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William B
Sat, May 30, 2020, 5:52pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Rascals

I like The Game too! I just think that the crew has to be somewhat easily subdued for the plot to work.
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William B
Sat, May 30, 2020, 9:40am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S6: Rascals

"I think the B plot with the Ferengi would've worked OK even if it was exactly the same plot, just not with the Ferengi. Maybe rogue Klingons (the whole mining part could be left out since that's not really their thing...ok except for Lursa and B'etor apparently), or some other species."

I'm not sure if this is the point to which you refer, but: I think the exigencies of the plot are that the enemy had to be pathetic enough to be plausibly outmatched by children (or at least adults posing as children), which causes the other side of the problem, which is that the adult crew looks much worse in falling to them. It's the same problem as in The Game, though there it's the teen/young adult Wesley and Robin who play the role.
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William B
Thu, May 28, 2020, 9:50am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S6: Pathfinder

RIP Richard Herd. In addition to Admiral Paris, where he stepped into a character built up in the series' history with aplomb, I really enjoyed his performance as Wilhelm in Seinfeld.
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William B
Mon, May 25, 2020, 1:44pm (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S2: The Omega Glory

I don't know what you're talking aboot.
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William B
Sat, May 23, 2020, 9:47am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

Having still not seen "Picard," I'll add that sops to Patrick Stewart's vanity (or kooky ideas) have been present since at least Captain's Holiday. Stewart is a big enough draw and important enough for the franchise that it's probably worth granting him the occasional dumb idea. Captain's Holiday was pretty silly but if we have to have a Captain's Holiday in order to have Yesterday's Enterprise, Best of Both Worlds, The Defector, Sarek, The Offspring, The Survivors etc., then fine, go have your low-budget Indiana Jones adventure sir. By the films the ratio was arguably off, where the "arguably" is only how much of the problem with the films was because of Stewart's input and how much for the various other problems.
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William B
Thu, May 21, 2020, 10:22am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Future's End, Part I

@Booming, I enjoyed Community s1-3. I might check out s5-6 at some point; I had heard about s4 and didn't bother with it.

@Elliott, I have watched Better Call Saul (except the most recent season), and IMO the weakest parts of the show are the attempts to tie-in with Breaking Bad. The arcs of the original characters are interesting, including (in many respects) the show's version of Saul himself, who is pretty distinct from Breaking Bad's version (even if we know who he'll eventually become). El Camino was okay but felt redundant. Unless there's something in the most recent season of BCS I don't think any touched on Grey Matter. I doubt it, because I don't think the timeline fits.
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William B
Thu, May 21, 2020, 9:16am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Future's End, Part I

@Elliott, Yeah, I mean, I didn't think you were criticizing the shows per se. I think Mad Men especially is still a systemic critique in its whole structure, through Don's life story. With Breaking Bad, I like what you say about Gretchen and Elliot. Overall, though, it does seem to mostly about *specifically criminal* forms of capitalism rather than a deep-dive critique of the system as is. Walt wants an empire in part because he feels he could have had one at Grey Matter, and so he will settle for a meth empire; but that the Grey Matter empire would have been a problem too (though, one presumes, less directly murder-based) is not so significant. One of the early episodes I really enjoyed was the one in which Jesse deals with the meth-addicted household (ending in mariticide) while Walt has lunch with Gretchen ending in him saying "fuck you"; the social stratification in which Walt's ability to tell Gretchen off being *dependent on* the social decay that the meth sales create/perpetuate/rely on was pretty searing.

Re: the thread, I like BoJack Horseman too, with maybe some caveats. I think it improves, not just in becoming more hopeful, but also in becoming a more observant and confident show. I was not very sold on its first season. I really like The Good Place. I haven't watched Rick and Morty or Fleabag, both of which I've heard good things about.
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William B
Wed, May 20, 2020, 9:44am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Future's End, Part I

"Again, quite the indictment. This is something which I don't see mentioned much in reviews of this episode; much like “The Voyage Home” which clearly serves as inspiration here, the substance which gives lighthearted adventure some weight is a *systemic* critique of our contemporary society. I think sometimes those of us who consume so much Trek brush this stuff off as ubiquitous, but it remains a wonderfully subversive element of the pre-Abrams franchise. Even the most acclaimed dramas of the last decades like “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” “The Sopranos,” “Game of Thrones,” and others fall short of really digging into the systemic critiques. “Breaking Bad,” for example, did address the horrific realities of the American healthcare system, but this largely fell away as the central thesis was about the flaws of human beings within our systems. “Mad Men” eventually frames the soul-sucking recuperative industry of advertising as potentially redeemable in the person of Peggy, whose success is celebrated for subverting gender inequalities. Criticisms of the socioeconomics which give rise to such a toxic industry are pretty much forgotten about. “Game of Thrones” ends up advocating for aristocratic oligarchy as the preferred political system because, you know, stories. And so on. I miss Star Trek."

