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Karl Zimmerman
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 7:25pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

As I said, I could see considering Boimler's arc an inversion/perversion of what we are trained to expect from Star Trek. However, in another sense it's the same as older Trek.

Trek, after all, has always basically said "respect the chain of command - unless it's someone higher up who is an antagonist, in which case, feel free to flout the rules, or openly defy them." From Decker in TOS, to Satie in TNG, to Leyton in DS9. Hell - wasn't the whole point of the TOS movie serialized arc from TWOK through TVH that Kirk chose comrades over duty?

Regarding the issue of the "simple plot" that CaptainMercer brings up - it's sort of baked into the concept of the show. If you follow around a bunch of ensigns they aren't going to be "saving the day" every week. Frankly I find it refreshing after two seasons of Discovery and a season of Picard with ridiculously high states (save the entire multiverse, then all life in the galaxy, then perhaps all life in the galaxy again) we have a show with very low stakes interpersonal drama instead.

Regarding this episode in particular, the zombie plague thing was really the c-plot of the episode, after Boimler's personal arc and Rutherford's date. And the spider slime thing was one of the funniest elements of the entire episode, because it was directly spoofing how frequently pat solutions to problems (often via technobabble) are suddenly discovered in the third act of Trek episodes.
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Silly
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 7:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

The clocks are annoying, and the phaser storage in—- the galley??— are goofy.

This is no WOK, but there is a lot of very good stuff here. Kim Cattrall is wonderful. I’m aware that they wanted this to be Saavik, and that Mr Roddenberry vetoed it.

I can see that it feels like a plausible arc for Saavik, and obviously lines here were meant to echo WOK. But at the same time, especially in light of recent shows attempting Trek, I’m really respecting Roddenberry’s vision.
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Focksbot
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 7:22pm (UTC -5)
Re: ENT S3: Exile

I'm afraid this episode finally tipped me over my limit in terms of how many times I can watch characters angrily tell other characters that "I didn't imagine it". They're in a completely uncharted part of the universe where ships disappear into invisible pockets of space and gravity switches around in localised areas - just assume that your crewmate is right, for goodness' sake.
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Booming
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 6:01pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

@Karl Zimmermann
"But when the captain doesn't know his name - and doesn't recognize that anyone other than the senior bridge staff took any of the credit - he decides not to tell on Mariner, deciding that camaraderie with his annoying coworker is better than sucking up to an uncaring boss. He becomes slightly more cynical in the end."
But isn't that another sin not unlike what STP did? STP basically said that what we saw on TNG (or DS9) was one side of the coin, the ruling class, the elite, who live nice lifes doing meaningful things, while there are poor people with shitty replicators with high risk of getting shot by creepy robots. Let's not forget, that were the workers at the most important shipyard in the Federation. Can you even imagine how a worse post would look like...

Now this show makes this even more extreme. It says, hey guys it is really just the bridge were power hungry glory hunters try to secure their claim stomping on the lower ranks.
As you say:" He becomes slightly more cynical at the end."
And isn't that Star Trek is really about. :)
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Glen Bradley
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 5:28pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S4: The Drumhead

Wow, if Captain Picard’s soliloquy to close this episode doesn’t speak to cancel culture then I don’t know what.

This episode could have been written today and been even more relevant than when it first aired.

This one truly stands the test of time, the mark of high art.
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CaptainMercer
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 3:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

@Karl Zimerman I don't totally disagree with your assessment of the Lower Decks 'character" though I think it speaks to just the opposite of what Trek is usually about, seeking scientific and personal truth and not protecting lies or misdeeds (as this short short video points out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1Whdw9HIz8&feature=youtu.be)

My problem is that the show is frivolous in its approach, filled with unfunny gags instead of actual drama.. and the terrible art style doesn't help.
I mean it literally is, guy gets bit, turns crew into zombies, but spider on the surface has the cure. That's literally it. This is what Star trek is now after 50 years of trying to create a kind of verisimilitude in the franchise, after many years of characters trying to solve problems, it's all now a big joke?
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Karl Zimmerman
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 3:26pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

@CaptainMercer,

First, I'm sorry for putting words in your mouth. I don't think we disagree that much about DIS and PIC, to be honest.

