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William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 2:24pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

Hey all - so I am sorry for getting so melodramatic earlier. I haven't read the responses (if any). I think what I've realized is that I am actually extremely anxious about my career, such as it is, and how severe the consequences will be if things don't work out. And there's some other personal stuff lately. Anyway, I had been trying to ignore it and push it to the back of my mind but it seems to have exploded out, and I think I was possibly more worried than I'd realized, and reacted overly emotionally. I'm sorry. I'm going to take a break from commenting for a bit and concentrate on getting my life, such as it is, back on track. I know that a sudden grand exit is also melodramatic, but, well, so it goes. I'll maybe be back eventually once I've sorted some things out in my life. Peace out.
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William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 11:46am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

I've also come close to suicide over a physics group project that went badly.

Again, I'm sorry if I sounded dismissive about artists but seriously.
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William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 11:43am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

Actually, I'm going to say this more strongly: this

"No one starves trying to become an office worker or a chemist, and no one goes home feeling like their entire life is a joke because the data from the chemistry experiment didn't come in today."

is by far the most I've disagreed with you. I'm going to go further and say that I spent my entire childhood almost starving because my mother had difficulty getting an office job.
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William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 11:37am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

@Peter, I'm sorry if I made it sound like I was disrespectful to what artists go through. However:

"No one starves trying to become an office worker or a chemist, and no one goes home feeling like their entire life is a joke because the data from the chemistry experiment didn't come in today."

That's...not really true though? I mean, it's not chemistry, Einstein was living in a crappy apartment close to the poverty line when he published his theory of relativity. "Publish or perish" is the academic line and lots of theoretical scientists -- let's be specific and say theoretical physicists -- suffer huge setbacks, huge loss of sense of worth, are paralyzed by periodic inability to create, have their lives staked on their professional reputations. Not to be overly dramatic, but it can be pretty hellish.
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William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 11:06am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: The Jem'Hadar

@Peter, that's an interesting point. And I agree, to a point. I think where I also agree with Tim/Trent is that I think there's a certain missing amount of due diligence of showing the Federation genuinely attempting to confirm the suspicion that the Founders genuinely are impossible to reason with. I think to a degree Peter is right that what we're seeing is a situation where genuinely there *was* no way to deal with the Founders, and so even if the Federation's behaviour is "wrong" by some measure, any changes to the story to bring the Federation more in line with enlightened values would still just demonstrate the same core argument in a different way, and lead to the same place, so that it's not a big deal.

SPOILER

The thing that does eventually allow them to communicate with the Founders is basically Odo -- Odo eventually is able to communicate via the Link what he's learned about the solids in the meantime. I think on that level, it's actually incorrect that the Founders are impossible to reach, it's just that they didn't know what tools they could use to reach them, and in fact their ability to reach them *also* relied on Odo becoming a different person than he was in The Search, which itself was something that couldn't be forced.

It might be the cockeyed optimist in me, but I guess I do wish that there were more examples of the Federation really *trying* to reach the Dominion, to confirm that they were so intractable. I know that many people believe that there was enough evidence of the Federation trying and there doesn't need to be more, and I am not saying that's impossible. It's kind of hard for me to evaluate, but there is something fragmented about the way the Dominion story is told (partly, I know, because of the realities of 90's television!) that makes it hard for me to track the Federation at various points. Anyway, the advantage of showing the Federation trying harder, or presenting their efforts in a clearer (to me) way, would include:

1. It would convey the impossibility of peace with the Dominion stronger and more dramatically, and would further support the later ITPM/Section 31 stories by really making clear that there were no other options besides those choices or surrender/die. This point is actually pretty similar, I think, to what many believe the show actually successfully did, and I think that this was close to the intent of what happened, anyway. I'm mixed on how strongly it did, but I think showing more overtures failing mostly couldn't have hurt.

