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William B
Wed, Jul 11, 2018, 6:30pm (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S7: Author, Author

"1. The Doctor's holo-novel was terrible. From the long and turgid preamble which Paris had to skip over to hackneyed dialog, the thing was anything but "high class" entertainment. It was quite frankly awful and no amount of praise from the publisher can change that basic fact.

2. The names and characters in the holo-novel were ridiculous. Okay, so we're supposed to believe that the Doctor is extremely intelligent and artistic but he comes up with names like "Lieutenant Marseille" instead of Lieutenant Paris and then acts shocked that people think the character is based on Tom Paris? Please. I suppose I should be glad that the vulcan was not named "Threevok" and the captain, "Jane Kateway". (or maybe she was ...) Don't treat us like idiots. That kind of writing is something one would expect from a 2nd-grader. And "3 of 8"???? Doesn't the Doctor have the ability to come up with randomly-generated names from the great Federation database?

The point is, you can't have it both ways. If the holo-novel is supposed to be great fiction and the Doctor is supposed to not know he's offended his crewmates, then don't play the holo-novel for transparent laughs and knowing winks."

These are good and under-discussed points. It has struck me before that it is weird that the Doctor's novel is meant to be high art but it plays out so farcically, though I usually forget about that by the time the episode is over, because there's a lot going on. It makes me wonder whether the publisher, Broht, is less of a Legitimate Publisher and more of a sort of muckraker (his later behaviour kind of suggests that), and that, rather than actually looking for works of High Art, he's really more interested in getting a lot of attention and holonovel dominance from a paparazzi-esque glimpse at a malcontent on the Voyager crew than anything else. Granting that he's not in it For The Money because it's the Federation and all, probably airing "controversial" works that are basically tabloid stories to stay popular and relevant (if perhaps reviled) might actually be his schtick, despite his protests otherwise. This theory is probably inconsistent with other elements of the episode, though. (This isn't really meant to defend the episode, just to posit a theory.)
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William B
Thu, Jul 5, 2018, 3:33pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

@Peter, fair enough (and I was thinking of Animal Farm's Napoleon), though I still detect a bit of a difference between the visual depiction of her surrounded by candles and the script stage direction that emphasizes the equality of her living space. It's not that I think the script and screen are that different, because as you say, she's using torture and so on as part of her power base, but the focus seems to be slightly different. I feel similarly about the episode giving the last shot to the children watching Sisko and O'Brien beaming away when (IIRC) no dialogue is given to them throughout the episode; it seems like a deliberate choice to enhance one aspect of the story that is less emphasized in the script. However, it's more a matter of differing in degrees.
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William B
Wed, Jul 4, 2018, 9:35pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

@Elliott, I love that touch with the candles. You know, I wondered for a while whether there's a creative difference between the writer and director for this episode, and I checked the original script (st-minutiae), and sure enough, here's all it says about Alixus' cabin:

" A cubicle no more luxurious than Sisko's. Alixus, still
fully clothed, is at her table, writing. Sisko ENTERS,
dressed in his uniform again."

No mention of a huge number of candles, and the stage direction seems to suggest the opposite interpretation -- that Alixus is the Real Deal, that she *does* hold herself to the same standards as everyone else, etc. Similarly, the poignant final shot of the episode with the two children looking on is not mentioned in the script. It makes me think that there was a bit of creative friction, maybe, with some of the direction (and possibly other people along the line, after the script itself was written) rebelling a little and pushing toward more open criticism of Alixus.
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William B
Tue, Jul 3, 2018, 8:45pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: I, Borg

I think it's worth remembering that in Q Who, we saw Borg babies who appeared to have been created in a birthing chamber sort of thing, rather than kidnapped from some other species. Assimilation was only introduced in BOBW, and while assimilation was threatened, Picard was the only example we saw (or would ever see in TNG) of it actually happening. I think that the general assumption at this is that while the Borg use assimilation as *one* method to grow their numbers, that it is not the only, or necessarily even primary, mode they use, and that a lot of (maybe a majority of) Borg have always been Borg. The lack of mention of any period in which Hugh was outside the Collective corroborates this, to a degree. I think it's more in Voyager that the Borg were apparently *all* taken from other species. Of course, this is an important point that I, Borg would have been stronger to clarify.
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William B
Tue, Jul 3, 2018, 7:50pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Inner Light

@Springy, I've been exposed. It is me :)
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William B
Thu, Jun 28, 2018, 3:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Let He Who Is Without Sin...

