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.

12 June 2016

X-Men: Apocalypse



We have been burned by X-Men films in the past (my husband still prefers to pretend Last Stand doesn't exist) and so we restrain our excitement and go without high hopes, which has mostly worked out well. X-Men: Apocalypse has some cool stuff in it, and is reasonable entertainment, but did not blow me away. It's very definitely a sequel, but because the two preceding films didn't mesh well parts were a sequel to one, and parts were a sequel to the other and it didn't feel like it all gelled. The story seemed to rely on knowledge of (and clips from) the previous films, but the X-Men franchise has not been anywhere near as consistent as the MCU for example (though I appreciate it pre-dates it), so too much harking back seems a little foolhardy. Though I guess they got to reuse a few set designs. Plus in many ways things being a bit confusing and not making much sense with what went before is very appropriate to the source material (my husband has explained portions of the Summers family tree to me, several times).

Those characters who were given much to do had reasonable plot lines, although they were often pretty standard and some were downright cliches. Bringing in new/old characters at different ages is hardly a novel trick for X-Men at this point, but it all feels a bit superficial when they haven't sufficiently aged the older new characters. Some new characters were not given much in the way of backstory or motivation, and while everyone can't get equal screen time it seemed like there was a lot of focus on established characters whose backstories are already known to us. Though bizarrely much of this examination of the previous characters didn't really fill the gaps so much as explain to us what we had already seen. Passing the baton is a tricky thing to navigate, but I think there was too much caution in this area, as though the younger/newer characters couldn't be trusted to engage our attention. There were some moments of meta, that were kind of amusing, but also seemed ill-advised and cockier than I feel is deserved. Overall it was fine, but I think they have to do something pretty different or particularly good to impress me at this point.


Spoilery Random Thoughts in list form - this is a thing now.



How much sand and grit and dirt does Psylocke have in her swimming costume? It occurred to me at Auschwitz and I could not stop thinking it in Cairo. It is unhygienic and she must be super itchy.

So that mother and daughter were always going to get fridged so hard. Did they have names? I don't recall. I mean they were obviously going to die so who actually cares? It is kind of tedious. Plus why is Magneto a family man working in a Polish refinery? Sure tell us all about that thing in Washington we already saw, but don't explain what happened between the films by any means. Why did he stop being Magneto, I mean that was the main thing he had any interest in?

Charles is happy and being a professor again after that period of drug abuse and self-pity in the 70s, which has left him curiously unravaged by time. I don't remember why he was sad in the first place to be honest.

Hank is at least pretty consistent, while also looking curiously young. Perhaps he has been experimenting again because if there's one thing this sequence of films has established about Dr Hank McCoy it is that he's very concerned by his looks.

It's cool that Mystique is some kind of icon for mutants. She's had the main surprising and different storyline in this half of the franchise, so good on her.

Are there female teachers at this school? Should two male teachers be wandering into a teenage girl's room at night. I mean I know Prof X is the only one who can help Jean, but shouldn't there be a lady there to chaperone or something?

So how many timelines are there now? I know they don't want me to think this, but tough it happened. I figure there's got to be at least 3 because bits of this tie up with some previous films, but none of it works with all of them. I mean if Kurt, Scott and Jean had all been there before then the events of X2 make no sense, but I don't think this can be in that timeline at all.

Yay, Nightcrawler! I do like Nightcrawler, glad he is there. If people say BAMF online my first instinct is always that they are saying Nightcrawler's teleporting noise, which can be confusing because I know it means something else.

Scott did not irritate me here, it may just be a matter of time but I find I'm never that bothered by Cyclops.

Moira McTaggert is back, yay! She didn't slap Charles when she found out what he had done to her, boo!

Seriously though it has been twenty one years since First Class and ten years since Days of Future Past, so a comment on how Moira's hardly aged a day doesn't cut it, especially as she has no mutant powers to explain it (not that most people's powers do). Stryker also looks pretty similar, and not like that guy with the beard at all. Quicksilver should look properly different, or should have been an actual teenager in the last one. Magneto manages to look a bit tortured, so maybe that helps. It's not like there aren't make-up effects that would do the work.

On a similar point how much older is Havok than Cyclops? Havok was a teen in the 60s and Cyclops is a teen in the 80s, so that's a fair age gap really, even though Havok somehow still looks like he's only a few years/a decade-maybe older than Scott. Their powers don't explain this.

I like that Charles doesn't realise he's lost his hair yet when he battles Apocalypse. From the trailers I thought it would get burned out by Cerebro. I expect that was a surprise, shame we didn't see it.

Quicksilver's sequence was good again, one of the better bits as beefore. His sequences show a lot of invention, which is cool. Why doesn't Quicksilver tell Magneto who he is? It's just kind of left there.

Sophie Turner's version of Jean is good (I'm not always that bothered by Jean as a character either). I quite liked her and thought it was cool that she got some proper fire. Though she can presumably remove Magneto's hat and then mind control him, so she's already better than Prof X.

Jubliee did not get much to do.

Why does Psylocke do anything that she does? I don't really know her at all, but sympathise for all the sand and dirt she'll be washing out of herself for weeks. Other than that I got no feelings about her.

Storm had some stuff to do at first, but then not so much.

Angel/Arcangel didn't have much to do either, and I thought he was supposed to be rich. Now I don't know much about him in this either, so maybe he was. Angel can be well used to show how mutant prejudice can affect someone from a privileged background, but here I guess he was just an American cage-fighter in Germany.

I'm not that bothered about Apocalypse. He is a fairly boring villain all things considered. I don't really understand why he disliked things so much considered the time period he lived through was pretty much when things were invented and popularised by humans.

Oh look, it's Wolverine again, for no real reason, except that he has to be there, I guess.

2 June 2016

Half A Life

Episode: s4, ep 22

A Lwaxana Troi episode where she gets to deal with some real emotional stuff and no one mocks her for her desires. Yay! Also, ohh the feels!

