1 August 2015

New Rats

Just a quick, happier, update after the previous sad post.

Turns out rats are harder to acquire than I'd expected and for a day I thought I might have to go to a breeder in my home town. Though if you want to buy a lizard there are a few places hereabouts that can help. I did manage to find one pet shop on this side of the city which sells rats. It is 2 bus journeys away, though only 20 mins by taxi.

Introducing our new girls...
Ty Lee
Ty Lee was very curious about me in the pet shop, climbed over the pet shop lady's hand and actually managed to briefly get on to the floor. She enjoys climbing, moving quickly and getting out of your grasp (hence the slightly awkward picture). If you have seen Avatar: the Last Airbender you will understand that she is well named.

Mai is more laid back, and seems content to hide or stay in one place unless she feels she wants to move. I chose her for the distinctive forehead marking. She likes certain safe spaces and though she's getting more friendly with us. I don't expect her to be sarcastic like her namesake, but I don't know whether rats get sarcastic or what that's like.

They are only 9 weeks old at the moment and are basically the size of mice.

Not forgetting our resident lady...
My husband used to call her licky rat, but her enthusiasm for grooming us has reduced since she lost her friends. We're trying to make a fuss of her while she's on her own, but sometimes it seems that she tolerates our attention. We are big and weird and probably don't understand social niceties.

The new ones will be in quarantine for another week, then it will probably take a few more weeks of introductions before all three can share the big cage. Even starved for company as she is, Micassa is used to being the boss rat and she's currently twice the size of the other 2, so we have to be careful that the introductions (and inevitable fights) happen under supervision.

We are also now the proud owners of 4kg of rat and mouse food and 50ltrs of paper-based, eco-friendly cat litter, which is also suitable for rodents. Seemed best to get supplies delivered so we'll be covered even while we've got 2 cages.

23 July 2015

Bad news and Blog Break


There's going to be a bit of a break again, but this time I thought to mention it in advance.

In my current job summer -especially the first few weeks of August- is very, very busy and so I'd planned to have less stuff going on during this time. Theoretically I could probably have covered a lack of blogging time with some buffer posts, but that hasn't happened.

The break will be starting earlier than I'd planned (after this very post in fact) because unfortunately in the last 16 days 2 of our rats have died. This is very sad for us, especially as we'd tried to do what we thought was best the 2nd time and it didn't work out. This means that we are left with 1 rat, which is bad because they are very social creatures and need other rats around them. So at present we're trying to find out where we can get a couple more new friends for her. We're also going to move the massive cage to a different part of the house so it's easier to interact with her.

After the 1st rat died we'd thought we would get more, but had been thinking we would do so in autumn, now the timetable has been brought forward. When introducing rats you need to go through a gradual process of introduction, which can take a few weeks. I expect that will coincide with the very busy period at work I mentioned previously, so I'm likely to be a bit out of it for a while.

I'm hoping I can start blogging as usual again in late September. I'm pretty certain I had some ideas for new, different posts, but right now I forget what those were. I'm pretty tired at the moment as I was out in the garden at 11pm last night holding a torch while my husband dug a rat grave. Sorry if I have made anyone sad, it's been an emotional day.

Armin (Hidey Rat)

Erin (Explorey Rat)

8 July 2015

Remember Me

Episode: s4, ep 5

The Lady Vanishes, but with doctors on a starship.

What Happens
Dr Crusher is excited to see her old friend and mentor, a recent widower who's retired from doctoring and is getting a lift to his new home on the Enterprise. As they reminisce the talk turns to dead spouses and remembering those you've lost. Beverley goes to visit Wesley who is doing an experiment with the engines even though Geordi wants to get the ship moving. Something happens, there's a flash, the experiment fails. When Wesley looks up his mother has left. Later Beverly visits her firend but finds his quarters are empty. The Computer has no record of him, nor does Worf. Assuming there's been a cock-up with the paperwork Worf sends a security team to search for the old doctor. Picard also doesn't know about the doctor's visit even though Beverly made the request in good time. When she checks with the starbase where he lived for years they also don't have any record of him. This spotty record-keeping is most troubling. O'Briend says he remembers Dr Crusher popping down to the transporter room, but doesn't remember her friend beaming in. Data finds Star Fleet Medical have no record of him. Then Beverly discovers that two doctors on her staff are missing, and the Computer has not record of them either.
Wesley suggests that his experiment might have caused the problem. It was something about warp bubbles and improving engine efficiency. None of the doctors were near Engineering at the time, but they'll keep looking into it. Beverly discovers she has no medical staff, which surprises only her as everyone else always thought it was just her. She thinks there should be a population of about 1,000 on board, but as far as anyone else is concerned there's only 230 people. Picard is willing to trust her as she insists there should be more people, but Beverly herself wonders if she's going insane. In sickbay a blue vortex tries to suck her in, but she resists it. No one else finds any evidence of it, and the crew numbers keep reducing with only Beverly noticing the change. She checks that her son still exists, and Wesley tells her more about the experiment. He got the info from the mystical Traveller, a really advanced alien who showed up in series 1. Beverly does recall that day they all travelled to the edge of the universe and everything got weird, she asks Wesley about contacting the Traveller, but when she turns around he's gone. Only Picard is left and Beverly monitors his vital signs until he disappears. The vortex comes back.
In Engineering Wesley and Geordi discuss another failed attempt to get Dr Crusher back. She got caught in the warp bubble when Wesley did his experiment. Wesley seems ready to give up when the Traveller phases in and says there is a solution. He explains that Beverly is trapped in a reality of her own making and will be alive as long as she thinks she is, but the bubble is collapsing around her. He advises Wesley to see past numbers to get his mother back. They can make a path for Beverly, but she must step through. The Enterprise returns to the starbase, to the exact position it was in when Dr Crusher disappeared. Meanwhile Beverly asks the Computer questions, trying to find a logical answer to her predicament. This reveals that the "universe" is shrinking around her and a purple haze creeps through the ship as it does. It is the same shape as Wesley's experiment and Beverly realises part of what's happened. Wesley and the Traveller focus and start phasing in and out, Wesley falls down with the exertion. Beverly goes down to Engineering, sees the vortex again and jumps through.

Doctor Doctor
Dr Crusher has been more present so far in this series, with reasonable secondary roles in the 2 previous episodes, and now one focused on her. I approve. You have to feel sorry for her here. She's so excited to see her old friend and the bond between them is evident in the short time they're on screen together. They're comfortable enough with each other to talk about heavy subjects, like his recent bereavement, her older one and the bad things about growing old. Of course she's concerned by his disappearance. Throughout her ordeal she's obviously distressed, but always handles things sensibly. She turns to Picard as her Captain and her friend, involves the appropriate crew members in what is initially a search party and then an investigations. She tries to check herself out medically, which is difficult, and goes to see Troi to assess her own mental state. She remains logical and practical as she can be, even as the crew dwindles around her. She has the Computer scan Picard when he's the only other one left and when she's on her own she tries to use the Computer to puzzle out what might be happening. It's only as the "universe" shrinks around her that she realises part of what's happened. Some of her realisations at the end seem a bit forced, like they're there to punctuate what the Traveller said. I did expect her to rush to Engineering a bit quicker, but I'm not surprised she makes the leap once she's there. She might have worried a little later than she should have about whether Wesley had disappeared, but I do feel as though the show often doesn't what to emphasise the relationship between the Crushers, only playing on it when convenient.
The actual situation seems a bit iffy to me. The Traveller says the reality within the warp bubble is defined by Beverly's thoughts when she went in. She realises that she was thinking about losing people when the flash happened. I'm not sure why her constructed reality has so much information about and focus on Wesley's experiment when she'd have no cause to think that was causing the issue. I also don't get why fake-Wesley mentions the Traveller, or his location. I see why it was necessary to explain things, but it doesn't make much sense coming from Beverly's thoughts alone.