I agree to a point, but want to demur a bit. Mad Men (SPOILERS) certainly does use Peggy's success to say something positive about the potential of the industry, and I think the show's often searing indictment of the Left (for instance, via Midge and her boho buds, or Peggy's boyfriend Abe, or Megan's French-Canadian socialist professor father; Peggy's lesbian friend Joyce comes out very well) shows a resistance to too sustained an anti-capitalist critique (or, at least, critique from the perspective of anyone from the 60's)...and yet I still think Peggy is showing that good things can and did happen in the US in the 1960's and early 70's, just that it's necessarily constrained within the boxes that are available. Specifically, it's that Don can do good things, by encouraging Peggy, which is his main (moral) success over the course of the series. Peggy's success stands in contrast to Sal's permanent ejection and the way the ladder Joan claws her way up is immediately taken away by McCann-Erickson, though she can maybe reinvent herself as a manager. The central figure is still Don who, as an analogue for America itself, deals with the traumas of the Depression and WW2 and has to fabricate a slick but spiritually empty identity and lives with constant guilt, paranoia and self-destruction in order to be able to maintain the facade. The best we can apparently hope for is that he can move upwards from cigarettes to Coca-Cola, and that any personal growth he experiences will be commodified and repackaged, and *at best* it may be that something resembling art or social progress might sneak into that repackaging.

I also partly agree about Breaking Bad, but it's also complicated. It's a mythic crime Western. Socioeconomic factors play a big role. It's made clear very early on that Walt's financial problems are not the *precise* root of his actions, when he refuses Gretchen and Elliot's largesse. Because even that is still about financial issues (of what it means to "earn" money, preferring to build a drug empire over receiving possibly-deserved dividends of previously bought-out stock in a big moneymaker, etc.) it's not like it's unrelated. Walt's attitude toward what it means to earn a living is near the core of his character study, and that is necessarily tied to the society he lives in. But it's still operating on the character level -- the character's reaction to the system, and the ways the system influences him.

Game of Thrones "stories" LOL.
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William B
Mon, May 18, 2020, 6:32pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@OTDP,

Ha, fair enough (though I haven't followed the thread closely). I am not that excited about the Pike show, it just seemed a pretty sweeping statement.
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William B
Mon, May 18, 2020, 6:21pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

"And you know what's really frightening? There wasn't a single Nu-Trek fan that refrained from doing that. NOT A SINGLE ONE."

How can you know that?
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William B
Sun, May 17, 2020, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@James White, I've often seen solipcism colloquially used to mean self-absorbed (or absorbed in one's own group or country's perspective) to the point where the internal realities of others (other peoples) are not considered to be real or meaningful. This is related to but distinct from its definition as philosophical concept, but, fair enough, I'd be happy to substitute a different term. My (very brief) web search suggests that this informal meaning of solipcism isn't found in the dictionaries I checked.
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William B
Sat, May 16, 2020, 10:20am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

I'm also reminded of that moment when Trump looked at the eclipse with naked eyes while everyone else wore protective glasses. It's a tiny, tiny moment but feels like it explains a lot of what this guy is about.
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William B
Sat, May 16, 2020, 10:16am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

Yeah Jason. I think to further elaborate, I think the film (and Coppola, and Conrad) have a "thesis about human nature" which is not Vietnam War-specific, and so is maybe using a very recent tragedy to harp on an abstract point, when maybe/probably some more specifics of what was specific to this conflict (and the American aims therein, and the Vietnamese experience) would be more appropriate. It's kind of a psychodrama/bad acid trip of a movie and is, in that sense, kind of solipsistic. Still, it's pretty remarkable too for how brazen it is at undermining the notion of US good intentions. One of the advantages of sci-fi/fantasy is that it's possible to do the kind of mythic storytelling that plumbs the depths of human nature without having to hold the burden of making sure you're using the right subject matter.

"It's funny this film came up. My sister was saying how she was amazed at the risks Trump was taking re: Covid given his age and weight and such and she was half-joking she wished he'd be the victim of his own stupidity.

I told her he reminded me of Robert Duvall's character in Apocalypse Now, who was walking into machine gun fire without a care in the world yet everyone just *knew* wouldn't "get a scratch" in the war. Kind of a metaphor for America itself maybe (not that I am anti American mind you!)"

