28 May 2016

Captain America: Civil War



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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


*Not sorry.

21 May 2016

The Drumhead

Episode: s4, ep 21

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

16 May 2016

Planetfall

Planetfall
by Emma Newman


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

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


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

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

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

10 May 2016

30

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

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

Me on my 30th, with giraffes invading through mirrors

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

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

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

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


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

8 May 2016

Superman Vs Batman: Dawn of Justice

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



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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 April 2016

Qpid

Episode: s4, ep20

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.