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philadlj
Thu, Apr 25, 2019, 8:15am (UTC -6)
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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philadlj
Fri, Apr 12, 2019, 8:27am (UTC -6)
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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philadlj
Fri, Apr 12, 2019, 8:23am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Such Sweet Sorrow, Part 1

My Doge-inspired review:


Wow.

many goodbyes

so crying

much maudlin

very speeches

such stalling
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philadlj
Thu, Apr 11, 2019, 8:52am (UTC -6)
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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philadlj
Thu, Apr 4, 2019, 11:11am (UTC -6)
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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philadlj
Thu, Mar 14, 2019, 8:39am (UTC -6)
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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philadlj
Wed, Mar 13, 2019, 1:41pm (UTC -6)
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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philadlj
Wed, Mar 13, 2019, 1:31pm (UTC -6)
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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philadlj
Mon, Mar 11, 2019, 9:51am (UTC -6)
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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philadlj
Fri, Mar 1, 2019, 9:01am (UTC -6)
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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philadlj
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 8:48am (UTC -6)
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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philadlj
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 7:55am (UTC -6)
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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philadlj
Fri, Feb 22, 2019, 7:47am (UTC -6)
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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philadlj
Tue, Feb 19, 2019, 9:16am (UTC -6)
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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philadlj
Sat, Feb 16, 2019, 7:48pm (UTC -6)
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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philadlj
Fri, Feb 15, 2019, 8:38am (UTC -6)
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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philadlj
Fri, Feb 15, 2019, 8:18am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Saints of Imperfection

Well now, that was exciting! Gripping would be another word I'd use. I've grown a bit weary of Disco bringing up technologies in season 1 that are then withdrawn season 2 in order to preserve almighty "continuity" with TOS (I am not as strict about all Treks having to connect perfectly, even in the Prime Universe, and like Jammer I don't really mind how high-tech the Disco and Enterprise look in this show compared to TOS because TOS was on a shoestring budget and Disco isn't). But...if you have to eliminate the spore drive from Starfleet use for the rest of its history, this was a satisfying way to do it.

Even Stamets was at one point so caught up in how cool the Mycelial Network was, it didn't occur to him or anyone else until now that it wasn't streets they were traversing, but cities, with the Discovery plowing through them like a bulldozer. Their convenient mode of transportation is the spores' apocalypse. One of their own managed to interface with Tilly in the form of a friend in order to explain that predicament. Like all good Trek (I'm thinking of Darmok) this is an episode that boils down to profound differences in perspective between lifeforms that must be overcome with communication and cooperation, not shooting.

It also all but makes official the unofficial policy of all Trek captains to risk the ship for the sake of a single crewmember, as long as that crewmember is a regular cast member. Kirk, Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Archer have all done this. Space sucks, and Starfleet officers know what they signed up for may lead to their deaths. Who can forget Sito Jaxa's cruel fate, or (in a simulation) Troi sending Geordi on a suicide mission to save the ship. But Tilly has saved the Discovery more than once, and now it's the Discovery's turn to save her.

In this case, even a dyed-in-the-wool Starfleet Man like Pike is willing to be a little hypocritical on this point: Starfleet leaves no one behind, provided that someone means something to them, or more imporantly the audience. If Pike was always blithely sending major characters to their deaths one after the other in order to save everyone else, it would get pretty old, and we'd think he was a pretty cold dude! Trek has always tried to balance the delicate discrepancy between the characters with red shirts or only last names going through the grinder so the people we know can make it out safe and sound. In this, Disco is keeping that practice consistent.

So! Tilly is in trouble. She's been pulled into SporeWorld(TM) by Spore-May in human form, who also seems to be protecting her there, but also brought her there so she'd have no choice but to help her "people" with their current crisis. But while Spore-May is in human form, she has yet to adjust her perspective. She, and the rest of the spores, believe they are under attack by a literal monster. She warns Tilly not to touch the dark tree-like forms, telling her they're highly toxic. But it's clear that a human like Tilly and a Mycelial lifeform like May have very different ideas of what is and isn't harmful to their existence.

Tilly is also extremely freaked out by what has just happened: the cocoon in Engineering basically served as a kind of Mycelial transporter, dissassembling her atoms in one place and reassembling them in the SporeWorld. But once Discovery half-jumps into the Network (something they've never done before and is both incredibly risky and incredibly cool-looking), the sciency types start to realize what's going on here: the two realms are at odds with each other; they never should have met. Once they do, the competing systems start to fight one another instinctively. This isnt good-vs-evil, it's just two very different kinds of life that go together like oil and water.