@Chrome, it's wild. Maybe Worf started posting in the anti-Risa threads under a cleverly disguised pseudonym (male_child_of_mogh_(bat'leth symbol)) and Fullerton saw him there.
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William B
Thu, Jun 28, 2018, 3:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Let He Who Is Without Sin...

@Peter, although, it's worth noting that Vanessa Williams wasn't Jadzia's ex, but Curzon's, and it's sort of unclear what the standard is there -- though it's probably unclear for Worf as well. In a way, if we take the reassociation taboo to apply to sex as well as romance, then she should be the person Jadzia is least likely to cheat with, (except that we also know Jadzia would break that taboo).
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William B
Wed, Jun 27, 2018, 2:24pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Let He Who Is Without Sin...

I bashed this episode pretty hard when doing the watch of the show a few years ago, but I agree that the intent isn't really terrible. The thing is, the structure should be a kind of classically-constructed dual-protagonist romance story where the two partners start far apart but are still attracted to something in the other, and both learn something from the other. Superficially, Worf is unable to have fun and Jadzia is unable to take things seriously, and these superficial traits are true to an extent, but underlying it is mostly a failure of communication. Worf believes that Jadzia, because she's so flighty and fun-loving, doesn't take their relationship seriously; Jadzia believes that because Worf is so serious, that he has no joie de vivre. But Jadzia does take the relationship seriously and Worf does want to enjoy life, it's just that they express these things in ways so far apart that they are unable to really recognize it, initially.

And it does seem that the reasons are because of some formative experiences that the two are running from. Jadzia, pre-Dax symbiont, was super-serious and studious and unable to let loose, and so she is attracted to and also repulsed by these qualities in Worf; for her, the biggest lesson that came with the Dax symbiont (mostly from Curzon) was that life is worth actually living. She probably took this lesson so much to heart that it overwhelmed the Jadzia in her. And having learned that things shouldn't always be serious, she assumes that this is the lesson everyone else needs to learn, all the time. Worf was a fun-loving, competitive, unleashed child who (as we learn) killed another boy in soccer and realized he needed to damp down on his impulses and keep himself controlled all the time. He is attracted to and repulsed by Dax because she will be uncontrolled. So they are really responding partly to things that they used to have but have repressed because of transformative life experiences. And the political confrontation about the extreme fundamentalist vs. extreme hedonistic worldviews ends up being related to their personal conflict, and the ending should probably have had some sort of suggestion of hinting at some way to unify the opposing views on both stories. So it could have worked, even though I feel still that it largely didn't in practice.
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William B
Sat, Jun 23, 2018, 12:32pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: First Contact

It's maybe a contrivance that no one says "Vulcans" throughout the movie, but I get why it was kept as a surprise for the audience -- it's a shock of recognition that ties the movie in with broader Trek history, and by keeping it a surprise to the end, it lets the moment of contact hold the full impact. Pre-Enterprise (and Voyager's periodic references to First Contact), I don't think it was ever made explicit that Vulcans were the first non-humans officially encountered by Earthers. Certainly 10-year-old me was pretty struck by it; maybe adults seeing it for the first time would have figured it out in advance.
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William B
Fri, Jun 22, 2018, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Generations

"Overall NONE of what we got in Generations or FC held a candle to the simple scene in Descent pt 1 where Data gets angry at the Borg, and then the subsequent creepy holodeck experiments where he can't get angry again. The emotionless question about whether he can only feel negative things was more interesting than Data's one-liners and angst around the Queen."

