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Mon, Feb 25, 2019, 9:55pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Identity, Part I

"Can anyone offer an explanation for why the Kaylon were stalling?"

They hadn't decided to attack yet until the Orville arrived and they met the crew and debriefed Isaac. Once they decided to attack, they needed to make sure the Orville didn't leave because they wanted to capture it. If they had just told the crew that they weren't going to join, the ship would have left.

I suppose you could say that the Kaylons would have been prepared to attack even if they eventually decided not to, and could have done so as soon as their interviews were complete. This essentially couldn't happen because then Isaac couldn't have his going away party and Ty couldn't run off and find the mass graves. But I'm not sure it's that implausible for them to take a few hours to prepare for this. They already decided to allow Isaac back on board for his own goodbyes, which wasn't necessary either.
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Sat, Feb 23, 2019, 5:40am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Identity, Part I

"If the Kaylon completely sterilized their world of all biological life, those corpses might actually have been down there MUCH longer"
They probably didn't. The planet still has a breathable atmosphere, and if it had been sterilized, say, a million years ago, the atmosphere probably wouldn't still be breathable. Of course, the Orville writers don't usually put this much thought into the science. Anyway, the Kaylons don't really need to destroy all biological life, just the intelligent life. They might even still have parks and wildlife preserves.

The state of the bones in the underground caverns seems commensurate with a time gap of perhaps a century, although it could be longer if the conditions in the caverns were suitable for preservation.

"Some Kaylon have orange eyes, not sure what that signifies."
There were various subtle differences in the Kaylon costumes. Most notably, Kaylon Prime had different shoulder... uh... pads? Shoulder whatevers. But there were other small differences too, the shape of the chestplate, positioning of the lights, whatever. I wonder if the Isaac costume has undergone revisions and the other Kaylon actors were wearing older versions of the costume, but I can't go back and check because I don't have Season 1 recorded any more.

"Oh, and where is Yaphit?!?!?!"
This had to be an incredibly expensive episode to make, and Yaphit probably just didn't make the cut. We might see him next week (I imagine Yaphit is a pretty difficult, um, entity? to catch, if he wants to hide).

"I don't see how they can make any kind of peace with the Kaylons after they killed a bunch of Orville's security officers."
The deaths of a dozen or so soldiers would likely not make a big difference to the peace process. The Union would be happy to sacrifice the entire Orville and its crew, and more besides, to make peace with the Kaylons. Although I'm sure the diplomats would try to get some sort of restitution in the peace deal.

"All I could think about was VOY: 'Prototype'. "
I thought of that episode too - actually as far back as the first episode, when Isaac's featureless face and the sound of his voice resembled the Prototype androids. It was a little reinforced when the Kaylons referred to their creators as The Builders.
And of course given the overlap in production crew between Voyager and Orville, they had to be aware of that episode when making this one. But the creation of artificial life that then destroys its creator is, literally, the oldest plot in sci-fi. And aside from those similarities, the stories are actually pretty different.

Funny thing about "Prototype," for an episode that was pretty average, it sure was *memorable*. Two decades on, I can remember almost everything that happened, whereas there are better episodes that I barely remember.

"I like Isaac as a character — it offers the intellec­tual power of data but omits the latter’s em­bar­ras­sing ser­vil­ity. An Android who is proud of his non-human qual­ities makes a better crew­mem­ber, and a far better ant­ago­nist. "
I agree about Isaac, but I don't agree about Data. Data is unfailingly polite, but servile? When Data is placed in a command role (Chain of Command, Nemesis, Redemption) he commands, and does so well. Better than Riker, most of the time.

Isaac - perhaps the entire Kaylon race - is a lot like Data, but what they actually lack is a *conscience*. They don't seem to have the outright cruelty of Lore, but they also don't have the fundamental decency of Data. We've seen this over and over with Isaac and his treatment of Dr. Finn. The viewers, conditioned by years of caring but clueless Data, assume that Isaac is a jerk because he doesn't know any better, but now we all get smacked in the face with the realization that Isaac isn't Data, and he's a jerk because... he's just a jerk. And yet he's probably still the nicest member of his species.

