma Quadrant worth triggering a war, either earlier than would have been triggered, or at all.

Peter said: "This is the real Federation as we know it, confronted with a bully."

The Federation should be expert at dealing with bullies by now. They've seen how this kind of stuff played out with the Romulans and Klingons. They should have whole rooms full of supercomputers dishing out gigabytes worth of smarter tactics. There should be hundreds of undercover anthropologists dressed up as Vorta, JemHadar and Changelings all over the Dominion finding stuff out. Starfleet should have that wormhole decked out like a Christmas tree full of quantum torpedoes. Empok Nor should have been dragged to the wormhole and armed to the teeth. There should be a team of Betazed empath ninjas forcing Changelings to experience the suffering of their subjects.
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Trent
Thu, Sep 24, 2020, 10:09am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: The Ship

Ira Behr did the introduction to a DS9 Technical Manual book in the 1990s, and in it gave his one line summary of the show: "technology changes, but humans won't". I always considered this a glib, dishonest and reactionary answer. And it's an answer DS9 can only sell by withholding information, rigging its little dramatic dilemmas, and turning a blind eye to very specific things.

And so in this episode, you have Sisko and a Founder fighting over a crashed Dominion ship. They fight, people die, and we get a sentimental coda which espouses a message typical of war films: war is bad, sad, but ultimately unavoidable because of human predilections, whilst footsoldiers themselves must sadly die for commanders, who take on the White Man's Buden to make tough choices so others don't have it. War? *sigh* Whatcha going to do?

To justify this kind of philosophical shrug, you have to basically renounce science, rationalism, and any kind of forensic look at the Dominion/Federation war. You have to ignore the Federation working with the Cardassians and Romulans to genocide the Founder homeworld. You have to ignore Sisko constantly sending cloaked warships and runabouts into or near Dominion space. You have to ignore, in this episode, him appealing to 17th century human salvage rights to justify stealing another Empire's crashed ship.

The Dominion are brutal tyrants. In this episode they fire at and destroy a runabout without provocation. Sisko is right not to lay down arms and trust them in this episode. But the Dominion are also "right" in their madness; the Federation and its "allies" have tried to wipe them out. Have been encroaching on their space. Given this, and given their past history with solids, declaring Federation travel through the wormhole off limits, and sending Changeling spies to spy on and meddle with the Federation, and then escalating into outright war, makes some kind of sense.

What makes no sense is the Federation, a body with centuries of experience, and countless military, ambassadorial, scientific, psychological and sociological experts, nonchalantly dancing about the Dominion like 20th century Imperial strongmen.

In its drive to make war seem inevitable, discussion naive, diplomacy a dead end and compromise and coexistance a pipe-dream, DS9 has to make the Federation look stupid, incompetent and callous. And because the Federation represents us in contemporary times, this necessarily means we the viewers are also stupid. It makes our political/philosophical approach to war stupid. But DS9 is not critqing human stupidity. It is not wagging a finger at us or contemporary society. No, DS9 is praising this stupidity and couching it in "tough choices" and "pragmatism".

And because DS9 never properly critiques the Federation, never accuses it of failing to explore other options or tactics, never even shows these options being explored, and instead tricks you into accepting conflict as an inevitable consequence of choices the Federation and Dominion had no choice but to make, it makes its audience complicit in the stupidity.

From season 4 onwards, it becomes increasingly harder to watch the Dominion/Federation arc. It's like watching two dopey cultures interact. Not once is the Federation meaningfully critiqued. Not once are Sisko's dubious choices countered, challenged or seen to have ramifications. In its headlong rush to have big CGI armadas trading blows, everyone has to act as stupidly as possible.

Ira Behr is not wrong in wanting a pessimistic show. But that pessimism is rarely earned and is often got to by cheating and cutting corners. Behr is also not wrong to deem relations with the Dominion to be futile. But try anyway, show why it's futile. Just one or two episodes. And at the very least, if you're hellbent on portraying things as inherently futile, then make the logical leap to the next step: meaningfully prepare for war early. Secure the wormhole, rig it sooner with mines, park a Fed fleet over Bajor and maybe even send lots of covert Fed teams to try and emancipate conquered Dominion races. Why does a Federation that has access to Genesis devices, and that repeatedly thwarted the Borg, struggle to lock down a single wormhole?

Anyway, this episode contains two good scenes, both which involve Sisko angry, sweaty and barking orders. The episode's core idea - the Alamo in miniature - is good, but the script is slack, lacks tension or conflict, and the relationship between the Vorta and Sisko rather dull. Worf and Dax also act woefully out of character in this episode, and I don't buy them falling apart so easily. Worf's hounding of OBrian is particularly ridiculous.
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Trent
Wed, Sep 23, 2020, 4:58am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: The Road Not Taken

Seth MacFarlane on Star Trek and NuTrek: https://youtu.be/zKNEQsmvnVM
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Trent
Tue, Sep 22, 2020, 10:18pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Broken Link

I've always regarded this as a poor and very overrated episode.

Yes, the idea of Odo losing his "molecular cohesiveness" and "slowly dying" is good. Yes, almost every scene with Garak is excellent. Yes, the climax in which Gowron is apparently revealed to be a shapeshifter, is exciting. Yes, Quark's relationship with Odo is once again seen to be quite touching.