If a Star Fleet Ensign wants to conduct an experiment with warp drives, should they be allowed to use the engines of a working starship, especially just before it's scheduled to depart a starbase? If you're doing an experiment based on principles you got from a mystical alien who accidentally took an entire starship to the edge of the universe, isn't that the kind of thing you should do in a controlled environment, like a lab or something? I know you're certain it shouldn't affect anything outside the engines (of a city-sized starship that is docked in a starbase, both of which are inhabited by many people who would probably die if the engines exploded), but you got this info from a guy who said it's actually the space-time-thought continuum, which no one in your civilisation actually understands yet. Also if you absolutely have to do it on a starship (because you're just so gosh-darned precocious) shouldn't you get the Captain's permission? And set up safeguards to prevent accidents, like keeping other people (including your mother) out of the way? I personally have no science background, but these were all things that occurred to me. When Geordi (who is the Chief of Engineering) tells Wesley he needs the engines in operation, on the Captain's orders, Wesley stalls for time. This kid lacks respect for the chain of command, possibly it comes of being sort-of home-schooled by the senior crew. I doubt any other Ensigns would be allowed to take such liberties.
At the end I felt as though this episode could have paralleled The Visitor from DS9, a child desperately trying a rescue their remaining parent from a space anomaly. Except that The Visitor takes place over years and is told from Jake's point of view, plus the Siskos have a much closer relationship than the Crushers do. Then again DS9 is far more willing to be emotionally invested than TNG is. We only see Wesley's efforts in the final part of the episode, and before the Traveller arrives he seems ready to give up, even though they haven't done everything yet. We see how much effort Wesley puts into the process of getting his mother back, there isn't much emotional heft to it. We don't see how Beverly's absence affects Wesley. The Traveller keeps telling Wesley to unlock his potential and see past his self-doubt, but it doesn't mean much because Wesley's never seemed big on self-doubt before. All we've had is a few minutes of him looking concerned and saying he can't do it. It seems like the Traveller's job is to show up and tell everyone how special Wesley is. He should just marry him already (actually I'm told that happens later).

Staff Meetings: 5 (but only 1 is real to anyone besides Dr Crusher)
1. Worf and Data report being unable to find Dr Crusher's missing friend, and neither Picard nor Worf saw the relevant paperwork. Admin fail? Something is very wrong!
2. Crusher reports more missing doctors to Picard, no one can remember them but her. They are interrupted by Wesley calling them down to Engineering.
3. Picard calls Beverly to his Ready Room after she claims nearly 800 people are missing. She's concerned about her health and sanity, and suspects Picard doesn't believe her. He assures her that he does. It's kind of a nice moment. I like it when they're platonic rather than it's-complicated.
4. Geordi and Data report finding nothing unusual after Crusher's encounter with the vortex, everything they can think of has been checked. Beverly realises that now over 900 people are missing, including Worf. She tries to describe Worf without initially saying he's a Klingon.
5. (Only meeting in 'real' universe, though I suspect there were more off-screen) The Traveller tries to describe where Dr Crusher is, says he can't pull her back, but he and Wesley can make a path for her to come through on her own.

The End
Beverly lands of the floor of real-Engineering, Picard helps her up and hugs her. Beverly sees the Traveller and asks if he got her back. He says no and points to Wesley, who is just picking himself off the floor. Beverly gives Wesley a big hug and asks Picard how many are on board, he respond with the correct number including her friend. It's a nice ending, but nothing special.

5 July 2015

Others People's Icons

I've never considered myself to have been born at the wrong time (I like history but I'm not big on idealising other time periods), but it does sometimes occur to me that my age and the circumstances of my childhood left me in a bit of a gap as far as pop culture (especially geek culture) is concerned.

I don't remember the 80s, I grew up mostly in the 90s and there was very little geekiness in my family (my dad reads SFF, but is not involved in fan stuff - in my experience there are a lot of people like that and I don't know that they get talked about much).  I didn't realise I was a geek until my late teens and didn't really explore what was out there until university. What this means is that a lot of my friends, acquaintances and people I follow on twitter have these cultural touchstones that they are very invested in. I have picked up a lot of the lingo and references, I have often seen the stuff in retrospect, but not really experienced the feels that others have.

I grew up in the Doctor Who gap. As a child I remember we had some knowledge of Doctor Who, we could identify a Dalek or the TARDIS. I remember when I was 6(ish) a group of kids running around holding rulers and saying "Exterminate" in robot voices. Scarves were also important somehow and hiding behind the sofa. I never saw Doctor Who on TV, I wasn't aware of any of the fan-made stuff, the novels, the audiobooks. To me, as a child, Doctor Who was something that used to be on TV. I enjoy Doctor Who now, to a variable extent, but it's not part of my childhood. My Doctor was the guy from the Knock-Knock joke.*

Also I've never seen E.T. all the way through, but I do mostly remember that alien from the BT adverts (it really was the perfect campaign for them when you think about it). It's probably a little sad that a lot of other people's icons are my marketing devices.

Nowhere is my growing up in the gap more evident than Star Wars and this year I've really noticed it. I first saw the original trilogy all the way through on telly when I was 17. I already knew the basics just from consuming pop culture, the references are all over the place. I seem to recall thinking it was OK, but I had no real sense of wonder or excitement. I had always lived in a world where all this already existed. I was not bothered about The Phantom Menace, I expect I saw adverts but I wasn't involved in geek culture of any kind so the whole thing passed me by. The only Star Wars film I have seen in the cinema is Episode III, because my then-boyfriend (now-husband) had a traditional of seeing the midnight screenings (I agree with my friend Greg that George Lucas was clearly trying to blind us all with that film, an effect heightened by having been awake hours longer than usual) and my Dad also wanted to see it. 
I've been trying to stay away from all the Star Wars hype this year, just gleaning bits of info from social media and podcasts. If I hear too much about it all I will be sick of it before it even comes out. Though I did hear it mentioned months ago on the store radio when I was in ASDA, the hype has escaped geek spaces and there's no real way to entirely avoid it. I don't want to seem curmudgeonly, I appreciate that others like Star Wars on a level that I'm unlikely to ever feel myself and that's fine. If anything I guess I have an advantage in that I'm not so invested as to feel anger or betrayal if it is done wrong - whatever "wrong" is. 

I don't think I have an equivalent of Star Wars or Doctor Who, something from my youth I feel that deeply about. I have things I really enjoy of course, many of them seen or read after the fact. I'm not so ignorant as I once was, and my husband has ensured that I've seen the Alien and Matrix films I missed before. I've never considered myself part of a specific fandom, but that may be because for all that I am a geek I don't think my personality leans towards that so much. Also I can be a little standoffish, wary of giving myself to people or groups. Perhaps that's something I should change? For now though it's nice to see others enjoying things so much, and even if I don't feel it myself I like to see my friends' joy and enthusiasm.

* If anyone is unfamiliar with the knock-knock joke feel free to ask.

