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Fri, Aug 7, 2020, 10:04am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

"Also, here we again have new Star Trek showing how diverse it can be and yet again making the female black woman protagonist a purposely annoying screw up who mocks people with aspirations, and only got where she is through nepotism and not because she's smart, determined or driven, which frankly is not really a great role model for anybody. New Trek is 0 for 3 here. "

I want to comment here. After 26 minutes it would be unfair to assume we know who Mariner is, but so far she seems both smart, determined and driven, but also cynical and mocking - most likely because her mother is captain (which leads to the question why she chose that ship, although it's a possibility she was assigned there).

If that is where they are going with the character, there's room for exploration there. Whether they will go there, or whether they are even interested in exploring characters rather than just using them as a comedic vehicle, is yet to be seen. I don't know if I have the patience to find out, but maybe it shouldn't be ruled out so soon.

What I think I can say after 26 minutes is that this isn't a show that's worth my time to watch just for the laughs. The comedy isn't my cup of tea, and frankly it's pretty awful. If there isn't any typical Trek content or themes to go with it, then I don't see myself sticking with it.
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Fri, Aug 7, 2020, 6:20am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

I won't pass judgement just yet, it's too early, but a few impressions...

-It looks very nice. I like the design aesthetic much more than the other recent series.
-I hope the characters develop more distinct personalities. Yes, on paper, there's the rebellious one, the underling ensign who looks up to his superiors, the tech nerd who's more interested in science than romance. But they all talk the same way, and when a character's supposed to be say nervous or afraid, they don't talk like they are. I would say it's the actors fault, but somehow I think it's intentional and I don't think the creators care.
-I feel like I watched a highlights reel. There's no buildup to anything, just bam bam bam one thing after another. This applies to the theme music as well.
-Yes, everyone talks too fast, excess is the rule, and nothing is subtle. Again, intentional.

I think people generally want this kind of show. It's Rick and Morty Trek. It's not what I particularly want, but I have to accept that expecting Trek to go back to the TNG era is like expecting classical music to become the best selling music genre again. No big deal. If I don't continue watching, at least I'll save a bunch of time to spend on other things.
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James T. Shatner
Mon, Aug 3, 2020, 8:38pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

Sorry, what was the reason for not watching TOS through? I missed that.
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James G
Mon, Aug 3, 2020, 10:24am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Game

A good one this, not particularly memorable or dramatic - the alien villains aren't really threatening enough for that - but based on a decently solid plot.

It works quite well as an allegory on gaming addiction, or addiction in general. Of course it does have a few problems.

Firstly - does the idea of playing a game that literally gives you a hit in the brain's pleasure centre really not trouble anyone with the thought that it might be dangerously addictive? Riker would have left it on Risa. He must be sharp enough to know that it's asking for trouble, even without the mind control aspect and the evil plan.

I liked the scene at the beginning with Riker the giggly alien woman who turns out to be a villain.

It bothers me slightly that the crew who are under its control sometimes seem completely coherent - like Riker, Geordi et al when they're hunting down Wesley. Surely slightly crazed, drugged behaviour would be more appropriate? It just doesn't feel right that Riker and Picard have an apparently completely sober control of their senses while they're acting out a plot against their own interests.

The Morse code flasher that immediately restores victims of the game to full, conscious normality - come on, that's too easy. Lazy writing. Also, I don't mind Wesley and the specialist babe being super-sharp engineers and technologists, but we're asked to believe that they're pretty good at neuroscience, as well. It's a bit of a stretch too far.

Still - I liked it. Better than average for the fifth series, so far.
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James G
Sat, Aug 1, 2020, 10:49am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Disaster

A pretty dumb episode, this one. But enjoyable. It's a chance to watch a '70s style disaster movie in the Star Trek universe. Fun, but built on a pretty shaky premise, ie that the Enterprise could so easily be very comprehensively disabled. It doesn't really fit with my notion of the powerful, advanced Starfleet flagship we see in other episodes. And "bulkheads"? Really? I thought forcefields were used for that sort of thing. Seems a bit low tech.

