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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Oct 15, 2020, 8:08am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S3: That Hope Is You, Part 1

Overall, a resounding meh from me. Well, more a confusing mixture of things that I liked, and things which I did not.

On the positive side:

I enjoyed the change of story structure to focus on a single simple thread - the formation of the relationship between Michael and Book. As I said in another thread, I think that Kurtzman Trek has suffered from using essentially identical framing devices popular across serialized drama - the whole switching back and forth between different POVs omniscient narrator style. With the exception of the opener, this is basically told from Burnham's POV.

I thought the episode was well done in the VFX department, and they struck a good balance in terms of introducing futuristic tech/elements and giving a sense of what was lost. Michael was basically a stand-in for audience awe.

I instantly liked Book, and David Ajala really oozes charm as the character.

The last scene of the episode with Sahil partially redeemed what came before, as it packed an emotional punch that was missing earlier in the episode.

On the negative side:

Discovery's writers still don't seem to be able to understand naturalistic dialogue. Look, I realize that Michael is a fish out of water - and as viewers we need to be brought up to speed. But the way she spoke in this episode is simply not a way anyone actually talks. Worse, a lot of it was narratively unnecessary. A good example of this is when she first crashes on the planet, and immediately starts rambling to herself. It would have been better to just have the scene largely silent and rely on facial expressions. The later meet-cute with Book also didn't read right, in that she pivots from hand-to-hand combat to begging to tag along because...the story requires it I guess? The dialogue was bad enough that it broke my immersion in the story multiple times, which is really why I couldn't just sit back and enjoy the episode.

Separate from the writing, I don't think SMG was on her A-game here. I mean, she and Ajala are reading from the same script, but whereas his dialogue only feels a bit clunky, whereas she has many lines which cause a mental record scratch for me. She's fine as an actress overall, but IMHO has always been more suited to a supporting role, and has suffered a bit due to being paired with stronger actors throughout Discovery. Given this episode is more Michael-heavy than anything which has come before due to its structure, I feel like her limitations as an actor are even more on display than ever.

I did not think the combat scenes were well directed in this episode. The initial hand-to-hand fight between Michael and Book was strictly bush-league, and the later firefight was confusingly shot...just a mess of characters appearing and then being instantly vaporized.

Using Jammer's rating system, I'd say it's 2.5 stars. Just above average, and only that because the closing scene with Sahil redeemed the earlier flaws in the script and performance.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Aug 20, 2020, 7:52am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

The third episode is good, but not funny. IMHO this show succeeds more as a light drama than as comedy.

The good part of this episode is it inverts much of what was set up in the first few episodes. Mariner makes a legitimately bad call in this episode. Ransom turns out to not just be a dudebro, but a competent commander (if a bit full of himself). Boimler is shown to be able to thrive in certain situations.

However, I think a lot of people will have issues with how the Captain Freeman is portrayed. The central message (that she has high standards that she holds the crew to, which makes things much, much worse than before) is a good narrative core. However, in order to up the "comedy quotient" the show portrays the sleep-deprived crew without buffer time as constantly making mistakes. This means Freeman is shown to have a ridiculous level of obliviousness to how her own ship is falling apart. No Trek Captain other than Jonathan Archer has been portrayed in as negative a light as Freeman is here. Admittedly she "learns her lesson" by the end of the episode, but she's not new to command - she shouldn't be making rookie mistakes like this at this point in her career.

That said, it was a minor issue, because the episode itself worked from a dramatic standpoint, if not a comedic one.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Aug 13, 2020, 7:13am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

IMHO, Envoys is slightly better than the first episode. This is for several reasons:

1. They slowed the show down considerably. Aside from a few scenes, the episode's pacing does not feel that different from the average Trek episode.

2. There were coherent character arcs in both the A plot and the B plot this week. Not only that, but they both actually shared a common theme - the sacrifices people will make for the sake of their friends.

3. There were notably less attempts to make jokes. I only really laughed at one thing this week - the "Janeway protocol" - but it was way, way funnier than anything in the first episode. Aside from that though the episode was lighthearted but not trying to make us bust a gut. Which was fine, because it had heart in spades.

