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msw188
Fri, Apr 10, 2020, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Dexter
Of course you're free to continue or not continue any debate. I do find some of what you're saying interesting though, and I wonder if anyone else feels similarly. Like, did many people somehow 'prefer' Dahj to Soji? Is there some reason beyond simple personal preference? Maybe it's hard for Soji to recover from all of those early scenes of basically doing nothing. Maybe some people prefer this show's "superhero" version of being an android to its existential crisis version. And of course, back with Dahj the plot was still semi-believable. Well, maybe.

@Booming
Nice! Indeed I did forget about the nuns and their teachings, which would explain why my own grocery shopping trips lately have been stressful rather than enjoyable - definitely no other explanation exists!

I also forgot about the nice hippie robot that got brutally stabbed in the eye. Prior to that though, she seemed like a nice girl. Better than the hippie-girls in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, even if some of them ended up with similar fates.
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msw188
Thu, Apr 9, 2020, 7:49pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@ Dexter, Booming, Glom on female characters

Actually, I'm not sure if it's fair to call the writers misogynistic, whether intentional or otherwise. Like, you guys mentioned Raffi being a druggy, but she's clearly trying to do the right thing most of the time and doesn't actually want to hurt anybody. Is this so far off from Elnor being a mindless dummy who murders people, or Rios' terrible "backstory"?

In fact there are some reasonable equivalences. I think Picard and Soji are both reasonable as leads. Both have flaws, but both ultimately do what's right despite some questionable writing choices. Early in the show, we have Picard's housekeepers, who are both decent people but it's the female who is portrayed as the more active agent for good. Riker and Troi are portrayed roughly equivalently as good people, in my estimation. Someone mentioned that Riker gets to get out of the house while Troi doesn't - is that so different from Jurati getting a chance at redemption (well, sort of) while Maddox just shows up and dies?

The worst comparison male vs female for me comes from Narek vs Narissa. Even there it seems like they tried to introduce some depth to Narissa and their relationship once or twice, but failed miserably. Another poor one for me would be Seven vs Hugh. Seven has more screentime of course, and she's handled pretty terribly to me. Meanwhile Hugh isn't onscreen too much, but while he is, he breathes some of the only warmth in the series outside of Riker's pizza oven.

As for tertiary characters (like the female admiral), yeah the women don't do so well. The admiral is a jerk, Oh is a jerk, while the male doctor who visits Picard seems like a decent chap. Oh but wait there's that stupid Romulan ex-senator, he's a jerk and an idiot.
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msw188
Fri, Apr 3, 2020, 3:55pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

I agree that the "super-race" we got was "super-stupid". However, I'm not sure how much would be gained by making them interesting. It depends on what you wanted the show to be about.

If you wanted it to be about scifi, then absolutely the AI should have been a revelation and something for both the audience and the characters to learn from. However, this would essentially make Picard's relationship with Soji irrelevant. In this scenario, Picard and Soji and Oh and everyone would end up on an even playing field where they were all wrong via misinformation. Picard's belief that Soji can be a good person is no longer what mattered - instead the real issue is that everyone needs to learn not to make assumptions based on stories/myths. Just a different, still Trekkian take.

If you wanted the show to be about Picard and Soji as characters, then the actual AI are not very relevant. They're just plot devices to enforce (ludicrous) physical stakes which dovetail with the emotional and ideological ones. Soji needs to learn to overcome her fear due to her trauma and betrayals, learn to trust again, and, you know, not commit genocide (the ludicrous part). Picard needs to learn how to actually help her to see this by providing an example of trust and selflessness, rather than simply telling her what she must and mustn't do. I still think that's a reasonable Trekkian take which could have worked well if the stakes weren't so bonkers
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msw188
Thu, Apr 2, 2020, 4:42pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

This isn't really Picard-related, but has anyone watched any of the Youtube channel Movies with Mikey? He's now done two episodes exploring the making of Star Trek. His videos are always great and refreshingly positive, and these two (entirely about the original series and its movies) may help put some things in perspective. Mainly, the idea that classic Star Trek as we know it was largely made in a ridiculously haphazard fashion where no one really knew what they were doing, and it was in many ways a genuine miracle that it managed to succeed at all, to the point where we can complain about writers here on Picard today.
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msw188
Thu, Apr 2, 2020, 1:37pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Dexter comparing Picard to the Admonition
I don't hate this show nearly as much as some folks do, but I got a good laugh out of this.

@Marvin, Tim C
I think that in theory, the "point" of the entire journey for Picard (the character) was supposed to be some blending of the following three ideas:
1. Letting go of past failures and focusing on doing the right thing right now
2. Learning how to be a good father/grandfather figure for Soji
3. Being able to say goodbye to Data

(1) was muddled, but one could try to say that Picard arguing with the Romulan senator on the Wild West planet was the 'wrong' way to try to resolve the past, and helping Soji was the 'right' way. He even has the declaration that helping her is only partly about Data, and is more about his own rebirth as an active agent in the galaxy again.

