25 April 2016


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.

18 April 2016

The Nth Degree

Episode: s4, ep 19

What Happens
Reg Barclay (a nervous Engineer last seen in Hollow Pursuits) and Dr Crusher are performing a scene from Cyrano de Bergerac in full costume and makeup. Barclay's performance is awkward, but everyone claps and makes nice comments about his acting because this is how these things work. Turns out Crusher has an acting workshop, and she mentions an opening to Worf. Troi congratulates Barclay on his improved confidence, though he has difficulty accepting the compliment.
The Enterprise is checking on a big telescopic array that has mysteriously stopped working, an alien probe or something found nearby is the problem. Geordi takes Barclay out in a shuttle to investigate it, but their scans reveal nothing. A flash of light knocks Barclay out and he's taken to sickbay. Barclay tells Crusher she could get his results quicker by doing something that doesn't apply to biology, but he seems certain it'll work. The alien probe follows the Enterprise and speeding up doesn't shake it loose. The weapons don't do anything to it, though Worf is totally allowed to shoot at it, which probably makes him happy. In Engineering Barclay is ahead of Geordi in powering up the weapons, then he does something else and tells Picard that they can use the stronger weapons now because he's improved the shields. Geordi is shocked but agrees and the probe is destroyed while the ship only shakes a bit.
Barclay is invited to a staff meeting with Geordi, who doesn't know how he did the thing. They need to fix the big space telescope and all of Geordi's plans involve carefully shutting bits down and doing it over weeks, but then Barclay says he has a way that will take days. Barclay has much more confidence and is now better at acting and asking Troi out, as well as engineering. He goes to the holodeck, as is his wont, but Geordi finds him having a chat with holo-Einstein about stuff that's way over Geordi's head. Geordi has Barclay go to sickbay and Crusher finds that the probe did something to Barclay's brain meaning that he's now the smartest human ever. No one suggests a brain-off with Data, which is greatly disappointing to me. Senior staff discuss the Barclay situation, but then the telescope fix Barclay suggested causes an engine problem that puts the ship and telescope in danger. Barclay says the Computer is too slow, he rushes to the holodeck and uses it to hijack the ship and fix the telescope. Once the panic has died down it turns out Barclay has merged his mind with the Computer using a neural interface of his own invention.
Senior staff have a secret meeting about ship-Barclay and Geordi thinks he has a way of bypassing Barclay on his flashy, holodeck throne, but when he tries Barclay's voice stops him and explains he has a higher purpose now. The engines start acting strangely and Barclay says that he now knows there are no limits and he wants to take the ship somewhere. He won't listen to Picard or Troi when they try to tell him what he's doing is wrong. He keeps claiming what he's doing has a greater purpose. The ship jumps into something that is more warpy than warp and they stop 30,000 light years away at the centre of the galaxy. A floating old-man head (which comes out of central casting for Judeo-Christian god) appears on the Bridge and talks jovially to them. Barclay arrives and explains that this is the race that sent the probe, they have put him back in his own body now. They are explorers like the Star Fleet crew, but they use their mind-altering tech to bring others to them instead of travelling places themselves (which is a really impressive kind of lazy). 10 days later the Enterprise is returned safely with loads of info we don't hear anything about from a first-contact encounter we never get to see (because this is totally a show about space exploration and definitely not a workplace drama that happens to be on a spaceship). Barclay is mostly back to normal, with memories of what happened but not the knowledge of how. He and Troi head out for the date he asked her on before.

Does Not Compute
Data questions everyone's happy reaction to Barclay's acting, which isn't rooted in the Method (as if that's the only way of acting). Riker quietly tells him that it's polite to clap. It's like Data doesn't understand how these performances and recitals work. People show up and clap when he does stuff, it's clearly part of the social contract of the ship. Plus humans aren't perfect mimics unlike someone.
I was a little surprised that Data was never used in comparison to the enhanced Barclay. Do Barclay's enhancements make him more like an android? Who is quicker or smarter? If Barclay is able to merge with the ship does that mean Data could? Data's more like the ship/Computer. Is this situation something the two could bond over? Barclay still has feelings at first, but these seem less prominent when he merges with the ship and he overcome by the instructions. Let's face it, Data is the only other crew member who hijacked the ship due to programming. I think the episode didn't want to go into these issues, I guess an enhanced human is supposed to be something different to an android, but it feels like a missed opportunity to explore the situation of both characters.

Doctor Doctor
I wonder if Dr Crusher's choice of performance piece was based on Barclay's swashbuckling, Francophile holodeck programme? He did seem comfortable with everyone being in period dress and floppy hats. Though I don't think she ever saw the holodeck version of herself, or her son. Of course Reg is less confident and graceful on stage than in the holodeck, but for someone as nervy as him it seems like a good performance for only 6 weeks rehearsals. Crusher's invitation to Worf suggests she's running a whole drama workshop, but is it just for crew members who have issues socialising?

Blind Engineering
Geordi compliments Barclay's skills as an Engineer and takes him out in the shuttle to do some interesting stuff. It is probably easier for the Engineers to look impressive when they aren't being outshone by a certain precocious Ensign. We don't normally see him do this kind of thing, but it suggests that Geordi is aware that he needs to develop his staff and give them opportunities.
When ship-Barclay is monitoring everything Geordi has to undo all the recording devices in the meeting room so that senior staff can have discussions without Barclay hearing. Do all the rooms have recording devices? Are they always on? Obviously the comms system goes through the computer and everyone's location is tracked by their badges and it seems like people are supposed to record a lot of logs, but is everything being recorded all the time? I live in a country with a lot of mass surveillance and even I think that seems extreme. When Geordi is trying to bypass ship-Barclay to keep control of the Engine he discovers that ship-Barclay knows what's going on and his power makes him super creepy (even for a guy who became obsessed with acting out intricate fantasies about his colleagues).

It's Not Easy Being Troi (and there are no good pics of her from this episode)
Barclays transformation from anxious and slightly-inappropriate to less anxious and mostly not inappropriate has been overseen by Troi in her primary role as Counsellor. It's good hear that she's been working with people on long-term problems, though it seems as though Crusher's been contributing a fair bit in this case even though that's outside her primary role. Troi congratulates Reg on his progress, on being able to perform in front of people, though Reg is grateful he's also self-aware -and self-deprecating- enough to point out that he's likely swapping one form of fantasy for another. When he gets artificially more confident Barclay 'makes a pass' at Troi (that phrase sounds a bit dated now, I can't imagine it's going to last another few centuries), a good one. I'm not sure quite why that is part of his upgrade, why would being more confident socially and sexually be of use to the aliens? Riker queries Troi about Barclay's pass, jovially but with a bit of an edge. He's talking like it's funny, which I think it is supposed to be, but I think he's genuinely weirded out by the idea that Barclay might have a shot with his ex. Troi will only give him a grin, which is pretty funny. It is not any of Riker's business, and again it seems that Troi is a better ex than Riker is, though he's been much worse in the past.
When ship-Barclay is a problem Troi goes to the holodeck to speak to him in person. Deanna talks to Reg as a friend and tries to point out how he's making everyone feel. It doesn't work, but it seems fitting to her role that she would do that. At then end she does take that walk with Barclay, but I don't get the implication of that. I think it's perhaps a friendly thing, though I feel like there are echoes of the woman-as-reward trope. It could equally be read as Troi wanting to do something for him after all he's been through. I don't know because I don't really understand dating.