"One moment I found poorly executed was the sequence in which Claire's kid escapes the Orville and discovers the catacomb of SPOILERS. Surely such an advanced planet would have detected his wanderings."
Well, maybe. The Borg pretty much ignored humans wandering around on their ships too, both in "Q Who?" and "Best of Both Worlds," until the humans directly became a threat. And the Kaylon planet, being as insular as it is and populated entirely by AI, might not really have need of security. So while I do take issue with how easy it was for Ty to find the graves (or the existence of the graves at all), I don't really have an issue with him wandering around on the planet. Now, wandering off the ship on the other hand, is a little bit of a problem. You can't just open the door to a spaceship and wander off. This is the first time we've ever seen the Orville land; until now there was no reason to think it was even possible. How does Ty even know he can open the door?

"Though why the Kaylon bothered to take over the Orville, rather than destroy it was a head-scratcher...other than to serve next week's plot."
They needed the military secrets on board... but it's not clear why they are keeping the crew alive.

Next thought on the Kaylons: Do they normally exist as unitary beings, or are they actually purely software intelligences that move in and out of physical bodies as needed, like Mass Effect's Geth? I have been trying to figure out what the episode's title "Identity" means.
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Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 7:26am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Identity, Part I

I guess my post might make it sound like I didn't like the episode, and that's not the case. It's good, it's just not BOBW level of good. I'll give it 3.5 stars.

I kind of feel like there's not quite two episodes worth of material here, though. BOBW has almost no wasted space. Here they spend two minutes just on the landing sequence. And it looks amazing. But it's a lot of time (and, presumably, money) to spend on a sequence that doesn't mean anything.
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Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 7:16am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Identity, Part I

Good episode. I can't give it four stars because it did drag in places and Ty just wandering off the ship and discovering this massive secret was a little far-fetched. The Kaylons would have just cremated all the remains, or ground them up and made them into concrete filler, or something, and they certainly wouldn't have given the Orville landing coordinates that are literally right on top of a giant pile of bones unless they wanted the crew to discover them. Even Isaac leaving the picture in the corridor where Ty could find it was on the contrived side.

I also felt like the way that Isaac was deactivated was cheating a little. It was filmed with a drawn-out flickering and sad noises and dramatic collapse that unambiguously said "medical problem" when he should have just sat down in a chair and turned off. The crew could have proceeded the same way but without having to try to trick the audience.

I'm also sort of dreading next week's inevitable reset button. But I can't mark that down until it happens. My money is on Isaac changing his mind and saving the day somehow and peace being declared in a way that allows him to continue on the ship, probably by the rest of the robot overlords deciding that his change of heart proves that the humans are worth saving. We already know that the Kaylon leaders aren't telling Isaac everything.

It's nice to get the backstory on the Kaylons, at least. Cybernetic intelligence doesn't just evolve from nothing, so now we know where they came from, and it's not a good place.

Finally, this feels like an episode that would have been better placed as a season finale. People compare it to "Best of Both Worlds," but that's not really a very similar episode; right now it seems more like "Basics" or especially "Descent." But more importantly, it's just so soon after "A Happy Refrain." These episodes needed to be a little farther apart since this episode essentially undoes everything that happened there.
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Wed, Jan 30, 2019, 8:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Symbiosis

This is an episode that is weirdly both dated and ahead of its time. The "don't do drugs" speech is so incredibly 80s, but at the same time, the stuff the episode is actually an allegory for - painkiller addiction and fair trade between wealthy and developing nations - were not significant issues yet at the time the episode was made.

It's a good test case if you want to talk about the death of the author, at least!

I hope The Orville decides to remake this episode. One of their mistakes is redoing good Star Trek episodes that are hard to improve on, instead of bad ones that could easily be upgraded.
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Wed, Jan 30, 2019, 3:56pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: All the World Is Birthday Cake

"Homeward" and "Up The Long Ladder" are generally considered among TNG's worst episodes. Nobody is giving them a pass. "Symbiosis" is slightly above, but it's still mostly disliked.