The one thing I'd push back on is there's a very clear character focus/arc in the first episode, which deals with Ensign Boimler.

Boimler starts the episode being the perfect Starfleet nerd/suckup. All he wants to do is impress the Captain and the senior staff and make a good impression, so that he can eventually reach command. He begins the episode loathing Mariner, and rightfully so. But when the captain doesn't know his name - and doesn't recognize that anyone other than the senior bridge staff took any of the credit - he decides not to tell on Mariner, deciding that camaraderie with his annoying coworker is better than sucking up to an uncaring boss. He becomes slightly more cynical in the end.

Now, you can argue that this character arc is an inversion - perhaps even a perversion - of anything Trek has shown before. I'd argue no however, it's just that normally our window into the Trekverse is captains, so the Admirals are the ones who are insane and/or evil when you want to introduce conflict in the ranks. Either way though, it is a relatable character dilemma, and shows something is there beyond just goofy jokes.
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Karl Zimmerman
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 3:19pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

@OmicronThetaDeltaPhi

Stepping outside of Trek for a second, let's talk Game of Thrones. I was a big book fan prior to the series, and the first four seasons were some of the best TV ever made. And then D&D famously ruined the show, completely and utterly, once they no longer had GRRM's books to work off of and had to write without a net.

That sucked for me as a fan. It almost sucked enough to invalidate the enjoyment of the earlier seasons. But that doesn't mean I get to say that the seasons didn't really happen. They did, and it ruined the series. Reading occasional (much better) alternate season outlines from fans is a fun exercise, but it doesn't change what happened. Reality is reality, unless HBO says "nope" and reshoots the damn thing - which isn't gonna happen, because I'm not entitled to anything from HBO.
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Anonymous Texan
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 2:26pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

@wolfstar,
Thanks for re-posting. I somehow missed this comment earlier; it's very thoughtful and on point. I hadn't thought about the psychological aspects of this episode enough, and your analysis of Alixus' character, her control of the colonists, and her dynamic with Sisko really highlight some strengths of the episode I hadn't considered.

I also hadn't noticed the subtle racial dynamic between Alixus, Sisko, and O'Brien. Interesting that Star Trek, which displays a post-racial society, can wordlessly address racial issues through powerful images.

@Peter G.,
Thank you for the kind response.

You make a very good point about the failings of Alixus' characterization. The writers went for the villain mold right off the bat, maybe to set up the interesting Sisko/Alixus dynamic for tension or just because of lazy writing. I did like her overall personality because I think it makes a small point on how extremist positions tend to find a voice in extreme, inflexible personalities. I think the qualities (of which @wolfstar has given a spot-on analysis) ought to have been revealed more slowly, as you suggested, or maybe needed to coexist with more virtuous qualities to complicate her character.

On further thought, I agree with you that my response is perhaps reading between the lines too much and giving the writers too much benefit of the doubt. There really is only implicit evidence throughout for my final conclusion - I would add the interesting bit about Starfleet uniforms, Alixus' desire to remove them, and how O'Brien only commits an act of violence when he is physically out of his uniform, perhaps a commentary on what the uniform embodies (again, probably reading between lines too much). I will also blatantly plagiarize @wolfstar's great comment and point out the ingenuity displayed in the Dax/Kira plot, in spite of the poor dialogue and silly plot, serving as an example of the daily challenges faced by Starfleet officers. And lastly the virtuous characters of Sisko and O'Brien, contrasted with the cowed colonists and psychotic cult leader, really speak to those characters' strengths, if only implicitly Starfleet's (and also to the failings of Alixus' so-called strong community).

Like you said, I think this episode needed more time to work through the problems it presented. It feels like it should have run somewhere between the length of a full episode and a two-parter. Ultimately, I think there was a lot of missed opportunity to flesh out issues of technology, power, cult psychology, violence, 'the uniform,' the good life, etc. Perhaps a high-concept idea was marred by the need for a 45-minute, tension-oriented format.
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Nolan
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 2:11pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

Personally I can't stand this episode because Alixus' voice is like nails on a chalkboard to me. It's got this really strong wavering/warble-y aspect to it that makes me actually cringe - and not in that meaningless meme way either.