24 June 2015

Suddenly Human

Episode: s4, ep 4

What Happens
The Enterprise follows a distress signal to a dangerously damaged ship. It belongs to an alien race who look human besides head-ridges and whose name begins with 'T' and ends with 'ian', making them indistinguishable from most of the other alien races whose names I haven't bothered to remember. Seriously, paint them an unusual colour or something! There is no visual hook for me to describe them by. Anyway these boring-looking aliens used to be enemies and this exact set up was often a trap. Despite this an away team including the First Officer, the Chief of Medicine and the Chief of Security beams over. They find 5 youths suffering injuries from an engine malfunction and beam them straight to sickbay. Turns out one of the youths is a human teenager.
The boy is called Jono and believes he's a boring-looking alien when in fact he's a human. He won't respond to Crusher or Troi and only settles down when Picard arrives. It turns out Jono is Jeremiah Rosa, son of two colonists who were killed during an attack by the boring-looking aliens. His grandmother is an Admiral. Crusher notices injuries in the last few years and fears he might have been subject to abuse. Everyone agrees that Jono should be taken by Star Fleet and returned to human society. Troi tells Picard to bond with the kid and he reluctantly agrees, eventually letting Jono stay in his quarters.
A boring-looking alien warship arrives to collect the youths, Picard sends the 4 over but says they're keeping Jono. The boring-looking alien Captain says that Jono is his son. Everyone decides this can't be right because apparently mixed families aren't a recognised thing. Picard stalls, Crusher suggests caution and Jono is allowed a supervised visit with his father. He says that the injuries are a natural part of being a young man in the competitive environment of the boring-looking aliens. The senior crew continue to do all they can to convince Jono that he is human and humanity is great. Telling him about his dead parents makes Jono experience distressing flashbacks. Receiving a message from Admiral Grandma doesn't convince Jono. Picard bonds with him over sport then they meet up with Riker and Wesley. Jono laughs when Wesley gets ice cream in his face. They think they're close to convincing him.
That night Jono stabs Picard in the chest. The boring-looking aliens send more warships and the Captain demands the return of his son or war will resume. Riker tells boring-looking alien Captain that Jono is in custody. Picard, who is soon patched up, asks Jono why he did it. Jono is deeply conflicted; when he had fun with the humans he thought he was betraying his father and his culture. He attacked Picard so he would be put to death. Picard recovers enough to go to the Bridge just as the Enterprise is facing off against warships. He tells boring-looking alien Captain that they were wrong to ignore Jono's feelings. He will be sent back to his home and his father.

Oh Captain My Captain
Picard is in full 'get off my lawn you kids' mode at the start of the episode, shouting at the youths to be quiet. The cacophony they were making was actually a tradition of their people and I suspect that if they'd been adults Picard might have been more diplomatic about shutting them up. He is aghast when Troi suggests that he should try bonding with Jono, but accepts that the kid's disdain towards women prevents Troi from doing it. This seems like precisely the sort of thing he told Riker to deal with when they first met. I'm not sure why Picard let Jono stay in this quarters, except perhaps that he wasn't sure what else to do. I think he regrets it very quickly when Jono starts touching his things and playing loud music that isn't to Picard's taste (again not a youth thing but a cultural thing). Picard's awkward speech to Troi is hilariously unconvincing suggesting either that his speeching powers only work when he's being spontaneous or that Troi is immune to them and we're seeing the scene from her point of view. She asks him about his own childhood and it sounds like he didn't interact with other children much then, being too focused on his aim of being a Star Fleet Captain. Having seen his family home 2 episodes ago one wonders whether that was the furthest thing he could imagine from being a Luddite vineyard owner, as his father must have been.
Later in the episode Picard moves from 'get off my lawn you kids' to 'understanding mentor' via 'diffident uncle'. Seeing that Jono is having strong feelings, and deciding he doesn't want to deal with them, Picard introduces Jono to the traditionally acceptable outlet for male emotion that is sports. (I assume, I'm neither male nor into sports so this assumption is based entirely on observation.) He bonds with Jono over a game of future-racquet ball (is racquet ball basically squash?) and then takes him to 10 Forward where they sit with Riker and Wesley in an obviously contrived and very weird male-bonding double date. All is proceeded as planned, until the kid stabs Picard in his sleep.
At least at the end Picard realises what had been obvious all along: that he and his crew had unthinkingly taken a child from his family and his culture. They decided they knew what was best for the kid, plotted to coerce him into their way of thinking and acted as though it was all in the child's best interest. The show doesn't draw any explicit parallels (the kid is blonde and his father is a pinkish boring-looking-alien), but this is something that haunts human history and affects societies even today. Picard's realisation is not accompanied by an apology.

Doctor Doctor
I'm not sure how Crusher knows Jono's name when she also says he won't talk to anyone, but that's a minor niggle. It's quickly apparent that the patriarchal society Jono comes from means he (and presumably those other kids) won't take Crusher seriously. She can't like that but her focus is ensuring they're healthy so she doesn't let it stop her working. Her analysis of Jono shows old injuries and she's the one who brings up the possibility of abuse. I wonder how different this episode would have gone without the abuse concern, we're meant to think that the kid is being saved, tricked out of looking for moral grey areas.

Klingon Warrior
Worf interacts with Jono only briefly. Jono assumes the humans have captured Worf too, and is surprised to find that Worf is there willingly and taking orders from a woman. The boy claims he's no more human than Worf is, and Worf tells him he's confused. It's sort of a nice moment, but then Worf is barely in the episode again. It's a shame because the parallels between Worf and Jono are many and obvious. Jono's origin is practically the same as Worf's and whenever the crew were discussing the situation I wondered whether someone would ask Worf his opinion, or whether Worf would speak up with his own thoughts on this situation that is basically his life! I guess they didn't want to actually explore the ambiguity of the situation during the episode or it would have robbed Picard of his big realisation at the end.
I did consider that boring-looking-alien Captain taking little Jono was very similar to Sergey Rozhenko taking baby Worf, the only difference being that the Rozhenko was a third party in the conflict whereas the Captain was a combatant and did it according to his own customs. No better way to make a character seem unreasonable or suspect than by giving them unfamiliar customs (I know this isn't the point of Trek, but I still think it happens). Did the Rozhenkos contact Star Fleet or the Klingon Empire about finding Worf's family or returning him to Klingon society? I know Worf's supposed to be the last of his family (except his secret brother, shhh), but there must be maternal relatives or distant cousins who could have taken him in. I know family (presumably of the biological kind) is important to Klingons, but equally a warrior culture which is big on feuds must have societal provisions for orphans. His secret brother (shhh) was raised by family friends so it's not like blood is everything.

Counsellor Pointless
Troi's role is a bit mixed here. She's the one who suggests building trust with Jono and introducing him gradually to human culture, rather than snatching him away from the only home he can remember. That said she also seems to be all for taking him away away from the boring-looking-aliens eventually. She's from a mixed family, her background is more peaceful than Jono's (and Worf's) but you'd think she'd understand the benefits of a child being part of two cultures. Can't she tell that leaving his home is not what Jono wants? Also, can't she tell whether Jono has experienced abuse. Even if he doesn't think of it as out of the ordinary, surely she could sense if he was afraid of his father? Again this is the kind of exploration that would rob Picard of his epiphany, so we don't get to see it.
The whole anti-women thing gets Troi out of the way so Picard is forced to step in. It also means we aren't sympathetic with the boring-looking-aliens. Troi's insistence that Picard take responsibility for Jono has some amusing outcomes, and we hear about Picard's odd, lonely childhood. Troi's the one who compares dealing with Jono to parenting, not something Picard's ever shown much interest in. I don't think it would have been difficult to get someone else to care for the boy, but I think Troi wanted to shake up Picard's routine a bit. After all she's up on the Bridge helping him out with stuff all the time, probably wanted some time to actually counsel people.


Staff Meetings: 3
1. Jono's DNA reveals that he is Jeremiah Rossa, grandson to an Admiral whose other relatives have all died in conflict. Troi advises Jono must connect with humans in general before he could possibly be returned to his family and assigns it to Picard as he's male and the only person Jono has listened to so far.
2. Picard tries to convince Troi that he shouldn't take responsibility for Jono because he's not good with children and never has been (even when he was one). Troi encourages him but is clearly in her role as Counsellor (as opposed to being his PA) because she doesn't give him the option to refuse.
3. Crusher, Picard and Troi discuss whether Jono should see his father, what is best for his emotional health and trust building with humans, and what is most diplomatic seeing as they're in boring-looking-alien territory.

Meeting Addendum: Troi and Picard are supposed to be supervising Jono's meeting with his father, just in case there is abuse. Crusher points out that abusers can have subtle influence on their victims, which is valid. So Troi and Picard stand at the opposite end of the room and stare at the wall, supervising nothing. While I appreciate that having them hover over things would have been dramatically a bad choice this doesn't really feel like a supervised encounter. I guess Troi would've said if she's sensed anything bad, though she doesn't tell anyone she sensed good stuff either.