But there are too many poor decisions. The Founders allowing the Defiant to park above their homeworld is nonsensical. They should put Odo and Sisko in a Dominion ship, keep them in locked quarters, travel secretly to the homeworld and then beam them down. Taking the Defiant - and using a hokey "location blocker" which simply plugs into a bridge console - is unbelievable, especially when the episode goes to lengths to point out how a single ship has the ability to raze the entire planet.

Sisko's taking of the Defiant is itself a bad move. You don't want to accidentally instigate a war with the Dominion. You want their medical help. Send a runabout instead. And if you do take the Defiant, don't take Garak with you.

The Founders "punishing Odo by turning him human" is also a bad move. The series increasingly shunts Odo into a Little Mermaid arc, when it should have gone a twisted Beauty and the Beast route. Make him hopelessly pine for Kira, and Kira be romantically repulsed by him. We know from DS9's final seasons that finally bringing them together doesn't work. It leads only to a sitcomy, forced romance between two characters with no romantic chemistry.

As with most of later DS9, this episode also contains many scenes in which Big Bad Villains stand about and deliver Bad Guy dialogue. Unfortunately the Founders, the Jem'hadar, the Vorta, the Breen etc are all cartoon-level characters whose dialogue always feels like cartoon-level dialogue. This series' always sidelines its more interesting adversaries - the Romulans, the Cardassians, the Klingons and even the Bajorans - for the comparatively weaker Dominion, who always work best when they are faceless, off screen, implied, undercover or in the margins.

Give a Klingon or a Cardassian verbal scenery to chew, and they will chew it. There's a certain theatrical pomp and pageantry a Klingon or Cardie gives you. But put a Founder in front of Odo and get her talking about Great Links, Conquest and Evil Solids, and you just end up with hokey material played straight.
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Trent
Tue, Sep 22, 2020, 9:44pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Apocalypse Rising

90's Trek had the most awesome, scenery chewing Klingons. You have Gowron with his bulging eyes, the always-cranky Martok, Kor the Dahar Master, Christopher Plumber's Shakespeare quoting General Chang. And now in this episode you have Avery Brooks giving his deliciously angry take on the Klingons. He seems to relish being able to cut loose.

As others have said about, this episode is fun but flawed. It was nice seeing Gul Dukat still in possession of a Bird of Prey. The Klingon planet, and the fleets over it, look great. Some of the Klingon dialogue is excellent. The episode's core idea is also very good.

What hampers things are those ridiculous orb devices which our heroes "covertly" place on statues in order to detect Changelings. It's such a dopey looking action sequence, and such a silly-looking device. Why would a advanced organization like Starfleet use such cumbersome devices for covert operations. And why a ball? Those things keep rolling away whenever you place them down.

The episode's perfunctory ending is also a bit weak - Odo discovers Martok's identity too easily - but I like the (albeit now primitive) CGI effect when Martok lashes out with his tentacle hand. There's something shocking and alien about it. A kind of unexpected, ontological shock to the system.
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Trent
Tue, Sep 22, 2020, 9:17pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Quickening

Is this the only episode where Dax and Julian are given an entire episode alone on a planet together? They rarely seem paired together on a scientific away mission, which is a shame, as they work so wonderfully well together.

In a way, this episode also offers a nicely minimalistic portrait of the Federation: two blue-shirts alone and doing their science thing, trying to help a less technologically advanced culture in need of aid. This episode just epitomizes a certain Trek ethos.

Apparently DS9's regular set designers were off shooting the First Contact Movie, so other set designers stepped in for this episode. The results are special, with this episode arguably having the best matte-paintings and landscape-composite shots of 90s Trek. The episode's "alien village" sets are also impressive, with their odd buildings and sloped, rubble strewn streets, everything off kilter or on the verge of collapse.

As Jammer says in his review, the episode's script isn't that surprising, isn't that original, and yet everything just clicks together so well. Rene's relatively fresh direction, and the fresh production design, seems to gel well with a wonderfully bare-bones script (too bad there weren't fresh musical composers).

The stripped down nature of the episode also lends it a heightened quality, very abstract and almost mythic, Bashir the western hero wondering into a desert town to do battle with just his tricorder and hypospray.

Incidentally, watching Bashir here had me wondering where I'd rank him amongst my favorite Trek doctors. Bones is first place, of course, but I'd put Bashir second. Ignore his super-power reveal - DS9 eventually character assassinates all its characters - and he has a nice little arc, the wide-eyed frontier doctor who matures from booksmart rookie into a model, battle-hardened Starfleet officer.

Voyager's EMH I'd place third. He had more great Doctor Episodes than any other Trek doctor, and he's acted with more flair and gusto, but it's hard to relate to a rude, wise-cracking, neurotic hologram.

I'd place Crusher third. I liked her grace and quiet style. Her private dinners and conversations with Picard were always cool. But she rarely had anything to do, and only had one great episode dedicated to her.

Still, that's four distinct, great-in-their-own-way Trek Doctor's in a row. Not a bad track record for a franchise.