She sounds like she's constantly on the verge of tears, ready to give in to anxiety like a child in the process of being scolded, yet her character is an unopposed (by her community) strong-willed and confident leader of people, who has convinced people to follow her into hardship - yet her voice doesn't carry ANY of that. So in one aspect I don't buy what the episode tells me about her because of her vocal performance, but on a far more viseral level I don't like this episode because her voice makes me want to rip my ears off. Haha.
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CaptainMercer
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 1:41pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

@Karl Zimmerman

Star trek is a drama/ adventure.. and the reason those comedy episodes work is that they are a relief form the drama.. and often times they seem to start out and play like regular episodes.. and then you realize that they are using all the tools they have used for dramatic storytelling to make these comedies.

I would argue that the best Trek comedy that you did not mention is "House of Quark".. a perfect comedy because it actually compares and contrasts two different cultures by smashing their idealisms against one another.

Please don't lump me in a category.. even if it is "I hate CBS".. because I have not done so for you. I think Pike is a good captain on "Discovery" and seeing him got me invested in the show. i like Picard MORE than I hate it, as it beautifully shot,, produced and acted and did a lot of challenging things. I just don't see what the point of LD i except to copy another show (Orville) which is copying (or, in my mind, continuing in all but name only) Star Trek. The key tom Orville's success is the same as what I mentioned above, it's really a drama starring good characters and facing real dilemmas.

With Lower Decks, we see htat philosphy being betrayed.
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OmicronThetaDeltaPhi
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 1:36pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

@Karl Zimmerman
"Regardless your argument seems to boil down to 'I don't like CBS, and therefore it's not canon.' This is silly, because fans can decide what they like or don't like, but fans cannot decide what counts or doesn't count."

Sure we can.

You're not seriously suggesting that the fans should give CBS an absolute authorative power over us when it comes to Star Trek, do you? We're intelligent consumers of entertainment, not members of some cult.

So yes, when CBS decides to throw everything that made Trek "Trek" and start making offensive garbage like DIS or PIC, we most certainly *are* allowed to say "no, I'm sorry, I can't accept this sh*t as canon".

Among other things, I don't accept a war criminal (Burnham) becoming the savior of the universe, Unklingon klingons, Starfleet planting bombs to kill mourners, Starfleet threatening mass genocide for absolutely reason, Icheb being tortured to death, Seven becoming a serial killer, the Federation just forgetting about the Dominion war yet still managing to collapse into a dystopia, pineapple-only replicators, and Picard ending up as a gibbering idiot that everybody love to ridicule.

And while Lower Decks isn't (yet?) as offensive as the above examples, I don't see any particular reason to accept it as canon either.

In short: I personally love pre-2009 Trek too much to contaminate it with this stuff. If you feel otherwise, that's perfectly fine. You, too, are free to view Star Trek in any way you see fit. It's a TV show, for God's sake.
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James G
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 12:57pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Unification

Wonderful to see Spock in a TNG, but ..

The first episode is slow and laborious. There's some very nice dialogue between Sarek and Picard, showcasing the talents of two brilliant actors. But the plot doesn't seem that interesting, and by the time the second part concludes, I had myself concluded that it's a dreadful story. It actually feels a bit like fan-fic. Boatloads of mawkish sentimentality, really awful cliches and stupid jokes - Riker being the hard man in the bar, the preposterous piano player, Worf's passion for Klingon opera.

The evil alien Queen who tells her captives the whole plan, like a Bond villain.

And the whole premise of the story is the shallowest cliche of all - an alien invasion fleet. They should have had them turn up in flying saucers.

Some good scenes again between Picard and Spock. Nimoy plays the older, more thoughtful, philosophical Spock really nicely. But again it really feels self-indulgent.

Without all the sentimental dialogue, gravitas and nostalgia you've got a really unimaginative and thin story here that you'd struggle to stretch to one episode, let alone two.

