30 October 2016


Episode: s5, ep 2

I don't normally enjoy scrolling through lots of fan art and memes to find episode images, this episode is the exception.

What Happens
The Federation have received messages from an enigmatic race called the Tamarians. Previous attempts at communication have been incomprehensible and the recent messages don't have clear content. The Tamarians are letting the Federation know they're there, but no one is sure why, so the Enterprise goes to investigate. They hail the Tamarian ship, but the Tamarians speak in a series of names and short phrases, neither Data nor the ship's translators can understand the meaning. Picard tries to suggest diplomatic relations, but this doesn't go anywhere. The Tamarian captain discusses Darmok at Tanagra with his crew, who seem shocked by his words. He does a symbolic-looking gesture then he and Picard are beamed to the planet's surface and the alien ship creates a barrier that blocks transporters and communications.
Riker tries to get Picard back, but the communication issues with the Tamarians remain. Worf suggests an aggressive approach, Riker wants to avoid that. Picard and the alien captain are monitored by sensors from the Enterprise. The senior staff realise the Tamarians talk entirely in references, but without the context they can't get at the meaning. Data and Troi look at what the Tamarian captain said before he and Picard went to the planet, they figure out that Darmok is a semi-mythical hunter and Tanagra is an island continent. Geordi tries to get through the barrier using tech, but this doesn't work. Worf tries to go down to the planet in a shuttle, but the Tamarians won't let him, although they're careful not to do lasting damage.
On the planet Picard and the Tamarian captain try to communicate, Picard is frustrated because he doesn't know why they're there. He keeps trying to figure out the other captain's phrases, but offers no teaching about his own words. At night the Tamarian offers Picard some of his fire when the Star Fleet captain can't get his own going. In the morning the Tamarian is gone, but Picard finds what he thinks is a journal, though he can't understand the writing. The Tamarian races over and Picard at first thinks he's angry, but a distant roar reveals that the danger is elsewhere. The two captains face down a beastie that phases in and out of sight. As the beastie attacks Picard is nearly beamed away, but the Enterprise can't get a lock on him and when he's returned to the planet the Tamarian is badly injured.
Round a campfire the Tamarian tells Picard the story of Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, two men who came separately across the sea, meet during a hunt and become friends while fighting together. Picard realises that his companion has tried recreating this story between the two of them in order to forge a bond, perhaps just between them or between their people. Picard tells his friend the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, then the Tamarian dies, mirroring the fate of Enkidu.* Picard lays his friend to rest and says he understands his sacrifice. He hears the creature's roar. When the Enterprise sees that the other captain has died Riker is determined to retrieve Picard and they attack the Tamarian ship to destroy the barrier. The ships exchange fire, the barrier is destroyed and Picard beamed away just as the beastie is about to attack. The Enterprise is damaged so they can't go to warp. Picard hails the Tamarian ship and uses the phrases he picked up to explain what happened to their captain, then presents his friend's journal, which is beamed away. The hostilities stop and Picard isn't sure if they've made friends, but at least they aren't enemies.

Oh Captain My Captain
Picard is keen to communicate with patience and imagination and is sure the Tamarians aren't truly incomprehensible. He doesn't demonstrate this at all when actually confronted with them. Although neither group have any idea what the other is saying Picard initially suggests a mutual non-aggression pact, trade agreement or cultural exchange. These are not the best concepts to begin with when facing communication and language issues, maybe just start with a friendly greeting? Despite his earlier confidence he doesn't seem comfortable with a situation he can't talk his way out of. The Tamarian captain's solution to the issue is pretty drastic, kidnapping his counterpart and putting them both in dangerous situation to forge a bond. Even if this is the kind of thing that is more acceptable in their culture the Tamarian deputy is pretty shocked by the plan. It's just lucky Picard is wearing a warmer version of his usual uniform, although he couldn't have known in advance that he'd end up spending the night outside.
On the planet Picard first assumes that when he is handed a dagger it is so the two of them can fight, and he throws it back at his companion. It is clear from the other Captain's body language that he is disappointed, but also determined to see his plan through. Each keeps trying to communicate, and the Tamarian initially extends a hand of friendship, but of course he knows why they're there. I'm surprised more isn't made of body language and gesture as other methods of communication. Both are humanoid, space-faring people, so one would think certain similarities could be found, but I suppose that isn't the focus of the episode. Once the danger of the teleporting beastie (if it is teleporting, I'm not really sure and I don't think it matters) is plain the two work in concert through necessity. Picard does not stop talking, even when they're fighting the beastie. He's dismayed when he's nearly beamed away and his friend is injured. Picard grasps the story of Darmok and Jalad at Tenegra and how that relates to their situation; a purposeful recreation of a story. He picks up the meaning, if not the context of many other Tamarian phrases. There's no sign that Picard tries to impart any of his language to his companion, but again the focus is Picard learning, not teaching. 
Picard tells the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu to his injured friend, and although he knows that he can't understand the bulk of the words he tells a simplified version. The Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest known work of human fiction, although Picard only tells one section of it and misses out the bits with the harlot and the goddess.** It has parallels with the Darmok story, two men who come together and participate in a hunt then become friends. It is natural therefore that events should mirror the story with one of the newly-made friends dying. Picard determines that his friend's death shouldn't be in vain, though there's no indication of what the follow-through is, other than Picard using his language skills to prevent hostilities in the short term.

Riker: adventurer, lover, middle-management
While Picard is away Riker demonstrates the leadership skills that people keep offering him promotions for. He does all the stuff Picard would probably do. he tries talking to the Tamarians, but they mostly ignore him and he doesn't have Picard's calm. He calls a staff meeting to discuss the situation, including how to communicate with the Tamarians and how to destroy or get around the barrier. The Tamarians make it clear that they won't allow anyone else to go down to the planet, although they too are careful not to escalate the situation. It is only as they realise that Picard and the other Captain are in real danger that Riker becomes more threatening towards the other ship. He doesn't understand their apparent indifference to their Captain's fate, not realising that the Tamarians are in fact displaying loyalty to their Captain's wishes. Once the Tamarian captain dies Riker is willing to attack the other ship to save Picard, but like his counterpart he only uses the force necessary to achieve his aim of destroying the barrier and getting Picard back.

Klingon Warrior
Typically Worf is wary about not knowing motive for the messages, says they could be threatening the Federation border, the others ignore his concerns. After Picard is taken Worf wants to attack the Tamarian ship, but Riker holds him back to find a peaceable solution. Worf is sent to the planet in a shuttle to retrieve Picard, but the barrier causes communication problems and as he gets close the Tamarians fire on the shuttle, just enough to damage it without injury. It is clear the Tamarians still on the ship are being careful and deliberate.

Planet of... Pop Culture References
An entire method of communicating through reference to and imagery from shared stories. It's an interesting thing to explore and means that the little-mentioned -but presumably oft-used- universal translators in Trek only work to an extent. Given how much references are used to communicate in online spaces this concept feels pretty forward-looking. I really like the focus on narrative, history and myth as a method of communication and by creating even the little cultural background we get here it gives the Tamarians more depth than most of the random species that turn up for an episode. Also I'm totally here for Classical and ancient references, so the brief tale from the Epic of Gilgamesh was a lovely surprise.
ETA: So looking through images for this ep I now understand a lot more memes. Also the meta-ness of all this is a thing of beauty.

Not from this ep, but made me giggle
Staff Meetings: 3
1. Picard and senior crew discuss the Tamarian situation and the history of their ambiguous and confusing contact. Worf is wary (natch) and Troi says all previous encounters suggest peaceful intentions so they have to start from there. Picard is (misguidedly) confident about communicating.
2. Riker runs a staff meeting about getting Picard back. Geordi thinks he can help but it'll take a day to work. Worf isn't concerned about Picard's safety as he's convinced of the captain's skills as a warrior, but he does think they should attack to end the stalemate. Troi says they don't know whether it's a challenge and Data says further study could help. Riker wants to leave violence as a last resort, and tells Troi and Data to study.
3. After failing to beam Picard back and realising the Tamarian captain is injured Riker says they have to take out the barrier. Geordi and Worf figure out a way to do it fast using the ship's weapons, Riker ends them to sort that out. Troi and Data report that their research revealed the Tamarians abstract unusually and communciate entirely in imagery based on narrative. They've found definitions for Darmok and Tanagra, bit without knowing the stories behind the words they can't understand the meaning of what is being said. So all that research was a dead end really.

Death by Space Misadventure
Captain Dathon (whose name is said in dialogue only once at the very end and I had to check a transcript and Memory Alpha to be sure that's what it was), who gave his life to create a bond with an incomprehensible alien. Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. Shaka when the walls fell.

The End
Riker brings Picard a damage report and notices that the captain is reading Greek. Picrad says he's reading the Homeric Hymns, believing that a greater understanding of the root narratives of their own culture may help in future interactions with the Tamarians. Picard wistfully points out that his friend's commitment to communication between them meant more than his life. Picard stands sombrely by his tall window, framed from outside the ship.