I pretty much agree, and really love those scenes in Descent I. The act break where Data adds that he experienced pleasure is note-perfect, and that scene is one of my favorite uses of Troi in the series, too, especially her look of fear as she takes in the implications of Data's statement and her optimism starts to show cracks.
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William B
Fri, Jun 22, 2018, 11:06am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Generations

I think the idea is that 1) Worf had expected he might get soaked (and that is what usually happens in these lieutenant commander promotions, apparently), 2) Riker didn't say "remove the plank" on purpose, or at least plausibly pretended he didn't, and 3) Worf generally has a greater tolerance for physical discomfort than Crusher (or really anyone save emotionless Data), and those are the reasons for the difference in the crew's reaction to Worf's versus Crusher's soaking.

More generally, I think that Data's ability to turn off his emotion chip in First Contact serves a different narrative purpose than walking back its introduction in Generations. Data wants to be -- and the crew want him to be -- someone who can be relied upon to be "emotionless Data" on command, and that's very reasonable to want that, if it's possible, rather than having to "handhold an android" (to quote Picard in Peak Performance) during a crisis. So then when the Borg Queen reactivates his emotions, we are primed to see Data as unable to handle the emotional influx (just as he was in Generations), while also having been informed that he has, to an extent, been working on it in the meantime. It feels like a natural evolution, and the story does end up hinging on Data being able to control his feelings, and being forced to reckon with them, but in a way that (IMO) works better than in Generations.

However, yeah, it seems to open the door to Insurrection/Nemesis just writing them off entirely. That said, I'm not sure that says much about whether it was a mistake to try this story. Insurrection/Nemesis didn't really add much to any characters' stories (with the exception of getting Riker and Troi together and Riker getting his command, and a few other moments like Geordi appreciating the sunset in Insurrection) and so the choices made in those movies maybe don't mean that much. I think Data with emotion chip is something with a lot of story potential, which was sadly not very well realized in Generations.
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William B
Wed, Jun 20, 2018, 9:47am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Whispers

Elliott! Glad to have you back! Though sadly, you missed my going through Voyager last year.
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William H
Sun, Jun 3, 2018, 5:08pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The First Duty

Watching this episode this time, I'm more convinced of the notion that Locarno was a thoroughly bad guy than previous times I've seen it. He's thoroughly manipulative, looking out for himself, and I don't doubt that his manipulative tactics led to his team taking on a maneuver that they weren't up to.

The most sympathetic I can be is to say that he may believe his self-serving justifications.
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William B
Tue, May 29, 2018, 12:04pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: It's Only a Paper Moon

Sorry.
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William B
Tue, May 29, 2018, 11:46am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: It's Only a Paper Moon

Yeah, I was being a little sarcastic with "shining" moment. I just meant that her behaviour somewhat fits within the structure of a TOS-esque computer episode, except of course that here the computer really was completely successful.
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William B
Tue, May 29, 2018, 11:00am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S7: It's Only a Paper Moon

IIRC, Ezri's one shining moment in the ep is using reverse psychology to convince Vic to turn himself off for Nog's good, which I guess is the counselor equivalent of Kirk making a computer self-destruct with logic.
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William B
Mon, May 28, 2018, 2:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: Up the Long Ladder

Yup.
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William B
Mon, May 28, 2018, 2:19pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: Up the Long Ladder

Or more specifically, the clones' right to existence is more important than Riker and Pulaski's right to control their genetic material.