(2) was I think the closest to being handled well, but is almost entirely relegated to the last 4 episodes. Maybe there is a worthwhile comparison to his relationship with Elnor buried in the muck somewhere here.

(3) was, as we've said, almost entirely relegated to epi1 and epi10. There's some aspect of this that colors (2) and his relationship with Soji, which maybe I haven't given enough credit to. The show does frame characters (including Picard) telling Soji about Data as "helping" her, I guess.

For the show as a whole, we also had (again, in theory):
4. Soji's journey of self-discovery and re-learning trust, compassion, etc
5. Jurati making a terrible mistake and trying to make amends
6. The crew bonding together
7. Saving the universe from a bunch of robot tentacle monsters without committing genocide

Unfortunately, items 5-7 were, hm, handled questionably at best.
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msw188
Wed, Apr 1, 2020, 8:59pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Marvin
If this is Picard's story in relation to Data, then indeed it is only portrayed in the first and last episodes. If it is Picard's story as a whole, then there is something more there. A fair amount of it is pretty bad, but I still think there's some okay-ish stuff dealing with Picard learning how to connect with Soji, and in the end, realizing the "lesson" that a parent shouldn't tell, a parent should show / lead by example. This, at least, would be something relatively new-ish for Picard, who was always uncomfortable with children and used to giving commands.

Okay-ish. Not amazing. And not related to sending off Data. But not a complete tire-fire either. Just not enough to overshadow the actual tire-fires throughout the show.

Also, if you want a genuine answer to your last paragraph, Dexter's buddies at RedLetterMedia made it pretty clear, if it wasn't clear already. The show is trying to maximize viewership. The goal is to have just the right amount of TNG stuff that is familiar to 'everybody', but very little else from actual TNG. So, what do random people (like Jay at RLM) know about TNG?
1. Picard
2. Data
3. The Borg

Okay, focus on Picard+Borg was a movie, don't do that. Focus on Data+Borg, well wait, Spiner doesn't want to be too involved as Data. Focus on Picard+Data without actually focusing on Data, and throw in Borg haphazardly? Profit. But how to focus on Picard+Data without actually using Data very much? Well, first off, exaggerate Picard+Data, add emotional weight to it. Just do it - it'll be easy! Data sacrificed himeself! In any case, this allows Picard to be emotionally affected by Data even when Spiner is not onscreen. Next, involve Data's daughter instead. Not actually Lal, too few people know who that is for it to be worthwhile. Just invent a new daughter, build an emotional storyline around her and Picard, and make sure the actress is great.

I just want to say quickly, it's not necessarily the worst thing ever to have such a shallow mindset when creating a show. You need to guarantee a greenlight from the studio, which is to say, you need to guarantee money. Sometimes restrictions can lead to great artistic choices. The key is being thoughtful/clever enough to make something genuine and meaningful out of it all in the end. And I think a lot of us agree, they didn't manage to pull that off very well.
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msw188
Wed, Apr 1, 2020, 1:45pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Glom (pitchlet)
I definitely laughed at the ending, nice! I'm not sure how serious you were about the rest, but I do think there was a conscious effort to make the new show about the new crew. I guess your "extra adventures" could fit that bill.

@others
I've gone on record claiming the show managed a pretty good 2nd Act for Soji (and to some extent Picard himself) in Epi's 6-7. I'm now trying to imagine, what if her 3rd Act could somehow be tied to "letting go of Data" more explicitly?

A satisfactory version would probably require extensive rewriting, but maybe even something as simple as, her positronic matrix is required to enter Data's weird netherworld. Maybe it has to be an android "made from Data". It's revealed that they tried this with B4, and something went wrong and B4 "died". Sutra wasn't willing to risk it, because she's an asshole. Soji also isn't willing to risk it at the start - still the displaced teen, can't view Data as an actual father worth this sort of risk. But after Picard has risked all for her people, she's willing to risk herself to reach out to find Picard's consciousness and Data in his weird netherworld. There could also be some sense in which Data, after seeing that his progeny can carry on his legacy, feels ready to pass on. Would tie into his quest for humanity, I think.

I don't know, probably lots of holes in all of this and would require cutting some earlier schlock, but maybe it could have been nice.
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msw188
Tue, Mar 31, 2020, 11:11pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

Thank you Jammer for your excellent reviews, as always! I think I disagree that the 'point' was to send off Data, or at least, if that was the point, I think the writers didn't manage to focus on this theme very well. Still, it's an interesting take, and maybe I'd feel differently if I had seen Nemesis.
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msw188
Mon, Mar 30, 2020, 12:41am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Mal
Thanks for the reply! While I do think that the season would have been improved by a separate ending episode involving some legal-ish proceedings, I actually also agree with some other posters who think that an entire episode devoted to Jurati's trial is probably too much. Especially if it were a final episode (or a starting episode for next season, say). The focus of a season finale should definitely be on Picard and Soji, and I'm glad ours was. I just think it could have been fun and interesting to have a finale involving some details about the ban, and the Federation being willing to trust Soji to never build another beacon. In addition to covering Jurati's trial (and some others too).