What Happens
Lwaxana is aboard and invites herself along with Picard as he welcomes a scientist from a reclusive species that has asked the Federation for help restoring their declining sun. Lwaxana latches onto the reserved scientist, shows him around and provides a picnic in Engineering while he's working. He shyly enjoys her attention (because finally someone should!), but doesn't join her for the evening. The Federation have found the scientist a suitable sun that they can run a test on, in the hopes that Federation tech can save his planet. They've known the sun is declining for generations and this particular scientist has spent 40 years working on the solution, and 3 of those were just the search for a test sun. The test seems to go well, but the sun gets too hot and goes explodey. The scientist is devastated, but thanks everyone for their help.
Lwaxana tries to comfort the scientist and he finds her company helpful, but regrets that they hadn't met sooner. He's devastated because he'd wanted to save his planet before he died, but now he's returning home without success and he will die when he gets there. Lwaxana is enraged to learn that on his world people have a ceremony when they turn 60 and are euthanised, she insists that Picard intervenes. Picard points out that he can't because Prime Directive, and Lwaxana tries to beam down to the planet to raise some hell, but Deanna points out that no one can let her. Deanna comforts her mother, who is crying and feeling her own mortality. Lwaxana and her scientist talk and spend the night together. Then they have a long -and at times heated- discussion about the custom, and she tries to convince him to ignore his beliefs and choose life.
The scientist discusses the test with Geordi and Data (well, they're there) and realises something about neutrinos which he might be able to fix if he had time. This realisation chimes with what Lwaxana told him and he requests asylum from Picard, he wants more time to work on his findings. He tells this to a Science Minister, who is appalled at the suggestion that he live past 60 and rejects the notion entirely. When the scientist says that anyone new would take longer to reach the same point he is dismissed, younger people take things over, that is the way of things and all of his loved ones are gathering to honour him. A couple of warships approach the Enterprise and Picard is told they'll attack if the Federation ship leaves with the scientist on board.
The scientist's daughter is sent to the Enterprise; she's appalled and distressed by her father's decision and blames Lwaxana for influencing him. She describes her disappointment and her fears that her father will leave their planet and die among strangers without being laid to rest with his family. He finds that all his work has been removed, meaning he can't continue to help save his planet. He tells Lwaxana that he's going to return home to die, he doesn't want to start a revolution or hurt those he loves. The thought of being with her is almost enough for him to stay, but not quite. She accepts his decision and joins him for his ceremony.

Oh Captain, My Captain
Initially Picard does his usual thing of unsuccessfully dodging Lwaxana, but luckily this whole schtick, which has gotten pretty old, only happens during the pre-credit scene, then Lwaxana meets the scientist. Later Picard has to explain why the Prime Directive means he can't interfere in another culture's rituals and practices, even if they seem dreadful to the Federation. When the scientist goes to Picard for asylum the Captain accepts, but refuses to advise him on whether he was right.

It's Not Easy Being A Troi
Deanna is only in this a little. At first she rolls her eyes at her mother a bit, joking about her being insatiable when she's dressing seductively. Which is odd when you consider Deanna is the one who explained that women of her age in their species are very sexual. Of course Lwaxana chides her daughter for not practising her telepathy and judges her based on her lack of love life. So I guess this is just a mother-daughter activity with them. Later Deanna comforts Lwaxana as she cries over the scientist's fate. Though Lwaxana is sad and angry (sometimes when some people get angry enough they start to cry, which just frustrates and makes you want to cry more) about the upcoming death, she's also reminded of her own mortality too. She tells Deanna about feeling tired and afraid, and Deanna kind of tangents it onto reassuring her mother that she's not going to get frail or senile before her time. This isn't really the issue here and is also not something Deanna can tell based on her mother's personality, because that's not how age-related conditions work. It is super nice that Lwaxana gets to have a good relationship with someone who truly reciprocates her feelings and is utterly charmed by her. I was getting really fed up of jokes about men avoiding her because she's out-spoken. Of course when Geordi sees that Lwaxana has attached herself to the scientist he makes a snide comment, because he can't just stand and watch.
I don't quite get how this whole Betazoidempathy/telepathy thing works. In last episode the Betazoid investigator could tell that someone was lying and hiding things, with more success than Deanna (who is also half-human, so fair enough), but he couldn't tell what they were actually thinking and it was only ever referred to as a feeling, which sounds more like empathy than telepathy. Lwaxana is definitely telepathic and can communicate mentally with her daughter and acts as though she has a sense of others thoughts (though it's likely she's exaggerating), but that may be something that only works with someone close to you. Deanna can only ever do telepathy with Riker and her mother. From Lwaxana's attitude it's clear she thinks Deanna can do more and that telepathy, rather than empathy, is the norm for her. It makes me wonder whether Lwaxana is particularly talented at the mental arts. It may explain why she has all those titles, and why she expected more from Deanna, despite that her genetic background wouldn't be so strong.


Future is Better
The scientist's culture is reclusive, isolationist and nearly xenophobic. Very little is known about them and they've only gone to outsiders because their planet is at risk. Though at least they realised their sun was in trouble, and are working on it with generations to go, so they're doing better than the Kryptonians. Even though he's happy to be working with the Federation the scientist has trouble imagining himself or his people living elsewhere besides the planet. Their sense of place and culture is clearly very strong. He regrets the situation he's in, both in terms of his work and meeting Lwaxana, but he doesn't think of changing his situation and argues against Lwaxana's demand that he does. This doesn't seem to be an area where social mores are up for discussion and I get the impression that rebellion is unusual or strongly discouraged. Institutionalised euthanasia is discussed and explored without the dialogue being preachy. Of course Lwaxana finds it horrifying and wasteful for people of only 60 to give up on their lives. The scientist tries to explain how terrible it was for old people a millennia ago, left to decay until their natural deaths, and that no one wants to be a burden or trapped in a life with such poor quality. It's a persuasive argument only because it highlights people's fears about aging, but it's also a terrible solution. These people have built their whole culture around the idea that people over 60 can't be of use, and Lwaxana's right that it's a terrible waste and far too young. There's been no work to improve people's lives or find cures for age-related illnesses. The scientist is only convinced by Lwaxana when he sees how he could make progress in his work, but when he realises that he won't be allowed to save his planet and that his decision will hurt his family he changes his mind back. He points out to Lwaxana that he's no revolutionary. It's so sad, but not surprising.

The Prime Directive Is A Harsh Mistress
I don't feel like these rules have been fully defined, but as these people aren't human (or another Federation species), I guess the Federation have decided they can't interfere. Though presumably this planet must be post-warp or technologically advanced enough to have contacted the Federation for help. Star Fleet are sharing their tech and resources to help presumably because they were asked and because this reclusive race are advanced enough that this doesn't count as interfering. Of course if they were pre-warp then Star-Fleet would be honour-bound to let them be destroyed when their sun exploded, but could totally have observed them in secret until that happened.

Staff Meetings: 1
The scientist explains how they're going to do something with some weapons to reignite a sun in a similar condition in the hopes of saving his own planet's star. Picard apologies that it has taken 3 years for the federation to find a suitable sun for testing.

The End
Picard regretfully wishes the scientist goodbye and asks him to tell his people that the Federation will be ready to help when they want to try again. Lwaxana arrives unexpectedly to join the scientist at his Resolution ceremony, as one of his loved ones. She assures Picard she won't cause trouble on the planet, and he gives her permission to disembark. Lwaxana and her scientist hold hands to beam down. It's so, so sad.

28 May 2016

Captain America: Civil War



I was afraid this could be a bit of a hot mess after Age of Ultron, I mean that had less people involved and was quite overstuffed. I'm pleased to say that my expectations were exceeded. This wasn't as much of a pleasant surprise as Avengers Assemble (mostly because we all feared that'd be dreadful and then  it really wasn't and we didn't even know such a thing could work), but it was in some ways better as a thing because there's more background and complexity for the characters.

