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William B
Wed, Jan 20, 2021, 10:10pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S1: Into the Fold

The rental dvd skipped whole scenes, which based on the review here probably improved the overall experience by cutting down the nonsense with the locals and tightening up the interactions between Isaac and the kids. So given that, I thought it was okay; Claire and Issac got some showcase and the kids felt real. Maybe 2 stars, possibly 2.5.

I know I'm giving lowish ratings to the show, while also claiming I like it. I gather that it improves, but even as is the show's Trek pastiche feels warm and loving, even if it's of course extremely derivative. I don't want that all the time but I feel the appeal, and am looking forward to if the show does grow the beard.
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William B
Wed, Jan 20, 2021, 10:02pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S1: Majority Rule

Pretty fun but kind of vapid. I expect derivative but filtering Black Mirror episodes directly through the TOS parallel earth thing needs something extra. LaMarr, as Jammer states, does not impress, though some of the scenes of him trying to mumble through an apology on the talk circuit is amusing. I think the parallel earth thing runs into problems of whether this episode wants to have the Union characters loudly proclaim that they can't understand this crazy culture or loudly proclaim that this crazy culture is just what 21st century Earth nearly was. The stuff with the barista was amusing. Low 2.5.
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William B
Tue, Jan 19, 2021, 5:34pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S1: Krill

I liked About a Girl better, largely because for its weirdness the ep does a better job with Bortus' people than this one does with the Krill, and Bortus is so far the series' best character. But this one is pretty good too, silly of course but engaging and entertaining, with something like an actual moral dilemma with the suggestion of consequences at the end, a betrayal with the suggestion of another generation radicalized. As Jammer says, we don't learn much about the Krill really, but there are still some bits of information we get. And it's a better vehicle for Gordon than we've seen before. 2.5 from me.
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William B
Tue, Jan 19, 2021, 3:32pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S1: Pria

I think this one evokes, among other things, Firefly's "Our Mrs. Reynolds" (which, unlike wolfstar above, I like); anyway, the Isaac practical joke is great, Theron is fine, the question of whether we are seeing Kelly's jealousy or Commander Grayson's prudence is fairly well teased out, and the sci-fi notion of the time-wormhole people poaching those who should have died for antique dealers is interesting, though not that much is done with it. The weakness here is that there's not that much there there -- it's nice that Pria isn't a monster but a professional (who isn't going to kill the crew), but there's not much arc there in terms of the reveal that she's their enemy, and her deception doesn't really mean anything, including for Mercer. And yeah MacFarlane isn't great as a romantic lead so far. The opening runs into the problem that it might be more entertaining to just watch Seinfeld instead. 2 stars or so.
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William B
Mon, Jan 18, 2021, 6:52pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S1: If the Stars Should Appear

They got Liam Neeson!?

Anyway zzzz nothing to see here. 1.5 tops.
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William B
Sun, Jan 17, 2021, 10:53pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S1: About a Girl

Oh yeah part of Kelly being the one to give the argument was a nice touch; in addition to the rest, it really is also story about the legitimacy of "women in a man's world." Kelly in particular is a good choice for this because -- well, Palecki is good, yes, but the Ed/Kelly arc seems to be that their marriage failed because Ed kept her separate from his work, and their new relationship (whatever form it takes) is going to succeed because he'll integrate her into it. I don't think we're meant to believe that in the actual 25th century story that there's significant sexism on Earth (except in the 20th century jokes I guess) but I think the subtext is about reconciliation of the sexes by coexisting within both domestic and professional spheres, a Trek fanfic take on the Tracy/Hepburn "Adam's Rib"-type battle of the sexes comedy. I think I remember some comments on Ed/Kelly getting tiresome and I can definitely believe that, but I think that's what story they're going for.
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William B
Sun, Jan 17, 2021, 10:43pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S1: Command Performance

Actually *1.5 stars. I didn't really find this much of an improvement on the first episode, and in some ways it was somewhat worse, though it's not terrible IMO.
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William B
Sun, Jan 17, 2021, 10:41pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S1: About a Girl