Next game doctor Phlox, of course. I never warmed to him. Always seemed like but a polite version of the EMH, and the aesthetics of his infirmary always irked me. Still, he arguably got "Enterprise's" best directed episode ("Dear Doctor", its moral implications aside).
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Trent
Mon, Sep 21, 2020, 10:37am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: I, Mudd

Trish said: "I'm not one to believe that message myself. Oh, sure, striving to overcome hardship has a certain value, but paradise would sure be nice. "

That was more a TOS trope, and a common trope found in the science fiction of the era. And so - typical of the zeitgeist of the time - Kirk's always railing against tyranny, fascists, hippies, techno-authoritarians, commies, utopians, with a kind of vague conception of 1960s, ruggedly individualistic western democracy covertly held up as the best of all worlds.

A strong skepticism of technology also runs through TOS. Cribbing from 1940s-50s science fiction, it promotes the idea that too much technology, and too many creature comforts, leads to stagnation, a kind of blind stupor, minds no longer challenged. In this way it flirts with a kind of Darwinian worldview (the old fascist credo, "hard times make better men"), but gets away with it because the Federation ultimately comes across as fairly egalitarian. Struggle is fine when you're base comforts are comfortably met.

TNG tends to be far less tech and/or utopia phobic. Indeed a lot of TNG plots reverse the messages of TOS plots. Men don't go crazy when granted power, androids are friendly, people infected with technology become better people etc. The skepticism of tech was still there (The Game, the Borg), but generally more even handed.
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Trent
Mon, Sep 21, 2020, 10:11am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Our Man Bashir

I thought this episode's central idea - saving people's lives by holding them in a holosuite - was a great one. That the saved folk intrude upon the private fantasies of the rather reserved Julian Bashir, is even better.

But I don't think the episode's holo-adventure is clever enough or funny enough to exploit these cool ideas. We've had decades of Bond parodies, and this episode never elevates itself above them. A big problem, I think, is because Garak is relegated to a background role. More interesting to have him actively trying to solve the holo-adventure, and contrast his "realistic" approach to solving the game, and spying and espionage in general, to that of Julian's fantastical Jame's Bond character. Have Garak be the hero. Have Julian learn from a real master. If you have a climax in which a bad guy gives a long winded Evil Villain speech, it's got to be a famously long-winded Cardassian giving the monologue! Not Sisko!

Everyone complains about the ridiculous first act of this episode, in which Sisko's brain is essentially too big to store inside DS9's computers. I'm surprised Ronald Moore didn't fix this problem with some technobabble and tweaking.

Instead of an exploding runabout, for example, you can just have the episode's terrorists be hackers who've introduced a virus into DS9's Starfleet computers which identify the transporter logs of high ranking Federation officers, and immediately deletes them. The quick-thinking Miles then dumps Sisko and the gang into Quark's holodeck, which exists safely off the grid.

No need for DS9 to blackout, no need for a transporter log of a human to be incredulously big.
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Trent
Sun, Sep 20, 2020, 8:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Accession

IMO this is an excellent episode, handing big issues in a nice, quiet, pleasantly low-key way. But then I've always preferred DS9's Bajor/Federation episodes to the Dominion/Federation stuff. The Bajoran villains always seemed sneakier, and more interesting, relevant and plausible, than the Dominion and their various underlings.

I agree with the positive comments above, and also the various criticisms voiced by folk like William and Elliot. But we must remember that DS9's producers fought hard to crush most Bajoran scripts from season 3 onwards. The ratings for these episodes were low, the Trek fans hated them, and the producers didn't understand them. That the show was doing its best stuff, and treading quite fresh waters in these episodes, went over everyone's head at the time.

The result of these producer mandates was that the Bajoran political/religious stuff had to be squashed into just a handful of episodes. And so stuff wasn't fleshed out, avenues weren't investigated and plot lines were not fully explored. Had DS9 been allowed to really interrogate the Worm Hole Aliens (as William writes above, they're basically committing murder in this episode), and been given the room to offer a more nuanced view of Bajorans themselves (add a few Bajoran skeptics, and some sympathetic believers, rather than portraying them as a fanatical horde), the show would have IMO been even more impressive.

Some commenters above - including Jammer in his review - have called the ending of this episode a bit pointless. The episode is a giant Reset Button, Jammer says, Sisko starting the episode the Emissary and ending the episode the Emissary once again.

But of course that's the point. Sisko's now a kind of True Believer. He's learnt to have faith. He doesn't quite understand the motivations of the Worm Hole Aliens, but he understands that they have a Plan, that they See Everything, and that their Plan for him has serious consequences. He understands the gravity and the importance of his role.

(Incidentally, it was cool seeing Sisko performing wedding ceremonies and other rituals in this episode, something that Kirk and Picard occasionally did as well. I love when the Federation is shown to be doing Federationy Stuff.)

None of the comments above have talked much about the Miles subplot in this episode. Yes, it works fairly well as light comedy, but it's also used to echo Sisko's arc.