That really gets at it. Trump, like Kilgore, is apparently Teflon and nothing sticks. The rest of America is not. It does seem likely that eventually some of Trump's brazenness will bite him in a way that seems to do some actual harm to him (getting sick, for instance), but probably he will just continue until then, and he'll just be invincible until the moment he isn't.
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William B
Sat, May 16, 2020, 9:01am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

I think Apocalypse Now is guilty of disinterest in the Vietnamese as people, but I think it's different from even Oliver Stone's films. Whereas the protagonists in the (somewhat autobiographical) Stone films have an idealism which is put through the reality of their war, IIRC the major characters in Apocalypse Now are megalomaniacs (Kurtz), aloof cynics (Willard) or simply psychopathic (Kilgore). Even the US sending Willard to stop Kurtz seems largely to be about PR and Kurtz stepping out of line rather than a principled objection to his method. It really seems to depict the US as being a violent empire using various types of psycho to get its ends, which already has a "heart of darkness," and uses a whole country and people to play out its violent fantasies.

I think that the case that might make AN "PRO-US propaganda" is that, as I say, the Vietnamese are not really treated as people, and there is the sense in which the main problem of Kilgore napalming is that it's bad for him to kill, rather than that it's bad that the Vietnamese were killed. There is probably some idea that the violence of the environment accelerated the process by which the violence of the US characters was brought out, though I think it mostly seems to be arguing that it's the power to do what they want without consequences is the real reason for the horror.
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William B
Fri, May 15, 2020, 2:30pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Parallax

Yeah not to harp on it too much but my impression is that while there are some atheists who are uninterested in converting anyone, and of those who are interested in converting, certainly some atheists are anti-religious for the sake of point-scoring, a lot of anti-religious activism comes down to the harm that various institutions in the world do for ostensibly religious reasons, trying to ensure that the state maintains separation from religion, protecting people from predation from religious authorities, etc., rather than a "my-way-or-the-highway" style insistence that others must conform to their beliefs. There's some bleed-over of course (the existence of religious persecution makes some anti-religious activists particularly zealous in viewing all religion as oppressive, for instance).
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William B
Fri, May 15, 2020, 9:59am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Parallax

The aliens figure might depend on what is meant by "believes in aliens." "There might be intelligent life in the universe other than on Earth" is probably a more common belief than "there are intelligent human-like beings who have had contact with and are interested in us." A friend of my mom's is into the ancient aliens stuff, believes that aliens are going to take the good humans on the mothership to a paradise (!!!) and it seems obviously to be a direct substitute for certain kinds of religious belief, providing solace that the injustices in this world will be rectified in the "next life" which is the true one. I don't know if he'd even identify as an atheist, and IIRC he thinks Jesus was an alien. I sincerely doubt that 80% of atheists are like him, though I don't think he's unique. I have heard that people who believe that aliens have visited humans have similar experiences to religious visions, in near-death/psychadelic experiences, etc. But belief that alien life is possible in the abstract sense (or agnosticism about that), which has likely never had contact with us, seems common enough. I also don't think such belief is necessarily any kind of substitute for/equivalent to religion, if there's no particular belief about what such aliens would believe or want (or what human behaviour this should imply).
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William B
Wed, May 13, 2020, 12:35pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S5: Thirty Days

I agree that it would have been better to explore more the consequences of Janeway's authority, resistance to it, etc., but I'm not positive this episode was a great place to do it. It's not like Virtuoso (spoiler) or something where a crew member wants to leave the ship and has to go through Janeway and only Janeway, or Tuvix where it's life and death for Tuvix, Tuvok and Neelix. Paris breaks the Prime Directive and attempts large scale industrial sabotage using Voyager's most powerful shuttle. It really is as Starfleet a matter as you can get.
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William B
Sun, May 10, 2020, 10:41am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Parallax

@Top Hat, yeah, agreed.

@Peter, lol re: baby names.
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William B
Sun, May 10, 2020, 10:38am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Trent, I like the Moffat/Braga comparison. Moffat's non-SF work (Sherlock, Coupling) also exhibit this at times enthralling, at times annoying penchant for cleverness. (Coupling is very formally experimental for a sex farce.) I liked series 5 but even there aspects of it bothered me (though I forget what it was exactly -- something about the Amy/Rory material, I think). I had heard that series 6 was unsuccessful for many, including ones who really loved season 5, so I gave it a pass, though I wouldn't be opposed to watching it. I like what I've seen of Capaldi's take on the Doctor. As I mentioned elsewhere I'm going through a partial classic Twilight Zone watch right now, so I'm not sure what I'll do afterwards.
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William B
Sun, May 10, 2020, 8:37am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Parallax

I'll add that Christmas in particular is celebrated by many (my family included) in a secular way. One might reasonably say that it's not celebrating, then, or that it's appropriative, but, I was raised in an atheistic home where we still did the Christmas thing, with tree and carols and Santa and family togetherness, not so much the church service. I don't think this is particularly unusual based on other atheists or agnostics I know living in countries with historical ties to Christianity. I also can quote the Bible in the same way I can quote Shakespeare: imperfectly, with marginal relevance to the current situation, and with no divine belief.