Won't Somebody Think of the... Oh wait, that's kind of the point.
An example of how thinking about the children can still mean things go wrong. Everyone involved believes they are acting in Jono's best interests, but they are blinded by their arrogant assumption that their way is the right/only way. The concern about abuse is valid and so caution makes sense, but that doesn't entitle them to try and manipulate the kid either. Telling him the truth about his origins is fair, but that doesn't mean they should necessarily bring Admiral Grandmother into the situation before Jono's made a decision about his future. The episode doesn't resolve how Jono will cope with his resurfacing memories; what will happen with his much-bereaved grandmother (does he have her number? could they exchange emails for a while?); whether Jono will decide to explore his human background, and whether he will be allowed to. It's important stuff but outside the scope of this episode.

The End
Jono says goodbye to Picard and finally takes his gloves off, allowing himself a touch an 'alien', acknowledging Picard as like him. He also touches forehead with Picard, a custom of the boring-looking aliens, whose culture he's still part of.

7 June 2015


Episode: s4, ep 3

More Brent for your buck.

What Happens
A child is told off by Riker. While his parents were absent he played on prank on his little brother, Enterprise rushes him to a medical facility. He is unsurprisingly reluctant to forgive his brother. Data stops talking mid-sentence, twitches a little, goes to the Bridge and blankly commandeers the Enterprise. He gets everyone else off the Bridge by shutting off the life support, impersonates Picard's voice to access command functions and cuts the rest of the ship off from the Computer. Down in Engineering Geordi and Picard don't know what's happening or where they're now going, all they can do is deactivate the transporters.
tricking the little boy into thinking he had killed him. The boy ran and hid, then ate some fruit with parasites that made him dangerously ill and really infectious. The younger brother is stuck in quarantine under Dr Crusher's care as the

When the Enterprise gets to where Data is going he sets up forcefields to follow him to the transporter room, making it impossible for Security to get to him. In the transporter room he traps Riker and O'Brien in a transporter and beams down to a jungle planet. He goes into a cluttered workshop/laboratory and meets an old man who reawakens Data to himself. This is Dr Soong, the scientist who created Data. He was thought to have died on the colony where Data was found, but he escaped before its destruction. He's lived in hiding for years, but kept an eye on Data's exploits. The pair ask about each other and Soong is confused about Data's choice to enter Star Fleet. Then Lore -the android created before Data- arrives unexpectedly.

On the Enterprise Geordi uses the quarantine field around the sick child to deactivate the forcefields Data put around the Bridge. They still can't do much and time is running out for the little boy. Geordi suggests they may be able to put the Computer in training mode and use something in the transporter to convince it that they're Data and beam after him to find out what's happening. On the planet Lore is angry at Dr Soong and prepares to storm out, but Soong announces that he's dying. Data warns Soong that Lore can't be trusted, and mentions his murderous tendencies. Soong feels guilty about dismantling Lore and didn't know he'd been reassembled or he'd have helped him. Soong says that Lore is not superior to Data, then reveals an emotion chip he made just for Data so he can integrate better. Lore is resentful and while Soong is napping he deactivates Data and swaps clothes with him. After Soong has installed the chip Lore reveals the switch, attacks Soong then beams away.

An away team arrives, reactivates Data and demands to know what's happening. Soong tells Data how to access his suppressed memories and Data apologies for the inconvenience he caused to the Enterprise. Despite the urgent time limit Rker allows Data a moment alone with his father. Data says he cannot mourn him, but he tries to be comforting as Soong dies.

Riker: adventurer, lover, middle-management
Here Riker fulfils the function Picard set him when they first met, of dealing with children so that the Captain doesn't have to. Riker formally reprimands the boy for playing his cruel prank, which does seem to impress the guilty child sufficiently. This is the main background we get about the incident. I wonder how often Riker has to pause his duties to tell off children? I get the impression this is unusual in its seriousness.

Does Not Compute
I know a big part of Data's stated characterisation is that he doesn't have emotions, but as I've said here before, he sort of does. It's more that his emotions are mild and he doesn't acknowledge them as such. This episode gives us a truly emotionless, characterless Data, performing with machine efficiency as he commandeers the Enterprise and goes to Dr Soong. He says and does nothing that isn't entirely necessary to his goal. It's scary that what makes Data an individual can be overridden so completely. This is what makes him non-human, not his failed attempts at understanding humanity. Data's defining personality trait is curiosity and when he encounters Soong he experiences that strongly and asks him questions about his creation. After Lore's arrival Data learns that his brother previously lied about their respective natures. Lore is not superior. It takes Data a few tries to actually process this revelation, seems like a fairly emotional reaction to unexpected parental validation. Data feels concern about Lore attacking Soong, and about Soong making him delay the Enterprise. He tells his dying father that he can't mourn him, again underestimating his own emotional capacity. Though I suppose that if he mourns Soong in the way he mourns Lal he'll never mention him again.

Soong expresses curiosity about Data's choices. He wanted Data to go into cybernetics, because why shouldn't your robotic children follow in your footsteps? Data completely fails to mention Lal, even though she's relevant to the conversation. Soong would view her as his granddaughter and an impressive next step in cybernetics (self-replication), even if she didn't last long. I guess they really are never going to mention her again. Soong feels fatherly affection and responsibility towards both Data and Lore, and is greatly regretful that he didn't do more for Lore. He ignores Data's warnings that Lore is dangerous, even though I'd assume that was the reason he dismantled Lore in the first place. Though given his behaviour I suspect Soong leans towards amoral. It seems odd that Soong can't tell them apart, they may be identical but if anyone can tell the difference it should be their father-creator. Soong acknowledges that Data's lack of full emotions is a handicap, which is why he called Data in for an emotion chip upgrade. As Soong is dying he acknowledges that Data will mourn him in his own way, suggesting the old man is more aware of Data's capacity for feeling than Data himself.

Lore is sarcastic, angry and mocking, just like in his first appearance. His arrival is unexpected and he's ready to storm out, until he hears his father is dying. This upsets Lore, who quickly goes into denial about it. It is one of the few genuine moments we get from Lore that is free from bitterness. Soong reveals that the androids are identical besides some programming, I guess Lore got all the murdery jerk programming. Lore shows resentment and bitterness towards his father and snaps at Data (though I could see that Data was being irritating). Though he does seem sort of pleased or at least interested in Data getting emotions and suggests Data might be able to understand or forgive him. Despite this he impersonates Data to get what he wants, this time the emotion chip. It's not clear why Lore even wants it, he already has emotions and none of them seem good. I guess he just wants what his brother is getting, a typical sibling response. The chip wasn't made for Lore and Soong is alarmed at what it'll do, but we don't get to see that. Lore has installed a transporter in his thumbnail, which is really useful. I wonder if Data was more willing to embrace his android nature whether he would get some cool upgrades, like laser eyes or something?

Doctor Doctor
Crusher looks after the little quarantined boy. Keeping his spirits up with jokes as well as monitoring him in his isolation unit. Like the other adults she is keen to encourage reconciliation, even though I feel like the younger kid deserves some space for his anger. He speaks eloquently about his situation for one so young, and makes clear that he is not ready to forgive, regardless of whether it suits others that he do so. He's also aware that he might die, which is sad. When the power from the medical quarantine forcefield is used to undo Data's ones Crusher sits with the boy the whole time, even though it's very dangerous. Part of me thinks maybe she should be wearing a bio-hazard suit or spacesuit, but I guess that would worry the kid and her goal is to reassure him despite the danger.
Crusher mentions April Fools, which got me wondering do they still have April? Everything seems to be in stardates and you can't really have months in space. Maybe it still happens on Earth. Has this kid ever been to Earth? He seems pretty embedded in the Star Fleet system.

