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Mon, Dec 28, 2020, 10:14am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S3: Su'Kal

Although I don't really watch this show anymore I still religiously come to read Jammer's excellent reviews and to read the comments (which frequently compel me to at least skim through the relevant episode and gather context).

The political lens is perfectly valid when thinking about Star Trek (to a point of course). I agree with what you're saying; the American empire as we know it continues its discomforting, gradual decline, as history seems to indicate all empires must. The main prerogative of the presidential office leading up to and it seems also in the wake of Trump is to serve as a gentle caretaker for this decline - to ensure that the military industrial complex keeps chugging along, that the people currently making bank continue to do so unfettered and that there's continuation of American triumphalism propagated through meaningless ideological conflicts in foreign lands. The reality is expressed, however, in the undisguised dismantling of the middle class, who either join the working class as industry darkens in once thriving towns or become members of the hideously overproduced elite, both of whom in a sense find just cause to be bitter about their station and yet unjustly direct their fury at the other. In his often repulsive, megalomaniacal way Trump claimed to offer an alternative to this peaceful decline and although obviously he failed to deliver, he did enough to see the the Bush-era Republican neocons abandon their protracted facade and scurry away to advance the Democrat agenda, which now better represented their true interests. With Trump arousing awareness of a zeitgeist believed suppressed, the more convincing sovereigns of America play their hand more than ever before. The most important thing is not to dispel people's anger, but rather to magnify, misdirect and thereby in a sense contain the fury. The grievance focused, dogmatic, almost theological notion of 'wokeness' is wonderful in this regard, rewarding narcissism and the colouring of every issue by issues of identity. Submerge people in endless diatribes about race, gender and sexual orientation, make it harder for ordinary people with so much in common to communicate meaningfully without a lengthy preamble and above all, keep people MAD.

This American modernity as I've come to see it is expressed in Discovery. The reluctance to grapple with any kind of real uncertainty, a propensity to deafeningly tick diversity boxes, the expectation that the creators can endlessly repeat a small array of tactics designed to emotionally manipulate their audience without laying any kind of groundwork. It's really a product of its time.
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Sun, Mar 29, 2020, 4:32am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Startrekwatcher Just as with Discovery, the writers spend their time layering mystery boxes upon an already creaking foundation of mystery boxes and then with a few minutes left, elect to tear them all open at once. A lone, random box in the pile will contain a flashbang grenade that blinds you and leaves your brain smarting in a concerted effort to distract you from the fact that the rest of the boxes were either empty or at best released a small asthmatic wheeze.

I recall one of The Expanse S4 B-plots which stretched over quite literally half that season, and consisted of *MINOR SPOILER* a portion of the crew of the Rocinante solving the problem of a decaying orbit in order to attempt a rescue of 3 people. That's it. All the high-concept sci-fi stuff was left to the A-plot and it WORKED. It was focused, meaningful and entertained us without damaging that world.

In Picard, there came that moment when Kurtzman and co. realised they didn't have any ideas about how to manage the hundreds/thousands of Borg on the cube awaiting reclamation; so their solution? Jettison them all into space! (presumably to slowly and painfully deteriorate as we know Borg can survive in a vacuum). They seem to expect us to marvel at this scene of countless living beings being tossed away as refuse, when a little while earlier we were invited to empathise with them as victims of a great crime, now being righted. "NOO" yells Seven in her super awesome, distorted Borg Queen voice. Cognitive dissonance for mine.

I didn't love everything Chabon said in that Variety interview and I'm by no means convinced he is built for TV writing, but one of his answers made me wish he had full creative control from the outset of this show.

"You know, personally speaking, my own tastes and inclination, I always said when we were in the earliest versions of the room for this show, if we could have just done a whole show about Picard and the dog on the vineyard in France, with no starships, no phasers, the only Romulans would be those two Romulans who work for him on the vineyard, and no politics — just, like, there’s a funfair down in the village and they all go, and maybe Picard solves a very low stakes mystery in the village, like, someone has stolen the antique bell out of the bell tower, or something like that? I would have loved to write that show."

I think I would have been into that, actually. As it is this is where I'll completely sign off from Trek, at least while it's in the hands of Kurtzman. Should have done so earlier, but it's hard to tear yourself away from something culturally significant to you I guess.