I'm not particularly arguing (at the moment anyway) whether Christianity appears to be prevalent in the Trek world or not, just that the presence of Christmas in TOS or Picard's Nexus thing never struck me as conclusive, or even particularly suggestive of actual theistic belief.
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William B
Sun, May 10, 2020, 8:19am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Sacred Ground

Another interesting take, Peter. I will say that that sense of wonder is also something that Janeway really emphasized Emanations, to Kim, so I'm not sure that it would be so great a shock to her system on its own. But it's also very different being abstractly aware that there are wonders beyond understanding and actually experiencing one.
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William B
Sat, May 9, 2020, 7:58pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S1: Parallax

"Christopher Hitchens, the Elon Musk of anti-theism"

I wonder what baby names Hitchens would have.
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William B
Sat, May 9, 2020, 4:41pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Sacred Ground

Ds9 spoilers

It also makes me think of the potential in a story where Dukat didn't for a moment buy into the Pah-wraith thing but realized he could use Bajoran religion to finally gain Bajoran worship, which is actually *so close* to Covenant but yet so far. I know Peter should offer some advantages to what we got, but it's interesting to think about anyway.
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William B
Sat, May 9, 2020, 4:37pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Sacred Ground

@Elliott, thank you! I admire the care with which you're doing these write-ups and the philosophical consistency with which you're approaching it (and which you are attempting to apply to Trek).

I will probably check out that last scene. Certainly if makes sense that Janeway genuinely became something of a Believer, and needed to for the episode to have its impact, and that Janeway was pretty broken down to get to that point also makes sense.

"This immediately made me think of Ardra. If the new series were more...Star Trekky, I think this would make a great premise for an episode (or an arc, I guess); maybe there's a rogue sect of Q who go around the galaxy impersonating deities."

That's a cool idea. It makes me think too how much even bad Trek used to be Star Trekky, because it makes me think of that TOS captain choosing to make a planet into Nazis for some reason (essentially making them worship him) or Nikolai manipulating the villagers with weather tricks in Homeward. They weren't exactly brimming with responsible or well thought out takes on the material but seemed to be...sort of in the neighbourhood of these themes anyway.
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William B
Sat, May 9, 2020, 12:26pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Sacred Ground

@Elliott, interesting take, and one which seems internally consistent.

I don't remember the episode that well, and am not dying to revisit it. My memory of the final Janeway beat is different. I interpreted Janeway not as sad but not fully accepting the rational technobabble explanation supplied by the Doctor; rather, I thought that she more or less was accepting the religious explanation as paramount, and the scientific explanation as the process by which the numinous process occurred in the world. This sends a different message than the one you argue, which is that the "miraculous" can occur through rational process, and the religious dimension is less believing in events that could have only been explained in religious terms so much as believing that the primary, more important explanation is the religious one. An equivalent would be that if a person believes that life exists on Earth because of a divine creator, and that the observable physical processes are how that divine will manifests. However, as I say, I don't remember the scene clearly enough to stand by that interpretation.

Regarding my point about whether Janeway should see the spirits as Prophet-like aliens, I may have overlooked the scene you referenced. But it also is maybe a general point not specific to this episode. Part of the general difficulty with the religion vs rationality stuff in Trek is that if you take the whole continuity seriously then, like, Apollo literally exists, the Rubber Tree people were given alien god upgrades, there is a superpowered race in the Q judging humanity which can make apparently impossible things happen, Beverly had a family sex ghost, etc. In each case that they must still live by some rational laws, albeit ones we don't understand, is still clear, but if Q wanted to make a whole human race out of Adam and Eve and then make it look a few generations later like we evolved from single celled organisms, he probably could. Thus that there might be beings of conscious will who wish to be appeased should always be on the table, and it's only because this takes the form of religious devotion that it is dismissed. The key thing is that because superpowered beings exist and make demands does not confer moral authority onto them, which is why Kirk usually blows them up.

With this episode, I guess the issue is that it feels like of the three options

1. Purely scientific and non-conscious phenomenon
2. Purely scientific consciously willed phenomenon by superbeing with its own agenda
3. Nonscientific phenomenon willed by God with divine moral authority

there's the sense that the episode (maybe?) mostly considers it 1 or 3 and Janeway is only intermittently considering 2. On the other hand maybe she considers 2 more than I recall, or maybe she shouldn't be considering 2.

And of course, you know, that Apollo was an alien is one of those things from TOS that are necessarily not incorporated into the day to day life of people in the Trek verse. There has to be some room to flex to different kinds of stories without the implications of every one affecting every other. And even then, we can maybe conclude that even though apparently lots of human "gods" were actually aliens this is actually super rare and *most* planets in Trek that worship gods are not worshipping physically existing aliens with their own wacky agendas.
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