Random Crewmember: Barclay
Everyone is much nicer to Barclay this time, there's no name-calling (which was instigated by a teenager last time) or his superiors finding him off-putting, so that's nice. He's being treated as someone who needs a little encouragement socially, rather than that weird guy at work. He's still shy and apologetic, but he's been helped by Troi and Crusher, and the male crew members are not being such jerks, so overall it feels like character development (which is someone this show has been getting better at but doesn't have loads of). He's unwilling to take Troi's compliment on his improvement, suspecting acting is just another way of hiding away. Later he thanks Geo for taking on a mission and doesn't dispel engineering compliment, showing that he's got more confidence in his work than himself. When Bacrlay's intelligence and confidence grows he initially seems to be suggesting improvements in the manner of someone who just wants to help. As it continues he becomes more bold and commanding, which I think makes him seem more of a jerk (like that version of himself he was pretending to be on the holodeck last episode). Though the episode seems to suggest that he's more attractive as a result of his confidencde, not allowing for when people can become arrogant, especially if they start taking over what other folk are doing.
When he merges with the ship his feelings take a back seat, probably because he's now experiencing something no human ever has and is presumably less guided by his body and brain. His purpose has been programmed into him more strongly than his concern for other people. I feel like their could have been some good material in playing this episode more like a paranoid thriller, with the crew trying to resist under the gaze of Big Barclay. Though that would have taken up yet more space in an episode that massively rushes its conclusion to the point where a new, highly-advanced race who can enhance and hijack human minds is just tossed out as casually as anything, apparently without any implications (but it's not the first time this show has done such a thing). At the end Barclay seems to have regained some of his former humility, and seems puzzled by all that's happened to him as he doesn't retain the knowledge.

Security Breach
Again someone takes control of the ship from the holodeck, at least this time its a member of Engineering and not an artificial intelligence created by the Computer itself, but still. Surely the holodeck shouldn't connect to other ship systems, especially not all of them. I suppose that Barclay could probably have merged with the ship anywhere, but the holodeck was the only place that he was able to quickly create a neural interface in order to control the ship diectly with his mind. Incidentally that's something else that no one really mentions (and I assume will never be mentioned again), but he did create something that allowed direct mind-to-Computer communication. Even if he doesn't remember how he did it that seems like something people would want to study. Maybe it's being looked at along with all the info from those aliens that Picard assures us won't directly affect anything for a while.

Staff Meetings: 3
1. Discussing how to fix the telescope, Barclay is Geordi's guest and completely overrules him in suggesting how to quickly fix the telescope, this is where he starts losing his vaguely apologetic manner.
2. Senior staff discuss Barclay's new smarts with Picard, there's concern but as he's useful and hasn't done anything wrong(yet) so Picard is happy to let him get on with things and keep an eye on it.
3. Secret meeting about the ship-Barclay hybrid. They want to bypass Barclay's control without killing him or damaging the ship, Geordi thinks he has an idea involving wiring or something.

The End
Troi takes Barclay for that arboretum date he asked her on when he was enhanced. Why does a starship have an arboretum? I mean at no point do either of them say anything that suggest its a holodeck programme, so I assume it's an actual big room full of real trees. Presumably it's there to keep Keiko (and any other  botanists they have) occupied. Barclay is a bit awkward, to show he's back to normal. As they are leaving 10 Forward Barclay interrupts someone's chess game, moves a piece and announces checkmate in 9 moves, then he reveals that he doesn't play chess, to show he's not entirely back to normal. It's kinda rude and makes Barclay a chess git.*

* I've noticed that TV sometimes shows off a character's smartness using chess. They'll have someone casually wander up to a game other people are playing and show that they've effortlessly mastered this complex, tactical game by finishing it for someone else. When this happens that character is a chess git.**

** I don't mean to suggest that people who play chess in general are gits. I have chess-playing friends who are perfectly lovely people. It's just if they do stuff like this, which is think is probably only a thing on TV. It's a lazy shorthand for showing someone to be smart, and a side effect is that they're also being an arrogant git and ruining someone else's game.

12 April 2016

Identity Crisis

Episode: s4, ep 18

This solid episode makes me feel better about Geordi and confirms my good feelings about Crusher, though it could've benefitted from better effects.

What Happens
Five years ago Geordi and colleagues from his previous ship investigated a mysteriously abandoned Federation site on a planet. They never found out what happened and recently three members of that old away team have left their usual lives to return to the planet. Geordi's old friend and colleague Susanna has come to the Enterprise to brief senior staff about this, only she and Geordi are left and they fear something could happen to them next. The Enterprise catches up with a shuttle stolen by Geordi's former colleague Hickman. He doesn't respond to comms and they can't reach him before he crashes into the planet. Geordi and Susanna join a new away team down to the planet, they search around a shuttle abandoned by another former colleague. Susanna says she can sense the others and starts acting oddly in copse. Geordi takes her to sickbay on the Enterprise.
No one finds anything on the planet except some alien cells and odd footprints. Data tries to find matches in the system and Crusher observes that he's worried about his friend, though he denies it. Susanna seems to recover after her weird incident and is keen to solve the mystery. She and Geordi go over their old mission logs, then Susanna gets restless and light-sensitive and wants to go down to the planet. Geordi sees her fingers have started fusing together, so he takes her to sickbay again. Dr Crusher and her team monitor Susanna as she transforms and her skin reacts oddly to light. Geordi refuses to stay in sickbay and keeps going over the mission logs. He notices a creepy shadow and goes to the holodeck to figure out what cast it, but the Computer can't tell. Then Geordi, who has been ignoring symptoms, starts to transform. Meanwhile Crusher and her team have done detailed scans on Susanna and find something like a parasite that's changing her DNA to match its own, then they figure out how to get it out of her. Crusher tries to find Geordi but the Computer thinks he's not on the ship, even though there's no way he could leave.
Geordi, now a transparent blur and undetectable by sensors, attacks a transporter operative and beams down to the planet. After Data creates a handheld UV device that can detect Geordi, an away team is sent after him. A recovering Susanna joins them, she says she's the only one that can find him because she knows what he's going through. Following Susanna's lead the away team track down Geordi and two other creatures who all glow blue under UV light. The other creatures -presumably the missing crewmembers- run away but Susanna calls out to Geordi and appeals to what is left of his humanity as his friend. After cowering away glowy Geordi reaches out to Susanna and embraces her before being returned to sickbay. After recovery Geordi reveals that he was almost lost and Picard says beacons will be put on the planet warning others away.