"Suddenly Human" is an episode about a really difficult problem with no right answer. If Picard's decisions are ultimately unsatisfying, that's unavoidable given the situation. Frankly I applaud the episode for not assuming "humans always right!" jingoism. Maybe the episode isn't ultimately enjoyable, but it's not because Picard made bad choices.
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Wed, Jan 30, 2019, 2:52am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: All the World Is Birthday Cake

"Is laser light actually hard to distinguish from star light? It seems like it would be completely different."
Yes, it's quite different. Lasers are monochromatic and stars have blackbody spectra with absorption lines. But the episode established that the Rigorians aren't really paying attention to the actual properties of the stars, so they might not notice.

If you start thinking about spectra, it creates another problem for the reflector. It would have the spectrum of the local star, which is presumably a sun-like F/G/K star, whereas the star that went supernova would have been something else. 21st century Earth scientists would realize "it's a faaaaake" quickly, but the Rigorians are not very good at astronomy.

The episode could have maybe been better if the Rigorians knew this stuff, but chose to ignore it. It could be their scientists hiding the truth to work around their cultural attitudes, or it could be their society replacing one kind of mysticism with a different "I want to believe!" kind. Either would have been much better than their aimless and unfounded obstinacy.
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Tue, Jan 29, 2019, 10:09pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: All the World Is Birthday Cake

@OmicronThetaDeltaPhi @Dave in MN

I'd believe 100kkm as a maximum distance (the exact size of the reflector seemed quite a bit less than 1km, but it doesn't necessarily need to be magnitude -1), and while it's not technically low orbit, it's low enough. That's only 1/4 the distance to the moon, and lunar parallax is readily visible to the naked eye. They would still see the parallax on the first night.

Since their astrology appears to work like ours (constellations based on the ecliptic), the reflector would occasionally be eclipsed, more frequently the closer it is to the planet.

Also, a reflector wouldn't twinkle.

For a slightly better technological solution, you don't need to invoke cloaking magi-tech. You just need a really big laser at 200AU or so. It can even move to cancel out the parallax from the planet's orbit. That would potentially fool the Rigorians for a little while, maybe a few years.
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Mon, Jan 28, 2019, 12:20pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: All the World Is Birthday Cake

So, parallax measurements. As if the technological viability of the plan in any way entered the mind of the writer:

Today's telescopes can measure parallax of stars about 300 light years away over the course of the Earth's orbit, which is conveniently 300 million km in diameter, giving a measurement distance of one light year per million km of separation. Assuming the planet is roughly the same size as Earth, with a diameter in the vicinity of 10,000 km, and the telescope is in orbit or observes the reflector for the whole night, it would have to be about 0.01ly away or about three light-days. This is about the outer edge of the Kuiper belt in our solar system (and too far to work regardless of visibility, given the time constraints). At this distance, it would be invisible as it would be too dim. In fact, it would be too dim to see anywhere except low orbit, where parallax would be so great that it would not even be above the horizon the entire night as the planet rotates. (The episode did seem to depict the reflector in low orbit).

So they had better get Bortus and Kelly home fast, because the Rigorians are going to figure this out in a matter of hours, maybe even minutes.
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Thu, Jan 24, 2019, 11:56pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: All the World Is Birthday Cake

Well, that happened. Anybody miss season 2 of Enterprise? Me neither. But apparently someone did, because we have this episode. Archer goes to jail! I mean Kelly and Bortus, whatever.

This episode had everything : hard-headed aliens of the week complete with preposterous customs, repetitive dialogue, a meaningless action sequence, nonsensical starfleet (or whatever) rules, and a neat little technobabble solution that ties everything up in the last couple of minutes.

Everyone being excited about a first contact mission was a nice moment, but it's hardly the first time they've done one.

Groaner moment : the alien scientist talks about the array of "satellites." Which are radio dishes sitting on the ground. That is not what a satellite is.

A rescue mission isn't allowed, but re-engineering the religion on which the entire society is founded is fine? mmmkay.

No character made a meaningful decision at any point during this episode except the alien guy who decided to reveal the baby, and he was on screen for maybe one minute.

Even Picard would have just rescued the prisoners (which he did, in "Justice," which was pretty much the same episode). Kirk would have rescued the prisoners and blown up the ministry of astrology for good measure.