I'd also say the "memberberries" this time around are more visual than dropped in exposition, which would probably make the show a bit less annoying to people who hate that stuff.
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Karl Zimmerman
Tue, Aug 11, 2020, 8:14am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

As I said upthread, I do think this should have been a "double feature" like most Trek pilots (meaning around 45 minutes or so). After all, the point of a pilot is to introduce you to all members of the main cast, and I think this episode failed at that, really only giving us insight into Mariner and Boimler.

Regarding the pacing, I felt it was a bit too rapid fire in a couple of situations as well. The opening cut with Mariner didn't work at all, and I wasn't really a fan of the ending of the episode either. That said, it's the pilot, and series typically get better as a season builds up steam. Hell, the first episode of The Orville was pretty painfully unfunny and one of the weakest episodes of the entire show.

Regarding Booming's point about the characters being kinda douchey - I agree. But if you want to show character growth across a series, you need to have them start in a somewhat unlikable place. Look at how Bashir and Kira were pretty unlikeable individuals for the first few seasons. So far the command crew seems competent, but with personality quirks and distant/uncaring about the individual ensigns (which makes sense, considering a fairly large crew and frequent crew rotations). I don't think we can say yet if they're going to stay douchebags or they will come to work together. I'd guess eventually they'll pivot to the latter, because there's only so much comedy you can get out of a static interpersonal dynamic.
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Karl Zimmerman
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 7:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

As I said, I could see considering Boimler's arc an inversion/perversion of what we are trained to expect from Star Trek. However, in another sense it's the same as older Trek.

Trek, after all, has always basically said "respect the chain of command - unless it's someone higher up who is an antagonist, in which case, feel free to flout the rules, or openly defy them." From Decker in TOS, to Satie in TNG, to Leyton in DS9. Hell - wasn't the whole point of the TOS movie serialized arc from TWOK through TVH that Kirk chose comrades over duty?

Regarding the issue of the "simple plot" that CaptainMercer brings up - it's sort of baked into the concept of the show. If you follow around a bunch of ensigns they aren't going to be "saving the day" every week. Frankly I find it refreshing after two seasons of Discovery and a season of Picard with ridiculously high states (save the entire multiverse, then all life in the galaxy, then perhaps all life in the galaxy again) we have a show with very low stakes interpersonal drama instead.

Regarding this episode in particular, the zombie plague thing was really the c-plot of the episode, after Boimler's personal arc and Rutherford's date. And the spider slime thing was one of the funniest elements of the entire episode, because it was directly spoofing how frequently pat solutions to problems (often via technobabble) are suddenly discovered in the third act of Trek episodes.
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Karl Zimmerman
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 3:26pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

@CaptainMercer,

First, I'm sorry for putting words in your mouth. I don't think we disagree that much about DIS and PIC, to be honest.

The one thing I'd push back on is there's a very clear character focus/arc in the first episode, which deals with Ensign Boimler.

Boimler starts the episode being the perfect Starfleet nerd/suckup. All he wants to do is impress the Captain and the senior staff and make a good impression, so that he can eventually reach command. He begins the episode loathing Mariner, and rightfully so. But when the captain doesn't know his name - and doesn't recognize that anyone other than the senior bridge staff took any of the credit - he decides not to tell on Mariner, deciding that camaraderie with his annoying coworker is better than sucking up to an uncaring boss. He becomes slightly more cynical in the end.

Now, you can argue that this character arc is an inversion - perhaps even a perversion - of anything Trek has shown before. I'd argue no however, it's just that normally our window into the Trekverse is captains, so the Admirals are the ones who are insane and/or evil when you want to introduce conflict in the ranks. Either way though, it is a relatable character dilemma, and shows something is there beyond just goofy jokes.
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Karl Zimmerman
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 3:19pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

@OmicronThetaDeltaPhi

Stepping outside of Trek for a second, let's talk Game of Thrones. I was a big book fan prior to the series, and the first four seasons were some of the best TV ever made. And then D&D famously ruined the show, completely and utterly, once they no longer had GRRM's books to work off of and had to write without a net.