Miles, like Sisko, has an established role and comfortable past life. But Keiko's return with the baby, like the return of the Bajoran Emissary, upends his traditions and customs (as a holodeck loving, dart throwing, frivolous pseudo-bachelor). Miles then accepts his duties to Keiko and the baby, as Sisko learns to accept his duty as a figurative father to Bajor. In doing so both are granted not only peace of mind, but direction and order. Keiko literally brings order to Miles' messy, furniture strewn apartment, and plays god by going behind the scenes to schedule play-dates between him and Bashir. Echoing Keiko's role as puppet-master is of course the Worm Hole Aliens, who do this on a larger scale, positioning Sisko, and indeed entire cultures, as they attempt to mitigate the chaos of the Dominion.
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Trent
Thu, Sep 17, 2020, 3:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

I just caught the Discovery S3 trailer. It seems like "THE BURN!!" is the new "RED ANGEL/SIGNAL" mystery box. Probably it has something to do with the mystery boxes in "Picard" (super powerful AI, or Control, or the Omega Molecule from Voyager).

It's a new showrunner, so hopefully this season will be different, but the trailer makes things look as manic, emotionally manipulaive and wildly melodramatic as what came before.

You just don't feel like this Discovery crew - and Kurtzman Trek in general - is an actual collection of highly trained scientists and navy-persons. They feel like they've stepped off of CSI Miami or a Tony Scott movie.
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Trent
Thu, Sep 10, 2020, 5:54pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Insurrection

Watching this film again, I still regard it as my favorite TNG movie. Having read the script, and Michael Piller's book on the making of the film, I'm also convinced that much of the bad stuff in this film is a result of a rushed production, and Frakes' rather anonymous work as a director. The actual core idea and story structure is better here than in any other TNG movie.

In this regard, "Insurrection" opens with a great sequence. Here Data goes rogue and reveals a cloaked Federation outpost on an alien planet. I'd have maybe milked the sequence a bit more - show Federation scientists and anthropologists studying the locals and peacefully gathering data etc - before Data goes rogue, but it's a cool sequence nonetheless.

We then get a series of neat vignettes. Here Piller effortlessly introduces us to TNG's huge cast, by having the gang attend a party hosted for an alien delegation. Picard is immediately sketched as an explorer, ambassador and man of culture, as he struggles to pronounce alien phrases, wear alien headgear, and mingle with pint-sized alien politicians. The dialogue here is packed with wit, charm and humor ("Our guests have arrived. They are eating the floral arrangements.", "Better have the chef whip up a light vinaigrette... something that goes well with chrysanthemums.").

But it's good Trek humor, poking fun at the wackiness of life in the Federation, be you scientist ("We can't delay the archaeological expedition to Hanoran Two. That'll put us right in the middle of monsoon season!"), maître d' ("Ensign, would you report to the galley and tell the chef to skip the fish course.") or mediator ("You'll be expected to dance with Regent Cuzar", "Can she mambo?").

Crucially, the TNG cast are handled here like the TOS movies handled their cast. With their tongues firmly in cheek, everyone's comical, rougish, easy-going, friendly and busy dropping zingers. Watched back to back with the other TNG movies - all either grim or too serious for what is dumb material - the difference is stark.

We then get a call from the Evil Admiral, Picard and crew dispatched to the Briar Patch to collect their android. It's a good, portentous scene. Unfortunately it's then followed by the film's first bad scene, as we watch Evil Villains and Evil Admirals talking on their ship and plotting Evil Stuff. Every good writer omits these scenes entirely. Indeed, the greatest writers/directors tend to omit antagonists entirely (It's to Nick Meyer's credit that he managed to craft two great mustache twirling villains in a row, largely by turning them into glorious hams).

More good scenes follow, Riker and Troi bonding, the Enterprise entering the Briar Patch and losing all communications with Federation space, and the gang browsing the computers to learn more about their destination. Picard also has a number of great little moments, like when he senses the torque sensors being twelve microns out of alignment, or orders Worf to "Straighten your baldric!". It's little touches like this - Nicholas Meyer was good at such things - which really conveys the sense of a futuristic space Navy.

Next comes the infamous shuttle sequence, in which Data and Picard battle in shuttles and share a sing-a-long. The sing-a-long never bothered me - I thought it was funny and I loved the Gilbert and Sullivan joke - but the shuttle battle always seemed lame to me, despite being directed about as good as something like this can be directed.

I'd have omitted the shuttle battle idea and gone the Joseph Conrad route, Data mad and holed up in an alien household and seemingly holding the locals hostage. Picard enters the dark and shadowy house, finds Data there surrounded by imprisoned Son'a and obedient Baku, and feels dread at what his android buddy has become. But Data, of course, promptly surrenders. He's been protecting the locals and waiting on genuine Federation representation all this time!

Piller's script then gives us a tour of the Baku settlement. Fans hated this rejection of their techno-idealism, but I loved the back-to-nature chic. Yes, Frakes is not strong enough an auteur to elevate these sequences, and yes the script doesn't interrogate the nature/technology dichotomy well enough (the low tech Baku rely on the high tech Federation for survival, and the high-tech Federation clearly lose something in their hermetically sealed spaceships, but both cultures are also not blind to the appeals of the other; Picard's always been a kind of naturalist, and the Baku can build a warp core with the best of 'em), but there's some neat stuff along the way. For every hokey blonde-haired Baku boy and CGI rodent, Frakes' gives us great shots of mountains or the crystal clear waters/lakes around the Baku settlement.