I didn't take a side (I can be that way sometimes, I haven't picked a side in the British Civil War either despite that my A level history teacher insisted that we would) and I felt that the viewpoints and motivations of most characters were given space and explored. This is nice because it could easily have been more on Cap's side (it's technically his film, and I understand the comic story line has Stark as a right jerk). The story made sense from a character point of view and the tension was built by the knowledge that there was more to the situation and we (or the characters) knew. It was cool that there were a few times when Steve and Tony almost sorted things out, but then something would happen or something would be sent that made it all worse. The action was exciting and interesting, groups of people using their powers and skills for fighting while mostly not wanting to properly hurt anyone else. There was room for surprises despite all the trailer clips and there was variety to the action that's different to what we've seen before. It's nice that Marvel have realised that you don't have to have a city in danger or something in the sky at the climax of a superhero film. A conflict can have tension and impact and be dramatic without trashing buildings and creating loads of collateral damage. I think this is one of my favourite Marvel films.


The Return Of The Random List of Spoilery Thoughts
Again this won't make sense if you haven't seen the film, plus it's probably going to be spoilery for previous Marvel films, so you were warned.



How did the Dean get a job at MIT? Seriously, he could barely run a community college.
Maybe they didn't want me to make this comparison, but they should have put a wig or beard or something on him. I am easily confused by people having different hair, so if I spotted it was the same man they couldn't have been trying hard to hide it.

Ma Stark has a name and a face and a voice!
I've been waiting for this for years! I mean she's only there so Stark can avenge(r)* his mum's death (what else are superhero mothers for?) but at least she's acknowledged as a person after 5 films with Iron Man and 2 films and a TV show featuring Howard Stark.
Maria Stark, about damn time

No! They killed Peggy! How could you! I mean it was obviously coming, but still, sadness. I pulled a sad face at my husband in the cinema. And then the 3rd series of Agent Carter isn't happening. Further sadness!

Sharon does not replace Peggy. At all! Don't try this Marvel. I know she's good at her work and helps Steve loads, but seriously that doesn't mean they've gotta kiss. Is it kissing as a reward? Not that I feel Steve would do such a thing himself, but plot-wise that's how it feels to me. She's been helpful so she gets to kiss Cap, I mean it's a gender-switched version of a trope, but it turns out I still don't like it. The problem is that there's little background or build up to this kiss, just Nat suggesting he ask her out a few years ago before he knew she was surveilling him. Plus the whole Peggy connection makes it feel weirder. Though the MCU has no history of good romances, in fact that's main place where they do badly, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised they've fluffed this. Or maybe it was to counteract the weight of all the Steve/Bucky online shipping, but this opposite-sex chemistry-free kiss does not convince that this pairing is better.

Vision's outfits! My first reaction to Vision was that he was so otherworldly compared to the rest of the characters, now his preppy-looking outfits are totally incongruous.

Vision and Wanda are kinda cute. They're the two most powerful (with Thor and Hulk absent),  but also in many ways the most mysterious. I wonder if things will be going in the same direction as the comics? At least if they do there's some build up here, rather than a seemingly arbitrary decision about which two characters are attracted to each other. Part of me thinks that a version of the Gillon/McKelvie Young Avengers run would be awesome (gay teenagers smooching on the moon!), but in all honesty the backstory/origin of Wanda's kids is all a bit too weird for film.

Spidey is great, really enjoyed him, but I am judging Stark so heavily for involving a child in this. Him not doing that kinda thing was the main thing that made him less of a jerk than Batman.

Ant Man was just happy to be invited, cos it's so cool. Plus he's a bit anti-corporate and anti-Stark, so it makes sense.

No one explains why Hawkeye does what he does, and I'm not that bothered.

Black Panther was very cool and his putting aside of revenge was the most sensible and mature action here.

No Marvel ending, they're doing a different thing, finally. Nothing in sky. No city in peril. Just three people with massive emotion stakes in the situation beating the shit out of each other in a bunker.

Stark shouldn't have had Wanda held, not cool. Why didn't he just ask her to stay put, explain why he wanted her out of the way for a bit. Using Vision that way wasn't great, I guess he still has vestigal butler reflexes. Having done that to Wanda he probably shouldn't have told Cap. Stark's not the best team player and I think he doesn't entirely get that the others aren't his employees. Not that he's treating them that way on purpose, but I think he has limited ways of interacting with people and assuming he's in charge is one of his main social strategies.

Falcon has totally imprinted on Cap. His hatred of Bucky is understandable and hilarious.

It makes sense they had to fight among themselves as Loki's the only compelling villain they've done so far (they're almost as bad at villains as they are at romance) and he's Thor's issue. Plus this works so well because we care for and have history with most of these characters while also wanting to discover more about the newer ones.


*Not sorry.

21 May 2016

The Drumhead

Episode: s4, ep 21

What Happens
There was a Klingon on the Enterprise as a part of a science exchange programme, but after a small explosion damaged the engine and Federation info was leaked to the Romulans he's suspected to be a spy and saboteur. The Enterprise crew question him, but due to the severity of what happened Star Fleet sends retired Admiral Satie to work with Picard on the investigation. At first the partnership works well, everyone respects each other and the admiral's Betazoid investigator knows the Klingon scientist is lying. Worf discovers the scientist had adapted one of his medical syringes to convert information from Federation chips into proteins that could be carried as a message in a person's bloodstream. When questioned again and confronted with the evidence the scientist admits that he passed information, and that he hates the Klingon treaty with the Federation, seeing the Romulans as more worthy allies. He still insists he had nothing to do with the damage to the engine though, leading Picard, Admiral Satie and Worf to suspect that there might be someone else involved. The Admiral says that she's impressed with Worf and Picard even though she admits that she doesn't usually like working with others. It helps that Picard is familiar with the work of her father, a legendary judge whose shadow she has clearly been living in all her life.
Dr Crusher is questioned about the Klingon scientist, he came into sickbay to get the regular injections he needs, but she didn't do it herself. One of her medical staff Simon Tarses -who is mostly human but has pointy, Vulcan ears from a grandparent- is questioned, he did administer the scientist's injections but says he never spoke with him socially. He's clearly nervous and after he leaves the Betazoid investigator says he's hiding something big and declares that he must be the one they're looking for. Picard isn't convinced that they can tell anything from a feeling and refuses to let extra security measures to be imposed on Simon. The Admiral disagrees, but they're interrupted by Geordi who's finished checking the explosion site in the engine.
Data and Geordi show Picard and Admiral Satie the area where a hatch cover came loose. A thorough investigation has revealed nothing besides signs of wear, meaning that the hatch cover simply had a tiny flaw that couldn't be detected. It really does look like it was a coincidental accident, and Picard is fine with that but Admiral Satie isn't. She points out that a traitorous scientist shouldn't have been able to get on board the flagship at all and so probably had help. Picard grudgingly agrees that Simon can be questioned again, but only to prove his innocence. Picard is surprised to find that the next questioning session has an audience, and the Betazoid investigator lies to Simon about the cause of the engine damage, very clearly insinuating that Simon has the means to help the Klingon scientist and sabotage the ship. Simon is really nervous and then the investigator reveals that Simon lied on his Star Fleet application, his grandparent is Romulan not Vulcan. Simply being 1/4 Romulan seems to be enough for some, plus of course the lying is also bad.
Picard tells Admiral Satie not to continue, he tries to persuade her that what's happening is wrong. She points out that she doesn't have family or friends or a home, she just travels around doing her job and protecting their society. She starts to sound somewhat nationalistic and again cites her father. She wants to hold more inquests and will question whoever she has to. Worf is happily doing investigations into Simon's family and friends. Picard tries to convince him that this is wrong and Worf says people with nothing to hide shouldn't be afraid of the truth, which is pretty hypocritical when you consider Worf's situation.
The Admiral sends for a non-retired Admiral to make things more official, he mostly just sits there while Satie and her Betazoid staff member interrogate Picard, who is apparently not an equal partner in this anymore. Satie brings up the nine times Picard has breached the Prime Directive and also the events of Data's Day, when the Enterprise unknowingly transported a deep-cover Romulan spy to her people. Then Worf tries to defend Picard and the Betazoid turns on him and asks about his father being a Romulan collaborator. Picard recites a speech that Judge Satie once made, about people's freedom and Admiral Satie flips out and starts shouting because she's decided Picard is a traitor and believes he's tarnishing her father's name. The silent, visiting Admiral looks well dubious then walks out, at which point Satie realises that she might have appeared a bit unstable and the session is ended. Later Worf tells Picard it's all been called off and admits that he had believed in Satie and what she was doing. Picard warns about people like her.