That sucked for me as a fan. It almost sucked enough to invalidate the enjoyment of the earlier seasons. But that doesn't mean I get to say that the seasons didn't really happen. They did, and it ruined the series. Reading occasional (much better) alternate season outlines from fans is a fun exercise, but it doesn't change what happened. Reality is reality, unless HBO says "nope" and reshoots the damn thing - which isn't gonna happen, because I'm not entitled to anything from HBO.
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Karl Zimmerman
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 11:15am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

OmicronThetaDeltaPhi

Going through each of your concerns.

1. The tone doesn't really matter to me. It's pretty clear to anyone who watches it Star Trek is not intended as a literal documentary of the Trekverse. The Universal Translator probably doesn't automatically fix the mouths of aliens so they are speaking English - and shouldn't be working when no humans are around. Recast roles don't mean the individuals got plastic surgery between episodes. The sometimes stylized lighting and sountracks don't exist within universe. Some episodes outright explore the question of an unreliable narrator. And of course there's the extremely lo-fi effects of TOS. The way I have always taken Trek is the events show onscreen actually happen, but the visual depiction of them cannot be trusted to be literally true. Thus one could see Lower Decks as a comedy simply because we're seeing a "cut" of reality which focuses on the few funny moments which happen over the course of a day.

2. The actual science-fiction part of this episode was honestly not that outre. I mean, a zombie virus and a giant plant-eating spider? What's that ridiculous about that by past Trek standards? Regardless, even if you discard TOS, there is plenty of crap which wouldn't be considered to be "hard sci-fi" by any means in all eras of Star Trek.

3. I had major problems squaring away Discovery with the existing Trek timeline, as would anyone with half a brain. It seems to have suffered heavily from Fuller initially wanting to do a total reboot, then getting shitcanned, then developed by committee as it lumbered forward Frankenstein-style since CBS was dead-set on new Trek. Picard made some questionable calls, but aside from some concerns with visuals, I don't see how it outright conflicts with canon (particularly since it's not a prequel in any way). As you noted, this series looks/feels like a Trek show, which makes sense, since the showrunner is a gigantic TNG fanboi.

In order to presume this isn't in continuity, you basically have to give me something concrete that they fucked up. And aside from maybe the argument that we wouldn't have fuckups like these in Starfleet, I'm just not seeing - so far - what it could be.
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Karl Zimmerman
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 11:02am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

@CaptainMecer

While I admit historically exploration of the human condition was core to Star Trek, I'm not sure I'd agree that it was core to Star Trek comedy.

The best Trek comedies are either from TOS (Trouble with Tribbles, I Mudd, and A Piece of the Action) or DS9 (Little Green Men, the Magnificent Ferengi, In The Cards, Our Man Bashir, Trials and Tribble-ations, etc). I think TNG had humorous moments, but no true comedy episodes, only "lighthearted" ones. VOY's few attempts were awful (Bride of Chaotica was okay, but not really funny), and ENT really lacked them entirely.

When I think about the best Trek comedies, I really don't see a deep exploration of themes and character. I'm not saying it can't be done - comedy can be deep and incisive. But that's not what Trek has done typically. If anything the standby in Trek "humor" tends to be to try and take references from some other setting (mobsters, James Bond, 1950s B movies, Flash Gordon, etc) and work them into the plot somehow, even if the explanation is ridiculous. And honestly, this makes sense, because the key component of humor is something being out of place. People have to either act in an unexpected manner, or have something unexpected/absurd happen to them.

Regardless your argument seems to boil down to "I don't like CBS, and therefore it's not canon." This is silly, because fans can decide what they like or don't like, but fans cannot decide what counts or doesn't count. Canon was after all originally a term for official religious texts which had the sanction of authorities. CBS gets to decide what is canon, not you. You can just decide what you want to watch.
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Karl Zimmerman
Sun, Aug 9, 2020, 7:12am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

I do not understand the argument that Lower Decks is "not canon" or "not Star Trek."

First, there's of course the distinction to be made between canon and continuity, which people often confuse. Canon just means whatever the licence holder says counts. This is why Star Trek books have never been canon, and TAS became non-canon during the TNG era (and seems to have slowly been embraced once again). A story can make logical sense within the Trekverse continuity without being canon. Elements of the Trek timeline also outright conflict due to writer error (like say Chekov knowing Khan in TWOK) but it doesn't screw up the canonical status of either work, Or I guess you could bring up the entire Kelvinverse, which clearly isn't in the Prime Timeline, but is still part of canon.