Drafting off Chrome, though, I don't think this would NECESSARILY be true from the very instant that the clones started forming -- like if they started with ten cells in a petri dish, even if those cells could form a full human being clone eventually, I'd say (not conclusively -- but it's my take) that they wouldn't meet the standard for a human life with all the requisite rights. The thing is, because we see the clones look like physically complete adult humans, it really seems like they should meet the standard for an alive human, as opposed to a collection of cells that if left to grow could become an alive human, if cloning is *anything at all* like the way real cloning works. Although, given that they somehow grow up to be adults (in Pulaski's case, a middle aged adult) before waking up, it's obvious that it doesn't really work anything like real cloning. I think the episode works best if you take it as being very stagey and non-literal -- and on that level, it still doesn't particularly work.
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William B
Mon, May 28, 2018, 1:21pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: Up the Long Ladder

"However I'll add that the main argument for why abortion is acceptable is that it's a woman's body and she shouldn't be made to do something with it she's unwilling to do. In the case of a fetus/baby in a vat that argument would be gone and it would be more like *giving someone else* an abortion against their will. I'm willing to bet that would be tried as murder in a court."

I agree. However, just to say what I think the idea behind this sequence was: another argument against abortion IN THE CASE OF RAPE is that people should have some control over their genetic material. That is what I think the (I want to really emphasize the word metaphor here) METAPHOR is here -- Riker and Pulaski are raped, in that they have their genetic material stolen and used to create new life forms against their will, and so the "argument" behind that clone-killing scene is that Riker and Pulaski have right not to have their genetic code stolen from them. And while the clones looked like Riker and Pulaski, I think that they were meant to not yet be conscious, and thus in some abstract, METAPHORIC sense, "not alive yet."

I'm not defending this episode or that scene, I just think that this is what the idea is.

The thing is, at the moment, the most common occasion in which someone is forced to create a life form with their genetic material, without consenting at all, is in the case where a woman is raped and then gets pregnant. I agree that the scene had nothing to do with cloning but is actually about abortion, and I think that's the analogy that's at the heart of the scene.

However, I basically agree that Riker and Pulaski's actions are wrong here if we take this episode literally, as opposed to as a fully-metaphorical not-very-coherent thought experiment. They were raped and should feel violated and disgusted -- because I think it should be a fundamental tenet of human ethics that people should have a right to keep their own genetic material and not have it stolen. However, they are not being forced to "carry" the clones now that they have been created, and so while they have a right to be angry and the Clone Society did a great crime to them in stealing their material, the Riker/Pulaski clones seem to be viable to be living as sentient human beings when they wake up.
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William
Tue, May 15, 2018, 9:28am (UTC -5)
Re: ANDR S2: Second Season Recap

I have to admit, I was curious about watching this show thanks to the Roddenberry connection, the cool sounding premise, and some suggestions from friends. Reviews like this one and some clips I've watched have definitely made me reconsider the idea! This sounds like an even bigger squandering of a great concept than Voyager!

You mentioned that you wouldn't be doing a review series for Farscape, but it's something I'd love to hear your opinion on someday, it managed to have some genuinely great action and fun high-concepts while still managing to include some deeper themes, very much what this show seemed to be trying to do.
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William B
Tue, May 15, 2018, 1:44am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Emissary

Heh, I agree about Riker actually. In a lot of ways it is as if Riker needs to waste a decade of his life before accepting that he wants to be with Deanna and is just afraid of intimacy. Future Imperfect suggests also that he is partly in love with a hologram -- which (to me) suggests he also has a kind of idealized picture of what a romantic partner should be, or what it would take for him to settle down, which is basically an impossible standard. We can maybe tie in his mother's death too.

I still used him as a kind of shorthand for saying that I don't think the series is really entirely arguing against the free-love position. However, in practice I think it is mostly ambivalent about it -- not fully against it, but suggesting it is incomplete or may be a defense mechanism people use because of fear of real intimacy.
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William B
Tue, May 15, 2018, 12:01am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Emissary

@Peter,

Yeah, I was thinking about K'Ehleyr being half Klingon too, and I agree that this muddies things. I also agree that the fact that K'Ehleyr thinks that sex did mean something in this case doesn't mean that it would *always* mean something. And I think maybe there's where I agree with you on the sort of overall shape of TNG (at least early TNG) with regards to the free-love material.