It's surprising to me that Romulans and Vulcans are supposed to have diverged "centuries" earlier - Romulans are as physically different from Vulcans as Neanderthals are from Homo Sapiens. That sort of evolutionary divergence takes many scores of thousands of years, not a few centuries.

The breaking of the ciphers to access the Romulan systems is far too easy, but then again this was made in the early '90s, and even modern TV dramas are similarly naive. Chloe from '24' is a perfect case in point.

What a shame that Spock and Sarek were provided with such an inferior vehicle for their return to the Star Trek universe.
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wolfstar
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 12:13pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

This is a tremendous episode - a nuanced, sophisticated look at cult dynamics unlike anything else in Trek - and the issues with the ending, as discussed exhaustively above (I agree with William B regarding the ending), shouldn't be allowed to overshadow the whole thing. The episode does not vindicate Alixus or pull an "Alixus was right" twist at the final hour, though it does come dangerously close. It also doesn't let her off the hook in terms of answering for her crimes.

Alixus is the worst kind of narcissistic, manipulative holier-than-thou abuser, as the smart script and strong performance make evidently clear - an adept brainwasher who's prepared to abduct and kill in the name of the "common good" and the "community", but really it's all just about her power, like Winn but worse; what they share is that they never use direct aggression to achieve their aims, instead passive-aggression, control and manipulation, all beneath a beneficient layer of plausible deniability. This is pretty close to how the most evil cult leaders, groomers and abusers operate in reality. She's a true sociopath and psychopath; everyone else's wellbeing is totally collateral to her, she's only interested in other people insofar as they prop up her power and serve her delusion. In a really great piece of writing, the only way she even seems able to experience or conceptualize others' suffering is in narcissistic ways that put the focus back on herself (when Sisko says "What of the dead?", she replies "Only my son knows how I have suffered" - it's the "this will hurt me more than it will hurt you" school of thinking; everything is about psychological control). Abusers in group situations requires an enabler, and here Joseph fulfills that function, though I agree his characterisation is inconsistent - but the Joseph shown at the end is subservient to her and unwilling to stand up to her even once the truth has been revealed; worse, he repeats her dogma and speaks for the entire group in her place when she is removed at the end to take responsibility for her crimes, segueing into the leadership role in a way that, yes, isn't entirely believable or well-executed (the same applies to the total lack of the reaction from the group).

The battle of wills between Alixus and Sisko is riveting, and Avery Brooks's performance is outstanding, full of dignity, unbroken spirit and burning passion - the fact that it's a black man and an Irishman whom she's abducted, tortured and made work in the fields isn't lost on present-day audiences. The uniform becomes a symbolic issue of control and the object of their power game (a little like Sisko's baseball would between him and Dukat) precisely because of its representative value and the message Alixus knows it would send to the rest of the group; she knows the Starfleet presence is a threat to her rule and stands for the possibility of an outside world and an alternative authority and way of doing things. Crushing Sisko's will and assimilating him into the group would crush any lingering thoughts of freedom among the others. The wordless scene where Ben chooses to return to the box rather than live in her community is incredibly powerful. O'Brien following this by taking decisive action to shatter the status quo and get himself, Sisko and hopefully everyone else out of there is also rousing. While I agree there are issues with the over-swift ending and the lack of outrage from the group, I totally echo Justin's comment above: "Anyone who doesn't understand why the colonists acted the way they did has never seen a cult at work. These people have been brainwashed by their leader for 10 years, and brutally punished for crimes of individuality or opposition [...]. When the truth is revealed to them, of course they choose to ignore what it means. It breaks the worldview that's been hammered into them every day for a decade. The only ones capable of rational, objective thought are the ones who have yet to be fully indoctrinated: the two children we see solemnly staring at the cage at the end of the final scene."

Works for me. It's not necessarily implied the colony will continue, but that they're now free to decide their future. I suspect a lot of them will leave.

Jadzia and Kira's rescue mission may seem less dramatically compelling by comparison, but it works as a strong contrast - here are two independent women who do have real power but who use it responsibly by working together to help others, out of a true selfless sense of community. The maneuver Jadzia performs to pull the Rio Grande out of warp risks both her and Kira's lives, and they're both prepared to do this because they trust and respect each other and because of their responsibility to Sisko and O'Brien, important members of their community. This true selflessness and collegial communal spirit stands in total contrast to Alixus's entirely self-serving and hollow instrumentalisation of "community" as a tool of power; she's prepared to sacrifice anyone, even her son, to her ideals, but never herself.