Good to see Ro again. I like her spirit. For an ensign, she's certainly highly uninhibited when speaking to senior officers, and I see that she has her non-dress-code earrings on as well. There's a certain darkness though, isn't there, given her past, in that her plan - ultimately overruled by Troi - could have cost the lives of a number of her comrades?

We're reminded in this episode that the Enterprise, despite being involved in potentially lethal military confrontations every other week, is home to a sizeable population of children. It makes no sense.

Fun to see Data's head detached. What a shame he doesn't have a couple of spares, like Kryten in Red Dwarf.

Interesting that Troi is addressed as "Sir"; I'm pretty sure Janeway (for example) always gets "ma'am".

Why is the ceiling in the turbolift so high? Given that there's a hatch there that gives access to a ladder running up and down the shaft. What's the point in making it harder to use?

Geordi and Beverley's plan to repressurise the cargo deck seems reckless; what if the repressurising function isn't working because of the damage to the ship? I think this whole idea was recycled from Airport '77.

And of course - Keiko giving birth. It's the little touch that almost transforms the whole episode into a parody of disaster movies rather than an homage.

I don't understand why someone we don't recognise should be in charge of the bridge at the beginning of the episode, and I don't get how everything seems pretty much back to normal at the end of the episode. Would have been better if we'd seen another starship arriving to tow the Enterprise to a Starbase.

Despite all that - fun.
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Sat, Aug 1, 2020, 7:53am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S1: Encounter at Farpoint

This episode has a claim to being the worst Trek episode ever, and lacks almost all the absurdity that makes garbage like “Sub Rosa” tolerable. “Spock’s Brain” is more fun, and “Threshold” is not composed entirely of salamander- people; it has some good ideas. “Encounter at Farpoint” is a chore to get through. It is truly dire, as bad as the abysmal “Emissary”.

At least the holodeck did not grate in this episode as much as usual; perhaps because it had the charm of novelty. OTOH, the odious Q make a too-early appearance; the character is out of place in ST, whicb is supposedly a *science* fiction series - he (and his kind) belong far more in Star Wars. For some reason, Q is much less tiresome and insufferable in Voyager than in TNG - but a very little of the character goes a very long way.

No stars for this overlong and tedious mess.
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Sat, Aug 1, 2020, 7:19am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Nth Degree

It’s always nice to see a Barclay episode - even if that means dragging along some of that asinine holodeck tushery as well. To some extent, Reg functions as an Everyman, a stand-in for the ordinary person who would not know a Q from a Kazon.

Yet again, Counselor Troi is almost completely useless.
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James G
Fri, Jul 31, 2020, 7:08pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Silicon Avatar

I liked this one a lot. There's some surprising acting and direction in this one, that really impressed me. Thoughts and emotions being conveyed with facial expressions that stood out - Riker's horror at seeing the colonists killed; Doctor Marr's discomfort with Data at the meeting.

It's a nice idea with some flaws. The main one is that the entity is basically a planet-destroying indiscriminate slaughterer, and it gets a lot more respect than you might imagine probable.

For a few moments I thought that Riker's love interest at the beginning was Linda Gray. And did we really need the cheesy sexual innuendo about 'dessert'? It adds nothing to the plot except to make the viewer (this viewer anyway) cringe.

The doctor with a score to settle is an interesting character, and really played well. I thought the story was largely going to be about her animosity to Data, but that aspect of it evaporates quickly.

Anyway. Some nit-picks. Judging by the speed at which the entity carves up the surface of the planet during the initial assault in which the colonists are killed, it would take it weeks to devastate a country the size of Wales, and much longer to ruin the whole planet.

I can buy that Data and Geordi aren't able to interrupt the impromptu weapon the doctor creates, but couldn't Picard just have the Enterprise back off a few million km?