Half a star (it would have been one star, but it's really just a mirror).
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Sat, Jan 12, 2019, 5:46am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Home

Pretty good. Three stars, verging on an extra half star. Bringing back two former Trek doctors (both from Braga-produced Trek shows) to play off each other was fun. Maybe Alexander Siddig will appear as another Selayan. The sudden out-of-nowhere brutality was shocking, in a good way, more so because it was unexpected (and because Billingsley played such a good-natured character on Enterprise). Most of the other good parts of the episode have already been covered and I generally agree.

The high-gravity planet was portrayed poorly, very unrealistic for how a planet like that would appear. I can accept the need for characters from such a planet to resemble humans because of the practical needs of production, but that doesn't apply to sets and CGI effects! This cost at least half a star because it stood out so much.

I will miss Halston Sage, especially if she's gone permanently and even more so if Elephantophagus Guy is her replacement, because he's pretty obnoxious.

Alara was one of the few characters on the show who consistently behaved professionally and this show really needs that. It means something that the three (now two) female characters and the non-gendered cybernetic lifeform are professional, while the male characters all act like frat boys. This is going to be an annoying sticking point about the show. They didn't take the sexism out of Trek, they just sort of changed it around.

It's fine for this show to be a copy of Star Trek, but the showrunner dating a cast member is not the part of Star Trek you are supposed to copy! And although it doesn't actually matter, it weirdly feels squickier because MacFarlane's character is also the superior officer of Sage's character.

OK, enough gender issues for now. But they kind of all came together to really stick out in this episode. Still a good episode though, one of the better ones so far. Certainly better than last week.
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Thu, Dec 13, 2018, 5:03pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

Kidnapping Sisko and O'Brien, locking Sisko in the box, and trying to destroy the runabout.

Just to add on, I really think the writers specifically intended to not take a position on which lifestyle is "better." Alixus is strong willed and won't accept technology, the regular characters are strong willed and won't accept subsistence farming, but most people just go along with whatever they're doing at the moment.

If the writers had really wanted to take a position that the colony lifestyle was better, they could have brought along a redshirt who decides to stay behind, like in "Space Seed." And O'Brien might have had a few lines about how of course they can't stay, but wouldn't it maybe be nice to be able to? But they didn't. The closest thing is Alixus saying she has unspecified support from unspecified scientists, a weird statement to be sure (why scientists specifically?) but she's also not a reliable source.
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Thu, Dec 13, 2018, 4:00am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

I like this episode. It isn't perfect, but it's good. Three stars seems about right.

First thing is that these colonists aren't Starfleet officers or kidnapping victims. They're colonists who set out to create a new colony. They just got a little bit of a different colony than they planned. So it's plausible that they'd adapt to this lifestyle, and that they wouldn't feel an urgent need to get back to the Federation. They were leaving it behind anyway.

I think most of the key stuff about Alixus has been hit already, but my position is that yes, she's absolutely a villain, not sympathetic or intended to be, and a sociopath/narcissist. So it's good that people want to punch her. She's awful.

But she's awful in exactly the right way. We know there are anti-technology colonists out there (e.g. the Bringloidi) and the Federation is generally willing to let this happen as they have plenty of planets. But Alixus recruits exactly the colonists she needs for her experiment - colonists that she can force to accept her philosophy.

That Alixus is a cult leader is clear - it's not even allegory, she's just a cult leader outright. She bans bedroom doors, which doesn't have anything to do with technology, it's just a power play.

When Sisko and O'Brien land, she's ready for the next challenge. She's already broken a few colonists, now it's time to hunt bigger game: Starfleet officers with things at stake back home. That's why it's so important to her that Sisko stop wearing his uniform. If she had just wanted to preserve her little colony she could have easily just told them about the damping field, let them go and that would be that. But that's not enough for her. She's got to prove that her philosophy is right by converting Sisko.

The scene where she offers Sisko water if only he will take off his uniform is good, and reminiscent of TNG's famous four lights. But more powerful is the hot box. Alixus forces Sisko to work in the fields, and then she punishes him unfairly by putting him in the box - a means of punishment that was used on slaves. The episode isn't about slavery, but all the imagery is here in the scene. But Sisko ends up winning this battle when he not only doesn't break in the hot box, but rejects the water, keeps his uniform and gets back in just to show Alixus that her worst punishment isn't enough. This is a four star scene even if some parts of the episode don't quite live up to it.

