17 March 2019

Captain Marvel

I don't usually see films on their release date. I don't actually see many films in the cinema any more (sorry Into the Spiderverse, I'll watch you some day) what with working at least 36 hours a week and looking after a toddler most of the rest of the time. Fortunately me and my husband had some time off both work and parenting when Captain Marvel came out. Yay!



This film is so much fun! The action is good, with the plot trotting along pretty nicely. The characters are strong, especially the way they relate to each other and the way trust is built between the 2 main characters. The story isn't a continuation of a previous MCU film, hopefully making it fairly accessible to those who aren't serious fans. It's about extraordinary things happening to an ordinary person, but an ordinary persopn who worked hard as an air force pilot and who has gone through a lot. It's also about someone whose true potential is always tamped down, and told her emotions are a problem, finally realising that they aren't and she's more than any of her official superiors gave her credit for.

It is sort of an origin story, but not just for the title character, for the MCU. Set in 1995 it takes before all the other MCU films, except Captain America. In terms of Captain Marvel herself, the story inverts a traditional origin story, by showing someone who already has powers, but who also has a lot of questions and whose background needs figuring out. Along the way there's exploration of loyalty, of friendship/found family, of overcoming what you've always been told about yourself in order to become who you truly are.

I really enjoyed the soundtrack. I get that some people might see it as a bit cheesy, but it's rare that I watch a film where I recognise and remember most of the songs from around the time they came out (I mean the 80s has been a pop culture obsession for aaaages, I guess maybe it's the turn of the 90s now?). The soundtrack is used in a lot of fun ways. There's one song, which starts at the same time as a major fight, that had me burst out with joyous laughter.

Also a cat is a pretty big part of the film, and given this is the internet you're probably good with that.

6 March 2019

Cost of Living

Episode: series 5, ep 20

There are many parenting styles out there. Personally I'm all for acknowledging emotions and being playful sometimes, but not mud baths.

What Happens
Troi is providing family counselling to Worf and Alexander; she sugessts a contract to resolve their issues. After the session she gets a message that her mother has unexpectedly arrived. In 10 Forward Lwaxana tells Deanna that she's getting remarried and she wants to hold the wedding on the Enterprise. Deanna is surprised, especially when she hears that Lwaxana hasn't met her future husband (a royal from a planet she doesn't know). Lwaxana dismisses her daughter's concerns. Alexander and Worf approach the Trois, and talk about their problems again (Deanna is off-duty, surely). Lwaxana sees that dour Worf is not encouraging playfulness and forms a low opinion of him. She undermines Deanna by pointing out that a contract with a child isn't useful (because the power imbalance means the child has no way to sanction the parent) and decides to befriend Alexander.
Alexander arrives early for a counselling session to get away from his father, and Lwaxana takes him to the holodeck instead. They enter a programme that looks like a weird kids' TV show, except there's fire and fighting and naked mud baths, so basically it's a parent's nightmare. Lwaxana says wise things about everyone having different parts of themselves and how we should take all the parts of ourselves with us for when we need them and celeberate our personal variety. It would be a profound moment except they're in a mud bath with a load of adults (albeit holodeck people) and everyone is apparently nude, and the entertainment is a naked dancing lady. Meanwhile Deanna goes looking for Alexander and finds Worf, who is angry that his son isn't where he's supposed to be. Asking the Computer reveals he's in the holodeck with Lwaxana. Worf and Deanna go and break up the party. Later Deanna scolds her mother for giving Alexander mixed messages, but Lwaxana brushes off her concerns. Lwaxana is also evasive about the wedding and Deanna is shocked to hear that her mother is going to wear a wedding gown, defying Betazoid nudity traditions. When Alexander visits Lwaxana to apologise for getting her in trouble she admits to him that age and loneliness are big factors in her decision to marry.
The groom arrives, a rather standoffish fellow with a stern protocol officer who dictates everything and is very unimpressed with Lwaxana and her entire manner of being. Alexander laughs during dinner, irritating Worf (poor kid), then after an angry exchange he runs off saying he promised to meet Mrs Troi. Lwaxana is bored at a meeting about her wedding, when Alexander arrives she's keen to escape, but soon-to-be-husband doesn't understand her keeping a promise to a child. Worf and Deanna arrive for Alexander. Lwaxana gets flustered and tries to placate everyone, but she and Alexander sneak off to the holodeck as eveyone else argues at cross-purposes. In the mud bath Alexander sees Lwaxana is sad and turns her earlier advice back on her, saying she should listen to the parts of herself that are trying to help. She realises he's being very wise and tells Alexander they should leave so they don't keep everyone waiting.
In the second plotline the Enterprise destroys an asteroid before it hits a planet, and some space glitter comes out of it. It glitters about the ship breaking stuff because it eats something that some of the systems are made of. The problem is discovered, discussed, Geordi and Data investigate, they  try to solve it, it's resolved before the ship is actually destroyed (mostly because Data doesn't need to breathe). No one seems to feel very strongly about these events and they have no impact on the A-plot.
Lwaxana is late her own wedding, then arrives naked, as is the custom of her people. The groom is very shocked, and doesn't know what to do with his face. The protocol officer is scandalised and pulls the groom out of the room. I guess it's all called off. Lwaxana enjoys the chaos -classic Lwaxana.


Klingon Warrior
Worf is the opposite of a fun dad and you have to feel bad for Alexander who barely seems to be allowed to be a child at home. I don't know much about Klingon parenting, but then neither does Worf since he was raised by humans. I think the way he treats Alexander is an extension of Worf's identity crisis about how Klingon he is. He sets high standards of behaviour for himself and (rightly or wrongly) associates these with Klingon virtues/aspirations, then expects them of Alexander too. The fact that Alexander is one quarter human and has previously been raised in a human way doesn't seem to enter into Worf's thinking. I suspect Worf's authoritarianism is a cover for parenting uncertainty, if in doubt give orders in an increasingly stern manner. Acknowledging emotions, being playful sometimes, being willing to discuss things, and see things from a child's point of view all are useful parenting tools,* but Worf doesn't do this stuff. Additionally Klingons seem to have a strong tradition of representing your house/family and being "son of", so this probably adds to Worf's frustrations as Alexander's behaviour reflects on him. The fact that Alexander acts in an unrestrained way (as small children do) and doesn't really care about Klingon stuff probably hits proud, self-restrained Worf right where he lives. Of course all this is the kind of thing that they probably should be discussing in therapy, but I suspect Worf is unwilling to have these conversations.