Not keen on Data doing voice impersonations. He does it in one of the very first episodes, and it's a bit creepy - it makes him seem more like a tape recorder than a synthetic humanoid.

Anyway, definitely a good one.
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James G
Wed, Jul 29, 2020, 12:56pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Ensign Ro

I like this one. It's not a great one, but I enjoyed the friction between Ro and considerably more senior officers, and the way she feels very relaxed talking to them as though they were equals. I have to wonder what the evolutionary reason for Bajorans having a fossil stuck to the bridge of their noses is, though.

TNG has quite a few resistance versus evil totalitarians stories, and the plot here is adequate, but not that interesting. I always like an episode where senior ranks at Starfleet are involved in some sort of dystopian, mutinuous conspiracy though. But that aspect could have played out in a darker, more dramatic way.

I never watched Deep Sleep 9 so I don't have the wider context to place this episode in. But how many hostile, devious alien empires does the Star Trek universe need? In a galaxy where there exist beings as powerful as the Q, The Traveller and immortal god-like people like Kevin from 'The Survivors', I have to doubt that they'd last very long, anyway.

Interesting to hear about Federation "prison". Ro even speaks of a stockade, where it gets hot in the afternoons. I'd expect a Federation prison, minimally, to have reasonable climate control.

Really enjoyed Guinan's part in this one, but that hat .. no rational person would wear something like that on their head indoors.
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James G
Mon, Jul 27, 2020, 1:47pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Darmok

I started off liking this one a lot, because the difficulty in communicating with the enigmatic aliens proved very intriguing. I was also reminded of Kirk and the Gorn from an early original series episode.

But in the end it has too many problems. Firstly, beaming Picard down to the planet to face possible death at the hands of monster, even as a team-bonding exercise, is a pretty hostile act - but the Tamarians get a pass for this, ultimately. Picard is almost grateful for being kidnapped and placed in mortal danger.

Secondly, I don't find the metaphor language element of the plot very convincing. What would a technical manual look like, in Tamarian? It's far too clumsy a medium of communication to express ideas to be believable in a race that has learned to travel the stars and make precise energy weapons.

Still - I appreciate the originality of the idea.

The Tamarians remind me of the Ameglian Major Cow from Hitchhiker's.
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Mon, Jul 27, 2020, 7:09am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Game

You have good points, I should have emphasized "at this point in time". I have a lot of TV favorites too, mostly in sci-fi, but at the moment I'm seeing a lot more creativity coming out of the game industry, kids are being exposed to software that could easily be used in schools, instead of passive David Attenborough documentaries. Sci-fi TV is practically dead right now, cheap mass-produced entertainment compared with brilliant story concepts, philosophical concepts only made possible with the interactive, cooperative elements of gaming systems. Kids are creating their own creative worlds, learning the value of teamwork, using their brains to solve difficult puzzles and learning real physics and science. I just don't see that in the TV world, yes there has been some great TV, but I think it is well past its peak.
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Mon, Jul 27, 2020, 5:49am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: The Game


This probably wasn't the case in 1991, but at this point in time there is no doubt in my mind that between games and television, games provide the better value, artistically, creatively, educationally and as entertainment. Naturally, both mediums have their best and worst (many non-gamers are unaware of the diversity available beyond Grand Theft Auto or Tomb Raider) but at least games are not passive entertainment like TV, you can get a game published without necessarily having mass-appeal meaning there are some extremely interesting ideas out there, and they provide active, not passive engagement. The more creative young minds are now choosing game development and have no interest in the tv industry.

I'd take reading over both of them in an instant, but if I had to choose to eliminate one forever right now, it would be television. As such, this episode is horribly outdated and bordering on propaganda.
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James G
Sat, Jul 25, 2020, 11:37am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Redemption, Part II

In an unexpected contrast to my reaction to the first part of this story, which I found tedious, I was thoroughly entertained by this one. Yes, the overwrought, scenery-chewing dialogue between the various Klingons is just as preposterous. But I found the way the plot plays out quite absorbing, and ultimately satisfying.