One of those parts is the plot surrounding the runabout. The damping field should have just blocked the transporter so the runabout would have to land, and then not be able to take off again. This would make O'Brien solving the mystery of the damping field meaningful, because in the end it doesn't help them escape. They still just need to wait for Dax and Kira to show up. All it does is give them a reason to take Alixus away at the end of the episode (and explain things to any viewers who didn't figure it out after two minutes). And while I can believe that Alixus can build the damping field, it's harder to accept that she can somehow transport up to the runabout, erase the logs, try (but barely fail) to crash it and get back all without anyone noticing or the technology waking up. So this really should have been a shuttle crash episode.

Meanwhile, Dax gets her usual dose of technobabble, which doesn't really work on its own merits. Matching warp speed for transport is a standard thing that happens regularly. Of course, using a tractor beam to slow down another ship isn't really unusual either. None of these scenes do anything except waste time, which could have been spent on a small B-plot or better character moments for the colonists (fashion prostitute girl could have maybe had a line that wasn't totally insipid).

The ending worked pretty well for me. It's nice to see a villain actually have to face justice for a change instead of somehow finding a way to get killed or being miraculously forgiven because no main characters died. The colonists deciding to stay put seemed fine. They have lived there for ten years and built a home there, after all, and that is pretty much what they set out to do in the first place. But now that they know the truth, they can decide whether to accept advanced technology or not with a full understanding of the consequences. It's the right choice by the writers not to answer this question, because it is a choice the colonists should be able to make. Some people can't put down their phones, and some people are Amish. Neither are wrong, and it would be a mistake for the episode to say that one of them is.
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Sun, Dec 9, 2018, 3:27am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: Progress

Pretty good episode. Most of the stuff has been covered, but I think it's worth mentioning that a legitimate government can ethically do things that occupiers can't. While we're meant to sympathize with Mullibek, in the end he's in the wrong this time. It's time for him to move on.

Kira and Mullibek are both trapped in the mindset they developed during the occupation, but Kira is able to get past it. It's pretty much the core question for her, especially in the early seasons. How does someone who's known only war come to terms with peace? It means giving up your old ways. Some people can't quite do it.

I really liked the B story. No, not original, but fun.

Three stars, after deductions for the implausibility of the premise. Who would destroy a habitable moon just for the sake of not even very much power? Hasn't anyone watched The Undiscovered Country?
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Sun, Dec 9, 2018, 2:59am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: The Storyteller

After reflection, I'll toss in an extra half a star for the bucket of oatmeal. 1.5/0.5 depending on virgins.
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Sun, Dec 9, 2018, 2:55am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: The Storyteller

Pretty dumb episode. But obnoxiously dumb, not harmlessly dumb like "Move Along Home."

Dauphin 2.0 was I guess the best(?) part of the episode, but mostly it just shows why actual world leaders are not 15 years old. Also, what happened to Bajor having a *unified* provisional government? Seems like a rejected TNG script for aliens of the week.

Presenting O'Brien with whores is definitely a sour note. But where is everyone getting the idea that they are supposed to be virgins, other than that the storyline is religious and so they must be? Because that is way worse than them just being ordinary prostitutes. Which is itself a bad choice, but more in the "jokes that aren't funny" category than the "Wow that's really offensive" category.

One star for Jake, Nog, and Colm Meaney's acting, unless the virgins thing is real, then zero stars.
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Wed, Dec 5, 2018, 5:48am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S1: Dax

Terrible episode. At least it's not a Dumb Ferengi Episode. But it makes no sense at any point, starting right from the opening voiceover.

* Keiko and O'Brien are off celebrating her mother's 100th birthday. While Keiko's age might be slightly different, Rosalind Chao was 36 at the time this episode aired. That means her mother would have been approximately 64 when she was born. Huh.

* The Federation would never sign a treaty with any alien species that allows those aliens to simply abduct Federation citizens and carry them off for punishment.

* Kira would have tossed the Klaestrons out the nearest airlock for sabotaging the station. The Klaestrons are the ones who should have been on trial here.