Counsellor Pointless
This face conveys so much history
Not used this heading for Deanna Troi in a while because I've come to really respect her counselling work (it's her empathetic abilities that seem a bit wonky, which may be why no one's mentioned those for a while, even here in an episode which stars her mother). That said, you see the paragraph above this one? That's clearly where her work is and she is not addressing it, but maybe that's because Worf won't? Of course Alexander (who wishes his mother hadn't died, and who has been shunted between his emotionally distant father and kindly-but-aging foster parents) has his own issues, but he's also having one-on-one sessions with Counsellor Troi. Is Worf? I think not. All Worf wants is a way to control his kid, and Deanna is trying to come up with practical solutions, but Lwaxana is quite right that a contract won't work. Alexander is only young (I don't know Klingon ages) and even if you put something in writing a young child isn't going to stick to it all the time, and the adult is always going to be in the position of power and the kid knows that. There's a reason minors can't enter into legal contracts.
When it comes to her mother Deanna has a difficult relatonship herself, which might explain why she's keen for Worf and Alexander to have stuff written down, did young Deanna yearn for a bit more stability? Lwaxana's feeling about her wedding are clearly mixed, but Deanna can do little to get her to open up, there's that parent-child power dynamic again. I don't think Lwaxana would really consider Deanna could help her, but family can freeze people into certain roles. I don't quite get why the arranged marriage thing is so surprising to Deanna. In series 1 Lwaxana showed up with a stranger that Deanna had apparently been betrothed to since childhood, so isn't this a Betazoid tradition? Also Deanna explained the late-life horniness Betazoid women go through and the weird shaming that necessitates husband-hunting in series 2, so you'd think this arrangement wouldn't seem so odd. I'm never sure how Betazoids and their culture are supposed to be, is Lwaxana seen as odd there too? Or is Deanna the odd one? What's clear is that nudity at a wedding is seen as natural and it is shocking to Deanna that Lwaxana would consider a wedding dress at all.


Won't Somebody Think of the Children
Actually they do, that's the whole point of this episode. It's good that Alexander has so many adults looking out for him in different ways, even though they all have very different approaches. That said, I still feel like it is too easy for a child to wander wherever on the ship without their parent knowing. Or is the whole ship supposed to be a shared residence and so it's like you're in your own house the whole time? I guess the fact that the Commputer can tell you where your kid is whenever you think to ask is good, but there seem to be few other controls.
Lwaxana's intentions towards Alexander are very good and she says some wise stuff, but you DO NOT take someone's kid without their permission! Definitely not without their knowledge! Worf barely knows Lwaxana, Alexander's met her once before, and yet he follows her to a holosuite. Do they not have stranger danger here? I mean, it's supposed to be a utopian society, so I guess they don't, but it seems iffy.
Speaking of iffy, the naked mud baths and dancing lady aren't age appropriate. Nudity taboos are a thing to me, and I get that they aren't to Lwaxana, dunno where Worf stands on that but as sole parent his wishes are important. I get that the utopian viewpoint says that bodies are fine, that shame about bodies is a thing of the past, people should be comfortable with themselves and others, inhibitions are prudish and nudity doesn't have to sexual, plus presumably every space is comfortably climate-controlled. Of course all that (especially the not-sexual part) would be easier to take if they hadn't put bodypaint on a lady and had her prance about in front of yet more naked people while a naked small child watched. That just feels suuuuper uncomfortable.

The End
Lwaxana enjoys a mudbath, more content than she's been all episode and tells Alexander how wonderfully mutual it is that she wanted to teach him about grabbing joy and he taught her not to let it go. Deanna points out that learning to live in the real world is important, and Lwaxana agrees that this is true, but only when neccessary. Worf, tense and grumpy as ever, grumbles about just sitting there. Haha, silly Worf. A light hearted ending to a light hearted episode in which some personal issues are resolved.



* I'm just naming chapters from a parenting book I read last year, but it was a good book.

17 January 2019

Overthinking Frozen

Perhaps unsurprisingly I am watching more kids stuff now. My toddler is kinda obsessed with Muppets at the moment, which is both nice and a bit irritating. It's good that he wants to watch something we already like, but a bit irritating when he starts plaintiavely whining about "Muppies!" wherever we are.

It may be apparent that I can be a bit of an overthinker, but so are many people. Even when I'm watching something simple/cute with my kid I can't turn off my brain's and tendancy to ask irrelevant questions and posit theories. I've decided to lean into this and so here is my overthink of Frozen.

I'm so Angry at the Older Generation
I get that the King and Queen were scared by what happened, Elsa did seriously damage Anna, but locking their daughter (and heir!) away for most of her life was never a good plan. Telling someone they have to go to their room until they stop being magic/a mutant is not a good option. How did they expect her to develop the necessary skills of statecraft, diplomacy or socialising that are surely needed by a monarch? It seemed like each day they hoped it'd all just go away, or maybe gloves would somehow fix the problem, and everything could go back to normal. Except when it has been years and a situation is getting worse you've got to plan for what happens next, instead of trying to pause the lives of children.
Locking Elsa away, while cruel and stupid, makes a lot more sense than locking Anna away too . She had no powers and presented no danger, there was no reason to keep her away from everyone. She was this active, excited child and they just left her to wander about by herself, who does that? Well, these jerks obviously. If they wanted to keep the sisters apart (advice which they took to extremes) then why cloister Anna alongside -but ever separate from- Elsa? If Elsa isn't going to be in a position to go out and represent the royal family, then encourage Anna (the spare in 'heir and a spare') to act in her stead. She could have been the social, outgoing one who was seen by the people and did the social stuff that Elsa wouldn't be able (assuming you subscribe to the nonsense that Elsa couldn't go outside). Instead it seems like they just forgot Anna, gave her no useful training and left her eager and naive, easy prey for manipulation.

This is clearly not working
I feel like Grandpappy Troll needed to give more advice about dealing with Elsa's powers. He scared everyone and didn't give them a practical way to handle the situation, so the toxic situation above developed. Also the trolls in general needed to be less pushy about Kristof's lovelife. I think it was supposed to play as embarrassing, but it came off as intrusively pushy, especially when they encourage him to pursue Anna after they learn she's engaged to someone else.

Arendelle's Constitutional Crisis
It was 3 years between King Bad-Dad's death and Elsa coming of age, who was regent? Where are they? If no regent, who was running things?  Did Elsa just have brief meetings with the people who ran stuff and then hid away again. I mean hopefully she was taught something about running a country during the 10 years she was sent to her room to dwell on her continued failure (still not over it). The fact that the royals can just disappear from public life with limited ill-effects to the country (so far as we know) suggests there were other people around actually getting stuff done.
When Elsa is crowned things are probably expected to be more settled, a new Queen and a new start. But after the coronation she reveals scary powers and runs off, so is she the Queen still? The legal status of people with magic isn't clear, and it is mostly a foreigner who reacts badly. Then the heir to the throne goes off too and leaves a foreign prince in charge. Except there's no official status for Prince Hans, because Elsa (head of the royal household) didn't approve the engagement. He goes around being seemingly useful, and everyone's suddenly troubled by all the snow in the world, so I guess the people who usually run things were just glad for the help. Not sure who those people are though, dignitaries seem to be clustering together to discuss things in the few days that this is all happening, but only one of these characters seems to be from Arendelle. Where are the folks who were running things during Elsa's minority? Shouldn't they be involved until whatever is happening with the royals has been resolved?


