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Sun, Jul 3, 2016, 10:13am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

Much has already been said that puts this episode into good context. And sci fi storytelling has come a long way since this episode first aired in 1994, over twenty years ago. While the aforementioned "tragedy" perspective makes sense, I get the feeling that this is not the message the producers (et al) were going for with this episode. But instead, we are to take at face value the noble naturalism and humanism that enamored Southern California culture - in a preponderence of this "commune moon" trope seen in so many other series and stories.

Offhand, let's see, in no particular order, there was the Masterpiece Society, the Bringloidi, the Ba'Ku, the Ventu, the Va'al tribe, Children of Time, Marauders, The Nox (and a whole slew of SG1/Atlantis societies), some in Farscape as I recall, and of course plenty from Andromeda, Hercules and Xena. The future is primordial or medieval, apparently, and even we hyper-tech types all sit around stomping grapes and listening to 19th century classical music and buttoning up our Victorian waistcoats and lacing up our corsets.

Ok, so this one - Paradise - is as much about cultism as anything else. We see it in Alixa's Cult of Personality, that manages to rationalize all manner of immoral behaviors in the guise of ideology, which is just a tool of Autoritarianism and underlying Narcissism.

Other than pointing out weaknesses in the story structure - and there are plenty - I will attempt to mention things that may have improved this story for me personally, with which some may disagree.

Sisko's immediate acquiescence to the local power structure - we see him and O'Brien working in a field before even attempting their own solutions. With a child on her deathbed. Right away, this episode asks us to compromise our own experience with the main characters. You can't explain or justify their surrender? They are not one day crash landed and now they are expected to get jobs? And no one bats an eye or says a word in contradiction?

Now we send in a temptress to ply Sisko's favor and - hey, let's keep it as puritarian as possible - we wouldn't want the audience to have any temptation, would we. Could that scene be any less sensual? I know, remove a few candles so we can disconnect even more from any sensual context? That scene was about as tempting as Keiko feeding Molly and talking about her schedule.

The theft of the runabout - and its chance "bouncing off the star's magnetic flux" leaving a trail for Dax and Kira to track back to the Orellian system? And having found the runabout, their best option - is not to engage its remote systems, as we have already seen in The Armageddon Game not TWO EPISODES AGO - but to use brute force on THEIR OWN SHIP to drag it to a stop against warp forces that threaten to disintegrate both ships? And when they do it - the ships go from slow to stop, and we are supposed to feel relief? Well if you want viewers to feel relief, you have to thrill them first. Watching a tractor emitter - ain't it.

Well, there are a few other choice moments I would rip straight out of the typewriter cradle:

"Perhaps one day you'll even feel the hand of God on your shoulder. "
Um, and you won't, Emissary?

"Here, bend down and let me knock you out."
"Duh, OK." When, in the history of the human race, has one person ever bent down to let another person knock them out? I have an idea, how about YOU FIRST. What do I look like, a Ferengi?

"Take off your uniform for the twentieth time."
Say, are you worried that this reminder might foster a little dissent? Well where is that issue you are so eager to snuff out in its germination? But no, not ONE villager dogs our heroes to ask "Um, hey, can you like, tell us if you have had any new alien invasions we might want to know about?"

That the village exists at all ANYWHERE in the vicinity of a rapacious Cardassian Empire, desperate for planetary resources - makes NO sense to me. Like the Ba'ku, I want Bajoran refugees to start squatting in their little idyllic world and start ripping them to shreds with their "Cardassian labor camp" shtick.

"Get in the box."
"Okey Dokey. I'm not a colonist but whatever, herp derp."

"He stole a candle."
What a douchebag! You know what, get in the box for having such lame-ass ambitions!

"Take off your uniform again."
"I still don't want to exploit this obvious threat to your sense of control with a public question. Just let me get back in my box, okey dokey. I'm not a colonist, but whatever, herp derp."