If she's, uh, half-conservative (????), then it may be that we are led to view things in this way:

Maybe the point is that free love is fine for some people -- like Riker, again as the classic example within this series. But Riker, at least at his best, is basically open about what he wants. I don't think Riker have sex with someone *knowing* that that person would expect marriage and then balk afterwards; he'd be pretty forthright ahead of time. K'Ehleyr's free-love advocacy comes after she's already crossed a line with Worf that she should reasonably have anticipated, and so I think in her case, not only is she wrong, but I think we can see that she's using the free-love thing as a shield to avoid dealing with her feelings. Now K'Ehleyr still is surprised by Worf, but I think that speaks to how much she was caught off guard by her own emotions. If she wasn't intensely caught up with feelings for Worf, she would have probably been able to think through how Worf would take it, and while I think K'Ehleyr has flaws I think she'd probably generally be considerate about another person's values. The reason she isn't with Worf is because she's so overwhelmed -- because sex with him is an expression of love, and her attempt to deny that only makes her more miserable.

So I guess I should say, I think the episode's point is more nuanced than that free-love is correct and that social conservative people will slowly catch up. I don't think it's arguing against the free love position in all cases -- basically I imagine they'd have to have Riker get scolded, at least indirectly, for this to be the real meaning -- but I think it *is* saying that there's a lot of value in the social conservative position, and maybe some of the people who rail against it most strongly are people who actually do believe in it deep down, and who are hurting themselves by trying to deny it.

That's, I acknowledge, not *quite* what I was saying above, because I was maybe more characterizing it as being more critical of "free-love" in general, which you're right it probably isn't.
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William B
Mon, May 14, 2018, 10:52pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Emissary

@Peter (and Chrome etc.), I think it depends on how you define "the free love movement." If "the free love movement" generally refers to *any* extramarital sex at all, then I agree that the episode ultimately seems to be supporting that. However, if the free love movement refers to more generally what people seemed to be proposing in the 60's, and what Roddenberry seemed to favour -- which is to say, that sex didn't have to mean anything, and generally didn't, and that sex could be removed from love entirely -- i.e., to support a kind of Riker-ish attitude towards sexuality, I disagree that this is what the episode is saying.

It's a classic romance structure in which both romantic leads start with uncompromising positions and then eventually compromise and start to move towards each other -- and that means that *both* of them start to bend. You've covered Worf's side well, so I won't harp on about that, but let's look at K'Ehleyr's side: she spends the episode basically insisting that there is no point even to try talking to the thawing Klingons. Her episode-long thesis turns out to be totally wrong, and it seems to be that she is blinkered by her own relationship issues with Worf, and to her own relationship with her Klingon-ness. She seems to be both attracted to and aggravated by Worf because he embraces his Klingon-ness whereas she overtly rejects it but it keeps coming back to her, and I think her outsize, glass-table-breaking rage is meant to show not just a Klingon temper (to what she attributes it) but a basic sense of anger that she has at not having as much control over herself (and her Klingon history) as she'd like. What she *wants* is to erase the old Klingons (i.e., THE PAST) entirely, but this is totally the wrong approach. Just as Worf needs to incorporate a little of K'Ehleyr's "modern" flexibility to save the day, K'Ehleyr needs to don the dreaded Klingon uniform and accept a little bit of her Klingon half, and to accept that the Klingons are possible to reason with if approached in the right way.

On that note, I think the episode basically bears out that it's not unreasonable for K'Ehleyr to not want to get married after having sex once. However, K'Ehleyr's statement that "it didn't mean anything" (a nod to the free-love philosophy?) is revealed at the end to be an *outright lie* she reached for in a panic, at the episode's end:

K'EHLEYR: I hid the truth from you. Last night did have meaning. I was tempted to take the oath with you, but it scared me. I've never had such strong feelings toward anyone.