* No spoiler warning seeing as how the Epic of Gilgamesh is the oldest known narrative in human history. An epic poem from Sumerian (the oldest known language) and Akkadian, it was told in ancient Mesopotamia (Middle East) back in the early days of human civilisation. Gilgamesh's adventures don't end with Enkidu's death though and the story is worth looking up if you're interested in that kind of thing.

** I'm always amused that some translations of Gilgamesh use the term harlot, presumably because the translations were done by respectable, scholarly men in the 1950s. There's another Mesopotamian myth with a male character in a similar role and he is at times referred to as a play-boy, because there's no good term for a male harlot.

17 October 2016

Redemption (Part 2)

Episode: S5, ep 1

I remembered how to blog! Apparently I have not yet remembered brevity, but it's been a while and this is a pretty full and complex episode. And I feel really bad for Tasha Yar all over again.

This episode is a direct sequel to Redemption (Part 1), but also follows on from Yesterday's Enterprise back in series 3 and the whole Worf's honour plotline across various epsiodes.

What Happens
Previously: there's a Klingon civil war and Picard -despite his past involvement in Klingon politics- can't get involved. Worf convinced his brother Kurn to fight for Gowron and must resign from Star Fleet to join him. Worf and Gowron's opponents, the Duras family, have secretly allied with Romulans and... wait, is that Tasha Yar?
Kurn's ship is attacked by other Klingons, his bold flying near a star shakes off the pursuers in a sheet of plasma. Picard explains the Klingon situation to an Admiral who points out that it's nothing to do with the Federation. Picard says that the Duras family have a known history of Romulan collusion and Picard believes the conflict is being used by the Romulans to gain a foothold and destabilise peace between Federation and Klingon Empire. Picard says Geordi has developed a way to use a beam to detect cloaked ships. Picard suggests sending a fleet to cast a net and catch Romulan ships supplying the Duras. The Admiral gives Picard permission to assemble and command a fleet. Picard calls in all ships in that sector, including new and damaged ones from the ship yard, meaning they have just over 20 ships. Picard sends experienced officers from the Enterprise to supplement ranks in the new ships. Data asks Picard why he's not been assigned a command, is it because he's an android? Picard gives him a ship to command, but when Data goes to take his captain's chair the 1st officer asks to be transferred because he doesn't think androids can command starships. Data refuses his request and so the 1st officer is super grudging about everything and it is so awkward for all the extras.
Worf doesn't understand why Klingons from both sides of the conflict are socialising, even though it involves a lot of drunken bragging and recreational fighting. Kurn tries to get him to lighten up and points out people can't always been on duty. Lursa and B'Etor, the Duras sisters who are really running the family, observe that Worf is different to his brother and most other Klingons, their voices are heavy with scheming. Gowron's council aren't happy that the Duras are doing so well, there are challenges to Gowron's authority, which means that Gowron must take time to defeat the challengers. Worf is disgusted by the in-fighting, but no one understands his concern. As Picard's fleet sets out the Duras family and their Romulan allies discuss what to do, ignoring Lursa and B'Etor's nephew, the male figurehead. The sisters plan to bring Worf to their side and Romulan!Tasha says her people can send supplies but can't officially join the war. When she encounters the Federation fleet and realises its purpose she decloaks her ship and hails the Enterprise. Picard is shocked to see her face and even more shocked when she says Tasha Yar is her mother. She introduces herself as Commander Seela and says that the Federation has 20 hours to remove their illegal invasion fleet from the Romulan border or it will be considered an act of war.
Troi tells Picard Seela isn't lying, Crusher points out that Tasha was never pregnant and would've only been a small child when Seela was born. Guinan crashes the meeting to tell Picard that Tasha Yar was on the Enterprise C as an adult when it disappeared 24 years ago while fighting the Romulans, and that Picard sent her. Picard points out that Guinan never knew Tasha, and Guinan concedes this but stands firm. There is no further explanation, but no one argues with Guinan about this kind of thing. Worf tells Kurn that there should be no more fighting in Gowron's camp until the conflict is over, Kurn is disgusted by this un-Klingon idea and points out that Worf was the one who persuaded him to join Gowron in the first place before storming off. Worf is knocked out and dragged away by 2 Klingons, but it's a Klingon bar so no one notices. Picard meets Seela and asks to see her mother, Seela reveals that Tasha is dead. Tasha was captured from the Enterprise C, sent there from the future by Picard, and was given to a Romulan general instead of being executed. When Seela was 4 years old her mother tried to run away with her, but they were caught due to Seela's cries and Tasha was killed. Seela is angry that her mother tried to take her from her home and now identifies only as Romulan. Neither mentions the detection net and both pretend they have no intention of interfering with the Klingon situation. Picard has 14 hours to remove his fleet.
Worf is woken by B'Etor pawing at him in a skeevy way. Lursa points out that the Duras will win and their nephew will lead the council, but Worf could mate with B'Etor and guide the lad. Worf refuses, pointing out that the Duras have no honour. Seela videos in to say that this plan has failed, Worf is to be kept captive for now. Worf isn't surprised to see a Romulan with the face of his dead boss, I guess he's distracted. Picard contacts Gowron and tells him that he should launch a big attack on the Duras in order to draw their Romulan allies into the Federation detection net. Do remember that it is very important that no one from Star Fleet gets involved in this internal conflict in any way, that's why Worf doesn't work there anymore. Once the Romulan connection is proven the Duras will lose support. Picard tells Riker to pretend that his ship is damaged, fall back to make a hole in the net, then once the Romulans go through other ships will swoop in and catch them.
Seela tells the Duras she can't help while the Federation fleet is ready to catch her ships. Romulan scientists have found a counter-measure to disrupt the Federation's beams. When the gap opens Seela's subordinate suggests they fly through, but Seela knows a trap when she sees one. She orders that the counter-measure is targeted on Data's ship, breaking the beam-net. Picard orders the whole fleet to move back and reassemble. Data stops his ship and figures something out using his super-speed. Ignoring the questions and accusations of his 1st officer Data starts tinkering with the sensors and charging the weapons, even though doing so causes a flood of radiation that could harm the crew. There are hails from the Enterprise and then a direct order from Picard to bring his ship to join the rest of the fleet, but Data just shouts at his 1st officer, brings up a sensor display and orders weapons to fire at some weird blobs on screen. The blobs are briefly shown to be cloaked Romulan ships. Realising they've been detected Seela orders her ships to turn around, leaving the Duras on their own. At the Duras house, which is under attack, Lursa and B'Etor beam away, leaving their nephew and Worf. Kurn arrives, checks Worf is OK and captures the nephew. Picard disbands the fleet, and Data comes to him for discipline as he disobeyed an order even though it turned out well. Picard points out that blindly following orders isn't what Star Fleet needs. Then Picard goes to give his report on the Romulans to the victorious Gowron. Gowron gives the life of the young nephew to Worf, but Worf refuses to kill him for the sins of his releatives. Kurn steps forward ready to do the killing, but Worf refuses saying he was given the lad's life and he chooses to spare it.

Oh Captain My Captain
Again I feel like Picard gets to decide for himself what interfering and not interfering look like, and even convinces an Admiral. While some personal judgement is obviously required in these situations it was apparently not in any way a problem for Picard to act as adjudicator in the previous selection competition for Klingon leader, but getting involved in a civil war is bad. (Obviously conflicts are worse and often more complicated than peace-time politics, but it does feel a bit like the Federation are only strictly hands-off once the shit has hit the fan.) The argument of not being involved would feel more valid if Picard weren't in contact with Gowron. Had the conflict gone another way Gowron could've lost support for seeming to be the Federation's pocket.
The detection-net is a good solution to detecting cloaked ships and because there's a lot to cover here we did not see Geordi's usual 2-step try-fail cycle. This episode is about action and character more than tech-based problem solving, I am fine with this.
Picard doesn't seem to believe Guinan or Seela's explanation for how Tasha could be Seela's mother, even though both accounts independently verify the other. In an episode with a different focus more time could be given to exploring or untangling the temporal knot created by the events in Yesterday's Enterprise, but that's not what this is about. There's enough to give people who haven't seen the older episode an idea, but nothing more. Though it does make Guinan's assertion that Picard is responsible for all this a bit odd, as that idea is never actually explored again, it's just dropped. So why bring it up? Plus, while I'm always happy to blame Picard for things that happened under his command, even his alternate version didn't send Tasha, she went herself.