Villagers: "No dissent here, no gossip, nothing special going on here." Really? Then what was Alixa so threatened by? She obviously already knew they weren't going to pay SAG rates for speaking roles from the extras.

And more. But finally, my biggest beef with this episode is the lack of satisfying payoff of any kind. Sure, they hit the reset button, but the story felt as though it had ended in the first act. There was no change, no explanation, no denouement, only a still life followed by an anticlimactic beamout. And then, as if to send a cautionary chill up our spines, two children left staring at the escape denied to them and the box that awaited them.

As I say, if I thought this was scripted as a tragedy I could accept this ending's intention (but not its execution). But I think the intended message was more like - "we have vaguely unlocked out restrictions but a naturalistic community is a special human bond you couch potatoes have lost touch with. And all the hope we'll give you is this vague childish dichotomy of torture vs technology." Nice. Never mind the other confusing question that - their bondage was actually the result of technology. Now that is a messed up question that the episode hadn't even begun to address.

And not ONE villager speaking up to say - hey, um, I don't mind being lied to for my own role in someone else's house of cards "utopia". Here's the episode's true crime - it is IMPLAUSIBLE. When the duonetic field was lifted, the OBVIOUS conflict arising from that situation was "is it moral to abandon half the villagers who want to stay, and can they retain their identity - or even survive - with half the village PACKED AND READY TO LEAVE IMMEDIATELY." This question was explored more fully, and far more satisfyingly, in Voyager's "The 37's."

But no, "Paradise" instead peters out with an inevitable deus ex machina rescue and NOT ONE WORD OF DISPLEASURE FROM ANYONE. Not even a log entry.

But most notable about this episode is the comparison it raises to Roddenberry's Star Trek utopian vision itself. The Orellian (Orwellian?) village is an egalitarian society without currency, repressed under an unassailable, "perfect" ideological doctrine in which each member has his or her individual power stripped of them, forced to cooperate and told they are free; while gradually regressing toward superstition, brutishness, and despotism. The dictator's plans included a spiritual aspect, as well, which would have cast her in a sham demigod-like state similar to the Un regime in North Korea. Evangelists from hell cloaking their ambitions in terms of unreachable ideological perfectionism. Thus giving them a perpetual license to punish for falling short - while of course escaping any account for themselves. We've seen these themes already in the Circle trilogy (Winn and Jaro), and we'll see them later in Dukat.

Contrasted to the Federation, which - may tolerate all manner of cultural relativistic injustices, but at least lets you leave. But what of other distinctions? Certainly the Federation has had its share of despots, predatory societies, torture, luddism, cultism, and institutionalized hypocrisy. (I'll leave it to readers to think of examples for each case). It's an interesting juxtaposition to understand what gives the Federation its appeal can also be bait for an Orellian bait-and-switch trap. All so prevalent even today.

I think it's a strong premise worth exploring, and that the episode had all the elements for a great story. However it failed raise the right questions, it failed to depict what normal humans would do, and it provided more than needed exposition at the cost of any satisfying resolution.

Even allowing that the community had not been fractured by its recent loss of identity, the loss of three people, its ideologue, cohesion, its common sense - simply leaving them alone to fend for themselves without so much as arranging a subspace communicator or way off the planet - is just plain asking viewers to stop caring for any of these people's outcomes. Oh and how about those hot boxes? Everything hunky dory there? Federation? Um, in case you cared, the Prime Directive doesn't actually apply here, and you could, um, actually apply your criminal justice system here, if it matters....

Hey, just think, mother of the girl who died - one day sooner and she would have lived. Anything to say? No? Nothing? Just gonna go macrame something?

At least Picard would have give us a great line or two to remember this episode by.

Now I want to suggest one more thing - What Would SG1 Do?
Carter: Find the duonetic field inside of 5 minutes (buried under an inch of dirt for 10 years? really)??
Jackson: Rouse the rabble and teach us a thing or two.
O'Neill: NOT GET DISARMED BY AN ENERGY FIELD. And he would get the girl offworld medical help, too. He would call the villagers brainwashed idiots to their faces. And then describe the Cardassian threat to their little worker's paradise in scathing detail. And set up an open gate to Earth for any and all villagers whether their leaders liked it or not. Especially those two forlorn kids at the end. He would have had them given physicals and enrolled in school.