So the real question is if Lower Decks is within the continuity of earlier Trek shows. I don't see an issue here either. Unlike say the Short Trek Ephraim and Dot there is no Looney Toons style physics on display. I didn't see any breaking of the fourth wall either. It's a bit silly, but is it any sillier so far than a giant amoeba that eats planets, meeting the literal god Apollo, a giant glowy hand in space, Rumpelstiltskin, etc I don't see what stretches credulity here.

Unless, I suppose, people are angry at how the crew acts. I find this aspect of the show completely believable however. Comparing the show with TNG in terms of crew competence is not fair because The Enterprise was/is the flagship of all of Starfleet, and thus should have the "best of the best." The Cerritos is purposefully made out to be a smaller, fairly insignificant ship, so having a crew which is a bit less exemplary is understandable. Add to this that the show is from the POV of the ensigns. Much like the TNG episode Lower Decks recast the crew we love as distant and somewhat intimidating figures, we're not seeing the bridge crew here (yet) at their best. The ensigns themselves are assuredly not nasty or nihilistic people either. They have personality quirks, but they're competent and do the best they can to support one another.

So yeah, I can understand how someone would not enjoy the show for its pacing, or humor. I can't understand saying it's "not Star Trek."
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Karl Zimmerman
Fri, Aug 7, 2020, 7:53am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

The animation style that Lower Decks is done in is very popular now. It's thin-line animation, sometimes jokingly called "CalArts." Examples include Adventure Time, Stephen Universe, Gravity Falls, etc. You could go broader and say it's part of the same "family" of western animation used for The Simpsons, Family Guy, Bob's Burgers, etc.

Honestly thinking of a modern 2D animated series which doesn't use this style (other than those heavily influenced by anime, and series explicitly created to be retro like Archer) is difficult.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Aug 6, 2020, 9:04pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

I understand the criticism that the bridge crew in LDS seem like jerks. However, IIRC, in the TNG episode Lower Decks we see our favorite characters from the perspective of the ensigns, and they come across as intimidating and even a bit jerkish. I think that's the point - not that they're objectively jerkish, but that the lens we see them through is that of the ensigns. They are authority figures, not our peers, and thus can be treated the same way that the average Trek series treats admirals.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Aug 6, 2020, 9:01pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

Jokes I genuinely smirked at:

* Banana hot
* "Computer show us the warp core"
* Rutherford and his Trill date attempting to try and continue their date small talk/flirting in the midst of the "zombie virus" thing was in general hilarious.
* Boimler getting attacked by the spider cow thing was also pretty funny...I mean "It will spoil the milk?" Watched the scene a second time and it still makes me smile.
* "Everyone, protect this slime!"

A lot of other jokes fell flat for me - particularly the opening and closing. But the show had "heart" in a way that I feel Discovery and Picard have not.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Aug 6, 2020, 5:30pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

@CaptainMercer

Mike McMahan is a huge TNG fan. He's said it's his favorite show of all time, and it's clear it's not bullshit, since he was behind the "TNG Season 8" project on Twitter. He said in a recent interview what he loved the most about TNG were not the high-stakes drama episodes, but little "slice of life" moments like Geordi trying to explain jokes to Data. His goal with this show was to turn these little bits of "Piller Filler" into the core plots of the show, relegating the "normal Trek adventures" to B, or even C plots.

I think the Orville is better than Lower Decks, but I'm not sure I'd agree that it was better at comedy. I think it became a much better show in the second season when it embraced that it was basically a drama with a little bit higher humor quotient than normal. I certainly found the jokes here more amusing than in the first episode of that series anyway.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Aug 6, 2020, 3:54pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

People can obviously like whatever they wish, but in basically every way, Lower Decks is nothing like Picard or Discovery. It's episodic while they are serialized. It has very normal, Berman-Trek era shot composition while they attempted to be "artsy" with wobbly cameras and quick cuts. It focuses on low-stakes character drama while they focus on galactic-level threats. It hews incredibly close to TNG-era design while they purposefully tried to "update" things. Mariner aside, all of the characters on this show are very much normal Trek characters we could have seen on any earlier show, who work together to attempt to solve the problem of the week - while they featured casts with high drama who were often at one another's throats.