You bring up an interesting point that, from a certain point of view, all of TNG is one gigantic courtroom drama for humanity. This simplifies things of course, but it was certainly no accident that the opener and closer were written the way they were.

@Nolan regarding episodic vs serialized
I agree with pretty much all of this.
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msw188
Sun, Mar 29, 2020, 2:59pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Dom
Thank you for the kind words! You're right, episodic TV has some benefits here. Maybe especially for sci-fi like Trek? Someone else brought up Asimov earlier. The I Robot stories were short stories! Even the Foundation novels were essentially a sequence of short stories. Not about inter-character drama, but instead about ideas and their ramifications, problem-solving, etc.
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msw188
Sun, Mar 29, 2020, 2:54pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

I just had another fun thought following up on my silly fan-fic-y post earlier, where I fantasized about cutting material from episodes 2-5 to make a new "courtroom" episode at the end, after reading some other replies here. What if the choice to revive Picard was framed as a part of all of this? Like, new episode starts with Picard in a coma on Soji-world.

1. An initial scene with Data where he explains that they're both being kept alive in some kind of matrix-world (???), but that Data's sad because Picard will eventually get to die and Data won't.

2. Riker and other admirals beam down, explain that lots of people are going to have to be put on trial, including Soji, and the terms of reversing the ban are going to be complicated.

3. Some typical asshole admiral points out that there are almost no credible witnesses to large aspects of the story (bullshit I know, but no worse than the show's current bullshit levels), and even if they reverse the ban, they will need a spokesman to champion the cause to many planets in the Federation

4. Someone (Riker?) realizes the answer - revive Picard. Soong can have an emotional scene where he agrees to let Picard have the body and he will work towards another one, but possibly die before it is finished.

5. But does Picard want to be revived? Maybe Soji can somehow tap into Data's consciousness, and we can have a great Trekkian conversation between Picard and Data about this choice. This conversation could also more naturally lead to Data's request for Picard to pull Data's plug when he goes back.

6. All of the trials I described before.

Sorry for the ridiculous fantasy-writing, just having fun while I can't leave my house.
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msw188
Sun, Mar 29, 2020, 2:33pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Nolan and many others, starting from the "Pointless" post

I also agree on the whole with pretty much everything Nolan brings up, but I think it's worth saying that just because the show had a lot of pointless things, it also had some positives. Mainly, Soji's character journey and the overall attempt at a good Star Trek message by the end.

I think a lot of us agree that even these positives are undermined by various aspects of the show. And they aren't enough to make the show actually feel like Star Trek. But they are there. In a less serialized show, it might even be possible to pry them out and appreciate them more while managing to ignore the bad, kind of like how we can appreciate some of S1 and S2 TNG while ignoring the bad. It's not the same I know, because even bad TNG embodies the Star Trek ethos (or tries to). But as I said above, I rewatched Epi6-7 in isolation, and there's a decent story being told there. Even a genuinely Star Trek idea with Hugh on the cube. Knowing that Epi9-10 will blow the stakes out of proportion dampens the enjoyment a bit, but I'll claim there's still a strong "Act 2" being built here between Soji and Picard. And that Nepenthe does a genuinely good Trek-ish job of building on that narrative of working through betrayal and identity crisis.

I bring it up (again) because, after watching it again, I want to make sure I give the show its due here. My enjoyment here is not hinging on nostalgia. The fact that it is Riker/Troi is nice, but not crucial. The fact that Soji is Data's "daughter" is also helpful, but again not crucial. This is a story *about* Soji, and how good people (including our protagonist) try to help her through a difficult time which may or may not lead to her moral and ethical downfall in Act 3. To me, this is good Star Trek. Like, sure there are still contrivances and illogical bullshit, but when the story being told is good enough and likable characters are going through real struggles together, I'm willing to look past this. I think I had a harder time enjoying it fully the first time around because the show had spent so much time (pretty much all five first episodes, but especially the fifth) crushing my sense of good will towards the show.

If you go into Epi6 and especially Epi7 already feeling cynical (which I think lots of us were given the first five episodes), it's easy to focus on the negatives:
-dumb action sequences with non-characters
-questionable attempts at character building on La Sirena
-the tenuous logic underlying whole swaths of the setup, which we now know won't be satisfactorily handled by the end either
-seemingly 'cheap' attempts to cash in on nostalgia
-lack of actual plot in Epi7, especially after so many other earlier episodes also had almost no plot

But I'd like to claim that, for me, the positives briefly outweigh the negatives for these two episodes.
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msw188
Sat, Mar 28, 2020, 11:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

So I just rewatched Epi's 6 and 7 before cancelling my subscription. And I have to admit, I came away with a pretty positive feeling. Not every scene is great, but there is a lot of good stuff in there. Essentially, these two episodes make up the "Second Act" for Soji (maybe Epi8 as well, but that one is scattered between all of the other characters and attempts at plot "answers"). It's too bad that her "First Act" was so shoddy (establishing her and Narek) and somehow got spread over four episodes (she wasn't in Epi1, was she?). But I still like this Second Act, and despite the logic problems, I can appreciate her character conclusion and how it intertwined with Picard's.