For the record, I'm highly critical of anti-tech episodes like the BSG finale and to some extent Children Of Time. This isn't one - it veers too close to being one at the end, but ultimately it isn't. It's a thoughtful script with no easy endings that doesn't endorse Alixus and condemns her pretty strongly throughout.

3.5

(I took Anonymous Texan's superb comment on this episode today as an opportunity to repost my own comment from March 2017 originally posted under my old username "N".)
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Peter G.
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 12:12pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

@ Anonymous Texan,

Nice write-up, this encapsulates some thoughts I've had before. The one aspect of it that didn't occur to me, that Starfleet itself is the marriage between Alixus' ideals and the technological age, probably didn't because it's not really part of the episode's narrative. I agree that we can *find it* between the lines, but the writers definitely did not go there. The fact that you noticed the Starfleet guy was the last to give in is quite interesting, and if it's pointedly deliberate by the writers to say what you think they're saying, then I have to just wonder at why they were so inept as to not take even one moment to show just how much strength Starfleet can provide to people who need challenge in an age of luxury. That would be a huge Trek message to put out there, and probably hasn't been stated clearly in that way since TOS.

I've spent most of my time in the threat arguing against the plot being silly and so forth, but if I'm being honest about an objective appraisal I think that the sub-plot with Kira and Dax was pure wasted screen time that could have fleshed out the philosophical problem more. Alixus is definitely supposed to be objecting to something *real*, something that really does bother most people and that for some is intolerable. But the important issue she observes gets lost beneath her character, which when assassinated kills the point she's making too. The writers needed to have more separation between her and her belief; or better yet, wait a bit to start to make us worried about her. It would have been cool if we were actually quite supportive of her at first.
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Anonymous Texan
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 11:57am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Paradise

Surprised at how many people outright hate this episode. Definitely has flaws in execution, but I think the concept is very good.

The SETUP IS INANE. There's no reason why two senior staff members of DS9 have to do scouting missions like this one. Their procedures during the mission are nonsensical. Further, the Kira/Dax plot is facepalm-inducing: "We lost two senior staff members, so let's send another two galloping to their rescue!" And the 'roping' dialogue - urgh.

Regardless, I'm WILLING TO IGNORE these stupid plot points on the grounds that many Star Trek episodes, even the good ones, have questionable setups or finishes.

People here appear to have TWO LINES OF CRITICISM for this episode (with variations): (1) There's no way that the colonists would so easily get on board, and even if they did, there's absolutely no way they would all choose to stay at the end, and (2) Alixus' anti-technology stance is stupid, unconvincing, hypocritical, and yet another example of Star Trek inexplicably promoting primitivism.

WE SHOULD RETHINK (1). Keep in mind, these people are colonists - therefore they were prepared to be away from family (if they even had any), friends, career, etc. for an extended period of time. Yes, they may have embarked with the idea that they could go back at some point, but I think colonists probably self-select as generally unattached people (or even social outsiders, like the pilgrims). In fact, colonists, by their very nature, seek a sense of purpose, of building something of their own. What better demographic for Alixus to seduce to her extremist philosophy?

We also don't know what has happened for the past 10 years. There's no indication that Alixus immediately took over; the Starfleet engineer guy even admits he was 'the last conquest.' There may have been a power struggle, but we don't know because the episode is purposely giving us the perspective of Sisko and O'Brien. So, from the inside, the community had a history that perhaps justified how people thought in the present, but Sisko and O'Brien had the right sort of outside perspective to realize that everyone was a bit loony.

Many have pointed to Alixus' speeches as dull, repetitive, and unconvincing, but she won the argument long ago and the speeches are perhaps an almost RITUALISTIC REAFFIRMATION of belief for the community, a phenomenon easily observable in cults, mainstream religions (think of Christian litanies), or fanatical political movements. These speeches don't ring true only to the uninitiated (us!).

