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Wed, Apr 29, 2020, 4:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S2: The Measure of a Man

Just watched this again after a few years, on Netflix, which has a stunning HD remaster. It's often almost *too* good at times, as it reveals that parts of the Enterprise and Starbase weren't as spotless as SD television suggested! Still, exposing the imperfections of the production design is a small price to pay to see the minute detail in the actors' faces and eyes, which really brings their performances to life.

And *what* performances. Stewart, Spiner, Frakes, the guest stars, and Goldberg are all at the top of their games, and have a superb script into which to sink their teeth. Even LaVar Burton maximizes his minimal screen time with his subdued yet devastating goodbye to Data.

Looking back at how the stinger contained a poker game (the first on TNG) in which Data first learns about the meta-logical intricacies of the game, and I can't help but see Riker's bluff being echoed in a part of Picard's courtroom strategy: rely on that which is unknown to sway your human opponent.

Every time I watch "The Measure of a Man" I notice another subtle moment of excellence in the writing and performances. And it draws a little closer to clinching the position as Best Episode of Star Trek, Period.

THERE IT SITS, indeed!
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Fri, Mar 27, 2020, 9:38am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2

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. Glad Picard’s not dead (his transformation to a Synth was was unsettlingly quick and easy, but it wasn’t out of left field; dude’s name is in the title so he wasn’t going to stay dead). I’m also glad his resurrection wasn’t a question to be answered in S2. Like all Treks before it the first season had its issues but I was left entertained and at times moved, and even the bad bits were at least amusing.
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Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 9:25am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

Right, @Henson, Barclay!
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Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 9:22am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

First and foremost, RedLetterMedia is entertainment, and they are never not aware of this. Mike is an “old fogey”, and Mr. Plinkett’s ST/SW reviews are essentially expressions of that Inner Old Man.

As someone who grew up watching TNG/DS9 and was hugely disappointed in the obsession with prequels starting with ENT, I harbor a lot of the same cymic and skepticism about Nu-Trek. But like Mike, I still can’t resist it!

Even the dynamic of Mike “forcing” Rich to keep doing these reviews is a bit of an act, since Rich could always say “no thanks”, but RLM gained fame through those old reviews, and will always be a part of its DNA, which means reviewing any new Trek is a given.

I’ve appreciated their entertainment, and Half in the Bag has also provided hours of entertainment as well as made me aware of a lot of good smaller films in the last few years that might have passed me by in this age of superhero tentpoles.

In an older Re:View segment, Mike and Jay give a very favorable review of ST:The Motion Picture that mirrors the opinions of both Jammer and myself. I’ve watched enough ugh RLM to see the legit critical chops at work beneath the comedy act. It helps that they themselves are filmmakers and creatives in addition to consumers, it lends them perspective from both sides of the industry.
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Mon, Mar 23, 2020, 8:45am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1

You’d think all these boozers on ST:Picard could greatly reduce their suffering by simply taking anti-intoxicants, like Sisko and O’Brien when they were posing as Klingons.

Picard was changed back from being a SPIDER MAN with a hypospray, for crying out loud! ;)
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Fri, Feb 21, 2020, 10:15am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Stardust City Rag

In a series that so far has been dominated by Patrick Stewart and Picard and left me caring about little else, Jeri Ryan makes her triumphant return to Trek as an older, more jaded Seven, doing her damndest to maintain order in a galaxy of chaos and finally providing that key second character I truly care about. As was the case on Voyager, she steals every scene she's in.

I know behind the scenes Ryan was very nervous about returning to the role, but that goes to prove she's her own harshest critic; she is a consummate performer who absolutely nailed Seven's evolution and stole every scene she was in. Her little aside to Picard might be the highlight of the series.

As a longtime Trekkie I also appreciated the return to a more episodic format, both with Seven's inter-episode arc and the "mission of the week" involving a covert operation to recover Dr. Maddox, who is sadly reduced to a glorified MacGuffin who only serves to point Picard to the Artifact.

There were hints Jurati's relationship to Maddox was more than simply/professional scientific, and I'm starting to see why Jurati has laid on the cuteness so thick (so as to hide her hidden motives from the rest of the crew). It's all a bit contrived but hopefully it spells the start of interesting character development, as well as conflict within the so-far buddy-buddy crew.

Jaffi returning to the La Sirena after her son spurned her wasn't too surprising. There was never any doubt she'd be back; otherwise why even bother introducing her only to have her around for a couple weeks? Notable that her abandoning her son to help Picard the Romulan effort mirrors Picard abandoning her after the effort failed.

I wish Picard had said...*something* after Rios said his fee doubles in Romulan space. What are we working with here, some kind of non-aligned credits? Gold? Latinum? Wine??