Does Not Compute
Data is right there as Picard is assigning commands and asking for other commands to be assigned, soit is a bit egregious that he never even considers Data. I don't think Picard was purposefully being prejudiced against Data, I think it just didn't cross his mind to give him a command, which is a type of prejudice in itself because it denies Data experience that is being offered to others, just because it's not malicious or intentional doesn't mean there's no harm to it. Once Data raises the question and asks if it's about him being an android Picard corrects the situation by giving Data a command, but we're never shown what Picard's thinking was.
Data's 1st Officer doesn't think that androids can be captains, he also says no one would think a Klingon could be a counsellor or a Berellian could be an engineer. Now obviously this guy is prejudiced, and I suppose the suggestion is that the 2 examples he gives are common stereotypes and therefore his prejudice against Data is no worse than that. What I don't know is how widespread or believed these other stereotypes are, or how much this guy just says it to justify his prejudice. I mean Klingons don't seem like they would be good counsellors in the Federation style, but there must be people in Klingon society that provide some form of therapeutic role, even if they're rarely seen by other races and work very differently to what a human would consider therapy (I imaging a lot of primal screaming and hitting things is the Klingon version of therapy, and it's probably not called therapy). I don't know what a Berellian is or why they seem unsuited for engineering, but I guess there may be biological/cultural reasons they don't do that kind of thing. Does that mean one could never be an engineer, or does it just mean that they would approach such things in a very different way or aren't encouraged to do engineering by their social norms? The issue with these two examples is that they are presumably races of people. Androids are not a race, there's just Data and his jerk brother and most people will never have interacted with an android. This means that any prejudice Data experiences is personal (while also never being taken personally because Data doesn't experience emotions -as usually understood). In fact Data is the perfect oppressed person, because he will never get angry or upset or 'hysterical' about the injustices he faces and will always be logical and rational in the face of ill-treatment or harm, which means third parties never have to deal with his emotions and his oppressors can easily be proven wrong. This isn't how oppression works. I assume that the 1st Officer believes Data's programming isn't up to command, but he has no basis to think this when a superior officer who has more experience of Data has given Data the post. The 1st Officer's later objections to Data's behaviour suggest that he believes Data isn't taking the safety of the crew into account, which is perhaps a more understandable fear when dealing with a being who has capabilities beyond humans. It doesn't excuse the guy's behaviour, but there is a basis for the way he acts (which is more than we ever got for Pulaski).
Data's command style could do with some improvement, especially in the area of communication. Him being brisk and by-the-book is not a surprise, though a word to senior staff/Bridge crew about how he wants to handle things might have been helpful. Calling out the First Officer, who was likely to make trouble given he's now in post unwillingly, isn't surprising, but again Data makes everything really awkward by reprimanding the guy in front of everyone and demonstrating that he is totally willing to pull people up on minor chain of command issues. It's only a temporary assignment, and a militaristic one at that, but even so Data doesn't show consideration for his crew. Later, when Data figures out how to catch the Romulans, he doesn't explain what he's doing or reassure anyone. He doesn't respond to the First Officer's concerns, which at one point are for crew safety, and just shouts orders making them all complicit in insubordination. I know time was of the essence, but a word to say that he thought he could catch the Romulan ships wouldn't have gone amiss. It's not surprising that it's people skills that let Data down as a commander, though again that doesn't justify the 1st Officer's initial prejudice.

Klingon Warrior
You know, it's almost like Worf isn't very comfortable with Klingon social norms. The tragedy of Worf's life is that he identifies so strongly as Klingon in all the Federation/human-centric spaces he occupies and uses this as a distancing tactic, yet when he's in Klingon spaces he feels no comfort and gets frustrated with the ways people behave. Worf kinda doesn't belong anywhere and is stubborn enough not to change that (it does explain a lot about his choice in women). Of course Klingons aren't the kind of folk who are necessarily going to take time to understand things like this, and so prior to this Worf is constantly accused of being 'too human'. It doesn't happen in this episode, and maybe now that Worf isn't dishonoured anymore and is taking an active part in Klingon warrior culture, he has earned some respect. Even so, Kurn clearly finds his odd-duck brother frustrating, with his bizarre insistence that getting things done is more important than fighting.
Worf is captured and is woken by B'Etor pawing at him. It felt very inappropriate to me, given she's his captor and he was unconscious. Though what I understand of Klingon sexual norms sounds kinda gross, so I guess it might be fine in context. Still made for uncomfortable viewing. Worf refuses the Duras sisters offer of behind-the-throne power, pointing out that the Duras family prefer backroom dealing to honour and would put the Klingon Empire in the hands of the Romulans. Despite his discomfort in being around his own people Worf does have a keen sense of his heritage and the moral system that comes with it. Of course when you're a woman in this kind of society backroom dealing is largely all you've got, so I see why Lursa and B'Etor engage in it.

Guinan's Hat: Blue
Guinan crashes a much depleted staff meeting to cryptically explain how Commander Seela could be Tasha Yar's daughter. It's mostly background exposition, but since Guinan is often cryptic about the timey-wimey stuff she knows it fits with her character. I don't quite get why she suggests that this whole thing is Picard's responsibility. I mean it could be said to be the responsibility of alternate-timeline Picard, but looking back it was alt!Tasha's decision to go on the Enterprise C and help foil the Romulan attack, despite alt!Picard's initial objection. This Picard had nothing to do with any of it, and I see why he gets prickly about it. Guinan says all this like it's important, but it isn't the focus and isn't explored and while that's fine it does leave this feeling like a potential plotline that got lost, and Guinan's words don't seem to affect anything here. Of course Guinan's in a room with Troi and Crusher, so maybe they should just start a support group about being under-used.

Girl Talk
Despite having more female characters than usual, this episode does not pass the Bechdel-Wallace test. It could as there's at least one conversation where Lursa, B'Etor and Seela are discussing their enemies, but as all those enemies are male it doesn't feel like a pass. It's interesting to me that the regular female characters are given very little to do while antagonistic female characters take centre stage. Troi and Crusher each have one thing to say in one scene and that's it. They're the only senior crew left to advise Picard and for a moment after Guinan showed up I was hoping for some kind of trusted all-female group (like what Nick Fury had before Winter Solider), but it was not to be. Let's face it Crusher and Troi remain because they're the only senior crew who are in  medical/caring roles rather than command roles. The Fleet Admiral who listens to Picard and give him permission to form a fleet is a Black woman, and I think she's the main admiral so far who wasn't trouble, so there's that I guess.
The Duras/Romulan alliance by contrast is run entirely by women. Lursa and B'Etor are the family power and their nephew is ignored as an inexperienced child. He's only there because they needed a male of their brother's line. Seela seems to be running things, giving stern orders to the other Romulans and to the sisters. I get the impression she masterminded much of this situation, and the part gives Denise Crosby plenty of meaty lines and important scenes. Seela's story about what happened to her mother is pretty unpleasant though. Tasha was captured and avoided execution only because a high-ranking Romulan took a shine to her, so she was spared and given to him. Seela describes her mother as her father's 'consort', but lets face it this was the forced marriage/sex-slavery of a POW. Seela is angry when she describes how her mother tried to steal her away from her home and her father, and while her reaction is understandable for a child, it seems she never thought about the situation further than that. Seela speaks of Tasha's ingratitude, which is pretty gross considering Tasha was a prisoner and never asked for any of it. Seela has internalised a lot of bad messages about her background and her human heritage. Although this is a good performance for Denise Crosby I find myself feeling really bad for Tasha all over again. One of the features of Yesterday's Enterprise was that it seemed to give Tasha a death with more purpose. Now it transpires that she endured about 5 years of a forced marriage before being killed when she tried to escape with her child. It feels like the show has gone back on Tasha's ending again, and so we have yet another disservice to the character.

Staff Meetings: 4
Considering most of the action doesn't happen on the Enterprise and most of the main cast are in small roles this is quite a lot of meetings.
1. Picard (with Riker as backup) explains Klingon situation to Fleet Admiral Shanthi (and her aide). She is initially unwilling to get involved with an internal conflict of an allied power, but Picard mentions his Romulan suspicions and outlines his plan, which seems to involve no interference in Klingon affairs. She has to run the idea past the Federation Council, but tells Picard to assemble his fleet.
2. Picard, Riker, Data and Geordi discuss the ships and crew of the new fleet. Picard assigns a command to Riker with Geordi as his 1st officer. When the others leave Data asks Picard why he doesn't have a command.
3. Picard gathers the senior staff on the Enterprise (basically Troi and Crusher) to discuss Tasha-Yar-doppleganger, Commander Seela and her extraordinary claim. Guinan crashes the meeting to provide vague background exposition, and raise a point that is not really resolved or explored.
4. Data comes to Picard to receive discipline for disobeying a direct order. Picard explains...

Death by Space Misadventure
Tonnes probably, but no numbers listed. Klingon society contains a lot of violence in normal circumstances, with blood feuds and murder-for-promotion being standard, so I can only imagine a Klingon civil war to be very brutal.

The End
After insisting that he has spared the nephew's life Worf asks Picard if he can report for duty. Picard grants permission. They leave the Klingon council chamber together, this time victorious. It is a nice callback to the end of Sins of the Father, which started this whole arc of Worf against Duras back in series 3.

30 August 2016

Big News

Back in July I mentioned that a period of low energy had delayed most of the blogging I intended to do. July was followed, as ever, by August which is always a busy month at work and certainly doesn't help with feeling tired. Anyway there is a reason for this, which will also explain future delays as well.

I'm pregnant.