Basically the only thing you can say they have in common is they're both chasing more contemporary trends in TV. Those trends are, however, very different. Saying you don't like either, when they are very different (and comedy aside, Lower Decks is very, very much like a Berman Trek show) suggests you basically just don't want anything new done with Trek.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Aug 6, 2020, 9:17am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

Personally, I thought the first episode was genuinely good...much better than the trailers let on. Very different in terms of tone/composition from DIS and PIC. I'd rate it three out of four in Jammer's rating system, and say it was one of the better Trek pilot episodes.

The show is not - as some feared - about a crew of mean-spirited fuckups. Both the bridge crew and most of the ensigns are well-meaning, hard-working Starfleet officers who are doing the best they can to come up with collective solutions to difficult problems. The one main exception of course is Ensign Mariner. The backstory they've given her is interesting - she's the daughter of the captain and an admiral, who has had a relatively long amount of service, but keeps getting demoted. She's basically stopped trying to live up to her parents expectations, and despite her obvious intelligence and skill, is lazy and insubordinate. But she still can be a classic Starfleet officer when the situation requires.

The comic tone is fine. There were some genuinely funny jokes (unlike the trailers) which fortunately mostly revolve around absurd circumstances or jarring changes in tone. I wouldn't say I laughed out loud, but I smiled in more than a few cases. Certainly it was better than the humor in the first season of The Orville.

My biggest issue with the episode is I think it failed as a pilot. The other two "mains" - Rutherford and Tendi - were not introduced well enough for it to work as a true pilot. Rutherford gets an entire B plot, but what we apparently learn about him is...he's nice and he's boring? And Tendi is just portrayed as overeager and wide-eyed. Similar to how one-hour dramatic trek often has two-hour pilots, I think that this series could have done with a one-hour premier which padded out their own story elements a bit.
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Ian McDermott
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 9:06pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

Underwhelmed.

I have no idea what season 2 will be like. Perhaps it will be episodic. I hope it will be better. Can we please have a stronger, more assertive Picard?

My favorite part was Picard saying, "Goodbye, Commander" to Data.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 8:59am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

This episode confuses the hell out of me, because elements of it were kinda meh, and elements of it were among the absolute finest I've ever, ever seen in Star Trek.

As for the "plot" side of things, this episode is full of holes and kinda collapses upon further examination. Why did the advanced synths just up and leave as soon as the beacon was turned off? Why did Oh's fleet hesitate for so long. Where the heck did that mysterious fixing machine that RIos used actually come from? Everything is contrived to be railroaded to the exact point we end up at. Mind you, I don't think the railroading is any worse than Trek has done historically, but it's there. The plotting - while better than last week - simply isn't brilliant.

In the early part of the episode, I felt like things were building to a very predictable point. However, along the way there were tons of legitimately great character moments, things like the "fireside chat" between Rios, Raffi, Elnor, and Narek, that I wish were done more throughout the season. Narissa was given a tiny bit more development as an antagonist, which was welcome. I can't say the same about Oh - every single scene with her was awful, and felt ported in from another show.

The episode began its grand inflection point when it became clear the plan wasn't to end on a giant battle - that they were going to take the very TNG standpoint that the whole point is to avoid the battle whenever possible. I always maintained the only proper way for the season to end was if the stupid prophecy of the Zhat Vash was in error, and it looks like I was right. Those advanced synths may have been malevolent (they sure looked it anyway) but they are just one of many advanced races in Trek (with varying moral compasses), and the season ultimately made it clear that conflict between organic and synthetic is not inevitable - that we have a choice to make and do not need to relive the past.

And then, the epilogue - PIcard's death and resurrection - took an episode which was just average and made it so much more. Particularly the unexpected brief re-introduction to the real Data. It was emotionally manipulative as hell, but it worked in all the right ways, tied back in to the first episode, and allowed Picard's initial arc some sort of closure. While I have some issue with the railroading of the idea that mortality is an intrinsic good in and of itself, it was all scripted and acted so beautifully that I could forget it in the moment. Probably the most feels an episode of Trek has given me since The Visitor.