We then get the discovery of the “holo-ship”, which is another great sequence. We also get Data turning a giant wheel and damming the river/lake, Data underwater, a cool wooden boat ride, the discovery of the cloaked settlement and the insidious implications of a kind of far-future, "compassionate", "techno-relocation project"...lots of great little moments.

Even better, Data never becomes as overbearing as he does in the other TNG movies. Here, he is but a comical tool, occasionally employed or whipped out by Picard when necessary.

Next Picard and the crew begin to notice the effects of the planet's Fountain of Youth Energy. Worf turns into a teenager (pimples and late sleeping), Picard dances, Riker and Troi share bubble baths, Geordi sees a sunset for the first time. I like all these scenes - Geordi's in particular - which culminate with Picard and a Baku woman discussing the planet's regenerative properties. There's a low-key, sedate, graceful quality to their scenes together which I like.

The infamous argument between Picard and the Evil Admiral occurs next. It's a good scene, and we begin to appreciate the predicament Piller's script puts everyone in: the Federation own the planet, the alien settlers didn't originate there, the settlement is small, the benefits of removing them are enormous, and the Baku are indirectly responsible for the degeneration of the Sona. It's a nice little pretzel.

The problem is that it's IMMEDIATELY followed by Picard throwing away his uniform and going Rambo. The film needed a discussion between Picard and the gang, where they discuss the Evil Admiral's point of view, and challenge Picard's. There also needs to be a moment where Riker and Picard discuss their options. The lack of such rigorous scenes open the film up to unfair criticisms; fans, for example, routinely bash Picard for essentially denying the universe access to Healthcare. That Picard just wants to alert the Federation and bring the discussion out in the open - he wants transparency, and he wants the Baku to have a seat at the negotiating table - isn't made clear enough.

(Because of this, the film attracts a specific type of hater. Techno-utopians who see Picard as a dopey, romantic primitivist, and who ignore the fact that the Baku don't know why they're being hunted down, and that the Baku aren't actually denying anyone access to their planet)

Up until this point, I would say "Insurrection" has the most consistently good 30 or 40 minutes of TNG movie-Trek. Unfortunately, from this point onward, the film gets steadily worse. Piller has Picard and the gang beam down to the planet and help the Baku hide out in the hills. We then get a kind of Trail of Tears exodus, action scenes more pacy and free flowing than the other TNG movies, but also fairly unimaginative (point at drone and shoot!).

Meanwhile Riker and the Enterprise try to make it out of the Briar Patch and shoot off a signal to the Federation. This should lead to a nice race-against-time sequence, the Enterprise falling apart as it tries desperately to clear the Patch, but instead we get Riker using a joystick, and a dumb moment with the warp core ejecting.

Then we get to the climax, which takes a great idea - using the holo-ship to outsmart the enemy (very Kirky!) - and wraps it up in indefensible crap. And so the enemy has some kind of Death Star superweapon, Picard and Data get sweaty and engage in fisticuffs while dangling from ledges, and bad, unfinished CGI starships shoot and blow crap up in unimaginative ways.

How to fix all of this? Remove the superweapon and remove the Sona. Your plot then becomes a Federation Admiral removing aliens from a Federation planet. The Admiral is dying of some disease and needs that Medicare, but he's also been sanctioned by the Federation Council itself. Perhaps the Council has been misled by the Admiral, or perhaps the Dominion War has pushed them into crossing lines they would not ordinarily cross.

Either way, Picard challenges the Admiral (maybe he's in an old, refitted Excelsior class ship), but they soon find themselves in a dilemma. Picard can't leave the the Briar Patch to talk to the Federation without the Admiral taking the planet, and the Admiral can't kill Picard or take the planet because the Enterprise outguns the Excelsior-class. Meanwhile Picard can't fire on the Admiral because he'd be court martialed or something.

Instead of Riker having to sneak the Enterprise out of the Briar Patch, have the Enterprise forced to blockade the Admiral's ship. The Enterprise struggles to get a shuttle out of the patch, but manages, only to have the shuttle met by a trio of Federation ships heading into the Briar Patch. Turns out the Federation are sending reinforcements not to help Picard, but the Admiral. Seeing that the Federation is sanctioning the relocation, Picard stands down and offers to negotiate with the Baku. The Baku, not being jerks, concede to leaving the planet.

You can then use this to really get to the meat of Piller's idea, not just an interrogation of colonialism (the unjust removal of people from land), but utilitarianism, property rights (land commonly owned for the good of the majority), and issues of individualism vs collectivism as well (why should I give this up for you?). Think the 1960 Elia Kazan film "Wild River" (itself the influence on a DS9 episode).

Such a film would also have to offer a philosophical and political defense of Progress and also delineate what exactly constitutes The Greater Good. Because removing the Baku starts looking like the real-life exterminating and relocation of indigenous peoples in the name of "Modernity", if you don't offer a robust explanation as to why your conception of Progress is Morally Sound.

Such a hypothetical film should thus show the Federation eventually bending over backwards for the Baku, and bending over backwards to meet all their relocation demands. And it should be made clear why the Baku - maybe not all of them - eventually agree to leave, and how the Federation actually uses their planet for the Greater Good.