This is my first pregnancy and it's going comparatively well, even if there were a couple of months when I felt exhausted most of the time. I'm coming out of that now, at last. Though a lot of my spare time is going to be devoted to preparing for the baby, I do intend to keep blogging at least semi-regularly.*

I have no idea whether I will be able to do much after the baby comes, I hear they are rather disruptive, so I am not setting myself any blogging goals or targets. It's due early next year, so all plans for 2017 are very fluid. I'll do what I can when I can, can't expect more than that.

Anyway I'm currently both happy and daunted. Cautiously looking forward to when the baby is here, but slightly dreading the preparation needed and the mode of its arrival.

*This is a useful term because it can mean just about anything.

7 August 2016

Redemption (Part 1)

Episode: s4, ep 26

I'm not used to this level of serialisation on this show, I quite like it. Though it does lengthen my write up.

What Happens
The Enterprise is going to the Klingon homeworld so Picard can finish his job as arbiter of the Klingon succession from Reunion and see Gowron installed as Emperor. Picard tells Worf that this could be an opportunity to regain his family's name and honour, which was lost due to unKlingon-like politiking in Sins of the Father. Worf is reluctant to rock the boat, but admits dishonour weighs on him. Gowron arrives and tells Picard that there could be a civil war unless he is installed fast. (I gotta say, I kinda assumed this part of the process would've already happened off screen after Reunion.) Gowron explains that the family of Duras (the murderous opponent of Gowron, who framed Worf's father to cover his own father's treachery and was later killed by Worf after he killed the mother of Worf's son) are making power plays, they have lots of influence on the High Council. Key players in this are the sisters of Duras, Lursa and B'etor; they can't be on the Council or throne because sexism, but they're totally plotting for their family. Gowron insists Picard must help install him, Picard refuses to do anything more than his official role and adhere to Klingon law. Worf tells Gowron the truth about his discommendation, that he accepted dishonour in order to protect Duras' powerful family. Gowron is interested to hear that his rivals have been party to further treason and duplicity, but won't help Worf because he really needs the support of the Council, so exposing their lies won't help him just now. He pretty much tells Worf that he has to live with his decision.
After a talk with Guinan Worf requests a leave of absence, Picard doesn't ask why and Worf doesn't explain. He goes and finds the ship of his secret brother Kurn, who thinks the whole Klingon leadership is terrible and talks of full revolt. Worf refuses to support this and will stand by Gowron, despite his lack of help. Kurn reluctantly does as Worf says and goes to rally other military leaders who don't like the current state of things. Worf wants Gowron in charge, but he also wants to convince Gowron to expose the truth. Meanwhile Picard goes to the ceremony to formally appoint Gowron as the next leader. The sisters of Duras arrive with some lad who they claim is Duras's son and therefore should be considered for succession. Picard is to decide on his validity as a candidate. I have no understanding of why this young lad should be considered when no one really knows who he is. Oh, and it turns out Romulans are secretly involved! And there's a shadowy woman who is part of the plotting.
Worf's brother has got a few military leaders on his side, their enemies have more people, but much of Klingon fleet is undecided. Worf gets Data to go through the files on the Enterprise that proved his father's innocence in Sins of the Father, Picard stops him and points out that this is a conflict of interest because Worf is a Star Fleet Officer (also I guess he shouldn't go into his workplace and use their resources when he's on a leave of absence). Picard is concerned about his own conflict of interest, because he doesn't want the Duras family have any power given their Romulan connection and that time Duras tried to kill him, but he has to follow Klingon laws in his role as arbiter. Plus he cannot interfere with an allied nation specifically for the good of the Federation (why did he agree to be arbiter in the first place then?) Picard says he and Worf must keep personal and professional separate, but then says he'll make the information about the truth behind the massacre public for anyone who wants it, not just Worf.
 Picard is visited by Lursa and B'etor, who want him to choose their recently-discovered nephew. He points out the ways in which they have him over a barrel and they threaten the treaty between the Klingon Empire and the Federation. Next day Picard proclaims that the lad is completely untested in all the traditional things Klingons respect, because he's too young to have been in battle, and besides it was Duras who was a candidate for leadership not anyone descended from him, so that claim ended when he died. This should have been obvious from the start because if leadership was hereditary there wouldn't be a need for arbiters or succession contests. Council members aren't convinced and go to stand with the Duras group, despite Gowron pointing out how illegal this all is. Worf meets Gowron secretly and offers Kurn's forces in exchange for his returned honour, revealing the true link between him and Kurn. Gowron doesn't think it's enough and asks Worf to get Picard -and therefore the Federation- to intervene on his behalf. Worf refuses and Gowron scoffs at him for being too human. Then Gowron's ship is fired on by another Klingon ship
The Enterprise sees the exchange of fire between the Klingon ships and Riker wants to go and provide aid to Gowron and Worf, but Picard refuses and orders the ship to fly away because they can't get dragged into a Klingon civil war. Worf goes to the tactical station on Gowron's ship, but they've been badly damaged, then Kurn and his military leaders arrive and beat back the ship of the Duras faction. Gowron insists he is installed as leader straight away and invites the Enterprise to send a delegation to the ceremony if they wish. Picard returns to do his final act and see Gowron succeed, this mostly involves putting a cloak on him. As Worf and Kurn proved themselves Gowron's first act is to restore their family honour. As official Klingon leader Gowron asks for official help against the Duras faction, but Picard still refuses to get involved because they might be dangerous traitors but it's definitely an internal, Klingon matter. Worf points out that if the Duras family succeed they're likely ally with the Romulans, so it's in the Federation's interest to support Gowron. Picard sticks to his non-interference policy and tells Worf that as an officer he must too. Worf resigns from Star Fleet and hands Picard his badge so he can go an fight alongside Gowron. Picard and Worf say goodbye. There's a shocking relevation at the Duras house!

Oh Captain My Captain
Picard is very clear where his duty lies. He is not going to interfere in the internal politics and power struggles of an allied nation, that would be entirely against his ethics, and the responsibilities and regulations he must uphold as a Star Fleet Captain. Except that at the beginning of this series it was perfectly fine to do just that? When the previous Klingon leader asked him to officially get involved in the succession that wasn't interference, apparently it was just diplomacy or mediation, I guess. Then even when someone under Picard's command who had (several) personal problems with one of the leadership candidates actually murdered said candidate (albeit in a way that was perfectly legal in the Klingon system), that was still apparently fine and certainly in no way a Star Fleet officer getting involved in internal politics of an allied nation. Now though Picard speedily installing the guy that he very fairly and legally chose -in a way that was totally not-interfering- could be problematic and full of conflicts of interest, even though viewers could have quite reasonably supposed that this had already been done and dusted once Picard's choice was made. Plus when the current Klingon leader officially asks for help against a rival faction that are trying to topple him then his allies the Federation definitely cannot get involved at all because that isn't the sort of thing they do, ever. These lines in the sand seem faint and shifting to me.

Klingon Warrior
Guinan's Hat: Green
I swear Worf's life is such a soap opera. I don't get how Michael Dorn can claim Worf hasn't been properly explored (though I understand why he says it). Worf's got more backstory than all the human characters. His conversation with Guinan strikes me was really important and the first time we've seen Worf confronted with some of the half-truths he tells about (and probably to) himself. For all that Worf is always distancing and differentiating himself from humans, he has never seemed very comfortable or easy with other Klingons and as previous episodes have shown Klingons don't always behave the same way Worf does.
Guinan talks to Worf while beating him at target practice in holodeck (Worf doesn't comment about her beating him, he realises she's better and as she says she's been doing it since before he was born). She mentions her bet with Picard about getting Worf to laugh, says she has seen him laugh and it's nice. He grumpily claims Klingons don't laugh. She calls him on this, points out that Klingons do laugh, so it isn't a Klingon thing, and asks what it says about him. He responds that perhaps he doesn't feel like other Klingons. This is Worf kind of admitting, for the first time I think, that he's been using his Klingon identity as a cover for a lot of things that are specific to him as an individual. Guinan mentions Alexander (though not by name) and Worf says that he's a child and part-human and he's having trouble adjusting on Earth. Guinan  points out that Alexander is now living a life much like Worf's upbringing, but does it subtly and Worf acknowledges that it will be difficult (because if there's one thing he knows it's being a Klingon raised amongst and by humans). Guinan says that at some point Alexander will want to know what it's like to be a Klingon and that Worf himself is just learning. It's a really strong character scene.