Maybe part of the problem with the show as a whole is that the narrative structure for Picard himself feels substantially weaker. Meeting Dahj and then seeing her die is a pretty good event to get the ball rolling, but then it takes so long before he manages to get off Earth. We have the regrettable diversion to stop and grab Elnor, and then the downright silly plot to get Maddox. Boy was Epi5 terrible. These should have been challenges for Picard to overcome that help us root for him. Instead they're excuses to show his problems getting solved by other people using violence. The closest Picard himself has to a true buildup towards the climax of the story is also in Epi's 6 and 7, where it is unclear first how he will manage to find Soji in time, and then how he will convince her to trust him. It's not bad (again, I like a lot of things about 6 and 7), but it's not exactly riveting stuff.

Classic Trek doesn't always have amazing dramatic narrative structure either, but it's easier to swallow when the concepts are thoughtful and interesting and when you know you'll restart a new narrative in the following episode. Here, where the concepts are so wrought with logical problems and you're strapped into one narrative for ten hours, it's harder for me to deal with perhaps.
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msw188
Sat, Mar 28, 2020, 5:35pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

Here's a fun way to give at least some closure to some of the many issues left unresolved. First off, eliminate a large chunk of episodes 2-5 to make room for one more episode at the end. Picard-bot is back, so now time to resolve some issues.

1. Spend some time on conditions for lifting the synth-ban. Who actually knew how to build the beacon? Sutra was the one who did the mind-meld. Rewrite however it worked so that only Sutra and Soji knew how, Sutra is dead, and Soji's trust in the Federation is rewarded when they trust her to never tell anyone or do this again.

2. Put Jurati on trial. Yes she committed murder, but the Admonition clouded her judgment, AND make it clear that Admiral Oh demanded that if they found Maddox, Jurati was under orders to kill him (although this makes no sense at all, it's no worse than what we got). Riker can be the judge, why not, more fan service. Can make it a semi-triumphant moment when he finds a good (story-wise, not logic-wise) compromise: Jurati is expelled from the Daystrom Institute. This gives her an extra reason to travel with Picard even though the synth ban has been lifted and presumably she would want to study robots again.

3. Put Oh on trial. She was also under the Admonition influence, but her crimes were much more heinous and she would openly still believe in her cause. Life imprisonment, and the potential to return to her character later.

4. Put Narek on trial. Similar to Oh, but never experienced the Admonition himself. Could actually be an interesting case - does seeing Soji (whom he apparently actually loved) change her mind let him change his beliefs? If so, does Soji choose to vouch for him? There's lots of potential for some fun writing choices here. What do people think? Is he imprisoned? Allowed to find and bury his sister? Become the pro-synth spokesman to the Romulans after Soji persuades the court to allow him to live? Become the anti-synth baddie after Soji and the Federation condemns him to life imprisonment, only to be busted out by Tal Shiar assholes next season?

5. Something (anything) to gradually show 7of9 and Raffi connecting, if that's what they want. But 7of9 was so written so poorly in this series, I'm not sure what you do here.
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msw188
Sat, Mar 28, 2020, 5:06pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Dom
"For me, the drama came not from the actor or character visibly emoting, but from the audience knowing that he was coming so close to emoting but never quite making it"
Yeah, some of the best emotional Data episodes do make great use of this. The whole "somehow the fact that Data can't be sad makes us feel even sadder for him" idea. It is, however, fair to ask if a story like this could've had the same impact early on in the show's run.

"Speaking of Soji, I think another reason I didn't find her arc compelling is that we've seen this same thing so many times in Blade Runner, etc. AI/alien finds out her true nature, is shocked, considers lashing out against humanity, decides against it in the end."
Yeah, I'll agree that the scifi angle on Soji is not only clumsy writing-wise, it's also unoriginal and somewhat uninspired concept-wise. For me it worked out okay for a couple of reasons. One, I almost always bought what the actress was selling. Even including her sometimes shittily written scenes with Narek. Two, the teenager angle of the writing (and performance) worked for me. Like we've both been saying (and maybe some others, Flip?), its closer in writing to a teenager coming-of-age story. Not super-original, but the subject is timeless and the execution was good enough (not great) for me.

I keep bringing it up, but the Soji scenes on Nepenthe really worked for me. Mainly those with the kid, but even the tomato scene. These are the kind of heavy-handed dialogues (Troi-Soji: the "real" tomato is somehow inherently better, but no all types of people belong) that I'll consistently allow in Trek. Ditto Picard spelling out the role-model issue to Jurati in this last episode.

If you look at the scifi AI angle as just a construct to have these kinds of human issues, I think it works out pretty well. Unfortunately, the show didn't just do that. It tied the scifi angle into all sorts of ridiculous bullshit in order to push the "stakes" beyond believability, which in turn pushes the plot beyond believability, and leaves the character of Soji borderline illogical in her own universe. As we've all said plenty enough, it's beyond bonkers that Soji has the power to ERADICATE LIFE, is about to, then changes her mind, and then we go straight to reviving Picard and happily ever after.