While it may be grading on a curve, I like "The Orville" so far: it seems to know what it's trying to be, is leaving room for growth, and plays a delicate game (which Jammer alludes to in the Rudolph scene) in being both bold and tentative. My wife and I both found the allegory to map somewhat most closely to human intersex births (where frequently the doctors and parents choose to fix the child's sex at birth to avoid the child undergoing future stigma, with the decisions sometimes regretted), but the episode also bounces around all sorts of issues. It's not so much that the episode is particularly tight or coherent in what it brings up, as that it keeps suggesting new avenues for discussion long enough to keep the story engaging without letting the episode's spell break. I think I mostly like that the episode doesn't force its allegory to be too pinned down, though the stageyness of the episode does get to be rather much during the courtroom scenes (proving that Moclan females can be as strong as males by showing off Alara is a fairly meaningless gesture, as the prosecution points out). As far as these downbeat allegories go, I think it's not as good as, say, The Twilight Zone's "Number 12 Looks Just Like You," but better than "The Outcast."

I like the little details around the edges of the Moclan homeworld -- that the emphasis on a particular view of maleness leads to this society that's all weapons manufacturing and smog, a courtroom of cubes and larger cubes. Had the episode pushed this to the forefront, it would probably be ridiculous, but as backdrop it hits the right notes.

There's some Worf/Crusher ("The Enemy," "Ethics") vibes to the Bortus/Claire arguments.

Anyway the double-edged sword of this non-Trek Trek is that it can sort of get away with less-sketched in story aspects than if it were a more "legitimate" show, which also allows it to successfully navigate the anything-goes throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks energy, which I think maybe covers up some careful thought going into these scripts (at least this one). As Jammer says, the Rudolph scene is particularly good -- and also includes maybe the show's best joke so far (when Bortus says that Rudolph's father originally planned to have him euthanized, and the others say that that wasn't ever on the table). 3 stars seems right.
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William B
Sun, Jan 17, 2021, 10:30pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S1: Command Performance

Interesting that Alara is in command by default partly *because* she's a kid, and is more disconnected from family responsibilities; Bortus is eggsitting and Ed and Kelly are entrapped by the spectre of reuniting with his parents which prompts them to relitigate their divorce. Alara's emotional turmoil felt real, if obvious, but yeah her turnaround did seem to be based primarily on peer pressure rather than what she actually thought was best. If the argument that Claire made to her was more that if most of the crew wanted to go risk themselves for Ed and Kelly then that was a good indicator they should do so, but that wasn't exactly the argument posited. Claire's advice was generally okay though.

Possible (unlikely?) subtext of us watching for the soap opera shenanigans which ties us to the Calivons; like the Calivons, we "want to see" the history of the Ed/Kelly ship (note: I don't actually very much right now). Super-smart viewers apparently just want to watch soapy reality TV right?

It's very by the numbers in its actual dedicated stories (the "comedy of remarriage" Ed/Kelly stuff and the green-first-command) but there are interesting bits of world- and character-building around the edges. 2 stars seems appropriate. The scale is sliding.
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William B
Sun, Jan 17, 2021, 10:24pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S1: Old Wounds

So my wife and I are watching The Orville. I know there are other higher priority shows, but I think it's maybe what we want right now. Saw up to "About a Girl" tonight. So far I like it, even though it's not great in general. Brief comments:

It really is basically just Star Trek with pee jokes so far. I do get that MacFarlane is a big Trek fan, but it's too bad that he felt the need to make it start out kind of wan and confused like aspects of TNG season 1.

MacFarlane's acting upon Ed finding Kelly cheating on him was one of the ep's weaker points -- I really don't think he has much in the way of dramatic chops. In general, I think the show will hopefully improve once we see the Mercer we are told about. Mercer is obviously MacFarlane in certain respects, and the way in which he dreamed about one day being a Starship, I mean, Union captain, and ended up something of a lowbrow schmo instead, is maybe about his arc. I think at some point we will need to see the Mercer who dreamed of being a captain rather than the one who is kind of reluctantly dragged into it. In any case, there is a kind of anti-meritocratic feeling to it, because for both MacFarlane and Mercer there's a slight sense they shouldn't be there, which of course is part of the story.