Klingon Differences
We get to see bits and pieces of Klingon culture in the series and the three episodes that lead up to this all show a lot about the Klingon political situation and the associated power structures and traditions. This doesn't all make sense, though I suppose the implication is that the events we are witnessing are unprecedented or at least very unusual.
While families and dynasties are obviously very important in Klingon culture it seems that the succession of the Klingon leader is not a hereditary thing. Nor is it done through any kind of election. Rather it seems that candidates come from important families with ties to the High Council, so it's a kind of oligarchy really. The role of the arbiter -whose usual status in Klingon society we don't see- in choosing the next ruler seems to mostly involve talking when Picard does it, though I wouldn't be surprised that in more normal circumstances there was more physical contests too. Since Picard was chosen by the previous ruler it may be that this creates a kind of official succession culture, but clearly political forces and factions must be weighed and the ruler has to have the support of the High Council to get much done. This suggests to me that the High Council is a kind of cross between a privy council and a parliamentary system, though outside of the context of democracy.
It turns out women can't be on the High Council, and perhaps can't be the heads of families/houses.
This is sexism pure and simple. Although the house of Duras is politically strong, even after Duras himself died, it seems massively inconvenient that Lursa and B'Etor can't officially run anything. They're both are savvy at politics and tactics as well as commanding much loyalty. The fact that they have to rely on their brother's previously unacknowledged son (who is untested in battle and pretty petulant) as a kind of puppet shows how daft this system is. If they didn't have to plot to gain power maybe they wouldn't have allied themselves more with the Romulans. Also are there really no suitable males from cadet branches of the house? Or do Klingon houses require fairly narrow relationships or direct lineages?
Presumably Duras never recognised his son while he was alive because the lad was illegitimate, which must be something shameful in this culture. We learn from previous episodes about Worf's lovelife that mating (all sex, or just when conception could happen? Actually that's TMI) and marriage are supposed to go hand in hand in Klingon society. This suggests a society with strong taboos on sex and procreation outside of marriage, which fits with the sexism. So if the lad is illegitimate how could they possibly think that it would be appropriate for him to take his father's place in the succession contest? We've already seen that succession to the leadership of the Empire isn't based on heredity, so why would this ever have worked? I guess Lursa and B'Etor - and their Romulan allies- were relying on their political and military strength to win through despite how unlikely their claim is on paper. Trying to bully Picard with threats against the alliance between the Empire and the Federation fits well with a forceful strategy. Though if it is legally such a weak claim then surely Picard and Gowron would have pointed this out straight away instead of getting nervous and going away to think about it.
Gowron: buggiest eyes in the Empire
For a proud warrior race who seem to mostly follow a might = right philosophy the Klingons sure have a lot of laws in this area. I mean we have seen that murder is considered a perfectly acceptable means of gaining advancement, in the military/on ships at least. It's also fine when dealing with personal issues and family feuds; no Klingon batted an eye about Worf killing Duras to revenge the death of his mate (I do not really like this term, but it is the one used in context), even though Worf's status in society was low as could be. It seems that it is intriguing and assassination -as opposed to open fighting- that is disapproved of. Throughout every episode featuring Duras this has been the fear of 'right-thinking' Klingons, not that the family is powerful but that they are sneaky. Also the Romulan connection, which could be seen as a betrayal of Klingons as a whole. In fact I could see this being the reason that the leadership succession seems to work so differently to other parts of society, because it isn;t just between families, it affects the whole Empire. Of course Worf and his brother are sneaky too; Kurn's true parentage is concealed and he and Worf quietly plan to build support for Gowron in order to get what they want. This seems like a system where politicking does happen and is likely needed, but also where is it looked down on or seen as taboo, so things have to be even more hidden than they would be in a society where intrigues were expected.

The End
In the Duras family home the Romulans hear that the Enterprise has left and Picard won't help Gowron. Duras' bratty son says Picard is a coward, but the mysterious woman from earlier says that he shouldn't underestimate humans as they have a way of showing up when least expected. She steps out of the shadows and... it's Tasha Yar!... With Romulan clothes and haircut. WTF?

To be continued...

I assume she's the Tasha Yar from alt-timeline introduced in Yesterday's Enterprise? Somehow she survived the destruction of the Enterprise-C, though since that meant going back in time I would expect her to look older. Well, I guess I'll find out.

20 July 2016


Sorry I haven't posted in a while. Everything has gotten rather delayed recently as I'm going through a period of low energy and finding it difficult to get things done.

When normal service (whatever that looks like) resumes I will finish series 4 of TNG (which if you're in the UK is now available on Netflix with all the other Trek series, meaning I can return the DVDs borrowed). I also have a load of books I definitely intend to blog about, but later when I can face doing things again.

6 July 2016

In Theory

Episode: s4, ep 25

This episode explores some interesting things about Data, even if on a personal level I felt uncomfortable about it. The B-plot doesn't make much sense, has nothing to do with the A-plot and feels like it should be in series 2.

What Happens
The Enterprise is going into a dark matter nebula and Data is altering a weapon for an experiment alongside a lady called Jenna who is missing her ex, or more accurately missing being in a relationship. Data again lists her reasons for breaking up with her ex, which mostly seem to be about not paying attention, and sloppy eating. Then the Enterprise shoots the modified torpedo into the nebula, cos I guess that nebula had it coming or something.
Jenna is in a woodwind band with Data and Keiko, they're playing in 10 Forward (never short of entertainment on board it seems). Afterward she's wistful seeing Miles congratulate Keiko and worries about her own performance, but Data assures her that the audience wouldn't notice. Keiko and Miles tell funny couple stories, like how Keiko has to pick up his socks. Jenna tells funny stories about stuff Data has said and acts kinda coupley with him. Data doesn't understand why anything is funny. Later Jenna tells Data he's the perfect man and kinder than other men, he points out he has no feelings. She kisses him. I am weirded out. Meanwhile people are excited about lifeforms or something in that nebula they shot. Something falls off a table in sickbay. Data's cat gets out, even though it shouldn't be able to. These significant events are really boring.
Data asks Guinan's advice about the kiss and what to do next, she says he should work it out himself. Then he gets advice from most of the senior crew, it is mixed. Weighing advice and info very carefully Data goes to Jenna with flowers. He tells her about his decision-making process, mentions how messy her quarters are and then while he's tidying he suggests they try a relationship. Turns out he has written a programme for relationships, with a subroutine just for her. She finds this romantic and they kiss. Everything in Picard's office has been stacked under the desk, he calls in Worf to investigate and jokingly suggests a poltergeist. Data's girlfriend brings an ornament over because his quarters are dull, it turns out Data doesn't understand idioms in this episode. She has trouble communicating with him because he's being super-literal, but she explains how she is feeling and is happy that he is trying.
Welcome to the B-plot
The Enterprise goes to where there should be a planet, except that there isn't a planet, but then a planet appears, I think? It's really not important. The Computer reports decompression in the observation lounge, but then everything is fine except that all the furniture is stacked on one side. Data finds an anomaly in one of the windows. Data visits his girlfriend, acts super cheesy, changes the timbre of his voice to give her compliments and is basically trying too hard and it's really cringy. She's confused. Then he suggests she has a problem and shouts at her because he believes quarreling is supposed to strengthen a relationship. It's very forced and she doesn't like it. She asks him to kiss her then asks what he's thinking, she's only one in a list of things.
Later Data's console goes all weird, an Engineer is injured by weirdness, then Geordi hears a scream and finds a woman partially phased into the floor in a corridor. Data describes little anomalies in the nebula that phase parts of the ship out of regular space and cause damage. The ship is too big to manoeuver through this, so Worf suggests using a shuttle linked to the Enterprise to navigate. Riker and Picard disagree over who should fly the shuttle, Picard pulls rank so he gets to do it. Picard flies the shuttle and describes his route, then shuttle is damaged and the link broken so Picard keeps describing his route through the anomalies. The Enterprise is flown manually, but being much bigger it sustains some more damage. Picard loses control of the shuttle for some reason and zooms away, O'Brien has trouble locking onto him. The shuttle explodes, but O'Brien did manage to get Picard. Riker suggests they just fly out of the nebula, as apparently that is an option now. It's a really lacklustre B-plot and at this point the show can do much better.
Data makes a romantic meal. Jenna is uncomfortable, clearly about to break up with him. She realises she's blindly made the same mistake and rebounded from an emotionally distant man to someone who doesn't have emotions. She thought kindness and attentiveness would be enough, but she needs an emotional connection he can't provide. Data agrees this is reasonable and that he tried to do something he isn't capable of. They aren't a couple anymore.

Oh Captain, My Captain
Picard has heard that Data is asking everyone for relationship advice, it is well-established that Picard hates such conversations. When Data approaches him Picard says he'll be happy to give advice on understanding women as soon as he has any, then hightails into his office. I don't blame him. Plus as a lifelong bachelor who seems to be married to his work I don't feel he's the best person to ask.
Picard insists on flying the shuttle that will guide the Enterprise, there's no real reason why. Picard seems insistent that he is their best chance, because apparently he's suddenly a hotshot pilot? Unless he's fed up of Riker throwing himself into danger and wants to protect him, except that doesn't really seem to be a reason why Picard should throw himself into danger instead. Also, don't they have pilots on this big starship? Surely there's someone who's trained for this kind of work. I mean they have a fiction expert and a botanist, but I'm supposed to believe they don't have anyone who specialises in flying shuttles?

Riker: lover, adventurer, middle-management
Riker's advice to Data is to go for it because Jenna is beautiful and crazy about him. Data points out he can't reciprocate her feelings, Riker mentions there's always a risk in these things and Data points out that there's no risk to him. Riker leerily tells Data there are rewards to a good relationship (he clearly means sex), apparently not getting the Data won't really benefit from that, what with not feeling things.
Assumes he'll fly the shuttle and gets angry when Picard stops him. Riker insists that he has to protect Picard. From Riker's side the argument is about who gets to throw himself into danger to protect the other. If this is posturing it's really odd.

