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Wed, Sep 16, 2015, 3:36am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TOS S1: What Are Little Girls Made Of?

The "so bad it's good" trope gets invoked too often. When something is bad, it's usually just bad. Many supposedly "so bad it's good" movies are just boring or painful.

This episode is a shining example of something that truly is so bad it's good. In fact, it's one of my favorite TOS episode.

This episode is never, ever boring. Here are just a few highlights.

Dr. Korby's plan is hilariously counterproductive. If he had just told them straight up what was going on, they might not have gone all "robots = evil" on him. There was absolutely no need for him to kill anyone.

Out of nowhere, there is a vampire dressed in what looks like a nightgown my grandma might wear.

The vampire kills Kirk's meager security force. Kirk shows no remorse at all.

Kirk demonstrates his incredible strength by ripping off a stalagmite made of styrofoam. It looks so much like a penis that I seriously think it might have been intentional.

Kirk sits down to eat with Spock. But wait -- it was actually Robot!Kirk all along! WHAT A TWIST.

For no reason, Kirk tries to seduce Andrea in a pretty rapey way. Our hero!

Andrea: "Kiss me."
Robot!Kirk: (with a ridiculous hand gesture) "No: that is illogical."
And then Andrea just shoots him without hesitation.

Classic Star Trek breaking its own rules when it comes to computers, and just not understanding computers in general. We are told that Korby's replication process makes perfect copies. But then he goes on about how robots are superior because they are perfectly logical. You can't have it both ways! Korby's own logic is self-contradictory -- which, according to Star Trek logic, should cause his head to explode or something.

Furthermore, robot!Kirk clearly does not act like human!Kirk. So really, he's just a bad copy, and Korby's process is technically flawed. But that's not supposed to be the point -- indeed, the episode thinks that Korby's process really is technically perfect, but it fails to capture "humanity" or something. Look, guys: if robot!Kirk really does perfectly replicate human:Kirk's brain, then he will act exactly like Kirk. (TNG continued this tradition of flat-out lying about robots, constantly insisting that Data had no emotions when he very clearly did.)
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Sat, Sep 5, 2015, 7:54am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S4: Qpid

Ugh. I will never understand why Star Trek keeps insisting on finding ways to have episodes in old-timey settings. In order to justify the setting, they always have to fall back on settings and tropes which have all been done to death. Plus the sets always look cheap as hell -- probably because they're usually generic Universal Studios sets.

What exactly do they think we watch the show for?
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Sat, Sep 5, 2015, 7:36am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S3: Captain's Holiday

I have a particular loathing for this episode. It always pisses me off when Troi, supposedly a trained counselor, says and does absolutely terrible things because the writers don't understand psychology. Picard's idea of a relaxing vacation is to visit an interesting conference of some sort of another; but Troi, apparently thinking she knows better than Picard himself, forces him to visit some resort he hates. Worse, Riker sets him up for unsolicited sexual advances, and Troi goes along with it. And the normative voice is on Troi and Riker's side! What a pile.
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Sat, Sep 5, 2015, 7:22am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S2: Peak Performance

Like many of the later Season 2 episodes, this one makes me really wish that Pulaski had stuck around. TNG's final main cast had only two women, and neither of them were very satisfying.

Dr. Crusher had almost no personality, and she was almost never involved in anything interesting. They sent her on away missions a few times, but it almost always felt forced (why should the chief doctor be on an away mission?)

Troi's character had a sensible premise ("A starship ought to have a counselor. What's a sci-fi thing we can do with a counselor? Make them an empath!"); but her powers ended up being either useless, or so useful they felt arbitrary and took all tension out of the plot. Troi herself was consistently written as a passive victim -- when Marina Sirtis got to do something interesting, it was often because Troi got mind-controlled or something. Not to mention the constant awkward "fanservice".

Both of these characters were almost entirely defined by their cliched femininity -- passive, nurturing, motherly, love interests, objects to be ogled. They tried to do better with Troi in the later seasons; but she was at a disadvantage because the other cast had already had so much time to develop, and was held back by her character's inherent limitations. (Plus they just had to introduce the tired and stupid "woman loves chocolate" cliche.)