I agree that it's both UNLIKELY AND INTELLECTUALLY INSULTING that one man could 'speak for the community' at the end, and would have liked to have seen a more agonizing decision. I also agree that the acting, beyond Brooks and Meaney, was lackluster.

As for Alixus' philosophy (2), I find it HIGHLY BELIEVABLE. But just because it's fleshed out in a 3-D form does NOT automatically make the script an ENDORSEMENT for this philosophy, as some seem to be taking it.

One of the great things about DS9 was its DESIRE TO POKE HOLES in the TNG narrative and flesh out 24th century humans. TNG showed the best of humanity using its best technology to explore new worlds, all while moralizing about how humanity has 'evolved.' DS9, by contrast, thrust us to the margins of the Federation, politically UNSTABLE and morally AMBIGUOUS. We meet species who don't like the Federation; we see exploitation, corruption, militarism; and best of all, we see how these 'evolved' humans react to these pressures.

This episode is in that DS9 tradition. Here we have MARGINAL figures (colonists who perhaps were such outsiders that no one ever checked in with them) taken over by a marginal thinker. We see that the best and brightest of TNG are NOT representative of everyone. In fact, some question how 'evolved' humanity really is. Some feel RUDDERLESS AND SOFT in a society where EVERYTHING IS PROVIDED for them (Alixus!). Aren't these echoes of the very criticisms we hear of the Federation from Cardassians, Ferengi, Klingons, etc.? That they are 'soft,' morally 'arrogant,' and 'insidious.'

OF COURSE primitivism is utter fantasy - the writers point this out: people die needlessly, Alixus hypocritically uses technology, institutionalized violence has taken hold (the spears, the 'hot box'). The idea of this story is that TECHNOLOGY ALONE DOES NOT IMPROVE HUMANITY. Alixus is an EXTREMIST who sees technological society as IRREDEEMABLE.

THE POINT is that having better technology does not make us better humans - humans have to WORK to be virtuous, by PRACTICING MORALITY. This is the crux of the episode, and why focusing on Sisko and O'Brien's perspective is BRILLIANT. Alixus sees material comfort as preventing the sort of tests that improve humans. But the answer to Alixus is STARFLEET ITSELF, an organization that puts 'evolved' humans TO THE TEST every day, and has proven itself to be an overall MORAL INSTITUTION. Sisko and O'Brien, even with their technology, are just as tough and virtuous as the community members, because they pursue challenging careers that put their morals on the line (I hear echoes of 'Encounter at Farpoint').

Indeed, what more powerful demonstration can there be of true 'evolved' humanity than Sisko's non-violent protest of Alixus' brutal methods? Or O'Brien's real ingenuity in discovering the truth and outwitting the colonists? Whereas the colonists, with Alixus' guidance, hide the truth from themselves (I think this is part of why they hadn't discovered the field dampener) and make hollow paeans to 'ingenuity' and 'toughness,' those very qualities are what Sisko and O'Brien use to defeat Alixus.

Alixu is unlikable. Her moral equivocating is repugnant. But the fact that she exists, and that she could win people over to her side under the right circumstances, complicates the Federation for us. The people not in Starfleet, the people with boring desk jobs or uninspiring careers, at some level sense that they are NOT REACHING THEIR POTENTIAL in a world of MATERIAL ABUNDANCE (notice the Starfleet guy was the last one won over).

This internal sense of failure matters to our understanding of Star Trek, and it matters to us today. In the 21st century technology and material conditions in the US are better than ever, and yet many feel an INTANGIBLE SENSE OF DESPAIR and frustration (which we see every day in politics and online discussions). Think historically too, of UTOPIAN SOCIALISTS in the 1800s or MODERNISTS at the turn of the century. This dissatisfaction is a VERY REAL PHENOMENON. And still the episode has a positive message, implicitly rebutting Alixus with Starfleet itself, an organization that synthesizes technological progress with the improvement of humanity. The episode even acknowledges that some (the colonists) feel the need to find purpose elsewhere.

In short, thought-provoking and believable concept hampered by flaws in execution.