In Jammer's ratings, three out of four stars.

One final note: Why was Riker wearing a hairpiece when he was an acting captain?
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Mar 19, 2020, 7:10am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

Okay that was...kinda mediocre. I can't decide if I actively disliked it, or am just incredibly disappointed after a (mostly) good-to-great season.

Akiva Goldsman's direction this week was strictly bush-league, and pales in comparison to everything we've seen before. All of the soft-cuts and very traditional, boring camera work gave this episode a Berman Trek, 90s, cheesy feel. This may have been the intent honestly, because the set-work, costumes, and makeup were very TNG as well. All of this would have been fine for The Orville or something, but given the tone that Picard has had to date - and the heavy story they're trying to tell - it's a colossal misstep here.

There were writing issues this week as well. There were a lot of what I would consider mostly unearned emotional beats. The interactions between Rios and Jurati, between Picard and Elnor, and between Picard and Raffi were really overdone both in terms of what was said and how it was said. Add to that the "Picard is dying for realz dudez!" and the shoddy direction and it felt like cornball melodrama.

I'm also really not liking that this advanced synth federation is apparently a genuine threat. I'm hoping this is yet another misunderstanding by Sutra however.

There were small things I liked - like Picard's "great speech" falling flat. But they had to ram the point home needlessly with Soong's comments from the peanut gallery.

Due to how the story is presented here - as if it's a bad TNG two-parter - I really feel like there's no tension to the outcome at all. Soji will flip, Sutra will be exposed, and the day will saved in a (mostly) predictable fashion. Only thing really in doubt is whether or not Picard dies and gets an android upgrade body or not.

Two stars. Meh.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Mar 12, 2020, 11:10am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Broken Pieces

The most Trekkian possible conclusion for the "dark secret" would be if the elder race died off not because they created synthetic life, but because they enslaved it, and were thus judged by some energy being as being unworthy of being saved.

Or perhaps that they destroyed all of their own planets, because they felt like they had to cleanse themselves and the universe of the horror of synth toleration.

Regardless, I would be shocked if the ultimate message isn't loving acceptance of those who are different.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Mar 12, 2020, 8:47am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Broken Pieces

I meant Seven and Elnor BTW, not Seven and Hugh.

I would rate this episode 3.5 stars. Would be 4 if it wasn't for the Borg cube stuff still being underwhelming, underwritten schlock.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Mar 12, 2020, 8:07am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Broken Pieces

New
Okay, that was awesome.

First and foremost - although not specifically relating to this episode - we have enough hints about the overall season arc that it seems like they're going to stick the landing. Things set in motion from the beginning of the series are starting to pay off. The weirder fankwank ideas - like the Romulans being androids, or this being a Borg origin theory - are not in the cards. Perhaps most important of all was Picard's discussion with Soji about "the past being the past, and we make the future." It's very clear this isn't going to be a finale about preventing the AI apocalypse, but instead about reinforcing the core Trek messages of fundamental human equality and inclusion. This, in and of itself, was enough to give the episode a high rating, because it's clear that Chabon & company understand Star Trek.

The episode was also replete with character moments. Narissa was finally given a little bit of depth beyond being a campy villain, and thus became a much more intriguing character. We finally get to the bottom of Rios's pain through a subplot which included a needed bit of levity. Basically everyone on La Sirena got their little moment in the sun to shine in this episode. And I liked the progression across the episode from the entire crew being literally fractured - broken pieces, as the title said - to being unified in purpose and mission by the end, as the truth helped draw everyone to one another.

The only sections I didn't really like - as was the case last week, was the Borg Cube stuff, which felt strangely underwritten and largely unneeded. I suppose Seven and Hugh must come to the rescue of the La Sirena crew some time during the finale, because otherwise all of this would be a waste. Though I'm not sure how they'd get there. Maybe they just follow the Romulan fleet?

Is Narek a real Zhat Vash? It seems like only women get access to the forbidden knowledge.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Mar 5, 2020, 8:40pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Nepenthe

This might be wishful thinking on my part, but I don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell that Chabon & company will let the Zhat Vash be "right" - because that would cut against one of the most central elements of Star Trek.