Security Breach
Maybe put a firewall on the android. Not the first time it's a problem, won't be the last. Might not have helped in this case as Soong's homing beacon was part of Data's programming and he presumably has the IP address and all the passwords. But still, it's best that people/entities/weird-space-things don't remote-access a senior crew member.

This episode reveals major issues with the Computer/Ship setup too:
1. Don't let anyone casually shut down life support where there are people. Surely this should need more than a few button pushes? Maybe it should be locked to Captain-only authorisation? Or maybe two senior crew members have to give the order?

2. Voice commands are a security nightmare. Data convinced the Computer he was Picard by voice alone. Not the first time this has happened either (Wesley in the 2nd episode, though that was only broadcast, not command). Recording devices exist, as do speech simulators, so that's a problem right there. Maybe have something other than/alongside voice control? Especially as you have to say command codes out loud, where people can hear. What's wrong with keying in a code or a biometric scan or something?

3. Crew location detection should be part of security. Data was able to impersonate Picard even though the Computer must have known that only Data was on the airless Bridge and Picard was in Engineering. It's not like Data took Picard's comm badge (which would've been a nice touch, though I guess it may not have made any more sense). Surely establishing the location of the Captain should be a key part of any automatic security checks done as part of a high-level command changes?

4. Use the forcefields better. I didn't think the internal forcefields could be used the way Data uses them here, because there have been various times before when that would have been useful and no one did it. I'd assumed that level of security/containment tech was a Deep Space Nine thing.

5. Plan for this stuff. They have to ask the Computer to figure out what stun setting can take out Data. Why not use kill? It's designed for biological creatures and Data can be repaired. In Worf's role shouldn't he have a plan for how to take Data out if it comes to it? I mean it's not a happy thought, but Data is stronger/faster/better than everyone else and obviously poses a threat if he malfunctions. Plus it's not as though they've never had to deal with a homocidal android before (Lore, again). I get the sense that Worf is a fairly reactive security chief, and it's not as though he's allowed to act on his more aggressive instincts even when a situation does comes up. Odo would have had a plan.

Staff Meetings: 2
1. Riker tells off the kid, revealing the details of the worrying prank incident and it's aftermath.
2. Senior crew discuss how to regain some control of the ship and get to Data to find out what's happening.

Won't Somebody Think of the Children?
I would like to take a moment to ask about the situation with these two kids. The younger is nine, the elder is like 13, but they are left on a starship while both parents go on sabbatical? Where have the parents even gone that this was the safer alternative? Are there no relatives or family friends who live in safe, settled places? Maybe these utopic Federation planets we never see. Riker agreed to this on the condition that the children behave themselves, as if saying that has ever made it happen. The prank went badly wrong, but even so the elder kid seems to need a certain level of supervision if this is what he does without it. Plus there no suggestion of punishment. I know he already feels bad but wouldn't a punishment help reinforce things and make his victim feel better? Riker's words suggest that the parents came to him with the idea of leaving their young sons behind, rather than being ordered away. I'm side-eyeing these people so hard. Was anyone else assigned to the boys' care? Are they staying with another family on the ship? Are there teachers/carers/guardians involved? Who knows? Troi seems to be minding the older kid, but is she just his liaison for official stuff? At first I thought they were playing in a holodeck, but if the younger one got an infectious parasite they must have been messing around on a planet. Do kids visit planets unattended? How often does this kind of thing happen? I mean Dr Crusher left Wesley on the Enterprise and it was never made clear who was actually responsible for him day-to-day, but at least Wesley was part of the crew structure and nearly an adult. Seriously Star Fleet is a child protection nightmare.
Picard suggests separating the saucer section to Geordi, a rarity for him. Though given Wesley's shocked reaction doing this at warp is really risky. This doesn't have anything to do with preserving the vulnerable members of the community, they'd be stuck with Data. It's just a way for Picard to get control of part of the ship.

The End
The ship got to a medical facility in time and the boy is still quarantined but is recovering. Data watches as the young brothers play with dinosaur toys he brought from Dr Soong's rooms. Crusher tells Data that brothers forgive, Data considers this. Just in case you hadn't realised that the plotline with the two kids was a metaphor for Data and Lore.

23 May 2015


Episode: s4, ep 2

A really strong emotional episode that deals with the issues Picard and Worf have hanging over them. Not the kind of thing I've come to expect from this show.

What Happens
The Enterprise is being fixed near Earth after the 'Borg incident'. Worf's parents (his adopted, human ones) have requested a visit, Worf seems... displeased. Picard is going to his family home for the first time in 20 years, Troi finds this interesting but says it's understandable after what he went through. Dr Crusher gets a box of her late-husband's things out of storage, including a recording he made when Wesley was a baby, she wonders whether it would be good for Wesley to see it.
Picard encounters his nephew (Rene) and sister-in-law (Marie), whom he has never met before. He and his brother have issues, which makes them hard to be around. Robert (the T is silent) Picard is a traditionalist like Picard senior was and doesn't like technology. Jean-Luc meets up with his old friend Louis who tries to headhunt Jean-Luc to help with a project to raise the floor of the Atlantic and create a new continent. Jean-Luc considers his future while being very stoic and brushing off his brother's rudeness. Marie offers sound advice and tries to stop the brothers from making the atmosphere in the house unbearable.
Worf's adoptive parents, Sergey and Helena Rozhenko, visit him from Russia. They are both very excited and not as reserved as Worf would like. His father was an engineer and wants to look at all the parts of the Enterprise. Both of them are worried about Worf and speak to Geordi and Guinan about him. Worf told them about his disgrace in the Klingon Empire, and though they don't fully understand the implications they know it has affected him badly. There are hints of what Worf was like as a child, and the difficulty of him being raised in a human community.
Picard and his brother get into a fight after Robert tactlessly questions Picard about what he went through with the Borg. They end up mud-wrestling amid the family vines and this releases the pent up tension, allowing Jean-Luc to finally react to the terrible things he was forced to do. Although this doesn't remove all the ill-feeling between them, the pair bond and get drunk together. Jean-Luc decides it is time to return to the Enterprise and Robert is less worried about his son dreaming of following in his uncle's footsteps.
Beverly Crusher gives Wesley the recording his father made and Wesley watches it in the holodeck.

Oh Captain My Captain
The Picard sign for recovery
Picard hasn't been home in 20 years, and while Star Fleet can mean people are away from home for a long time it's clear that this absence is unusually long. His talk with Troi reveals time has passed while ship and Captain have been recovering. Picard's physical recovery seems to have been smooth, but psychologically there's still work to be done. He mentions nightmares, but says they've stopped, and it sounds like Troi has been working with him in her Counsellor role. He's grateful for her help, but also dislikes her being analytical and I can only imagine he was a difficult patient.
Jean-Luc has never met his sister-in-law or young nephew before, though Marie has kept up communication with him. My mother is ten years younger than my uncle, and she says she never felt like she knew her brother well until she got to know him  through his wife. This isn't the same situation, but it made me think of that. Jean-Luc is friendly to his nephew, for all his claims of not being good with children he develops a rapport with the boy, but his relationship with Rene only appears a little. Rene is a symbol of the future of the Picard family.
Jean-Luc and Robert have a fraught relationship which involves resentment, jealousy and bullying, as well as the spectre of their father whose attitudes were a lot like Robert's. At first Robert seems grumpy and the issue appears to be his distrust and fear of technology. His brother flies a starship and he may not have electricity (the lighting might have been electric but nothing else was, the house looked a century old now, in the future it must look ancient -no wonder his poor wife has asked about getting a replicator). It's soon clear that their different lifestyles and how they got on with their father aren't the only issues at play. Robert behaves like a dick, and though Jean-Luc tries to be a polite guest at first he soon rises to his brother's taunts. The pair argue and accuse over long-held feelings and end up in a brother-on-brother mud wrestling fight. This seems to be what Robert wanted -though I certainly don't think think that justified saying Jean-Luc deserved what happened to him, nor am I entirely convinced that this was all some cunning plan of Robert's to get his brother to open up. Then again it's very easy to get personal when arguing with siblings. I have no trouble believing Robert bullied Jean-Luc. Much as I dislike Robert and his attitude, as an eldest sibling who didn't rebel against parental values and who experienced a certain amount of jealousy growing up, some of the stuff he says rings true. The wrestling stops with both brothers laughing at themselves, then Jean-Luc starts crying and grimacing as he finally confronts what the Borg did to him, and what they made him do to others. On his mud-covered face the smiles and grimaces form the same mouth-shape, but are so different in context. Both actors deliver excellent performances so the emotions feel very authentic.