Does Not Compute
I am so weirded out by this relationship. It's a personal thing and I think it probably stems a bit from my issues, but every scene with Jenna and Data being together made me uncomfortable. Though I think the later scenes were probably supposed to be uncomfortable. In many ways Data's actions are admirable, he is aware that he could do harm to someone and he seeks advice to avoid this. He researches in order to find the best approach to his current situation, admittedly it's the same way he would approach any kind of query, but it's all he's got. I very much get the sense that Jenna is projecting onto Data (in fact I think a lot of the people who encounter Data for an episode do this). She badly wants a relationship with someone who is kind to her, and Data is so she hopes that it's enough. I know I've said here before that I think Data has greater capacity for feeling than he thinks he does, but I don't think that necessarily translates into romantic or sexual feeling. Or if it did, I'm not sure Data would realise, which comes to the same thing. Also (despite The Naked Now, which was clearly supposed to be people acting out of character) I always kind of figured Data for being asexual and aromantic, so it feels very strange for him to be sexualised, though I know that's just my interpretation. When Data's in the relationship he acts oddly and tries to behave in the way he thinks is appropriate. Lord knows what his sources are (more on that below). It's just not him and it doesn't feel right. Jenna notices it and though he's a good partner in many ways it's clear that the person he's being is not who she was initially attracted to. Plus it's demonstrated that his brain can process so much that he's not able to focus on one person the way a human would. Besides the fact that he has to think about how much pressure he can apply when kissing her, in order not to injure her (or maybe smush her head with his extra-human strength) has gotta be worry.

Blind Engineering
Geordi advises that it can be a bad idea to start a relationship with someone who has just come out of a relationship, unless they're definitely ready and you're definitely serious. Then Geordi remembers who he's talking to, advises that it's complicated and suggests Data talk to someone with advice-giving experience. This is actually far more sensible than I was expecting Geordi to be. His love life and romantic history isn't the best, but I guess when it's not his own issues he's more sensible and less whiny.

Klingon Warrior
Worf tells Data that Klingons don't pursue relationships, they conquer what they desire.Even if this is posturing, which I think it is, it's really, really gross. And Worf himself must know it's gross, because he then tells Data that as Jenna is under his command (apparently she's in Security) he will be very displeased if she's mistreated. So basically Worf's advice is that his people mistreat their partners, but that he will not stand for any mistreatment of a women he has responsibility for. It seems Klingons are super hypocritical and I can see why they have so many feuds going on. Also Worf's love life is another one that should not be imitated.
Picard calls for Worf to investigate the 'poltergeist'. Worf wants to go to red alert and put a guard outside; are Security short on things to do? Picard refuses and just wants to cautiously monitor things, which makes you wonder why he asked Worf to get involved at all. It's like Picard enjoys deflating his ideas.

It's Not Easy Being Troi
Troi's advice is the most sensible, which isn't a surprise as it's her job, Data should have stopped asking people after her. She tells Data to be very careful because there's a person's feelings at stake, and so he can't just treat it as an experiment or like his more casual relationships. In fairness this does seem to be one of Data's main concerns. He assures her that he has researched the subject extensively and found role models to emulate (given his later behaviour I think very little of these role models). Troi points out that emulation may not be enough and Jenna will learn to care for who he is. Data isn't sure that his programming will be adequate and Troi says that everyone has to become more than the sum of their parts.

Guinan's Hat: Purple
Data goes to see Guinan who is working on a new cocktail. She notices Data is distracted and he tells her about the kiss. Guinan is curious and asks Data what he thinks of Jenna, although he initially gives an employee evaluation report Guinan gets him to admit that he looks forward to seeing her. Guinan says the next move is his, but Data doesn't know what that should be. He asks for advice, but Guinan says it's best not to advise people on their first love affair. She's obviously doesn't want to push Data into anything.

Future Is Better?
This episode doesn't say good things about traditional, heterosexual relationships. I say this as a straight woman in a very happy, monogamous relationship; but seriously TV relationships so often look dreadful. I really, really hope that this is not how things still are in the future. In the first scene Data compares Jenna's feelings about her ex to Anne Boleyn's displeasure that Henry VIII spent time hunting instead of with her. Is that the best comparison he can find? One from over 800 years in the past, at a time when women had very little agency, and a marriage that ended when the husband had his wife executed? Apparently so, and this is likely Data's problem, his role models all seem to be terrible. He uses literary and cultural sources, I can't help but feel that most of them were ones played for drama rather than realism, which is often the problem with fictional relationships. Simplicity and happiness apparently aren't entertaining. Data's attentiveness is good, but he tries too hard and the cheesy things he says suggests he researched how to compliment women from 1970s movies, or Riker. When she raises concern about his behaviour he starts shouting at her and tells her she isn't his mother. They both know he hasn't got a mother. He explains that his sources show that lovers' quarrels are healthy (really, just shouting for no reason?) and that accusing her of being like his mother is the standard response to criticism. Are these sources exclusively cheesy sitcoms from the 20th century? This is not how Data would normally behave and the way he is changing himself shows that he really lacks the instincts for this and that it's probably not a good thing for him.
Of course Jenna's prospects on board must be pretty bad, I can't imagine dating within Star Fleet is particularly easy. She keeps telling Data that he's kinder to her than any other men, when literally all Data is doing is being polite in the same way that he is to everyone. I mean how bad are the men on this starship that friendly interest from a colleague is nicest behaviour that she encounters? Are the rest of them going around grunting and staring or something? I thought this was supposed to be the enlightened future. She must be projecting onto Data and presumably reacting to the recent disappointment of a failed relationship. At least she realises that she has to explain what she wants very literally, which highlights issues with usual human communications as she expects to use coded, unclear language. Data criticises Jenna for being messy, which feels out of line, I didn't think her quarters were that messy (which no doubt says something about me) and even if they were, well they're her quarters. I know he's an android and they're both in a pseudo-military organisation, but let her have her space as she likes it. While it's nice that he wants to help her tidy up and organise he seems to have no understanding that maybe this is how she chooses to live.
Miles and Keiko are shown as a happy, successful couple and it's in conversation with them that Jenna starts acting like Data is a match for her. Keiko recounts, with laughter, how after they got married she started picking up Miles' discarded socks. Then she realised that wasn't how she wanted to spend her life, so she left them on the floor until there was a massive pile. Miles still didn't get the hint that his socks were his responsibility, and so she got fed up and picked then up and now... wait for it, cos it's so funny... now, she still picks up his socks. Hahaha, isn't the domestic labour automatically expected of women so funny? Miles, instead of apologising or at least saying he'll try harder in future, simply finishes the story by condescendingly praising Keiko on her ability to pick up his socks, apparently missing that this was something she explicitly stated she didn't want to do at the beginning of the story, as well as something that requires no skill. It's the future, don't they have robots or something for boring domestic tasks? I mean it would have made more sense if Keiko had asked Miles to pick up his socks, or told him that she really didn't want a future of tidying up after him, instead of letting them pile up which clearly bothered her far more than him. Though I can understand the instinct that led her to that. Of course wouldn't have been as funny, open communication probably isn't. Except now he looks inconsiderate and she looks passive-aggressive. Welcome to TV's portrayal of marriage!

Staff Meetings: 1
Data explains that the weird stuff that's happening on board (ranging from something falling off a table and a cat getting out, to parts of the ship decompressing and someone being sucked into the floor) is caused by dark matter in the nebula. It means there are moving gaps in spacetime, which cause bits of the ship to phase out. It's lucky it hasn't been more dangerous. The Enterprise is too big to move around these anomalies, Worf suggests using a shuttle. What is not mentioned is whether them torpedoing the nebula at the start had anything to do with it, or indeed what that was actually about.

Death By Space Misadventure
Van Mayter, an Engineer, was checking for structural damage after a particularly bad anomaly. She presumably walked into a gap in spacetime which meant she briefly phased through the floor of a corridor. She had time to scream before death.

The End
Jenna explains to Data that their relationship isn't enough for her because he lacks emotion and she was repeating a pattern. He concludes that he is perhaps not as human as he would like. Jenna confirms they are no longer a couple, Data says he will delete the relevant programme. She leaves without eating. Data's cat climbs into his lap and Data pets it.
It's kind of sad, but almost certainly for the best. It was a really weird relationship and obviously more than Data knew how to handle.