In the Star Trek world, there are no monsters - only people. This goes back to the first season of TOS, where we discover Charlie X is just a scared teenager, the Horta is just a grieving mother, and Trelane is just a spoiled child. Certainly there are individual antagonists - even villains at times. But not once have we been shown a race which is rotten to the core. Every species has its good apples and bad ones, and even the bad ones are bad for a reason.

If the Zhat Vash are right, then it would mean synths are by nature dangerous creatures that need to be destroyed, not people just like you and me. It would be basically allegorically telling a story which justifies the Holocaust - because you just can't trust what "those people" would do if you leave them to their own devices. That is so stunningly off-message that I think it's more likely it ends up a damp squib. But it's more likely than either that the Zhat Vash have just hugely misinterpreted their own prophecy.

As for the "haters" - flame away on episodes all you like. What I can't stand though is when the comment threads descend into a general discussion of the series as a whole - or worse yet, modern Trek as a whole and what "real Trek" is. I realize that due to Jammer not having a forum there's nowhere else to do this, but the lack of threaded comments here makes it pretty hard to deal with extended conversations regardless.
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Karl Zimmerman
Thu, Mar 5, 2020, 11:41am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Nepenthe

I'll break down my opinion on the episode into each of the three plot arcs, because my feelings on them are quite different.

The stuff on Nepenthe with the Rikers was awesome. Fanwank of course, but fanwank in the best way. I had tears in my eyes multiple times early on in the episode. The writers knew just the right TNG nostalgia notes to hit. I typically don't expect much from child actors, but the girl they got to play Kestra did an excellent job as well. I was a bit surprised how most of the interactions were actually between Picard and Troi, rather than Picard and Riker - but this may reflect that Sirtis has kept up her acting chops in a way Frakes has not. A little bit of the dialogue was strangely written (seemed like Kestra was talking about the Enterprise like she had been on it for example) but it wasn't enough to take me out of the story.

The stuff on La Sirena was pretty good as well. The writers have done a good job saving Jurati's character from the heel turn two episodes back, making her into a much more compelling persopm either than the quirky woman she initially appeared to be or the villain (or possessed person) that many feared. For the second week in a row we're really focusing on her mental breakdown - and it works. I liked the choice to have Raffi, rather than Rios, be the one to turn to her with compassion this time around. Only possible negative is Rios himself remains a pretty shallow character in comparison to those around him.

The stuff on the Borg cube with Elnor and Hugh was dreadful. Even setting aside killing Hugh for a second, every second of this was cliched dialogue and a railroaded plot. I think it might have been possible to do what they wanted done here justice with more time, but they wanted to focus on Picard/Soji, so they focused on trying to get done what they needed (Elnor stays behind, Hugh dies, Elnor calls Seven) as quickly as possible - meaning each of the three scenes has logic holes so gigantic you can drive a truck through them.

I suppose I'd rate it three stars overall, though 2.5 is also defensible.
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Karl Zimmerman
Sat, Feb 29, 2020, 1:00pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The Impossible Box

Regarding the violence displayed by Elnor, we honestly don't know how much of this came down to writing versus direction. I'm guessing Frakes had a lot of freedom when it came to the composition here. The biggest issue with this scene is it directly conflicts with only two episodes before when Picard freaks out on Elnor for killing, and makes him swear he will not kill again without Picard's explicit permission. Then, he kills without Picard's explicit permission...and Picard doesn't care.

I disagree strongly with GreenBoots's comment that the time spent on things like Rios and Jurati's liason - or Raffi's drug abuse - would be better spent on "plot points." A sign of strong writing on a show is when the characters have room to breathe - when they exist on the screen as something independent of shallow plot-delivery devices. Watch something like The Expanse - or early seasons of Game of Thrones - and there are a ton of scenes which involve two characters shooting the shit about things not directly plot relevant. Or hell, the famous "Piller Filler" which we all loved back in the day. The point of these scenes are to let us know the emotional states of the characters at the current point, and their relationships with one another. On Discovery, the writers basically ignored this stuff - particularly in the first season - which is a large part of why many characters seem underwritten. On Picard they're following a different, and far more refreshing model.
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