This is all interesting stuff, and Piller has some of it on his mind, but I suspect the realities of mainstream American film-making got in the way. Getting audiences to cry for relocated space natives is easy - most viewers identify as propertarians themselves - but a film defending a state's re-purposing and repossessing of property strikes against some deeply held American notions.

In a way, it's a shame "Insurrection" and "Star Trek V" are so flawed, because they're arguably the most thematically meaty of all the Trek films.
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Trent
Sun, Sep 6, 2020, 5:56pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Outcast

Some nice quotes by ReaperX up above, detailing the behind-the-scenes shenanigans surrounding this episode.

I haven't seen this episode since my review in 2018, but its always stuck in my head. Its tone is so subdued and quiet, the episode at its best when Riker and Soren are simply alone and chatting in the shadows. I've always felt that it has the same hushed, slightly melancholic vibe of "Eye of the Needle" and "Dear Doctor".
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Trent
Sun, Sep 6, 2020, 5:31pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: The Vulcan Hello / Battle at the Binary Stars

Nolan said: "I'm not crazy for seeing these similarities, am I?"

No, lots of people have been pointing this out here or on other websites and forums (example: https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/03/the-regrettable-decline-of-space-utopias, https://www.currentaffairs.org/2018/05/the-dismal-frontier etc).

TOS was JFK/FDR in space, with a few hippie/counterculture influences thrown in. It broadly espoused liberal, humanistic, enlightenment values, but had enough babes, fisticuffs and explosions to keep anyone else happy.

TNG is crypto-socialist, but is vague enough to be read by people of all political persuasions as simply being 1990s America in Space, the Federation the cosmic superpower lording over backward Easterners. And because the Ferrengi - Roddenberry's hokey critique of then contemporary capitalism - are barely seen after season 1, there was nothing too threatening for audiences.

By the time you get to nu-Trek, though, the franchise has been fully commodified and defanged of all threatening politics or ideas (Picard's Earth suddenly has money and poverty again). Here the Federation are the contemporary Democratic Party in space, much better than the bad guys (Space Trump!), but ultimately nasty, smug, scrubbed clean of any class politics, class identity and scared of any kind of sociohistorical or economic analysis of the things it pretends to be tackling. And as you point out, the subtext in a lot of the nu-Trek series are covertly reactionary.

And so you increasingly get the Federation engaging in false flags, war crimes, planting WMDs under planets, the fetishizing of Section 31, and lots of tacky violence. The writers defend this stuff because it's all they know. Your typical contemporary Trek writer isn't reading political stuff by Edward Abbey or Ernest Callenbach like past Trek writers did (or Maoist screeds like Roddenbery). They're watching 24, Marvel movies and Game of Thrones.

Meanwhile the fans defend this stuff and point out that The Federation always engaged in such behavior, and that TNG was an anomaly, which is true in a sense. But then what's the point of Trek? If your modern take on Trek is less forward looking than TOS was in the 60s and TNG was in the 90s, then you're admitting we're living in the End of History, an worldview primarily attractive to corporations.

And so for nu-Trek, utopia is no longer a post-scarcity, post capitalist future with enlightened governing bodies, but contemporary capitalism with spaceships and space-governments forced to bend to the "pragmatic" necessity of "realpolitics". The Federation, like Clinton, Tony Blair or Obama, must break a few eggs for the greater good. Barbarism disguised as Humanism.

Meanwhile Trek's "progressive values" get reduced to "identity politics", usually in the form of corporate pandering to little marketable consumer groups (minorities, women, token gays, token transgender people in the new series of Disco etc), which is wonderful and inclusive in theory, but harmful in the sense that this ultimately obfuscates larger issues of class, and how these issues transcend other identities, and so ultimately bond people together. It also has the added flaw of pissing off right wingers; TNG and TOS smuggled sneaky lefty stuff into conservative brains (and vice versa). Nu-Trek just has them ranting about SJWs and White Genocide.

And so with Nu-Trek you get a kind of annoying neo-liberalism in space, the economic violence of the Republicans dodged by adopting the sneakier violence of Third Way Democrats. You could excuse pampered American writers taking this stance up until the early 2000s, but taking this approach after a couple Middle Eastern Wars, the 2008 financial crisis, various climate movements and Trump, just reads as ignorant.

Meanwhile here's SF writer Kim Stanley Robinson on this topic:

"Anyone can do a dystopia these days just by making a collage of newspaper headlines, but utopias are hard, and important, because we need to imagine what it might be like if we did things well enough to say to our kids, we did our best, this is about as good as it was when it was handed to us, take care of it and do better. Some kind of narrative vision of what we’re trying for as a civilization.

It’s a slim tradition since [Sir Thomas] More invented the word, but a very interesting one, and at certain points important: the Bellamy clubs after Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward had a big impact on the Progressive movement in American politics, and H.G. Wells’s stubborn persistence in writing utopias over about fifty years conveyed the vision that got turned into the postwar order of social security and some kind of government-by-meritocracy.

So utopias have had effects in the real world. More recently I think Ecotopia had a big impact on how the hippie generation tried to live in the years after, building families and communities.