Like Capt Picard his entire family seems French but sounds English (the actors are all British). They live in Le Barre in North-east France and grow wine in the traditional way. My earlier theory of Britain conquering France or France conquering Britain, leading to a blending of the cultures, is neither proved nor disproved by this episode.
Rene, Marie and Robert (pronounced Ro-bear) all have English accents, but their names are pronounced in the French way and they use occasional French words (Salut!). Towards the end the two brothers sing drunkenly in French. When saying goodbye (not au revoir) the adults all kiss each other on both cheeks, which is definitely not a British thing.
Then there is the confusing case of Jean-Luc's friend, who also has an English accent. His name is spelled Louis according to the credits (which I think of as the French way, though that doesn't always apply), but is pronounced the English way (Lewis) by everyone. I do not know if he is meant to be English or French? I assume French but then why wouldn't everyone call him "Lou-ee"? It is puzzling.
Of course it could be that this is a US show and if you're going to have Europeans speaking in English you'd better have their accents be something close to Received Pronunciation as that's what the viewers expect to hear from this side of the pond.

Klingon Warrior
I think Odo has this same chair.
I like to think they talk about it when
Worf's on DS9.
Worf wants to avoid spending time with his parents, and tries making excuses. Riker doesn't buy it (he had to spend time with his dad, and their relationship is terrible). Worf's parents turn out to be enthusiastic Russians, his father was an Engineer and is happily geeking out about the ship and telling everyone that he has the specs at home. Worf's mother clearly wants to dote on her son, but also knows he won't accept that, so she tries to keep his father in line and stop him from embarrassing Worf. Worf is just embarrassed anyway, aware that his controlled and reserved manner is undercut by his parents excitement. At one point he even tells them this, and his mother acknowledges that they aren't behaving as he'd like them to, but his father points out they're excited. The Rozhenkos tell Guinan that they knew it would be difficult raising a lone Klingon, and that they let him find out about his own culture by himself. He didn't have other Klingons about, but equally they never tried to make him human, and Guinan praises that. It's interesting that as a child he insisted on eating Klingon food, presumably his way of connecting to his identity, and it's nice that Helena learned to cook Klingon dishes for him.
It's Riker who first suggests that perhaps Worf is concerned about his Klingon dishonour, which I wasn't expecting as it happened more than 6 episodes ago and in a different series. Worf tells Riker that only a Klingon could understand his pain, but when Worf isn't present his parents' concern is evident. Sergey should be bursting to ask Geordi about the engines, but as soon as they're alone he wants a word about his son (though we don't hear that conversation). They eventually tell Worf that they know he's troubled but they will support him, even if he finds their support "too human". He admits that he wasn't sure if he wanted to see them, but he's glad they came.
I suspect that Worf has difficulty being in a support network. While growing up he no doubt felt isolated from all the humans around him (even supportive family members) and leaned on his Klingon identity, he often distances himself from stuff he has decided is "human". That said Worf doesn't seem entirely comfortable in Klingon company either, not helped by other Klingons question/taunting him about being too human/soft due to his Star Fleet position. He didn't grow up around other Klingons and most of his Klingon knowledge was theoretical while he was a child. He's not spent much time in Klingon society and so his pain at being dishonourably barred from it must be great.

The Crushers
Near the beginning Beverly Crusher questions whether she should show Wesley the recording of hisfather as she feels he's just starting to get over his father's death (I have no idea how long Jack Crusher has been dead, but I guess Wesley may have been struggling with it more than we've seen). Troi advises that it might be good for Wesley. Near the end of the episode Wesley sees the recording. We don't seen Beverly give him the recording, or talk to him about it. There are no scenes with mother and son together. The Crushers are only shown as a family unit when it is necessary in an episode, otherwise they seem fairly separate.
Jack Crusher gushes about being a new father and how that feels, happy and overwhelming it seems. He's optimistic about the future and also apologises for the absences his work will force upon them (I'm sure the irony doesn't need pointing out). It's sad that this bright and enthusiastic young man is dead. Wesley says goodbye to his father and it is sad. There's not much more to this story. This feels like a sub-subplot, we've seen Wesley's reactions to his father's death before and in more detail. I guess this is nice to have, but unlike Picard and Worf's stories it doesn't feel necessary.

Guinan's Hat: Navy Blue
When Worf's parents are looking at the stars Guinan introduces herself and asks about Worf. She praises the Rozhenkos for they way the raised Worf, even as they protest they didn't do anything special. It's not false modesty on their part, they did what they thought was right, but equally taking in an abandoned child and adopting him even though he is very different from you and your community is quite a thing. They admit that Worf isn't close to them (which is probably part of his distancing thing) but Guinan points out that it may be true on one level, but on another Worf looks to them for home rather than the Klingon Empire. The whole exchange between Guinan and the Rozhenkos is really lovely.

The End
Picard returns to the Enterprise as Worf's parents are leaving. Worf introduces them, perhaps with less trepidation than before, and Picard smiles as he leaves the warm family scene.
On Earth, Rene Picard looks up at the stars and dreams, his father Robert is content to let him

17 May 2015

Women on the Box

I'm going to talk about 3 British programmes that have no speculative elements in them whatsoever. How unlike me. Two of these were broadcast during the blog project and subsequent hiatus, so I'm talking about them a bit late.

Up the Women
The 2nd series was expended to 6 episodes on BBC2 from the original 3 episode run in 2013 on one of the BBC's second-string channels (though sadly it doesn't look like there will be more). I think this is just how the BBC does things nowadays, it was the same with In the Flesh. I remember when everything started with 6 episodes even if you never saw it again (I know to Americans this still sounds tiny, but that's kinda how it is). It's written by and stars Jessica Hynes, who I've always rather liked but now really admire.*

Set in 1910 against the background of the fight for women's voting rights, it is about 6 women (and 2 men) and their varied attitudes to women's suffrage. The first series saw intellectually curious Margaret become impassioned about the fight for the vote and encourage the women of her sewing group to get involved, with varied success and understanding. The second series builds on the existing dynamic with episodes featuring polling day, a visit from forward-thinking New Zealand sportsmen, a closeted homosexual suitor, and a cross-dressing group outing. Even though it's set in a very restrictive and uptight period the comedy is funny and not afraid to be rude. All sorts of topics including sex, marriage, snobbery and women's roles are covered with good humour and some dialogue that made me laugh out loud. It's all played very straight, no nudging or winking, which only makes the jokes more effective in my view.

The thing that really makes this series work so well is the interactions between the characters. Margaret and Helen both see themselves as the leader of the group, though Margaret's sometimes wobbly self-esteem and tendency to overthink stops her from reaching her potential (I feel for her a lot). Helen is usually the antagonist; the prim, controlling voice of the Establishment, but she's often undermined by her libertine mother who's obviously lived a varied and scandalous life. Helen's daughter Emily is also inspired by the cause of women's suffrage, and has a young woman's passion (or maybe she just takes after her grandmother) suggesting more radical action but still having difficulty openly defying her mother, or declaring her feelings for the man she loves. Eva is more interested in her own life and large family than politics, and she may seem like a bit of a ditz, but she means well and can be supportive of her friends. I suspect Eva is a bit of an everywoman character, though I don't know if that was the intention. Finally there's Gwen, the only lower-class woman of the group, a spinster that the others tend to unthinkingly treat like a skivvy, but whose lack of understanding in certain areas is made up for with good grace and occasionally brilliant practicality and enthusiasm. The token man of the group is Thomas, one of the best effeminate -but not camp- characters I have ever seen on TV. There are a lot of qualities Thomas does not have, but he is principled and compassionate. Finally there's Frank, the caretaker of the village hall where the episodes take place, a non nonsense working-class chap who finds the antics of these ladies somewhat perplexing.