I love the Android leadership sub-plot. Very memorable that one. Nice that the usual cliche of the apology at the conclusion, when the First Officer has learned his lesson, is avoided - although there is a hint of it.

Of course, there are a few nit-picks to record here. First one: the woman who plays the Starfleet admiral whom Picard negotiates with at the beginning. Is she actually an actor? She just seems to read out the lines, and in a scene with someone as capable and natural as Patrick Stewart, that's unfortunate. Just looked her up on IMDB (Fran Bennett) and she's done quite a bit, so perhaps it was a bad day at the office, or she was uncomfortable with sci-fi. Certainly nice to hear a West Indian accent on the series, although she was born in Arkansas apparently. I like that. A reminder that Starfleet isn't just an American club.

Apart from her ears, Sela is an identical twin to her mother. Even though her father is a different species. Really? And in a society as downright nasty as Romulus, would a mostly-human-looking half human really rise to such a status? It would be like having a mixed-race Wehrmacht general in Nazi Germany.

Finally - Data submits himself to Picard's discipline at the episode's conclusion with an apology, stating that the ends did not justify the means that he indulged. This makes no sense at all. If he actually thought that, he just wouldn't have done it. It wouldn't be logical.

Despite all that, a belting episode that gets the fifth series off to a very good start.
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James White
Fri, Jul 24, 2020, 4:37pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Drumhead

Robert H - you get it.
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James G
Thu, Jul 23, 2020, 12:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Redemption, Part I

I don't like this one. I should qualify what I'm about to type by saying that in this case I think it's partly a personal taste thing. I just find Klingon politics boring, and the dialogue between them generally reminds me of the Monty Python Spanish Inquisition sketch. Except that, after a while, you do expect it.

Actually, I never liked the Klingon redesign anyway. I much preferred the more humanoid-looking original series Klingons with dark skin and bushy eyebrows and I don't find the various attempts to retrofit an explanation for the change of appearance very convincing.

I find it phenomenally unlikely that a race as proud and self-obsessed as the Klingons would allow a Starship captain from the Federation - their old enemy and in their eyes a considerably weaker culture - to take such a prominent and decisive role in their internal affairs.

Similarly, at the conclusion of the episode, when Picard is asked to support the rightful Klingon regime against the rebels - it would never be up to a Starship captain to take a decision like that. It would be like asking an aircraft carrier captain to put down an insurgency somewhere in the Middle East in the present day.

While I'm being picky - this is a criticism of the entire franchise, not just this episode - but every time we see spacecraft encounters in space, they're always in the same plane, like ships floating in water. Wouldn't it be nice if every now and then, one of the ships was seen travelling (from the viewer's perspective) "up" or "down"?

Nice to see Tasha or her likeness turn up again. I can't actually remember how a replica of Tasha managed to become a senior Romulan, so I'll look forward to finding out next time. She actually turns up, obscured by shadows, in 'The Mind's Eye' - many viewers won't have noticed that though and would have forgotten about it by the time that this one was shown, so possibly a waste of time.

Anyway - I found this one grindingly slow and tedious.
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James G
Tue, Jul 21, 2020, 1:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: In Theory

Something of a sub-par episode, this one. I like the idea of exploring Data's capacity to have a relationship. But I felt it should have been the sub-plot to the potholes in the space-time road surface, which itself could have been a bit more dramatic and interesting.

There are some nice moments, though. The dialogue between Worf and Data which Data concludes with "I understand" is priceless. The death of the crew member is unusually dark for TNG, even though she looks more like a dummy than a corpse.

Odd that Data asks Geordi for advice about women. A bit like asking Heinrich Himmler for advice on race relations.

Not a bad one. Not a good one.
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James G
Sun, Jul 19, 2020, 7:44am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Mind's Eye

An archetypical TNG episode this one, with lots of boxes ticked - a mystery with an involved technical explanation, Romulan espionage, Klingon treachery. I liked it a lot. I didn't actually think I'd seen it before until the last minute, when I remembered the request for asylum.