This is why the spores start to decompose the Disco's hull, and why the reconstituted Culber and the bark with which he's covered his body are harmful to the spores. tl;dr: This Spore Drive think ain't gonna work out, at least not without further considerable damage to a sentient civilization, albeit one in a form the crew did not immediately recognize. Life too weird to be initially identified as life; it's a staple of Trek, and the misunderstandings between such groups of life can be as compelling as its varoius political humanoid entanglements, because it gets to the primary crux of Starfleet's mission of exploration.

While I was spoiled by the somewhat confusing real world news that Culber Would Definitely Be Back and Not Just As A Ghost, that lack of surprise was largely offset by three factors for me: One, I liked the character, was sad to see him disposed of so quickly and needlessly, and wanted him back. Two, the actual moment he returns was a surprise. Seeing him cowering there, in terrible shape, the very environment trying to eat away at him, was truly shocking and appalling. The place seemed inhospitable enough for Tilly for those first few minutes; I couldn't imagine a human having to be there for days, weeks, months on end.

Third, while it involves a lot of technobabble, my suspense of disbelief held up regarding the explanation of his resurrection. The explanation worked for me. His case is certainly unique under these specific circumstances, but hey, if an ancicent Vulcan ritual can bring Spock back to life, I'm game for it happening in a more sci-fi way. The law of conservation of matter ties into this servicably, if imperfectly. Broken down to its elements, Dead Culber + Stamets + Spores = Live Spore-Culber, via a process similar to what "May" used to appear in both Tilly's head and to the others in the SporeWorld.

This led to the almost heart-rending moment when Culber tries to cross the mycelial barrier, only for his arm to disappear, but like Saru almost dying last week, I could not believe the show would mess with us to that extent by killing off a character they JUST brought back through virtual magic. Thankfully, May tells them she'll figure it out, and that big hunk of matter in Engineering eventually transmuted into a Culber who can exist in regular space. Execution-wise, there was a lot of standing around explaining things that undermined the urgency going on with the Discovery--either take your time OR have a ticking clock; you can't do both!--but all's well that ends well. I still can't imagine being on that bridge sitting on my hands waiting for the all-clear as long as the crew had to.

Ultimately, this was presented as a kind of swan song to the network (at least in the way Stamets and the Disco has been interfacing with it), as well as a means of bringing back the good doctor, who I'm sure will have to deal with some measure of PTSD. That brings us to Ash Tyler, Section 31 Agent, as well as Section 31 itself. Let me start here by saying that I don't consider what DS9 said and didn't say about S31 to be the end-all-be-all gospel. DS9 took place nearly a century after Disco, so who knows what S31 is up to in this time? Well, Disco is going to show us. The Glenn and Discovery were themselves secret, being highly-experimental propulsion platforms, so S31 participation in the project, both for logistical support (as we see here) and keeping everything under wraps, makes practical sense.

Does Section 31 seem to be awfully..."out in the open" and "official" in this Disco depiction? Perhaps, but let's look at who and what they're interacting with. Only a handful of people have a remote idea what Spock is up to. Pike and Leland have a past. Georgiou is Mirror Georgiou, who met Ash and recruited him when the whole Klingon thing didn't work out. And then there's the good Admiral, who naturally is going to know things most Starfleet Captains wouldn't. We're still very much dealing with a small group of people who know S31 is involved, forming a closed, secure bubble. Sure, WE know now that S31 has ships and officers and uniforms and special long-range communicators and other tech. But WE aren't everyone. We are privileged like all the oter characters involved.

We may now be aware of these things, but the VAST majority of Starfleet and the Federation probably aren't. That's good enough for me. And again, if S31 means we can have interactions with Ash and Giorgiou, then so much the better. The S31 we see here may be very different and far less "secretive"-seeming than what Sloan described and Bashir dug so deep to uncover (literally going into Sloan's head). But let's not forget that not everything we, Sisko, Bashir, and even Admiral Ross, showed the whole picture of what S31 was, either in their timeline or, more importantly, nearly a century ago. They're Black Ops, and I'm on board with it.