Kelly cheating on Ed because he was too much of a workaholic: already (spoilers) three episodes in this is a boring plot point, but again it's not quite convincing because Kelly seems so much more ambitious an officer than him. I know the divorce was hard on him etc.

I do think this episode would be mostly fine if it were a half-hour show -- the Chekov's Gun (my spelling choice is deliberate) of the redwood/"Timescape" time accelerator machine thing was set up adequately well, and reminds me of the end of "The Trouble with Tribbles," it's just that there isn't much meat to sustain the rest of the show.

Bortus and Isaac are a hoot already. Others not so much.

1.5 stars is probably fair, though a kind of pleasant 1.5 stars.
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William B
Wed, Jan 13, 2021, 11:23am (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: The Empath

I guess I would restate my position as: I don't think the Vians are correct to do what they do. I think we are meant to understand them. They are tragic figures, who lack empathy but understand that this is the most valuable trait. They are going to let themselves be destroyed in favour of Gem's people. They have to know that choice is correct. I find that interesting, and even moving, that they value so highly a trait that they know that they lack, and will let themselves be destroyed because they know they lack it. I think that they should not be emulated, except perhaps in specific allegorical ways (how to understand the intellect's role within a person).

It may be my moral failing that I do not have much visceral outrage at what they do, but I don't really think of them as being analogous to real life humans as such.

Of course I condemn any real life experiments involving torture.
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William B
Tue, Jan 12, 2021, 2:45pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: The Empath

@Peter, great comment.

Just to clarify on the psychopath point, there are several statements usually included in a definition for psychopathy. One is lack of empathy, but others typically (though not universally) include egocentrism and extreme risk taking. The former maybe applies to the Vians (though as you say they may possess empathy, just of a different sort) but the latter qualities don't seem to fit. Or rather, I guess in this situation they are taking it upon themselves to take a great risk, which may seem egocentric, but it's ultimately that they are cautious about their big intervention which will annihilate them - so it's mostly the opposite of those aspects of psychopathy.
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William B
Tue, Jan 12, 2021, 12:21pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: The Empath

Thank you Rahul!

I largely agree on the difference between this and Plato's Stepchildren. I do not hate the latter but find it much harder to watch. Perhaps it *is* good to really drive home the point about Parmen, but I also agree that I feel like I got it early on.

TV torture that I felt was gratuitous: (Game of Thrones spoilers) the Theon stuff. In the books, the story essentially jumped from Theon being outplayed by Ramsay to the broken man he is as Reek, several books later. We can fill in the gaps ourselves, and feel revulsion without dwelling on it. That the torture *occurred* is in keeping with the story and what kind of world they live in, but the actual on screen depiction felt endless and wallowing to me.

I am fine with the torture depiction in CoC, Firefly's War Stories, The Die is Cast and so on. Not only do they make character and story sense, but there are points being made in those scenes beyond just the fact of torture happening.

A "favourite" instance of torture in movies is in To Have and Have Not. It is established early on that Walter Brennan's character is a drunk who develops serious withdrawal symptoms, and then late in the story the fascist antagonist tortures him by depriving him of booze. Nothing but Brennan's performance is there to demonstrate how badly this damages him, but everyone knows how cruel the punishment is, as how carefully it was *personally* calibrated to do harm. I think that gorier, more visceral torture has its place but I see this as a good example of precise storytelling, demonstrating cruelty without reveling in it.
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William B
Tue, Jan 12, 2021, 11:28am (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: The Empath

To add,

"These are psychopathic aliens with zero Empathy"

I disagree about psychopathic. But definitely they don't have empathy. That's why they save Gem's people rather than their own, when they can only save one species.
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William B
Tue, Jan 12, 2021, 11:17am (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: The Empath

It's interesting. I think for me, with things like the situation the aliens are in The Empath, I really do see them as being in a situation which is either (take your pick)

a) Allegorical so that we don't need to take them as literal people, or
b) In a situation so extreme that it is one that we should never see ourselves as being in, except as a thought experiment.