Sorry for the long comment. I actually haven't posted here before and usually roll my eyes at the longer comments, but now I understand why people post them.
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Karl Zimmerman
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 11:15am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

OmicronThetaDeltaPhi

Going through each of your concerns.

1. The tone doesn't really matter to me. It's pretty clear to anyone who watches it Star Trek is not intended as a literal documentary of the Trekverse. The Universal Translator probably doesn't automatically fix the mouths of aliens so they are speaking English - and shouldn't be working when no humans are around. Recast roles don't mean the individuals got plastic surgery between episodes. The sometimes stylized lighting and sountracks don't exist within universe. Some episodes outright explore the question of an unreliable narrator. And of course there's the extremely lo-fi effects of TOS. The way I have always taken Trek is the events show onscreen actually happen, but the visual depiction of them cannot be trusted to be literally true. Thus one could see Lower Decks as a comedy simply because we're seeing a "cut" of reality which focuses on the few funny moments which happen over the course of a day.

2. The actual science-fiction part of this episode was honestly not that outre. I mean, a zombie virus and a giant plant-eating spider? What's that ridiculous about that by past Trek standards? Regardless, even if you discard TOS, there is plenty of crap which wouldn't be considered to be "hard sci-fi" by any means in all eras of Star Trek.

3. I had major problems squaring away Discovery with the existing Trek timeline, as would anyone with half a brain. It seems to have suffered heavily from Fuller initially wanting to do a total reboot, then getting shitcanned, then developed by committee as it lumbered forward Frankenstein-style since CBS was dead-set on new Trek. Picard made some questionable calls, but aside from some concerns with visuals, I don't see how it outright conflicts with canon (particularly since it's not a prequel in any way). As you noted, this series looks/feels like a Trek show, which makes sense, since the showrunner is a gigantic TNG fanboi.

In order to presume this isn't in continuity, you basically have to give me something concrete that they fucked up. And aside from maybe the argument that we wouldn't have fuckups like these in Starfleet, I'm just not seeing - so far - what it could be.
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Karl Zimmerman
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 11:02am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

@CaptainMecer

While I admit historically exploration of the human condition was core to Star Trek, I'm not sure I'd agree that it was core to Star Trek comedy.

The best Trek comedies are either from TOS (Trouble with Tribbles, I Mudd, and A Piece of the Action) or DS9 (Little Green Men, the Magnificent Ferengi, In The Cards, Our Man Bashir, Trials and Tribble-ations, etc). I think TNG had humorous moments, but no true comedy episodes, only "lighthearted" ones. VOY's few attempts were awful (Bride of Chaotica was okay, but not really funny), and ENT really lacked them entirely.

When I think about the best Trek comedies, I really don't see a deep exploration of themes and character. I'm not saying it can't be done - comedy can be deep and incisive. But that's not what Trek has done typically. If anything the standby in Trek "humor" tends to be to try and take references from some other setting (mobsters, James Bond, 1950s B movies, Flash Gordon, etc) and work them into the plot somehow, even if the explanation is ridiculous. And honestly, this makes sense, because the key component of humor is something being out of place. People have to either act in an unexpected manner, or have something unexpected/absurd happen to them.

Regardless your argument seems to boil down to "I don't like CBS, and therefore it's not canon." This is silly, because fans can decide what they like or don't like, but fans cannot decide what counts or doesn't count. Canon was after all originally a term for official religious texts which had the sanction of authorities. CBS gets to decide what is canon, not you. You can just decide what you want to watch.
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William B
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 10:34am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Lower Decks

@wolfstar, that makes sense to me re: Voyager. I think that viewing the show as a Sirkish self-aware melodrama enhances it. It reminds me that Angel/Firefly writer Tim Minear has said that he and Whedon had discussed the Mutant Enemy (Buffy/Angel/Firefly/etc.) house style as being Sirkish, stylized, colourful, grandiose, a bit cheeky, and that's another set of shows with a big queer following.

In terms of classic Hollywood movies with a queer following, I was just thinking about Suddenly, Last Summer and I can somewhat imagine the Voyager-era Melgrew, Ryan and Picardo in the Hepburn, Taylor and Clift roles. I'd sure like to see that.