29 June 2016

The Mind's Eye

Episode: s4, ep 24

What Happens
Geordi is in a shuttle going to a conference on Riza, and Picard sent him a few days early for some holiday time. En route he's intercepted by a Romulan ship and abducted. They remove his visor and torture him with horrible images beamed directly into his brain using the neural implants that make his visor work. Meanwhile some guy who looks like Geordi is sent to the conference with Geordi's visor. Then the brainwashing begins.
The Romulans take Geordi to a simulation of 10 Forward and order him to kill Chief O'Brien. How they know what 10 Forward or O'Brien looks like I don't know. Geordi kills the simulated O'Brien with a phaser, then sits down for a drink, but he hesitated so the brainwashing continues. Meanwhile a Klingon ambassador comes to the Enterprise and asks Picard to come to a Klingon planet near the Federation border which has a separatist rebel problem. There are accusations that the Federation has been arming the rebels and Picard is determined to prove it isn't so. Geordi returns, talks about his great trip to Riza and spills drink over O'Brien in 10 Forward. The Klingon governor is suspicious of the Enterprise being there and shows the Federation weapons used by the rebels. Geordi and Data test them and find that though they are Federation design they have been charged by Romulan chargers (or something). The Romulans would benefit from the alliance between the Klingons and the Federation breaking. Data detects weird readings on the ship.
Geordi sneaks around a cargo bay and secretly beams weapons down to the planet, but of course they're intercepted and the Governor is even more convinced that the Federation is arming the rebels. Picard orders a full investigation and it is narrowed down to the cargo bay transporter, but Geordi has no memory of what he did. The Ambassador tells Picard that he should invite the Governor to see their investigation. Geordi goes to the Ambassador's quarters and the Ambassador instructs him to kill the Governor in the cargo bay in front of everyone and say he's doing it for the rebels. Later Geordi can't sleep and calls O'Brien, but doesn't know why. He goes to see Crusher about insomnia, and she suggests he seems fine but should get his visor checked next time they're at a star base. Data and Riker look into the weird readings, pretty sure they're some kind of communication to the Romulans. Data does computer work and the Computer identifies that the readings are like human brainwaves, and there aren't many devices on board that interact with those.
The Governor comes on board to see the investigation, he's still very skeptical. Geordi walks down corridors in a suspenseful fashion. Data investigates the shuttle and after more computer work he discovers that it has been tampered with and had been in a Romulan tractor beam. Data calls Geordi, who doesn't respond. Data checks where Geordi is and then orders Worf to apprehend him immediately. Worf is stopped from approaching by the Governor's Klingon guards, but he calls out as Geordi approaches and Picard stops his Chief Engineer from firing at the Governor. Picard doesn't know how to explain this, but then Data arrives and does. Turns out the only people who were near Geordi at the time of the weird readings were Picard and the Ambassador, one of them should have a transmitter device on them. The Ambassador refuses to be searched, but when the Governor says he'll search him and the Ambassador suddenly requests asylum from Picard, who says he'll grant it if he's exonerated of the crime. Geordi is very distressed to learn that he has false memories.

Oh Captain My Captain
Picard is met by the Ambassador who trusts him and thinks he'll be a good person to investigate what's going on. Picard seems to have been involved in various important Klingon things of late and so I guess he's got a good reputation, especially with those who like the current Klingon leadership (Picard was involved in choosing). The Governor is very suspicious that the Federation must be involved with the separatists and so he's distrustful of Picard. Picard is very insistent that the Federation do not get involved in the internal politics of their allies, though this is not an episode that requires Picard's eloquence very much. Remember when he used to solve most things with a speech at the end of episode.

Does Not Compute
Data mostly asks the Computer questions during his investigation, just as any human would. Plus it seems like the Computer immediately has the answers, it just won't tell you anything until you ask the right question. You can tell this was made in the early 90s; processing power, search terms and the time things take -plus Data's lack of connectivity- all seem kinda old-fashioned now. It'll take 3 hours for a random computer search to check 327 types of systems. I know it's more complicated than a google search but that seems kind of slow to me. Surely Data would be all the more effective if he could interface with the Computer directly, rather than delivering voice commands, though I suppose that would make bad TV.

Blind Engineering
I gotta feel bad for Geordi. Abduction, torture and brain washing. Poor guy! We don't know what images the Romulans are putting in his brain, but it's clear they're dreadful. He remembers the Riza trip, but has odd reactions to O'Brien. We get to see through Geordi's visor, the view is greenish and there are weird symbols and noises, which I think are supposed to be the Romulan signals. Geordi tries to investigate because it's his job, but while he's brainwashed he also knows how to cover his tracks. He's kind of at war with himself, without knowing it. After waking up and calling O'Brien for no reason Geordi starts to realise something is wrong and goes to Crusher, but the Romulans did their job well. There's something that looks a little different, but it only seems like a small thing and not something that will have a real impact on Geordi's health. I wonder how the Romulans got so much info about how Geordi's visor works? Also who was that guy they sent to the conference to take Geordi's place? I don' feel like there was enough about him and what actually happened on Riza. Did they use the visor recording to implant the false memories in Geordi? Suspenseful camera angles are used as Geordi approaches the cargo bay, it's pretty effective. Even if I kept thinking about Will Ferrell's character from Zoolander, which made things a bit more amusing than they were supposed to be. At the end Geordi's talk with Troi is so, so sad. He can't trust his memories, his mind has been violated and even though he is not my favourite character I feel so sad for him because it's horrible. This moment is played with such strong emotion by LeVar Burton.

Klingon Warrior
At first the Amabassador asks Picard if he can work with anyone other than Worf as his discommendation means all Klingons need to treat him as a pariah, and it makes things really awkward. Picard insists that Worf is his Chief Security Officer and he won't send anyone else in his place. Worf defends Picard's word and makes reference to his own perceived lack of honour, no surprise that he;s defensive about it. Surprisingly the Ambassador tells Worf that his killing of Duras means that some of the Klingon High Council would thank him, and that it was a truly Klingon thing to do. It's the first approval Worf's had from another Klingon for a while. I wonder how much the Ambassador knows about the truth behind Worf's status? I mean now that the leadership has changed can't the truth come out? I guess there's still enough people around who don't want it to, and maybe that it happened at all is bad enough.
When Data can't get to Geordi in time he calls Worf, since he is Chief of Security and conveniently near by. Worf is shocked that Data tells him to apprehend Geordi, but as soon as it's an order he does as he's told. Worf is stopped from getting to Geordi by the Governor's guards, perhaps they think he's going for Governor, though why Worf couldn't go around the group I don't know.  Worf has to call out to get everyone to look at Geordi, which means Picard is the one who actually stops and disarms Geordi just in time. I think is a shame for Worf because surely he should get to do this sort of thing.

It's Not Easy Being Troi
Geordi is shocked and angry and disbelieving. He remembers Riza, he tells Troi about it and though she is being compassionate and understanding she does have a kind of conversationally trick him into remembering what really happened and tells him to put his memories to one side. Geordi's distress and lack of certainty are horrible, but Troi assures him that it's a good sign, and she'll be there to help him get his memories back. I hope this process is shown on screen, or at east alluded to, not sure if it will be but after the trauma he;s been through geordi will need a lot of help.

Staff Meetings: 2
1. Picard and the Ambassador discuss the situation on the Klingon colony planet, and the Governor's accusation of Federation interference. Picard denies these completely and the Ambassador explains why he asked Picard aa
2. Geordi and Data report to Picard and the Ambassador about the transporter investigation and the tampered chips they've found. Only person on board with the relevant skills and no alibi is Geordi, suspicion doesn't fall on him and he's determined to find out what happened. Data mentions the weird readings he and Riker have been investigating. After they leave the Ambassador tells Picard he should invite the Governor to see their investigation as a sign of good faith.

The End
Geordi and Troi discuss what happened (see It's Not Easy Being Troi) and the process he'll need to go through. It's so sad because he'll have to put aside pleasant memories and relive his abuse. It's a powerful scene.

17 June 2016

The Host

Episode: s4, ep 23

Having seen DS9 first this episode is kind of confusing.

What Happens
Beverley is dating an ambassador who is being taken to mediate in a dispute between the populations of two moons. The relationship is passionate and secret, but the Ambassador has his own secret which bulges inside his stomach. The planet they're going to asked the Federation to help because the peoples of their two moons hate each other and due to recent developments are close to war. The Ambassador's father helped negotiate a previous settlement between the moons. The Ambassador refuses to use the transporters and despite safety concerns insists on getting a shuttle to the talks. Troi chats to Beverley and reveals that her relationship isn't really secret.
Riker asks to fly the Ambassador's shuttle, but as they're going to the mediation a ship appears from one of the moons and fires on them. The shuttle is damaged and the Ambassador injured; he tells Riker that the transporters will kill him. The Enterprise scares away the hostile ship and the shuttle returns. In sickbay Beverley is confused by the medical readings of her lover, it looks like he has a parasite and then his stomach bulges again. He tells her that he is the thing in his stomach, that the humanoid is only his host. This is how it works with Trills and so the Trill homeworld must be contacted to send another host or he'll die. WAIT, WHAT? He's a Trill? Just assume the rest of this episode is punctuated by me saying "That's not how Trills work!" This is not the best episode to watch when you've seen Deep Space 9 first. DS9 has a Trill as a main cast member and various other Trills and joined-Trill issues appear during the show.
In order to save the ambassador-worm (it's not called a symbiote yet) Beverley says she may have to put him in a human, Riker volunteers. The Ambassador is put into Riker and takes over, he still loves Beverley, but she's freaked out by the situation. The Ambassador insists on continuing with the negotiations, revealing to everyone that his "father" who dealt with this conflict before was actually him in a different host. I don't understand why this info is secret or why -if it is a big, species-wide secret- he's suddenly fine to reveal it now. He convinces both sides to accept him as mediator in Riker's body. Treatments keep the Ambassador inside Riker, but they're making both of them ill. After talking with Troi Beverley realises that she does still have feelings for the Ambassador even though he's inside Riker and so they sort of continue to date, or something. I'm not clear on how far they go, but they kiss and it's super weird.
The Ambassador says the drugs are killing Riker, so he moves the mediation forward. He tells Picard and Beverley that regardless of what happens with the negotiations he must be removed from Riker  that day or the Commander will die. The negotiations are successful (the details apparently do not matter in the slightest), but Riker/Ambassador looks dreadful. The Trill ship is still some distance away, so the Enterprise races to meet it. The new host arrives and Beverley is shocked to see that she is woman. After the surgical transfer the new Ambassador speaks to Beverley and says she still loves her. Beverley is cold and says that perhaps it's a human failing that she can't cope with this change (it's really not, Beverley).