So I think I've said about enough...I'll end by assigning a score of 3.5 out of 4 stars. This episode had a lot to accomplish, but I think it succeeded admirably, and I and my friend were on the edge of our seats for most of its runtime. I'm looking forward to seeing Culber recover and rejoin the crew, and the next instance of the crew believing they're about to see Spock, only for Spock to still be a step or two ahead ;)
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philadlj
Fri, Feb 1, 2019, 9:20am (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: A Happy Refrain

The Orville went full Character this week, as the ship is at warp the whole time except for a rendezvous with the touring Union Symphony, which is a fantastic idea, BTW, and also served to recognize the excellent—and real—full orchestra The Orville uses for its scores. I imagine it must’ve been fun/challenging for some of those musicians to perform in alien makeup!

With the A-plot of Dr. Finn exploring a romantic relationship with Isaac, this show would seem to owe a lot to “In Theory”, the TNG episode where a woman tries to date Data with results that were “sub-optimal” for her but sometimes cringey and sometimes hilarious for the audience. But for once (though this may not be the first time), The Orville actually takes that basic idea and improves upon it. Despite there not being an alien world involved in the plot, there’s plenty of sci-fi ideas to be had.

First, there wasn’t anything sudden or out-of-left-field about Finn’s decision to ask Isaac out. Their friendship has been carefully developed over the last season and change, with a lot of that development coming when Finn was stranded on a planet with her kids and Isaac. Isaac may be an unfeeling robot but there’s been a lot of chemistry between these two. It’s a great example of a Trek-like show actually showing its work.

Of course, your mileage may vary when it comes to whether or not you particularly cared about this relationship ever evolving into something more romantic, just as the very concept of “romance” is something Isaac just kinda has to go with on faith (or, well, data). If you’re not a fan of Finn and/or Isaac, then Finn x Isaac is probably not going to make your day. Personally, I like both characters.

The central concept of “In Theory” was that, tragically, Data will never be able to return the love anyone shows him, at least not in the way a human can, because he has no emotions. Perhaps, with sufficient time, research, and practice, he could do better than he did with his hokey “honey I’m home” act, but it would still feel artificial because humans are pretty good at sniffing out insincerity, even if it’s “sincere.”

Where “Happy Refrain” refines that concept is that Finn enters the next stage of her relationship with Isaac with open eyes. She hasn’t been admiring him from afar, and knows who she’s dealing with. If she were to stop and think about things, she could also probably predict each and every one of his reactions to her romantic gestures, since he’s basically a human behavior encyclopedia/sponge.

But this isn’t about whether Isaac can perfectly simulate romantic love. It’s whether he can be a worthy, present, and servicable companion to Dr. Finn, who is lonely and for a variety of reasons has gravitated towards Isaac. In many ways he’s the perfect man, but in many other ways he’s the exact opposite, so this will take some work. This all works because it all makes sense.

Like any relationship, it’s pretty fun and exciting in the beginning, but once it’s clear Isaac is treating this like another cold experiment in human observation (Lamarr’s first round of advice is harmless, telling him to dress snazzy and bring non-rose flowers.) But Isaac fails to understand that part of what makes the beginning of a “coupling” so exciting is the mystery of that other person. “Isaac’s literal turning of the table, followed by the quick holo-reset of said table, had me in stitches.”

He eliminated any mystery by uploading all data he could find on Finn and just starts listing it all (always great to hear my mid-level hometown mentioned; The Expanse’s Miller is also from B-More!). When he sees she’s not responding well to this, he overcompensates, as Data did. Then he creates a simulated human body in the holodeck to more naturally interact with Finn, and more importantly, deletes the data from his memory so he doen’t know everything there is to know about her.

As usual, I don’t care how some kind of basically magical tech in a Trek-like show works as long as it effectively serves the narrative without feeling like a cheat. It’s also great to see Mark Jackson outside of the goofy 1950's robot suit and hear his distinctive voice without electronic modulation. And then, of course, Isaac and Finn bone.

That’s the end of things as far as Isaac is concerned, because he and Finn had very different ideas about what that meant, and he’s still new to the whole conventions of romantic relationships (i.e. they don’t end on a dime just because THE SEXUAL EVENT has taken place). Worse, Lamarr takes Isaac’s desire to break up with Finn the same way he would any non-artificial life form friend, and his advice for him to turn heel ham it up in tighty-whities is missing a LOT of context.