I don't think the episode exactly goes out of its way to say that someone like Riker is wrong and deluded in being promiscuous, but it is very specific in revealing that K'Ehleyr's whole attitude towards Klingons -- who, as Peter points out, are coded as traditionalists / social conservatives -- is misguided and full of her own hang-ups. She doesn't yell at Worf for bringing up The Oath because she is genuinely opposed to it, but because a part of her does believe in it, and she is trying to shut down that part of her because she doesn't feel ready to choose how to spend the rest of her life -- particularly not when she and Worf already have a very volatile relationship which could easily sour. She specifically reached for free-love-type arguments as a way to get out of a lifetime commitment which terrified her, but she eventually admits that *of course* their sex had meaning, and that it was something that was associated with deep love and emotions for her.

I guess what I'm saying is, I know a lot of free-love types who have casual sexual relationships, and that does not match up with what this episode seems to be saying about K'Ehleyr and Worf. Nor is it really validating the social conservative take on sex and marriage. I think it's saying that in their case, the sex was *very* meaningful and significant, and indeed maybe life changing for K'Ehleyr, but not enough for her to be willing to take the plunge and reorder her whole life to marry Worf. And even then, part of that is fear -- which is framed as a character flaw on her part rather than a virtue! -- which she anticipates she will maybe get over:

K'EHLEYR: Maybe someday, when our paths cross again, I won't be as easy to get rid of.

Maybe that is still closer to "the free love movement" than the social conservative perspective, but I think it's still showing significant flaws in "the free love movement" by having K'Ehleyr's attempt to brush their night off as being a complete lie, and having her completely misread the traditionalist Klingons for the whole episode.
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William B
Sat, May 12, 2018, 9:22pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

I agree with Peter that there being no mention of the divine in Alixus' philosophy is no smoking gun that this is about the evils of communism; the Federation/Starfleet seems to be secular and most people don't mention the divine very frequently. Nor do I think that this need be about communism specifically.

I also agree with Peter that there are some signals during the series that The Simple Life is missing in the techno-"utopia" of the Federation, and Joseph's statements at the episode's end gesture to that. I don't think it's ridiculous to want to try living with less technology (though that's not what I'm doing) or that there can be something alienating about modernity.

OTOH, I think Rahul is correct that the episode suggests a cult, even without any preconceived notions on the part of the audience. If it is desirable to have a collectivist low-tech agrarian life and such life can be done WITHOUT deeply repressive measures, this episode doesn't show that until *maybe* the very end, where *maybe* it's possible Joseph et al. will be able to build a better society with no Alixus. But this is a society where Alixus hoards all the candles to write her philosophy down and throws Stephen in a hotbox for stealing one; where everyone stands by as Alixus uses more and more repressive means to convince just-arrived strangers to bow to her will; where a member willingly agrees to go seduce Sisko into their, uh, family. It seems as if Alixus at least believed not just that duplicity was necessary to *start* the new society, but that torture was necessary to continue it, and none of the colonists object to her use of torture -- either because they are afraid of her, or because they agree with her. Joseph even seems to agree that O'Brien shouldn't have to bow to Alixus' will, but has to get himself knocked out in order to "allow" it. That doesn't speak highly for this particular group as a positive model; and I don't think this is an incidental considering how central the battle of wills between Sisko and Alixus is to the episode (and how brutal the hotbox is). The silence of the whole community on the use of the hotbox really makes it hard to believe we're meant to see this as a functional society -- especially once it gets used against Sisko, for O'Brien's ostensible crime. Sisko and O'Brien, essentially, didn't ask to be drafted into this society and are obviously being forced into it against their will; even if "the community" agreed on the torture box, Sisko and O'Brien didn't.
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William B
Sat, May 12, 2018, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

I'll add: in either interpretation Alixus is obviously depicted as wrong to be a torture-happy manipulative authoritarian, and that's definitely bad. The open question is, as Peter says, whether her prescription about how people should live is accurate. And also open is whether a society where people give up readily available tech without being kidnapped and tortured could even be sustained -- if Joseph did decide to leave the tech-suppressor off, would he have to throw someone in the hot box to prevent them from turning it on to call for help next time someone fell ill?
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