Doctor Doctor
This is mostly a medical mystery, all the disappearing crew members had been cleared in bioscans and medical examinations, Susanna and Geordi both have scans and are fine just before their transformations. Crusher works with her team to restrain and examine Susanna. The first treatment they try doesn't work as it should (because medical mysteries follow the same principles as enginerring ones) and one of her deputies discovers that Susanna's skin now glows under light. They realise that her skin now has chameleon-like qualities and that's how Geordi is later able to escape detection. Crusher also reports that the Federation personnel on the planet didn't disappear, they just transformed into aliens. The sickbay team are able to remove the tiny alien thing and reverse the process while Susanna still has DNA that is unaffected.
Crusher sees that Data is worried for his friend and though he says it's not possible it's clear that she doesn't believe him. When Susanna starts transforming Crusher recommends Geordi is kept in sickbay for monitoring, he refuses and appeals to Picard. Crusher allows him to leave when he offers to set up Computer monitoring and she makes him promise to report any symptoms to her immediately, which he doesn't. It also seems that the Computer safeguards weren't put in place either, or the Computer should have alerted someone when it stopped being able to detect Geordi, rather than waiting until Crusher asked after him. Crusher asks whether the transformed people on the planet can communicate, no doubt thinking of helping more people.

Does Not Compute
Crusher observes that Data is worried about his best friend. Data immediately insists this isn't possible because he's an android. He claims that there's a risk to Star Fleet personnel and that's why he's strongly motivated to solve the mystery. Crusher doesn't believe that Data is only motivated by the First Law of Robotics, but she humours him. It's nice to see that Data's insistence on emotionless is being challenged without the show. Later when Geordi is furiously searching the old mission logs for an explanation Data offers assistance and suggests that Geordi should rest. While Geordi concedes this is a good idea he's tetchy and clearly too wired to sleep and brushes off Data's offer of help. While Data wasn't bothered by Geordi's grumpiness I think that Geordi dismissing his offer of assistance gets to Data just a bit.

Blind Engineering
Geordi and Susanna obviously have a very good relationship and after she’s briefed the Enterprise crew they resume their friendship, chatting about what’s going on in their lives. He claims to be enjoying the bachelor life (yeah right) and she calls him ‘little brother’ and mentions giving him advice about women, did he fail to listen to her too? Underneath their cheerful conversation they’re both worried about what’s happened to the other, afraid that they’ll be next. Geordi takes Susanna to sickbay twice when she has odd symptoms, though he doesn’t show himself that kind of care. At the end it is Susanna’s voice that gets through to him and she hold him as they’re beamed to sickbay, mirroring what he did for her earlier in the episode. It is clear that Geordi does have good relationships with women, but it seems like he’s a bit dreadful when he’s attracted to someone (or at least he’s written like that sometimes). At the end it is Susanna's voice that brings Geordi back to himself because of the trust he has in her, even when he's almost lost himself.
Geordi is restless and can’t stand being kept in sickbay even though it’s what’s best. He appeals to Picard, who also wouldn’t want to be confined, to get permission to investigate. Like Susanna he’s desperate to solve the mystery, but he doesn’t want to work with anyone else. His discovery of the inexplicable shadow and the Computer’s inability to identify it are a little creepy, but as he transforms before he’s able to tell anyone about it his investigation doesn’t help solve the mystery at all.

Staff Meetings: 2
1. The opening footage from the old mission logs is being shown during a meeting where Susanna briefs the senior staff about the disappearances and Geordi expresses disbelief that any of his old colleagues would abscond.
2. In her office Crusher reports her findings about Susanna's altered cells  to Picard and Geordi. She says it seems unlikely the illness can be transmitted, but isn't sure what caused it and thinks Geordi will likely be afflicted next. Geordi asks the Captain to let him continue his investigation rather than being confined to sickbay and Crusher agrees but tells him to report any symptoms to her (which he doesn't).

Death by Space Misadventure
Forty nine people on the planet disappeared and then three of the people who investigated this disappearance later disappeared themselves. Technically most of these people didn't die (or at least not right away) they turned into glowy aliens with no trace of their old selves left. Except for Lieutenant Paul Hickman, who died crashing a stolen shuttle, probably because he didn't have proper hands anymore.

The End
Left together Geordi tells Susanna that even though he couldn't remember who she was he still trusted the sound of her voice. There's an element of melancholy, presumably for those who didn't survive what they went through.

6 April 2016

The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf

The Anxiety of Kalix the Werewolf
by Martin Millar

Kalix MacRinnalch is a Scottish Werewolf in London, dealing with her anxiety and addiction while living with her friends, two human students and an excitable fire elemental. The MacRinnalch werewolf clan are at war with the Avenaris Guild of werewolf hunters and after a devastating blow close to their ancestral home in the Highlands the London-based werewolves want to attack the Guild. While the werewolves are aided by fashion-obsessed, fire elemental Queen Malveria, the hunters have their own royal fire elemental ally.

This is the third book in a series, which started with Lonely Werewolf Girl and continued with Curse of the Wolf Girl, all are worth reading. The story has a complex plot that is drive by the varied needs, wants and motivations of the characters, but it all feels clear and easy to read. Most of what happens feels consistent and like a natural progression, so even the sillier aspects work well. The cast of characters increases, as it did in previous books, but somehow you know how they're all feeling and what they're all going through. It is writing in the best tradition of soap opera or multi-character TV drama, with a big cast at odds with each other and yet you can feel sympathy or at least understanding towards each. But with magic and action and humor. How Millar keeps this all working so well is a fascinating mystery to me.

The characters aren't ever just one thing. There are werewolves with mental health issues, addictions, ambitions and complex love-lives. There are royal fire elementals obsessed with fashion or anime. There are werewolf hunters who love their families but also plot destruction. There are human students who are just trying to cope with all the craziness and navigate their way through their own desires. There is a tapestry of different types of people with varied problems, flaws, interests and loves, some aren't neurotypical, some don't fall into traditional expectations of gender or relationship roles, a few are addicted to illegal substances or desperately obsessed with fashion and prestige. Just the sort of mixture of people who exist in reality but aren't often shown in fantasy fiction. These are all people who exist together with lives, problems, loves and feuds, and while they might insult each other or scheme or even become murderous, you never feel that the author condemns anyone for who they are and so it is easy to slip into the heads of characters who you, as a reader, may have little in common with.

Although some members of Yum Yum Sugary Snacks -the rock band fronted by werewolf twins- appear in this story there is less focus on them in this volume (but check of previous books to see more about Beauty and Delicious and their colourful hair). There is far more about the fashionable and war-like machinations of the regal Queen Malveria, her arch-rival Kabachetka (now an Empress), and Thrix MacRinnalch the werewolf Enchantress and fashion-designer. There's a caper at an elite charity ball, involving amateur models/spies/seducers that is one of the funnier things I have ever read. It's great how this book can be joyously hilarious but also deal with serious stuff. Kalix is in a much safer and more supportive place than she was in the last two books, more willing to try new things and keen to improve herself, but her issues continue because there's no magic fix for mental health problems. This is made even more clear when one of the more powerful characters struggles with her own mental health.

