20 July 2016


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

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

6 July 2016

In Theory

Episode: s4, ep 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29 June 2016

The Mind's Eye

Episode: s4, ep 24

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 June 2016

The Host

Episode: s4, ep 23

Having seen DS9 first this episode is kind of confusing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.