For all that he is a horrible person and trying to grab a kingdom by manipuative and murderous means, Hans does seem to have a good handle on disaster relief and how to get things done. Is this just a ploy? Or would he have been a useful leader even if he is a shitty peron? I mean he presumably had more interest in/experience of statecraft and diplomacy than either of the 2 royal women. Having said that, Hans claimed to marry someone without providig a witness and said she'd died when she was still alive. I mean she was dying, but still he's presumably not the only person with a key to that room, so someone might well have found her. Not good planning/villaining there.

8 January 2019

First Duty

Episode: s5, ep 18


What Happens
The Enterprise is going to the Academy so Picard can give a graduation speech. As they approach Picard is informed that Wesley's flight team had an acident while practising their graduation display. Picard tells Beverly that her son was injured, but is fine, although another boy died in the accident. At the Academy the Admiral Superintendant reports on what they know so far and announces that she and a Vulcan officer will be conducting an investigation. After consulting with the dead boy's grieving father it has been decided graduation will be going ahead. Picard offers help, but Admiral Headteacher doesn't think she needs it. Picard and Beverly visit Wesley, who is still recuperating and doesn't want to talk about the accident. He's joined by his flight team's leader Nick Something, he is definitely not a young Tom Paris, despite being played by Robert Duncan McNeill who would later play Tom Paris in Voyager. Not-Tom Paris wants to talk to Wesley, who dismisses his mother and Captain Picard. Not-TP tells Wesley that everything will be fine if they all stick together, the ominous music suggests otherwise.
While walking the grounds Picard sees Boothby, groundkeeper and former mentor who he told Wesley to seek out in Final Mission. He seems to have the wisdom of Dumbledore and the employment histroy of Hagrid. His advice helped Picard back when he made a major mistake as a cadet (is this the episode theme, I wonder). Before the inquiry not-TP gives his squad a pep talk. He presents the flight plan and says the dead boy's ship collided with another. The navigator is questioned about deviating from the flight plan, Admiral Headtecher is pulling no punches. The Vulcan investigator questions the group and doesn't buy that no one saw what happened. Not-TP interjects to defend his team and explains how the dead boy was nervy and couldn't take it, the bereaved dad looks so, so sad. Not-TP earnestly talks about how he wanted to give his friend a chance. Admiral Headteacher is super angry about this. Wesley is troubled. Picard asks Data and Geordi to help Wesley by investigating, even though this isn't their remit and Wesley didn't ask for any help. Geordi even points out that they can't really contribute much. This feels like busy work, or an excuse to get Data and Geordi onscreen.
Wesley and his team discuss the inquiry; Wes is angry that they scapegoated the dead boy and omitted information. Not-TP says whatever he can to convince them that maybe it was their dead friend's fault, and they need to protect themselves. He emotionally manipulates Wesley by invoking team loyalty, and all their future plans together, and that the dead boy wouldn't want them to risk all that. Later Wesley is found by the bereaved father, who returns a jumper and apologises that his son let them down and put them in danger. It is so sad! At the reconvened inquiry Wesley testifies, only a tiny bit of footage was recovered from his... space-plane? The Vulcan asks about the formation, Wesley lies as instructed by not-TP, even though the Vulcan is clearly building to something. A satellite caught a shot of them, and they aren't flying in the formation Welsy described, he refuses to comment further. Beverly shows she believes Wesley, and he gets worked up and begs that no one should try to help him. Picard goes to Boothby and asks about Wesley's flight team, Boothby says the other cadets look up to them and not-TP commands total loyalty.
Data and Geordi report to Picard about the footage from Wesley's space-plane. The only odd thing is that Wesley opened a valve at a weird time, it's dangerous because it could cause fire (they say plasma, but I think that's like fire). Picard suddenly realises that they wanted fire. He summons Wesley to his office, and reveals that he's figured it out. They were practising a showy but super dangerous manoeuvre which creates a starburst pattern. It's been banned at the Academy for a century, but presumably not-TP wanted to graduate in a blaze of fire/plasma/glory and talked the others into it. Wesley goes quiet, Picard is angry about the lie and describes how promising Wesley was on his first day onboard. This is also a kind of emotional maniupliation, but it's not self-serving. Picard expresses his disappointment and says if Wesley doesn't tell the truth then Picard will go to the Admiral. Wesley runs to not-TP (bad move) and tells him what Picard said. Not-TP stops worrying the moment he discovers Picard has no actual proof. He says they'll just claim Picard is lying, which is very stupid for two reasons: 1) Wesley Crusher is not going to go on the record and falsely accuse Captain Picard. 2) You are 4 cadets who are already under suspicion for being tight-lipped and he's the Captain of the Starfleet flagship whose only personal stake in this might be to protect Wesley; it's not a game of he-said we-said you want to get into. Not-TP dismisses Wesley's concerns and tells him he can't make decisions for the rest of the team. Wesley suggests they all come forward together, and not-TP makes a decision for the rest of the team by refusing and accusing Wesley of betrayal, then framing his own lies and pressurring as noble.
Inquiry time again! Admiral Headteacher is disappointed by the suspicious lack of answers, she totally thinks they're lying, but has no proof. She's about to close investigation and dole out reprimands and flight bans, when Wes stands up and tells the truth. Beverly nods as he does. Wesley apologises to the greiving father and says it wasn't his son's fault. Not-TP has nothing to say, for once.


Guest Star
Robert Duncan McNeill, better known as Tom Paris in Star Trek: Voyager. The internet tells me the Voyager writers wanted someone with the same feel as Nick Locarno, and couldn't find anyone they liked better than McNeill. Theories abound about why the character was a different person.


Oh Captain My Captain
Picard is kinda Wesley's Achilles Heel here and his manipulative friend badly misjudges this. It's after Nick suggests lying about Picard's integrity that the scales fall from Wesley's eyes and he can see what's happening. I don't like the theories about hidden paternity (it's Not Cool to either Picard or Dr Crusher, and also people don't have to be blood relatives to have that kind of bond), but it's cool that Wesley has a mentor/father-figure who instills these values and holds him to account. I do wish that they'd use Beverly for that kind of thing more (see Doctor Doctor). Picard lying to protect Wesley might've been understandable, it's known that he's a family friend, but of course he wouldn't.
Picard's offer to help is politely declined by the Admiral. I think we're used to seeing the Enterprise as impressive, a city-sized ship full of wonders. This is especially true when they're out in space and dealing with people who need help or who are less-technologically advanced. That doesn't hold here, San Francisco has been a city a lot longer than the Enterprise has existed, the Academcy is the main (only?) training institution for Starfleet. Geordi says the Academy labs are better than what the Enterprise has The only kit I can think of that the Acadmey wouldn't already have access to is Data, and that doesn't seem to be a factor here. Not sure why the Admiral agreed to it later, my guess is Picard pestered her.
I find it a bit weird that Picard is told about Wesley's accident before Beverly, his mother. The Admiral says it's because Picard is a close family friend, but it's not like Beverly is far away or inaccessible, she's on the same ship, the message could be routed to her. I don't know whether this is a command thing, because he's Captain it's his responsiblity to break bad news. Or is it a personal thing? Admiral Brand kind of knows Picard, but presumably not Beverly. Did she think that the news would be better coming from a friend?