But I will give this episode a pass on its premise alone. The issues hold up.
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Thu, Jun 25, 2009, 11:33am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S1: Acquisition

Perhaps Archer thought leaving them in the tender mercies of Krem would be punishment enough.

But hey, there was actually a Ferengi whip-weapon, something we saw once in TNG and never saw again. That was a nicely composed shot.

But it should be mentioned that it was established in TNG that no one had ever seen a Ferengi before. Pity they turned out to be comic relief written by non-comics. Maybe they need more oboe to let us know when the real fun begins.

They are caricatures at best. Nice to see Combs & Phillips though.
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Mon, Jul 28, 2008, 10:34am (UTC -5)
Re: BSG S3: Taking a Break from All Your Worries

I too wondered what was so upsetting about the fact that the cell would have a video camera. I mean, wouldn't pretty much every square meter of a ship be subject to CCTV?

I think a better title for this epi might be "Drowning Your Sorrows" or something. A *Cheers* reference??

Oh, and yes, I think it should be established for the viewers whether Gaius is communicating with his hallucination by thought or actual vocalization. Because if it's the latter (and it should be, considering in an earlier epi he had actually dropped trou to have sex, caught by Starbuck), then I should think that half the crew would have known about his tendency to talk to himself; making Six's behavior an instant red flag. Come on, if Cylons have these Borg-like abilities to interact with technology on the molecular level, is it such a leap in logic to believe they might actually be able to communicate "telepathically"?

And finally, I wonder what it is everyone expected Gaius to do once the Cylons occupied New Caprica. Get himself executed? What would Roslin have done? Gaius' mistake was in settling on planet - not a crime, but an act he won the election on. While I despise his motives, is it fair to label him a collaborator, when clearly the Cylons were in total control and could easily just wipe out the fleet, (and why didn't they just do that, since that's been their motive before and ever since)??? I know I know, it's only a TV show.
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Sun, Jul 20, 2008, 10:24am (UTC -5)
Re: BSG S2: Final Cut

Correction: Heroes was SG1 Season 7.
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Sun, Jul 20, 2008, 10:22am (UTC -5)
Re: BSG S2: Final Cut

A year and a half before this episode aired, Stargate SG-1 did a very similar premise with it's season 6 Heroes, pt 1 & 2. There were many similarities: the hard-nosed journalist asking all the wrong questions, citing ideals of freedom of press and people's right to know, while, just like real-world journalists, glossing over the personal gains to be had by exposing imperfections in a military organization. In both series, the journalists come away with a gritty view that, as Adama wanted, put a human face on the military. Both pieces came off with a positive net result, and not without some idealistic hubris. In this way, they did indeed come away with a propaganda piece in exchange for unlimited access.

(Personally I think it would be a good idea to follow journalists around in the same manner, catching them warts and all).

One problem I had with this episode was the threat that Biers posed with the footage of the Cylon Sharon. She intimated that public knowledge that the Galactica was "harboring a Cylon" could plunge the fleet into chaos. While obviously a secret of military importance, I fail to see it launching a significant public protest to any degree that it might endanger the fleet - except perhaps by alarmist journalists wallowing in their own brand of power - the power to shape thought, as easily as the institutions they so readily accuse.
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Mon, Jul 14, 2008, 10:57am (UTC -5)
Re: BSG S1: Act of Contrition

Well this is a well-written review, and does the epi justice.

One notable thing about this episode are the strange foreshadowing sequences of Kara's viper going down while she free-falls through atmosphere. The scenes are presented piecemeal, before the event actually happens, when we see it in full. An interesting and unusual directorial risk. Though interestingly paced, I'm not sure how it could have been foreshadowed; unless the entire episode was actually in flashback?
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