Raised by Wolves
A new series to Channel 4, Raised by Wolves is set in a council estate estate in Wolverhampton (a city in the metropolitan county of the West Midlands, which also contains Birmingham, the city where I live). It's about a large, chaotic family, mostly following the mother Della, and the eldest two teenage daughters Germaine and Aretha. There is one boy among the siblings and the laid-back grandfather -Grampy- appears in the episodes too. It's written by Caitlin and Caroline Moran and is based on their own unusual childhood in Wolverhampton.

Eldest siblings Germaine and Aretha are intelligent and intellectual, aware of politics and pop culture, in a way that you don't tend to see in working class people on TV. Where Aretha is already fairly world-weary and able to see past the trappings of modern life, Germaine is keen to insert herself into the role of edgy outsider, even if that's not how others see her. Della is very dry and never afraid to get her hands dirty. There are various scenes of her doing something practical or giving very blunt and un-TV-mother-like advice to her children. She says it like it is: “We’re not southern twats and we’re not northern twats; we’re Midlands twats." I love this sentiment, if only because as a Midlander it's one I've shared for many years (albeit with less twats).

What's good about the show is that it's focused on what it's like to be a teenage girl, in a way you don't normally see. Despite her intelligence Germaine is attracted to a complete lout and is obviously horny as hell. In most teen-based shows girls are the ones to be attained and rarely is any focus given to their experience of hormones or loneliness (though previous Channel 4 show my Mad Fat Diary also did this). It is a balance that has long needed addressing because TV would have you believe that only men are put upon by puberty, lust and frustration, and that's simply not true. The character I most identified with is Aretha, her head in a book most of the time and never keen to participate, she's a young cynic who is dragged into things by her brash older sister and tries to shield the younger Yoko from Germaine's excesses (not that this reflects my life in any way, but I get the character's point of view best). It's very cool to have a show with multiple weird, offbeat female characters. Many shows will have one odd woman (who can range from regular, returner, or cameo) but never before have I seen so many non-mainstream depictions of women on a show, and it's great.

No Offence
A late addition to this post as it is currently airing on Channel 4, with the third episode broadcast on Tuesday. It's also the odd one out as it's not a half-hour sitcom but an hour-long police comedy drama. Although it is another new show that features prominently female characters. Written by Paul Abbott, whose work I've heard about but not seen much of, it is set in a Manchester police station.

It seems to be shaping into an ensemble show, as there's a cast of various characters, but so far DC Dinah Kowalska is a major focus. She's only person whose personal life we have seen, though that may be because in the first episode she takes work home in a very major way. Her potential promotion to sergeant is scuppered by a mistake she makes off duty, but she does set her station on the trail of a serial killer targeting disabled women. The show deals with serious crimes and treats these with appropriate weight, it is likely to be triggery for some people. Amid the serious stuff there is also a lightness of tone which is similar to that found in other workplace comedies, coupled with a very irreverent and sometimes dark or puerile sense of humour. This is largely embodied by Viv Deering, the mouthy Detective Inspector who is one of the most entertaining characters. Here is another definitely odd woman, but again one who is absolutely effective in getting stuff done. Newly-promoted Detective Sergeant Joy Freers is a nervy presence (and even she questions her promotion), but her insights and tactical knowledge prove she has earned her position and she doesn't quail when infiltrating a criminal's home. DC Spike Tanner seems like the traditional copper you get in this sort of show, and his character hasn't been explored much yet, but never at any point is there the slightest sign that he resents having women as his bosses. This is a gritty show, no gleam or glamour of the US-style cops and nothing cosy like the many police-procedural detective stories that already exist.

I haven't regularly watched a British cop show since Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, and it helped that the weird/speculative elements brought them to my attention. There are whole channels of crime/detective dramas from both sides of the Atlantic (and some places beyond), and I've tuned into a few here and there, but never latched on much. No Offence may not have the most original content, but the tone and style of it feel fresh and it's something I intend to keep watching.

* I started this post before her speech at the BAFTAs, now having heard about that I think I might love her just a little bit.

9 May 2015

The Best of Both Worlds Pt 2

Episode: s4, ep 1

This two-parter spanning a finale and a première is a big step up in terms of continuity and intrigue, especially when you look at the transitions between the previous series.* I was expecting to see a space battle, but even without that the pace of the episode is an improvement on many.

The Borg are close and the Admirals are worried, so they send Borg-expert Shelby to the Enterprise. People who aren't Riker are concerned about Riker's career trajectory and he's annoyed that up-and-comer Shelby is interested in his current job. The Borg headhunt Picard by kidnapping him, leaving Riker in command. A rescue attempt fails when it turns out that Picard has been altered by the Borg and is now their spokesperson (called Locutus). Riker doesn't stop to get advice or orders about Picard's situation, he fires on the Borg Cube...
What Happens
The Enterprise's one-shot weapon doesn't work and Locutus reveals the Borg have all Picard's knowledge. The Borg Cube zips away towards Earth. The Enterprise is damaged and can't join the fleet who are prepared to intercept the Borg at Wolf 359. The Admiral gives Riker a field promotion. Riker has a word with Shelby about putting aside their issues and working together with her as his First Officer. Guinan comes to see Riker and explains that she had Picard's ear because of their very close relationship, which she drops hints about. She tells Riker that in order to get through this he will have to let go of Picard completely, especially as the Borg have his knowledge.
The Admiral's comms drop out suggesting the battle isn't going well. The repaired Enterprise pursues the Borg and finds the devastation of the battlefield (battlespace? battlezone?). We don't get to see any of this space battle only the aftermath of broken ships and as the Enterprise remains in hot pursuit, there are presumably no nearby survivors. Riker gives Data and Worf a special assignment then goes to the battle bridge to try and negotiate. Locutus refuses negotiations as the Borg don't want anything and Locutus thinks it's a trick. The saucer section is separated as the Cube and the battle bridge exchange fire, and Data and Worf quietly take a shuttle into the Borg Cube. The Klingon and the android get Picard and beam back to the Enterprise. Locutus points out that removing him changes nothing as the Borg continue Earthwards.
They only have 27 minutes to save the Earth. Locutus is knocked out and taken to Data's lab, where
Data neural links with Picard to access the Borg system. Crusher monitors Picard's life signs, O'Brien monitors Data, and Troi is there to sense what's happening to Picard. Data is able to connect to the Borg system, slowing the advance of the Cube and causing it to attack the Enterprise. Picard himself facilitates the connection for Data and croaks "sleep." The Enterprise is close to being destroyed by the Borg, and Riker is about to ram the Cube when Data realises what Picard is trying to say. Data manages to access a low priority Borg system and puts the Borg in sleep mode, immediately ceasing the attack. Shelby and Worf beam over to the Borg Cube and confirm that their enemies are dormant. A self-destruct system has been started due to the malfunction and though Riker has the option to disarm it he has the Enterprise moved to a safe distance and the Cube explodes.
Picard is quickly returning to his old self. He and Riker share the ready room as Shelby leaves to help rebuild the fleet. Riker is still prickly about his career plans, but he and Shelby have a warmer, more respectful attitude to each other.