Stay safe everyone!
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Thu, Feb 27, 2020, 10:28am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

I genuinely enjoyed those moments between Picard and Hugh. When they interacted there was none of the passive aggressive snark or vacuous, tropey melodrama; just a calm, rational discussion between two good people with implicit trust in the motivations of the other. There are perhaps slight liberties taken concerning the depth of their relationship (as with Data, Geordi was Hugh's main contact and friend onboard the Enterprise as Picard learned to tolerate him from a certain emotional distance) but it effectively delivered some exposition about the 'ex-b' community, which for me is the most narratively interesting fragment produced by STP's patchy efforts at world building. I slowed down from 1.5x speed for that whole sequence. It was nice.

Then one of our heroes coldly murders three security guards from behind by hacking into their necks with a samurai sword, despite their having clearly announced an intent to apprehend rather than attack the 3 ostensible criminals. Picard chides him for not staying on the ship and then chuckles gratefully at his homicidal friend's forthright reply. Ah, the magic's gone again.

Hugh was also being threatened with a knife in the next episode's preview. Yay.
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Mon, Feb 24, 2020, 2:25am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

"Do you really believe that the show is constructed around a philosophical framework created in mid 20th century France about how all societal narratives are constructed to reinforce societal power structures? "

I'm not saying it was intentional but kind of. I mean essentially everything in media we consume is to some extent no?

A fair disclaimer: my philosophy is high school level really and even I know the folly of throwing that nebulous P word around, especially without providing an explicit definition. My understanding of the premise of postmodernism is that our mythologies contain dangerous foundational assumptions born of a narrow set of cultural parameters that irrevocably dictate our reality and what we’re able to think. It says that the very concept of ‘reasoning’ is itself the product of Western cultural bias. There is no objective Truth with a capital T etc.

I think it's very useful for pointing out the flaws in power structures and exposing privilege but when unchecked, people descend into moral relativism, irony and nihilism. See @Guiding Light higher in the comments for a prime example ;)

I'm sure I've totally misrepresented postmodern thinkers, so let me just say that I find that nu-trek lacks the sincerity I appreciated in older Star Trek shows. That will do for now.

Thanks for the video! I'll watch it when I get a chance tonight.
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Sun, Feb 23, 2020, 8:52pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

I love that people are mentioning Mass Effect 2! Garrus, Tali, Mordin, Wrex...there were some fantastic characters there. The interesting thing about that game when it came to the story beats is that it frequently gave you the option to align with a humanist, Trekkian view of the world or a cynical, nihilistic one. For instance, on Garrus Vakarian's 'loyalty mission' you discover that Garrus ran a vigilante mercenary group undermining various crime syndicates that was betrayed by a member, resulting in the deaths of all but him. Anyway, you spend some time hunting the traitor down and having discussed his underlying motivations along the way Garrus ultimately asks Shepard to draw the traitor into the open so he can kill him from range. You can either aid in this person's death or at the last second to step into the line of fire and explore the circumstances leading to the betrayal as well as the guilt and suffering it is causing this person. Garrus may be dissuaded from vengeance and is fundamentally changed for the rest of the story. Incidentally, no eyes were horrifically yanked from sockets by metal claws in order to evoke emotional response.

Basically, Mass Effect 2 (specifically in those moments where you aren't shooting thousands of bad guys) did Trek better than this nu-Trek can.

That aside, although Jammer's apathy towards the "What is Star Trek?" question is justly earned, most Trek fans will draw a philosophical line somewhere. It seems undeniable that TNG and DS9 largely emerged from their predecessors shadow because they necessarily supplemented the humanist, modernist core of Star Trek with more postmodern spheres of thought. Yet, while challenging themselves, they remained sincerely devoted to the idea that all sentient beings possess moral value and despite our myriad differences, by embracing a 'sovereignty of reason' we can overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges and perhaps in some small way strive meaningfully towards one day solving the epistemological, metaphysical and ontological questions we all share.

This new, truly postmodern trek has replaced all that sincerity with irony. We see that intelligent life is disposable, people are vain, self-obsessed and eschew the idea of a duty to the common good, society is destined to remain fragmented with people always finding a way to exploit one other. In other words, the pursuit of any truth greater than ourselves is simply a futile attempt to escape the historical and cultural discourses that run our lives.

Q: “You just don't get it, do you, Jean-Luc? The trial never ends. We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons. And for one brief moment, you did.”

Sorry Q, it seems you were wrong. 'Picard' believes in nothing and says nothing, simply taking pleasure in unravelling all that the character represented in TNG to the pleasure of some and the despair of the rest of us.
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