Doctor Doctor
Picard breaks the news of Wesley's accident to Beverly gently and with facts. She worries as any mother would, but because she's also a doctor she starts thinking through medical implications. Picard has to assure her several times that Wesley is fine. Later she offers Wesley help, because she has no reason to think he's lying, and is confused when he begs her not to help him. At the end when she nods I think that's her acknowleging that her son is doing the right-but-difficult thing, and presumably his previous behaviour makes sense now. Assuming Picard didn't let her know what was going on, it's not clear either way. As ever the show has no interest in exploring Beverly and Wesley's dynamic, or how they interact as mother and son. It's an ongoing disappointment to me that Beverly is constantly side-lined in favour of exploring Wesley's relationships with just about anyone else (Picard, the rest of the command staff, a couple of one-episode girls, this Academy jerk, that alien he's met twice). It's like someone decided that motherly love was basically part affection, part protective worry and a  bit of being vaguely embarrassing, and then figured that'd do and no one thought to revisit it ever again. Not good enough.


Admirals Be Trouble
Except Admiral Superintendent Brand isn't. She's doing exactly what she needs to do and treating the whole thing with appropriate seriousness and professionalism. At the start of the episode Picard describes Brand as "a formidable women", which sounds negative in the same vein as bossy (i.e. something a man probably wouldn't get called for the same behaviour). We're primed to expect her to be hard, but this is a bad situation we see her in. Of course there has to be an investigation when a student dies, to do otherwise would be neglient (I'm looking at you, Hogwarts). She discussed cancelling graduation ceremonies with the bereaved father and she credits him for them continuing, which strikes me as a sensitive response. As does contacting Picard about Wesley's accident. The comment about life and duty continuing even after a tragic loss seems like it fits with the (sort of) military ethic of Starfleet. The inquiry is fair and transparent, it only feels like a trial to the viewer because we know people are guilty. When the students who were involved in the accident are suspiciously reticent Admiral Brand doesn't hide her understandable disapproval. She isn't going to pull punches when finding out the truth, but she also doesn't resort to scare tactics, like separating them and grilling each one. Before Wesley confesses she states that she's suspicious, but that isn't proof and so she will only punish them for provable errors. This is the most fair-minded and sensible Admiraling I've seen on this show! Maybe Admirals are fine in their own territory and it's just the ones that show up on the Enterprise that are trouble.


Girl Talk
Admiral Brand questions the girls on Wesley's team. It's in the context of  an inquiry into a boy's death, so I'm not sure if it's Bechdel-Wallace passing, but Brand is questioning them about specific details relating to their roles on the flight team. This is only about 12 lines in the whole episode, which really isn't much.

Death by Space Misadventure
Cadet Joshua Albert died in a flight training exercise near Saturn while practising a banned manoeuvre. This happened before the episode started, so we don't see him, and normally I wouldn't mention his death, except that he left behind a grieving parent who may be the saddest person I've seen on this show. Commander Albert seems to be alone, called to the Academy to see the inquiry into his son's death. Does this mean there's no other parent? When he thinks his son's error risked others he's so apologetic. It breaks my heart a bit and I kinda judge Wesley for not telling the truth straight away.

The End
Wesley and Picard walk the grounds. Nicholas Locarno was expelled. Everyone was almost expelled, but Nick said that he forced them to do it, so his talk about protecting the team was true, but he still used it to manipulate. Wesley feels sad and he's been set back a year of study as a punishment (no mention of what happened to the girls), plus everyone knows what he did. I'm not sure if he'll get worse stick for the cover-up or for exposing it. Wesley thanks Picard, who says he just made sure Weskey listened to himself. This is what Boothby said he did for cadet Picard, so I guess that wraos up the episode theme on a sober note.



2 January 2019

New Year

Happy New Year folks! 

I kinda disappeared from here again, I do that. As ever I intend to do that less this year, will see if I manage it.




Resolutions:

1. Get out more, both with and without the toddler - it can be tempting to stay at home, especially when weather isn't to my liking, plus toddler is at awkward age for kids activities, but I should be doing more. Also going out without him means I can be a person instead of a mother, which can be a nice break. 

2. See friends more - I've been feeling socially isolated recently. This happens periodically and puts me in a low mood that makes it hard to change things. Having a toddler can make it harder as I can't accept as many invitations as I'd like to. Just means I need to try harder.

3. Reduce my carbon footprint - The news about climate change has caused me to wibble recently. It's scary stuff, we are the last generation that can prevent future catastrophe. But there is hope, there's a decade to change things and we already have the ability to do so.


I've found the Global Weirding video series from climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe helpful. The one below is a good starting point.




Since this is kind of a big resolution I've broken it down into 3 main areas:
3a. Home improvements and food waste - we've already done stuff to reduce drafts, and have more work planned to increase energy efficiency. Along with reducing wasted food (as much as you can with a toddler) that'll save money. 
3b. Garden - I'll start composting again and my husband wants to grow food. These are both things we did a bit in our old house. We have a greenhouse in the new garden, so can start there and add some vegetable beds. 
3c. I need to look at some of the stuff I buy and see where I can find better alternatives. I'll admit this is currently a little vague, and I'm mostly researching stuff just now. I have friends who know about this kind of thing, and there's so much info online, I just need to figure out what will work for me.

14 October 2018

Cause and Effect

OK, it took a bit longer than I expected to get back into blogging after the move. Settled into new house OK, though still have a few boxes to sort and unpack, mostly books. There's a fair bit of work to do, but mostly superficial and I think we'll work on them gradually. But that's enough about my life, you're presumably here for weirdness and meetings ...in spaaaace!