2. Perhaps more importantly, it could tie in with Odo's story more. Odo comes to respect and love solids -- especially Kira, but not only Kira, and in fact, just as in this episode, Quark is very central to that. But I think it would have been better to show more clearly Odo watching as the solids did everything they could to resolve the Dominion threat *without* the war, culminating in Bashir and O'Brien's risking their lives to save him and to oppose Section 31's actions. Make clear that Odo gets why the solids finally did fight back against the Dominion, and why they were cornered into it, rather than it being generic fear of the other. May have Odo go through a period of sympathizing with his people because of how alienated he always felt by the solids -- and how they feared him -- and then coming to realize how the solids' acceptance of him, and attempt to find another way with the Founders, is more meaningful than their (both rational and irrational) fears.

I think some of (2) is still implied -- Odo has that "I'm well aware of the solids' flaws" or whatever line, and he seems to be in a place where he sees the solids as being flawed but doing their best -- but I think it still mostly ties Odo's story more to Kira and Quark, who are further from the war story (well, Kira is more involved in the final arc).
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William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 10:52am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: First Contact

@Chrome, very good point. Part of the joke is that it's crazy that *Lilith Sternin Crane* would be a sexual volcano start coming onto a random alien like this, and the extratexual oomph is part of what pushes it into joke territory. I think it's worth considering Riker as a kind of Sam Melone-type guy in this situation, where part of the joke is that he's reluctant and it's funny because this is one of the only times he doesn't want to have sex. I guess what I mean to say is, of course in real life it's bad to use sex as a bargaining chip when someone's life is in danger, but this scene is obviously not a typical realistic situation.
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William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 10:48am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: First Contact

@Peter, I largely agree. I think the thing that bothers people is -- UNDERSTANDABLY! -- that they think it's wrong for someone to basically only agree to offer someone *life-saving aid* if they have sex. That's coerced consent and I think even within TNG's looser sexual moral system that's still bad. However I think that it's worth keeping in mind that Bebe Neuwirth's character was also taking a big risk in letting him go, that she had no obligation to help this weirdo alien escape, that there are really no strong moral scripts in place about what to do in this crazy situation, and that Riker didn't seem to view it as any more arduous or crazy than any of the other adventure highjinks he had to get up to in this episode. I do think that if it were, say, Worf or Geordi it would play differently -- Worf would object on principle to meaningless sex and Geordi would be way out of his comfort zone and doesn't seem to want to be placed in unusual social situations as much as Riker -- but that's also to an extent why they would be worse candidates for the mission Riker is on. He's the improviser, and the most at home in this type of adventurey narrative.
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William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 10:37am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

Just to add,

@Elliott, one thing that interested me is your agreement with the episode's point about Jake writing on paper rather than on a padd. I agree too, but IIRC you are usually skeptical or sarcastic when DS9 (and occasionally Voyager) does one of its patented "you should grow your own vegetables" points about the alienating aspects of modernity, for example with the Maquis stuff. To be clear, I think this example makes more sense and seems to come from a place of personal experience from Echevarria than, say, one of the numerous patronizing Chakotay let's-live-on-the-real-land or whatever mysticism stuff, but I'm not sure that it's less reasonable than some of the "home cooking is better than replicator food" stuff.
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William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 10:28am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: The Muse

To be fair, the episode has two "milf" characters (haha), and one is Lwaxana, who has a thing for lonely, introverted men, often older (Odo's age is ambiguous but Auberjonois is middle-aged anyway), not always traditionally attractive. We could also say that Odo or Timicin (or even Picard) being so attractive and interesting to a vivacious (albeit annoying) woman is also a kind of fantasy, just for nerdy introverted types instead of artists.