The crew also treats Isaac like an asshole—or rather more of an asshole than usual—because, like Finn, they’re projecting human/oid emotions and ideals upon him. Surely someone that intellectually advanced would have read the entire database of romantic ficiton, for instance, and learned that he’s quite clearly done her wrong. But like Finn wanting and hoping for something to come out of her fling with Isaac, Isaac holds true to his engrained directives: once there’s no further data to be collected, the experiment ends. Q.E.D. It’s not personal, and that’s the whole problem.

Except, there is a lot more “data to be collected”, clearly, because Finn’s and the crew’s reaction to his actions suggest he’s missing something in the equation. Furthermore, his efforts to make things more spontaneous with Finn by deleting parts of his memory starts causing internal malfunctions he did not anticipate.

The final scene with the raining, while a bit rushed, was another example of MacFarlane being an old softie to the core (like the Billy Joel a couple episodes back) and your mileage may vary once again. I’ve never even watched “Singin in the Rain” but like Finn I’ve always thought of rain as a good and happy thing (especially those sudden summer storms in Baltimore of my youth).

Also, ever since I watched the scene in The Matrix Revolutions when Neo and Trinity take the ship above the clouds (IMO the most hopeful moment of the trilogy, however fleeting), I’ve always seen rainy clouds as just one layer; that the skies are clear and the sun is shining just above them. That’s always given me comfort, and the rain itself is cleansing and nourishing. So the rain-on-the-bridge scene worked for me.

Finally, unlike “In Theory” and so many other Trek romance episodes, there’s no reset button to “A Happy Refrain.” Things aren’t going to be perfect, and they may not work out at all in the long term, but Finn and Isaac are still together, and have something here and now, and they’re going to keep working on it. Isaac has discovered that there is something of value in continuing their “coupling”, while Finn’s original optimism about there being merit in trying to date a robot is validated.
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philadlj
Mon, Jan 28, 2019, 8:29am (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: New Eden

- Frakes is well known as a consummate professional in the directing department, and he did some nice work here.

- FURNITURE is back in the ready room and I am HERE for it.

- All the intrigue surrounding Spock reminds me of the buildup to Kurtz in Apocolypse Now. Let’s hope the payoff is more Brando and less J. Peterman.

- I loved the little beat where Tilly runs out of Sickbay but then runs in the opposite direction.

- That said...there really should have been someone in the shuttlebay when her accident happened. And she probably should have been wearing some kind of safety equipment. Like, at least goggles (or space googles)?

- I wish May was a real Disco crewmember!

- In any case, I think the reason Tilly has been acting more erratically than usual (even for her) is that she's got the same "spore madness" that inflicted Stamets last season and still influences his demeanor.

- Owosekun, Airiam, Bryce, Rhys and Dr. Holland all...say things. Progress! But I still want more, particularly slice of off-duty life. I shouldn’t forget, initially Scotty, Sulu, Uhura and Chekhov didn’t have a ton of stuff to do either.

- I really liked how Pike differentiated himself from Kirk as someone a bit more by-the-book. He hewed close to the Prime Directive here without urging of his officers.

- I thought Saru would’ve made a fine full-time captain, but Pike is clearly the more experienced CO here, and they have a good dynamic.

- I like how Burnham still consistently does that thing where she tilts her head slightly, as Spock (or another Vulcan) would do. Like Saru’s hypnotic arm waving as he walks, it’s a subtle but neat character quirk.

- I too hope Jet Reno wasn’t just a cameo last week.

- While I agree that things were pretty surface-y overall, I did like the homage to the TOS theme planet.

- On that note, Orville and Disco continue to “rhyme, like poetry” (George Lucas’ words, not mine) with their episodes. This week Disco echoed Orville with a pre-warp civilization (combined with the imminent destruction of a planet), but strangely enough there was a lot more killing in the Orville episode!
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philadlj
Tue, Jan 22, 2019, 11:04am (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: Nothing Left on Earth Excepting Fishes

"It's yet another example of the awkward tonal swings on this series"

This is what The Orville has been, is, and will be.
I watch The Orville for the awkward tonal swings.
I wouldn't hold out hope it's going to change.