Curious that a different actor is used to play the Geordi impersonator on Risa; we see him leaving in a Starfleet uniform not long after Geordi is brought aboard. If the Romulans can have someone appear so like a human of African origin, why not have them create an exact duplicate? Would have been a nice, slightly disturbing touch. Anyway I'm sure the young cosmetically-modified Romulan had a fantastic time on Risa.

I was disappointed that Picard resorted to swearing in Klingon. Undignified.

Brent Spiner conveys a lovely sense of urgency in Data's detective work - stress even - when realises that Geordi is involved in the deception. As an Android Data should really just get on with it in an unemotional matter-of-fact manner, but it does really add to the tension and drama.
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Thu, Jul 16, 2020, 11:05pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

Re: Lodged Animated Torpedo - Well, Jammer hasn't reviewed the 70s Animated Series so it's not like there's no precedent for skipping a Trek series. Still, there's a lot of material I'd like to see him review before Lower Decks. Chiefly, the superb Babylon 5 and Farscape and maybe The Expanse (the latter which I haven't seen but heard it's great).
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James G
Wed, Jul 15, 2020, 12:13pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Host

Yet another one I hadn't seen before - looks like most or all of the rest of the fourth series will be new to me.

I hope that whoever wrote this abomination was either provided with the appropriate psychiatric care that he or she evidently badly needed, or weaned off their drug habit.

I must admit though that I became morbidly fascinated as well as repelled, as the episode wore on.

A few thoughts. Isn't it extraordinarily unethical for Beverley to tonk Riker's body while he's unconscious in it? Isn't it even more unethical of the weird ambassador slug to use it for that? Reminds me of that episode of Red Dwarf where Rimmer borrows Lister's body and then proceeds to abuse it hedonistically.

And what happens to the minds of the hosts, when they submit to being taken over by parasites? How could a relationship like that between two species even have started?

I don't get why the Transporter wouldn't have worked, and this nonsensical plot element adds nothing to the story except an easy excuse to have the shuttlecraft attacked.

The conclusion is hilarious. Interesting though that they both let go of their relationship a lot more quickly and less emotionally than when the parasite slug creature was inhabiting Riker. Troi's persuasive words on Ten Forward don't count for much when Beverley is confronted by a lesbian lifestyle.

Anyway - really quite vile but it functions as a bad taste parody of the worst kind of pulp science fiction, albeit unintentionally.
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Wed, Jul 15, 2020, 7:05am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

I take issue with the idea that science and philosophy are niche topics, at least on the level that Star Trek presents them. Maybe that was true in the 1960s and the 80s, and so there were (especially in the 80s) a slew of movies and show ridiculing nerds and nerd culture. At this point in time, from my interactions with youth in my teaching experience, I can say with some confidence that being a 'nerd' or into such topics as science and philosophy is no longer something to be ridiculed, in fact the idea of 'cool' is increasingly associated with being genuine. You can see this come across in the fact that teen movies are no longer mean-spirited road trip journeys and college jocks hooking up with girls, but invoking more the underdog with a passion for singing or musicals or tapdancing, following through with it and discovering their true self.

I wish this was true of when I was growing up, but I see a lot more positivity and acceptance, possibly due to the fact that it is no longer baby boomers raising kids, the fear instinct and drive towards material success no longer pushes parents to instill in children values like obedience and conformity but rather encourages exploration of unique talents and desires. From post-millennial generations I don't think there is much bitterness against either someone having an interest in certain topics, or a feeling that they or someone else should have more of an interest in them.

All of this is aside from the fact Star Trek is still barely above pop-culture science and philosophy. At best, it's a college level freshman's discussion, and at worst it's purely for entertainment purposes with no higher value.
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Wed, Jul 15, 2020, 1:07am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S6: Unimatrix Zero, Part I

As much as a unified collective without a leader is something I would dear more, introducing a central character that could control them, does make sense imo. There is no way all those Borg drones would be able to do much of anything without at least the one person telling them what to do.