Here's another weird plothole. If Soji calls the robot worms, won't they kill Picard and everybody else? Why is she, or any of the robots, worried about keeping Picard on house arrest, or keeping Narek captive, or anything? If you've made up your mind to set up the beacon, just kill whatever organics you've got lying around who are bothering you! Why not?
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msw188
Sat, Mar 28, 2020, 3:03pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Dom, Eamon, Chrome, and some others who were discussing Soji vs Data a bit earlier:

Indeed Soji is not as compelling as Data became over the course of TNG. But is it fair to say Data was immediately more compelling than her? See, here is a fundamental difference in the style of TNG versus STP (and maybe "old" vs "new"). Character flaws were never treated as a singular focus on TNG! So Data was interesting as an imperfect android who wished to become more human. This was rarely the source of drama! Very few episodes, especially early on, were structured around this as a point of tension of conflict! Some of the best were, but imagine how tedious it would have been to have Measure of a Man drawn out over a 10-episode arc, especially right out of the gate.

The key point is that Data's weaknesses are more intellectual than they are emotional. They can make us feel on occasion (amazing episodes like Offspring), but the majority of the time they make us think instead even when emotions are supposed to be the 'point' (lesser episodes like In Theory). This is part of why Data was never the main character on TNG, and also part of why giving him an "emotion chip" in the films felt so cheap.

"What actually makes Soji compelling?"
For me, Soji is compelling as a person whose sense of self is upended, and whose trust is betrayed, and who needs to eventually rise above the resulting doubt and fear and learn trust and compassion again. The writing was uneven, but the actress sold me on it. The sci-fi aspect allows for the "sense of self" problem, but otherwise I agree it's completely tangential. The fact that she's an android and that she is connected to Data is so unrelated to her character that it might as well have been a case of memory-implanting, like Narek tries to tell her.

In any case, it's the story about a teenager who finds out that her memories are lies. That her assumptions about her identity are a lie, allowing for a very literal identity crisis. This is emotional and dramatic, the opposite of Data's "story" in TNG. It's never about the differences between humanity and a fictional race (androids), as Data's "story" was. It's supposed to also be about genuine bigotry, which again Data's "story" was never really about. Emotional. Dramatic. Rooted in the problems of today. The scifi connection (banning synths) here was so clumsily handled, we might as well ignore it when trying to analyze Soji's character.

All of this was supposed to say: I found Soji compelling, even with the uneven writing, but it had nothing to do with Data or Star Trek or scifi in general. In particular, comparing her character to Data's character sheds no insight for me onto Soji (or Data for that matter), despite the fact that the show seems to invite that comparison. Because the show is a sloppily written mess. But I still think Soji works as a character on her own.
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msw188
Fri, Mar 27, 2020, 11:21pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Drea, @ Cletus
Ah, it was from one of the movies? Yes, I never saw Star Trek Nemesis either. That's pretty cool, thanks for letting me know!

This does help put the use of the song both here and earlier into much better perspective. I still don't think the show makes it clear that Soji is the singer. I thought Picard disconnected Data right away more or less. No time to go and tell Soji to record a song.

Even so, I appreciate this inclusion way more now that you guys let me know some of the reasons. Thanks!
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msw188
Fri, Mar 27, 2020, 10:50pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Drea
Holy shit that's pretty awesome! Yeah, Isa is the best.

All that said, this is a meta point at best. There's no sense in which the show portrays that Soji (or any android) has any connection to this song, does it? In fact, while I was watching, I remember thinking two things:
1. This is a nice vocal.
2. Why the hell would Data choose this song? I don't remember seeing him explore anything similar. He plays classical pieces on the violin. He never asks Riker about jazz. Or anyone else about any other sort of music, I don't think...?
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msw188
Fri, Mar 27, 2020, 2:36pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

@Omnicron
"So once again, we're getting a finale that basically tells us to ignore the entire season that came before it. Have you noticed that this is how every single season of NuTrek ended?"

Indeed, this is the first series I've watched since Voyager. I'm glad I didn't subject myself to Discovery based on everything I've seen and heard. Maybe one day I'll watch Enterprise, could be cool.

@Chrome
"For whatever faults I see in the finale, Isa Briones was a really nice casting choice as she brought some necessary youthful energy to the android role."

I'm glad you, and many others it seems, agree. Sure she was handed an inherently likable character, but she nailed it for sure.

@Philadlj
"Honestly, a better and more cohesive finale than I was expecting. I’m happy they didn’t go the Big Space Battle route and instead had an ending worthy of TNG."

I agree with this overall, but we still have:

@Glom
"If the writers had resisted their compulsion to make it all about the galaxy 'sploding, the scene could have worked really well. Picard is idealistic, but he wasn't a naive idiot and applauded for it on TNG. This was avoided by not creating situations where his idealism would appear to be naive idiocy."