I think the way in which the episode *does* play out as a kind of fantasy is by playing on "tortured artist" tropes whereby creating art is so demanding and such a magical, special calling that artists are just such precious souls, above and beyond the...scientists, doctors, engineers, politicians, military leaders, ex-spies, entrepreneurs, policemen etc. that the show usually focuses on. For the most part, though, this doesn't seem to me to be a problem; everyone on the show is *some* kind of expert at their narrow field and is worthy of, and receives, tremendous acclaim. Even with the Jake stuff, the "sexy lady comes onto him" thing is pretty much framed as partly "she's a metaphor for The Desire to Create" and partly "she's a predatory force who has no interest in him and is going to literally kill him in order to get him to make art she wants," which to me doesn't seem to be that close to the fantasy of the hot sci-fi writer groupie chick that Chrome is maybe implying to a degree. I'm being tongue-in-cheek here, to be clear. Onaya is portrayed as being attractive, certainly. And Echevarria might well have a thing for the vampy older woman who is going to seduce him into writing a great novel and then throw his withered corpse in the trash, but taken as a whole story it seems pretty nightmarish.

I do think another thing that makes this episode not really work for me: Jake's art is so abstracted that we don't really get to see any representation of it. I mean, the show does find ways to represent scientific exploration, medical breakthroughs, the nuts-and-bolts of engineering work, diplomatic and administrative work, battle, intelligence work, business-running, detective work etc. in a way that is, if not that literally useful, indicative of the kinds of skills that it takes to do those things. For the most part the show doesn't actually spend time showing Jadzia poring over the Federation arxiv with some binders of messy notes and repeatedly crossed out back-of-the-envelope calculations and discarded bits of code of simulations as she tries to figure out what to make of the latest anomaly, so the level of abstraction to keep the show not boring (and to allow non-experts to write convincingly about other fields) is always going to be high. In The Visitor, the episode was not explicitly about how great an artist/writer Jake is and also, as Peter pointed out, has Old Jake spinning what happened as a kind of fireside tale, and so does find a way to represent his art, to a degree. That said, ehhh, I'm not really sure if the episode needed to represent Jake's art in order to work. I'm not really sure what changes would make the episode work better.
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William B
Tue, Apr 9, 2019, 10:11am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: First Contact

Just my take on the Bebe Neuwirth thing: I agree that what she did was bad and that it's inappropriate, etc. However I don't think the episode needed to have explicitly made a big deal that Riker was sexually assaulted, or that it's wrong for the ep to play this point for laughs. The tradition here is spy story narratives, where James Bond or whoever sleeps his way out of trouble, and it's no more or less tongue in cheek than when he fights his way out of trouble, also played for comedy. It's also a bit of a play on Kirk escaping some situation by playing the seductive alien, but this time it sort of falls in Riker's lap rather than being something he sought out. Moreover, the plot is about Riker risking his life and keeping his cool throughout as he dissembles, improvises stories about his alienness, etc. He is not traumatized by any of the other adventurey secret identity alien stuff, all of which is also treated as an important but very adventuresome mission, the more exciting counterpoint to the more contemplative Picard material, and so I don't think trying to pin a realistic take on the Bebe Neuwirth scene is necessary. Thematically, arguably the main thing we learn is that the Malkorians at large are maybe too star struck by aliens to react appropriately, which reinforces the general themes. I honestly think that the scene could play a similar way if it featured a female spy character who was open about sex - - like Barbarella, for instance.
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William B
Thu, Apr 4, 2019, 7:36am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Perpetual Infinity

FWIW, I do think season 5 of The Wire is a step down in quality, but I think the bigger issue with it is almost a genre switch; VAGUE SPOILER McNulty's scheme with the dead homeless is so outrageous in a Serious Narrative of Verissimilitude, which The Wire often was in s1-4 (and is still in S5 in many plotlines), but is at home in a cynical social satire, like Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole (the inspiration for The Simpsons' Radio Bart episode), which The Wire also was from the beginning. Anyway I don't think it sucks.

Season 2 also doesn't suck and is great, but I think some of the Ziggy stuff was hard for me to get into, though I know some who love the Ziggy material.