* Curzon's supposed vow of silence is the central plot point of the episode, but there doesn't seem to be any particular reason for it other than that otherwise Jadzia could just tell the truth and then there'd be no episode. He's protecting who exactly? Obviously not himself, obviously not the general, who's dead. The only reasonably valid reason for this might be if this news would be so shocking that it would plunge the planet back into civil war. This isn't necessarily implausible, it's not too different from the situation with Mogh and Ja'Rod, but the secret comes out at the end and it's met with a collective shrug, so obviously not. Apparently Curzon decided to remain silent to protect the honor of the general's wife.

* But she doesn't care enough about him to send off an email warning him that he's about to be arrested? Or tell the truth to Odo when he comes to talk to her? Or just, you know, going public with the actual story? Which is what she ends up doing in the end anyway. She's also OK with letting her son grow to middle age, wasting his life investigating this non-murder when she knows the truth the whole time.

* There was no reason to close Quark's bar for this. There are no other areas available? I guess they haven't fixed the empty cargo bays from the first episode yet. Or that they couldn't fit the apparently five people involved in the hearing into some random conference room, holosuite or whatever. The only purpose of this is that otherwise Quark wouldn't be in the episode at all. Given how much of this episode was filler, they could have just given Quark a B-plot instead. It's more than ten minutes in before anyone even says why the Klaestrons are even there.

* For some reason, the question is treated as a medical issue and something that Bashir has to actually research. How about this: "Curzon is dead. He's rotting in the ground. Jadzia is standing right here. Medically speaking, these are different people."

* Neither the Klaestron nor the Bajorans can possibly have very much experience with the issue. The Trill necessarily must have extensive philosophical understanding and legal precedent regarding this issue, but nobody ever even asks the supposed Trill expert what their position is.

* The Klaestron's arguments and behavior in court are pretty weird. I particularly like his contention that the Trill can commit "the perfect crime" by just not getting caught before they die. This is... not special about the Trill. Anyone can get away with crime by not getting caught before they die. Also amusing is the contention that having memories of a crime is equivalent to being guilty of it. This is a weird position to take in a universe in which memories are routinely modified. I guess the perfect Klaestron crime involves just having your memories wiped afterward.

* Odo must have shapeshifted into one of the Game of Thrones ravens. Somehow, he goes from forcing Quark to close his bar, to traveling all the way to Klaestron, and conducting his own investigation (which uncovers the truth that none of the Klaestrons found after all this time), all in the space of what is, according to the episode, one day.

* The Klaestron rebels murdered the general... while he was defecting to them? I'm not an expert on Klaestron politics or military traditions, but this seems like a pretty weird thing to happen.

* Substantial portions of the episode involves everyone running around Dax overacting, while she sits there like a lump. But this isn't very different from the rest of first season DS9.

* The most unbelievable part of this episode is that D.C. Fontana would allow her name to be put on such a preposterous mess of an episode.

There is a real sci-fi issue here, continuity of identity, and the Trill are the right vehicle to address it. But the episode bases everything on plot holes and implausible actions, makes all the wrong arguments, and then ends without any resolution. The only part that comes close to working here is that Dax seems to take Curzon's commitment seriously, implying that she actually is closer to accepting the Klaestron side of the argument than anyone else. Nevertheless, there is no way that I believe that Jadzia is willing to die to protect this secret that, in the end, turns out to be completely unimportant.

One and a half stars.
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Sun, Oct 14, 2018, 6:00am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: What Are Little Girls Made Of?

It's interesting to me that Chapel's primary dramatic function for most of the series was to be in love with Spock, who was emotionless, and then here it's revealed that her fiance wants to replace humanity with emotionless androids. And these are the two men that Chapel chooses to love.

This says something about her, though I'm not sure just what.
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Sun, Oct 14, 2018, 5:56am (UTC -5)
Re: TOS S1: Miri

There are a lot of complaints in the review and thread about the planet, but don't forget just how early in the run of TOS this episode was. 50+ years later, we're all used to seeing planets where everyone looks and acts human, and everyone knows what a class-M planet is.