Indeed, maybe the fundamental problem with the very conception of this show.
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msw188
Fri, Mar 27, 2020, 1:48am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

My previous post was a rambling wall of negatives. How about the positives?

Just to reiterate - I'm so glad the resolution to the conflict was to avoid the conflict. Even if it took a million contrivances to make it work. Picard had several great monologues throughout the series, but the prior ones were all undercut by assholery. Here, his explanation that the synths were just children, and needed a better role-model, really worked for me. Especially after the Riker likened Soji to a teenager, and the great (and I really mean great) scenes of Soji kind of bonding with Riker and Troi's daughter. Soji going from ready to KILL ALL to ready to forgive and trust is a bit sudden, but this is precisely the sort of narrative/character short-cutting I am always willing to grant Star Trek. Like the asshole admiral who goes from wanting to take Lal away to wanting to help save her. Or a kazillion other examples. Because these kinds of shortcuts are less about portraying real people (or "real" androids) and more about portraying an ideal. Most people are not assholes deep down. Most people, if given enough of a chance, will choose to do the right thing. Or at least, will opt against genocide. And in my opinion, we saw enough of Soji to know that, regardless of her fears, deep down she was never an asshole.

There were a few other positives in the story for me as well. Another big one was pretty much everything to do with Hugh. What a great idea for this character, trying to help other Borg return. He was so genuine and warm while onscreen. His abrupt death made me sad, but it didn't make me angry as a storytelling device. Maybe a bit lazy, but the entire Narissa characterization was lazy for the most part, this was just another part of that. I wish he could've had more scenes with more characters (imagine 7of9 being forced to reevaluate herself after just meeting and talking to Hugh??), but I still approve of how his character was handled on the whole.

Finally, even if I hate that her confession is barely followed up upon, I did like many aspects of the Agnes character. A person trying to do the right thing, failing at first, but eventually pulling through to the point where she's willing to potentially kill herself (I think?) to try to help. Sure the tone gets muddied a lot, and the writing is uneven, but at her core this is a great character for a show which should have emphasized the good people (Picard, Agnes, Soji) who make mistakes in their times of weakness (pre-show, mid-show, late-show), but with help overcome these mistakes and do the right thing in the end. Furthermore, her character manages this without breaking faith with Trek-values, as opposed to someone like Raffi.

If we move away from the storytelling, there are a lot more positives to discuss. The production values were, of course, excellent. I didn't always like some of the direction, but it was rarely bland or boring. And a lot of the acting was excellent.

We all knew Sir Patrick would be great. Count me in as an Isa lover. Felt super natural even with some questionable writing at times. And sure the intensity of the scene helped, but holy hell her panicking sequence when Soji starts checking the dates on her possessions had me riveted. Including when she tries to tell Narek - that poor dude got the short end of the writing stick in many ways (well, not as short as his sister), but I think he did an admirable job. Actually, I think all of the principal actors were pretty solid top to bottom, except maybe the Elnor kid. But I'm not sure what that actor was supposed to do with that nothing-character.

Since I complained about Raffi as a character earlier, let me at least say here that I thought that actress was another stand-out among a great cast. I could similarly complain about Rios and 7of9 (!) as characters, but the actor and actress were still pretty great. And of course, when Frakes and Sirtis showed up it was so nice and comfy - it's hard to pin down just what it is that Frakes manages to bring that makes some of those scenes work so nicely, but they did work.

Oh shoot, I almost forgot the kid! Here's proof that this "isn't real StarTrek" - they managed to find someone to play a child (Riker and Troi's daughter) who was actually pretty great! Man, Isa was great in those scenes too. The balance in that episode was great - doubling down on Soji's doubts, but not allowing it to be all negative by creating the bond with the kid. I know people will say that episode only worked because of the nostalgia, but I think there was more to it than that.
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msw188
Fri, Mar 27, 2020, 12:52am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

Wow it's been awhile since I posted on this site.

For me, this series was weird. Like, it spent the first 8-9 episodes convincing me that it was a tricksy mystery show with a terribly anti-StarTrek perspective, and then in the finale it reversed to a nice (if hokey) StarTrek perspective via ignoring its own tricks and mysteries. Overall I didn't like it, and most of this post will be negative I'm afraid. But I'll put some positives in another post.

First, the StarTrek perspective. One of the worst things about the first 75% of the show or so was that, any time Picard would finally manage to try to open a constructive dialogue to navigate a crisis, the show immediately contradicted him and portrayed violence as the actual solution. Even as simple as him wanting to protect Dahj, but no, she'll protect herself by kicking ass, great thanks (even if that doesn't work either). The confrontation with the senator, words, words, Picard throwing down sword is cool, wait nope beheading. 7of9 at the casino, Picard talks her down, wait nope LIE to him and go back and murder (that sequence was the absolute rock bottom of the show for me). Even getting permission to go to Borg cube was a jerk move... not violent, but without any positive connotation (compare Picard "conning" Worf in the future era of All Good Things, when he's really just convincing him to follow his own personal code).