My (tenuous, not strong) season ranking is probably 4>3>1>2>5.
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William B
Tue, Apr 2, 2019, 12:33pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Shattered Mirror

@Elliott, largely agree. Rereading my above comment it seems that I felt there are some themes about the dangers of wish fulfilment here, which seems right, but not brought out in a very earned way. I agree that Ben's behavior makes more sense morally in this one than in TTLG, but also both he and Jake make bizarre choices, based on emotional beats which are largely not well acted (though IIRC Brooks is fine, I mean the other two) or off-screen. Tonally it's sort of meant to be Empire to TTLG's A New Hope, in having a downbeat ending with multiple plot threads unresolved and "shattered" to go off in many directions, and it fits DS9 *better* than TTLG did, but that's not saying much. (The Dorn/Robinson interplay is pretty fun though, if insubstantial.)
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William B
Mon, Apr 1, 2019, 2:58am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Perpetual Infinity

IT'S!OUT!OF
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William B
Mon, Apr 1, 2019, 2:54am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Lasting Impressions

Check the date, everyone. :)
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William B
Fri, Mar 29, 2019, 10:09am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Hard Time

"That is exactly what I was talking about: *of course* O'Brien is going to think this, after having fallen from on high down into the pit. He truly believed that his Federation upbringing could allow him to weather anything, and he was wrong. But of course that conceit was never really what the Federation taught. It's in this moment of shame and guilt that he feels this way. In short, I don't think we should credit O'Brien as being a mouthpiece for the writers in this instant, but rather as being a man who's confused and damaged, trying to make sense of how he could have fallen so far. Now, if after getting better he turned around and made this same statement, *then* we could have a debate about whether the writers are trying to knock down a Trek strawman. But at the time Miles says this he also thinks there's no hope for him, and we know for a fact that this is wrong; and therefore so too is his other statement. The Federation ethos is *not* a lie, and his opinion of himself was not wrong."

Very well put, and I agree.

I think I still see where Elliott is coming from, though, because I think there is another way to read the scene, which still knocks down *a* Federation strawman, though not the Federation strawman wherein *all* Federation values are a lie. In this case, there are three possible version of the Federation ethic:

1. Thesis: Evolved humans are perfect and never do anything wrong. This is what was taught by the Federation in schools and the like.
2. Antithesis: O'Brien, because he did something deeply wrong, must not be an evolved human.
3. Synthesis: Bashir presents a more nuanced take on Federation values, that O'Brien can be an evolved human by choosing to pick up the pieces of his life and do better, now that he is outside the horror that led to his bad action.

Bashir would then be the mouthpiece for the *true* Federation values, which the episode fully supports, but maybe the episode is still saying that the Federation, as a flawed institution, might well have behaved as the strawman-Federation in its education system and whatnot. That read strikes me as consistent with the dialogue here, and doesn't contradict that Bashir (and his values) are ultimately supported by the episode. That said, while I think it's a coherent read, it's not my read. I think that O'Brien's dialogue works better if we see him, as you put it, confused and despairing and thus not thinking clearly, so I don't have a problem with it.
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William B
Thu, Mar 28, 2019, 11:32am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Hard Time

@Peter, great post.

Something I'll say in favour of Elliott's objection, here, is that I can see why the framing rankles him. O'Brien specifically ties his experience to what he was taught as a child, and there's a kind of sense of passivity there, as if O'Brien, as a simple man, bought what the Federation was selling him, and only now has had cause to doubt it, failing to have realized before that the Federation was selling him an incomplete picture. I don't really think that fits to me with the way O'Brien behaves in the ep overall, and while it's a reasonable reading of the line in and of itself, I tend to think the episode isn't trying to sell this reading.

I think though that some of what Peter is getting at (which I was thinking about a little in my previous post, but didn't get into in as much detail) is that having a person entirely free from shame at their bad actions, *even if they know intellectually that those actions were understandable*, is maybe not a reasonable thing to expect even from our 24th century evolved humanity. Maybe we shouldn't even expect it. Miles' case is *so* extreme that of course he should have no shame about his actions. There is also a case to be made that "shame" and self-recriminations never really help anyone get better, and that the associated depression, self-loathing will just cause them to act out more strongly. People distinguish between remorse, regret, guilt, and shame for a reason, because these different experiences, all related to each other, push people in different directions. When shame is *so overpowering* that it's impossible to deal with except by lashing out violently or pointing a phaser at one's head, it's gone far beyond anything that can be a helpful corrective.