Episode: s5, ep 18

What Happens:
The Enterprise is in trouble, spining out of control, Bridge and Engineering try desperately to save it. Just as Picard orders everyone to abandon ship, it explodes!
The Enterprise is going into a previously unexplored part of space. Data, Riker, Worf and Dr Crusher play cards; Riker bluffs, but Beverly beats him. Then she's called to sickbay to see Geordi; he seems to have an inner ear infection, except without the infection. She has a super strong sense of deja vu. As she's going to bed she hears voices, it startles her and she knocks a glass over. Beverly reports her experience during a routine staff meeting. Worf calls from the Bridge to report weird readings. There's a weird field ahead and the engines aren't working. A Federation-looking ship emerges and is going to collide with the Enterprise, they don't respond to hails. Riker suggests a plan for getting out of the way, but Data suggests something else and Picard goes with Data's plan. The other ship hits the Enterprise. It's in trouble, spinning out of control, Bridge and Engineering try desperately to save it. Just as Picard orders everyone to abandon ship, it explodes!
The Enterprise is going into a previously unexplored part of space. The same card game is happening, but Beverly is distracted. Riker knows she is going to call his bluff, and they both have a feeling about which cards are next. Beverly is called to sickbay to see Geordi. She pauses during her diagnosis because its so familiar, and Geordi feels like its familiar this time too. They check the logs but can't find that Geordi's had these symptoms before. Can 2 people have deja vu about the same thing? As she's going to bed Beverly is still distracted, things are eerily familiar. She puts down her glass cautiously, but still knocks it over when she hears voices. This time she goes to see Picard straight away. They have a cosy chat, Picard was reading a book and he was sure he'd read it before, but couldn't think when. He says it might be nothing, but will get Geordi and Data to scan and report in the morning; they find nothing.  Worf calls from the Bridge to report weird readings. Weird field ahead. Engines aren't working. Federation-looking ship on collision course. Riker and Data suggest plans, Picard goes with Data's. Collision, ship spinning out of control. Just as Picard orders everyone to abandon ship, it explodes!
The Enterprise is going into a previously unexplored part of space. The same card game is happening, but Worf has deja vu, as does Beverly who can now name the cards before Data deals them. Everyone's a bit freaked out. Worf and Riker can also name the cards. Crusher checks if Geordi is in sick bay, just before he arrives. Beverly calls Picard (more official, less cosy this time). She reports her experience and says others have the same feeling. She knew standard tests wouldn't work on Geordi, so she did something that showed his visor was picking up images that weren't there. Again she has touble preparing for bed and is uneasy, unwilling to finish any action because of the familiarity. She moves her glass away from her bedside table. When the voices come she records them. Then she calls Geordi immediately and asks if sensors picked up anything weird. She goes to Engineering, knocking the glass over on her way out. Geordi and Data analyse her recording. There are about 1000 voices overlapping and Data identifies them as the voices of the Enterprise crew. Crusher calls early staff meeting, Geordi explains that they're probably stuck in a time loop. Data plays the recording and isolates the part where Worf finds the weird readings and the collision happens. They can try to avoid the collision but Geordi points out it could still happen again, so they should try to send a message to themsleves in the next loop, Data will probably get it but not consciously. Geordi works on Data to set up the message emitter, and they muse on what they might have tried before. Beverley points out that it doesn't feel familiar anymore, which is hopefully a good sign. Red alert goes on as they encounter the field again. Engines aren't working. Riker wonders how they dealt with this before. Federation-looking ship on collision course. Riker and Data suggest plans, Picard goes with Data's. Collision, ship spinning out of control. Data programmes something into the emitter just before the ship explodes!
The Enterprise is going into a previously unexplored part of space. The same card game is happening, Worf and Beverley have deja vu. She thinks she can name the cards, but Data deals all 3s, then deals 3 of a kind to everyone. Beverly is called to sickbay to see Geordi. She pauses during her diagnosis because its so familiar, and Geordi feels like its familiar this time too. They check the logs but can't find that Geordi's had these symptoms before. Can 2 people have deja vu about the same thing? She finds the visor issue, and calls Picard to sickbay immediately to report. In Engineering every scan Geordi asks Data to run comes out as 3, Data says he's been encounter 3 a lot. Crusher calls them about the voices. In a meeting Data plays the recording of the collision. Geordi explains that they're probably stuck in a time loop, which appears to be sponsored by the number 3. The 3s seem to be coming from Data, and Geordi says they're probably sending a message to themselves. Ro calls from the Bridge to report weird readings. Weird field ahead. Engines aren't working. Riker wonders how they dealt with this before. Federation-looking ship on collision course. Riker and Data suggest plans, Picard goes with Data's. Then Data sees the 3 pips on Riker's collar, understands that he was telling himself that Riker's plan will work, and enacts that plan without orders. They pull clear of the distortion and avoid the other ship. Turns out they've been in the loop 17.4 days. The other ship is one that hasn't been in service for 80 years. The captain of the other ship (Kelsey Grammar, finally!) hails and Picard tells him about the time loop.


Guest Star
I saw Kelsey Grammar's name come up in the credits and I was exicted because he and Patrick Stewart work really well together. I mean X-Men: Last Stand was a mess that my husband (a long-time X-Men fan) pretends doesn't exist, but that wasn't the fault of either of these two fine actors, their scenes together were good. Plus, who can forget the episode of Fraiser where Sir Patrick plays a gay opera director with whom Fraiser unintentionally enters into a relationship. Basically I was looking forward to seeing these 2 on screen together, and what did we get? A minute or so tacked onto the end, a conversation via view screen, meaning they aren't even sharing a set and the fascinating potential of Grammar's character is never used. I feel a little cheated, which is a shame as the rest of the episode is well done.


Staff Meetings: 1 ...but four versions of it, so... 4
1. During a routine staff meeting Dr Crusher reports the voices she heard the previous night, and that
she's found out 10 other people had the same experience at the same time. Troi sensed nothing. Data is asked to check the logs. Worf calls Picard from the Bridge.
1. (a) Data and Geordi report that their scans couldn't find anything odd happening on the ship the previous night. Dr Crusher mentions that she's found 10 other people had the same experience at the same time. Worf calls Picard from the Bridge.
1. (b) Crusher calls senior staff before the usual 0700 meeting. Geordi reports that they think they're stuck in a time loop, and that's what's causing the deja vu. Geo can't tell how long they were trapped there (minutes, hours, years). The voices and his visor issues are echoes. Data analysed Crusher's recording, it's mostly normal, but he plays the audio of Worf finding the distortion and Pic giving the abandon ship order. Geordi guesses that the collision caused the time problem, and they should avoid the collision, but anything they try might cause it. He points out that they might still collide this time and then forget again, so they should try to send information into the next loop. Data thinks it's possible as they've been experiencing echoes. Geordi says the message can only be short, maybe only one word or a few characters. If they do it Data will pick it up, but probably not consciously, it'll be like a post-hypntoic suggestion.
1. (c) Data is playing the isolated audio relating to the collision, and Geordi explains the time loop. Geordi guesses that the collision caused the time problem, and they should avoid the collision, but anything they try might cause it. He says the number 3 is appearing all the time. The only odd thing on scans is in Data, and Geordi reckons that he'd use Data to send a message to the next loop. They realise they're sending a message, but don't know what the 3 means. Ro calls Picard from the Bridge.

The End
After Picard mentions that both their ships have been caught in a time loop the other Captain is dubious as they only left star base 3 weeks earlier. Picard asks him what year it is and other Captain says 2278. Picard asks him to beam aboard as they have "something we need to discuss".
And that's it! No telling someone they're nearly a century in the future. No dealing with the fallout of time travel or the time loop for the ot crew (who must be suffering heavily with deja vu by this point). No face to face scene with Grammar and Stewart being likeable at each other.

I just wanted somethign like this!

27 August 2018

Moving

I've not posted much recently because I'm moving house soon so there's been a lot of preparation for that. Additionally mid-August is the busiest time of the year at my work. Basically I've not had much time or brain space for blogging. I expect that I won't be able to post regularly until next month, when hopefully I'll be well set up in my new place.

22 July 2018

Stories


Audio
The Poet and the Spider by Cynthia So (Cast of Wonders 306, narrated by Eliza Chan)
A young woman aspires to decidate her life to poetry and become the new Court Poet. Ignoring family expectation she embarks on a quest to find the poetry-loving Spider Sisters, and makes a deal to have a Spider as her mentor. Throughout the mentorship the girl learns a lot and develops a special bond. It's vividly told story, and one with a lot of beautiful imagery, as makes sense for a story about poetry. It's a great story about working to achieve a goal and discovering on the way that your priorities have changed.