IMO, the reason that they are so intensely measuring out Gem's worth before saving her people is that if Gem's people survive, they will be loosed on the Galaxy, where they may eventually do great evil. The aliens are essentially in a position of deciding the fate of the Galaxy, based on an intervention which can have incredible consequences, beyond our conception. Beyond theirs, really. To do nothing is the default action. If they intervene and Gem's people become tyrannical, then they are responsible for all the damage they do. If they intervene and Gem's people are not tyrannical, then they have nobly saved a species. The Vians *are* in a position of whether to play God, and so believe that they must use some of the tools at "God's" disposal.

Of course I don't think they should torture Kirk et al. But I see the reasoning behind it. And I believe that the Vians are sincere. I believe that they are sincere in part because they are choosing to save Gem's people rather than their own, who will also be destroyed in the supernova.

I think we are meant to see them as wrong to carry on this experiment, and Kirk emphasizes this to them. But I also think we are meant to see their decision as being of a magnitude beyond our understanding. This is a decision beyond any that any human being has ever made in scale. So they tread very, very, very carefully, and feel they need some evidence to justify the large scale of their intervention. The devastating personal pain they inflict on four individuals is small in comparison to the difference between the choices they will make. They should not be in the position to play God, but they are, and they will be destroyed along with the rest of their star system, so that it will also be their final act.

As a complete allegory, divorced from any conception of the players representing people, I think we can think of the Vians as representing intellect and Gem as emotion. The intellect recognizes that what is most valuable is empathy, which can be forged in oneself only through pain. The Vians and Gem share a solar system and thus in some senses are part of a complete person, and what this is depicting is the intellect recognizing the need to force one's own empathy to be developed by seeing the pain of others rather than hiding from it. The intellect is required to push the development of that empathy, which eventually is more important in the greater world (Galaxy) than the intellect itself. Scotty's "gem of great price" emphasizes this: the Vians can only save one element of their galaxy, and their choice is that empathy, forged in pain. This is the element of humanity that is purest and noblest, and the intellect recognizes this abstractly but must eventually be burned away.

Note that I'm not advocating this philosophy per se, so much as articulating that this is what I believe the episode to be about.

The episode's allegorical framework has always led me to find the torture sequences affecting, but not gratuitous, and nor do I think of them as genuinely being about real world torture, the way the Chain of Command scenes are. They are abstracted, the idea and feeling of pain boiled down to its essential components.

A blogger I like referred to TOS as being often a "stagey idea-drama" - which he did not mean in a derogatory sense. I think this episode fits that the most. It doesn't feel like any real world at all to me, and plays like a mental and emotional exercise, a Gedankenexperiment about moral value. I like it.
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William B
Mon, Jan 11, 2021, 9:59am (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: The Enterprise Incident

@Chrome, I agree that the IMDb ratings aren't a great metric for talking about The Best episode. The reason I brought it up is that Mal was suggesting (as I understood it) that a definitive episode of a show should be something many people can agree on, at least to a degree. Balance of Terror in particular is one that seems to be generally popular, and less so with Jammer (and others), so it's worth using another metric just to point out that Jammer's take isn't universal (in case it isn't obvious).

@all, I think the cross-series IMDb ratings are only so useful, because I think you get into weird effects; for instance, the number of ratings for City on the Edge as of today is 4556. The number of ratings for In the Pale Moonlight is 2865. That's a big difference and IMO I suspect that people taking the trouble to rate famous DS9 episodes are more DS9 fans than people taking the trouble to rate famous TOS episodes are necessarily fans of the show rather than people aware of a generally famous episode. Does this mean that if the same set of people watched both episodes, we can conclude they would rate ITPM higher than TCOTEOF, regardless even of whether they should "objectively"? Hard to say.

Anyway to repeat, I'm not advocating for IMDb ratings to be taken seriously as anything but a barometer for popularity of episodes, which is useful to a degree for gauging "definitive" ones. I do also think that it means something in that if an episode does significantly better than I would expect, it makes me want to revisit the episode to see if I missed anything. A part of me rebels at that because it's a form of bias, but because this is for fun I am willing to give things extra chances if others see something. And even then I would rather hear good arguments from people I respect than a crowd sourced number. The number is fun but it doesn't mean much.
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William B
Sat, Jan 9, 2021, 10:50pm (UTC -6)
Re: TOS S3: The Enterprise Incident

Far be it for me to deny that Jammer is a major tastesetter for Trek, and certainly this is his site we're on. But at the same time, he's one guy, which also means that his tastes are going to have individuality.