"It's also another example of this show feeling like warmed-over second-generation Trek leftovers"

Again, this is what The Orville has been, is, and will be.
I also watch The Orville for warmed-over TNG leftovers.
I still wouldn't hold out hope it's going to change.
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philadlj
Fri, Jan 18, 2019, 2:59pm (UTC -6)
Re: DSC S2: Brother

For reference, here are the names, ranks, and positions of the main crew of the Discovery as of this week:

Captain Christopher PIKE - Acting Commanding Officer
Commander SARU - Executive Officer
Commander Michael BURNHAM - Science Officer
Lt. Commander Paul STAMETS - Chief Engineer
Ensign Sylvia TILLY - Command Trainee
Lt. Commander AIRIAM - Spore Drive Operations Officer
Lt. Keyla DETMER - Helm/Conn Officer
Lt. Gen RHYS - Tactical Officer
Lt. J. G. Joann OWOSEKUN - Operations Officer
Lt. J. G. R. A. BRYCE - Communications Officer
Lt. J. G. Dr Tracy POLLARD - Ship's Physician
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Philadlj
Sun, Jan 13, 2019, 5:26pm (UTC -6)
Re: ORV S2: Home

I will add my voice to those who thought this was definitely one of the better episodes of The Orville to date, a 3.5 at least. I will just add that I didn't mind the new Security officer that much, but I don't mind ANY of the "contemporary"-sounding dialogue in the show, and I happen to think it's one of the elements that make The Orville unique and fun among Trek-esque shows. It portrays the ship as an office, and who the scenario of that coworker who makes a big production of eating lunch at their desk was very relatable. I hope Macfarlane can coax H Jon Benjamin onto the show sometime, preferably as another weird looking alien....because why not?!
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philadlj
Mon, Oct 22, 2018, 1:50pm (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S2: The Jem'Hadar

When Quark lectures Sisko about all of the barbarism in Earth's history compared to that of the Ferengi, he conveniently leaves out the fact that Ferengi men still forbid women from wearing clothes or earning profit.

So yeah...the Ferengi: Not all perfect!
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philadlj
Wed, Feb 21, 2018, 10:49am (UTC -6)
Re: VOY S4: The Killing Game

An obviously silly question considering the larger problems with this two-parter...but how did the (presumably drunk) Klingons know who the heck to kill and who to NOT kill when they arrived in St. Clair? I would think they'd just go after everyone, including the Americans, Chakotay, Paris, etc.
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philadlj
Wed, Feb 14, 2018, 9:01am (UTC -6)
Re: DS9 S6: You Are Cordially Invited

Just re-watched the war/occupation arc concurrently with the final weeks of Discovery, and this is a nice palate cleanser

Unsurprisingly, the best parts of this episode have nothing to do with Worf or Dax, in order of precedence:

1. Martok's repartee with his illustrious wife is one of the best (hell, ONLY) depictions of a Klingon marriage. The fact that she immediately starts out with insults and wonders why the hell he hasn't frikkin' died already, followed by him jovially promising he'll try to die "this year, if possible", is a hilarious exchange I will never tire of. I do hope Hertzler lands a role of some kind on Discovery, he's second only to Andrew Robinson as my favorite supporting actor in Trek, and Hertz has played a LOT more characters.

2. Martok telling Worf he can't interfere in his wife's domain, then discouraging Worf from talking to her either because she doesn't really like him either - more comedy gold with a firm foundation in Klingon culture. Like meeting his wife at the airlock, Hertzler's line delivery is PERFECT. Martok brough Worf into the house against his wife's wishes, and she's accepted the fact "there's nothing she can do about it!"...but Martok dare not push her farther when it comes to new family members. Worf's "how comforting" is his best line in the episode.

3. Some great O'Brian-Bashir interactions this week, with the added dynamic of Sisko and Alexander, none of whom know what they're getting into. But at the same time, all of them stick with it (until of course they learn the wedding is off, then anything goes), because despite Martok saying no one would think any less of them if they gave up, they know better.

4. Quark and Dax's friendship showing in their shared suggestion that they simply hold the wedding at the bar...which doesn't sound so great, but it's more than a bar, it's a great space to hold a wedding! I also enjoy the irony of Dax getting married in the same place she had an arbitration hearing a few years back ;)

5. As quickly and cleanly as Odo's betrayal was swept under the rug with a single act of redemption (bailing Kira and Rom out with his security forces) left a bad taste in the mouth, Kira and Odo finally deciding to find someplace quiet (Dax's closet) to talk felt like a very realistic and relatable way to try to mend fences. I especially liked Odo telling his deputies they could join the party...Odo's a great boss!

6. Nog's bizarre werewolf(?) dancing/growling at Dax's party. I'll admit I dance like that sometimes at parties...and I those who know what I'm referencing are truly worthy of my friendship.
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