I really recommend this series, it's just so inventive and funny and full of empathy and oddness and action. This one had me laughing so much, in between feeling really strongly for the characters. I remember the previous volumes got me the same way. I'm kind of disappointed in myself to see that I must have read the last 2 volumes at times when I wasn't blogging.

2 April 2016

Night Terrors

Episode: s4, ep 17

Space is super weird as ever but we get to see everyone's fears and it's kind of creepy so the episode works well.

What Happens
The Enterprise arrives in a binary star system where it finds another Federation ship that has been missing for a month. Troi senses something ominous but vague and insists on joining the away team. On the Brittain (which is pronounced like Bri-TANE, not like Britain) the away team finds the Bridge crew were killed in a variety of violent ways. Troi finds one man alive but catatonic and realises he's also Betazed. Crusher reports that 34 people are dead, the whole crew except the one survivor. Tori tries to communicate telepathically with him but his thoughts are jumbled and odd. She has ongoing nightmares about flying through swirly green smoke towards a couple of lights while voices whisper cryptically. Meanwhile the Brittain's engines won't work for no obvious reason. After a few days of moving bodies, doing autopsies and preparing the ship for towing it turns out that the crew all murdered each other and now the Enterprise can't move either. Plus people are starting to behave erratically and become paranoid.
Data and Geordi report that the ship is stuck in a rift, a rare but recorded phenomenon which sucks energy and strands the ship. This kind of rift can be escaped by creating an explosion, but the Enterprise doesn't have the right substances and lacks the power to make them. Mental faculties are being diminished all over so Picard tells Data, the only one not affected, to keep an eye on things and take over if needed. After Troi mentions she's having nightmares Crusher realises that no one else on board has been dreaming and the lack of REM sleep is causing an imbalance in the brain that she finds in the Brittain's crew. The crew experiences creepy hallucinations, become exhausted and forget what they're doing and how to do word...things. Data is left to fill in the blanks.
Despite being the only one who's dreaming Troi also looks knackered, but she hears the survivor think something from one of her nightmares and realises it's a message and he's been getting it too. She reports that she thinks there's a ship stuck on the other side of the rift and they're sending out telepathic messages asking for help to escape, which is disrupting the sleep of anyone who is't Betazed. She says she can send a short message in her dreams, while she and Data are looking at elements the Enterprise has she realises that "one moon circling" means hydrogen and they figure out that the message is asking for hydrogen to make an explosion to destroy the rift. Crusher puts Troi into REM sleep and she has two minutes to say they're ready. Data releases the hydrogen, using almost the last of the ship's power. It looks like Troi didn't succeed but then an explosion blasts theEnterprise and a shiny, blue rock (which is apparently a ship belonging to telepaths) free.

Oh Captain My Captain
Picard is terrified of frailty and mental infirmity, he fears losing control and his mental capacity. He remembers the deterioration of his grandfather with grief and fear. Picard hallucinates a doorbell but thinks it's a malfunction. He has a freak out in the lift and thinks the ceiling is coming for him (I think) and lies on ground yelling. Choosing Data to take control as needed is shrewd and after a while the android is completing his sentences. Even after Data is acting-Captain he tries to defer to Picard, but like a doddering king Picard is sat on his chair of office and can do little beside nod with bewilderment.

Does Not Compute
As the only one unaffected Data is soon vital to getting things done. He has to go around ship checking people's work and filling in the words they've lost like and efficient but caring butler who is desperately keen to keep things together. Soon he's anticipating orders and tries to make show of waiting for Picard, but in the end has to actually take control. He agrees with the plausibility of Troi's theory and helps her to the conclusion that they don't need to send a message to the other ship because they're the ones who're receiving the message.

Doctor Doctor
Crusher is the one who carries out the autopsies and figures out the horrendously violent ways these 34 people murdered one another, it's all ghastly but her composure is maintained. She and Troi are the ones that track the initial symptoms of erratic behaviour and paranoia among the Enterprise crew. When Troi mentions nightmares it's Crusher who realises that no one else has been dreaming and she samples of brains of the deceased to prove that's the cause of the problem. Crusher's freak out comes in the morgue (it may not always be a morgue, but it's being used to store bodies now) when the bodies from theBrittain sit up under their sheets* She screws her eyes shut and shouts at them to go away, which makes them behave. Even at the end when other crew members are barely functioning Crusher manages to put Deanna into REM.

It's Not Easy Being Troi

Troi tries to communicate with catatonic the Betazed and stays with him despite his unintelligible thoughts. She keeps having nightmares, confusing, scary and frustrating if a little cheesy-looking. She fears becoming catatonic like the man she found, though I suppose when the alternative is being killed in a murderous frenzy, so it's all swings and roundabouts. The overlap of phrases between the nightmares and the stream of consciousness from the survivor means she puts it all together. The "eyes in the dark" are the binary star system and "one moon circling" is the hydrogen the mysterious other ship needs. Troi knows how to lucid dream to send a short message, even though she takes a while to find the recipient instead of just shouting 'now'. Basically Troi totally saves the day here.

Guinan's Hat: Purple
When the jittery and paranoid crew members in Ten Forward are mouthing off against Picard Guinan disagrees with them. Then when this Gillespie guy starts a bar fight in Ten Forward by punching O'Brien, Guinan gets a massive gun from behind the bar and shoots it at the ceiling. She doesn't seem quite as knackered as everyone else, but is perhaps more manic (and shooty) than usual.

Random Crewmembers
A twitchy ensign heard things in the walls on the Brittain when he and Geordi were preparing to tow it.
The Bridge ensign who couldn't remember how to undock something or other to do with the ship that she normally can do.
That guy in Ten Forward (Gillespie) got paranoid that Picard was experimenting on the crew and then started a big fight in Ten Forward.

Staff Meetings: 5
1. Picard initially hallucinates the doorbell in his office, then Troi and Crusher have to knock. They tell Picard that they think the erratic behaviour and hallucinations reported in the Brittain's logs is happening on the Enterprise. Both women think the danger is in the location, but Picard isn't concerned because they're about to tow the other ship away.
2. After 10 days being stuck and not expecting rescue for 2 weeks Data reports that they're trapped in a particular type of rift, but they don't have the power to escape. Crusher and Troi ask about erratic behaviour and nightmares, but these symptoms have never been reported in these cases before, so that's still a mystery.
3. Data suggests using the deflector dish as they did against the Borg (it's the first suggestion and therefore won't work), Picard worries about mental frailty and orders Data to take charge if needed.
4. Crusher reports to Picard about lack of REM and how it's affecting the crew of the Enterprise and looks like that's what affected the crew of the Brittain.
5. Troi tells Data and Picard that she thinks they're being affected by telepathic messages from beings stuck the other side of the rift. Data says it's plausible and suggests sending a message back to coordinate escape attempts, which Troi says she can do.