To take another metric, check out IMDb episode ratings. The top ten episodes as of today are:

1. The City on the Edge of Forever
2. Mirror, Mirror
3-4 (tie). The Trouble with Tribbles; Balance of Terror
5-6 (tie). The Doomsday Machine; Space Seed
7. Amok Time
8. Journey to Babel
9. The Enterprise Incident
10-11 (tie). The Devil in the Dark; The Menagerie Part 1.

All right why am I using the IMDb rather than a more Trek-centric place? I don't know! I picked a website, and it's bound to reflect something of popular tastes of people dedicated enough to rate individual Trek episodes. I could pick a different one.

It dovetails with what I gather is generally true: that Balance of Terror is generally held in extremely high esteem as one of the series' high points. Tied for 3rd is pretty high!

When the SPACE channel in Canada had an original series vote-in marathon, I remember the top five were Tribbles, City, Mirror, Doomsday Machine, and then Balance of Terror at 5. I remember this because I was quite young at the time, and had not seen all of TOS, and so was pretty rapt with attention at a chance to see some of these classics.

For what it's worth, I am not personally taking a stand on how good Balance of Terror is. I like it but I have always felt like there is maybe some dimension of it that I'm sort of missing. I don't feel that way about The Doomsday Machine, say, where I am pretty sure that I'm getting the full effect, though perhaps not with the same visceral thrill of someone watching it for the first time and in an age more inundated with the fear of looming doomsday machines of the time.

Along those lines, I think that a set of the definitive TNG episodes could well include The Offspring, Family and Darmok -- episodes which don't make the 3.5 cut for Jammer, and in which (in each case) Jammer makes a point of emphasizing that he's outside the consensus in those reviews. I say "could well" because, hey, depends on who you ask. (Those three are all ones that I think people who love *really* love, but which leave others a little cold.)

What's interesting, given Mal's statement, is that I kind of disagree with "Enterprise Incident" -- an episode I really dig and which I think is in the series' top ten -- as a definitive TOS episode. It is pretty far off-format, plays the worldbuilding/interplanetary politics stuff which the series actually addresses pretty rarely, and doesn't seem to be as pointed in its real-world implications as most TOS. It is a spy thriller, intrigue, action piece, and of course a character piece for Spock, with worldbuilding implications, but while those elements are all present in TOS I don't really go to TOS for worldbuilding the way I do for DS9 or TNG, though the Spock material is close to the series' beating green heart.
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William B
Fri, Jan 8, 2021, 1:04pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

@Chrome,

Oh yeah nothing against Isaacs or Yeoh's performances (though I haven't seen that much of Discovery - season 1 only). They do a great job but the show's hampered by the most effective acting being of sort of dead end characters.

@Jason

LOL I thought you were still talking about Sarah Michelle Gellar when you said SMG and I kept wondering when she was on TWD.
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William B
Fri, Jan 8, 2021, 12:27pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

@Jason, Discovery also squandered Yeoh and Isaacs by sticking them with one dimensional MU crazies. They at least seem to kind of know that they have something special in Doug Jones though I haven't watched much of the show.
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William B
Fri, Jan 8, 2021, 11:54am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

@Matthew, you are definitely not alone! Angel fans are a very dedicated group.
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William B
Fri, Jan 8, 2021, 11:53am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 2

@Peter, I'm a big Buffy fan too. Nice to see.

I think Wesley in particular really elevates Angel, and I think the recurring guest cast in Angel is particularly strong (eg Darla, Lilah). I think Amy Acker is very talented but Fred was not very well executed much of the time. I think Angel takes a real hit because its first season is such a slog, but I do still like it. There are many who strongly prefer Angel to Buffy, and I respect the reasons why though I don't agree (don't want to get into that here). I do feel you: I do prefer weak Buffy episodes to good Angel episodes in terms of enjoyment (though there are some Angel eps I really love).