There are a lot of problems in writing utopias, but they can be opportunities. The usual objection—that they must be boring—are often political attacks, or ignorant repeating of a line, or another way of saying “No expository lumps please, it has to be about me.” The political attacks are interesting to parse. “Utopia would be boring because there would be no conflicts, history would stop, there would be no great art, no drama, no magnificence.” This is always said by white people with a full belly. My feeling is that if they were hungry and sick and living in a cardboard shack they would be more willing to give utopia a try.

So, the writing of utopia comes down to figuring out ways of talking about just these issues in an interesting way. That along with the usual science fiction problem of handling exposition. It could be done, and I wish it were being done more often."
Set Bookmark
Trent
Sun, Sep 6, 2020, 4:08pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: First Contact

Most call this film "well balanced" and "well paced", but I've always thought the opposite. I've always felt the entire structure of the film to be ill-conceived, and in need of radical reshuffling and streamlining.

For example the film opens with a double nightmare sequence (cribbed from the opening of "Aliens") designed to brief newbies on the Borg and Picard's history. But it's a hacky opening - imagine opening "Silence of the Lambs" with Hannibal Lectre jumping out of a cupboard and eating Clarice - the Borg best revealed incrementally and Picard's history best explained later via simple dialogue.

The Enterprise then sets off for the Romulan Neutral Zone, before doubling back to Earth for a big space battle, which, insofar as films tend to mirror the sexual experience (anticipation, excitement, climax!), unbalances the whole picture; the film front-loads all its cool stuff, introduces the "horrors" of the Borg too early, and when it does finally climax, it does so with silly fisticuffs, Picard in a muscle-vest as he punches a lady.

The effectiveness of the film's horror/action sequences on the Enterprise are also constantly sabotaged by the lighthearted stuff on Earth. Picard's battling cyborgs in space while Riker grooves to rock and roll, Geordi gets chummy with Cochrane and Troi drinks booze. Tonally the film constantly undercuts its tension.

In a film struggling to juggle its huge ensemble - early dialogue often doesn't flow naturally, lines shoe-horned into Crusher or Worf's mouths for the sake of giving the large TNG cast something to do -- you then have the added work of squeezing in Lilly, Zefram Cochrane, time travel, the Vulcans and yet another Data Subplot. It's all sluggish and unwieldy. It's like the film wants to simultaneously be "Wrath of Khan" (Revenge!), "Voyage Home" (funny culture clash shenanigans!), "All Good Things" (high concept time travel!) and "Data's Day", and it suffers for this greediness.

I'd have removed both Cochrane and Lily entirely and given their dialogue to TNG cast-members. You can tell the same tale without them, and they don't logically fit in with the Borg tale anyway; the Borg can achieve their goals by going back to countless other points in time in Earth's history, or doing so without going back in time at all. And if they are time traveling, there's no need to time jump from within Federation space.

I would also remove the Queen. It's a generic idea, and if you want to have the Collective speak, just give its dialogue to any hijacked character.

This film also continues the mistake of trying to use Data as the TOS movies used Spock. In the TNG movies Picard is constantly paired with Data, and the duo are constantly sacrificing themselves or putting themselves at risk for each other. But IMO Picard is better paired with Riker. Picard's a 19th century British Navy archetype, and Riker his loyal sidekick. Like the "Master and Commander" series, the TNG movies should have stressed their Aubrey–Maturin-esque relationship, and tonally adopted a style akin to something like "Hunt for Red October". More nautical, more intellectual and more chess-like. After all, the Borg have assimilated countless species and acquired centuries worth of tactics. They should be constantly twenty steps ahead, and Picard's outsmarting of them should involve him being even smarter (not a mere "Focus fire on these coordinates!").

The ensemble nature of TNG is also ill-suited for films like "First Contact". The TOS movies worked because they focused on a strong trio (Kirk, Spock, Bones, all funny), and used the rest of the crew as lovable caricatures. Scotty, Sulu, Uhura and Pavel don't do much, but because they're almost cartoonishly drawn, have such clean and clear characteristics, they come across as likeable. But TNG's cast are less distinct. Geordi and Crusher are pretty flat, Worf's a bit of a bore, and Data and Picard share too many similar traits, lacking sparks when paired. Riker's the only one with enough charisma to bounce off of (and Troi if written well and allowed to be sassy).

If I had to reshape this film, I'd have opened with Federation listening posts detecting an object or two heading for our solar system. Initially too fast and far away to identify, Starfleet intelligence eventually tags them as Borg cubes. Federation ships around Earth then scramble to intercept.

Picard and the gang are on Earth, chilling, and through concise scenes we get a glimpse of what the Future Federation is all about, and why it's worth preserving. Then our heroes are informed of the inbound Borg. The Enterprise - in orbit and being refitted - is hastily ordered to intercept. The admiralty ask Riker to take command, because Picard's a wildcard when it comes to the Borg. Riker protests, but Picard urges him to obey. Riker nevertheless invites Picard to come along as a supernumerary or observer (to hell with orders!).

As the Enterprise scrambles to intercept the Borg before they reach the solar system, Federation vessels further out are effortlessly decimated by the intruders. Entire ships are swatted aside likes flies by the Borg or rudely and dismissively ignored altogether. Amidst this wreckage Riker prepares to engage the Borg, takes a pounding, and so quickly turns over command to Picard. Picard manages to take out a cube, but the Enterprise is crippled and the remaining Borg continue on to Earth.