Death by Space Misadventure
34 people died on the Brittain in a terrible episode of mass murder and suicide brought on by paranoia and delusion due to lack of REM sleep. We don't know what happens to the survivor, there's no suggestion of treating him so if he dies too then that's 35.

The End
Data's final order as acting-Captain is to send Picard and all personnel to bed.

* Where do the sheets come from? The ship doesn't have enough power to replicate elements, so it probably can't make whole sheets. Are those from people's actual beds or is there a store of sheets to go with the morgue (if it usually is the morgue that is). Is there like a space linen cupboard. I have no idea why I'm so intrigued by this notion.

29 March 2016

The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season
by N. K. Jemisin

On a continent where the ground is unstable and communities must be in readiness for disaster a woman with useful but dangerous powers mourns for her murdered child. A girl is taken away from her ordinary life and shown her place in society. A young woman is sent on an assignment that goes wildly awry.

This story displays incredible imagination and emotional depth. It's secondary world fantasy with a setting that feels fresh, detailed and well-drawn. I have read a lot of fantasy, but I've not read a world like this one. It's cool to see how a particular aspect of the environment has so thoroughly impacted society, culture and history. The way that communities operate and the common culture that holds them together is depicted well, but this no homogeneous society. Communities vary depending on size, wealth and status, and the people of the continent come in different shapes, appearances and roles which affect their attitudes and behaviours. The reader is introduced to various pieces of lore and vocabulary from the world without a lot of heavy exposition and this creates depth. By following characters on the fringes of society we get glimpses of what is considered normal, why that doesn't apply to certain people, and how normalcy can change very suddenly.

I don't want to go into plot details, because this is a better read if you don't know a lot going into it, but the story starts with something big and somehow manages to ramp things up. The book switches about, and the narrative structure is very cleverly done, at least I felt quite clever when I figured it out and was impressed with the method. There are sections of the book that are told with an immediacy and intimacy in a style that isn't often used in fiction. It's the kind of thing that seems like it shouldn't work, but the author skilfully uses an unusual writing style to make the reader identify strongly with a character who is going through something brutal. The characters go through a lot of changes and take various emotional blows and the reader feels each keenly meaning that this isn't an easy read but it is a thoroughly engaging one.

The book explores how society controls certain groups of people who are considered to be dangerous through hatred, fear and exploitation of their resources. Some of this is direct and lethal prejudice, but some of it is subtler and secretive, using the skill and resources of people to support a system that hates them. It also shows how the people who are victims of this hatred and exploitation can come to believe what's said about them and buy into their own oppression. It presents alternative ways of living that exist on the edges of, and hidden beneath, mainstream society. There's also exploration of how friendship, family and community can sustain a person and how these change in times of extremity. The story and characters don't stick to the traditional ideas of love, family and gender that exist in the mainstream of our own society, which is refreshing. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fresh, powerful fantasy.

24 March 2016

Galaxy's Child

Episode: s4, ep 16

The Enterprise gains a giant baby and it turns out parenthood is literally draining. Also Geordi behaves dreadfully.

What Happens
Due to strong feelings while watching I'm going to split this section by plotline.

Baby Space-Thing
The Enterprise goes to investigate an anomaly that turns out to be a massive space-based lifeform. They go to say hello but it attacks the ship so they try to escape, killing the thing in the process. Data notices a life-sign within the body and they realise that it's pregnant. Crusher suggests a caesarian and performs one on a massive, unknown lifeform using the ship's laser. When the baby escapes it follows the Enterprise and Troi suggests it has imprinted on them. Then the baby space-thing latches on to the ship and drains energy from it. The ship is losing power so senior staff discuss what to do. Data extrapolates where the parent was going so they head there and find more of these creatures, but the baby still won't let go. Geordi tries blasting it off with pressure, which doesn't work and the baby drains more power. Visiting engine designer, Dr Brahms, suggests they sour the milk and so she and Geordi change the frequency of the ship's vibration (or something). The baby sends out a distress call and the other space-things speed up, but luckily baby detaches before the ship loses all power. I think that the space creature might look kind of gross if it were rendered with better effects, but actually I like that it's not too detailed. This was a nice little plotline with more emotional depth than I'd expected, and while I feel a baby space-thing would make an excellent addition to the series I get that's not how this show works.

Geordi and Dr Brahms
Picard informs Geordi that the designer of the Enterprise engines, Dr Leah Brahms, has requested to
come and meet him. Geordi previously developed a crush on a holodeck simulation of her that he created with the computer (using her personnel record and psych profile) while he was supposed to be saving the ship. Geordi seems to believe that this means that a real person he has never met is about to become his girlfriend, it makes him weirdly smug and familiar. When he explains this to Guinan she points out that a real woman is not his holodeck fantasy, as ever he fails to heed her. Dr Brahms is there to inspect what Geordi has done to the engines and she's not happy that he's been messing with her design. Geordi is initially nonplussed that she isn't friendly. Then he starts being overly-familiar, which is confusing to her as they've never met and she's there in a professional capacity, plus he seems to know a lot of odd things about her. When she criticises what he's done to the engine he gets angry and defensive, which I think she was expecting, though I suspect he's behaving that way in part because she's not what he thought she'd be like.
Geordi calms down and tries to make a play for his imaginary version of a real woman by inviting her to his quarters. She clearly thinks it's a work meeting, because he makes it sound like one, so of course she's freaked out when he's in casual clothes and there's music playing. She talks herself down by describing some of the negative ways others perceive her (I wonder if she's doing this to try and put him off, that it is something I have done). When he offers to get dinner for her she leaves abruptly, it was clear he was not there to discuss work. Still uncomfortable about Geordi acting like he knows her, Dr Brahms continues with her work and while in a tube they chat about how they both have strong feelings about engines. She compliments some work he's done then he suggests they could be close friends and confesses that he's studied her, without revealing how. She, reading the situation correctly, points out that she's married. It is the most awkward conversation I've ever seen in a tube.
Geordi angrily rants to Guinan. How dare a woman he has encountered only in a professional capacity have the temerity to get married before she ever knew he existed! How dare she behave in a manner colder and more formal than the imaginary version of her that he invented! Guinan points out that his expectations were nothing to do with the real woman and that he should look at her as a person, not his fantasy. After this Geordi behaves better towards Dr Brahms and they work well together. Then Dr Brahms sees a holodeck programme about the original engine design. She goes into it and sees holo-Dr Brahms saying weird quasi-romantic/obscurely sexual things and is understandably creeped out and furious. Geordi rushes in and Dr Brahms realises this is why he was weird with her and assumes he was doing something unsavoury, which makes sense considering the dialogue she witnessed. She yells at him and she says she feels violated. This is where the growing awkwardness breaks and I am so happy at this point. She's found out the truth and is expressing her feelings and I am laughing and I am punching the air! He deserves her fury and should realise the error of his ways.
Then it all goes wrong. Geordi doesn't apologise, but tries to explain. She's not receptive to this, not surprising, she's shocked. Then he gets angry and HE starts shouting at HER. He tells her off for not being friendly to him, even though there was no reason for her to be and he had been making her uncomfortable since she arrived. He doesn't care at all how this has made her feel (she said she felt violated, that is a big deal). He is being an arsehole and I hope she makes a formal complaint. Except that's not what happens. They work together on the power-draining baby problem, and though she's wary at first Geordi seems to win her round with his problem solving. He explains his actions a little more, but he never apologises either for the holodeck simulation or for his behaviour, or for making her uncomfortable. At the end of the episode they're all friendly and laughing about it all and then SHE apologies to HIM!! WTF!!!! I am so angry at this point, so angry. He magnanimously waves away her apology - no need to apologise for feeling angry about me cyber-stalking you or feeling violated when you assumed I was using an unauthorised image of you for sexual purposes.