I'm still trying not to see Elnor as a character straight out of the LoTR universe, but his not-in-on-the-joke fish-out-of-waterness at least adds variety to a crew of otherwise tortured souls.

Final Verdict? This was the best episode to date, 3 1/2 stars, mostly thanks to Seven and taking a break from the Cube characters.
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Wed, Feb 19, 2020, 9:11am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Absolute Candor

One more thing: ALL HAIL JERI RYAN.

"You owe me a ship" is certainly a great way to get things rolling! Can't wait to watch her take on the present-day Seven.
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Wed, Feb 19, 2020, 9:07am (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: Absolute Candor

I don't reflexively object to a different pace of storytelling than the mission-of-the-week nature of TNG et al. I don't even mind that the Utopian federation has fallen on particularly hard ethical times.

But as you say, if you are going to make a ten-hour movie you'd better have more than two hours of content. Picard does not, even though it should—a novelist runs the show, for crying out loud!

I too missed more Hugh as the Narek/Narissa/Soji beats were simply repeated from previous episodes, and fear Hugh may not even be back for more than a few token lines. I know this is not Star Trek: Hugh, but he's at least a far more developed character in terms of his TNG past, and the robot-sibling love triangle isn't compelling enough to justify sidelining him.

Also, I could not believe even people like *these* use "paradigm" so frequently in idle conversation. It felt like executive producers talking.

Dr. Jurati also spun her wheels as Picard's version of Tilly, who herself is a Joss Whedon-style wisecracking spunky genius character. There's something to her being the only civilian on a ship full of Starfleet vets and now a warrior monk, but she still shouts ZHAT VASH MOLE so loudly it might be a disappointment if she *wasn't* a mole.

Rios is fine, but like TNG's "The Naked Now" (which I watched immediately following this episode...quite the whiplash!) introducing different versions of your characters before the audience knows who the real character is is rarely wise, and I don't really see the point of multiple holographic versions of him. It's a neat idea, but it's in the way.

I didn't hate this episode, but I also don't think it deserves more than two stars or two and a half tops. Like the previous three entries, it has some cool moments, but is just so utterly unsatisfying in isolation.

I know ST:Picard is a commercial product *designed* to make you keep watching and, incidentally, keep paying subscription fees. I just wish it did it more opaquely. I can't shake the cynicism in what has amounted to four episodes of treacle-slow pacing, stalling, and repetition.

To borrow the grades RedLetterMedia has assigned so far (after three episodes), the visuals/production values get an A-Plus, while the "Trekness" of Picard gets a D-Minus, leading to an Average Sci-Fi TV Show grade of C-to-C-Minus.

If you want gritty "Anti-Trek" sci-fi, The Expanse is miles better. Picard feels like a glitzy late-to-the-game pretender almost wholly dependent on nostalgia.
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Fri, Feb 7, 2020, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
Re: PIC S1: The End Is the Beginning

I feel like a skilled editor could cut enough superfluous fat from these first three episodes to condense the story into a brisk, focused, but still unrushed 60-70 minute pilot. Instead, 30% of this season has been nothing but table-setting. Chabon is an unequivocally brilliant novelist and storyteller (and a Trek fan, for which I'm glad), but these three episodes have exposed his inexperience with running a tv show.

I've also been disappointed in the startlingly large number of continuity errors regarding Starfleet officers' rank insignia. TNG and DS9 hardly ever had those problems. I'm wonder how in a scene where Commodore Oh is wearing 20th century styled sunglasses, the director didn't bother to ask a PA to straighten her pip! Even non-4K HD is unforgiving of sloppy details like that.
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Thu, Apr 25, 2019, 8:15am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 2

First of all, a heartfelt thanks again for continuing to provide your incisive and enlightening reviews. To twist a phrase of the Klingons, today it is a good day to live in a world with new Star Trek on the air, even if this Trek is very different form that of our youth.

While we may not always agree on where an episode stands on a mostly arbitrary rating scale, I know you'll always intelligently argue your positions and offer insights I did not initially consider.

I also feel this was a 3 - a 3.5 or higher wasn't really possible with the way they wrote themselves into a corner. I echo your wish for more consistent showrunner situation going forward; for a show to re-invent itself every season could be innovative, but has been mostly distracting in these past two years.

It would also be advisable for the show to branch out from Micheal Burnham. Not that I dislike the character or the actor, but it's safe to say her background has been explored exhaustively. I am full of anticipation for whatever they come up with for S3 in a year or so (hopefully), and also wish (perhaps foolishly) they'll go easy on those horribly dizzying "camera spinning around a conversation" shots. We've witnessed "most is more" this season; taking the intensity of everything down a notch or two once in a while would be appreciated.
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Fri, Apr 12, 2019, 8:27am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 1

In all seriousness...WTF, Discovery? How much soaring melodrama do you think Trek fans honestly want, or need?