Sidekicks Wanted by Laura Johnson (Cast of Wonders 307, narrated by Jason Arquin)
Frank Mattie, formerly an underling/minion for villains applies for a sidekick job, even though people with his background aren't ecouraged. He is really intimidated, but eventually able to demonstrate that he has experience that would be of use, because of his seemingly-undesirable background.

Every Drop of Light by Rachel Delaney Craft (Cast of Wonder 308, narrated by Mary Murphy)
One of the creepiest stories I have heard/read in a while, a sister that can't say no and one who has no compunctions about controlling. There are powers in the story, but it's the dynamic between the sisters that's the main focus. I was so tense wondering where this would go, from the start it was clearly nowhere good. It's tragic, but I feel like the ending was earned.

Never Yawn Under a Banyan Tree by Nibedita Sen (Podcastle 523, narrated by S. B. Divya)
A young Bengali woman is on a date that doesn't interest her, when it turns out that her grandmother's warning about ghosts jumping down her throat is actually a real thing. Meena has the ghost of an old man in her, and he just wants to eat the food he's been missing since he died. Unable to get him easily exorcised he agress to leave if she'll save his banyan tree, which is due to be destroyed. She contacts a journalist of her acquaintence and starts a campaign to save the historic tree, and the ghost tries to help with her lovelife. This is a warm and funny story, which shows a bit about life in India, and has a protagonist who is very relatable.

We Are Sirens by L S Johnson (Podcastle 521, narrated by Abra Staffin-Wiebe)
Mythological, woman-shaped beings roll into a small town, looking for any party where they can pick up men. They are a well-prepared hive mind, with outfits to fit a variety of situations. They sing their songs and lure men to a fatal crash, but on the way they also pick up a girl called Sarah who sees through their songs. This story is interesting, told from the perspective of the sirens their nature is never hidden, although theur methods are only gradually revealed. It's odd somehow to have a story where feminity, or at least various trapping of it, are used in a predatory way. Tension is created and gradually increased from the start as things start to go awry and the millennia-old hunters face a situation they weren't expecting. This is a story with many antagonists, and no clear hero, but it is compelling.

One Day My Dear I'll Shower You with Rubies by Langley Hyde (Podcastle 520, narrated by Jen R Albert)
A woman testifies against her father, a notorious mass-mudering autocrat whose experiments were horrific. She has to relive memmories of her happy childhood and attentive father, whilw now acknowledging the horror of what was happening in the background of her childhood. The story explores what happens to innocents who are close to monstrous people, and how a child has to deal with the ugly trith of a parent.

24 June 2018

Stories

I got a new ipod charger, now catching up on the podcasts I missed.

Books

Cold Magic by Kate Elliott

This is an amazing book. The worldbuilding is so inventive and even though I'm not very big on maps at the start of books (I know, bad fantasy fan) the one here was immediately intriguing. It's primary world/alternate history, which looks and feels like a secondary world and the world itself is more inventive and distinct than many a secondary world fantasy. As far as I can tell it's set in a world where the Carthaginians won the Punic wars, meaning Rome was only a land-based empire and never became a naval power in the Mediterranean.* Also there's (still?) an ice age, so Britain is linked to Europe by land and Scandanavia is largely covered with ice. Also there's magic and a second (at least) sentient race. Besides all that (if that weren't enough) the story itself works really well, with strong charcateristaion and a compelling emotional throughline that is complemented by the pace and action. The story is about a young woman called Catherine, who was orphaned as a child and raised by her aunt and uncle. Her world is thrown into disarray when she is unexpectedly married off to a haughty cold-mage and taken away from everything she has always known. Ripped away from her home and her beloved cousin, Cat tries to find her feet as everything she knew about her life is called into question. Her supernatural senses prove useful, as do unexpected allies from the spirit world. Catherine's relationship with her new husband starts cold and goes through various changes as she learns how he too is trapped by familial ties in the machinations of the powerful. Despite this similarity both have their own needs and conflicting agendas. The relationship between cousins Catherine and Beatrice is wonderful, and the various relevations and tribulations deepen their bond as each looks out for the other. Their kinship extends beyond bloodlines to a true, deep friendship.
The way that society is contructed in this book is wonderful, and such a refreshing change from the standard Medieval-ish European monoculture, which has little basis in any history older than a century or so. At some point in this world's history people from wealthy West African nations (which are rooted in real-world history) were driven north from their homes by a supernatural threat and they settled across Europe and merged with the Celtic peoples. This means that there's a broad variety of people and cultures across the stretch of Western Europe that is featured in the book, with mentions of the wider world and deeper history than that which immediately affects the characters. The rural village characters who are essentially slaves, have a different culture to those from cities. Within the citites there are peoples who have their own histories and beliefs, initially shown by Catherine having been raised in a culture that wroships Phoenician gods and has a strong history of being traders and spies, and rather looked down on by other groups. The novel is set in roughly the nineteenth century and has early industrialisation, showing how mills exploited workers, but there are also airships from America and fluffy trolls who are solicitors and polytheism seemingly as standard. I could go on about this for a while, but possibly not very coherently, but if you are looking for fantasy that does something properly different with history and worldbuilding, this is a great example.


Audio
What You're Missing by Allison Mulder (Cast of Wonders 303, narrated by Melissa Bugaj)
This story about a girl who senses something is missing, is intriguing and ends up rather creepy. She lives in a society where everything is observed and recorded, and the feeling of missing something is strongest when she's in a secret spot that's outside community observation. There's also the family pcitures on the stairs, something is missing there too, but what, or who. This stroy has a strong warning about surveillance culture and what could happen when community and healthcare are used to remove individuality.

Midnight Blue by Will Mcintosh (Escape Pod 630, narrated by Paul Haring)
Flashback Friday, not one I'd encountered before. Feels like it could be on Podcastle or Cast of Wonders (though the latter wasn't part of the Escape Artists family then).
Charms used to be everywhere, different colours granted different abilities. Now they're a rare and expensive commodity, and the poorer kids at school can't afford them. Then a preteen lad from the wrong side of the tracks finds the rarest one of all, and has to bargain in a way even adults would find difficult. Along the way he thinks about his place in the world, what he wants from life and the unfairness inherent in the system. It's an amazing coming of age story.

Fire Rode the Cold Wind by Aimee Ogden (Escape Pod 626, narrated by Peter Adrian Behravesh)
A story about a woman from the sky who crashes down into a society of ice people, told from the point of view of one who falls in love with her. This is a very emotional story, and one which shows the difference between these two groups of people who live in very different environments and have such a wide cultural gulf misunderstdandings are easy, but undertsanding can also come. The worldbuilding is very strong, the ice people feel primitive, but their way of life seems sturdier and more settled than that of the spacefolk that we never see. It's also the story of a man and his desire and how he tries to reconcile both wanting and being wary of someone. Wanting to be someone different yet being terrified of change. The feelings here are very strong, and almost overwhelm the very evocative worldbudiling, as the viewpoint character is used to this world.