Oh Captain My Captain
Picard was so happy to see the creature, something that can live in the depth of space, and fascinated by making contact. He is completely devastated about killing it and Patrick Stewart absolutely sells the quiet despair in those moments.

Doctor Doctor
Has anyone ever used a star ship's weaponised laser to perform a caesarian in space on a giant creature before? I suspect not -though space is really weird- and if I'm right this should totally be put in medical journals or called the Crusher manoeuvre.

Blind Engineering
I want to like Geordi La Forge more than I do. I know various people like him as a character and find him inspiring, and I really get that. Everything I know about LeVar Burton suggests that's he's a really great guy who does a lot of good, important work, which I know is separate to the character but seems worth stating. The thing with Geordi is that, as a viewer, I'm not that bothered about spaceships or how they work and that's a large part of Geordi's role. I get that ships look pretty and people get really interested in their features, but a recent conversation with my husband has revealed I care far more about the characters and events on the spaceships of TV and film, than I do about the ships themselves.* As Chief Engineer in most episodes Geordi talks about the ship and the engine and finds engineering solutions to problems and I just find so much of his dialogue uninteresting (this is absolutely not a dig at the vital and impressive work of real life engineers, it's just that I don't find the engineering stuff on Trek entertaining, plus I'm told it's all bollocks anyway). Outside of that his character is generally pleasant and convivial and he's obviously brave, but the same could be said for most of the TNG regulars. His relationship with Data is nice and has some good moments. It's just that whenever he's had a plotline involving his love life I've found his attitude to women intensely irritating and this horrible plot makes him seem dreadful. I have decided that going forward I will keep my rage about these events contained to this episode, but I expect something impressive will have to happen to change to my current cool feelings towards the character.

Guinan's Hat - Red
As ever when Geordi has something to report about his love life he goes to see Guinan, it is a shame that he never follows her advice and sometimes it seems like he doesn't even notice when she's trying to make a point. He should listen more. Anyway Guinan sees where this is going because she's wise, although in this case it doesn't take much wisdom as Geordi is clearly deluding himself when he says he doesn't expect anything romantic. Later when Geordi is petulant she points out that he can't blame another person for how he's feeling, because in the holodeck he only saw what he wanted to see. It is an excellent point and I think Geordi really gets it and he works well (and professionally) with Leah. Shame that doesn't continue when he decides that her feelings about the holodeck version of her aren't worth acknowledging.
The one line of Guinan's that I really love is "She's probably done the most horrific thing one person can do to another, not live up to your expectations." It's a great comment on how the desires of people (especially men) can completely warp their perceptions of other people (especially women) nd how this is something people overreact to. This comment is so relevant nowadays, especially with self-determined nice guys who immediately get angry or offensive when they don't get the reaction they want from women whose affections they have, rather un-nicely, decided belong to them. I think I got so angry here because Geordi was clearly thinking of himself as a "nice guy" despite obviously hiding the specifics of what he'd done, and the story decided that in the end we should feel sorry for him.

Staff Meetings: 2
1. Senior staff discuss the orphaned baby stuck inside its parent's corpse (it's actually kind dark when described that way). Crusher can't say much for certain but suggests it may be premature. She mentions caesarian and Riker suggests doing it with lasers. Work advises against it as the parent was a threat to the ship, he is as ever ignored. Picard says to proceed at Crusher's discretion.
2. Senior staff -and Dr Brahms- discuss what to do now that the baby is sucking power from the ship. They don't know how long "Junior" will stay attached to the ship. Picard asks Data to figure out where the parent was going and Crusher says it might have been going to a safe place. Leah points out that the baby is attached near a cargo bay door, she and Geordi suggest using the pressure inside the ship to blast it away. The meeting ends with Data asking if the baby should officially be called Junior, Picard grumpily refuses.

The End
Geordi approaches Leah in Ten Forward and admits he got attached to holo-her, he's clearly a bit ashamed, but still does not apologise. She apologises to him, which isn't necessary but is a show of good faith, then laughs at the look on his face hen he came into the holodeck (which was funny). Then he's laughing at the look on hers (which isn't funny cos she was very angry and possibly scared/disgusted). She again regrets the way she's behaved towards him (professional, unnerved then rightfully angry) and admits that she had wrong preconceptions about him. Of course none of her preconceptions were based on a dodgy copy she'd made of him, so I feel like she's in the right here. Then she leaves to meet her husband and Geordi looks disappointed and I have no damn sympathy for him.

* It was completely awesome when the Battlestar Galactica jumped into atmosphere to save the colonists. I mean they did an FTL jump, into atmo! But that's the main time I can think of that I've been super impressed by seeing what a spaceship can do.

12 March 2016

First Contact

Episode: s4, ep 15

An interesting episode showing that space isn't full of promise for everyone. Though Riker is treated really badly here.

What Happens
Riker is rushed through an alien hospital, unconscious and in alien make-up. The medics looking at him are shocked to find that he is not of their species.When he wakes Riker is questioned by doctors and pretends to be a man from that planet with genetic defects. As crazy as it sounds some of the medics think this could be some kind of alien.
A Science Minister argues for space exploration, but a Defence Minister argues against moving away from their traditions. The planet's Chancellor agrees that they can make the attempt to break light speed but then they should stop. When Science Minister is alone Troi and Picard beam in to tell her aliens exist. As her species are about to achieve warp they've come to say hi. They take her to the Enterprise and she looks at her planet from orbit; she's awed and very open to the experience. She says that most people on her planet believe they're the centre of the universe, so aliens would be a nasty culture shock. Picard and Troi are aware of this attitude and a few years ago the Federation sent down a covert team to find out more about the planet. When Riker went down to liaise with the planet-based team he was caught in violence and they've lost track of him. Science Minister says that they shouldn't mention any this to the Chancellor. At the medical centre Riker is held under guard. They know he's not from the planet and though they're trying to keep it secret the word will spread and so will panic.
Troi and Picard are introduced to the Chancellor by Science Minister, and they show him the Enterprise too; she's really excited but he's overwhelmed. After a drink with Picard the Chancellor feels more positive. Meanwhile Riker is approached by an alien fetishist at the medical centre who offers to help him escape if he'll have sex with her, which we have to assume he does. She's actually not much help and Riker is chased, beaten and restrained.
The Chancellor tells the Defence Minister about the Federation and he is alarmed. He reveals that an alien spy has been captured and is being held at a medical centre. Science Minister says she knew and it's her fault they didn't tell the Chancellor about Riker. Defence Minister wants Riker interrogated, though he's badly injured and the drugs they'll use could kill him. Picard asks the Chancellor for Riker back and tries to accept responsibility for the situation, the Chancellor says Riker's being questioned.
Defence Minister goes to Riker, who is suffering. He has Riker's phaser and says that the aliens are too dangerous and strange to be allowed contact with his people. Even if they mean well their existence will undo his society and its values. He tries to make it look like Riker shot him. A shocked medical team arrive and make an emergency phone call, then Crusher and Worf beam in and Crusher talks to them doctor to doctor. The Defence Minister isn't dead, he didn't know about the stun setting. Both patients are taken to the Enterprise sickbay. The Chancellor is saddened by what the Defence Minister did, but knows this is a sign of how people will react. He says he'll scale back the warp project and devote resources to education and social development to prepare for the day when they are ready. There'll be rumours and stories but most won't be believed. Science Minister disagrees but the Chancellor asks the Federation to leave them alone for now. Science Minister asks to go with the Enterprise.