Dr. Pulaski, on the other hand, had her own interesting personality. But the writers, trying to recreate the Bones-Spock dynamic, mismanaged her horribly. Spock and Bones could be pretty fierce towards each other, but they always regarded each other at least as equals. They shared a mutual respect and friendship. Pulaski started talking down to Data the instant she saw him. I think the writers realized their mistake, because she got much better in the later episodes; and even though it felt like her character change came out of nowhere, I was so glad to see it that I was willing to let it slide. But the damage was already done. What a missed opportunity.
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Sat, Sep 5, 2015, 6:50am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: TNG S2: Where Silence Has Lease

Honestly, I'd give this 3 or even 3.5 stars. The slow pace and brooding tone in the first half are perfectly executed. We get a rare example of a good mystery plot -- the characters make (mostly) rational attempts to figure things out, sometimes things go wrong, but every step brings new information, and the characters don't make any impossible leaps of logic for the convenience of the script.

Sadly, as with so many good TNG episodes, the payoff doesn't do the setup justice. Nagilum is far less threatening and interesting than the mystery preceding him. Worse, the script uses him to set up a classic Star Trek morality debate. Not only is this completely disjointed from the first half of the episode, but the "debate" is completely inane, and Picard's actions are jarringly out-of-character.

So yeah, lots of flaws. But I loved the setup so damn much.
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Fri, Sep 4, 2015, 5:16am (UTC -5) | 🔗
Re: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Underrated. Not a masterpiece, but not a flop.

In both its successes and its failures, TMP is the most "Star Trek" of the TOS films.

As in TOS, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy work perfectly, alone and together. I love the way Kirk gazes lovingly at the Enterprise upon reuniting with it -- I even love when Shatner goes completely over-the-top and actually tears up. I love how Kirk thoughtlessly removes the Enterprise captain from duty because the Enterprise is his ship, damnit. I love the decision to turn McCoy into a hippie pacifist. I love that Spock is cold and distant when he returns. I especially love that while Kirk knows something is wrong, McCoy chalks it up to Spock being a Vulcan.

As in TOS, the characters are tragically under-explored. Kirk's conflict with Deckard just kind of evaporates, and McCoy never really gets a moment to shine. Spock's arc actually has a proper beginning and end, but no real middle -- he has a problem, and he overcomes it, but we don't really get to see him work through it.

Also as in TOS, most of the main cast -- Uhura, Checkov, Scotty, Sulu -- are completely sidelined and do nothing of note.

As in TOS, the plot is haphazard and stretched thin. The long sequence of the Enterprise going too fast serves no purpose other than to pad the running time. It almost pays off in the Kirk-Deckard conflict, which could have been really interesting, but it takes too long and that subplot ends up being pointless.

As in TOS, we have an obvious mystery plot with a twist ending. But TMP does something that TOS did rarely, if ever: the twist is genuinely surprising and at least somewhat effective. TOS had a lot of twist endings, but its best episodes are almost invariably much simpler stories. TMP's twist is kind of hokey -- as in TOS -- but it's also genuinely interesting.

As in TOS, the guest stars stick out awkwardly against the perfect chemistry of the main trio.

As in TOS, we see a character get a tiny bit of development, only to be callously killed off. Also as in TOS, the reaction to the death is horribly understated. When Ilea dies, Deckard -- who we're supposed to think loves her -- just makes a quip at Kirk, and that's the end of that.

As in TOS, the gender politics are clumsy and awkward at best. Practically the first thing Ilea says when she walks onto the bridge is, "My oath of chastity is on record." Um, ok. What?

As in TOS, the film wants to be great sci-fi, with lofty ideas about the future, the development of the human race, our relationship with technology, and the possibility of other intelligences.

As in TOS, it doesn't quite reach its aspirations. TMP wants so badly to be 2001 you almost feel bad for it. I don't mind the slow pace. Hell, I don't even mind that the plot essentially comes to a standstill halfway in. (The film looks beautiful all the way through, and the 2001 ripoff sequence is no exception.) But the standstill overstays its welcome; and, more importantly, it essentially destroys the character interactions which had shown so much promise.

Each of TMP's three acts feels like a separate film. The first act looks like it's going to tell the story TOS always deserved. The second act is visually stunning but otherwise empty. The third act rushes to give the Deckard-Ilea relationship some kind of substance before moving on to the twist ending. Each of these acts has promise, but the second act is clearly the most unlike the other two. Instead of trying in vain to be Stanley Kubrick, the writers should have had some confidence and tried to tell their own story.

I'm willing to overlook a lot of flaws in something that *tries*. I would rather see a deeply-flawed film with high aspirations than a highly-polished film with no substance. This isn't pretension -- insubstantial films simply bore me. As with TOS, TMP had high aspirations -- but it came closer than nearly all of TOS to achieving them. Unfortunately, TMP would be the last time Star Trek had such aspirations.
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