But at the same time...it's possible that that shame once O'Brien betrayed his values is difficult to separate out from how strongly he held those values in the first place. If Miles, after a few months in prison with no expectation of parole, just said "Well, screw it; no one could blame me if I behaved badly," he would have gone far less time before he'd really lash out. Maybe having a somewhat stubborn, perhaps even irrational belief that a person's values, training, and lifetime of positive experiences can help them weather horrific experiences for a very, very long time is useful. This ties in with the way Miles isolates himself upon his return. An O'Brien who relies too heavily on society is one who will break sooner when left with nothing but his strength of individual will, and the episode seems to be partly about the pros/cons of this kind of extreme self-reliance, which caused Miles both to last far longer than he reasonably should have outside the support of his loved ones, and also caused him to flame out and nearly die by his own hand once he was placed back with them and resisted their attempts to help.

I'm not exactly sticking to topic here, but the point I'm making is that O'Brien probably needed an idea to hang onto, of something that could keep him from becoming a monster for all those years, and that necessarily meant setting a standard of behaviour so high that eventually he'd be unable to meet it.

Of course there are other elements here to Miles' isolation; he also locks himself away because he is angry and fears he'll hurt his loved ones. He also had twenty years of pent-up resentment that they didn't rescue him, even though he knows rationally that they didn't "let him" rot that way.

For what it's worth, I'd give this one a full four stars.
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William B
Wed, Mar 27, 2019, 2:38pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Hard Time

Even a few minutes after writing, I realize it's not that strong an argument, since Bashir doesn't exactly act as if O'Brien was holding a fringe position.

I guess it's the attempt to tie things to the evolved humanity that is the problem, because I do think that a difficulty coping with moral injury would still be a big issue even if society as a whole believed that anyone could behave badly under extreme situations. Whether it was "evolved humanity" or not, I think O'Brien would plausibly find *some* standard by which he'd believed his failure reflected on him in a fundamental way.
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William B
Wed, Mar 27, 2019, 2:15pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Hard Time

@Elliott, wonderful review.

On the specific objection -- not the Keiko thing, but the "evolved human" line -- well I imagine that if he's around Peter might say something more, but for me, I get where you're coming from and I don't entirely disagree. I don't know if Wolfe had an axe to grind, for example. I think the thing is though that O'Brien is still O'Brien, and not a philosopher, nor even trained as a Starfleet *officer* (as opposed to enlisted man). He's quite smart, but his education is in pretty specific engineering and tactical fields, rather than philosophy, psychology, sociology etc., which he mostly approaches from an intuitive perspective. It is possible for him to have an incomplete understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of what "evolved humanity" means, I guess is what I'm saying. If your future Federation education system avoids even the possibility of misunderstanding what it is that makes human society better in the future than in the past (including our present), then fair enough. I guess the comparison with a conservative Christian society sort of makes sense to me though. I feel like some people would respond to their own wrongdoing by just seeing their sin rather than the philosophical framework which makes sense of their transgression and allows them to make amends.

What I particularly like about this aspect of O'Brien's story is not the broader commentary on the Federation (if it exists) but on what "moral injury" actually entails. I'd actually argue that it'd be possible for the episode to avoid making the point you think it's making while making this aspect even stronger, because I think an O'Brien who intellectually understands that it's understandable for him to have behaved like an animal under extreme, torturous circumstances could still be angry, tormented by guilt, and be unable to find a coherent sense of self. I think on some level even if we intellectually know that we're capable of bad things under bad circumstances, there is some desire in use to hold onto a core belief of ourselves of something else, and it's very hard for that to be shattered. This story is similar to what is told about Picard in Family, and in the coda to Chain of Command: Picard intellectually understands that he had no choice in what the Borg did to him, but it is still extremely difficult to make sense of that emotionally.