Guest Star
Admiral Norah Satie is played by Jean Simmons, admittedly I did have to look this up because it turns out that although I know her name (not to be confused with Gene Simmons from Kiss) I didn't really know what she looked like as I've not seen her films. The main thing I know her from is the voice of Old Sophie in the English dub of Howl's Moving Castle.
Though I got distracted imagining Dame Judi Dench -who I guess might've been a bit young when this was filmed- in the role, because it did seem like a version of M from Bond mixed with Dolores Umbridge. OMG, they should totally cast Dame Judi with a cameo/one-episode role in the new Star Trek series!

Oh Captain, My Captain
Picard is happy to be working with Admiral Satie while investigation is still needed, and he's an admirer of her father's work. When action is being taken on the basis of a feeling Picard is cautious, though admittedly his own Betazoid is much vaguer than hers. As Picard gets increasingly angry about the way Simon is being targeted and public incriminated and he tries to convince Satie and Worf that what they're doing is wrong, but neither gets it. Satie initially makes a show of taking his point on board and being careful, but then just does as she pleases. You can tell she's not used to working collaboratively as she placates then ignores Picard and reports to Star Fleet, even summoning another Admiral without his knowledge.
Picard invites Simon for a private chat, probably not the way he'd have wanted to get the ear of the Captain. Picard asks about Simon's background and (as ever) it's all focused on Star Fleet and career aspirations and poor Simon's fear that it's all over for him. When Picard later says that he's determined Simon's innocence through talking to him the Admiral dismisses the idea. She's really not a people person, but doesn't seem to get that others can be.
Picard's hearing, which is before an Admiral and he gets no notice about, isn't really about the information breach or the accident, it's about Picard's record. He knows the rules, so he takes an opportunity to give a small speech, but neither Admiral seems to respond to his speeching powers. Now I'm not surprised to hear he's breached the Prime Directive nine times, but I get the impression that's not normal for a Captain. Picard doesn't deny it and says that he reported the circumstances each time that happened. Then the events of Data's Day are raised and Picard is obviously weary (such facepalm) but he isn't scared. Then he combines his speeching powers with quotation by reciting some words he learned at school, and instead of cursing (as many of us would) he quotes Judge Satie at Admiral Satie she flips out revealing that she's already made her decision. He saw just how much she admired her father and knew that would get through to her somehow, though I don;t know whether he was trying to freak her out or whether he hoped she would be convinced.

Klingon Warrior
When the scientist says his being discriminated against because he's Klingon Troi points to Worf as why that isn't the case (not always true, but probably correct here). The scientist taunts Worf about his dishonour and terrible status in Klingon society, then he tries to bribe Worf by suggesting he has powerful firneds who could help Worf regain his honour. Once they're out of the ccorridor Worf attacks him and refuses his bribe, though I suspect that's how Klingons refuse bribes. It does seem a bit dumb to taunt someone you were hoping would help you, plus the scientist seems to think that Worf could be pro-Romulan like him so why not approach like he might be on your side. The Betazoid investigator says that his father's reputation as a Romulan collaborator means Worf was considered a suspect, but his discovery of how the scientist got the secrets out and his work in the interrogation convinces Satie and her people that Worf will be very useful. I suppose that humans aren't intimidating to Klingons, whereas Worf could be.Worf really gets into the investigating and delegating stuff to his staff and he's finally allowed to be as suspicious as he usually wants to be. Picard tries to explain why this is wrong, but Worf believes Satie and says innocent people aren't afraid of the truth. This is a hypocritical stance considering how many family secrets he's got: Hey Worf, what's the deal with your father? Do you have any siblings? Any children? Hmmm?
 At the Captain's hearing Worf speaks up to defend Picard's actions regarding the Romulan spy from Data's Day, he points out that any aggressive action then could have endangered the whole ship. The the Betazoid, who previously praised him and disregarded his father's supposed collaboration throws it back into his face and says he's not worthy of his job. Worf approaches menacingly, but Picard -the only person there who knows truth about Worf's father- stops him from taking regretable action.

Random Crewmember: Crewman First Class Simon Tarses, medical technician
Poor Simon is nervy about questions because he hid his Romulan heritage in his application to Star Fleet, pretending his elf ears are due to Vulcan relatives. Though it's not really explored much the implication is that Romulan heritage can be a severe hinderance to Star Fleet entry, or at least that he expected to experience prejudice if the truth was known. He talks to Picard about his aspirations growing up, they bond a little over memories of a particular bench near the Academy and Simon mentions how eager he was to go to space, and so he didn't take the Officer route. Though I wonder if he didn't take that route because he feared his heritage would be more of a problem, though that doesn't explain why his parents wanted him to try. Now he's terrified that his career is over and though we know a lot more about Simon than any other Random Crewmember, we don't know how this all impacts on him afterwards.