Did you think we'd forget you failed to develop over half of the show's cast by staging these ridiculous goodbyes and "we're coming with yous"? I can't invest in these relationships that never happened!

Po was fun in the Short Trek, but is bascially a magical plot solution machine with exceedingly bad makeup (like, "doodling on her face with a Sharpie" bad).

"I get to make a supernova. This day ROCKS!" GRRRRROOOOAAAAANNNN
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Fri, Apr 12, 2019, 8:23am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 1

My Doge-inspired review:


many goodbyes

so crying

much maudlin

very speeches

such stalling
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Thu, Apr 11, 2019, 8:52am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Through the Valley of Shadows

If you listen to Armin Shimmerman without his Quark makeup (say, in the Seinfeld episode "The Caddy", you will notice a difference in the clarity of his voice.

But *despite* the fact his nose was smushed under a Ferengi nose, he still managed to emote and create a distinctive voice for Quark. He never sounded like he was struggling to talk, that's just the way Quark talked.

It was the same with Rom, Zek, Brunt, and Nog. The makeup affected their voices, but not to the point of distraction.

They made it work.

Mary Chieffo isn't making it work.

That's not her fault; she probably has little say in the structure or process of her make-up beyond telling them when its intolerable uncomfortable or painful.

But if you're going to make a conscious effort to make the Klingons "more alien", to the point it seems like they have blue skin, well...there were probably better ways to do it! Ways that didn't make it so hard for the actor to move and talk that they don't seem alien at all...they seem like an actor in uncomfortable makeup. Which means they failed!

What's so frustrating is that they *didn't* fail with Saru, who arguably has just as much makeup on his face.

I'm just not sure what went wrong with L'Rell but it's inconceivable the producers listened to her talk in full Klingon makeup and said "Okay, that's good, let's go with that!" And yet apparently that's just what happened!
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Thu, Apr 4, 2019, 11:11am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Perpetual Infinity

Always great to see Sonja Sohn do her thing (and she seemingly hasn't aged since The Wire ;). She was perfectly cast and utilized, and her character reminds me of Rintarou in Steins;Gate, someone beaten down and hardened by watching his loved ones die in hundreds of different ways while attempting to save them and prevent WWIII.

I just wish the showmakers would stop giving SMG so many scenes of such sustained emotional intensity that it would be a tall order for any actor not to seem maudlin and forced. Scenes that should be used ever so sparingly - if at all - have become commonplace this season.

Burnham's Vulcan calm has always been believable, but now that she's more showing emotion this season, the cracks are showing and they're hard to ignore, especially when sharing screen time with vets like Sohn. But this isn't just down to GMG's acting. It's a total failure to properly utilize her strengths and mitigate her weaknesses - something any good writing/directing team should be able to manage.
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Thu, Mar 14, 2019, 8:39am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: If Memory Serves

Not sure if it was intentional, but Stamets' "doomed perfect evening" setup for Culber reminded me of the times Geordi tried to create a romantic atmosphere for a love interest that simply wasn't that into him. His doomed holodeck date, his doomed dinner date with Dr. Brahms...poor guy had NO game.

Stamets would have had better luck reconciling with Culber at the SPACE IKEA on Starbase 12...where space relationships go to die!
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Wed, Mar 13, 2019, 1:41pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: If Memory Serves

One of my favorite "if memory serves" lines:

"If memory serves, there was a dubious flirtation with nuclear fission reactors resulting in toxic side effects. By the beginning of the fusion era, these reactors had been replaced, but at this time, we may be able to find some."
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Wed, Mar 13, 2019, 1:31pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: If Memory Serves

I hold "The Cage" pilot (available on US-Netflix in all its remastered glory) in high regard, and when I first heard the shuttle computer say "Talos IV" last week, I suddenly got goosebumps.

It was, quite honestly, amazing to see a planet, a species, and an iconic character in Talos IV, the Talosians, and Veena respectively, brought back to life FIFTY-FOUR YEARS after we last saw them, and with significant emotional effectiveness AND narratively practical reasons. That's the power of Star Trek at its best.

It's actually the second instance of me watching a thoroughly successful resurrection of an over five-decade-old franchise being resurrected in 2019, the other being Studio Mappa's modern re-imagining of the classic anime Dororo to Hyakkimaru.