Oh Captain, My Captain
The Ambassador identifies Picard as Beverley's old friend and starts trying to talk to him about her, and how serious she is about her Star Fleet career. Picard is really awkward and doesn't want to be in this convo while also trying to be polite because diplomacy. Plus it's a bit weird that the Ambassador is trying to have this talk with Beverley's friend/superior officer rather than her. Later he's really supportive to Beverley and gives her a hug and offers to talk things through, even though talking about that sort of stuff makes him awkward. He is being a good friend.

Riker: lover, adventurer, middle-manager
So weird!
As observed previously Riker is such a daredevil! He's throwing himself at any dangerous opportunity that comes his way.
Potentially dangerous shuttle-mission? Oh, me!
Dangerous, unprecedented hosting of an alien creature that'll take over your body? Yes, yes I'll do it!
Where does Will Riker go when the ambassador is in his body? Is he still able to sense things or is it like he's asleep? Should Beverley be kissing him if Riker doesn't want to kiss her? The consent issues here are really tricky. Riker gave consent to host the Ambassador, but it was hardly well-informed. The Ambassador keeps courting Beverley even though he must realise it's weird now he's inhabiting her colleague/friend, plus Riker's loaning his body for emergency/diplomatic reasons, not for relationship stuff.

Doctor Doctor
It's cool that Beverley has an episode that focuses on her and gets a romantic plotline, though this is the second time she's had a one-episode boyfriend with some kind of odd situation that means he leaves the ship. At least this time it's actually a proper relationship; they are pretty cute together and feel strongly for each other. There's humour and fun and intimacy, though I get the feeling the the Ambassador is more committed to the relationship. As a professional Beverley is excellent as ever, despite how upset and confused she must be that her lover died, kind of. Plus here's yet another unprecedented medical procedure that she's done (I'm guessing Wesley got his smarts from the maternal side). When things get weird between her and the Ambassador (and Riker's body) she uses her role as distancing tactic, trying to keep things professional though the Ambassador makes that difficult by pushing the issue, which isn't cool. Being weirded out by the situation in general is understandable, finding that a lover is in the body of a friend is even odder. Seeing Beverley and Riker kissing is so strange, I hope it never happens again, especially after her "like a brother" comment. (Eww!) The end (as I will discuss below) is not great and did make me annoyed at Beverley. She assumed the host would be male, which I suspect was due to her preferences. When the new host is female she doesn't make a big thing out of it, just gets on with her work (did the Trill just send the one host and not a specialist medical team?). Again she tries to use medical concerns to distance herself, and her being freaked out by a change she wasn't expecting makes sense, but that doesn't mean she gets to decide that it's a failing of her entire species. You don't get to talk for everyone, Beverley. At least she admits that her reaction it is a failing, even though she tries to justify it in a way that removes personal responsibility.

Girl Talk
Troi and Beverley chat in the ship's hairdressers/beauty parlour. Turns out they can colour your nails without polish in the future, which is amazing! That combined with the hair dye wand from the last hairdresser scene makes me wonder why people aren't changing their nail and hair colour all the time. Troi is a little too empathic about Beverley's relationship, her powers must be really good for office gossip. Though Troi suggests that Beverley's secret isn't that secret because it's clear something's going on. The first part of this scene is Bechdel-Wallace passing, it's about beauty treatments, so it's girlier than most of my conversations, but it counts. The rest isn't because it's about the Ambassador (who is/presents as male at this point). The later conversation in 10 Forward is also about the Ambassador, and weirdly that talk is Deanna getting Crusher to make out with someone in Riker's body. Well, not exactly but that's the outcome.
The conversation with the Ambassador at the end is also Bechdel-Wallace passing, as it's two women talking about their relationship.

Future is Better? 
It's really telling about US TV in the early 90s that Crusher is less accepting of her lover in a woman's body than in Riker's. She says she thinks of Will as like a brother, but she'll kiss him over kissing a woman who she knows is someone she loves on the inside. It's so heteronormative and bi-erasing and kinda transphobic (I mean I know the Ambassador isn't trans really, but I guess they're non-binary/genderqueer). I don't think this is how a progressive, accepting future is gonna look. I mean if Beverley can't handle it personally that's something that can be explored (it is a very new relationship and there have been sudden and unexpected changes), but it's treated like a gender change is an automatic deal-breaker for anyone and it's not. Bisexuals exist, but goodness knows society tries to pretend they don't. Plus cisgendered people have transgendered partners and those relationships are real, so don't act like three centuries from now folk are all still going to be freaking out about this.
The wrist-kiss and Beverley's icy admission of love are (I assume) closest Trek came to anything other than heterosexuality on screen, until a Trill-centric episode in DS9 some years later. It's telling to me that Trill characters are always involved because their gender changes almost provide an excuse for the non-het situation to arise. Homosexuality and bisexuality never really seem to be addressed with people whose gender presentation is fixed, I hope the new series will do better in this area. Plus it strikes me that while Trills are used by Trek to explore homosexuality/bisexuality there's an argument to be made for them representing people who aren't cisgendered. I mean the way Crusher suggests she's been deceived by her lover who was just being what he is by nature could be used to explore transphobic issues. Beverley's assumption that the new host would be male is what immediately made me think she wouldn't be. I've been referring to the ambassador as 'he' here, but that's only based on his presentation in most of the episode, there's no signal as to the best pronouns. There's more elements of this kind of thing in DS9, but it's not explicitly explored.

They're Trills, But Not as I Know Them
I know they only just came up with the idea of Trills in this episode and it's something that changes in the later series, but this is an even bigger change than what happens with the Ferengi and the Cardassians, who only look different. Where are the spots? What's with the foreheads? Why is the ambassador-worm bulging out of the host's stomach and why does it need to be scanned (or whatever that device was). Why does the ambassador only have one name and why does it seem like s/he's parasitically controlling the humanoids rather than symbiotically sharing bodies and memories? I'm pretty sure Dax used the transporters, or is that because they've been set up for Trills? Also it's not clear why -if Trills are also a Federation species who've been working as diplomats for at least 2 generations- it isn't known that they're joined. Troi comments they they know little about the species, but they're Federation citizens, it's not like all those new or reclusive species they deal with. Why keep it a secret? Clearly if Trills have special needs (like not using transporters) they should be upfront about it. Plus I'm pretty sure that somewhere out there Curzon Dax is negotiating with Klingons and putting Benjamin Sisko through his paces, so there are Trills in Star Fleet. I don't think a symbiote can live in a human, or it would've been mentioned, I mean the party line is that they can't live in most Trills. Also (and this goes for DS9 too) why don't they travel in pairs or groups, or at least with others near by, so that there's always an available host should there be an accident in space (as seems to happen).

Staff Meetings: 2
1. Senior staff, the Ambassador and the Governor of the planet discuss the situation with the two moons (the Ambassador and Dr Crusher arrive separately by different doors). The Governor explains that the moons hate each other and the planet thinks of them as squabbling children, but war is coming now because one moon found a cheap energy source that is causing climate change on the other moon. After everyone else has gone Troi tells Picard that she's getting emotional fluctuations from the Ambassador (which sounds like what she gets from everyone). Picard says that's normal for Trills even though they don't know much about them and he isn't an empath, but whatever.
2. Crusher tells senior staff that the Ambassador's body died, and a new host is hours away. She's doing well considering she's mourning. Data volunteers to act as a vessel (does he has cupboard space in there?) but it has to be a biological host. Picard says the Ambassador is vital to peace and though it's never been done a human host is suggested. Riker volunteers without much info.

The End
Beverley is reporting on her successful, unprecedented surgery when the Ambassador comes to thank her and say that she still loves her. Beverley is cold to her and tries to just keep it professional. She says she can't deal, but tries to say that's a human thing (bollocks!). The Ambassador is understanding, Beverley admits she still loves her. The Ambassador kisses her wrist as she did in her previous host. It should be bittersweet, but the handling and wider context of this moment pissed me off.