What would make a compelling story though, imo is how the queen came to be and what makes her so special.
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James G
Mon, Jul 13, 2020, 10:48am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Galaxy's Child

I don't think that there's a suggestion that Brahms is of lesser authority than LaForge. I think it's the other way round. But he has her at a disadvantage in the sense that he knows her, more personally than is usual for someone whom she is entitled to regard as a stranger.
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Fri, Jul 10, 2020, 10:05pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Remember Me

TNG as it should be - sciencey, intricate, intriguing, *and no holodeck silliness*, and no preachiness either.

4 out of 4.
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James G
Thu, Jul 9, 2020, 3:22pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Half a Life

I've been ploughing through TNG from the beginning for the last 18 months or so at a rate of about five episodes a month. A couple of weeks ago, while skimming through an episode guide, I noticed that 'Half a Life' was looming on the horizon, a few episodes in my future.

So I quickened my TNG viewing schedule a bit, to time it to land on my 60th birthday. Today.

I do remember watching this one before, some time in the mid '90s. Probably on one of the UK satellite channels.

I like this one quite a bit in many ways, actually. Nice to see the late David Ogden Stiers in something other than M*A*S*H, and he shows his versatility here in a nicely understated, hugely dignified performance, a far cry from Major Winchester. I've seen him in very few other TV shows or films, come to think of it. The only other thing I can think of is an episode of 'Rhoda'. I believe he was actually in his late 40s when this was filmed.

I'm not a fan of the Lwaxana episodes as a rule - I don't find the character at all believable or interesting and the joke wore thin in the first one she appears in - but here at least, we see a different side of her after the initial overbearing / annoying act gets rolled out again.

It's quite a nice idea. I did find it unsettling in the present circumstances, by which I mean being 60 years old as of today. It's a hard thing to get used to as it is. I can barely believe it, quite honestly. So the theme of this story, and especially its conclusion, made me feel disturbed; perhaps even a little angry.

I would have liked to have had some sort of acknowledgement that a year on another planet isn't necessarily the same duration as an Earth year, given that it's a unit of time that's central to the story. But that's a nit-pick.

Right, I'm off to take an overdose for the good of human society.
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Thu, Jul 9, 2020, 12:47am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: Brothers

Data gets away with activities bordering on mutiny. For all the fine talk about Data being sentient, etc., Picard shows he does not in his heart of hearts believe that, by letting Data off with what the episode shows are zero consequences. If Reg Barclay, or any other member of the crew, had done what Data did, they would have been thrown off the Enterprise & out of Starfleet quicker than you can say “The existence of Section 31 proves that Starfleet is a bunch of sanctimonious hypocrites”.

But Data is, after all, nothing but a machine, with no more moral sense or conscience than a bar of gold-pressed latinum. That this is Picard’s truest conviction on the matter, is absolutely proven by the absence of any penalty for behaviour which, in any other member of the crew, would (rightly) have been regarded as gravely criminal. ST cannot have it both ways - and its attempting to do so, does not say much for the moral pretentions of ST.

TOS managed its treatment of Spock much better, even if that series did have the advantage of comparative brevity. Making Data an android with plausibly human features was a mistake. Voyager handled the Doctor with much greater artistic tact than TNG managed. Data is allowed to become insufferable, a robotic and backward version of Picard at his preachiest - Voyager avoids this, by deflating the Doctor now and again, so that he is never allowed to make the blunders Data does; and by dividing his functions between the Doctor, and Seven of Nine. The Doctor is amusing. The relationship between the Doctor and Seven is amusing. The relationship between McCoy & Spock is amusing. Data’s attempts at humour are flat, not sparkling,

Usually, episodes show Data acting, and being treated as, a moral agent. In this episode, and some others, the mask slips.
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