As far as both having the same showrunner, I think it's clear that Angel was a bit of a curiosity project for Whedon, who maybe never felt comfortable with the character or show, as compared to what I think was clarity in what he was trying to do with Buffy and Firefly. Even when Buffy episodes don't make literal sense there's a sense that the show knows knows what it's attempting to do, and Firefly seems to me to be a fairly completely realized world that is chopped up. Less so with Angel. That leads to interesting tonal changes when the co-showrunners change over and the show reinvents itself. At best, Angel's identity crisis is taken up by the character himself, who is often a little uncertain what he's fighting for and what he's about.
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William B
Thu, Jan 7, 2021, 11:52am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: There Is a Tide...

"In Super Mario Bros., they're named Bill:"

Haha classic Jammer (I haven't seen the show).
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William B
Thu, Dec 31, 2020, 12:21pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S3: Su'Kal

Re the "safe space" line, it could mean a few things:

1. It could mean a place where people are free to discuss "what they want" to without criticism, or unpleasant ideas. This is the one that could lead to the mushy effects people are maybe describing (haven't watched the season). There are advantages to this, but the disadvantages also mean some self-censorship to avoid harming others, which can hurt the final product. It could also mean:

2. A place where people are genuinely free to say what they want with the trust that everyone will know it is for the story. In Ron Moore's famous interview about Voyager, he talked about how the TNG and DS9 writer's rooms had huge arguments, but there was a trust within the room that everyone could say what they wanted, that they might get argued with, but that what happened in the room wouldn't seep out, and that everyone knew that everyone was trying to make the best product without carrying grudges from outside. I think that kind of "safety" to say what one really thinks is very important in an honest collaborative endeavor, especially (though not exclusively) artistic.

I suspect Paradise maybe means something that's a bit more like the former.
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William B
Tue, Dec 1, 2020, 3:12pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S7: Force of Nature

I think some of what I was getting at is that it's natural for people to have pride in their work, and Geordi's work is *mostly* worthwhile. He's maybe not idealistic in the same way as Picard, but I think he believes in the basic goals of the ship's exploration, diplomacy, scientific endeavours, etc. And it's very important for the ship to keep running for those. So it's in general good for Geordi to be a dedicated chief engineer. Now Scotty, for instance, loves the engineering for engineering itself, whereas I think Geordi likes the work but wants to feel something else about it too -- so hence, pride in *doing a good job*. And pride in his work is good, to some degree, if it's being channeled toward the good goals of the ship's overall Continuing Mission.

It might have been better to explore a bit more the gap between what "should be" motivating Geordi versus what is driving him, especially since it's an episode about what drives the Enterprise. So maybe it's more proper to say that Geordi discovers that, without entirely realizing it, his "engines" are doing damage to the world around him -- the thing actually driving him is not as innocent and positive as he thought. Probably this would need to have Geordi commit more fully to the Starfleet mission (or decide that's not entirely what he believes in, if it comes to that).
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William B
Tue, Dec 1, 2020, 3:01pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S7: Force of Nature

@Peter, yeah, your'e right. I guess what I mean is that I think that Geordi's deriving a sense of worth from his work is a lot of the problem here. He is definitely taking it too far, and the way in which he's taking it too far is, as you say, about dominating nature. The thing is that we know Geordi and we know how much his whole life is wrapped up with technology, and how technology allows him to see, allows him to contribute to the world, and so on.

Possibly a better example of what I mean is the exchange between Geordi and Picard at the end:

PICARD: Very well. You know, Geordi, I spent the better part of my life exploring space. I've charted new worlds, I've met dozens of new species. And I believe that these were all valuable ends in themselves. Now it seems that all this while, I was helping to damage the thing that I hold most dear.
LAFORGE: It's won't turn out that way, Captain. We still have time to make it better.

Maybe what I should say is that with Picard, I think we're looking at the genuine Enlightened Humanity take on this, where genuinely good intentions, totally reasonable behaviour can sometimes have negative side effects. Geordi is not at the Picard level, and so he also has this pettier side to his work. But I think pride in his work *in itself* is not a problem, it's that he takes it too far, is too blinded to the negative side of it.
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