Guest Star

Bebe Neuwirth plays the woman at the medical centre who lusts after Riker. She most famously plays Lilith in Cheers and Frasier. While it was cool to hear that she's a Trek fan I think this is the only role of hers that I've seen and didn't like. Not that I think her acting is bad here or anything, it's just that her character's behaviour is unpleasant and the ethical implications are unexamined. It's clearly meant as a humorous, throwaway encounter, but it's not funny, though I don't blame the actress for that.
A much better and funnier crossover between this actress and TNG occurs in an episode of Frasier where Brent Spiner plays a man Lilith meets on a plane. They bond over being pale, which I could relate to.

Oh Captain My Captain
Picard approaches the Science Minister to introduce her to the idea of the Federation and the interstellar community her people are close to meeting. This is done sooner than usual because of Riker's disappearance and against his better judgement he agreesnot to reveal Riker's presence (or that of their surveillance team) to the Chancellor. Picard's chat with the Chancellor over family wine feels a bit like they should be wearing smoking jackets and sitting in old leather chairs. Picard reassures the Chancellor that they aren't conquerors, that they will respect his wishes about how they interact with his people, or whether they will interact with them at all. Though it's a culture shock the Chancellor is positive, though he's aware Picard is a diplomat and wants to be cautious. After Riker's presence is discovered Picard tries to take responsibility for omitting the information about the surveillance and acknowledges that it was a mistake. When the Chancellor won't say whether he'll give Riker back Picard beams away without trying to argue further. Picard is happy for the Science Minister to come with them, respecting her love of space and determination to fit in there, though there doesn't seem to be a plan for what to do with her.

Poor Riker
Riker's love of risk-taking is probably why he's gone to liaise with the surveillance team (who we never see, which is presumably why they have that job). It does require more research and surgical implants than a usual away team mission. Getting taken to a medical facility is what every alien infiltrator dreads. He sticks to his character background and uses genetic defects to explain his weird pink digits and fake forehead, but it doesn't hold up for long. The chief medic tries to be sensible, keep it quiet and contained and check there's no medical precedent, but members of his staff are excitable and Riker is really weird.
Riker's escape attempt is facilitated by an alien fetishist. It seems unlikely that -in a culture that doesn't believe in aliens (and reminds me of 1950s America)- there would be many people who have "always wanted to make love with an alien". It's even more unlikely that such a person would happen to have an alien brought to their work place. Having found herself in the astronomically unlikely position of being able to fulfil her fantasy this woman (who I think is a medical professional) coerces Riker into sex, which is creepy. Riker doesn't seem threatened by this, but he is perturbed and even if he might have wanted to under other -consensual- circumstances he's in a terrible situation. He's injured, alone, in danger and she manipulates him. Riker tries to point out that there are differences, mercifully without going into detail, but that just makes her more keen. It's actually stupid as well as creepy because she doesn't know what she's getting into. It could be disgusting or painful or something that doesn't seem like sex to her. It could lead to disease or death or pregnancy, and then she's got an alien baby on her fingerless hands. Thankfully we see nothing, but it's implied that events transpired. Considering what Riker does to secure her help she gains him nothing; in fact the escape attempt gets him in worse trouble. The episode doesn't notice how gross this is, though it's not portrayed as romantic or sexy (thank god) there's no exploration of the ethics or implications of the situation. Disappointing but not surprising given the apparent genders of those involved.
When Defence Minister visits Riker is very sick, revived by drugs that are killing him, but still able to talk about the Federation's message of peace. It turns out that Defence Minister isn't interested in Riker's intentions, only the effect that aliens will have. Riker objects to Defence Minister trying to make his suicide look like murder, and I don't think that he was just telling him the phaser was on the wrong setting.

The Prime Directive is A Harsh Mistress ...usually
Picard briefly describes the Prime Directive as not interfering with the natural development of a planet. It's been made clear that pre-warp societies are off limits, but once they're about to achieve warp the Federation does a tonne of research (which is a sensible approach to aliens), and secretly sends people in to observe, which is kinda creepy. Picard says lack of prep caused the Klingon conflict and he thinks the secret observing has helped more than it's hurt. But who has it helped? I don't know how they find out when a planet is ready, how many species are they watching? There are other episodes where the Federation are secretly observing people that are far from space travel. That seems like curiosity. Do they observe everyone they encounter? For people who don't want to interfere the Federation have certainly gotten comfortable with intrusive surveillance. How necessary is all this anyway? While deep space confrontation isn't the best introduction and has scope to go wrong this is a lot of effort and resources devoted to simply avoid that. I suspect this approach also has a fair bit to do with marking territory. The Federation presence keeps other advanced powers away. When you look at what the Cardassians did to Bajor that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Federation won't conquer, compete or share tech, they'll only guide, but what are they guiding others towards?

The End
The forward-looking Science Minister asks Picard to take her away from her planet, and the Chancellor says she won't be happy on the planet with the restrictions he'll have to impose. Picard warns they might not return while she's alive and that she might not be prepared for space, she says she's been prepared since she was 9 years old. Picard asks Worf to assign her some quarters and then says farewell to the Chancellor, who hopes they'll be able to meet again someday.

27 February 2016


Episode: s4, ep 14

I think the Red Dwarf version was funnier, but this is reasonable.