That element would also maybe explain why this is so different for Miles from having already discovered during the Cardassian war that he was capable of violence. I mean, we know that this is the guy who said "It's not you I hate, Cardassian, it's what you made me become" or similar in The Wounded. Killing Ee'char -- and his related anger at Keiko, Molly, Julian, those on the station -- is about the fact that he's capable of hurting those close to him, rather than enemies.
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William B
Wed, Mar 27, 2019, 9:45am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Deadlock

@Jackson, maybe Neelix had some awful highly acidic stew :)

More seriously protons aren't hard to find. I assume that there's a chamber adjoining the warp core that acts as a, yeah, proton sac.

@Elliott, good point. I agree that just having an unrelated repair ep wouldn't mean anything, and while it might be nice in terms of continuity the tragic irony wouldn't be maintained. Tonally, I think the ep is going for a feel like Eye of the Needle, where they have a bad situation (R'Mor is from the past!), an apparent solution (at least he can send letters!) and another gut punch disappointment (oh, he died). Because that was the first "contacting home" ep it could do it without physically impacting the ship or crew at all. I wouldn't want the ep to also have some magic solution to help the crew get home be introduced and ripped away, so that particular avenue for this ep is out. I'm not sure whether there was a way that was dramatically possible to do it here. About all that occurs to me is if several more crew men had died and only Harry and the baby could be sent across for some reason. I'm not definitely sure I'd like that anyway.

It's weird though, because to some extent the ship *is* a character, and for Voyager to be damaged and "lose something" and be repaired with other materials from the DQ appeals to me as a metaphor for the crew. The visceral sense of the ship falling apart (SPOILERS) mainly appears in Year of Hell, and I can see why you've argued before and probably will again that it would change the show too radically to try to maintain this, or even milder forms of this, for longer. Even BSG only kept it up for so long before Cloud Nine was introduced, as I think I recall you saying before at some point.

SPOILER

You might link Basics to this ep in some way, but I do think that having some aspect of the ship's damage be related to its stranding could have been good. It could tie in with Seska by emphasizing her criticisms of Janeway for both failing to make better alliances with the locals and for continuing to Science when they should be more pragmatic. It might not work, because it might be that a more overtly damaged Voyager would obviously have no chance to get the baby back, so would step on the toes of that important plot point.

Anyway in conclusion I think the ep could be better with more physical damage follow up but I think you're right that it'd be difficult for the show to follow it up in a substantive way. So the ep is back to its 3* home after all :)
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William B
Tue, Mar 26, 2019, 3:20pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S2: Deadlock

@Elliott, a word on the reset button for this ep in particular. The way I see it, the follow up (or not) to the physical damage somewhat changes the episode tonally:

1. No lasting physical damage. It's a good, high end tech story which (as you say) has a lasting impact on Janeway especially. The weight of the other Voyager's destruction is felt strongly.
2. Lasting physical damage. All the above, but also the tragic irony that it's the much more broken ship, the one almost destroyed and barely holding together, that is saved. This irony, for me, only has impact if the physical damage is focused on, because the two crews were identical only a few hours before the split, and so (once Harry and the as yet unnamed baby are replaced) the crews are more or less the same.

This tragic irony isn't that big a deal and is still present in the final show, but I think this is one case where one aspect of the episode takes a hit from its lack of future impact.

To be clear though, I agree that the ep still matters, it's one narrow part of its emotional resonance on first viewing that for me doesn't work as well later. And it only works for me if there's follow up in a way kind of in addition to the positive qualities you relate (I'd personally go to 3.5*, for example).

I think I like this one a bit more than you, but I'm more indulgent in general of Braga's techy scripts and I agree this is a particularly strong one.
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William B
Sun, Mar 24, 2019, 7:47am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Skin of Evil

@Trent, I agree this episode is interesting, though bad.