Too Many Admirals
Admirals are rarely a good sign on this show. Satie clearly loved and admired her father greatly, though her upbringing sounds a little odd, with family meals being enforced a discussion exercises. Of course to her that's normal and to someone with respect for oratory like Picard it probably sounds pretty good. Picard mentions that Satie's investigation exposed an alien conspiracy 3 years earlier, I assume that's refering to the events of Conspiracy with the brainlice who mind controlled a load of Admirals. I don't remember seeing or hearing about her in that episode? Did she give the info to that other Admiral who rised his concerns with Picard, or did she clear up what happened after. I mean that entire thing seemed to disappear without a trace, which isn't surprising cos that's TNG, but equally is kinda ridiculous because it should have caused a real shake-up across the ranks. Early on Satie mentions how frightening a conspiracy on a star ship can be, I wonder if that's because she's done this sort of thing everywhere else she's been? It's not clear if this is how she's always operated, or whether she's gotten worse over time. I almost feel bad for her when she tells Picard she's spent the last four years without seeing family or having a home or friends, she's just travelled around fulfilling her purpose of keeping the Federation safe. It's odd because she's supposed to have been retired. Sounds like she's been investigating on her own and maybe someone should have made sure she was fully retired. She also mentions that people have doubted her before and they've regretted it, which suggests a reign of terror. Of course it sounds like she's got nothing else in her life, or she has built her life around this. It's clear she's a nationalistic, paranoid zealot who enjoys the power and righteousness of her investigations, what isn't clear is whether she's specifically xenophobic against Romulans or whether any perceived threat gets her going, I figure it's the latter. When she goes off the deep end at Picard it's satisfying from a story point of view, though part of me wonders if it's exacerbated by her being a woman, and an older woman at that.
 Silent Admiral is silent, watchful, unimpressed and then gone.

The End
Worf tells Picard that silent Admiral has stopped things and Satie has left. Picard muses on how the history of witch hunts is still with people. Worf says he believed her and didn't see what she was. Picard says that people like her hide themselves behind good deeds, fear and righteousness, flourishing in the right climate. Society has to be vigilant for such people, always.


It's such a relevant message for nowadays. Well as Picard says any days really. I was recently listening to a podcast about Titus Oates and his Popish Plot, yet another historical example of paranoia about a certain group being exploited to create panic and aggrandise the accuser.

16 May 2016

Planetfall

Planetfall
by Emma Newman


Ren lives in a community on a planet far from Earth, she looks after the printers which keep the settlement running. Ren is a very private person who is plagued by regrets and secrets and worries. When someone comes from outside the settlement it seems impossible, perhaps a miracle, it was assumed no one could survive outside the settlement. The new arrival is welcomed but his presence stirs up things Ren does want to think about, pulling her further into a deception. When he gets involved in her life she finds she's closer to the revelations she's long dreaded.

This is the first book in a sequence, with the second volume out later this year. Emma Newman also has a series of fantasy books (which I really should have blogged about by now, because they are excellent, but apparently haven't because I'm so slow at book blogging) The Split Worlds, which has a fourth volume also out later this year.


This is a very powerful story and I can't think that I've encountered much like it, though I don't read as much science fiction as I do fantasy. The story is told in first person POV by Ren, and as well as getting her thoughts on events as they're happening we also get her memories, meaning that a strong feeling of her is created throughout the book. From early on it's clear that Ren is a very private person, and not always comfortable with people. Ren's anxiety and worries make her sympathetic, and this aspect of her viewpoint is very important to the story. Everything is filtered through her perspective and we know that there are secrets and deceptions, but because Ren doesn't like to think about certain aspects of her life and past the reader is pulled through the book intrigued to find out not just what will happen next, but also what happened in the past. In fact there are a couple of places where a narrative sleight-of-hand is used so that something common for Ren is presented to the reader as a revelation without breaking the viewpoint. I won't go into more detail as that would spoil things. It's interesting that even in this future setting, when a lot of human problems have been overcome by technology, mental health problems are clearly still present and still seem to have some stigma attached.

The setting itself is very interesting. There's a lot of technology which seems to be logical advancements of what we have today, 3-D printing is major part of the story, as is a very personal form of social networking. There's also advances to healthcare and buildings. The book contains a limited population within one settlement, and so it's hard to know how these advancements have affected humanity as whole. In fact it sounds as though the situation on Earth wasn't great, and the background details we are given sound like many of today's worries, environmental disaster, overpopulation, restrictive governments. There's an element of the utopian in the main setting, but science fiction stories aren't ever good for utopias. Though this leads to the other fascinating part of the setting, which is the religious aspect. The reason for the settlement on a planet far distant from Earth has to do with vision, spirituality and the idea of God being an entity that can be found, that wants to be found. There's exploration of how faith can be important to people, how it can be used to both support and deceive. Ren's discomfort with the spiritual leanings of others in her may be familiar to some readers in a time when we're often encouraged to be skeptical.

As I said before the reader is pulled through the story by a growing sense of a potential disaster which mirrors some past disaster, both of which we want to learn more about. Details about the past inform the present and create a sense of dread. As you think you might have figured out how things will go you get a new detail that subtly changes the game. The story isn't very fast-paced to begin with, but there's a lot of interest in learning about Ren and her environment and her life, and as plot move on things get faster and there are a few emotional blows that are very effective. This is not a terrifically happy book, but it has humour and hope and peace within it. I could not have anticipated the ending, and it is something that could merit a lot of discussion about its implication, which is a good thing.

10 May 2016

30

I turned 30 recently, which was nice because I was determined to have a good time with it and not focus on my age or where I am in my life and all of that stuff. Plus I can't complain as my husband is 5 years older than me and he took it all in his stride a while ago.

I had a short break to Copenhagen for my actual birthday, I've never been to Scandinavia before but have long wanted to go. That was a very nice few days, did a lot of walking as I often do -reminding me that in normal life I need more exercise and should probably walk more. We visited a couple of castles, the little mermaid statue (which is small but larger than I thought after so many people told me how small it is), Tivoli gardens (which was smaller and more commercial than I'd expected), the National Museum and walked along the beach area. We also met Margr├ęt, which was lovely. She has also been published with Fox Spirit Books and has edited some anthologies with them, so we know a lot of people in common but hadn't met before. She told us a bit about Copenhagen and the surrounding area, showed us part of the museum and was the one to suggest where we could walk up the beach.

Me on my 30th, with giraffes invading through mirrors

I got a good haul of books and graphic novels for my birthday, so much to read, which is nice. I'll try and blog about what I've read a bit more, but I'm already behind on that, so will see how I go.

The day after coming back from Copenhagen I went out to lunch with my extended family, then back to my parents' house. In collusion with my husband my mum had ordered me a cake with little models of our pet rats on the top. It was really lovely and tasted great too. 

Last weekend I got together with a load of my friends for a birthday party. The parties I like tend to have a lot of people gathered around chatting about all sorts of (often-but-not-always geeky) stuff. I'd booked a room in a bar and got a buffet, and it was all really nice. A few people came from out of town and I saw some people I don't see often and it just felt really nice.