I have to say that after all of that, I really dreaded this finale. However, the show managed to finally put the violent asshole (sexy robot girl) in the wrong and win the day by avoiding a battle. Even if it was partly accomplished via a military standoff, it was a serious relief and made for a genuinely heartfelt conclusion.

BUT

Then we get to the logic/plot side of things, and the situation is reversed. The show spent so much time bringing up various complications and mysteries that started out seeming potentially cool. In almost every case, the answers were some combination of underwhelming, pointless, or non-existent. Oh boy, here we go. The big "mysteries" first.

Why the Mars Attack during a Romulan recovery mission? It really looks like just coincidence by the end.

What was Maddox's plan for the twins? Like, Dahj was about to go to Daystrom at the start, where Agnes surely would have recognized her. Is that what Maddox wanted? And why send Soji to Borg cube? Actually, why was the Borg cube part of this plot at all?

So the vision was interpreted as a warning for the organics to stop AI or else, but surprise it was really an offer to the AI to kill the organics... so interpreting it wrong was, for all intents and purposes, actually equivalent to interpreting it correctly.

Next some little plot details just in these last two episodes that I'm sure everyone else has already complained about, but now its my turn why not. Why in the world would Sutra let Narek live?? Why not just kill him and the nice robot both, then blame him? Why would you include a line about "it'll take forever to search the Borg cube" and then have them find their friends in like 5 seconds? Actually, why go check on the Borg cube at all? Why was Narissa hiding on the Borg cube after Soji and everyone had gone? Did she EXPECT 7of9 to fly it to Soji-land?

I couldn't decide if this next bit was a big or small plot item. Are the Romulans in dire straits or not? On the one hand, we see a bunch of them in need, whether working as caretakers for Picard or moping about in "Romulans only" bars. On the other hand, Big Shot Oh shows up with a giant fleet seemingly at will. What reasoning did she give, anyways? Aren't her beliefs about the AI secret even from the majority of Romulans?

Man, this is a lot of whining, I know. I was going to make another huge list about character-related problems, but maybe it's not worth it. I'm guessing everyone's talked about Agnes' confession being cheapened, 7of9's decision to risk Queening herself being cheapened, and also Picard's emotional sacrifice being undone. By the way, did Soji or someone not tell the others about the plan to clone Picard? Did she think of it only after everyone else decided to go grieve on their own?

Whatever, that's enough negativity. I want to talk about positives, with a fresh new post.
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msw188
Wed, Jan 17, 2018, 1:39pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Dom,
Thank you for your responses! You're right of course, I haven't seen this movie in many years. But even back then, the main bit I never understood, which I think you sort of answer but not really, is the issue with the Feds still being around in Epi2. I THOUGHT I remembered them being arrested at the end of Epi1, but I definitely remembered them being in Epi2, so I thought maybe my Epi1 memory was faulty. So wait, they somehow got arrested at the end of Epi1 and were let off? Or somehow escaped?? And they're still making robots, and involved in making a death star! Even if there's some line in the movie making sense of this, to me this is just bonkers! How did that trial go? How was the hologram partner never brought up? Again, in a movie where characters>plot, this wouldn't stand out so much as needing more explanation.

"The reason why it was Naboo is because Palpatine wanted the sympathy vote in his bid to become Chancellor."
I get why Palpy would pick Naboo. I don't understand why the Trade Federation would agree to it.

"Why does Vader listen to Palpatine in ANH? Why does Kylo listen to Snoke? To some extent, TPM begins in media res and we just have to accept it."
I can accept individuals listening to their masters, even including the awful Darth Maul. I can also accept that, if someone somehow became the Emperor or "Supreme Leader", then the Empire or "New Order" would do what he says. But I just can't wrap my mind around an independent organization portrayed as taking orders from someone outside their organization for no clear reason.

"It wasn't a secret. That's why the Chancellor sent Jedi to negotiate with the Trade Federation. The invasion was secret. Even then, my understanding was that it was less that the invasion was secret and more that the human rights abuses were secret. The whole point was that a blockade was a tense situation but an invasion was beyond the pale."
This is beyond my understanding too. Like, if the Feds are just upset over taxes, why go beyond the pale, as you put it? Shouldn't they WANT to negotiate?

I keep returning to the Feds because an earlier post considered the plot of the prequels stronger than the newquels. In the prequels, we are supposed to have a master string-puller manipulating the people around him to eventually make himself emperor. But for manipulation to be engaging, the victim has to be compelling, or at least competent. Unfortunately, the Trade Fed's are portrayed as bumbling morons for the most part. For manipulation to be intellectually stimulating, the victim has to have some logical motivation that is taken advantage of. It's not an interesting manipulation if the victim simply does whatever the string-puller says! That's just giving orders, not manipulating someone. But in the prequels our only motivation for the Feds is a nebulous 'we don't like taxes'. This feels so disconnected from them agreeing to, say, killing Jedi negotiators and violently invading a planet, that it comes off as arbitrary.