I fully endorse the 4-star rating, which gives "If Memory Serves" the distinction of being the highest-rated episode of DISCO.
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Mon, Mar 11, 2019, 9:51am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Light and Shadows

"How does she have so much information, including the secret that (dun-dun-dun!) Leland is responsible for the deaths of Burnham's parents?"

Yeah, that connection just created a visual in my head of all the various plot thread,s and the writers/producers deciding to connect one or two *more* than they needed to.

Not everybody and everything has to be connected.

" This series' tendency to prioritize plot so much higher than its supporting cast is probably its greatest flaw"

I have to agree, though it's not hard to agree with this. TOS may have done similarly very little with the secondary bridge crew in terms of development in its first season or two.

But that's no excuse for a bridge officer like Airiam suddenly having a crucial role in the fortunes of the Discovery when *we have no idea who or what she is.*
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Fri, Mar 1, 2019, 9:01am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Identity, Part II

Exemplary episode, and a stronger-than-expected end to the two-parter, though I agree that 3 stars, a slight bump down from last week's 3 1/2, is indicated.

Like Karl I like how the Kaylon may not have been as implacable as initially depicted. They aren't all-knowing or all-powerful, and an all-out battle against them wasn't hopeless, it was simply difficult and costly. Ultimately, like any bully, once their collective noses were sufficiently bloody they skedaddled.

That said, considering it was shown many times that one shot from their weapons could destroy a Krill ship, it was frankly quite absurd that the Orville was able to absorb as many shots as it did. The armored Defiant it is not! I also wish we had gotten a closer look at the cream of the Union fleet; ships that should have taken more of a beating that the titular ship.

The battle closely mirrored the Federation/Dominion battle in Sacrifice of Angels in which the Klingons arrived in the Nick (or rather Martok) of Time(TM), but making full use of the advances of CGI (DS9 battles look fine in SD but if it were ever re-mastered the age of the effects would be more evident).

I appreciated that this episode didn't rely on any egregious carpet-ripping twist, such as the Kaylons simply performing an elaborate (and bloody!) test. There was a possibility the Orville crewmembers killed in combat last week were merely wounded, but it was clear that the Kaylon meant it when they wanted to wipe out humanity.

It made sense to be that as they commandeered the Orville that their extremely low opinion of humans' intelligence abilities would be their undoing, as well as underestimating how much Isaac's time with humans gave him fresh perspective that led to him ultimately turning against them when they pushed too far (i.e. kill Ty).

It's also possible Isaac had been reprogrammed by Kaylon Prime et al, because the moment after he rips his head off, Isaac say something that suggests his internal machinery was working on, and succeeded in, overriding that reprogramming.
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Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 8:48am (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Identity, Part I

A thrilling homage to BoBW...IF the Enterprise had visited the Borg Homeworld and stirred things up!

This also seems to be an homage to Voyager's "Prototype", in which two warring species built robots to fight their wars and the robots destroyed both species until it was just the robots fighting. It's an old story, but well-executed.

While the establishing shots of the sprawling Kaylon mecha-metropolis were some of the most gorgeous shots I've ever seen, they wrote checks the comparatively blah interior sets couldn't quite cash. All the scale of that cityscape was undone by what looked like a couple of Canadian office atriums.

Also wondering why EVERY Kaylon's "eyes" were red, or existed at all, since Isaac mentioned they were strictly decorative. Why were only his blue? Why weren't there other colors?

This is all nitpicking, of course. This was an episode that really upped the stakes, in a holy-shit-this-is-not-going-to-go-well kind of way. I didn't know this was the first part of a two-parter until it was clear everything was NOT going to resolve by the end of the episode, so that was a pleasant surprise.

Just when we thought there was going to be some kind of confrontation that threatened the alliance between the Union and the Moclans, a far more fearsome adversary rears its shiny metal head.

They really dug a hole for our heroes, not to mention earth (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).

I'm looking forward to seeing how this is resolved. While it became clear Alara wasn't coming back both in-show and IRL, and that over at Disco Saru wasn't going to be killed off, I can't imagine they'll get rid of Isaac. Somehow this existential threat has to be dealt with AND have Isaac return to the crew, right? I wonder if the Kaylon are vulnerable to a primitive computer virus, a la Independence Day...
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Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 7:55am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: The Sound of Thunder

I do have to mention the meeting in Pike's ready room with Pike, Michael, and...honestly I forget who else because THE CAMERA WAS SPINNING. AROUND. THEM. SO. FAST!!! What is this, Star Trek: Boondock Saints of Imperfection? :-)

I had to look away from the television and hope that spinning would stop once the scene changed. Not sure why the heck they went with THAT much spinning. I imagine I now know a bit how Ezri Dax must've felt when she first came aboard DS9 (the spacesickness, not Worf ignoring her).