So, having organised most of this I've gotten a bit behind on other things. I've various blog posts half done but I'm hoping to get them all sorted soon and catch up with actually posting about books and film and TV and all that stuff. Plus I guess I should decide what's next in general.


Did I mention I have glasses now? I may not have done so on the blog. My vision's gotten worse in last few years (couldn't see words on the TV bad) and now I need them most of the time. I'm considering contact lenses.

8 May 2016

Superman Vs Batman: Dawn of Justice

Catching up with blogging? Or cunningly waiting until most people have seen the film?



As the main story after the release was that this film wasn't very good I wasn't expecting much going in, and so I was reasonably satisfied with what I got. It wasn't a bad film, it was fine. Of course at the moment it seems as though if something isn't brilliant that means it's terrible automatically, polarised opinions, blah blah blah. Plus I suppose this film came with a lot of baggage and the way studios are trying to chain films together meant that it had more riding on it than whether it entertained people for a couple of hours.

I quite enjoyed Man of Steel when it came out, and felt the version of Superman was continued here successfully. This guy zipping around saving people seemed the same as the guy doing occasional super-powered good deeds while he was travelling. I liked Ben Affleck's performance as an older Batman, one whose seen some stuff and has already got the whole Bat-thing down. I didn't get why people were so freaked out by Batfleck a couple of years ago and I think he did well here even if there were issues. I thought the way the two characters were brought together as men and as superheroes was OK. I thought Lex Luthor was an interesting, modern take on the character, though I'm not sure how off-putting he was meant to be. I think it would have been better if his overall plan hadn't been so weird, bits worked and bits really didn't, though it at least it wasn't yet another weird real estate plot like in previous Superman films. In fact plot-wise some stuff worked and some stuff was just really strange (especially the last act), but I can see the reasons why all of it was there even when it didn't gel. As in the previous film I liked Amy Adam's Lois Lane, though she didn't get lots to do but in an ensemble piece that was to be expected. I really liked Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman, she struck me as fun and also as the only character (with the arguable exception of Lex Luthor) who seemed to know what she was doing. She was a bit skinnier than I'd pictured Wonder Woman (but hey, that's Hollywood I guess),  but I suppose the point is that with her powers it's not about size so much.

And now to go into more detail on specifics...

A Random List of Spoilery Thoughts
Spoilers below in case you hadn't guessed, plus a lot of this won't make sense if you haven't seen the film.


It's cool to see that the events of Man of Steel shown from ground level and that there are repercussions for all that violence, though it's taken long enough to show that. I didn't really comment on it here after I watched the previous film, but the fight scenes and destruction were too big and took too long. Nice to see some aftermath. Also cool that Bruce Wayne runs towards the danger.

Why is there a horse in the chaos? After the film my husband said that was a 9/11 reference. Grr.

Why are the people in Bruce Wayne's Metropolis office waiting until he gives them permission (in person?) to leave. There are aliens having a giant fight outside, I think you can run away regardless of what the CEO says. Also who was that older guy? It seemed like he and Bruce had some strong connection that never got explained. Though I might be confused because I thought Bruce was calling him "Dad" initially.

You know what I think we all know how Bruce Wayne became Batman. I think that is a thing with which we are all familiar, you do not need to show us, even if it's a quick flashback. I mean I get that this film is full of this odd dream 'n' vision quality, which I don't object to per se, but there could have been less of this thing we know already. I also get that his mum's name is important, but they could've done that with the name on the grave alone. After my comment about fathers in Man of Steel it's good that mothers have more weight here, admittedly they play a mostly symbolic role, but they're present.

Lex Luthor (I'd totally forgotten his name is Alexander) is clearly supposed to be a massively entitled dick who's a bit manic and socially inept, which works very as a villain concept. Though I feel like the film has not realised how big a dick he is and also wants us to feel admiration of him in some way, which I will not. Of course that could be me reading into things. The way he manipulated stuff to do with people and organisations and power structures was good. Anything to do with him and Kryptonian stuff made no sense at all and was deeply stupid. (It's possible Jesse Eisenberg is a perfectly nice chap but -like with Chris Pine- I've never seen him play a character I didn't want to slap.)

Seeing Lex Luthor and Batman in the same film made me think very strongly that they're really just two sides of the same coin. I know people say Batman should be admired because he did it all himself and he doesn't have super powers, but extreme wealth basically is his super power. Both Wayne and Luthor have looked at the world, seen something they'd like to change/do and used their ridiculous wealth -combined with extra-legal methods- to do as they please regardless of how authority/society views them. This leads to an interesting line of thought about how much they get to judge each other...

This Wondermark strip makes an excellent point in this matter and cracks me up.   Weird car!

Speaking of people judging each other... it seems a bit like Superman can't judge Batman for what he's doing too much. I get that Superman is primarily saving people (oh look there's that saviour imagery from Man of Steel, alright Snyder, we get it - at least there's less this time) and Batman is branding criminals, but neither is exactly official or registered. I understand Batman's motivation more what with Supes destroying a large part of a city and being a terrifyingly powerful alien.

Yay, more Clark! He was kinda missing in previous film, maybe it's because my Superman background comes from The New Adventures, and Smallville to a lesser extent, but I always feel Clark should be as much of the story as Superman. It's so cool that Clark can hear Batman's comms. I'd never considered that before! Superman would be very hard to spy on, I want to see a thing where someone tries. Say what you will for these films they are doing things with Superman's abilities that I've not seen on TV/film before (see also how young Clark adjusts to his hearing and vision powers).

If I hadn't seen someone mention it on Twitter I probably wouldn't even have seen that hip in bed with Bruce Wayne, though it served so little purpose. It's more subtle than most films that demonstrate that a character has sex with random ladies who have nothing to do with the story/the character's life, but I don't think that's required at all and so doing it this subtly is just confusing. My assumption was that this type of thing was also done for eye candy, which it didn't do and that's just added to my confusion.

I like that Batman's older and worn in and experienced. I liked that there are hints to the stuff that's happened before and that he and Alfred have been doing this a while, even though Alfred's obviously a bit dubious about some stuff Bruce does. I do like the traditional posh Alfred (more butlery one feels), but of the recent Alfreds I like Irons better than Caine - I mean Caine's Alfred is nicer, but he just never felt like Alfred to me. (Plus I kept thinking he was about to launch into an explanation of how magic tricks work which Christian Bale didn't need as he and his twin were already obsessively committed and... that's a different film.)
Also my short story My Guardian's Guardian, published in the Guardians Fox Pocket mini-anthology from Fox Spirit Books deals with stuff in this area. I don't normally plug things, maybe you can tell.

As I said above I liked Lois Lane in this film and the last one, but she felt oddly used here. She's kind of bait really and that irritates a bit and I wish she had been able to show more anger at being used as she is. I do think it's cool that she and Supes rescue each other (sort of) and both are shown helping each other out of the water at different points in the film. It seemed at one point like she was going to be a lot more important in the plot and then she didn't get a lot to do.
 