But viewers of the day were new to it all. This was the first episode in all of Star Trek where the crew meets human-looking aliens, and only the second episode (or third, if you count "The Cage") where they meet aliens of any sort, besides Spock of course. So the "duplicate of Earth" planet does have a purpose, it's lampshading the fact that these "aliens" are basically just humans. Eventually, of course, this would go from a curiosity to a trope, and they stopped bothering to try to explain it. But here, it was still necessary to explain.
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Fri, Aug 2, 2013, 2:42am (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S4: The Augments

The Dr. Soong from TNG can't be the same person as this one, as they have different first names, and humans don't live quite long enough. In TNG, McCoy has one foot in the grave, and he hasn't even been born yet at the time of this episode, when Arik is already somewhat old.

But considering all the evidence:
1) Arik and Noonien Soong look identical, are both mad geniuses, and both seem to have the same tragic flaw of not quite being able to believe that their "children" could really be evil,
2) Arik doesn't seem to be married or have any biological children, and might be too old for it,
3) Noonien Soong considers Data and Lore his children, and artificial procreation to be completely reasonable for him,
4) The Soongs in general are pretty weird,
5) Arik Soong is a geneticist.

I think the best conclusion is that Noonien is a clone. The technology exists in the time period ("Up The Long Ladder") and, even if Arik decides that cybernetics is the way to go in the future, he's not going to just forget all his biology.

Given the long lifespans of humans in Trek, Noonien's advanced age in TNG, and Arik Soong's talent for biology (and presumably life-extension), it's possible that Noonien could be a first generation clone of Arik, or maybe there are one or two intermediates.

Is there a novel that explores the Soong family tree? If so, what conclusion did it draw about the line from Arik to Noonien?
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Tue, May 21, 2013, 5:05am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek Into Darkness

"Most important, him being Khan is absolute negligible. In fact, the narrative would have worked better if he would have been an original antagonist created from scratch."

There are actually a lot of good choices that were missed. Captain Garth, Commodore Decker or Gary Mitchell all would have been better choices than Khan here, although only Garth could have plausibly had magic blood.

"It has no meaning if we know that he'll be resurrected ten minutes later. This COMPLETELY undermines the emotional resonance of the scene."

Exactly. Spock's death in TWOK worked because NOBODY, including the writers, knew he was going to be resurrected later. When Picard was assimilated by the Borg, Patrick Stewart's contract was up in the air and it was totally plausible that he might not be coming back. When the Enterprise, no bloody A, B, C or D, was destroyed in TSFS, it at least stayed destroyed until the end of the next movie, and there was no guarantee there would actually be a Star Trek IV.

This is more like when Tom Paris turned into a lizard. Some magic medi-babble and he just gets better. Did anybody believe he was going to stay dead? Not for a minute.

Unfortunately, the circumstances where this works are mostly outside the writer's control, and don't come around all that often. You've either got to be prepared to *really* kill your main characters, or you've got to get your emotional impact from somewhere else. Otherwise it just feels cheap.

And I agree that *this* version of the characters have not "earned" the kind of friendship that they are trying to portray. In 2009, Kirk and Spock could barely stand each other.

The thing is, I really like these actors and this take on the characters (except Simon Pegg, because Scotty was never a comic relief character... except in Final Frontier, and we all know how THAT turned out). I wish the reboot-trek had been done as a TV show, with the same cast. But then... "The casting was great but everything else was terrible," that's pretty much everything JJ Abrams has ever done.
Set Bookmark
Sat, Apr 20, 2013, 2:03am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S7: Masks

In good Trek episodes, the characters solve a problem, and in so doing they reveal something about the human condition or at least about themselves. When there's no problem to solve, you're going away from the formula - which means the episode is going to be unusual, either in a good way or a bad way.

To me, this episode is like "The Inner Light"'s evil twin. In both cases you have an ancient alien society that has left a cultural archive which the Enterprise happens to discover. Neither episode has a real problem to solve (I don't consider deciphering the alien symbologism to be a real "problem"). Everyone is basically just waiting for the magic alien gadget to finish. Is symbologism a word? It is now!

But in that episode, it's done by showing us what amounts to an alternate-universe version of Picard. Not only do we learn what Picard would have been like in a very different situation, we also learn what the people of the ancient society are all about. We see them caring for their families and building their future, even though we know they are all doomed. They aren't that different from us, really.

This one doesn't really involve any of our actual characters. It uses Data's body, but not actually Data. And we don't really learn much about the alien culture. We only see it in such disconnected pieces that it's hard to get much of a feel for it, and we don't really get to know any individual characters either, certainly not to the level that we get to know the individual ancient Kataanians. We only really learn about one myth. I'm not even sure if any of the various personalities here are supposed to be real, or if they're all mythological.