* While doing my degree I did a literature review on the early Roman navy, as part of a seminar series on ancient North Africa, so although it's now a bit fuzzy in my mind the idea of the Punic Wars going a different way is very intriguing to me.

3 June 2018

The Outcast

Episode: s5, ep 17

This is the queerest episode of TNG I've seen. I think it's trying to do something good, although there are various things that feel awkward and I'm not sure it works.

What Happens
The Enterprise is helping a planet of androgynous people search for their missing shuttle. It doesn't have the capacity to leave the system, but can't be detected. A probe from the Enterprise disappears, and investigation reveals that there's a hidden space pocket in the system. Riker is liaising with the androgynes and offers to use an Enterprise shuttle to map the pocket and attempt a rescue. Everyone is grateful and local pilot, Soren, insists on flying the shuttle.
Riker is impressed Soren's ability to pick up Federation shuttle controls. They* ask a lot of questions about gender, and Riker has questions about genderless society, but is less nosy. The pair hang out in 10 Forward and there is more gender chat, especially about how males experience attraction. Riker expresses his own preferences initially, but doesn't apply his experience to all males. Riker and Soren map the pocket, Soren's questions become a bit NSFW. Something goes wrong and Soren is injured. In sick bay they ask Dr Crusher about being female, and how attraction works between two genders. At the poker game Worf is weirdly macho about playing cards and Crusher gossips that Soren is attracted to Riker.
While working in the shuttle together Soren tells Riker that they're attracted to him, which is very dangerous to admit. The androgyne planet used to have gender but they evolved past it, so gender is seen as primitive. Some pople are throwbacks who do experience gender and gendered attraction. Soren secretly identifies as female and describes being closeted. Those who are known to have gender are "cured" by drugs, and she's terrified of that. Soren and Riker fly into the pocket and resuce the missing people at the expense of their shuttle. At a celebration afterwards they wander the gardens and kiss in secret, but one of Soren's colleagues is suspicious. Riker tells Troi about his strong feelings for Soren, Troi is totally cool about it. When Riker visits Soren he's told by her colleague that she's been taken away. He rushes to the planet, bursts into an official proceeding (trial doesn't seem to be the right word, sentencing maybe?) and tries to take the blame in order to save Soren. Soren is grateful but tired of living a lie. She admits to being a female attracted to males, then makes a very eloquent speech. The planet leader doesn't care, calls Soren a pervert and has her taken away for treatment. Riker tries to argue, but the judge says they aren't close-minded they just want to help their sick citizens.
Riker goes to Picard, but the Captain can't intervene in another culture's legal system. Worf (whose mobility is fine btw) approaches Riker and offers to go on any unofficial rescue mission to the surface. They sneak around on the surface until they find Soren, and Riker says she can claim asylum on the Enterprise. Soren doesn't want to be rescued, they have been "cured" and all feelings for Riker have disappeared. Riker suggests that Dr Crusher could undo the non-consensual treatment, but Soren says they're happy now. Riker is heartbroken and leaves.


Riker: adventurer, lover, middle-management
I've said it before, but it bears repeating, Riker is a sex-positive ladies man. This is something we need more of nowadays. Instead of seeing romance/flirting/sex as a hunt or a battle or [insert overly-macho simile here], he treats them as pleasurable activities between two people. In the past he has actively refused the advances of women when the situation involved a major power imbalance. When asked what kind of women he is attracted to Riker describes personality traits and non-sexual interactions he enjoys. He has to like a woman's company in order to feel attracted to her. Riker respects women and is never shown as being weak for it, in fact he's the most macho human in the main cast. When asked if his preferences apply to all human males he points out that men have varied preferences, and it isn't necessarily about appearance or lust. This is stated so straightforwardly as a fact, and yet we humans of the early 21st century don't seem to have grasped this well enough (or at least much of Western media hasn't).
Soren's questions about gendered society can be awkward, but Riker turns them into discussions with mutual information sharing, and doesn't get defensive or evasive (even at an oddly timed question about sexual organs). It's all respectful on his side (Soren clearly doesn't understand appropriate workplace conversation), and even though he's been trained to encounter different species and their cultures, there's a good-humoured tone that shows Riker is enjoying himself. As well as being attractive to her, Riker creates a non-judgmental environment where she can be herself and talk about the difficulties she's witnessed and experienced. That strikes me as incredibly moving, and probably why I felt more strongly about this clearly-doomed relationship than most of the other one-episode relationships on this show. Plus when Picard warns Riker against risking his career by violating the Prime Directive, Riker cares enough for Soren to ignore this, despite that he's always been a career man. Riker falling in love with someone who doesn't outwardly present as feminine is nice, and plays strongly into Riker's previously-stated preference for personality. Riker even feels strongly enough about Soren to have a talk with Troi (see below). Riker's attempt to save Soren by taking the blame and presenting himself as a culturally insensitive, pushy (perhaps primitive?) male, is very noble. Especially when we've seen that these characteristics aren't who Riker is at all. Also he never tried to put his feelings first, and never dangled their burgeoning relationship a reason she should uproot herself and live among aliens. He's looking out for her welfare as a person, not as his (potential) partner. When he tries to rescue her in a more dangerous (and fairly macho) way, it isn't a grand romance and leads to heartbreak. She refuses his rescue, apparently content without the feelings she'd once had, and though he could have abducted her in order to save her, he respects her wishes and leaves.

Klingon Warrior
Should he be moving with ease after what the last episode put us through? I know the magic spine surgery meant he could recover full mobility, but I got the sense that there would still be some work and recuperation involved. I know this isn't a Worf episode, but it does feel cheap not to have some reference to his recent medical issues.
Worf weirdly genders a variety of poker, during a game that has always had both men and women in it. I know Worf's the easiest person to use when you need a regressive opinion, but claiming wild cards are feminine doesn't even make sense. I know some poker players are snobbish about them as a variation of the game, but that doesn't appear to have anything to do gender. Was it because Troi chose? Would he have said that if O'Brien or Data had chosen wild cards? Also if Worf wants to accuse colleagues of weakness he can blame it on them being humans. When Worf claims a relationship between an androgyne and a human would be impossible Data asks why and Troi pointedly agrees. Worf reads the room, shuts down his critical opinion and goes back to moaning about his cards.
It is nice that Worf, who had scoffed at the very idea of a human and androgyne, offers to go with Riker on a rescue mission. Of course after last episode Worf kind of owes Riker his life, and Worf has long had a strong attachment to Riker.