Speaking of which water seems to be an important element/image for Superman in these films, noticed it strongly in Man of Steel too. It's here as well, though less prominent.

What's with the Elseworld scene? I get that it's a wider continuity, but it just made it seem like the film was leading to this really interesting, weird thing that never actually arrived. I've since heard people say that they can't do an end credits scene cos that's Marvel's shtick, which I totally get, but I was largely confused and it just kinda added to the fact that Lois isn't really that important here after all.

Yay, Holly Hunter is doing things and taking no crap and trying to get stuff sorted. No, she got exploded.

Why couldn't Batman and Superman just talk things through like people? I mean there's all this squaring off and fighting, and it wasn't needed. Again I get what Batman was doing more, he was afraid of someone dangerous and powerful, probably a new feeling for him. But why didn't Superman just hover nearby and explain that this terrible guy kidnapped his mother to force a fight, and hey you seem pretty resourceful, maybe you could help with that.

Yay Wonder Woman! When she sees the TV on the plane (do they show news on planes, idk I've never been on the posh bit of a plane) you can just see her thinking she's gonna have to sort out someone elses mess. Then Supes and Bats assume she's with the other and it's like, no dudes this lady is here on her own terms. Plus it's amazing the casual way she says she's dealt with creatures from other worlds before. It's like these guys have no clue how clueless they even are.

She has the best theme music! It is so amazing. When Bruce is looking at her photo there's the thing with the drums and I thought that was pretty cool. Then when she shows up in full outfit, OMG! The drums and the guitars and the awesome! I don't run, but if I did run, I feel like that would be excellent music to run to.

So Doomsday and Lex Luthor's plan, WTF? Nothing in that spaceship made any sense whatsoever, which means much of Lex Luthor's plan doesn't make sense. I get that there needed to be some implacable threat to bring Bats and Supes together, but couldn't they have come up with something that wasn't immensely nonsensical?
Why does splashing some human blood into a pool with a dead Kryptonian General create a big monster?
Why would the human whose blood it is be able to control the monster? That's not how blood works.
Why would Lex even think this is a thing he could do?
I get that the film probably didn't show the timing very well, and maybe he was doing a lot of really thorough research and not just going paddling with a dead alien, but still. Up to that point I'd been impressed with his scheming, but after it I was not on board.

Seems a bit early to do Death of Superman. I'm not that invested in the characters yet, but I suppose it goes back to the weight of subsequent films so I get why it happened. Also it seemed a bit weird that Batman was so sad and acting like they were such good friends, when actually they hated each other up until the end bit, and then they were allies during one fight that seemed like it was about half an hour. Don't start telling people they've got to this and that in the name of your friend when you only knew him for half an hour, ok Batman.

Why did they shave Lex Luthor's head when he was in prison? That's not how prison works. (I feel the timing of him even being in prison was a bit quick, but films often do this sort of thing.) You lose your liberty, but you can keep your hair. I mean if he was joining the army I'd get it; I don't know if that's a real thing in the US Army, but it's a trope I've seen before - and those guys do hate extra hair. If he was shaving his own head or tearing his hair out that'd seem like it made more sense. Maybe being as he's small and white he figured he'd go skinhead for protection, but that's not what we're seeing. I know many famous incarnations of Luthor are bald, but if he wasn't bald from the start I don't see why it happened randomly at the end.
Also, does Batman have Alfred flicking the light switches in the prison? Doesn't seem safe.

25 April 2016

Qpid

Episode: s4, ep20

Awkwardness, many hats, so funny! This episode doesn't really explore anything except maybe Picard's commitment issues, but I don't care cos it's hilarious.

What Happens
The Enterprise is hosting an archaeological conference and Picard is fussing over his speech about the forbidden ruins on the planet below. Picard finds an unexpected visitor in his quarters, it's Vash, the roguish archaeologist he met on Risa in Captain's Holiday. They pick up where they left off, which means sex, then breakfast. Beverly arrives for morning tea, Picard is the awkwardest man in awkward town as he introduces Vash, then the two women go on a tour of the ship. Vash meets Riker and after confusing the hell out of him finishes her tour of the ship with him. She realises that Picard never mentioned her to any of his crew and gets angry about it at an archaeologist's reception. Picard tries to explain that Captains aren't allowed personal lives, Vash has trouble believing that's an actual rule (as do I). After the tiff Picard goes to his office to find a second unexpected guest, it's Q! This is less welcome but simpler as Picard just yells at Q. Q feels he owes Picard a debt after their last encounter in Deja Q and refuses to leave even when Picard wishes it. Q disappears temporarily promising to find something Picard wants.
Picard visits Vash, but discreetly because he's so uncomfortable with having a lover on board the ship. He starts to apologise but realises that she's there to raid the forbidden ruins on the planet below, meaning he gets to be accusatory and Captainy, which he's far more comfortable with. They argue more and as Picard leaves Q watches in interest. While Picard is trying to sleep Q appears in his room and suggests that Vash is a weakness. Picard tries to refute this and forbids Q from harming her.
Next day, while Picard is starting his speech, the senior crew are afflicted by mysterious hats and props, then they and Picard disappear. They reappear in fake Sherwood Forest cosplaying as Robin Hood and his Merry Men; Riker is Little John, Worf is Will Scarlet, Geordi is Alan A-Dale and Data is Friar Tuck. Troi and Crusher are in costume but unnamed because they're women and that's how too many stories work. A bloke on a horse and some archers show up to attack them and the crew run into the wood. Then Q shows up, also on a horse, reveals that he's the Sheriff of Nottingham and that Maid Marion is due to be executed the next day. Picard realises Q has Vash and the magical being reveals that he's set this scenario running and won't meddle further, meaning that Picard can rescue Vash. Picard refuses to allow any of the crew to help rescue his private matter and orders them to stay in the forest. While entertaining themselves Troi accidentally shoots Data with an arrow and Worf stops Geordi from making music.
Meanwhile Vash has appeared in an ancient castle where everyone calls her Marion. Some guy, called Sir Guy, says she has to marry him, so of course she slaps him. Then he says he'll execute her so she turns on the charm and agrees to marry him. Q is shocked that Vash is acting out of self-preservation, obviously expecting her to be more like Picard. Picard sneaks into Vash's room to rescue her, and briefly explains about Q, but she's annoyed to find that Picard is still keeping her away from his crew and says she's got things under control. Picard is about to carry her off when Sir Guy and his guards come in, rather than let him fight Vash steals Picard's sword and hands "Robin Hood" to Sir Guy. Q confronts Vash and finds her sending a message to Riker and the others in the wood. He's intrigued by her but has a point to prove, so he calls in the guards and has her arrested for treason. Picard and Vash argue all the way to the chopping block, but the execution is disrupted by the senior crew who fight the guards. Picard defeats Sir Guy with dramatic sword fighting, then goes to Vash and calls Q to end the game. The senior crew all reappear in the empty conference room and Vash isn't on the ship.
Q's outfit is skimpier than Vash's
Picard is gloomy in his office when Vash appears in yet another costume. She reassures Picard that she's fine and has places to go, then Q appears and Vash says that he's her new partner (I'm pretty sure she means in adventuring, and maybe business, though it's not entirely clear). Picard angrily warns her off, but she points out that she and Q are pretty similar, besides he's offered her sights no human has seen. Picard grudgingly accepts her reasoning, then Q suggests they kiss goodbye, but won't give them any privacy.