As the Enterprise licks her wounds, floating amidst the wreckage of other ships, she begins beaming aboard survivors. One survivor has some kind of tiny Borg implant. From this lowly implant, the Borg infects a medical tricorder, the computers in the infirmary, and slowly proceeds to isolate sections of the Enterprise, assimilate the crew and systematically take over the ship. What would happen if Earth itself were similarly assimilated?

Structure the rest of the film as a race against time to both get back to Earth and hold off the Enterprise from being assimilated. Maybe - if you want to be faithful to the themes of "First Contact" in this hypothetical film - you have Picard go a bit too gung ho, and Riker having to talk some sense back into him (ala Lilly). If you must have time-travel, have the Borg attack a Federation Temporal Mechanics Research Lab on Earth or something, the Collective hoping to prevent the Federation access to time-streams.

But I've always thought time-travel was too big an issue to be casually used by Trek, so would have omitted all time travel from this film entirely. And as the Borg's best trait is their utter indifference to races they deem beneath them, I wouldn't use them as conventional villains. Treat them as unstoppable and utterly dismissive of all other life (in this film, they get beaten in the first battle and spend the rest of the film hiding out below decks like losers).

Have them approach Earth, maybe knock out a spacedock's lights with some kind of technobabble EMP, enter orbit, and then black out the entire planet, rendering most technology dead. Then have the Borg begin casually beaming down drones into Starfleet HQ and other key areas. Earth panics and thinks they're being assimilated, but the Borg mostly ignore everyone and break into a special datacenter. Maybe they're looking for information on ex-Borgs, rescued and rehabilitated by Starfleet. Maybe one such ex-Borg lives on Earth. Maybe the Borg go to her.

Instead of a violent climax, just put Picard, this ex Borg and a Borg drone in a house together. The Borg just want new information to better themselves. They want to know why XB's are happy to leave the collective, why so many races are now resisting them, how the Federation assimilates and why Federation assimilation works. Really juxtapose the two cultures. Why doesn't Locutus come back to the hive? Why does Picard reject the Collective for the Federation? Maybe the Borg have already calculated that they will be extinct in 8979.3434 years, all their territory ceded to the Federation, and so are trying to prevent their own demise.

Picard gives a big righteous speech, the Borg ignore him, they get their data and beam it to the cube in orbit and so hopefully to the collective, but Riker destroys the cube in time.

Maybe end with a coda with sinister New Borgs, having learned from the Federation how to be slick colonizers, using their new techniques to assimilate new races. Maybe they turn up on a backwater planet looking like the Federation, promising bread and roses.

Either way, I don't think this film does anything interesting with the Borg. The Borg are utterly defanged here, and the Vulcan/Cochrane stuff belongs in a different, more jovial movie.

Personally, I find myself rewatching "Insurrection" more than "First Contact". It flows better, it's structured better, its faster and punchier, and while "First Contact" has no awful scenes, compared to "Insurrection" which has many, the latter just seems more interesting.
Set Bookmark
Trent
Thu, Sep 3, 2020, 7:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Rapture

Omicron said: "At no point did he use the word "sodomize" to describe a consensual act between two consenting adults..."

It's like you guys are right on the verge of getting Booming's point. So close...right on the edge...almost touching it...almost...almost...when suddenly...

WE MUST PROTECT IMAGINARY CHARACTERS EXISTING IN PRIVATE MENTAL SPACES FROM GAY FANTASIES CREATED BY GAY IMAGINATIONS!

It's hilarious in a way. A guy asking a dude to tone down his pervy sex posts, and hounded by everyone for "unfairly policing their free speech!", deftly maneuvers everyone into demanding gay dudes get their fantasy objects to sign consent forms in their brains.


Omicron said: "So congratulations! Booming, Trent, Elliott... you've managed to prove that Cody is a fallible human being. A person who (oh, the horror!!!!) is not aware of their own blind spots, and (oh, the double horror!!!!) gets defensive when being attacked."

Nobody cares about Cody's aversion to gay fisting or Mikey's perviness, which are fine. The point is that everyone jumped on Booming for no reason. Because what applies to Booming applies to nobody else. Everything afforded to others - be it sympathy or leeway or everything you just typed in regards to Cody - is not afforded to Booming.

Poor, gentle Booming. Sweet, beautiful, wise, and well-hung Booming, doomed to routinely endure a scrutiny that, were it turned upon others, would expose them as lesser men.

We salute you Booming. With our fists. Up your butt. Namaste.
Set Bookmark
Trent
Sun, Aug 30, 2020, 9:28am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Return to Grace

Once you mentally prepare yourself for a slow, verbose, almost Shakespearean episode - an old, aging King trying to restore his status and Empire - this episode holds up well.

I always thought, though, that DS9 missed a trick by not keeping Dukat on board the freighter for a few more episodes. The show should have prolonged this arc, have Dukat fester with bitter resentment, and then slowly climb back up the ranks throughout an entire season. Have him capture a larger freighter, then a bird of prey, then a Klingon battle-cruiser, then have his own little fleet, then have the Cardassian High Command bow to pressure and reinstate him as some kind of grand, fleet commander. Really milk Dukat's rise to power, and then his desire for total vengeance.
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