It will probably come up at some point in the discussions surrounding Elliott's commentary (when he gets back to it), but the differing responses to Voyager are probably worthwhile to check into. I feel like I'm kind of on the edge of appreciating Voyager's pleasures and being put off by its numerous, well-documented (c.f. Jammer's reviews, Ron Moore essay, etc.) flaws.

@James,

"In the first episode of Lower Decks, we have a disease turning people into bile-spewing zombies, and a giant spider which attacks a crew member. For what purpose? Presumably to acquaint us with the crew. That doesn't make it a good use of the sci-fi premise. There's no reason it couldn't have been done in the Stargate or Firefly or Battlestar universe, or any other fictional universe."

I don't know about Stargate, but I can't see this happening in Firefly or Battlestar (at least the modern iteration), at least not in the way it sounds. I guess if it's a specifically engineered virus (by the Alliance or by the Cylons) and a...robot giant spider, maybe, but both of those universes were deliberately excavated of alien elements and tended not to do the "wacky disease" trope too much. Both are precedentedly Trekkish though, which is not to say that they are good Trek tropes.
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Adam
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 8:34am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S2: Invasive Procedures

I'm halfway through this episode. Star Trek hasn't exactly shone in the villain of the week aspect, and Verad is an example. His acting is terrible, the delivery of lines was stiled and I was embarrassed every time he opened his mouth. This isn't just because of how the character is written, it's how he was played - badly.
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bencanuck
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 7:43am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Macrocosm

@Jason R.: "poor continuity"

I used to think this too (and it may indeed be true of later seasons which I haven't re-watched recently!), but the specific examples that I pointed out in early S3 are actually running threads of continuity. My whole point is that I'm surprised at what was actually there and what I missed.
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Jason R.
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 7:15am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Macrocosm

@bencanuck ok fair enough I guess I didn't pay attention to the time period.

That said it is hard to imagine how Moore's critique was less valid in season 3 versus 6. All the things he attributed to a misguided and slapdash approach to writing (the story's lack of consistency, poor continuity, total squandering and rejection of its central premise, disrespect for its characters, etc...) were true in Season 3 as surely as Season 6. If the back office wasn't in disarray in earlier seasons it sure didn't impact the quality appreciably.

I will concede, mind you, that I am not as familiar with Voyager as I am with TNG or DS9 although I have watched every episode of the series at one time or another, either at the time of original airing or in syndication.
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bencanuck
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 6:19am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Macrocosm

@Jason R.

Ron Moore joined very briefly in Season 6. Not only is this three years later, but a completely different showrunner was in charge in Season 3 (Jeri Taylor, not Brannon Braga). It's quite possible for both to be true.
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Jason R.
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 5:36am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Macrocosm

"I'm beginning to wonder if season 3 was actually rather subtle on character development and some of us missed it at the time. I seem to have missed some of the interesting cues."

Given what we learned from that Ronald Moore interview concerning the state of Voyager's writing department and showrunners at this time, I would say anything is possible but I really really doubt it. It is safe to say that Voyager's writers were as lost and adrift as surely as the good ship herself.
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bencanuck
Mon, Aug 10, 2020, 5:17am (UTC -5)
Re: VOY S3: Macrocosm

Skywalker (in 2016) points out that Janeway is painting at the end of the episode, and this harks back to "Sacred Ground". She has adapted this into her personality. Perhaps the thing she felt the loss of at the end of that episode is resurfacing. She is changing from the little girl who loved mathematics and never enjoyed life's nebulous answers. It's continuous but subtle.

But while the end of the episode recalls the past, the beginning of the episode foreshadows the future. It is the first time that Janeway suggests Neelix as ambassador. This, like his security practice mentioned in "Warlord" and the breakup with Kes there that deprives him of his emotional grounding, contributes to his arc heading into "Fair Trade". He really has nothing. They are at the end of his usefulness. He is hoping to extend it in some way. Security? Diplomacy? What is he? Who is Neelix to others? And does he know it and can he accept it?

I'm beginning to wonder if season 3 was actually rather subtle on character development and some of us missed it at the time. I seem to have missed some of the interesting cues.
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