It's Not Easy Being Troi
Troi demonstrates why she's the best ex ever. There are scattered episodes over the last couple of series that show Troi and Riker being close and possibly something more than platonic. I assume it's a friends-with-benefits thing, but it's all off screen so maybe it's just flirting. It's enough of a thing that Will feels the need to tell Deanna that he's met someone important to him. He's awkward about telling her, unsure what that means for them. Of course Troi already knows it's Soren, and she's absolutely fine and happy for him, because she's the best ex ever. Riker is concerned that their relationship will change, she points out that all relationships change, but they'll always be in each other's lives. I suspect Will's wary because he has a history of being a bit snippy when Deanna is in a relationship, but she's more emotionally intelligent than him. It's also cool that Troi has her own fun stuff going on, looking through a box of old Earth junk that belonged to an ancestor.


Planet of... Homogenous Androgynes
The idea that androgyny removes individuality strikes me as a bad stereotype. Everyone here has the same sort of haircut and the same kind of outfit, it's as though the removal of gender removed people's ability/desire to visually express themselves in varied ways. This is patently nonsense as there's loads of individuality in how people visually express themselves within same-gender groups, even for men who sometimes have less options when it comes to aesthetics. Is it because this society is very restrictive and fears/forbids anything gendered? Or is it the idea that without gender and sexual attraction people wouldn't care about how they look? The show often has one-episode species/cultures all looking the same, so this could just be the standard way they deal with extras, but it feels more weighted here due to the gender and sexuality issues being explored. Also the worldbuilding feels a little sloppy (again, not unusual for a Planet of the Week) because it's not clear how the genderless society impacts on sexuality or reproduction. All of these things are conflated in a mishmash. Soren mentions people sleeping together, but not sexually just for warmth. She also mentions that reproduction involves both parents inseminating fibrous husks, which is safer and less painful than human reproduction. Riker observes that it sounds less fun, but of course he would say that because he doesn't have to bear live young to reproduce (bearing live young is super inconvenient, I'm here to tell you). Riker is talking about sex-as-pleasure and Soren is talking reproduction, but she clarifies that prior to the inseminating there's a whole variety of pleasurable activity. What's never clear is whether the pleasurable stuff that happens prior to insemination is just for reproduction, or whether it's fine for recreation too? Is it even a sexual thing as we would understand it? I wonder if it's telling that removing Soren's gender also makes her lose/forget her feel for Riker? At the end she seems unemotional, confused about her previous actions, apparently devoid of her previous attraction and politely apologetic about the outcome.

Future Is Better?
I'm a straight, cisgendered woman, and I try to be an ally, but I am an outsider to the issues that are being raised here. Plus this is over 25 years old, so it's going to feel awkward (a lot of TNG does). Still, I felt like the episode was trying to do a good thing, but not in a good way. My thoughts are below, but I realise there are many others better qualified to discuss or dissect how the episode handles this content.
Soren's recounting of her experience -not understanding herself, having no words for her feelings- sounds like most accounts of being closeted I've read/heard, be it for sexuality or gender identity. Her experience as someone afraid to be themself, of subtly finding others who understand, of a secret community within a restrictive society feel authentic. Her relief at being able to tell someone plainly is massive, but so is her apprehension. The way that scene is shot, with her down low and partially in shadow visually demonstrated oppression. This definitely feels like it's trying to highlight the struggles of those who are mistreated due to having non-mainstream gender/sexuality. The judge calls it a perversion and the treatments people are forced to have are obviously a reference to the gay or trans "cures" that religious/close-minded folk still peddle today. Soren's speech is good; she declares who she is, that she isn't ill or unnatural, and points out the many ways that gendered people aren't different from everyone else.

BUT
There's so much conflating of gender identity and sexuality, and while those both come under the LGBTQIA umbrella they aren't necessarily the same thing. The episode is doing that thing of reversing a prejudice, so in this society gender itself is taboo and Soren as a woman attracted to men is repressed and punished. That can be a tricky trope to pull off; it doesn't address the actual prejudice that already exists, plus as the reversal can make those who are oppressed look like villains (in this case androgynous -and possibly asexual- people). While it's cool that our ladies man character is attracted to an androgynous-presenting character, she is still played by an actress.** Plus it feels like the show is being a little squeamish, unwilling to show the same level of physical intimacy here as it does when Riker gets involved with femme women.When Soren is having her 'what even is gender' conversations with Riker and Crusher it's all very binary and heterosexual. I can see why Soren focuses on attraction between genders, and how genders present, but there's no suggestion of same-sex attraction among humans. Also Crusher talking about makeup as an entirely female thing ignores the various times/places/cultures where human males did/do wear makeup (Ancient Egypt and 18th century France for example). Picard's refusal to intervene due to the rules that bind them make sense, but he never expresses the anger you would think he'd feel when reacting to prejudice and ill-treatment. The ending is poignant and worked emotionally, but a closeted character coming out and then bad things happening because of it is an overused trope. Plus the fact that the "cure" works on Soren isn't great. It's not an act since she prevents her own rescue, points out she's happy and has apparently forgotten her feelings towards Riker. Does this mean that -for her species- her identity is a curable aberration? Or is it meant to suggest powerful brainwashing? I think it's the latter, but that could have been clearer. Plus there's the old TNG problem of one-episode issues that don't really impact the main cast and are never spoken of again. If this is the LGBTQIA rights episode then it has no impact, and doesn't show the people it's supposedly representing.


Staff Meetings
1. Riker and Soren give a joint presentation to civil leader on the planet about the space pocket the shuttle is trapped in, and how they might rescue it. As people are leaving Soren tells Riker they wish to pilot the shuttle, Riker is reluctant at first. Both stubborn are about their piloting skills and keeping others out of danger. Riker suggests they team up.
Not totally sure if this counts as it's outside the Enterprise and Riker is the only staff member present, but this meeting does have a presentation.
2. Riker goes to Picard after Soren is taken away. Picard offers to talk to the leader, but Riker says they won't consider alternatives. Picard points out that Starfleet aren't allowed to interfere in another culture's legal system, and he can't give Riker sanction to take matters into his own hands. Riker knows this, but says that Soren is important to him. Picard warns Riker against losing all he's worked fore, but Riker doesn't want to hear it.

The End
At the end of the penultimate scene Riker says he loves Soren, but Soren can only apologise and turn away. She's polite and distant while Riker's heart is breaking. In the final scene Riker comes on the Bridge, Picard asks if they've finished their buisness in that system and Riker says they have. Both are being super businesslike. There's plenty of subtext, but no conclusion and little indication of how the audience is meant to feel.




* I'm going to use singular 'they' to refer to androgynous/non-gendered characters (and those who present as such). In this scene Riker explains he's been trying to carefully construct sentences to avoid personal pronouns, and he refuses to use 'it' because that sounds rude to him (which is fair enough). Soren doesn't offer an alternative pronoun -apparently the usual one is untranslateable, but surely Riker just needs a polite word to use, not an understanding of the meaning. I forgot that 'it' was used so much back in the 90s because 'it' does sond rude and maybe it's just what I'm use to, but 'they' works a lot better to my mind.

** I've discovered that Jonathan Frakes criticised the casting of a woman in the role, good on him. It's also kind of cool that Memory Alpha describes the character as TransFemale, obviously the specifics are likely to be different when you've got aliens, but that's definitely what Soren feels like since she's in a society that refuses to acknowledge her gender or call her 'she'.