You might also compare this episode to "Darmok," because both of them are basically an incomprehensible muddle until the crew manages to piece together the outlines of an alien myth. I think the difference again comes down to characters. Darmok has them, and even without real communication, you learn about the Tamarian captain and what their society considers important.

Anyone who's been in a foreign country and managed to make a friend without knowing the local language can probably relate to "Darmok." This episode is more like getting lost on the way to physics lab and finding yourself in the midterm for a comparative religion class.
Set Bookmark
Sat, Feb 23, 2013, 9:25am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S3: Allegiance

Although this isn't itself a particularly memorable episode, I have to note the similarity to the Twilight Zone episode "Five Characters in Search of an Exit," which is largely summed up by its title. Four of the five characters are trapped in a featureless room, when a soldier arrives and attempts to get them to work together to escape.

That episode ends with a twist which is pretty weird even for the Twilight Zone (the five characters are actually dolls, and the featureless room is actually a bucket in which toys are being collected), but I have to wonder if the writers of this episode had seen that one and were, in some way, inspired by it.
Set Bookmark
Fri, Dec 21, 2012, 4:11am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: The Neutral Zone

@Paul: "Season 1 is so bad it's good! Elixirs of youth, invisible weapons that destroy whole civilizations, drunk crew destroying the ship!"


You've pretty much just described three of the last five movies.
Set Bookmark
Fri, Dec 21, 2012, 4:08am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: The Neutral Zone

I liked this episode. Not perfect certainly, but better than 1.5 stars (compare "Skin of Evil" or "The Outrageous Okona" - also rated 1.5, and those are just bad episodes).

The A and B stories don't have much to do with each other, but they usually don't. Ideally they'll show similar themes, like how Wesley and Picard both deal with their future in "Coming of Age," but here there's not as much. I guess they both cover elements from the past coming forward and becoming relevant again, but the connection is not strong.

I felt the real problem was that Picard's characterization was off. I can understand his irritation with the timing given the Romulan situation, but knowing Picard's interest in history, I would expect him to show more of an interest in the 370 year old humans, Romulans or no Romulans.

As a result of the crew not attending to them properly, they spend most of their time virtually confined to quarters until Ralph figures out how to get them out. Picard should have assigned Troi to deal with the old-timers and Data or Worf to research the Romulans, giving more time to the acclimation and ideology conflicts and less to exposition about stuff everyone already knows.

Despite all this, the old-timers still aren't totally wasted. Their purpose is to illustrate the differences between the attitudes of the 20th and 24th centuries and how much society would change during that time. Claire and Sonny have straightforward reactions that make sense. While not particularly exciting, they both show aspects of humanity that are actually timeless. Claire cares about her family (and establishes the sense of continuity that is one of the aspects of family most often stressed on TNG). Sonny demonstrates adaptability and shows us that even in the 24th century, people will still want to have fun. (One thing about TNG - the most fun they ever seem to have is performing Shakespeare - I think they could use a Sonny). He is almost slyly poking fun at the overall stuffiness of Trek, maybe showing some ways that modern-day life is actually better. Ralph shows the most contrast - like a less annoying version of "Time's Arrow's" Clemens. He even engages Picard in a debate over the nature of destiny, and wins. With Ralph, you see some ways humanity has improved over time, but also that something may have been lost, that humans are a little too accepting of fate and need a little challenge and encouragement to really do their best. One of the weaknesses in most utopian visions, Roddenberry's included, is that, when life is just so easy, what really DOES motivate people? Ralph forces Picard to try to answer this question. Unfortunately, the episode just doesn't spend enough time on these issues.

I find that in general, I like the first two seasons of TNG more than most people, and I'd give this episode a solid 2.5 stars, 3 if it had been paced a little better.

If nothing else, I think this episode deserves credit for inspiring "Futurama," whose "freezerdoodles" look exactly like these cryocanisters, whose power-outages gag echoes the explanation here of why they are in space, and the episode "Futurestock" which appears to be based on Ralph (or perhaps simply draws from the same stock 80's financier character).
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