Contrast this to the 'manipulation' that goes on in Epi8. Here, we understand that Kylo wants to be a badass but is conflicted because we've seen Epi7, plus we see him get talked down then fail to kill his mother. We also understand that Rey is noble and proactive, and we have the precedent of Luke saving Vader to mind. Apparently Snoke does too (not sure how he understands Rey to be honest, no one is going to call Epi8's plot amazing), so he sets up a situation where Rey is tricked into coming to him. We have independent characters with independent characteristics and motivations, and a 'master' is able to arrange things so that other characters think they are furthering their own goals, when in fact they are furthering his. With the prequels, do the Trade Feds really see killing Jedi negotiators, invading planets, and killing Padme as furthering their own goals?
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msw188
Tue, Jan 16, 2018, 9:29pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Peter G,
"Palpatine secretly stonewalled all efforts Valorum made to resolve it"
Is this mentioned or shown in the movie at all? Like ok, Valorum sent the Jedi (it would have been incredibly helpful to have a scene of him sending them off with an explanation and instructions). Were there other efforts of Valorum that Palpatine sabotaged? I remember him asking for time to send a ship to figure out what was going on. But wasn't Padme or somebody like, well whatever my people will all be dead by then?

"We're led to understand that Palpatine shouldn't have stood much of a chance against the like of Bail Organa - a hugely popular figure - but that this crisis gave him a timely boost to popularity exactly at the right time."
I don't remember this either. Maybe this was in Epi2? Also, how did this crisis boost his popularity? He didn't do anything! Padme and a couple Jedi fixed it without him! I understand it made Valorum look bad, but not that it made Palpy look good.

Dom,
Yes, I remember the opening crawl saying that the Trade Feds were upset about taxes, or tax routes, or something to that effect. But your example doesn't make sense for the movie because the movie doesn't make the goal clear. Was Naboo actually a hub for these trade routes, so that controlling it would allow the Feds to control the trading (like in your example)? But Naboo didn't look like a trading hub. Was Naboo the one in charge of collecting the taxes? They didn't look like tax collectors either. Were the Feds trying to show their displeasure to the Senate? If that was the case, why are they keeping the blockade a secret? Is the goal to keep the invasion secret until it is successful? Why are they listening to Palpy? What did he do, promise to keep the Senate busy until they were done invading? Well that didn't happen, so why do they stick with him after the movie is over? In fact, how are they not arrested after the movie is over?

None of these questions matter all that much if the rest of the movie is good, but it isn't. And I can't seem to get into the plot of this movie when there are so many details seemingly missing.
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msw188
Mon, Jan 15, 2018, 11:08pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

JPaul,
Man, it's great that you manage to get that out of Epi1. I just can't see it. The Trade Feds want profits, and somehow blockading and invading Naboo accomplishes this? For some reason the Gungans will be affected too? Palpatine originally planned on Valorum being kicked out without anyone from Naboo reaching the capital? Padme agreed to some plan of Palpatine's? I can't remember if he offered her anything or she agreed to anything, especially since, as you admit, she goes back and somehow saves her planet without his help. And the net effect for the Trade Feds is that they somehow are allowed to continue with some kind of vendetta against Padme?
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msw188
Mon, Jan 15, 2018, 3:45pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

JPaul,
I agree that the overall backdrop to the plot in Epi7/8 is bad, borderline awful. I don't think that's the same as the plot as a whole being bad in those movies, but if you can't get past the setup then yeah it's hard to get into the movies for sure.

Still, I think you're overselling Epi1 a bit. "A story about corruption in the government allowing Palpatine the opening he needs to manipulate the Trade Federation into starting a civil war that he leverages into becoming the Chancellor and eventually Emperor is compelling." To me, this sounds compelling, but Epi1 doesn't end up portraying this very well. You mention corruption in the government - I don't remember this being shown at all. You mention Palpatine manipulating the Trade Federation, but is manipulation really compelling when one of the parties seems to have no motivation or intelligence? Did he actually manipulate them, or does he just control them somehow? They pretty much just do whatever he says! General Hux and Phasma are pretty cartoony and dumb for sure, but those Trade Federation guys are just terrible.

There are more problems in the details as well. I don't think I ever figured out what Palpy's actual plan was, and whether any of the actions of the protagonists ever cause him to alter any of it. Did he want the Trade Federation or the Naboo people to win that battle? Or did he not care which, as long as there was some conflict? And how does this lead to civil war, anyways? Whom does Epi1 show as being sympathetic to the Trade Federation's claims? Or do they even have any claims, besides hating taxes...? If the Jedi had never sent anyone to Naboo, would there have been a battle at all? Does Palpy want the Senate to know there's something going on, or not? If not, how does he plan to get the vote of no confidence for the Chancellor? If so, why does he tell the Trade Feds to kill the Jedi who were sent to see what's going on?

Maybe the problem is best summed up as follows. A plot-heavy, character/emotion-lite movie can be okay, but if that's the case, the plot is going to automatically come under more scrutiny. Some good Star Trek episodes could probably be viewed in this way. But Epi1, if viewed in that way, does not hold up very well in my opinion.
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