What Happens:
Picard has declared leisure time. Riker, Troi, Geordi and Worf are doing tai chi with various unnamed crewmembers, Crusher is putting some bulbs under a desk, and Picard and Guinan have finally arranged that holodeck session we've never heard them talk about. Guinan goes into the Dixon Hill programme, flashes her confusing, primitive suspenders at the holo-receptionist and eventually gets to see Picard with his trench coat and dodgy accent. There's a holo-shoot-out and Guinan questions Picard's idea of fun, so he explains the joy of a mystery and following clues (something makes me think this is foreshadowing). Data rings the holodeck on the holo-phone so as not to spoil the illusion or bother the imaginary people and tells Picard he needs to return to the Bridge. Even though every planetary system seems to have at least one Class M moon it turns out that whenever anyone notices a new one they have to stop and investigate. As they approach there's a small wormhole and everyone is knocked out except Data.
Everyone wakes up and Data says they were out for 30 seconds. The wormhole was a small, local one (not like those big corporate wormholes), so they aren't too far away from where they were, in star ship terms anyway. The planet they spotted before turns out to be the wrong kind now, Data says the initial scan must have been wrong. Troi feels uncomfortable. Crusher tells Picard that the moss that she was growing under a desk has had a day's growth. She's certain a day has passed, despite what Data says. After a meeting senior staff investigate without letting Data know, and Crusher discovers a day has definitely passed.
Picard confronts Data with the evidence and sends him to Engineering for a diagnostic with Geordi, which is awkward. Troi feels weird, Worf escorts her to her quarters then she freaks out because she sees someone else looking out of her face in the mirror. Crusher finds that Worf's wrist has been broken and repaired recently, suggesting that they were conscious during the missing day. Picard and Geordi find that the recent scan of the planet is a doctored image, they confront Data who is still unhelpful. Picard tries to order the truth from Data, but the android still refuses and seems willing to face a court martial over this, though it sounds like he thinks he's protecting everyone with his actions. Picard turns the ship around and goes back to the mystery planet.
Green energy from the planet goes to Troi and then she goes to Data and tells him in an alien voice that the ship needs to be destroyed. Data and whatever is steering Troi go to the Bridge and Data reveals that Picard himself ordered Data not to say anything. Data explains that the beings on the planet hate outsiders, so they usually knock out anyone who comes near then send them far away, making them think they've just gone through a wormhole. Data is the first being not affected their knock-out method, and he woke up everyone else. The aliens wanted to destroy the ship and didn't believe Picard's promise that over a thousand people could keep them a secret. The alien used Troi to break Worf's wrist. Picard agreed to let the aliens mind-wipe everyone (which took about a day) and ordered Data never to tell them what happened. Picard decides that the only problem with his initial plan was that they left too many clues, so this time everyone is ordered to remove the clues and the aliens are allowed to mind-wipe them again, so that everyone's now lost two days. When they wake again Data tells them it's only been 30 seconds and suggests the wormhole is harmful, Picard believes him and the ship moves on.

Oh Captain My Captain
Picard's invited Guinan but not waited for her before starting so she has to go in on her own and is new to the whole thing. Picard explains the fun of a mystery to Guinan and while I think they're both good problem-solvers I suspect Picard enjoys an intellectual challenge whereas Guinan's happier with helping others, meaning this might not be the holodeck programme for her. Just when it looks like we might have to listen to Picard's bad US accent for more than five minutes Data intercedes.
It's cool that Picard immediately trusts Crusher. He asks questions about the moss to check the situation, but at no point does he doubt what Crusher is saying. Then he tries to give Data the benefit of the doubt, even though it's clear that he's either malfunctioning or deceiving them. Though Picard shouldn't have tried to out-logic Data, that's not going to work out. Picard also trusts Data enough to try and find out the truth rather than just do the logical, procedural thing and court-martial him, ruining his career.
Picard can decide that the entire ship should be mind wiped? By aliens who hate them for no reason and would be happier killing them? And he does this twice in as many days? I get that star ships are not meant to be democracies and that this episode highlights this to us without necessarily meaning to. I mean Star Fleet captains can be total dictators and make major decisions about the lives, bodies and minds of all on their ships, but I very much hope everyone on board knows that's the deal and gave consent in some way. While it's sensible of Picard to fix the clues to achieve a different outcome I question how much he's looked into the side-effects and health implications of mind wiping all these people. He's asked less questions about this than he did about Crusher's moss.

Does Not Compute
This episode would suggest that Data isn't very good at lying (which I'm not entirely sure I believe). The senior staff are all suspicious of Data, which must mean there's some serious intuition going on here because normally everyone just trusts Data (even strangers who've never met an android before, as demonstrated by the previous episode and various others). Picard didn't seem to think of this the first time, but I guess he's never asked Data to lie before. You would think that Data could use his knowledge of performance and fiction to figure out how to be more convincing. The second attempt suggests that it wouldn't have taken much for him to hide the truth. I guess this is an episode where Data is more in robot mode than becoming-a-person mode.
Data is so determined to follow Picard's orders that he continues to not tell Picard the truth even when it's likely that it could ruin his life. Though I guess he thinks he's not going to have any emotions about that if it happens. Data only reveals what he knows when the ship is in danger, which shows he's not just blindly following orders but is genuinely trying to protect everyone.

Doctor Doctor
Crusher's hobby is growing moss. It doesn't seem very cool, but I understand it's useful for medics to have a soothing hobby to de-stress from their work and this is hers. Plus Crusher has previously mentioned that her grandmother (or mother?) was a botanist, so I guess there's a family connection there. Crusher is really the one who discovers the mystery and does the investigating to prove her theory. This does mean there's some bio-babble, which to be fair is about as dull as the techno-babble, but it does have something to do with circadian rhythms, which I have heard of.

It's Not Easy Being Troi
First she has a terrible headache, then she has a terrifying moment when she sees another consciousness staring out of her face. Is that a memory? No one seems to investigate that, it's probably just there for heightening tension. Then an alien takes over her body and it turns out it's the second time it's happened in as many days. This kind of thing just seems to happen to Troi (and Data too, but he usually seems to have more choice about it).

Guinan's Hat: jaunty, early-20th Century
During Guinan's first trip to the holodeck she has issues remembering her character background and is irritated by they obstructive receptionist (wow, these futuristic games). We do get to see that Guinan is even wearing confusing, period-appropriate hosiery. Then when the action starts Guinan tries to get a holo-gangster to open up while he's threatening them, then there's gunfire, they have to duck and Picard is keen to investigate the holo-murder. Guinan questions how Picard has fun and I see her point.

Staff Meetings: 3
1. Senior staff discuss what happened with the wormhole, Data suggests something very unlikely and Picard sends him away. Then the rest of the senior staff discuss whether they believe Data. No one is convinced and everyone wonders what really happened. Something could be wrong with Data. They investigate timeline but they don't want Data to know (which is smart after that time he hijacked the whole ship in about a minute.)
2. Picard presents Data with the evidence that it has been a day and sends a security offer to escort Data down to Engineering for diagnostics. Data is calm but not helpful.
3. Crusher shows the senior crew that Worf's wrist has been broken and fixed, suggesting they were conscious during the missing day. Worf points out that Data is one of the few people on the ship who could injure him. Picard, Riker, Crusher and Geordi discuss the idea that Data thinks he's protecting the ship and crew, which for some reasons suggests either that they lost something or got into a stalemate. Picard orders the ship back to the planet that started it all.

The End
After Picard orders a warning to be left before the Enterprise flies away there's a close-up on Data. Does he look a little satisfied?