I think the Armus/Yar contrast (part 2 VS part 4) is meant to also bring out the difference between Picard et al and the Titans who expelled and left Armus behind. Yar was on a "worst of humanity" planet which represented all the traits that had been mostly expunged, but Starfleet took her in rather than leaving her to rot in her anger. (That the colony in general is left to eat itself alive is another issue.) Yar was given the chance to grow and participate rather than have her existence denied. And even in death, she is not abandoned, but given a final message from beyond the grave, and not forgotten. The season emphasizes how far humans have come, but this episode underlines the importance of not expunging and "abandoning" evil - - and anyone who still has this evil - - but facing it, every day.

I think also that's related to why Picard tells Armus he is not evil, but that evil would be to submit to Armus. Even here, delivered by Stewart with gravitas, I don't know that it quite "works." But I think the concept is that Armus' self-aggrandizing view of itself as evil is a self-pitying and confused definition of evil. Only beings in tremendous amount of pain (the ep seems to be saying) are so completely consumed with sadism. Real evil on individual basis is to give in to Armus, which I think means to give into the belief that evil is an inevitable force rather than a weakness, a failure to continue fighting. Armus is then more a "skin of existential despair," a black pall of depression that kills by extinguishing the ability to fight back. That he picks Yar to kill seems arbitrary from the outside, but symbolically she was the most at-risk from her history. Troi the psychologist tries to fight it with words and Picard fights it with indomitable will.
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William B
Sun, Mar 24, 2019, 7:24am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: Unnatural Selection

@Trent, I think some of the criticisms of the episode are centered on franchise continuity issues. The de-aging transporter should be usable in future eps and isn't, and the humans doing genetic engineering seems to violate the sacred no genetic engineering eugenics wars message. However, this episode does seem to come from a looser, more TOS period of the show in terms of interepisode plot continuity.

I forget how well it actually plays, but I recall the episode also has a Proto-X-Files vibe, including Pulaski's Scully-esque report over the ship's destruction at the end.
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William B
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 9:21pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Rules of Engagement

To clarify some more:

Sisko does say that they don't put civilians "even potentially at risk," so Sisko does seem to believe that the situation was not a grey area in terms of what the correct command decision was. But again, I get the impression it's because Worf focused on the wrong thing in a grey area, which is made worse in retrospect because Worf's heart was impure.

I don't like Sisko's "smile because the troops can't see vulnerability" stuff, don't get me wrong. And I can understand why you view this as a key to his behaviour throughout the episode. It certainly maybe is what Moore was trying to get across, and seems consistent with the way he writes military material. But I don't really think Sisko's behaviour in the episode body reads that nefarious to me. I think he fully believed the truth was that Worf's actions didn't earn extradition; that they were a bad call, not in keeping with the spirit of Starfleet, but not criminal.
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William B
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 8:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Rules of Engagement

@Elliott, "It seems to me that the episode presented the case pretty clearly that Sisko's priority was protecting Worf, not ferreting out the truth. That's what that whole coda was about, no? "

Hm.... I think I agree with you in broad contours. But I think my read of the episode is different enough that Sisko's behaviour isn't so objectionable in my read.

The episode's title is "rules of engagement" and the subject is obviously on that, but the actual, literal 'rules of engagement' that Worf was supposed to/not supposed to abide by are never discussed. This is one of the episode's many flaws. But I think that the intent of the episode was that Worf was in a legal grey area. The priority is to protect civilians, but the odds of a civilian entering a combat situation *are* extremely low. The Defiant was in mid-battle. If the odds were zero, obviously Worf is right; if the odds were high, obviously Worf is wrong. If the odds are infinitesimal -- well, where is the line drawn? I think even if we assume that there are official rules of engagement, they necessarily will involve some wiggle room, so that even if the situation depicted in this episode is incoherent, that it is attempting to *represent* a grey-area situation. The episode is so badly done that it's hard to know if my hypothesis of what the episode is attempting to depict is correct, but that's still how it read to me.