Oh Captain My Captain
We see Picard being upgraded by the Borg and it's a creepy scene as he lies expressionless, surrounded by machines that make him more machine-like. Though he never actually uses his laser-pointer headgear or unspecified-tool-arm for anything. The greater concern is that all of Picard's knowledge has been taken by the Borg. Picard's absence hangs heavy over the first part of the episode, it is the main thing Riker deals with. The Admiral has admired Picard since he was a cadet (not in an inappropriate way, it was because of his uphill-running skills) and views the Captain as a casualty of war, never a traitor.
As Locutus Picard is chillingly robotic. At one point Locutus is stomping around sickbay spouting Borg propaganda about their superior civilisation and good intentions. He's knocked out for being insufferable (and to take him to Data's lab). Locutus also says "Resistance is hopeless" suggesting he's understood the corporate message, but has fluffed the catchphrase wording. The images and Patrick Stewart's performance are definitely effective, and on an emotional level taking away Picard works, but I must admit I don't understand why the Borg need a spokesperson. This doesn't seem to be their usual practice, and as they have no concern for the thoughts or feelings of those they assimilate it's an odd move. When Riker tries to stall them by suggesting he prepare Earth for assimilation Locutus says: "Preparation is irrelevant. Your people will be assimilated as easily as Picard has been." Then why have a familiar face at all? These guys barely need to communicate with their victims. I suspect Picard's strategic knowledge made him more valuable.
During the neural link with Data it's clear Picard is under a lot of strain, but he's still there and helps as much as he's able. He reveals that he was conscious and remembered everything he'd done as Locutus, but being Picard he doesn't express weakness in front of his crew.

Riker: lover, adventurer, temporarily senior management
In the previous episode Riker didn't react very well to his sudden command role, but now that it's made official by an Admiral he puts more thought and care into it. He talks to Shelby in Engineering, praising her on her performance and acknowledging that although they haven't got on, he needs her to keep him on his toes. She pushes for the vacant first-officer post and he comments on her ambition but isn't angry when she points out her value at this time. There's no apology, but equally there's no bitching or snideness, both respect each other and have ways of working together in this challenging situation. It's all very mature and professional.
Riker makes clear to the senior crew that he can't replace Picard, but he will do the best he can. Guinan urges Riker to let go of Picard and tells Riker how low morale is. The crew know and like Riker, but they think they're going to die. Riker isn't sure he can save them, but Guinan points out that he needs to be. Just in case we'd believed the odd 'Riker plays things safe' message from the first part Riker comes up with a daring plan to rescue Picard, which is unpredictable in it's lack of logic and a gamble that Picard has enough Borg knowledge to be useful. At the end when it looks like all is lost Riker is ready to ram the Cube with the Enterprise, sacrificing their lives to save Earth and the Federation.

Does Not Compute
Locutus calls Data primitive and obsolete under Borg system, which makes sense coming from a species that enhances itself through cybernetic upgrades to organic beings; androids would seem like a dead end. Still there are no real parallels drawn between androids and the Borg, which I've commented before strikes me as odd. Data has the most equipment and expertise in this kind of thing. It's never said outright but he's probably the only one who can safely link with the Borg, plus being technology himself he probably perceives their systems quicker and more accurately than a human would. He's also the only one strong enough to match enhanced Picard and remove his cybernetic arm thing. Data hacks into the Borg systems to try and plant a command, but this attracts Borg attention. He figures out that Picard's "sleep" isn't request or expression of feeling but a suggestion about using the regeneration cycle, which is controlled by a low-priority, unguarded system. This episode demonstrates that the Borg's only real weakness is bad system infastructure.

Doctor Doctor
Crusher and Data have been working on possible nanite solution to Borg problem, it will take too long for this situation (weeks not hours). It sounds like a really promising place for further study, I am told it doesn't really come up again, somehow I am not surprised. Crusher examines and monitors Picard, seeing how the cybernetic implants are affecting him. She tries to connect with him as his friend, but it only briefly works before Locutus takes over.

Klingon Warrior and Blind Engineering
Geordi isn't in this episode much, and is mostly around as the Enterprise is recuperating from the initial Borg encounter. When Worf arrives in Engineering Geordi is delighted and gets Worf to help with some engine problems as he's "just the man I need." Yeah, Worf -the Chief of Security- is the only person who can help with a crucial engine problem. Certainly none of these engineers who are presumably littering Engineering can help. Again there seems to be an unspoken rift between Geordi and his staff. Riker seems to have considered Worf for a promotion, but as they're going into battle he acknowledges that Worf serves everyone best by staying in his tactical role. Riker talks to Worf about coming up with strategies that Picard won't know, Worf reckons they're fine because Borg have neither courage or honour. He does not elaborate on how he came to this conclusion.

Guinan's Hat: purple
Guianan pops in to see Riker, explaining that she had Picard's ear. She urges Riker to let go of Picard, not just because he's gone but because the enemy have everything he knows. She hints at the depth of her relationship with Picard "beyond friendship, beyond family", and says she's prepared to let him go. She acknowledges that it's harder because he wasn't killed, just taken from them. Riker can't try to imitate Picard, it won't work. He has to put aside his feelings of stepping into a great man's shoes and instead try to beat that great man.
I wonder whether she would have described their relationship to Picard in these terms. The series has not yet covered how Guinan and Picard know each other, leaving her mysterious and intriguing. Based on what I know I suspect that Guinan already knows/has experienced stuff that is in the future of her and Picard (though at this point the writers wouldn't know that, they were just preserving her mystery). It's interesting that Riker both follows and ignores Guinan's advice. Rescuing Picard is in no way letting him go, but equally it's not something Picard would have done at all. Picard would've listened to Guinan in all ways.

Staff Meetings: 1 (no time for more)
Riker tells Worf and Data he considered promoting them, but announces Shelby as his first officer. After their talk in Engineering he defers to her with more respect and grace than he showed in the previous episode. Everyone discusses options, nothing is decided. Riker gives a small speech about how he doesn't have Picard's way with words and can't replace him. He expresses confidence in everyone's ability, then dismisses them without giving any orders or devising a plan. Bet he was kicking himself just after everyone left.

Won't Somebody Think of the Children?
Riker goes to the battle bridge, leaving Shelby with the saucer section. This is exactly what you should do before engaging hostile forces, send the civilian population to safety if at all possible. Except that's not what Riker does. (Being so newly promoted Riker hasn't had the memo explaining that the Captain is charged every time the ship separates, which is presumably why Picard hardly ever did it when going into danger.) He only separates the saucer after drawing the Borg's attention and uses it to mask Data and Worf's shuttle. He knows Picard/Locutus is aware of the limited capability of the saucer, and so the battle bridge draws all the attention, and fire. Though there is a moment when Wesley points out the the saucer is a sitting duck. Riker is gambling with the most vulnerable part of his ship and its population, taking away the protection of the battle bridge's weapon's capability.

Death By Space Misadventure
We only see the aftermath of the space battle, but it was obviously a rout. Shelby names three damaged starships, we see many more. The Enterprise doesn't stop to rescue, suggesting there are no survivors there. From the info we get here everyone could have been killed.
I only know that they weren't because I've seen Deep Space 9. There must have been many casualties, the only one I can name is Jennifer Sisko, a civilian married to a star fleet officer. It's worth remembering that plenty of those who died were probably non-combatants.

The End
Picard left alone is still experiencing some physical discomfort, which puts him off his tea. He's gotten some blood back to his skin (or whatever made him pale has been reversed), but he still has some face furniture. He looks out of the window at space and the music combined with his expression shows this is a melancholy moment. He remembers what he did.

I used to work in a building called the Cube (which is not actually a cube). I have seen an article that compares my former workplace to a Borg Cube, I think that has more to do with the name than anything else, but I'll leave you to judge.

* Series 1 had a gripping penultimate episode but a weirdly anticlimactic finale, which did nothing to build on the success of the previous episode and only weakly hinted at an ongoing story. Series 2 opened with a bland episode featuring annoying tropes and ended with a clip show. Series 3 also started with a bland episode, but at least it was an improvement on the series 2 opener.