Oh Captain My Captain
Picard has a personal life, but he normally confines it to holiday. He has no idea how to conduct himself with a lover on the ship, he's too used to being Captain Formal and private about everything. This means that Picard is super awkward whenever Vash and any of his crew are together in his presence, it is so funny. Picard is awkward when Vash accuses him of being ashamed of her, awkward that a random crewman might see him visiting Vash's room and awkward when trying to apologise. It's clear that he told Vash all about his crew -not sure when- but he didn't tell any of them he had a fling on Risa, though as I understand it that's kinda what Risa is for. That's not an appropriate workplace chat in his world, of course when you hold such views and live in your workplace that removes a type of socialising. You'd think he might have mentioned it to Beverly since they're mates already, though again they're both always at work. I guess rank-wise the other person he could talk to is Riker, but can you imagine chatting to Riker about something like that? He'd just grin and look way too amused, which does not make sharing easy, plus he'd probably be all smug since was the one who sent Picard to Risa in the first place. It's probably a relief when he can just yell at Q or be angry that Vash is planning something illegal. Later Picard still insists on keeping the crew out of his personal life, even though he knows there's real danger. Picard and Vash are different and unsuited in a lot of ways but they're both equally stubborn.

Picard Really Likes Old Stuff
How did Picard swing getting an archaeology conference (complete with archaeological giants) on the Enterprise? Despite all the weirdness and danger being Captain of the flagship obviously has it perks. I mean Picard likes archaeology more than anything except captaining, he certainly likes it more than having a personal life. I mean Picard once breached the neutral zone chasing an ancient mystery! He worries that the professional archaeologists will think of him as an enthusiastic amateur, Troi says that's not so but it's not like archaeology is his job, so what else would they think? There's a lot of talk about the forbidden ruins, a red herring to make us think that's where the action will end up. Not mentioned is whether this adventure damages Picard's standing among the archaeologists, I assume it must do since he just disappears before giving his speech. I can see these guys avoiding the Enterprise for future cons.

Riker: adventurer, middle-manager, flirt
He's off-duty and sees pretty lady he's not seen before in 10 Forward, so Riker's first instinct is to flirt with her. I do think that Riker is one of TV's better/least-objectionable ladies-man characters, but that doesn't mean that he isn't corny as hell with dialogue that makes me roll my eyes. Of course he's got flirting material prepared, so he's totally wrong-footed when she knows who he is and what his best lines are. It's so funny! It's silly of him to use the same lines on everyone, you'd think he'd realise word will get round (or it would if women had many conversations on the Enterprise, but there's limited evidence of that). I like that Vash is messing with him on purpose and says Picard does a good Riker impression, when will we get to see that?

Doctor Doctor
Beverly is totally fine that Picard has a guest for breakfast, surprised because he's secretive about his life, but also really amused by how awkward he is. We don't see the interaction between the two women (who'd want that), but I like to think they bonded a little over how awkward Jean-Luc was when introducing them.
I like her jumper, especially the colour.
Klingon Warrior
Worf objects to people from the Archaeology Council being on the Bridge. It's almost as though he's noticed the regular problems caused by free-range guests and it's his job to minimise these problems and protect the ship. Of course whenever Worf has a security concern it's ignored at the whims of his superiors, this time Riker. Later Worf comments on Vash's legs, then seems to get embarrassed, I think everyone is surprised he evens notices such things on humans. Worf is the only one to attack Sir Guy on his horse and receives a mild injury in the process. In the wood he kills Geordi's mandolin, then quietly and calmly apologises, so funny.

Tomb Raider
Vash is pretty amazing. Especially the way she sits right in the big chair. Perfectly comfortable in herself and not remorseful about her semi-legal lifestyle or her choices. She admits that she's a well-known liar, but she's honest with Picard about her feelings for him and who she is. When he forbids her from doing anything illegal on his ship, which is his job, she points out that she won't change herself for him or anyone else and she doesn't expect to be treated like a guilty secret by Picard. She sizes up the weird situation in Nottingham and plays Sir Guy to preserve her life and get into a safe position. She refuses Picard's rescue when its clear he's still hiding her from his crew and besides she had things sorted herself even if it wasn't how he might have done it. Then he tries to rescue her against her will. She pulls Picard's sword on him to keep him safe, but I think it's also to show him she can handle things and get the better of him. At the end when Picard describes Q as amoral and untrustworthy Vash is happy to say that these qualities match her personality too. Plus Q can take her on really amazing adventures, why wouldn't she throw in with him.

Random Q Member (Damn! I totally should've used this heading in Deja Q but only just thought of it.)
Q wants to help Picard as repayment for the way Picard protected him when he was temporarily human. After witnessing the Captain arguing with Vash Q decides the best help he can give is by showing Picard that love weakens him. Except I don't see what Vash and Picard have as love, more like attraction and shared experience and neither having any interest in a commitment. Of course I could see that Q might be confused as attraction, sex and love are so often conflated without nuance on TV. Q seems disappointed that Picard has been brought low -as he terms it- by a woman, which shows a disdain for human relationships. Of course Q disdains most human stuff and I think he's also surprised because Picard isn't being all proper for once. Then Q makes the fascinating suggestion that if he'd known Picard had a weakness for women he'd have appeared as female from the start, how much slash has that line generated? Anyway, Q is intrigued by Vash because she's not at all like Picard and clearly he didn't expect the Captain to take a lover like that. He starts to see her as as person in her own right and not just as a pawn in his weird game against Picard. Once this round is over he and Vash discuss joining forces (which I would have liked to have seen), I expect he's not met many humans like him, especially if he's only met Star Fleet folk. Q dresses them in matching outfits, because he seems to have a flair for fashion. At the end it also seems like Q's a little too interested in watching them kiss, that guy has little notion of boundaries. This episode shows that Q can lounge anywhere, including on horseback.

The End
Picard gets Q to promise Vash will be safe. Q suggests Picard kiss her goodbye, they stare at him until he leaves. They're about to kiss and when Q re-materialises to watch and pretends he's come back for his hat. He leaves and Vash kisses Picard goodbye.

"I'm not from Nottingham." Not the catchiest duel dialogue.