At the episode's end, Sisko tells Worf he's damn right he shouldn't have fired on civilians...but I think this instruction is not because Worf did break any laws or violate any regulations, but because, with retrospect and clarity, Sisko can tell that Worf erred on the side of fighting when he should have erred on the side of protecting civilians. However, if the situation were somewhat different, Worf would have been right. So I don't think this means that Sisko was lying or misrepresenting the situation in his opening statement and in his general approach to the defense. The only thing in his opening statement that seems to be an exaggeration is when he describes the accident as "unavoidable," which is a word that I'd say is too loaded for him to use given that he believes it could have been avoided. But otherwise Sisko's argument that Worf should not be extradited because he made a command decision based on the information he knew at the time is not only made because he cares about and wants to protect his officer, but because he believes this is true. I think it's possible for Sisko to both believe that Worf made a poor command decision and that he did nothing illegal, and certainly not extradition-worthy.

So anyway, with that in mind, I want to distinguish between two points here. One is whether Sisko is more concerned with helping Worf or finding out the truth. I agree with you that his *priority* was helping Worf.

The other is whether Sisko's strategy suggests dishonesty. You seemed to be reducing Sisko's argument to impugning the character of the other captain, which is not only "protecting Worf" but illogical and cruel. I don't think that's the case, because I think finding out why the other ship decloaked is both relevant and is seeking out the truth. If the captain decloaked because he was aggressive or incompetent, that does seem to me to be relevant.

I think another place where the situation is different from Picard in The First Duty and The Pegasus is that Picard wasn't acting as Wesley or Riker's attorney. The Measure of a Man makes clear that in these JAG trials where command officers are advocates, they are responsible for zealously representing/prosecuting their case. Obviously that doesn't extend into lying or other trickery, but I don't think that's what Sisko is doing here. I think he's trying to find any facts of the case that will help his client, which is what, as Worf's counsel, he should want to do, given that the adversarial legal system is still in place.

Now, all that said, maybe Sisko *shouldn't* have been Worf's counsel. Maybe it's inappropriate for Sisko to be both the CO who needs to find the truth about Worf's actions and the lawyer who needs to zealously defend him. It actually does seem like an obvious conflict of interest. In "Dax," Sisko didn't have any responsibility for the actions that Curzon had ostensibly taken and so there wasn't much conflict in him representing Jadzia Dax, but in this case he probably "should" be impartial when trying to investigate what happened and also be *required* to be partial while actually dealing with Worf's case. I think this is part of what makes the, uh, "pro-military masturbating" tone of the final scene rankle.
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William B
Fri, Mar 22, 2019, 12:02pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S4: Rules of Engagement

@Chrome,

I think you've helped me see another reason this episode doesn't quite work! The way multi party negligence works when eg there's a car accident is that everyone's statements are taken into account. And so knowing whether the other party is drunk is hugely relevant because that makes it more likely they're behaving erratically. However, one thing is, generally there is information missing in these cases. Unless there's complete camera footage, what happened from each party's perspective has to be reproduced from the accounts. So it's maybe not possible to know *how* recklessly everyone was behaving. However in this case, they have literally all the external data Worf et al had at the time. They only had the viewscreen and sensors, so there is no extra information that Worf et al had that can't be pieced together from the Defiant's presumably recorded viewscreen /sensor logs. So no external information about the other ship will really change how the law views Worf's actions; what was going on in the freighter captain's head provides no more insight into how Worf acted based on the information he had.

Unless the Defiant doesn't record its viewscreen and sensor logs, that is.

That said, I do think the law would still assign partial blame to both sides if both parties behaved in a negligent way. It's just that I think the 20th century analogues are a bit off from the situation in the episode.

"That said, the story is very much a mess in the sense that Sisko does seem to be asking for Odo to *look for a Deus Ex Machina* to get out of the trial (Sisko: I know I'm reaching!). And yeah, searching for a miracle seems to be given higher priority than actually finding errors in the existing facts (there are plenty) that could've shown Worf was ineligible for extradition."

LOL. Though in the ep's defense, I do think it's reasonable to wonder why the freighter would decloak in mid battle and to try to investigate that. The real problem isn't them "reaching" but, as you say, that the arguments for extradition are weak and contradictory and we have to mostly accept them on faith to let the story carry on.
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