Also, I second the fact that the Prime Directive was kinda just...set aside? When they decided to activate Kelpian pon farr in the entire population *without smaller-scale testing*. I mean, Saru's sister went through it fine, but the "let's just do it and hope it all works out" was more of an Orville direction than Discovery.

Maybe the fact the Ba'ul are mentioned as a warp-capable civilization means the PD doesn't apply. But they're said to have only had warp for a couple decades... Assuming the Discovery is something like 700m long, yet those are some mighty huge "sentry ships" they've got! I guess they focused on bigger, not faster ;)
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Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 7:47am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: The Sound of Thunder

When I first heard that audio I thought we were dealing with an offshoot of the Sheliac Corporate; when I first saw the black goo I immediately thought "Armus!"

I enjoyed this episode for many reasons, but intentional or not those references to previous episodes where Starfleet had to deal with a species that not only wasn't humanoid, but also didn't much WANT to interact with the Federation except for them to stay out of their affairs.

While it's certainly hard to watch, it makes sense that Hugh is nowhere near himself again (and indeed physically will never be himself again); Paul is putting on a brave face, but it's not going to be easy for things to return to normal. Hugh may have lost the scars on his skin, but at the cost of far deeper ones to his psyche.

I enjoyed seeing (and hearing!) more Airiam, but she's still treated as more background dressing than character, and it didn't make sense that she, a Lieutenant Commander, seemed to be taking commands from Ensign Tilly. Disco needs to understand that the more prominent they make the secondary bridge crew, the more we'll want to see them have episodes that flesh them out, just as TNG, DS9, and VOY did.

But to return to the main cast, Saru has another hell of an episode, which not only propelled his character, but his entire species, which turned out to be the whole point of the Red Angel signal appearing at Kaminar. We also learn a tiny bit more about what the Angel is; "biomechanical suit" dredges up curiosity over whether it's more of a time-traveling "who" than a "what."

In a universe where Q, the Prophets, and many other beings that might as well be gods from the Starfleet perspective, I'm finding it fascinating that rather than communicate directly, the Angel is having Discovery perform tasks that improve the lives of people, whether it's small-scale like saving the Hiawatha survivors and New Eden, to large-scale like creating a new balance between the Ba'ul and Kelpians (which also called to mind the So'na and Ba'ku).

Sure, the constant Spock-teasing (though notably not present this week) is a bit annoying, but at this point it seems like finding Spock is secondary to completing the remaining missions the Red Angel has set out via the red lights (if that's indeed what it intends). There's also the possibility Spock IS the Red Angel...

Anywho, 3.5 stars.
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Tue, Feb 19, 2019, 9:16am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Saints of Imperfection

Starfleet isn't "openly" condoning anything; Cornwell's chat with Pike and Leland was private, not live-streamed over the Federation News Service.

As for S31 running counter to Federation ideals, large monolithic governments circumvent or outright ignore their stated ideals, either in order to survive, or to gain an advantage over rivals.

That practice would not change in the cutthroat reaches of interstellar space. Gene's vague Utopian vision rarely passed muster even in TOS.

"Ideals" are a standard of perfection, and even the Borg haven't figured out how to achieve perfection.

*Ideally*, the Federation doesn't need S31 to survive, and operates under that high standard.

*Realistically*, S31 will always be a check against threats to the Federation, and if the Federation continues to survive, it's all gravy.

This is why I have no problem the DIS iteration of S31.
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Sat, Feb 16, 2019, 7:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: ORV S2: Deflectors

Wonderful, affecting episode that respected all parties involved. Lots of realistic flawed characterizations and questions with no easy answers. And I'm officially on board with Kiyala. A nice little nod to the fact than not ALL Xeleyans are ashamed of their kids in the military.

The second straight 3.5 in my book.
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Fri, Feb 15, 2019, 8:38am (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S2: Saints of Imperfection

Regarding Burnham and Giorgiou: I really like what they’re doing with these two. Of course the former doesn’t trust the latter, and probably never will. But she’s still...Giorgiou, ya know? In the same matter, Giorgiou may always be underwhelmed by this nerdy, stoic version of Burnham rather than the apparently savage badass she knew and loved. But she’s still...Burnham, ya know?

Burnham lost Giorgiou, while Mirror Giorgiou lost Mirror Burnham. Now all they have is the mirror version of the person they knew and loved, but that’s better than nothing. It’s a very cool dynamic. I especially like how Giorgiou remains a wild card, like she could kill Leland and take over his ship at any time...or just remain in her nebulous and arguably enjoy more freedom than being a fugitive on the run.
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